Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday 05/12 A.M. (Very) Quickie

Warriors enjoy home cookin', rout Jazz: Here's what I'm stuck on -- why has the NBA not made the Warriors (arguably the most telegenic team left in the playoffs) their showcase TV team? Like: Where's the ABC Sunday afternoon slot seen across the country? Why hide this team behind late start-times? This is the story of the year in the NBA -- snatching the game back from the "star system" (though Baron Davis has catapulted himself into stardom) and giving hope to all of the non-contenders out there that a little imagination can go a long way.

Ricky Williams tests positive for pot: You can only shake your head at this point. So close to reinstatement, he basically smokes it away. I'm perfectly willing to call him an addict (and suggest he receive treatment as such), but it's pretty pathetic to see him devolve (again).

Tiger smacks down Rowr-y: "If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger. I figure I've won nine of 12, and I've won three times this year — the same amount he's won in his career. So, I like the new Tiger as well." Tiger's trash-talk would have an eensy bit more oomph if he wasn't barely making the cut at Sawgrass.

MLB Stud: Jake Peavy, the best pitcher in the NL. He had 10 Ks, which is badass enough until you find out it's his fourth straight game with at least 10 Ks. Now THAT is badass.

MLB Dud: Roy Halladay out six weeks with appendicitis.

All prepped for Mother's Day yet? (Totally unrelated... new Varsity Dad post up, for those following that blog. Seriously: At what point does the inertia of a "soft launch" simply morph into "launch?")

-- D.S.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday 05/11 A.M. Quickie:
Moms, Dirk, DEI, Pac-Man, More

Happy Mother's Day! Up until this year, I have only experienced Mother's Day as a son of a mom and grandson of a grandma, not as the spouse of a mom. Maybe it's new parenthood, but I have a new appreciation and enthusiasm for the holiday.

Be (especially) nice to the moms this weekend: They deserve it. Anyone doing anything particularly cool (or sports-related) to celebrate? (And keep your eye out for the awesome pink bats being used by MLB on Sunday, one of the greatest promotions in baseball history.)

Dirk Nowitzki as NBA MVP is totally laughable, given the result of the first-round of the playoffs. I'll say it again, and it's very simple:

Naming a season's MVP solely from the regular season is as counter-intuitive as naming a champ solely from the team with the best regular season record.

LeBron snubbed for All-NBA: Now THAT was a shocker. Nash, Amare, Kobe, Dirk and Duncan made it. I find it hard to grasp that "experts" can't agree that LeBron is one of the Top 5 players in the league. (You know what this is, don't you? The LeBacklash, in its most potent form.)

My usual call for awards transparency: I would like to see the complete ballots of the 129-member panel, so we can see which specific 65 voters didn't think LeBron was first-team All-NBA.

My All-NBA First Team: Nash, Kobe, Dirk, Bosh, LeBron. Second Team: Duncan, Amare, Arenas, Yao, KG.

Pistons go up 3-0 on Bulls, even after Chicago held a 19-point 3rd-quarter lead at home. It's not just that the series is o-v-e-r, but the Bulls have been completely obliterated in the process. If they are the Baby Bulls, this was their bris. Maybe this rite of passage – every two decades or so, a Bulls team has to get pummeled by the Pistons en route to a title a few years later – will make them stronger. Or maybe it exposes them as the "paper bull" the team really is.

Suns-Spurs intrigue: Amare says Bruce Bowen is dirty. Really? This is what goes for "scandal" these days? The scandal would be: Who DOESN'T think Bowen plays dirty?

MLB Stud: The Indians, who got permission from MLB to wear Larry Doby's No. 14 on August 10. Every member of the team will wear the number in tribute to the AL's first black player.

MLB Dud: The Blue Jays, whose lost season found its ultimate symbolism when pricey closer BJ Ryan underwent season-ending elbow surgery.

Yankees: Freedom-loving or -hating? I did not know this until it was in the paper and subsequently covered by blogs: Yankee Stadium won't let fans leave their seats during "God Bless America" in the 7th inning. Because nothing honors our unique and cherished brand of American "freedom" like "don't effing move."

In the hierarchy of American values, your presumptuous and elitist perception of my lack of patriotism does not trump my freedom to go to the bathroom or concession stand during the middle of an inning of a baseball game. (h/t: Deadspin | Fanhouse)

MLB Weekend: Who had "Brewers-Mets" as the biggest series of the season so far when you were looking at the schedule in March?

MLB Steroids: Claiming privacy, MLB players won't agree to let George Mitchell have their medical records. It's not outrageous, and it's not paranoid to question whether those records – connected with other testing – would be leaked to the media by the Mitchell group.

Rory Sabbatini disses Tiger: "Rowr-y" claims the Man is "as beatable as ever," adding he'd want to take him on during Sunday's final round.

I appreciate bold talk as a way of making the radar (and you always want to punch up a class), and I refuse to sit here and go "Oooh: Tiger's gonna whip your ass for that one!"

Maybe he will, but I don't mind seeing a little "dispute" put into the "undisputed king" of golf. "Undisputed" anything is boring.

(Meanwhile, Tiger didn't have a single birdie in the entire round for the first time in four years. Now THAT sounds like a streak.)

NFL: Pacman Jones meets with Roger Goodell today to appeal Goodell's punishment of a season-long suspension of Jones.

Jones has a point: Based on previous punishments, this one seems unusually harsh. I appreciate that Goodell wants a crackdown on off-field behavior problems, but the decision to put all the weight on Jones seems arbitrary in its timing and severity.

(By the way, if you haven't seen the lawyers' document listing all of the NFL off-field infractions going back... a long time... you've got to head over to Deadspin to see it. Amazing stuff, and it truly backs up Jones' "unfairly unprecedented" claim.)

T.O. won't be at mini-camp: What, like you're surprised?

Falcons owner Arthur Blank was "stern" in a meeting with Michael Vick: What, like you're surprised?

Dale Junior leaving DEI, the day after: Scroll down to the post belo for a longer take. But I got an appropriately brilliant response from CNBC's Darren Rovell, who said the most apt comparison was that it was like Steve Jobs leaving Apple.

Landis offered deal to snitch on Lance: Floyd Landis says the USADA offered him a cakewalk punishment if he'd give them the goods on Armstrong. Now THAT's messed-up.

Again, happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dale Earnhardt Junior Leaving DEI

Junior leaving DEI: I was trying to think of an appropriate analogy among the other major sports, so non-NASCAR fans might appreciate the hugeness of this situation.

Here's the criteria: (1) Most popular athlete in the sport. (2) Leaving a team synonymous with his identity (if not his name). (3) Becoming a free agent and definitively moving on to a new team.

Is it overstatement to say it would be like Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls in 1996, like Cal Ripken leaving the Orioles in 1991 or like Brett Favre leaving the Packers in 1997? I suppose the closest thing is Wayne Gretzky leaving the Oilers for Los Angeles.

But given that those players left team sports – and that NASCAR is inherently a sport of individual stars – this is arguably even bigger than if the situation involved those names listed above.

Again: You don't have to be a NASCAR fan to understand how big this is.

-- D.S.

(Can you believe it: A late-afternoon post about NASCAR?)

Thursday 05/10 A.M. Quickie:
Warriors, Fisher, Schilling, Sawgrass, More

Feel-good Warriors down O-2 after OT loss in Utah: As a bandwagon Golden State fan, I'm not worried... yet. They could have won either game in Utah; that bodes well for their chances to take both games at home in Oakland and turn this into a very winnable best-of-3.

Were there mental mistakes near the end of Game 2? Sure: Missed free throws, turnovers. But you can't support the frenetic style one day, then curse it when its inevitable downside rears up and bites them in the ass.

The unlikely star of the game? Derek Fisher, who missed the first three quarters of the game due to a family emergency, but scored all five of his points in OT.

Deny: Jerry Hairston says he's no steroid guy.
Deny: Pat Riley says he isn't trading Shaq.
Deny: Jermaine O'Neal says he doesn't want out of Indy.

Yet another reason why Curt Schilling's blog is pretty amazing and transforming the way athletes deal with the media and fans: A day after he created a firestorm with a radio interview totally bashing Barry Bonds, Schilling went to his blog to issue a long, sincere-sounding apology for it. He didn't have to go to the media to get his message out. He was able to be ultra-reactive, on his own timetable. Fascinating.

Terry Francona wants Schilling to STFU (to the extent the player can). We can agree that Schilling weighing in on... everything... can be hit-or-miss, but his blog has been the most interesting sports-media story of the season – and, again, if he can use the blog to make nuanced arguments, rather than find himself reduced to sensationalistic sound bites by radio and newspaper hyenas, then isn't the blog a good thing?

Wah! Roger Clemens is upset that Phil Garner was pointing out that Clemens' contract's "freedom clause" was used for things other than spending time with his family? Boo-freaking-hoo for Clemens. If you're going to demand unique treatment, you're going to have to accept unique criticism. His freedom clause doesn't bother me; his griping about people complaining about it does.

MLB clubhouse alcohol ban reaches 13 teams: The Brewers, for one, are not going to remove alcohol from the clubhouse. It's the other side of the argument: Adults can make their own decisions, provided they aren't abusing the privilege. (Maybe post-game socials -- a tight-knit clubhouse -- are one of the reasons this team is winning and has become the toast of baseball this season.)

(Related: John Danks was doused in beer by teammates following his first win of the season.)

MLB Studs: Matsuzaka (8K/7IP) and Manny (HR 476) team up to lead the Red Sox over the hapless Blue Jays... Jason Marquis wins his fifth straight start for the Cubs... Ryan Howard: Pinch-hit grand slam... Brewers: Best home stand in 15 years (9-1) en route to MLB's best record.

From yesterday's Maddux-Smoltz item: Yes, I recognized I totally forgot Mariano Rivera and Pedro Martinez as lock Hall of Famers. No slight intended.

Steve McNair arrested: For owning a car being driven by a drunk driver (McNair was sitting shotgun). We'll see what the Commish does about this, under the new, harsher conduct policies...

Unsurprisingly, the NBA receives the highest marks for minority representation among league and team executives. If only the other major sports -- including college -- could follow the example.

PGA: TPC starts today. I'm always sympathetic to Ponte Vedra Beach and Sawgrass -- we took a tour of the place as a possible spot for our wedding. Nuptials on the island of Sawgrass' 17th hole?

(Not that that option was on the table, but it sure would have been cool if it was. That's one of the few holes where I'd be willing to have a "hole-cam" open on my computer during the day as players come through. I have no idea if that's even an option, but it should be. Aha: Here's the link, h/t reader Tyler.)

Meanwhile, there are few smarter moves in golf than the TPC moving into May, to fill the void between the Masters and the Open. Given the money ($9 million) and the unofficial status as "5th Major," maybe "official" status won't be far behind. Pick: Tiger.

The potential "national basketball academy" has been a recent fascination of mine, and Arn Tellem bashed it in the LA Times yesterday, hitting on the most substantial flaw of the concept: The academy would severely limit the number of players who would be helped.

How do you make the cut? Look at the players on the current (or any former) US National Team: How many were among the Top 10 players in their class in high school?

Are you going to tell a player ranked No. 15 he's in, but the kid ranked No. 16 he's not? We're talking about stability, security, schooling and a gift-wrapped ticket to the NBA, let alone college.

And I question what the ultimate purpose of the academy is: Is it to groom future national-team players? Groom future NBA stars who play "the right way?" Help the most talented players in the country avoid perils that might derail their career... or derail the NCAA and NBA's ability to make money off of their talent?

No question: Tellem has a vested interest in bashing the "academy" system; after all, an academy might short-circuit a player's need or interest in having a super-agent. But he raises good points.

Happy graduation to Ashley Judd, who can now officially claim Kentucky as her alma mater after completing the final course she needed to graduate.

Happy election to Doug Flutie, among the latest class elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. What took so long?

The logic behind the NFL adding a 17th regular-season game is becoming more clear: It will be so that each team can play a regular-season game outside of the US without giving up one of their 8 home games.

Junior leaving DEI: I'm no NASCAR expert, but it seems to me that Dale Earnhardt Junior not driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc (DEI) will be kind of surreal for fans.

Kevin Durant's first endorsement deal is with... Upper Deck trading cards. First of many, I presume. (H/T Darren Rovell at CNBC).

Mayweather-DeLaHoya a pay-per-view smash: 2.15 million buys (at $54.95 each!) makes it the most-purchased PPV event in TV history. Pretty astounding in this day and age of (1) consumer fragmentation and (b) boxing apathy.

Just to clarify, from yesterday's "Cavs-Nets: Zzzz" item: No, I don't particularly hate Cleveland and/or Cleveland sports. I loved the Browns drafting Joe Thomas; I'm hardly a "hater" for disliking the Brady Quinn pick or the trade to get it. I find LeBron interesting enough, but I have little patience for the unimaginative way the team plays. (And, yes, as a Wizards fan, I have a natural inclination to dislike both the Cavs and LeBron.) I have always been sympathetic towards the Indians and their fans. Hell, who isn't on the Sizemore bandwagon? And I hardly think that pointing out that the Cavs-Nets series isn't particularly exciting is Cleveland-hating. Except maybe as foreshadowing for the moment down the not-so-distant road when Jay-Z brings LeBron to play for the Brooklyn Nets. (Ahh... my first "LeBron-leaving-Cleveland" mention of the season! And I held out for so long!)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday 05/09 A.M. Quickie:
Steroids, Alcohol, Suns Rout, Bonds 745

MLB Steroids Scandal, Cont'd: Don't eff with George Mitchell. He knows that he can create sizzle – if not steak – in his investigation, simply by "naming names."

And so he generates publicity for his effort – if not cooperation from current players, who will ignore his requests for interviews and medical records – by dropping names like...

Sosa and Palmeiro.

That's all he's got? And it's not like he's actually proving they used steroids. He's merely asking for their medical records.

But he throws around their names, and – as with everything in this scandal – merely being mentioned is tantamount to guilt by common perception.

I'm not defending Sosa or Palmeiro or any other player. And I'm not sure yet how I fall on the question of whether these players should cooperate: If they're innocent, why not? But the mild libertarian instinct in me says they are under no concrete obligation.

(Here's what I really want to know: Let's run a poll, much like the controversial Bonds one from last week, asking how many baseball fans really give a damn about the ongoing steroids story anyway? I'm betting the answers will shock and shame the media. )

MLB clubhouse alcohol bans: I suppose it's sad that Hancock's death was the impetus for the new rules throughout MLB teams, but they were long overdue. The question/pressure now will be: If your team hasn't banned alcohol from the clubhouse yet, why not – and when will it happen?


Cavs go up 2-0 on Nets: Zzzz...

UPDATE: I know it's late in the day already, but if you're not listening to JE and Tas doing their podcasts at The Basketball Jones, you're totally missing out. Best sports podcast out there.

Bonds: 745. (Wow, this is approaching much faster than anyone thought, isn't it? Whether or not you think he used PEDs, you have to admit that it's unlikely he's using them now. So stipulated, how do you explain this season's power surge? Oh, right: 'Roiding or not, he's the best power hitter of all time.)

UPDATE: How did I not write earlier about Curt Schilling ripping Barry Bonds on the radio? Seems like easy pickins.

Maddux vs. Smoltz tonight: A rare matchup between Hall of Fame pitchers. (No: Santana vs. Halladay doesn't count... yet.) How many lock Hall of Fame pitchers are in MLB right now? Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Clemens, Johnson, Schilling?, Hoffman? I know there are more.

How do I know that this is the Mets' year? They have already gone to the team-wide "Crew Cuts in Solidarity."

Stud: Josh Beckett. First to 7 wins. (Tigers, too: 8 straight Ws.)

Dud: Jorge Reyes. (See this LIO post.)

My favorite on-field promotion of the baseball season is coming up: The pink bats used on Mother's Day. (Remember Bill Hall last year?) Apparently, more than 200 players have signed up to use them. Rah Moms!

McNabb calls Eagles first-pick of QB Kolb "shocking," but tried to downplay it. Why didn't he say this: "The Eagles have to think about what's going to happen after I've retired in 10 years. But Kolb will have big shoes to fill after I've led the team to multiple Super Bowl titles. Heh." ("Heh" necessary.)

Steve Smith got paid: And deserves it.

Ronnie Brown is too fat? After drafting him for my fantasy team the last two seasons, I might be inclined to agree with the Dolphins if they want him to get into better shape. But they're just sucking me back in, tempting me to use a high first-round pick on him... again....

NBA All-Rookie: The first-team is a testament to Lottery "names": Roy, Bargnani, Foye, Gay, Aldridge... and Garbajosa, a Euroleague find (and, combined with Bargnani, Exhibit A why the Raptors' "European Invasion" strategy led them, in one year, from the first pick of the 2006 NBA Draft to a division title and the playoffs).

The second team is fascinating: Paul Millsap and Craig Smith were second-rounders viewed as stereotypical "tweeners"; here's a reminder: Scouting is an imperfect science. Oh, and Adam Morrison somehow made it onto the team, even though he was horrible. Nice to see the Bobcats' Rookie of the Year, Walter Hermann, made the second-team, too.

Baseball draft on TV: I'm late on this by two days, but I love this idea. If you don't like it, you don't have to watch it. But it made zero sense for baseball in the era of "Moneyball" and an increasing (if still small) profile of college baseball NOT to televise the draft. The only question: Who will emerge as this cottage industry's Mel Kiper?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday 05/08 A.M. Quickie:
Jazz, Warriors, Cuban, Penny, More

Jazz out-run Warriors in Game 1: Nothing takes the air out of a good unified national fan bandwagon like losing.

Just as Golden State's Game 1 win over the Mavericks set up their magical run in round one, the Warriors' Game 2 loss to the Jazz slows the momentum. (If you can use a term like "slow momentum" when it comes to the frenetic Warriors.)

I think the Warriors had too long of a rest between series, while Utah was riding the wave of the Game 7 win over the Rockets – and home-court advantage.

In the end, that's what I'm watching: I won't count the Warriors out until they lose at home (which they won't). This is going to be a hell of a good series.

(Meanwhile, with all the attention on Baron Davis right now, will this series be the moment that Utah's Deron Williams -- 31 pts last night – has his national breakout moment?)

Pistons blow out Bulls... again: Wow, is this going to be over quickly or what? It's not even about Ben Wallace's old teammates showing him what's what; it's about the class of the conference beating up on a wannabe.

Mark Cuban supports PEDs in the NBA: I'm sure there's more nuance to his argument than was presented in the Men's Journal article. There's a part of me that thinks he says these kinds of things to say them, for the attention they bring, and part of me that thinks he says these things because he's a really smart guy and he knows what he's talking about. I'm pretty sure he'll be shouted down in this case, because "PED" is the dirtiest word in sports right now.

Roger Clemens says "it's not about the money," which is the biggest load of bunk in the Clemens saga since "But the test was clean."

MLB Stud: Brad Penny, who had a career-high 14 Ks (with zero BBs), raising his record to 4-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.39.

Runners-up: Chris Capuano (season-high 9 Ks) and Chris Young (8Ks in 6 IP), both winning.

MLB Dud: Joel Zumaya, out for 12 weeks with a finger injury. TBD how it might impact the rest of his season.

HBO yanks Mayweather-DeLaHoya fight off YouTube: A few thoughts on this – (1) Why did it take HBO until Monday to figure out it was out there? (2) The audience for the clips was pretty low. That should bother HBO (and boxing) a lot more than copyright infringement. Maybe if they had two guys boxing AND using Mentos and soda to cause an explosion...

Billy Donovan turns down Grizzlies: I totally neglected to mention this yesterday. Actually, I believe I had written about the Grizzlies' interest in Donovan back in early March, along with the $5 million figure thrown around yesterday. Don't ask how I knew. (Seriously: I think it was from a random message board or something.) Anyway, Billy wanted full control, and the Grizz didn't want to give it to him. Interest over.

There's only one team dumb enough to give one person the coach and GM roles, along with a sick amount of money, and the Knicks already have a guy in that role... for now. I've always claimed that the Knicks job -- coach, GM, the works -- is the one Donovan will get... and take. Will it happen in 2008? We'll see.

Is Shaun Alexander's foot still broken? Eh, maybe the Seahawks would have wanted to know about that before draft day...

Does Jermaine O'Neal want to play for the Knicks? If I was Indiana, given the team has no hope of competing for an East title as-is, I would demand David Lee, Channing Frye and the Knicks No. 1 in '07.

Pac-Man Jones' lawyers have a point when they say that his season-long suspension was "unprecedented in its severity." The Commish should/will reply: "Yeah? So what?"

Greg Oden picked Mike Conley Jr.'s dad as his agent. That cannot possibly surprise you.

This is a pretty good summary of what makes Josh Hamilton so intriguing.

-- D.S.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday 05/07 A.M. Quickie:
Clemens, Nash, Bonds and more Clemens

Roger Clemens is a Yankee: This is by far the biggest storyline of the day...

That Clemens is coming out of retirement, spurning the Red Sox and everyone else for his buddy Andy Pettitte and the Yankees.

That he will provide pitching stability – and stardom (after all, he is still one of the Top 5 pitchers in baseball) – to a team still under .500 but only 5.5 games out of first in the AL East.

That he made the announcement not at a tradtional press conference, but at Yankee Stadium, in front of 52,000-plus fans, in a rare populist moment for a snooty franchise and player.

That he will make $28 million for his efforts. $28 million! Now, obviously, that will be prorated, but $4.5 million a month to pitch 4-5 times is pretty eye-popping.

Will he make a difference? That's not the point today. For now, it's about the SIGNAL:

That the Yankees are still in it to win (and still ready to spend like no team in baseball history) and that the premier pitcher in the league thinks so, too.

I'm expecting a cavalcade of reactions from around the league and sports-blog universe, so this is an absolute "Tracking..."

That interesting Bonds poll: "Only" 52 percent of fans don't want to see Bonds break the all-time home run record. The stat that's making headlines is the racial divide: 74 percent of black fans want to see him do it. What does that say? I think I agree with Jayson Stark: The perception of universal outrage over Bonds by the media is, at least in part, race-driven.

Spurs beat Suns in Game 1. Was it the head-butt nose injury to Steve Nash that cost the Suns a critical Game 1 victory in San Antonio in PHOENIX? Perhaps, but more telling about the Suns' chances in this series is that the combined score was 217 points, more in Phoenix's comfort zone than San Antonio's no matter what the result.

(Cavs beat Nets in Game 1: How intriguing that the least interesting of the NBA playoff semifinal series includes LeBron? Confirms the NBA has undergone a shift from a "star" system to a "system" system.)

NBA Tonight: Warriors Mania resumes! Who else is curious to see if the Warriors' first-round magic extends into the second round against the Jazz? Or was the Mavs' upset driven more by emotion than anything else? (Plus: Look for another Bulls beat-down in Detroit.)

What next for T-Mac: Is he the NBA's most tragic figure or just a loser?

Hancock Update: Cards to ban alcohol from the clubhouse, but I don't expect that to start a trend around MLB.

Mayweather beats De La Hoya: When boxing matches are decided by split decisions, they resemble figure skating more than anything else. (Will there be a rematch? Fighters say "no"; Economic say "yes.")

Street Sense wins Kentucky Derby: Eh, picking the favorites isn't any fun anyway.

The Sabres march on...

-- D.S.