Thursday, May 29, 2008

More KG

Kevin Garnett is clearly the most controversial Celtics player in this postseason. Not because of anything he has said or done on or off the court, but more because there are two distinct schools of thought on the guy.

School of Thought A:

Um, the guy has averaged 21 and 10 on 52% shooting for a team one game away from the NBA Finals, give him a break, those numbers are pretty darn good.

and School of Thought B:

Numbers be damned, KG for the most part seems to disappear in the fourth quarter of close games and you can't really be perceived as a superstar without wanting to take over in crunch time and carry your team to victory. While there have been flashes of this from KG, you could by no reasonable standard say it has happened on a regular basis.

Where do I fall? I'm definitely in the "B" crowd, but I will say that his early game contributions cannot be totally discounted because those points count too. He was instrumental in the turning of the tide in Game 5, something I did not initially credit him for.

I could ramble more but aren't those two schools of thoughts the cruxes of the for/against KG arguments?

The chic argument against KG has been to compare him to A-Rod in his lack of big game exploits and his inability to carry his team to postseason victory. I guess this is fair seeing as this is his ninth postseason and only the second time he has made it out of the first round. But I don't buy that entirely. Comparing a baseball player to a basketball player is difficult in a lot of regards. I think the more natural comparison is to a football player.

Cue the Peyton Manning comparison? No.

Honestly I cannot think of a natural KG/QB comparison but I guess Donovan McNabb would be the closest fit especially given the lack of quality receivers he has historically had at his disposal save for the TO year.

I'm not going to go for a natural 1:1 fit though, instead I'm going to throw the hypothetical out and let you decide where you stand because I think it is the meat of the KG debate as well.

Consider this:

The scene is the NFC Championship Game between the Eagles and Packers with the Eagles being the home team. The Packers jump out to a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter and have all the momentum. To answer, McNabb leads the Eagles down the field on a long drive where he converts numerous third down passes and all of a sudden it's a 14-10 game.

When the Packers get the ball back, they go three and out, but pin the Eagles deep into their own territory with about three minutes to play. Again, McNabb answers though and leads his team on a 90 yard touchdown drive capped by a scramble into the end zone just before the half. Now it's 17-14 heading into halftime.

The Eagles get the ball to start the second half and again McNabb leads them to a touchdown, this time it comes on a 50 yard touchdown pass on a third and ten where he hit his receiver in perfect stride going down the sidelines. This pass was a thing of beauty. A perfect throw. Now it's 24-14 and the crowd is going nuts.

When the Packers get the ball back, they fumble it on the first play. The crowd smells blood, but the Eagles are unable to get a touchdown here on account of McNabb taking a needless sack and also one of his receivers dropping a no-doubt first down catch. Still, they hit the field goal. 27-14 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter.

Emboldened by their defense's stoutness on the last drive, the Packers march down the field with relative ease but stall out in the Red Zone. They are forced to kick a field goal as time expires in the third quarter and head into the fourth down 27-17.

The ensuing Eagles possession goes like this:

Run for 2 yards, sack where the ball should have been thrown away, incompletion where the ball is well overthrown. Three and out and they are forced to punt with about 12:30 left in the game.

With all the momentum now, the Packers take the ball and score a touchdown with relative ease. The Philly crowd is silent and the score is 27-24 with 7:00 left.

On their next drive, Philly starts moving the ball. Westbrook makes a couple of nice runs and McNabb completes a few easy passes. After a 6 yard run by Westbrook and missed a pass by McNabb, Philly faces a 3rd and 4 from 50 yard line with about 4:30 remaining. They make this first down, there is a good chance they take the ball from there, score, and ice the game. McNabb goes back to pass and has two options. He has a receiver with a step on his man down the field and he has his tight end open just a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage and short of the first down marker. McNabb opts for the safer pass, going to his tight end. The entire Packers D jumps the play, stops him short of the first down, and to make matters worse they strip the ball.

There is now stunned silence in Philly. Did McNabb make the right play? It was the safe play, but was it the right one? He did have a man open down field, should he have gone for the knockout blow? How will those questions be answered if the Packers steal the game.

As the crowd tries to summon some emotion to cheer on the defense, the Packers manage to move the ball down within field goal range. They get to the 30 before the drive stalls and face 47 yard field goal to tie. Initially the kick looks good but it veers right. No good. There are still two minutes left though and the Packers have all of their timeouts.

Philly's first two plays are predictable runs to Westbrook, forcing the Packers to burn timeouts. Amazingly though they get 7 yards on them and are forced with a 3rd and 3 from their own 37 yard line with about 1:30 to go. If they run and don't convert the Packers will get the ball back, deep in their territory with about a minute left and no timeouts. They pass and don't convert, it's the same situation except the Packers have a timeout (assuming an incompletion).

A run is the safer play but also the play with a smaller chance at success. More things can go wrong on a pass, but picking up 4 yards through the air is easier than via the ground. Regardless, a conversion means that Philly wins and coming up short means that the Packers have life.

Philly calls a slant, McNabb hits it. They get the first down. Ball game.

So what do you think about McNabb? Do you rally around the fact that he lead the team to a big lead early or do you gravitate towards the fact that he could not put the opponent away down the stretch while making some poor plays and decisions causing his team to eek out a victory by a small margin that possibly could have been a decisive victory by a larger one? I'm not going to make arguments for either side, I just wanted to put a slightly different spin on the current KG debate.

So what do you think?
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A Little Harsh on KG....Sorry

So, I wrote last night's post in a partial stupor after the game and I think I was a little harsh on KG. Unfortunately, his late game no-show was fresher in my mind than his phenomenal first 2.5 quarters. What he did during that time span cannot be understated. He dominated - on the blocks too - and hit a number of shot clock beating bombs that were tough shots. Without him and Perk in the first half the Pistons probably blow the thing open early. Things were looking so bleak and frustrating early on I was struggling to watch. And then KG posterized Theo Ratliff, the arena exploded, and the Celtics used that momentum to go on the prolonged run that ultimately resulted in their lead peaking at 17 late in the third quarter. None of that is possible without KG and his truly outstanding play early on. Because of that, I've got to apologize for prior comments. After nearly watching a 17 point lead get tossed down the toiler I was thinking more along the lines of negative than positive. Let's accentuate the positive right now and say that KG was a beast through 2.5 quarters and the game probably is not close - as in a Pistons blowout - without what he did. Read more!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics WON!

I'm going to try and be coherent here, but it just might not be possible. I just watched the Celtics nearly blow a 17 point second half lead at home and even though they won I almost feel like they lost.

That sounds ridiculous coming from somebody who watched their team just pull out a HUGE Game 5 victory to put themselves one game away from the Finals but I cannot help it. Tomorrow I promise I'll feel better, realizing that despite assuaging every Celtics fans fears on the team (I'll list them below) that they still won the game. Bottom line, the Celtics are one game away from the NBA Finals a season after they lost 18 straight, tanked the second half, and seriously considered drafting Yi Jianlan. I'm starting to feel better now. But they still need to win one more time. Not the easiest thing in the world.

Let's look at tonight's positives first:

1) Ray Allen awoke and hit the huge shots we've been waiting for all postseason. When the Celtics made their run in the third quarter he was absolutely unconscious. He also hit the jumper coming out of the timeout late in the fourth that put the Celtics over the top and some huge free throws. Well done Ray.

2) Kendrick Perkins had a MONSTER first half. Even if he reverted to form in the second half, he still finished with 18 points, 16 boards, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Even if big first halfs almost always get forgotten, they count the same in the end and you can't take that away from Perk (excuse me, "KP43") or the team.

3) KG was on absolute fire for about 2.5 quarters. He was not missing. Unfortunately he was on fire from the perimeter and was more or less an offensive non-factor in the late third and much of the fourth for this very reason. Once again I'll say it, "KG YOU ARE 7 FEET TALL, PLAY ON THE POST!". I do give him props for nailing the game clinching free throws though. I thought he was a lock for bricking the front end of those. (Cheap shotting I know, especially after he put in 33 points but seriously, I know that most everybody is with me in these thoughts.)

4) The good with Rajon Rondo; 13 assists to 1 turnover and 4 steals on top of that. The bad; 3-14 shooting with a few more missed layups and a new found penchant for throwing slow and arching entry and cross court passes that scream "steal me and bring me back for a dunk" that put Celtic fans on the edge of their seats every time they are thrown. Those passes have to stop. Please.

5) As for my obligatory Paul Pierce note, well he had a relatively quiet but solid all around game. He consistently backed down his defenders which I love to see from him, he shot around 50% (5-11), he got 5 boards and six assists, and he only turned the ball over once. Not a Hall of Fame performance but one I'll take. Especially when Ray Allen and KG are hitting nearly every shot and combining for 62. Hey, if you want 75 a night from those three, they gave you 78 in Game 5.

Now the bad, or as I said above, what Celtics fans fear/are terrified of:

1) The team absolutely cannot put quality teams away. Sure they could run the Hawks out of the building after a couple of big second half body blows, but when teams like the Pistons fight back and are able to spring quick 4-0 and 5-0 runs in 30 second spans it rattles the Celtics and they seem to start trying too hard and taking bad shots. Props to Van Gundy who even while the Celtics were good called this exact thing pointing out a couple of bad offensive possessions - points or not - mixed with poor defensive ones. The guy knows his stuff and even though the lead at the time was still in the teens he planted the seed for what became the ultimate tendencies that let Detroit back in the game. That and stifling defense mixed with horrible Celtic offense and some boneheaded plays on both ends to boot. (I'm looking at you Rajon and Perk. You guys gave Detroit 4 free points by fouling Billups while shooting a 3 and then getting a T on the other end.)

2) In a related note was I the only one thinking about that Kings/Lakers 2002 Western Conference Final when Sacramento had every chance in the world to take down LA but could not because their entire team save for Mike Bibby looked terrified to shoot the ball? KG and Rondo both looked absolutely horrified to do anything remotely resembling taking a shot. Pierce was being locked down on D by Rip Hamilton (WTF???) and Allen was aggressive in trying to get his shots but I got a very distinct "anybody but me" feeling from KG and Rondo in regards to shooting when the game got close late in the fourth. This in turned caused discord offensively and lead to all those awful fourth quarter possessions we saw.

3) We love to implore KG to get in the post more and not settle for long jumpers but unfortunately that is not who he is. Sure he'll tease us with that skill from time to time but for the most part he is a jump shooter. It's not just KG though, the Celtics are a jump shooting team as a whole. Yes, Pierce is good at attacking the rim and getting to the line but nobody else really possesses that trait. And that is pretty scary because as we saw in Game 5, while jumpers are great when they are going in and they can put points on the board real fast, they can stop falling as quickly as they can start. And when they stop falling, the team that had been relying on them is normally SOL and their opponent can almost always make things a bit more interesting than desired.

Other than MJ's Bulls when was the last time a team without a dominant low post game won a title? Exactly. There's a reason for that too and it's pretty simple. The closer you are when you take your shots the more likely that they'll go in. I'm not being flip here, I'm stating a fact. Then, if that does not suit you attack the basket. You could get a layup or free throws. You can score in the low 20's consistently without getting to the line or taking high percentage, close range shots, but it's real tough to get 30+ and when you want to win a championship, a lot of the times you need the 30+ games.

3) The Pistons are tough as sh*t and they know how to win. That is so freaking cliched that I'm embarrassed to write it but it is absolutely true. They possess a toughness and saviness that the Celtics simply do not and because of that, even though the Celtics are up 3-2, I am still very, very scared of Detroit.

That's it. This made me feel better. Hopefully a celebration will be in order on Friday? I'll be with a bunch of other Beverly delinquent in St. Louis so it could get rowdy. I hope so. Although it will probably get rowdy either way.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Notes from a Long Weekend

Here isFor me the weekend began on Thursday afternoon when I attended the Sox vs. Royals, and continued on Friday when there was a jeans day at work which I consider a vacation from myself. Anyway it was a big sports weekend, not only for the major sports like Baseball and Basketball but also for the lesser known sports like Lacrosse and Indy car racing. So here are my notes from the weekend.

- The Sox stunk it up this weekend, I won't expound much further because Neal already did but can they have some kind of consistency, also I hate games on the west coast I am all for staying up late but a 10 PM start is just to late for me to get through the entire game anymore.

- On Thursday the Celtics lost and dashed our hopes, then on Sunday they won on the road and regained home court advantage, then never seemed completely there last night. Maybe they only play with intensity at home and when they are facing a true must win, this series is going 7 and I think that the Celtics will win.

- On Sunday my Fiancé, her mother, and her cousin drove to Natick to go to some shop called "Shoes to Dye For", we are getting married in 6 months and I guess the time had come for them to buy shoes. I on the other hand have done nothing about my tux, and don't plan on it for quite sometime. Anyway I am getting off point, I watched the Indianapolis 500, or at least I channel surfed and kept ending up there. It was actually pretty exciting to watch especially when Danica Patrick got taken out and then she tried to go after the guy who did it.

- If you want to get angry read this article, and if you want to get really angry read the comments including the idiot person who commented that Boston should lose its franchise because of spygate. Fucking Idiot.

- I also watched some of the NCAA Lacrosse live from beautiful Gillette Stadium. I found myself rooting for Duke, usually I hate Duke they are elitists but after the mockery that was the Duke Lacrosse Rape case I found myself rooting for them even though they ended up losing to Johns Hopkins.

- Finally I bought some more baseball cards this weekend. I have definitely cut down on my habit allot since last year but I still found myself buying 2 boxes do Bowman. For those who don't know Bowman is the rookie card maker, they have all the stars but also the top draft picks from last year. An Albert Pujols card from this set back in the early part of the decade goes for 5,000 bucks. None of the cards I got would ever be worth that much.

- Also in baseball card news, about 6 months ago I bought a box of Bowman Heritage off the clearance table at Slap shot sports cards. I got some good cards and got a redemption card for Koby Clemens. Essentially by the time they sent out the cards the great Koby had not returned his cards yet. I waited and waited and waited and then on Friday I got a package in the mail. Was the Rocket's oldest son in there? No. Often injured no name pitcher Jacob L Marceaux was, to say I am pissed is an understatement.

That's all I have from this this long weekend, hopefully the Sox turn it around and can return home with a win streak after the trip to Seattle and Baltimore. Watch the Celtics on Wednesday I have a good feeling about it.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics LOST

This is a first for me. I'm actually starting this postgame wrap-up with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of what can certainly be seen as a winnable game. The thing is, unless some miracles occur in these last six minutes that have not occurred in the first forty-two then there is no shot the Celtics are winning this game unless the Pistons allow them to hang around even more than they already are.

Without further ado, here's why the C's lost Game 4.

1) First and foremost, this game was a Grade A stinker. Absolutely atrocious. Honestly, I almost wish it were a blowout just so I would not have felt obliged to keep on watching the game through the evening. Yet again, the Celtics offensive is looking utterly incompetent.

2) Really, the only Celtic player that looked like they had a clue offensively all night was James Posey and he did not even play that well. I don't think KG saw the paint on the offensive end, Ray Allen reverted back to bricking every jumper in sight, and they received absolutely worthless play from the point guard position. Pierce never seemed to find his rhythm, but I give him credit for at least grinding, attacking the rim, and getting his points that way.

3) Antonio McDyess absolutely killed them. Dude was unstoppable. Does he miss jump shots?

4) Jason Maxiell was pretty good for the Pistons too. He's like Leon Powe 2.0. Bigger, stronger, faster, better basketball player.

5) Why did Sam Cassell become the backup point guard again? Didn't we all agree that was not working out too well. Did you see that off balanced three he chucked early in the fourth quarter about five second into the shot clock? WTF?

6) I love Rajon Rondo, I really do but two things drive me mad about him. One, he is wildly inconsistent as demonstrated by his performances throughout the playoffs and two he is an awful finisher. How many layups does that guy miss?

7) 2:53 left in the game. Billups who has been awful all night just nailed a three to put the Pistons up 10. Ball game? I'd be shocked if it were not.

8) Seriously, what a terrible game. The Pistons should have won this thing by at least 20. The fact that it will be less than that really does not speak too well for them and I think gives the Celtics hope for winning this thing eventually - probably in 7 next Sunday. I really don't think the Celtics have played worse this postseason. I guess Game 3 in Cleveland you could say, but this performance was plenty bad too. They definitely get bonus points for hanging around and showing perseverance but if any Celtics fan out there can actually say that they for one minute truly believed the C's would pull it out in the end, they are lying.

(OK, so it ended up that the Pistons won by 19. Really though, most of that lead was padded in the last two minutes of the game and garbage time. All things considered I'd say they won by about 12. Now that the final spread was 19, I'm going to go ahead and say they should have won by 30. Props to the C's for making it a game, but seriously, they played like crap.)

See you on Wednesday night. Same time. Same place. Hopefully better spirits.
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The Red Sox Streaks Through 53 Games

Is the Red Sox season driving you mad? Have you ever seen a streakier team? Does it seem like they cannot get things going on a steady pace and instead will either win every game they play or lose every game? Well, if that is how you feel, then you are pretty much correct.

Going crazy from the rollercoaster nature of this season, I decided to check out their game-by-game results. Consider the below, it is insane. Also consider that despite everything they are currently 31-22, playing .585 baseball and on pace for about 95 wins. It's not all bad really, I'd just like a slighly smoother ride. If they can win fourteen or fifteen of twenty games without it being two seven game win streaks with a six game losing streak thrown in the middle I think it will make life easier on anybody. Again though, it's pretty tough to complain about a team on a 95 win pace. Just check this out though:

The Red Sox Season From The Perspective of Their Streaks:

(starting at the beginning of the season and going through 5/25)

Won 3 of 4
Lost 3
Went 2-2
Won 10 of 11
Lost 5
Won 7 of 8
Went 2-2
Lost 4
Won 7
Lost 3

Insane right? I'm sure this stuff will even out in the end and the streaks will become less pronounced but right now it is just insane to me.
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Friday, May 23, 2008

Live at Fenway Park

So yesterday I got to do something that I rarely get to do, go to a Sox game on a weekday afternoon. I work for a living so long gone are the days of my youth when I could hop on a train at the Beverly depot when ever I thought that I could get tickets. This time though not only was going on a work day, work was why I was going, and they gave me spending money to boot so it was all gravy.

Anyway for the first time in about 5 years I sat in the bleachers and watched as the Red Sox hit two grand slams and kept letting the Royals back into the game until Paps finally slammed the door in the 9th. I have now been to three games this year, a Friday night Yankees game, a Saturday night rangers game, and a Thursday afternoon Royals game and I have some observations.

- At the Yankees game things were hectic, people were everywhere outside the ball park, we must have passed 10 scalpers on our way in trying to get us to sell our tickets. Once inside you could hardly move and people were just rude. At the Rangers game more of the same, most likely because it was Patriots day weekend and all the running nuts were in town. Yesterday though for the royals it was dead, the game was sold out and they claimed that 37k people were there but it was easy to walk around and there were guys trying to get rid of tickets out front instead of buying.

- At the Rangers game we had Lance Armstrong throw out the first pitch, I think at the Yankees game we had Jacoby Ellsbury's cousin (It was Native American Night), and then yesterday we had the Mass Teacher of the year.

- At the Yankees game it was obvious the Sox were going to lose, Wang was on his game and the Sox were just not hitting but everyone stayed to the final out, the Rangers game was close and Paps was going to come in so everyone stayed, yesterday even with a three run game most of the stands were empty by the end. The group in front of us about 7 guys who wore way to much cologne disappeared twice for 3 innings at a time.

- The signs are interesting at a Royals game it is obvious that the crazy people can't afford a regular game and they came out in force yesterday. The best sign I have included a picture of.

So to wrap up it was a good game, a friend of mine got to go to her first game, the way home on the bus was particularly interesting, especially when the bus driver got off route one and drove us around the back roads of Revere and Malden only to get back on route one less than a mile later. Also I got to watch most of My Cousin Vinny which is always a good movie. The Sox are on the road for the next 10 an are the west coast for 6 games so there will be some late nights.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the PISTONS Won!

Notice the difference in title of this post? Exactly. What a game. For the first time this postseason the Celtics actually lost a playoff game where they played well. Believe it or not I'll take that as a positive and hope that maybe the next step is for them to win a game on the road. I hope I'm not asking too much.
In all seriousness though, Game 2 was a great one and the Celtics came out on the losing end. They showed something of a toughness in slugging it out non-stop for four quarters against a great team playing great that I have not seen from them yet this postseason. It was not a blowout, a road choke job, or even an ugly win like the rest of their games. Nope, this game was just a straight up great basketball game and because of that I really cannot get too down in the dumps. Plus I'm much more heartened from what I saw during this game than from what I've seen from any of their other losses and even some of their victories.

The way I see it, here is why the Celtics lost:

1) They never met a ball fake they did not like did they? Even though the foul discrepancy was not too great (28/32 for Detroit vs. 22/25 for Boston), it did allow Detroit to consistently get easy buckets when their offense was not clicking. Watching the C's flail all over the place after even the most rudimentary of pump and ball fakes was comical. And yeah, I'll take Rip Hamilton shooting 7/16 any day in this series but the Celtics can't let him get to the line 12 times to offset his off - for him - shooting night so he can still put in 25.

2) Ray Allen picking up that silly fifth foul halfway through the third when he was actually contributing for the first time in ages really hurt.

3) A few late game, up for grabs loose balls went to the Pistons, namely one with about 1:24 left I think which allowed them to milk the clock and essentially ice the game.

4) I'm not going to lie, it still shocks me how useful, dependable, and all around clutch PJ Brown has been. He is money on those wide open mid-range jumpers.

5) KG had a good game but I don't think I really saw him attack the basket at all save for that one play in the fourth where he did his "take off from right after the free throw line like he's going to jam it then realize he does not have that kind of hops so fire the ball awkward and hard off the glass and somehow it goes in" move. Even still, he was taking his jumpers in the flow of the offense and hitting them (24on 11/19 shooting) but I'd still like to see him on the blocks just a bit more, especially if Ray Allen is getting his shot back.

6) We can now officially say that Rajon Rondo is incredibly up and down and that which end he comes up on will also dictate which end the Celtics come out on.

7) The most heartening thing from the loss other than the all around toughness displayed by the C's in hanging in that game and clawing back against a real good team was Paul Pierce's second consecutive outstanding game. He was driving and dishing, hitting his step-back, and asserting himself in general. If he continues to play that way the Celtics will be in good shape moving forward and may even win a road game. Of course cutting down on the turnovers would be nice too but you really can't dog him too, too much for that because he has the ball in his hands so much. It's not like he's Antoine Walker dribbling the ball of his foot or running into a charge on a fastbreak.

8) 75 points for Pierce/KG/Allen on 29/51 shooting. Despite the loss, that I hope will be a great harbinger of things to come.

Now Why the Pistons Won:

1) First and foremost their backcourt absolutely destroyed the Celtics. Billups, Hamilton, and Stuckey were all outstanding while pretty much carrying the team to victory.

2) Man, those guys are tough. They whithered furious third quarter and fourth quarter runs against the league's best team record wise during the regular season on said team's home court, never bended, never broke, hit every single big shot they had to hit, and grabbed every key loose ball. I can't say enough how much they impressed me.

3) You look at the box score and see just 13 points for Rasheed. What you don't see there is that six of those thirteen came on two absolutely HUGE three pointers. One in the third to quell a run and one in the fourth to do the same. I really can't emphasize how big those shots were.

4) My old roommate Jay emailed me the other day saying that Antonio McDyess had reached "Gary Sheffield in the 2004 ALCS scary levels" whenever he queued up a jump shot. I actually missed Game 1 so I didn't really know what he was talking about. Well, now I do. He did not do much in the second half but he was huge in the first. Whenever him or Rip Hamilton shoot, I just assume it is going in.

And that is that. As I said, while I am bummed the Celtics lost, Game 2 was such an outstanding basketball game that almost all is forgiven. Now if they can just win in Detroit on Saturday....
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NBA Draft 2008

I know I haven't posted lately, but allergies are kicking my butt right now hopefully whatever is blooming will stop soon and my life can get back to normal. That being said, I wanted to make a quick post about last night. Not the Celtics game which was fun to watch but the draft lottery. For years I have been fascinated by the lottery, I even had a party one time with some friends in middle school where we watched the draft lottery. As you know by now the Bulls one the draft lottery with a less than 2% chance. They have had more top five picks since Jordan left than I care to mention and only one, that is right ONE, is still on the team and that is the constantly under performing Ben Gordon who they selected third.

Anyway here is my point, the ping pongs bounced and the Bulls one and then less than 2 hours later posted its first mock draft. I don't have a problem with them posting it I have a problem with who is available to be picked.

There are 30 picks in the first round, and they only 4 Seniors going in the top 30, now granted there are some foreigners they have about three from what I can tell, but can someone explain how there are 23 underclassmen who are going to be drafter in the first round. I can't fault the likes of Michael Beasley, or Derrick Rose just like I didn't fault Greg Oden and Kevin Durant a year ago, but I do have to say Ty Lawson what is going through your head, or Kosta Koufos, or Marceese Speights. They are all projected to go in picks 27 through 29. Why do you leave school early to go ride the bench. Do you think Ty Lawson could beat out Chancey Billups, or Kosta Koufas is going to beat out David West.

I don't think so why do they come out early? Stay in school, Ty Lawson could have had another year with Tyler Hansborough who knew he was at best a sixth man in the NBA and stuck around to win another Player of the Year award. What is gained but a couple million dollars that you would get the next year and a career watching from the bench. Take it from a college graduate STAY IN SCHOOL.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Quick Pistons Preview

Everybody sick of predictions and breakdowns of the Celtics/Pistons series already? Of course! Even so, here are my few thoughts heading in...

1) I'm expecting Ray Allen to get himself some JD Drew like redemption in this series. If I had to make a prediction for that game I'd say Game 4 in Detroit. I really think he's busting out on the road and playing an instrumental role in the Celtics first road victory of the postseason.

2) I expect to see more ugly basketball like we saw in the Cleveland series. Ugh. Everybody's fired up about a seven game KG/Rasheed matchup and you can throw me into that group too. I just fear that KG will be SO fired up for this that he ends up strong arming hook shots and bricking layups which he tends to do sometimes when all the spotlight is on him. Either that or he'll fire a bullet pass from two feet away at Leon Powe or Kendrick Perkins that will clang off of their unsuspecting hands. I'm really pulling for KG to make himself The Man in this series, but quite honestly I'm not going to believe it until I see him do it for more than one game intervals.

3) For me, the real key to series is the Chauncey Billups/Rajon Rondo matchup. Remember from their first meeting in December when Rajon was running all over Chauncey in the first half of the game but then in the second half Billups summoned the ghosts of the great Mark Jackson and Gary Payton to use his strength and savvy to destroy Rondo while backing him down. Then, just when Rondo would key on the post game, Billups would step back and drain some threes to keep him honest. It was quite the clinic. If Rajon can keep Billups from doing that at will then I think the Celtics will be in good shape.

4) You want to know what I'm hoping for? I'm hoping that after about 4 minutes in Game 1, Ray Allen sees his UConn protege, Rip Hamilton running all over the court off of double and triple screens and draining jumpers, then realizes that he can do that too and all of a sudden becomes a factor. That's my hope at least.

5) As for my outlandish prediction, I actually don't think it will go Seven. I think it goes five or six and I say Celtics in Five. If you want my reasoning for that, it's quite simple. I don't see them losing at home during the postseason except maybe against a Western team and I think they win a game on the road eventually. My guess is it is Game 4 in Detroit. After that, they come home up 3-1 and clinch in a rout over a Pistons team that has already packed it in. There you have it. I have zero confidence in that call because I could definitely see them splitting Games One and Two with Detroit and things going downhill from there but C's in five was my first inclination and I am going with it.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

(Not Quite) Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics WON!

I normally like writing these just a few minutes after the last minute of the game. No such luck here. Let's just get down to it. Bring on the Pistons.

1) Paul Pierce. 41 points. Thank you very much. I've been waiting for this game from Pierce all playoffs. Pretty good timing methinks. I'll always take a clutch 41 in a tightly contested Game 7 over an easy 35 in a blowout Game 4.

2) Will this game become the PJ Brown game? Doubtful I know seeing as it featured forty point games from both Paul Pierce and Lebron James, but if ever there were a bench player who could legitimately be seen as the MVP of an elimination game while scoring 10 points in 20 minutes it would have to be PJ Brown.

3) I have one nitpick and it is tiny in the big scheme of things and seems even ridiculous upon saying so, but running the offense through KG in crunch time as opposed to Pierce is just plain dumb. Pierce was feeling it and when Pierce is feeling it he can pretty much score at will by either hitting his step back jumper, driving to the hoop, or getting to the line. KG, well I don't know. He's great on the defensive end and has his moments offensively (seemed pretty happy with the fadeaways on Sunday I must admit which I'm not a fan of) but when you have a player as gifted offensively as Paul Pierce who is clearly having a "we're going to win the f***ing game" game then there is really no reason to not make him the complete focal point of every offensive series. Cleveland did this with Lebron and was almost able to steal the game that way.

4) Speaking of Lebron, I know it's not groundbreaking news, but my lord does he get every single call. It is maddening. I can't even imagine how Dallas fans must feel towards Dwayne Wade. At least the Celtics were able to prevail. If I were a Mavs fan - and I say this completely summoning the ghosts of June '06 - then I would probably be bucking for a contract hit on Dwayne Wade. Oh, and Dwayne, I must admit I get a HUGE kick out of seeing you in T-Mobile commercials every three seconds and thinking about how a big superstar such as yourself played 51 games for a 15 win team.

5) One more Lebron tidbit and that is I don't have him in the Ladanian Tomlinson Hall of Fame for bitchy superstars. The thing with James is that even if he plays like a whiny pussy on the court (which he undoubtedly does) he seems to carry himself with nothing but class in the postgame pressers. He gives credit where credit is due and never seems to throw people under the bus. In other words you'll never hear any "the best team doesn't always win" garbage come from his mouth. Meanwhile Ladanian while maybe never saying that per se is always coming up with excuses X, Y, and Z of why he choked which inevitably always make him look great and his teammates and the competition like absolute trash. Did I mention how much I disdain Mr. Tomlinson?

6) Note to Tom Brady, the next time you are at a Celtics playoff game and sitting courtside, let's not wear the cap of a baseball team located on the other side of the country. I'm not saying he has to have a jersey on like Randy Moss did, but at least show either local team colors or none at all. A SF Giants hat? Really? I feel like at this point between all the magazine shoots and gossip column appearances that Brady is almost trying to turn the city against him.

7) I give Matt Burke full credit for this as he is the first person to ever point this out to me but the best way to gauge whether Paul Pierce is on or off is to see if he is hitting his step-back jumpers. When he's hitting those he is unstoppable. And when he is not, well, let's just hope he's driving to the hoop and getting to the line.

8) I may as well just proclaim my love for Eddie House right now. It's not like he is a superstar or even a desirable backup point guard, but let's just say it is nice to see a backup guard on the court who can run with quicker opponents, hit shots, and even pass every now and again. I was in full "anyone but Sam mode" after Game 4 so it may seem like I am giving Eddie House more credit than he may deserve but what he has brought to the table - namely speed and a somewhat consistent jumper - so far laps Cassell about eight times over. It also seems like the team just likes Eddie House better. They do not degenerate into selfish chuckers with him on the court and in the rotation like they do with Cassell. I'm not really sure what took Doc so long but the more DNP CDs that Sam I Am racks up for the rest of the playoffs the better.

9) Isn't it just so freakin' ironic that PJ Brown, the guy who the Celtics brought in seemingly unnecessarily and with minimal fanfare has ended up being a much greater contributor than Cassell, the guy that everybody thought would be the guy to push the team over the proverbial hump.

10) I hate to sweat PJ Brown more than I already have for his play in Game 7, but didn't it seem like he was in the right place at the right time constantly in the game? Didn't he have two airball putbacks? Some may call that luck, I'll call that being a savvy veteran and knowing 100% what to do at all times. Granted it's probably a bit of both, but whatever, I stand by my savvy veteran stance and will run with it.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Please Excuse My Ranting and Raving

The Celtics have had a near monopoly on my blogging time and energy lately. Let's touch on a few other things...

1) First an admission; sometimes when I am bored I peruse the sports message board to see what kind of idiotic postings there are out there. These posts both amuse me and make me feel better about myself. Today I stumbled upon one which hit a nerve. It hit a nerve because it pined for something that I thought (or rather hoped I guess) Red Sox fans would be too smart to pine for. It pined for Hanley Ramirez in a Red Sox uniform.

Look, Hanley is arguably the most talented player in the NL and one of the best offensive players in baseball. He was hyped up when he was in the Sox farm system and amazingly he has exceeded those expectations. Any fan would want Hanley on their team. BUT, to say in essence that you wish the Sox did not make the Josh Beckett trade so that they could have Hanley right now is idiotic. Sure it would be great to have Hanley at SS instead of Lugo. It would be more than great. But do you know what's better than more than great??? WINNING A WORLD SERIES! Do the Sox win the World Series last year without Josh Beckett? Um no. No chance. I guess you could hypothetically say that maybe they would have won last year with Hanley due to a dynamic offense, but first off I doubt that and second off there is no need to deal with hypothetical situations when the actual event happened. Let's deal in truths! They won the World Series and Beckett was their most valuable player in the postseason.

It seems like I should wrap up now, but I can't. I must keep going...

Honestly, this "I wish the Sox had Hanley" thought is one that I hoped I would never hear voiced. Of course I am considering the source - a sports message board, a breeding ground for moronic conversation - but actually seeing it put out there in print galls me. Isn't the end goal of all the moves a team makes to win a championship? Isn't that what every fan hopes for at the beginning of each season, to see their team win it all? Those aren't rhetorical questions, the answers to both are YES! I'm sorry I am so worked up right now but people with idiotic thoughts and opinions I do not have time for.

And one last thing, this same poster said something like, "Imagine having Hanley in the lineup with Manny, Papi, and LOWELL". Lowell was part of the Hanley trade too! Dude didn't even have his facts/story straight. I know I am totally overreacting here, but this is one thing I prayed I would not hear all year with the emergence of Hanley Ramirez: Superstar but of course I was proven wrong.

Oh, and if that super young, but super hyped prospect the Sox included in the Gagne deal turns out to be nasty, well just shoot us all. I think everybody was on board with that deal at the time and it obviously was a bust. If it turns out the Sox dealt the next Hanley Ramirez for two months of Eric Gagne well that one will hurt.

2) Has it been proven definitively enough yet? Can we all agree that Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen are NOT the late inning answers the front office and has said they would be for the past three years? At what point does major league performance start trumping "potential"? Look below. Neither are exactly "young" by MLB standards and Hansen by any measure has been awful and I guess you could say Delcarmen has been mediocre. Wouldn't it have been nice if the Sox actually pulled the trigger on trading these guys a few years ago when they actually had some value? Right now I don't even care anymore. I'm just sick of hearing about them and seeing them come into close games.

Craig Hansen (24.5 years old) Career Stats:
46.1 IP/57 hits/35 ER/37:19 K:BB/6.80 ERA/1.64 WHIP

Manny Delcarmen (26 years old) Career Stats:
121 IP/121 hits/53 ER/109:47 K:BB/3.94 ERA/1.39 WHIP

3) ESPN just can't stand to see Spygate die can they? With that gone, how else will they beat the public over their collective heads with NFL stories almost one month after the draft and two months before Training Camp AKA dead time? I like football and the NFL as much as the next guy but it is still my third favorite sport to follow behind baseball and basketball and one of the main reasons for this is that I hate being bombarded seemingly year round by the NFL and ESPN that I MUST LOVE FOOTBALL. It drives me nuts. Not nearly as nuts as ESPN's initial MNF ad campaign did though. "Thank God It's Monday". Really? Sorry, on Monday morning I'm still going to be pissed off that it's Monday morning regardless of whether two sub .500 teams are playing that night on ESPN where I can tune in and watch them not talk about the game and advertise ABC primetime programming and Disney movies the whole time. I'll pass thanks. With that being said though, it is great when YOUR team is on MNF.

4) One more NFL related note that kind of goes along with the last item and it is actually something (patting myself on the back) I've been arguing for a long time. The NFL is over-expanding itself to a ridiculous degree right now with all the different days of the weeks they run games. There are many reasons why football has become THE dominant American sport, but I think a big part of that is scarcity. Whether you are a college or pro football fan, part of the allure was that Saturday or Sunday was football day. It was one day a week, you could make a day out of drinking, eating, watching sports on TV with your buddies, and not moving from the couch for eight hours. Even if the weather was nice, nobody could dog you because you were watching football and that was how it was supposed to be. Now that is a business model folks! Too bad they strayed.

While Saturday and Sundays were the main days, college added Thursday nights and the NFL added Monday nights, and this worked too. The games were in primetime, they were usually traditional or newly-fangled rivalries, and again they became kind of an event because they were the ONLY game that day and they were at night and under the lights. For college, the Thursday night game could get you amped for the upcoming slate of Saturday games and for the NFL, the Monday night game could serve as a nice final course after gorging yourself on football all aday Sunday. If it just so happened to be a huge game, all the better.

But now the NFL has added Thursday and Saturday games to their late season schedules. Understand I have always loved the Saturday NFL games, especially now living in a different market than my team plays in because it a) increases the chances of me seeing the Pats on the local affiliates on Saturday or Sunday and b) it also increases the fact that I'll see the marquis AFC and NFC games that week. You don't know how many times I've wanted to watch a big AFC game only to be part of that 1% of the country that does not get the game because CBS needs to show the Baltimore game in DC. I can say with full confidence that the Ravens are consistently THE most boring team in the NFL to watch, especially now that Ray Lewis is not what he once was. With all that said, the Saturday games were always in the past afternoon games. Now we have Saturday night games too. Am I really supposed to base my Saturday night around watching a couple of teams I don't care about? Of course not.

The other thing now is that late in the football season, the NFL has primetime games more often than NBC airs Deal or No Deal. Seriously. Should I really get excited about something that is on four nights a week? Doesn't that completely dilute the talent pool of games too? Each week I think you can say with some certainty that there will be three and maybe even four if you are really lucky intriguing games. You can of course try and pick out these games when drawing up the schedules, but the bottom line is that every year there are going to be teams that do a lot worse than expected and teams that do a lot better therefore making many of these matchups almost meaningless by the time they come to pass. Just look at last year's Pats/Ravens MNF matchup. Those were two division winners from the year before being matched up on a Monday Night in December. Sounds great on paper right? Well come game time that certainly was not the case with the Pats dominating the league and the Ravens a step above the bottom feeders. Of course it was a great game in the end, but the Pats were 23.5 point favorites heading into the game. When the main pre-game hype surrounding a game is "Can Team X Cover This Outlandish Point Spread" that's not necessarily a good thing. And let's not forget the infamous SF/Cincy Saturday Night matchup from last year which was a battle for god knows what between two teams who were among the ten worst in the league. And I should dedicate my Saturday to this? No thanks.

I'm ranting and raving now, but I think my point has been made. The NFL is recklessly over-exposing itself and while it is in no danger of losing it's choke-hold on being America's favorite sport it is heading towards a comeuppance of sorts due to the fact that at some point I would guess soon people will stop looking at the NFL on TV as appointment viewing and more as something they'll watch if there is nothing else on with the irony being that a large part of the NFL's success to date is because the league made itself appointment viewing by limiting access. Just think about it, if your favorite TV show was on four times a week instead of once, would you really be as excited for the episodes every time they aired? Probably not right?

Wow, I didn't think it would go down like that but I guess it did. I had to get those things off my chest. Much better now.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics Won!

I have to start with full disclosure here. I only caught the very end of the first half and entire second half of this game. That's probably for the best though because from the way it sounds, the first quarter and a half could have very well sent me into a homicidal rage so I'm glad I missed it.

Onto the game though and why the Celtics WON!

1) For the first time in the playoffs the Celtics actually resembled the regular season juggernaut that they were. For the first time these playoffs with the exception of Game One of this series - such a shit show offensively you really can't draw too many conclusions there - the Celtics played well in a closely contested game. They ran their offense, attacked the basket, exploited advantageous matchups (poor Delonte West looked like a rented mule out there with Rondo and Pierece taking terms abusing him and Ray Allen finally brought it to Wally Z), and of course played outstanding D. I'm not kidding, for the first time these playoffs I watched the Celtics play and thought to myself, "now THAT is a championship caliber team".

2) Finally, Doc realized that it was not mid-March and that he could ride his starters for more than 33 minutes a game. Myself and I think about every other Celtic fan has been crying for 40+ minute nights for Pierce/Allen/KG/Rondo and Doc finally acquiesced. What was the result? The most crisp offensive game they have played this postseason featuring aggressive, team play with a lack of chucking. Oh, and gee whiz, Sam Cassell played only five and half minutes and zippy in the second half which just so happened to be the time when the C's took over the game. Again, this is not a coincidence. Now hopefully Doc learns from this and decides to ride Rondo through any ups and downs he may have moving forward instead of yanking him at the first sign of trouble as he has been apt to do because we all know what happens next. Sam Cassell comes in and submarines the offensive rhythm for the game while chucking bad shot upon bad shot.

3) Paul Pierce finally showed up with 29 points and 7 rebounds in 42 minutes. Plus he was money from the line down the stretch. I hope this is a building block for Pierce. Maybe on Friday he full on carries the team to a road victory with 35+. I'd love to see it. I don't want it to sound like I'm dogging the guy though, he played GREAT and I loved every second of it.

4) KG was outstanding too going for 26 and 16. Most impressive and encouraging were the few in-traffic dunks he had instead of dishing the ball to unsuspecting teammates or settling for jump shots. The jump shots he did take were predominantly when he was in rhythm and those are good shots for him. And of course he was stellar on the defensive end too. Really an all around great game for him. Oh yeah and he played 41 minutes.

5) The real key to the game for the C's offensively though was Rajon Rondo. Not only did his numbers dazzle with 20 points, 13 assists, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover in 42 (finally!!!) minutes but he did everything in his power from barking at his teammates (in a good way) to demanding the ball to make sure that they continued to run their offense and they continued to attack. KG is the unquestioned leader of the team and Pierce is probably their best offensive option but I truly believe that from an offensive standpoint the entire team feeds off of Rondo's energy and aggressiveness. Yet another reason why I hope there are many more of these 40 minute a night games to come. It's the playoffs! These guys can log big minutes now, that is why you rest them during the regular season!

6) The TNT announcers touched on this and I too want to mention it because I think it truly shows what kind of player Ray Allen is. Finally, Ray Allen was more aggressive in Game 5 than he has been all series but he still could not get on track scoring the basketball. You can tell he wants to hit some key shots more than anybody but he just can't seem to connect. And then on the Celtics last real possession of the game, up 4 with 16 seconds left he fights on the boards to tip an offensive rebound out to Paul Pierce. By putting in the extra effort on the glass - not Ray Allen's calling card I don't think - he made the key play late in the game that allowed the Celtics to ice the game with an extra possession which he created. If he does not tip that ball, Cleveland has the ball and all the momentum - it was almost like the Celtics were trying to make it interesting in the last four minutes with their sloppiness both offensive and defensively - with 15 seconds left, down four with a chance to cut it to two or one. Who knows what happens if that situation presents itself, but it did not because Ray Allen, despite his shooting woes went out of his way to make a different contribution to the team and that contribution was a nail in the coffin play, no different really than hitting a big three that helped seal victory.

7) Well done Big Baby. Loved the enthusiasm you were playing with out there tonight.

8) Yes the Celtics still need to win a road game, but Game 5 left such a fantastic taste in my mouth with almost too many positive developments to mention that I truly think they have turned the corner and will now go back to being the Celtics we came to know and love during the regular season. And seriously, keeping Sam Cassell on the bench for all but six minutes is absolutely a crucial ingredient to sustaining this momentum.

Let's wrap this bitch up in Cleveland on Friday.
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Little League

Spring is here. I have always measured the seasons by the sports that are played, in New England it is to tough to go by the date or the actual weather, for me Spring starts when baseball is played. You get your first glimpse with the Red Sox in Florida, and then in the regular season but spring is really here when on a Saturday morning you drive by the local little league fields and see them swarming with kids. This past Saturday I made the mistake of going yard saling with my Fiancé and her father and spent close to four hours in the cars driving from house to house, viewing thousands of pieces of crap, but along the way we passed enough ball fields to assure me that spring had indeed spring.

It was on this car trip that I started reflect on my own little league career, like any red blooded American boy I went out for baseball as soon as I was old enough and rocked the tball league hard eventually becoming a tball all-star. Of course I was picked to be an all star because we drew straws and I was one of two players on the Comets to march in the parade and play in a contrived all star game at the Hannah school where coaches stood in the outfield with us to make sure we were paying attention and to protect us in case a ball was hit a little to hard. The ball of course was never hit to hard, I mean the outfielders played ten feet behind the infielders and there must have been 15 of us on the field at any given time, we were only 5 or 6 years old what do you expect we all thought we were Wade Boggs(without the mistress),Dwight Evans, and Marty Barrett.

Of course at some point the fun had to end, Tball is innocent, in Beverly though you lose that innocence and had to move up to the farm league. It was here that you had to hit live pitching, the coaches pitched the first half of the season and then split the games with actual kids pitching. This is when it gets scary, it's one thing when its your dad lobbing it over trying to hit your bat for you, but the kid on the mound is just trying to throw it towards the plate and missing most of the time. It was when I played for the Farm league Orioles that I banned my mother from the crowd. My dad was always one of my coaches and has a good understanding of the game but my mother always thought that the best part was stand up and cheer "Go Oreos" very embarassing. As for my innocence, baseball was not nearly as fun when you could get hit by a pitch, or when some little kid who swing wildly lets go of the bat and you get hit in the shins while standing at first base.

After those two seasons I dont remember all of my teams exactly I do remember a couple of the more interesting games though. Like the night when at the newly opening Harry Ball field I ran after a foul ball, slipped on the wet grass fell down and slammed into the fence sperating the field from the dugout and almost knocked myself cold. Or when as a budding statician I took my teams score book from my dad and computed all of our averages and told everyone what they were batting while my father looked like he was going to beat the crap out of me because little leage is supposed to be fun, and no one is supposed to know if they are good or bad. I think the best one was when I was playing at Obear park in Beverly and I hit one deep but not out and was chugging around the bases and ran through my dads signal at third and ended up flattening the kid playing catcher at home, causing an arguement with the other teams coach and the ump, and the coach getting kicked out the game. Or maybe the best is when I convinced my dad that I should be allowed to pitch, when I played for the yankees(what a traumatic name for a little league team I am glad to see that it has now been banned) and I pitched against the Astros. I only ptiched one inning I struck out one, walked 3 and hit one kid fairly hard who I later ended up being friends with and went to school with for 7 years. No wait I have the best, when I played Babe Ruth I was 14 years old, and I had to face convicted felon Andy Hall, the kid was a legend in Beverly little league baseball he threw hard, rumors flew around about how he had knocked a kid cold and carcked his batting helmet. But anyway I only faced him twice in my career and it was when he was a little older and was just plain wild at that point. Both times at the same result. I stole first base. That is right I am as slow as they come but both times I swung at awful pitches that skipped to the backstop and I took off to first base. I ended up getting picked off once and the other time he tried to pick me off and hit me, it almost makes me wish that I had jsut struck out.

So there are my memories of my Springs playing baseball, Play Ball.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Instant Analysis: Why the Celtics LOST

Before we get going, can I just get something off my chest...


Hold on, there's more...


OK, a litte better but not really. Anyway now onto my only slightly psychotic analysis of why the Celtics lost Game 4.

Before you read on, let me tell you what you are going to get first.

A) A lot of Sam Cassell hatred.

B) Doc Rivers being compared to Joe Torre. Probably the first and last time that that will ever happen.


1) Let's see, that makes now three out of four games in this series where calling the Celtics offense inept would be a fine complement. I always kind of took offense for granted in basketball, but let me tell you that watching your team routinely have to STRUGGLE to put the ball in the basket and having a confidence level of roughly 10% that they will score each time they have the ball is pretty damn awful.

2) Paul Pierce, where'd you go buddy?

3) I'm not a chronic Doc basher, but was starting the fourth quarter with Big Baby, PJ Brown, and Sam Cassell all on the floor together really the best option? Can somebody also please explain to me what Sam Cassell does that Eddie House does not? Oh yeah, Sam Cassell is "clutch" and has two rings. At what point can worthless on the court unless he hits every jumper he takes replace "clutch" in the Sam Cassell adjective catalog. Oh yeah, I do remember Cassell from those Rockets teams back in the day. I also remember Hakeem Olajuwon. And Michael Jordan not being in the league for those two years. And that things like grunge rock, alterna-teens, and moshing were all accepted parts of popular culture. And that the Olson Twins were still hot. Like I said, it was a long time ago.

4) Boobie Gibson did not miss and we can thank Sam Cassell for that too.

5) My old roomate Ben said it best when he texted me, "That's what real superstars do in the 4th quarter" after Lebron made a highlight reel dunk that will be showed in NBA promos for the rest of the postseason, looped on ESPN constantly Tuesday, and the impetus for a Wilbon and Tony "Greatest Playoff Dunk Ever" argument on PTI.

And now I have to do some serious, soul expunging venting directed towards Doc Rivers and Sam Cassell. If you have an affinity for either of these guys, you best not read the following...

OK Doc, I get it. You like being able to give a veteran and playoff tested point guard solid minutes at the end of the first and early second quarters and at the end of the third and early to mid to late fourth quarter depending on your team's need for offense. Your starting point guard who has looked fantastic at times this season and like the second year player he is at others may not be ready for the big time necessitating a proven veteran. This theory certainly seems to make a ton of sense on paper. There is one problem however.


I will and I have admitted that Sam Cassell along with KG was the reason the Celtics won Game 1 and I do not take that away from him nor do I disparage him for it. However, Sam Cassell and his me-first/I'm shooting and the rest of the world can go f*** themselves attitude has infected the team like the virus did to the airplane passengers in Outbreak and now everybody is gunning and trying to score points in bunches as opposed to slowly bleeding their opponents which they did so well throughout the season. It now seems that nobody on the team is capable of passing up a shot if they have even a passing glimpse of the rim unless that person is KG and he is under the basket and decides that making an extra pass to an unsuspecting Kendrick Perkins or Leon Powe is the answer before that pass inevitably clangs off of their hands.

This is not a KG rant though, this is a Sam Cassell rant and as I said before unless he is making a shot every single time he touches the ball on offense - and lord knows he shoots it every time he touches it - he is worthless. Why did the C's lose on Monday? Well one of the reasons was that Boobie Gibson caught fire in the fourth because the Cavs kept running him off of picks and sending him flying around the perimeter knowing full well that Cassell could not keep pace. This was true, Gibson got open looks consistently, caught fire, and more or less carried the Cavs down the stretch until the James dunk. Why? Because Sam Cassell could not keep up with him, the Cavs knew it, and the Cavs exploited it. But did he make it up on the offensive end? Nope. Five field goal attempts and five misses. And did I mention that Rajon Rondo played great in the third quarter with the exception of one bad three point heave which in fairness to him came as the shot clock was near expiration? Why is it that Rondo can take one bad shot or make one bad decision and get yanked to the bench but Cassell can take countless bad shots doubling as bad decisions, get destroyed on the defensive end of the court, but yet still stay out there and have Doc's seemingly unrequited love and confidence? Why can't Rondo play 35-40 minutes again?

And again I ask, what does Sam Cassell do that Eddie House does not? I know House struggled some with being pressured in the back court this year, but the Cavs have not done that all series. He at least has some discretion when it comes to his shots, has more range than Sam, and is quicker than him so he can chase around the younger and faster guys that run circles around Cassell. Am I missing something? Please, do tell. Just once I'd like to see what the Celtics can get if they just let Rondo log 40 minutes one game? I bet you the results would be pretty good. Maybe even very good.

That is about it for now, but I will just leave you with one thought. The one thought is actually a comparison which I like to do for things of this nature to try and calm myself down even if this process rarely works.

Rivers usage of Cassell this postseason is starting to remind me of how Joe Torre used Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill when he had them at his disposal in his bullpen in 2004. Do you remember this? Both of those guys started out the year as dominant late inning relievers bridging the game to Mariano Rivera in the ninth. But then, because he used them so much from April through August, they both completely burned out by September, had nothing, and routinely got rocked. The only problem was, Joe Torre refused to acknowledge that both of these guys were cooked so he kept on trotting them out there and while maybe they would pick up a 1-2-3 inning here and there they had plenty of outings where they got destroyed as well. And that is how I feel about Sam Cassell right now. Maybe one night every once in a while, he'll go out there, hit his shots, and be a difference maker for the team on offense. Maybe that will happen every now and again. But, most of the time that won't happen. Instead, Cassell will go out there, force a lot of awful shots, murder the team's offensive momentum, spread his bad habits to other teammates, and just generally have a negative effect on the outcome of a game. And just like Joe Torre kept on going to the bullpen and calling for Quantrill and Gordon to come in and get crushed in September and October of 2004, Doc Rivers will continue to call upon Sam Cassell to do all those things that I have just described this spring. I guess the Celtics best shot of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals this year will be if Sam can somehow walk into some sort of injury that will knock him out for the next eight weeks. Seriously, that is the only hope right now that I see and if and when the Celtics bow out of the playoffs in ignominious fashion, it won't be Doc Rivers playing ten guys a night that will get my wrath nor consistent no shows from Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and KG. It will be all Sam Cassell. Irrational? Probably. But not as much as you may think.
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lucky Seven Thoughts?

1) I did not think it was possible but LaDanian Tomlinson may actually have some competition for bitchiest star athelete award. That's right folks, LeBron James is breathing right down his neck. Not being an avid Cavaliers watcher I did not realize how whiny and "god forbid anybody lay even the slightest hand on me" he is. It's truly a revelation.

2) Just in case you were wondering, Eric Gagne's numbers on the year are 1-2 with a 6.89 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, and five blown saves. Again, looks like we got the "real", post-steroids Gagne in Boston. I hate dumping on the guy so much but he came off as such a standoffish prick while he was here that I am revelling in his failure. Sorry to all the Brewers fans though.

3) If Tony Allen should send anybody a Christmas Card this year, that person should definitely be Sam Cassell. Amazingly, Cassell has grabbed the reigns of the "person I cringe, cuss, and want to break things when I see check into the game" award from him and seems content on running absolutely wild with it. Seriously, I could not dislike a Celtics player more right now than I dislike Sam Cassell.

4) Oh, and why can't the Celtics win on the road? It is getting maddening. I would have bet almost my life on the fact that they would lose on Saturday but I did not think they would do so in such uninspiring fashion. Hopefully Monday can be an improvement?

5) With every new Julio Lugo error it is beginning to look more and more like RBB is going to get their Jed Lowrie wish. As Buster Olney pointed out in his blog the other day, the Red Sox have championship aspirations and shortstop is too important of a position to be fielding a major defensive liability at. With that said, most of what I have read about Jed Lowrie is that he may not have the range or arm to handle that position. It's a tough dilemma. As much as I'd like a guy who can make the routine play, I'd also like a guy that will turn tough groundballs into outs instead of letting them through the gap for base hits.

6) All of this really has me pining for Alex Gonzalez, the OC, or even the no-hitting Pokey Reese. With the exception of that posse, ALL of the players the Sox have run out recently have struggled massively with the routine plays whether it was Nomar air-mailing throws or Renteria or Lugo botching easy groundballs. Yikes. Much like the bullpen which has been hit or miss for the Sox in the Theo years, shortstop has certainly been an area of great issue as well.

7) I am still waiting for Paul Pierce to take over a playoff game. I know he can. As for how to accommodate that, here is my suggestion.

Play him forty minutes on Monday night, cede the backup point guard duties to Ray Allen and Eddie House, and for all the time that Rondo is not in run almost the entire offense through Pierce. Despite everything else, Pierce is still their best and most consistent offensive player when he can get himself into the game and I truly believe that that will make a world of difference. Notice how Sam Cassell was nowhere to be found there? Exactly. From now on I hope to only see him in the game at the end of quarters on last offensive possessions when a shooter is necessary. Other than that I hope to see him sparingly. I know that won't happen because Doc is in love with him, but a guy can dream right?
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Friday, May 9, 2008

Checking In on My Preseason Predictions

Right now we are almost a quarter way through the baseball season. I must admit, the Sox are looking much better than I anticipated, especially offensively and they should be in great shape if they can find a way to get Dice and Lester consistently pitching into the seventh inning.

Anyway, because there really is not too much interesting to dissect or make provocative statements about at this moment, let's look at how my preseason picks for good/bad teams, MVP, Cy Young, etc are looking at this moment. I'll divide things up into three categories, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and present them in reverse order.

The Ugly

I was REALLY riding the Mariners train at the beginning of the year making Erik Bedard my Cy Young pick, Adrian Beltre my Sleeper MVP pick, and JJ Putz my Super Sleeper MVP pick. Right now, they sit in last place of the AL West. Of these picks though, the only ones that can be legitimately panned at this point are the Putz and Beltre selections as Bedard despite starting the year on the DL has pitched pretty well. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre has hit .262 with 6 homers, 13 RBI, 4 steals, and an OPS of .841 to date (through 5/7, as are all stats quoted here). Those numbers are obviously nowhere near MVP caliber but he is tied for tenth in the AL in homers and fifteenth in OPS so it's not like he has been awful. Still, his team is in last place right now and he is hardly setting the league on fire for a bad team so I have to throw him in the "ugly" category.

JJ Putz who as noted above started the year on the DL has pitched in 6 innings in 6 games so far and been pretty much terrible allowing five earned runs and ten hits. Yes, he has had his hallmark high K numbers - 10 in these 6 innings - but the other numbers are awful. He could rebound I guess, but I based my preseason MVP thoughts for him on him saving 50 games and right now that looks pretty unlikely.

While JJ Putz has been bad so far this year, he's really got nothing on my Super Sleeper Cy Young Pick, Francisco Liriano. Liriano started the season in the minors to continue working on his arm strength, then was summoned to the big leagues for three starts in which he got rocked (only 10 1/3 total IP with 15 hits, 13 walks, and 13 runs allowed over that short span), and then was sent back down to the minors again. Even for a Super Sleeper Pick which has to be a long shot, that one turned out real bad.

In regards to my NL picks, none of them were horrible so I'll take a bow there.

The Bad

My Sleeper picks for NL Cy Young and MVP in Aaron Harang and Aramis Ramirez have not exactly justified my faith in them to date but neither has been awful either. Harang is currently second in the NL in K's with 47, first in IP with 55 1/3, and has posted a very respectable 1.10 WHIP and 3.09 ERA. Because he plays for a last place team though he just has 1 win to show for all that. Even so, he still possesses all the traits that you want in a number one starter (eats innings, strikes guys out, does not allow a lot of base runners) but it just so happens his team this year is a lot worse than anticipated. I initiated the Harang bandwagon hoping that his team would be better and right now they are not therefore making my pick "bad" even if Harang's pitching has not been anywhere near that.

As for Aramis, he is a historically semi-slow starter and this year is not that much different. His numbers are good right now (.279/6/23 with a .936 OPS) but not outstanding as he is not in the NL's Top 10 in any of these categories. Like I said though, he usually starts out slow and if he heats up later on in the season and the Cubs finish the year with one of the NL's best records as I think they will then I think he can hop up a notch here and put himself in the MVP discussion.

In the AL, my Sleeper Pick for Cy Young was Scott Kazmir. Right now, the only thing keeping him from "The Ugly" category is the fact that he has just made one start this year. Granted his one start was pretty bad against the Red Sox, but I refuse to damn the guy after only one outing which was also his first since coming off the DL. We'd be foolish to judge Josh Beckett if we said his season would be a bust after his first post-DL start against Toronto right? I still think Kazmir will end up having a pretty good year. He may not put himself in the Cy Young discussion, but I don't think that calling him a Sleeper Cy Young candidate will look stupid in September. I could be wrong.

Also in the AL, I championed A-Rod as my pick for MVP under the auspices of he should be the favorite for MVP every year that he enters a season healthy. A-Rod entered the season healthy. And then he got hurt. Because of that, he probably won't have the requisite numbers at the end of the year to put himself in that conversation but by no means do I consider this a bad pick. Sure it was the logical, easy, and boring pick. But it was not a bad one at the time, it just won't work out this year.

The Good

Because I am so smart, this is my most stacked category. What I'm going to do here is project each player's numbers over the remaining course of the season to reflect their full year's stats using their current per game averages. Granted, most of these stats probably skew a bit high but no matter it bears looking at anyway.

As for the teams, I'm going to put their current W/L record as well as their current rankings in runs scored and runs against so that we can see whether or not their current start looks sustainable for better or worse.

AL Cy Young, Neil's Pick - Erik Bedard

28 GS/176 IP/140 K/75 BB/1.99 ERA/1.07 WHIP

These projections I think are a bit on the low side for Bedard. I think his K rate should go up and his walks down (last year he struck out 221 in 182 IP with just 57 walks) while his ERA goes up to around 3.00 and his WHIP stays about the same. Keeping his current pace won't get him in the Cy Young talk unless his ERA stays in the sub-2 level, but if the other factors I mention happen then I think he'll be right there. His lack of innings could hurt him though.

NL Cy Young, Neil's Pick - Jake Peavy

33 GS/220 IP/218 K/73 BB/2.22 ERA/1.03 WHIP

I think these numbers look right about in line with what I'd expect for Peavy. His only drawback is playing for a bad team so winning 15 may be tough for him and we all know how much Cy Young voters love win totals.

NL Cy Young, Super Sleeper - Ben Sheets

30 GS/190 IP/159 K/53 BB/2.29 ERA/0.89 WHIP

Honestly, I think these numbers are pretty legit. My guess would be for his K's to finish a bit higher than this and his WHIP to be right around 1 but other than that I think this seems right. One big factor in Sheets' favor is the fact that he plays for a good offensive team so wins should be easier for him to come by. One negative factor is that at this moment, the Brewers closer is Eric Gagne pretty much negating the previous. Oh yeah, and Sheets is only slightly less injury prone than walking DL stint, Rich Harden so you have to consider that too. But, if he can make 30 starts and keep up what he is doing now, he will definitely be there in the end.

NL MVP, Neil's Pick - Hanley Ramirez

160 games/.328 AVG/128 Runs Scored/32 HR/96 RBI/64 SB/.413 OBP/.565 SLG/.968 OPS

Yes, the Marlins are in first place now, and no I don't think that will last, but I do not care. If Hanley keeps up this pace - and I think he absolutely can - then I see no way to not include him in the top, top tier of MVP Candidates.

NL MVP, Super Sleeper - Matt Kemp

150 Games/.328 AVG/90 Runs Scored/16 HR/128 RBI/48 SB/.355/.509/.863

Other than the 48 steals, I think these all look pretty legit. I also think his homers will go up some. Somewhere within the 25/25 range for HR and SB seems about right to me.

Lately the Dodgers have been tearing it up and he has been the big reason. When I wrote my preview I said I thought he would key a late season push by the Dodgers and that would propel him to the MVP. Right now I'm feeling pretty good about this pick even if at the moment it will seemingly take an act of god - or an injury - to keep the NL MVP trophy out of the hands of Chipper Jones or Chase Utley both of whom are playing out of their minds.

AL Surpise Team, Good - Twins

Right now the Twins have scored the second fewest runs in the league, are second to last in team OBP, and fourth from last in OPS. Meanwhile their pitching staff is fifth in ERA, fifth in runs allowed, and have issued the fewest walks in the league. However they have also struckout the fewest amount of batters. Because they allow so few walks they can compensate for what they lack in K's but it's still an uphill battle when balls are being put in play that much. Either way, their pitching always seems to hang around and be decent so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here based on track record as much as anything else.

And guess what else? They are in first place in the AL Central with a 17-15 and a scoring differential of +1. As I said, like it has in the past, I think their pitching will keep them afloat and respectable but I don't think their run in first will last much longer. I still think however that their win total will be somewhere in the low 80's which is pretty good for a team that traded it's two biggest attractions and stars in the offseason.

NL Suprise Team, Good - Marlins

The Marlins currently rank tenth in the NL in runs scored, ninth in OBP, and fifth in OPS. As for their pitching staff, well they are tenth in ERA, ninth in runs allowed, have issued the seventh most walks in the league, and have struck out the second fewest. Oh yeah, and their run differential is -7. Despite all this they are currently in first place in the NL East somehow with a 19-14 record. This seems like a fluke to me, but I predicted that they'd win in the 70's range which was better than anticipated after trading away two of their marquis players (Miggy Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis) and I think that prediction will probably hold. I'd say they could crack 80 wins, but with those stats mentioned above I do not know how long they can keep this going.

AL Surprise Team, Bad - Detroit

Why are the Tigers so bad?

Well, their one good pitcher heading into the year, Justin Verlander has not been good, the rest of their staff has been even worse, some old guys in their lineup have started to show their age, and the superstar they acquired in the offseason who has had a history of apathy has put things on cruise control since inking a $156 M contract prior to the season.

The ugly numbers...

The Pitching:

- allowed the second most runs in the AL (1 less than Texas)

- last in ERA

- have issued the third most walks and struck out the sixth least

The Hitting:

- scored the third most runs

- second in OBP

- second in OPS

OK, so the hitting has actually been pretty good. But it has not been good enough to make up for their atrocious pitching. Also, they have the second highest payroll in MLB devoted almost exclusively to offensive players, and pundits in the preseason were foolishly drumming up "they could score 100 runs" hype. That aint happening. Neither is them making the playoffs because right now their run differential is -23 and unless they can somehow miraculously transform their staff into a competent group they are going to be fighting against the grain all year and relying far too much on their offense.

NL Surprise Team, Bad - Rockies

Why are the Rockies so bad?

Their pitching, which carried them to and through the postseason last year is back to it's familiar stomping grounds of the bottom of the NL and their offense has not been much better.

The pitching:

- allowed the second most amount of runs to score

- second to last in ERA

- struck out the third least and walked the most

The hitting:

- eleventh in runs scored

- eighth in OBP

- tenth in OPS

Okay, so they can neither pitch nor hit and sport a staggering run differential of -36. That is pretty bad folks. Could they push 100 losses? I don't know about that, but I think 90+ is certainly within the realm of possibilities.

So there you go. The season is young, but my predictions for the most part are looking so far, so good. I am quite proud of myself honestly.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

All Blown Saves Are NOT Created Equal

Tough one for Papelbon tonight. You know how stat people will tell you that winning/losing a game by one run can come down to a ton of luck? Well I think Wednesday's Sox/Tigers game could be considered Exhibit A. Consider Papelbon's 9th inning:

1) An excuse me swing base hit for the leadoff batter.

2) Julio Lugo botching an easy groundball. Creating two on with no outs.

3) A sacrifice bunt. Second and third with one out.

4) A grounder to second to score a run. Now first and third with two outs.

5) A broken bat flare just barely out of the reach of Lugo for the game winning hit.

Jeesh. The hardest hit ball was probably Edgar Renteria's ground ball to short that Lugo botched and despite all that the Tigers were able to scratch together two runs to win the game against arguably baseball's best closer. Pretty tough to fault Paps for this blown save. Oh well. You have to figure with all the last at bat victories the Sox have had this year (and Wednesday looked to be another) that eventually one won would go the other way. This was that game. Beckett on Thursday though trying to propel them to taking three of four from Detroit. I like the chances. Going for the sweep would have been better of course but if you were asked at the outset of the series if you'd feel good about the team taking three of four from Detroit in Detroit, I promise you your answer would be a resounding, "YES". Read more!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Instant Analysis! Why The Celtics Won:

The Celtics actually did win this game. For a while there it looked like they just "might not lose" but I say they won. Here is why:

1) LeBron was awful. It wasn't the jumpers he was missing either, it was the layups. But, before you go saying that the C's only won because LeBron was awful shooting 2-18 and turning the ball over 10 times, consider that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to shoot 2-18 for 4 points all scored by Pierce. Look, LeBron probably won't shoot that bad again in the series, but neither will Pierce or Allen so I call that a wash.

2) KG was outstanding. I have dogged KG some in the past few weeks but he was absolutely outstanding on the offensive end. He was great in the first half, disappeared some in the start of the second, but then came out swinging in the fourth quarter and hit the C's two biggest field goals of the game. We've all been waiting for KG to step up and take over a game in crunch time and he certainly did that in Game 1.

3) James Posey was outstanding. He played great D all night, hit a couple threes, grabbed the rebound on LeBron's last shot, and then hit the clinching free throws. Oh, and since Yahoo now tracks +/-, Posey's +/- was +17, by the far the best number on the team. Pretty nice game there James.

4) Sam Cassell, despite his best efforts to murder the Celtics offensive momentum in the first half which he successfully did for almost two quarters, came into the game in the fourth and scored for them when they desperately needed scoring including the go-ahead free throws. Great game offensively for Sam, but he still seems to kill the offensive flow when he gets into the game with his me-first attitude. When he checks in I cringe knowing their offense will resort to standing around and him chucking jump shots as opposed to the penetration that Rondo brings to the table. But I can't dog him tonight just like I can't dog JD Drew anymore because Sam I Am played a monumental role in their victory.

5) Rondo played outstanding in the first quarter but then never seemed to get back into the game. He played about 29.5 minutes which is the norm for him, but he made minimal impact after his outstanding first quarter. I really think this is because Cassell knocked the offense so out of whack upon his entrance into the game that Rajon didn't know what to do and could not fix it.

I hate dogging on Cassell after he played such an instrumental role in victory but it is no coincidence that the C's seem to start their games attacking the rim and getting easy shots thanks to Rondo, but then the offense dissolves in the second and third quarters when Cassell is logging his minutes and chucking shots. I don't get it. I don't get why Rondo is not playing 35-40 minutes a night. He is a prototypical point guard, a great match for the team, and his teammates feed off of his aggressiveness. I understand bringing in Cassell when points are needed and to give Rajon a rest here and there, but I think he plays too much and either his minutes need to get cut or he needs to start playing more like a point guard and less like a ball hogging gym hero.

6) Kendrick Perkins continues to play outstanding basketball pretty much under the radar. Seven points, 12 boards, and 2 blocks may not seem like earth shattering numbers but when you watch the game you absolutely feel his presence and understand his impact.

7) I love Leon Powe as much as the next guy, but he was A-W-F-U-L in Game 1. Wow. He'll bounce back.

8) Nobody praises Paul Pierce more than I do so this may ring hollow and make me sound like a Pierce apologist but despite his woeful shooting performance he absolutely set the tone for the team in the fourth quarter by posting his guy up and attacking the hoop. This did not result in points or even him getting to the line, but it sent the message that settling for bad jumpers was not acceptable and they would need to step up their aggressiveness in order to win and guess what they did and they did.

9) After saying all that, another key reason for their victory was Big Z - who played outstanding - going cold for the latter portion of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth quarter. He was destroying them with his outside game like a mix between Rik Smits and the psycho from Fargo but once his shots temporarily stopped falling the C's were able to get some traction and put themselves in a position to win the game.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Five Quickies from the Weekend

1) So let's just pretend that that Atlanta series never happened okay? The home blowouts were nice and even nicer was finally seeing KG showup with a dominating performance in Game 7. Still, I'd love to see Pierce get tracked. I figured he would be good for at least one dominating game in the series and with the exception of Game 5 and some spurts in the other games he was not much of a factor. Even though he had a poor shooting game in Game 7, they were running the offense through him consistently, he was attacking the basket, and not coincidentally things went worlds better as they consistently stuck to that point of attack.

2) Look, I know Jon Lester has put together consecutive "good" starts but I still almost refuse to watch the guy pitch. It took them about two hours to play four innings thanks to Lester's massive pitch count in the early innings which eventually lead to him throwing 112 pitches through six innings. Call me crazy, but I can't take watching marathon games against the Rays with massive pitch counts in early May. Even if Lester has only allowed one earned run in his last fourteen innings, he's still walked seven batters in that time while striking out eleven. Maybe I am being stubborn and irrational as I've been on the record countless in expressing my displeasure with the guy but I refuse to believe that you can be as good as the Sox seem to think Lester will be averaging a walk every other inning and not even striking out two guys for every one he walks.

3) I will be absolutely shocked if the Celtics/Cavs series goes less than seven games. I'll say the C's will win in seven because I am a homer and I want them to win, but I honestly believe it will be a classic. In the past, LeBron has brought the best out of Paul Pierce and I hope that trend continues. I also think the C's frontcourt matches up much better to the Cavs trio of Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejo, and Big Z Ilgaskus than the young atheletes employed by the Hawks. I will not bee sad to see Josh Smith go and neither will KG.

4) If you want an unsung hero from Game 7, look no further than Kedrick Perkins. Perkins played great on the blocks in the first quarter collecting ten points and blocking a few shots which really seemed to set the defensive tone. His final line of ten points, ten boards, and five blocks is exactly what you want to get from the guy. Bottom line, he played great in a deciding game. KG will probably get most of the pub from this one, but ignoring Perk's contributions would be a grave error.

5) Will Kevin Garnett's body-check/pick against his newfound nemesis, Zaza Pachulia be a turning point in his Celtic career? Will that set him completely over the edge and make him of the mindset to absolutely dominate every game he plays? Maybe. I sure hope so.

PS...Eric Gagne blew his fifth save of the season today. I don't think it was Boston that got to the guy. I think it was getting off the juice.
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Friday, May 2, 2008

Laurence Maroney...nice

Remember the other day when I mentioned Laurence Maroney's garb at the C's game on Wednesday night. Well I found a picture. Let's just say it's even better than I imagined. I'm not even attempting a joke here. Read more!

Looking at the Sox Offensive Slump

So, how bad has the Red Sox offensive slump been? Well, since scoring three runs in the second inning of last Friday's 11 inning loss to the Rays they have scored exactly 5 runs in the 54 innings or six games worth of baseball that have followed. During that stretch, their record is 2-4. If Bucholz does not miss on that pitch to Akinori Iwamura last Saturday, maybe their record is 3-3. Of course, if they don't get those two walk-off wins at Fenway then maybe they are staring at 0-6. It is pointless to play the what if game though. The bottom line is that they are 2-4 over their last six games during which they have scored 5 runs over a 54 inning span. If you ask me, they are pretty damn lucky to be 2-4 during this stretch and I actually see this as a positive.

Over the course of a 162 game baseball season, every team no matter how good is going to go through stretches when they lose four of six. Lose two of three in back-to-back series; 2-6. Get swept, and then take two of three in a series; 2-6. You get the point. These things happen. It stinks that during this run the Sox wasted outstanding starts by Clay Bucholz and Josh Beckett, but those are the breaks in baseball. It happens to every pitcher a few times a year. Would we be feeling any better if things were going the exact opposite and the Sox went 2-6 while scoring 6 or 7 runs a game? Probably not. In fact, I'd say that we'd be panicking more about how awful the pitching staff is and and how bad it is to lose a game when the offense scores 6+.

With all of that being said, the offense has truly been brutal for the last week. But, let's look on the (relatively) brighter side for a moment. Consider:

1) A few weeks into the season Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and JD Drew all found themselves in the .350-.370 range. These three hitters I would say are guys that will end up in the .310, .280, and .275 ranges respectively. So, the averages had to dip eventually. I just did not think it would happen simultaneously and so quickly. Plus, Youk normally waits until after the All Star Break for his annual prolonged slump that goes ignored because too many people are too busy over-praising him because he has a last name that has a beginning that is fun to say and lends itself well to cheers.

2) Let's look at how each of the games has played out. As you will see the Sox have faced some of the AL's top pitchers over the past week creating a perfect storm - team wide slump vs. great pitching - for offensive incompetence.

Friday - 5-4 loss to TB in 11 innings
Here, they faced Matt Garza, a prime 2008 breakout candidate and the centerpiece to the trade the Rays made during the offseason with the Twins where they sent away last year's ROY runner up, Delmon Young. Garza, I think will be a very good pitcher for a long time. Last Friday was his first start off the DL and he struggled at first but then settled down. After that Tampa's AL best bullpen (no joke!!) took care of business until the late innings when they were able to force the Sox to use Mike Timlin who of course surrendered the winning run adding to his already extensive "Watch Mike Timlin Suck - '08 Version" highlight DVD.

Saturday - 3-2 loss to TB
Here the Sox lost to Edwin Jackson whose erratic style (22:16 K:BB) seems to give them fits. (He went 2-1 against them last year in August and September.) Jackson's not a bad pitcher though. This year he is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He's the "worst" pitcher they have faced in this stretch but it's not like he's in the Hughes/Kennedy Zone for sucking.

Sunday - 3-0 loss to TB
This loss came against everybody's favorite really good, unknown pitcher in the AL, James Shields. So far this year he is 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 28 K's in 39 IP to only 9 walks. This is no fluke. Last year Shields went 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA and 184 K's in 215 IP. What really amazes me about his numbers last year was the 1.02 WHIP he posted. Wow.

Tuesday - 1-0 victory over Toronto
This victory came over Roy Halladay. Halladay has consistently been one of the best pitchers in the AL since 2003 when he won his Cy Young. You want to know his average season over the course of his career?

227.2 IP/157:54 K:BB/3.62 ERA/128 ERA+/1.23 WHIP

Pretty good huh. Getting shut down by him is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Wednesday - 2-1 victory over Toronto
Another hot breakout candidate for 2008 was Dustin McGowan, the guy who more or less stymied the Sox on Wednesday. The reason for people saying this is thanks in large part to his 3.87 ERA, .217 BAA, 1.14 WHIP, and 87 K's in 98 IP after the All Star Break last year. This year he had pitched okay prior to facing Sox but was nothing outstanding. He was outstanding against the Sox though, and it was no fluke. McGowan is one of the many emerging pitchers in the AL East and when he finishes this season with an ERA in the mid-to-low threes there will be nothing embarrassing about not being able to do much of anything against him on a cold night in April.

Thursday - 3-0 loss to Toronto
Thursday the Sox ran into AJ Burnett. Good AJ Burnett can be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Bad AJ Burnett can be an absolute train-wreck. Last night the Sox got Good AJ Burnett as much as the Blue Jays got Good Jon Lester on Tuesday. The end numbers for Burnett were impressive (0 ER in 7 2/3 IP) but he still walked as many batters, 5 as he struck out. Burnett can be great and overpowering at times - last year he did strikeout 176 in 165 2/3 IP - but Thursday night he really was not that way. It looks to me more like he was "effectively wild" and that mixed in with a struggling lineup spelled doom for the Sox. Burnett is a good pitcher and can be a great one so it's not like they were shut down by some scrub for the Royals. Still though, if a guy walks five batters you'd hope to be able to make him pay some way or another. Of all the pitching performances they encountered, I'd say this was the "worst" save for Garza's, but it was still pretty good and the Sox are not the first - nor will they be the last - team that AJ Burnett has shut down.

And there you have it. A more humanized look at this epic offensive slump for the Red Sox. A bit more understandable now right? Either way, I'd like to see them throw up a 10 spot tonight. So would my fantasy team. I got Manny and Ortiz on there so needless to say this last week has been a bit rough.

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