Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On the Topic of LeBron....

I recently got into a discussion with my friend Tom about the Miami Heat. When it comes down to it, basketball fans are remarkably divided on this issue. You can't really find anyone who is neutral in regards to this team, either you love them or you hate them. They have become to basketball what the Yankees are to baseball, giving everyone who appreciates the sport a common enemy.

But even if you hate them, I don't think you can argue that they have had an incredibly positive impact on basketball. When is the last time anyone can remember a basketball season that people cared this much about? Certainly not since Jordan, and I would argue that this season has garnered more interest than that. Hell, ESPN even has an entire section of their website dedicated to following this team. Say what you want about them, there has not been a basketball season anywhere near this entertaining since I began following basketball.

Many people who will complain about the Heat will first mention that the joining of Bosh, Wade, and LeBron is bad for competition in basketball. If those three join up, then surely others will follow in suit, and the competitive nature of basketball will disappear as we know it. Yet this is not the first time that this has happened. No one caused a fuss when KG, Pierce and Ray Allen teamed up, regardless of the fact that Ray Allen was the league's best shooter and KG one of the league's best players at the time. No one clamored when Shaq and Kobe were doing their thing, nor when the Showtime Lakers were blazing through the NBA. And that's because these times of teams are great for basketball.

I agree that this is the first time that a joining of these stars has occurred on this level - LeBron and D-Wade are arguably the league's two best players - but players joining forces is not a bad thing for competition. If anything, it causes the other teams to step up their game. The Bulls failed to bring in a heavy hitter at SG around the trade deadline, figuring that their young nucleus was good enough and that they would only improve in the future. Yet as they sit behind 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, they're realizing that just having a good nucleus is not good enough anymore - they needed to make that move for a SG. You don't think they're sitting there thinking, "Man, if only we'd made a harder push for Arron Afflalo, if only we had a better shooter on offense or better perimeter defender?" If anything, the level of competition in the NBA has increased because the bar has now been set that much higher.

Some are annoyed by the fanfare that surrounds this team - most notably the Miami Heat "Welcome Party" that took place not days after LeBron's signing - or the way that they are so constantly followed by the media. I would agree that the welcome party was a bit much and that at times they've acted like champions despite having one ring between the Three of them, but they're playing like champions right now, and if teams don't like the way they're acting, its their job to put them into their place - which, by the way, hasn't exactly happened yet.

Say what you want, but this team is entertaining. They've embraced the role of the villain, and are playing the role to a tee. They're blazing through the playoffs with only a scarce bit of difficulty, and (assuming they can take one of the next three) in the finals they will face either the young up and coming Thunder (led by the humble Kevin Durant) or the veteran Mavs (led by Dirk Nowitzki, who no one has anything bad to say about). So the finals could be a traditional battle of good against evil. I'm putting my money on evil. Who you got?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

AL East Predictions

I've decided that over the course of the next week or so, I'm going to release some predictions about how I think the year will ultimately shape up in baseball. And where better to start than the ever volatile American League East:


1. Boston Red Sox: (91-71)
2. Tampa Bay Rays: (89-73)*
3. New York Yankees: (86-76)
4. Toronto Blue Jays: (85-77)
5. Baltimore Orioles: (70-92)

* = WC Berth

There's a couple reasons the season will pan out this way. The Red Sox are finally playing the way that they should, and are currently working on a 9-game winning streak and that's with Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia playing like Willy Mo Pena and my grandmother, respectively. The Rays keep getting things down, anchored by a stellar young staff and a lineup that STILL hasn't gotten a fully healthy Evan Longoria, who's recovering from an oblique injury. The Yankees are beginning to feel the wear and tear of the years, with Jeter and A-Rod finally slowing down and Granderson guaranteed to eventually stop playing like Barry Bonds. Plus who would start for these guys in the playoffs? CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Big Fat Bartolo Colon? That ain't gonna get it done. The Orioles are terrible for obvious reasons (mainly, they're the Orioles) despite once again having promising youngsters. And the Blue Jays are better than you'd think: A fairly good staff (Drabek, Morrow, Romero, and the not-as-bad-as-you-think Jesse Litsch) and an offense consisting of Jose "Lou Gehrig" Bautista and friends. But there's plenty of reason to believe that the Yankees will miss the playoffs this year, and reason to believe that they're not even a top-3 team in their own division.


Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox

What more can you say about the guy? He started off slow, made some adjustments, and is now tearing up Fenway the way he was expected to. A power-hitting lefty who relies on going the other way, Gonzo was practically made to play at Fenway, where the fence is short in right and he can get a double going the other way almost on command. The way he's knocking in runs and hitting for an amazing average (just above .330 as of today), he could be a potential triple-crown candidate. That is, if it weren't for...


Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays

The best player in baseball as of May 21st. It would be easy to call him the best player in baseball now, given his scorching start to the season, but no one was talking about this guy before the season started, other than to say that you couldn't justify the extension given to him by Toronto (5-yr, $64 million) because he couldn't repeat his last season and his low average would kill his team. Those pundits have been proved as wrong about Bautista as the Governator's wife was about his monogamy. Let's just say that he gets bumped up to MVP if his team makes the playoffs.


Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox

A bounce-back season that realistically, wasn't that hard to see coming. Last year, batters had a .341 BABIP against him (BABIP = batting average on balls in play, a metric used to evaluate how lucky batters got against a pitcher when they made contact), much much higher than his career average of .294. Now, this season the BABIP is lower than normal (.224), but he's getting more ground balls and keeping the ball in the park, so while an ERA below 2.00 is probably unsustainable, something below 3.00 is definitely in range.

Honorable mention: Zach Britton, SP, Baltimore Orioles


Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

The kid has some stuff, and the fact that he has even improved after going around the league once leaves every reason that this guy is legit.

AL Central to come tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Amazing Dirk Nowitzki

As I actively decide not to write my English paper that I should be writing, I can't help but keep thinking about the performance that Dirk Nowitzki put on last night. In case you missed it (which you really shouldn't have), Dirk Nowitzki put together a magnificent 48-point performance on 12-15 shooting from the field, and an astonishing 24-24 (!) from the charity stripe. This wasn't any Kobe-esque performance either: he also put up 6 boards, 4 assists, and recorded 4 blocks.

Dirk, at the tender age of 32, very quietly put together another great season, averaging a steady 23-7-3 on while posting absurd shooting percentages of 52-39-89. Dirk hasn't received a first-place vote for MVP since 2006 win he actually won the award, despite putting up similar numbers along the way. Even if you disregard the fact that he's put an entire franchise on his back for over a decade now or that he may be the toughest player in the entire NBA to defend, both of which are incredibly true, he should be able to garner at least one first-place vote based on sheer statistics alone.

Why is that the case? Is it the Tim Duncan Effect - that is, that Dirk has been so consistently good for so long and without flair or drama, that voting for him would just be too boring? Because that argument holds no water. Is it that people have this notion that Dirk doesn't come through in the clutch? Because according to 82games.com, no one who attempted 22 or more FGs per 48 minutes of "Clutch Time" shot a higher percentage from the field or the line than Dirk (aside from his teammate, Jason Terry). Is it that there is an idea that Dirk doesn't perform well in the playoffs? Because he's averaged a 26-11-3 in the playoffs for his career, and is playing out of his mind these playoffs.

So I don't know what exactly the verdict is on Dirk. But I know that he will continue to make un-blockable turnarounds and fade away jumpers for the rest of these playoffs, and that the Mavericks will continue to be hands-down the best team of these playoffs if he does not start receiving the constant double team. As much as I'd like to believe that I'm a Thunder fan, I can safely say that my faith in that belief died a little bit yesterday as I found myself rooting for Dirk as he drained shot after shot after shot in a near perfect performance. Here's to a great conference finals, and to Dirk and J-Kidd finally getting the ring that they rightfully deserve.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Welcome to my blog! And, of course, my obligatory "This Is My First Post Ever" post. I'm your average everyday sports fan, and I figured that since I spend all of my time scanning through sports websites, talking about sports or managing fantasy teams, I might as well give myself something to show for it. So on this blog, many of the following topics will be discussed:

  • Fantasy Sports
  • The San Francisco Giants
  • Controversial Sports Topics (such as Rashard Mendenhall's Bin Laden Tweets)
  • Sports events (such as the NFL Draft)
  • Realistically, anything relating to sports that I want to
The first post should come later today. Thanks for reading!