Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The Cleveland Cavaliers were trailing 3-1 in their series with the Orlando Magic entering tonight's game in need of three straight wins. They are currently the city of Cleveland's best chance to win a championship for the first time since 1964 when the Jim Brown-led Browns won the NFL Championship, before the Super Bowl-era.
This has been probably the most heartbreaking drought with events like Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and The Error. Two years ago, the Cavs were in the NBA Finals and were promptly swept by the Spurs, while the Indians led the Red Sox 3-1 in the ALCS and lost the last three games, including Game 7 when Kenny Lofton was held up by third base Joel Skinner when he would of scored the tying run in the 7th inning. The Red Sox went on to win 11-2 as they scored eight runs in the last two innings and the drought continued. This also includes the Indians forty years missing the playoffs in a row until 1995, the reign of terror by Ted Septien in the early 1980s almost ending the Cavs franchise, the failure of the NHL's Cleveland Barons, the last major sports team to cease operations and the 1995 Browns move to Baltimore by Art Modell.
So with all that baggage to work with, how is it possible for the years of losing to end? The fact is that years of losing create the thought of "curse" in the minds of the team/cities fans psyche. There is always the feeling that the other shoe is about to drop. You can see it anytime a nervous energy takes over a stadium/arena and the team you root for is suffocated by this. It happened to both the Mets and the Cubs last season; same goes for the Vikings in the playoffs. Unfortunately, it seems like that conventional ways to win never work, there needs to be a moment where a team is seemingly "destined" to win.
Most of the recent "curses" that have been foiled had a moment where a collective fan base no longer thinks the worst will happen. It could occur anytime in the playoffs, and usually comes at the lowest point in the season. The best example of this theory is the Boston Red Sox; they reached their low point after Game 3 in the 2004 ALCS against the N.Y. Yankees when they were down 3-0. As any Bill Simmons reader knows, the Dave Roberts steal is considered that turning point for the Red Sox, mainly because the next play, Bill Mueller knocked Roberts in with a single off Mariano Rivera. After that, and a couple of game-winners by David Ortiz, the Red Sox steamrolled their way to breaking the Curse of the Bambino.
A better example on a personal level was the 1994 N.Y. Rangers when Mark Messier guaranteed victory in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Final series with the N.J. Devils. They trailed the series 3-2 and the game 2-0 when Messier assisted on a goal, then scored a hat trick and the Rangers won 4-2. Unlike the Red Sox, the Rangers didn't steamroll their way to the Cup and actually gave Rangers plenty of reasons to believe it wasn't coming. But, they fought through a late-tying goal by the Devils in Game 7 followed by Stephane Matteau's OT winner and the great Howie Rose call put the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. Then, the Rangers took a 3-1 series lead, lost the next two games and held off a final charge by the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup after 54 years.
Those aren't the only droughts that needed the perception of a team of destiny for it to be broken. The Chicago White Sox stole Game 2 of the ALCS against the Angels after a controversial when the umpire said Josh Paul dropped a third strike with two outs to A.J. Pierzynski when he actually just threw it back. Joe Crede would win the game on the next at-bat and the White Sox swept their way to the World Series, their first since 1917. The Phillies ended the 25 year Philadelphia championship drought and their moment of destiny was a 4-run 8th inning in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers when Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs hit two 2-run HR's that turned a 5-3 deficit to a 7-5 win. They also had a bases-loaded infield single in Game 3 of the World Series to further the team of destiny role. The Detroit Red Wings ended a 42 year Cup drought in 1997, plus being labeled chokers for recent flameouts in the playoffs. In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Steve Yzerman scored on a 60-ft shot and the Flyers were done in four games.
The Cavs ended up winning the game to make the series 3 games to 2 in favor of the Magic. LeBron had a part in 32 straight points but that's in my eyes isn't a turning point that makes the Cavs a team of destiny, which means something needs to happen in Game 6 that changes the fortune of this team, whether it's another game-winner from LeBron, a great block or even LeBron announcing he will stay in Cleveland tomorrow. Whatever it is, there needs to be a sign that this drought will end very soon if the Cavs are going to win this championship, or this season will be known forever in Cleveland as The Letdown (unfortunately I can't come up with a better name than that).
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
At Yankee Stadium this weekend, the Yankees invite the World Champion Phillies into town, while the Mets are headed up to Fenway to take on the Red Sox. That's right, it's a bizarro rivalry weekend. Both matchups have history; the Whiz Kid Phillies were swept by the Yankees in the 1950 World Series and the Choke in '64 prevented another Phillies-Yankees matchup. Meanwhile, every baseball fan knows about the 1986 World Series, a story that's rarely told as a Mets victory, but as a Red Sox loss. Everyone seems to forget that the Mets won 108 games that year and were the prohibitive favorites to win the World Series due to the lofty record.
The point of this article wasn't to give a history lesson, but to point out the irony of Mets and Yanks fans rooting for the crosstown teams. I, as a Yankee fan, have no problem rooting for the Mets to beat the Red Sox. However, my father, as a Yankee fan, is pulling for the Red Sox because he can't stomach the thought about rooting for the Mets. This is a man who rooted for the Red Sox in the '86 Series and took the Boston fan approach after the Buckner play in Game 6, he walked out on a wedding party.
Meanwhile, it would seem easy for Mets fans to root for the Yankees because the Phillies are the Phillies. But, according to Gary Cohen, his view of the Yankees-Phillies series is that it doesn't matter who wins. My best friend Rocky falls in that category, going so far as say "I hope a plane crashes into the Stadium." Well then. Still, Subway Squawker Met fan Jon wrote, "Now this bad week is about to get even worse. This weekend, I will find myself rooting for the Yankees and against the Red Sox" in his post explaining why to root for the Yankees this weekend.
It's also a chance for Yanks and Mets fans a chance to do things they wouldn't normally do. When this post is finished, Johan Santana has finished pitching tonight, giving Yankee fans a chance to root for the man that should be wearing pinstripes, marvel without guilt in his brillance and to feel bad when the Mets make it harder on him to succeed, instead of showing amusement. Mets fans get a chance to see A-Rod from the Yankees perspective...well, I guess they can watch Derek Jeter and see how a shortstop is supposed to carry himself on the field. Of course, you can be like me and give both series a quick glimpse and focus on the NBA and NHL playoffs this weekend.
But for those of you who feel they must watch all powerful and almighty baseball, then don't worry about violating NY baseball law and root for both home teams.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Wow, this is amazing video, especially if you're aware that Jonathan Coachman worked with the WWE for almost decade. Honestly, Stan Kroenke is at fault with this as the NBA has the playoffs scheduled basically years in advance, particularly during the last two rounds and they always have the conference final series that airs on ESPN/ABC play Memorial Day and every other year, it's the Western Finals on ESPN. Kroenke essentially made his bed by agreeing to the date in August and not giving an out clause in the contract should the Nuggets needed the court. Vince McMahon has every right to show up there on Monday and the most important thing for him is that Raw is live and the WWE can't lose face here. Any other day (aside from a PPV) and McMahon, I'm sure, goes away quietly. Kroenke's a lightweight here, so the real question is in what way does David Stern gets involved.
- I am tired of these former players who are analysts continuously say that a team is never better without a star player. The obvious example is whenever I hear someone say that the Rockets aren't a better team without Tracy McGrady, even though they performed better this year then any other year they had T-Mac. I won't say that the Rockets are better without Yao Ming, some matchups are better than others. But Tracy McGrady has been the most overrated NBA player this decade. His value was higher back in the early 00s when the iso offense's was everywhere, but his skills have decreased along with his durability. Add all his postseason failures, the success the Rockets had this season and the fact that the he still gets treated as if he's one of the ten best players in the league, which he never was during his career, and you have the most overrated player in the NBA.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Remember ten years ago, the Yankees were going through their latest dynasty, with a group of likable guys who would die on the field if they need to. They were managed by the perfect man who could shield the pressure from the media and their owner. Built by a couple of GM's who, instead of just getting the biggest free agents available, used the farm system and made the right trade or signing that fit with the team.
A lot has changed since then, particularly after 2001, and the Yankees have still been unable to replace the best players of the era. A decade of signing flashy names and veteran pitchers have been unsuccessful in leading the Yankees to a title since 2000 and back to a World Series since 2003. However, all these failures are familiar to the failures that the 80s Yankees had. This year, however, the front office has now gone out of its way to screw the fans over and that is a trait that Jim Dolan has been doing for many years at MSG.
If you look at both the Knicks and the Rangers, both teams have had success in the 1990s as the Rangers won the Stanley Cup and the Knicks made two NBA Finals. Both erred in how they got rid of their best players as the Rangers let Mark Messier walk too soon while he still could have a few good years left (also compounding it by re-signing him when it was clear that his skills diminished) while the Knicks decided to trade away Patrick Ewing and take on big salaries from lesser players, when the more prudent plan would of been to have him play out his final year under contract.
The Rangers spent the next seven years after Messier left signing busts like Valeri Kamensky and Stephane Quintal, trading for a finished Pavel Bure and an overrated Anson Carter, trading away all-star Marc Savard for a draft pick which they used to draft a flat bust Pavel Brendl. From Neil Smith to Glen Sather, the Rangers have failed in personnel moves except three: drafting Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round in 2000, trading for Jaromir Jagr and getting him for half-price and trading for Sean Avery in 2007 which catapulted the team to the playoffs and almost to the East Finals that season. Now with a salary cap, the Rangers have overextended themselves on mediocre talent (aside from Lundqvist) and are trapped in cap hell.
Cap hell is a place the Knicks are very familiar with, but that has stopped them from making moves. For them, it really starts with the 1999 NBA Draft when they picked Fredric Weis over Ron Artest, a man who's only claim to fame is getting dunked on by Vince Carter in the Olympics. They acquired an over-the-hill Glen Rice in the Ewing trade, which they in turn traded for Howard Eisley and Shandon Anderson. Under Scott Layden, the Knicks routinely brought in undersized forwards and guards who could drive the ball (plus they gave Allan Houston a max contract). It seemed like a godsend when they fired Layden, but when Isiah Thomas took the job, he made things worse, as hard to believe as it was. He would acquire plenty of questionable players to put it mild and each guy proved why he had a question on him to begin with, whether it's Eddy Curry's laziness or Stephon Marbury's selfishness.
The worst part about the Isiah era goes beyond their record, as the franchise became an embarrassment off the court. The sexual harassment lawsuit involving Anucha Browne Sanders and the truck party with intern Kathleen Decker made the team a punchline. The Rangers had their run of embarrassment this playoffs when John Tortorella attacked a fan with a water bottle and a stick, then the open letter Glen Sather wrote to the league. The Rangers also got into a lawsuit with the NHL for rights over the team website.
So what does this have to do with the Yankees? Because through all this, Jim Dolan continues to keep prices for both teams among the highest in each league and basically continue to steal our money without caring at all about the team. Granted, he did replace Isiah and maybe the Knicks part in this will change, but Glen Sather is almost locked in for life and the Rangers won't be any better than a second-round team under him. Meanwhile, all of a sudden, the Yankees have opened a new stadium and have priced out their fans. Even though Rangers game report sellouts and the Knicks at least report 19,000 a night, it looks like it's less on any ordinary night. The Yankees report 43,000 every game that is clearly not the case when you watch on TV.
Add to that the fact that guys like Randy Levine and Lonn Trost basically rub in it the fans faces by claiming the reason no ones allowed by the dugout during batting practice because they liken the suites to a house and Trost is quoted as saying "If you purchase a suite, do you want someone in your suite? If you purchase a home, do you want someone in your home?" Of course, he mentions the Legends Suites, not the rest of the field level seating that the same rule applies. Now the Yankees are selling off the rest of the old Stadium to more ridiculously high prices for seats, grass, etc. Another problem the Yankees had was the game against the Red Sox when their security guys and "May I Help You" people told fans that the game was going to be rained out, then when it wasn't, refused re-entry.
There are some differences between the Yankees and the MSG teams such as the fact that there won't be any Glen Sathers staying in power too long. Brian Cashman is under the gun this year, though continues to live off the last years of the Yankee dynasty. His failings as a GM lie mostly with his putrid job of building a farm system. This is one area that is the single biggest reason that Theo Epstein and the Red Sox are better than the Yankees. There are a whole list of trades and free agent signings that the Yankees have missed this decade. Some of the blame does go to George Steinbrenner, but Cashman has held control of the decisions since the end of the 2005 season and the team has periodically been worse since. We don't know how much Hal Steinbrenner will stand, but I can't see Cashman stick around if the Yanks continue to decline.
So basically, the Yankees are a flawed team despite its $200 million+ payroll. They are old at too many positions, are weak defensively, have no bench and depend to heavily on free agent pitchers because they haven't developed many pitchers on the big league level since the mid-1990s. They still have a long way to go to lower themselves to their fellow NY teams. They could start missing playoffs yearly, have lawsuits that disgrace the team (with A-Rod, there's always that chance), or have either the Steinbrenner sons not care or sell to someone else who won't. That's why, Yankees this is your wake up call. Don't turn into the Knicks or Rangers. Either break up this team and start over, or stop trying to win a fantasy league and start trying to win World Series. Being a tweener in this sport is infuriating, and your fans will see through it, at least the real ones who will show up to the park even if they can't afford it.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
- As for the Lakers-Rockets series, it looks like the Lakers have things back in control. Especially with Yao out for the playoffs. And if Artest keeps getting himself ejected from games. But, this has been a good series, very 80s or early 90s like with the physical play.
- Once again Dallas Mavericks fans, I feel your pain. Bennett Salvadore's crew strikes again just like it did in the 2006 NBA Finals as there wasn't a foul called before Carmelo Anthony's Larry Johnsonesque three-pointer to win Game 3. The Mavs had a foul to give and if called, the Nuggets have about 3 seconds to inbound and shoot. Denver was going to win the series anyway, but now there's no doubt.
- Not much to say about the Cavs since they are still on track. As for Orlando-Boston, the Magic need to win tomorrow night, if they lose, they won't win in Boston. Both series aren't worth watching, as the Cavs are MUCH better than Atlanta, its like fishing with dynamite. And the Magic-Celtics series is just like the Heat-Hawks last round, no close games.
- On the other hand, it's nice to know Rafer Alston reads this blog as he knows it was okay to slap Eddie House.
- Alright I'll say, can we get rid of the hype man at NBA arenas. And that is one of about 467 ways that I would make the NBA better if I was the commissioner.
- On to hockey, where the Pens have rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the series over the Caps. Crosby and Ovechkin have been huge, but Malkin scoring the big goal is finally playing better. By the way, Alex Semin, where are you? You're as missing right now as Andrew Bynum. Ovie can't do it all, though he comes close to doing it.
- Eric Staal has taken over his series against the Bruins as Carolina can win the series tomorrow night. Cam Ward has played well and Jussi Jokinen is this year's Johan Franzen. Of course, Carolina is in the process of ruining the NHL's wet dream of a season. Ratings are up, Chicago and Boston are back and vibrant, but if Carolina goes to the Finals, it would kill the momentum the league is having.
- The Anaheim Ducks would do the same thing and God forbid it's Ducks-Canes in the Finals. Ratings would plummet back to 06-07 numbers. The good news, the Wings look like they finally got to Jonas Hiller. If they win in Detroit tomorrow, they should take the series.
- Continuing on the ruining the playoffs department, I would like to thank the Vancouver Canucks for playing the games in Chicago with the trap. When we are watching a new, exciting NHL games that are bring fans back, they have to come out with the defensive system responsible for turning fans away in the first place, along with overexpansion and the 94-95 lockout.
- In classic A-Rod fashion, he returns with a home run on his first pitch of the season. The reason it's classic A-Rod fashion is because it's his way of teasing us. Of course, the Yankees need every bit of it. Plus more games like CC Sabathia pitched last night. What they can't have is starts like Phil Hughes tonight, and homestands where the Red Sox and Rays sweep because of no timely hitting and a bad bullpen. A more pertanent question, are this year's Yankees last year's Mets? We'll find out if there's a collapse in the forecast.
- Speaking of the Mets, they seem to finally have some rhythm as they have started to hit in the clutch, and their starters are pitching better. In a related story, Ollie Perez is no longer in the rotation.
- Many thanks to Zack Greinke for his blistering start, making the Royals and My Cousin Yuri in the fantasy world look good and better than they could be, respectively. Even though he looks like he's going to lose his game 1-0 (this is being written Saturday night).
- Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather will have their fight in November, assume Juan Manuel Marquez does right and loses in July. It could also be in October or December. Regardless, I will do everything in my power to watch that fight.
-The final word goes back to the NBA. LeBron James has clearly passed Kobe as the best player in the league. Kobe has shown some age and now relies on his jumper while less and less drives to the basket. Don't view this as a knock on Kobe and he's still an assassin and when the game's on the line, he's still my first pick to take that shot. But LeBron continues to perfect his game and the Olympic experience has matured his game; made him more focused and grounded. LeBron is rightfully the best player in the game and the rightful MVP, so Laker fans, you can stop chanting M-V-P for Kobe.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The mistake Manny made was getting caught when baseball doesn't test for HGH. Why risk suspension by taking a masking agent when almost anyone who looks for the edge goes for HGH or designer steroids that aren't detechable. The excuse that a doctor gave you something that's banned doesn't fly when it's woman's fertility drug.
Having said that, I've got a newsflash: It doesn't matter!
We have become too accustomed to players testing positive or being caught with PED's and since it's quite clear that a sizable amount of players used steroids at one time or another, it has evened itself out. Talent is talent and the good players who did/do PED's are talented baseball players. The scrubs who used steroids and did almost nothing in his career were supposed to do nothing.
The biggest argument I hear when people want to kill these players who used PED's say they "tarnish the game" because Babe Ruth didn't use them and Sandy Koufax didn't use them. Well, Babe Ruth never faced black players, and Sandy Koufax pitched on a taller mound that was a benefit to pitchers. They claim steroids is bad, but when Gaylord Perry used spitballs and Phil Niekro would scuff the ball, no one cares and they get put in the Hall of Fame.
What also hurts for those who vilify all the steroids users is the fact that most fans don't join in. Yes, fans will turn against PED's user, but rarely ever for their own players. Barry Bonds was hated throughout the league, not just for steroids mind you, but in San Francisco, he was an icon. Yankees fans still loved Jason Giambi after he tested positive and have defended A-Rod much more than I thought they would, crystallizing the love-hate relationship Rodriguez and Yankees fans have. It helps that the Yankees are struggling without him, though. And if you ask Red Sox fans today, now knowing Manny's possible steroid use in 2004 and 2007, if they would do it all again, I'm certain 99 percent would. Finally, when he comes back with the Dodgers, he will most likely maintain their support, making them just like their archrivals in San Fran.
Failing a drug test for Manny is more serious than the A-Rod's, Roger Clemens' and Mark McGwire's of the world because baseball didn't have drug tests and suspensions when they are alleged to have used and Rodriguez, Clemens and Bonds never failed a drug test. Personally, I've always said in the past that those who did steroids and caught before 2003 played when there weren't rules against it. Manny unfortunately knew the rule and he's paying the price. However, you look at the NFL, they have had plenty of players test positive for steroids, yet no one cares. For example, Shawne Merriman in the year he failed a PED's drug test ended up third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and made the Pro Bowl (though the league made a rule banning in-season drug test failed players in the future).
The main reason that people care about the baseball steroid users is because of the records. Stats matter in baseball than any other sport. 61 and 755 are important to baseball fans. Emmitt Smith's rushing record and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's point total aren't to the standard fan (hence I don't give a number). But now that we have seen so many players test positive, it's about time we stop treating the latest PED user as a huge story and a chance to easily demonize an individual who makes a mistake.
These players shouldn't live with a scarlett S for the rest of their lives when football players get to hide behind their helmets. Manny Ramirez shouldn't miss out on the Hall of Fame any more than A-Rod or Barry Bonds because they were talented enough in the first place to be in the Hall of Fame. In Bonds and Clemens case, steroids lengthened their career's, while A-Rod and Manny are great hitters who may have hit more home runs than they probably would of.
What I wanted to do was not to excuse the use of steroids by baseball players, but to give them opportunity to redeem themselves. The best idea I heard was from Ken Rosenthal, to create a cheaters wing of the Hall of Fame. This can be put in the basement in Cooperstown, include the likes of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens and Manny along with the other steroid users worthy of induction if he played he whole career clean. You can even include Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson and anyone else who decides to gamble. Personally, I wouldn't give them the glory of giving a speech, though they do get to sit behind with the other Hall of Famers.
There is a problem if all of these baseball writers keep refusing to induct steroid users. We would have a generation of players who wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. And in twenty years, I bring my son to the Hall of Fame, do we ignore the 1990s happened. I say no; put the users in a place where they can be separated for their actions, while included for their talent.