Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday 05/09 (Very) Quickie

Well, it certainly feels like the Lakers are back in control of that series with the Rockets (how about my boy Jordan Farmar?)

On the other side, it feels like the Celtics are done. Maybe not in 5 games, but ultimately. That said, without KG, they simply aren't an elite team.

A-Rod homers in 1st game back: Of course he did. (Credit Sabathia, too.)

Justin Verlander: Pitching as well right now as anyone not named Greinke.

The latest indignity for the Dodgers: Losing to Barry Zito.

I sort of love the AJ Hinch hire for the D'backs. You knew Theo protege Josh Byrnes could do something different -- this qualifies. Who needs previous managing experience, at any level?

Favre Watch: As if anyone actually believed those reports that he wasn't coming back.

Caps-Pens now tied 2-2: Ehh, is it possible the Caps no longer are working under the "hot goalie theory?"

Today: Two blowouts in the NBA playoffs (Nuggets over Mavs, Cavs over Hawks)... Greinke!... Fenway-slaying Scott Kazmir tries to get over his recent issues vs. the Red Sox...

-- D.S.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday 05/08 A.M. Quickie:
Manny, More Manny, With A-Rod, LeBron

Not many do, but I see the huge upside in the whole Manny spectacle from yesterday. That leads today's SN column. Count me in the camp that really is non-plussed by the whole thing.

Yeah, I actually thought that Manny was clean -- so, of anyone, I should be entitled to some outrage. But I don't feel any, in the same way I find the whole "Hall or no Hall" debate ludicrous.

It's a wild, all-hands-on-deck news story. But I appreciated it more for the way it bumped Favre from the headlines -- even A-Rod (remember how big the A-Rod deal was on Monday?). It bumped the NBA from the top of the headlines, too.

But A-Rod is back in the Yankees lineup tonight, and that will be Story No. 1. And the Lakers and Rockets resume their insanely intense series, which will also reclaim some spotlight.

Manny -- for all the "shocked! shocked!" outrage from some corners -- was forgotten as quickly as last night, when the Manny-less Dodgers lost at home, for the first time, to the Nats, no less.

Leitch put something together to lead about all this, and he's right to argue that while it was a wild single-day story, it is easy enough to move on.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Manny Being Manny: 50-Game Suspension

UPDATE: Neyer's take. More: Olbermann's take. (Got other good ones? Email me.)

AJ Daulerio has an epic take on Manny. Much more awesome than anything you will read on the subject in the next 24-infinity hours on this story.

I'm not normally this naive, but I sincerely always thought that Manny played clean. (Didn't he strike you as too dumb to bother cheating? Turns out he was dumb enough to cheat. I mean: Cheating in 2003? OK. Cheating in 2008 or 2009? Seriously?)

-- D.S.

Love This Book: "Final Four of Everything"

A year ago, Richard Sandomir and Mark Reiter came out with "The Enlightened Bracketologist," an amazing book which basically put all sorts of fun debates into a bracket -- as one contributor to Page 2's epic bracket strategy of the earlier part of this decade, I obviously approve.

They have put out a new edition, now titled "The Final Four of Everything" -- a much better title, although I am shocked that the NCAA was cool with them appropriating the name "Final Four," which I believe is trademarked. (And doesn't ESPN own "bracketology?" How could they not?)

It's even better this edition: First, it's a paperback, so it's cheaper. Second, there is a ton more in there, including 28 brackets specifically dedicated to sports, prepared by the likes of David Maraniss (Olympic Athletes), Pete Thamel (Absurd College Nicknames), Stefan Fatsis (Field Goals and PATs), Advertising Icons (Bryan Curtis) and 21st Century Sports Books (Will Leitch).

Here is where the book takes it to another level: Bracket Smackdown, a Web site that not only promotes the book, but promotes the idea of creating your own brackets, across an infinite number of topics. It also lets you see what others have created, filtered by most recent or most popular. It is arguably the most clever book-promotion Web site I have ever seen.

Some enterprising sports site -- or entertainment or news site -- should partner with them to promote the widget and its results; it is a neverending source of fresh, clever content (and it speaks to the ways that open-source, let-the-fans-in editorial strategies can be huge winners).

When the first edition of the book came out, I said that it was an absolute must-have -- you'll want this on your coffee table or bookshelf, and it is a fantastic conversation/argument-starter. This new edition is even better -- if you haven't gotten it yet (or even if you have the first edition), it's a must-have. (And the Web site is a time sink, but so worthwhile.)

-- D.S.

Thursday 05/07 A.M. Quickie:
Kobe, Artest, Rondo, Johan, Big 12, More

I like the Lakers as underdog assholes more than regal favorites. It reminds you that Kobe's game is as much psychology as physiology -- same with Phil Jackson.

Ron Artest blowing up? You could see it coming. It's almost cliche. But it certainly makes Game 3 all the more intriguing. The Rockets don't have any fear of LA -- but they might be too intentionally willfully resistant.

Lakers-Rockets -- now a bruising battle out of the Eastern Conference circa mid-90s -- leads today's SN column.

More you'll find:
*Rondo: Better than Pierce. Better than Allen. More valuable than KG.
*Johan Santana: Better than Greinke. (Oh no you didn't!)
*Big 12: Coaches deliver an epic F-U to Texas.
*Pengins: Not dead yet! (I said "yet.")
*Calipari: Yikes, that's a really good recruiting class.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Launching Today:

Great concept from (founded by David Katz, who used to run Yahoo Sports): Sports Blog Tweets, which consolidates all the tweets from a huge list of good bloggers using Twitter. They did something similar for athletes: Athlete Tweets.

Most folks probably view Twitter through their own set-up (via Twitter) or maybe through Tweetie or TweetDeck -- obviously, this includes all of the folks whom you have opted into following. But I see the value of Sports Blog Tweets as a destination: Use it to keep track of the wider conversation or to scout for new quality folks to follow.

Twitter hit critical mass among sports bloggers, mainstream sports media, athletes and fans more generally about 6-8 weeks ago. If you're not on there, you should really check it out, as it is changing the sports-fan conversation and consumer experience dramatically, particularly during the day. (You are welcome to join me @danshanoff.)

-- D.S.

Drew Magary On Favre To His Vikings

Exactly the kind of Viking-fan self-recriminaton I was talking about in the column and Quickie post this morning.

Wednesday 05/06 A.M. Quickie:
Favre, LeBron, Nuggets, Royals, Vick, More

You all know I'm firmly in the Favre-hater camp. Would it surprise you to know that I want him to come back, to the Vikings?

Obviously, I can't stand the thought of the media coverage -- or Favre himself -- but I can't help but see the intrigue in Packers fans freaking when they realize that this isn't late-career Favre turning on him -- this is how Favre always HAS BEEN. As a bonus, we get to see Vikings fans abandoning their truest selves to root for him.

That leads today's SN column. It was enough to bump MVP LeBron and Cavs Game 1 from the lead today, although I'd argue that tonight's Game 2s are far more interesting than the throttlings going on in the other two series (Cavs-Hawks and Nuggets-Mavs).

Meanwhile, I'm still playing with this "bullet point" format for my daily MLB observations in the column. I'm not sure it gives me enough room to talk about the big stories -- like the Royals' surge or LA's 12-0 home record or even (yeesh) Yanks-Sox, which is so owned by the Red Sox right now that I'm not even sure that it qualifies as a real rivalry anymore.

Lots to cover today: Here's the complete column. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tuesday 05/05 A.M. Quickie:
Zack, Rockets, Magic, LeBron, More

Two words: Zack. Greinke. The best story in baseball this season had his best game ever.

It was almost -- almost -- enough to knock the NBA's double-trouble last night from the lead of today's SN column.

I will only say this once: If you look back to November, in the NBA preseason picks, I predicted Rockets-Magic in the NBA Finals. This morning may be as close as I get.

The Rockets were one of a very very short list of teams actually competing for a championship this year, and they seem to have the ingredients to hang with the Lakers: Yao as the hub, Ron-Ron as the X-factor, Battier as the defensive glue, Brooks as the backcourt scoring punch. Anyone else think the Rockets were sunk when Yao went out with 5 minutes to play? Houston was still ahead, but you could see the Lakers coming -- especially if the Rockets didn't have Yao. His return and subsequent contributions (8 pts in the final minutes)... let's just say that if that happened with KG in Boston or LeBron in NY, the hype would never stop.

The Celtics are another matter: Who DIDN'T see the Magic winning in Boston last night coming a mile away? The Celtics probably thought the first two quarters were a few more stanzas of OT against the Bulls -- of course, the Bulls weren't as good as the Magic.

As predictable as the Celtics' Game 1 loss was the notion that the Magic nearly let an umpteen-point lead slip away in the 2nd half. I almost thought they would throw the game away entirely -- but even the psychologically challenged Magic couldn't blow THAT big of a lead.

LeBron as MVP: Really, it was no contest. Statistically, he put together one of the greatest individual seasons of all time. And he led his team to the best record in the NBA, including the 40-win season at home. He makes everyone better and is, himself, unstoppable.

I asked this in the column: At what point does LeBron get the "Anyone But You" effect on his MVP votes? Presumably, he will be the best player in the NBA every year for the next, say, decade. Like they did with Jordan, the MVP voters will want some variety: Maybe Dwight Howard one year, maybe Wade, maybe Durant...eventually.

But let's not kid ourselves: LeBron is the best player in the game. He will remain the best player in the game. He may very well be the best player ever. Without a ring, it is all meaningless.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday 05/04 A.M. Quickie:
Celtics, Nuggets, Crawford, A-Rod, More

Do we really have to talk about A-Rod today?

I guess the other option is to talk about how the NBA Playoffs have reverted to their original state from a few weeks ago -- blah. (But not so "blah" it couldn't lead today's SN column!)

In the end, what did the Celtics-Bulls series really matter? Like the Celtics can beat the Cavs. Game 7 was a let-down -- it certainly dropped the series behind Warriors-Mavs '07 as the best 1st-round series ever. (The difference? How great could it be if the higher-seeded team ends up winning?)

Beyond that, it looks like we'll get barely interesting series -- the Mavs seem overmatched, and though the Rockets are run fascinatingly, they have "won" simply by getting out of the 1st round.

In the East, the Cavs will blow past the Hawks, and -- again -- does it really matter if the Celtics or the Magic advance? I guess we want to see Celtics-Cavs for the East title.

Meanwhile, in MLB, there's A-Rod, but there are also more fun topics -- like Carl Crawford's 6 steals (not bad in an era where steals have been debunked as more harm than help). Or Verlander's 11 Ks. Or the Strasburg Watch.

Complete column here. More later.

- D.S.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday 05/03 (Very) Quickie

I had thought that the Celtics-Bulls series couldn't possibly be diminished from its Game 7 -- how can you screw up a Game 7, when the first 6 were so awesome?

But that's what happened: BECAUSE the first 6 (well, 5 of 6) were so awesome, Game 7 felt... like a let-down. It didn't really go down to the final minutes -- the Bulls were a little too far out the entire way in. There was no last-shot drama, no buzzer-beater.

And, face it: For this to be truly special, the Bulls would have to have won in Boston, eliminating the defending champs.

Compare that to the Kentucky Derby, which was spectacular -- all you needed was that final 15 seconds, when Mine That Bird went from back-of-the-pack to the lead...then about 10 lengths beyond that. All at 50-1. It was an amazing race and amazing result.

Caps beat Pens in NHL Game 1: Simeon Varlamov's save with the game tied 2-2 may have been the greatest hockey save I have ever seen. If the Pens had gone up 3-2, who knows if the Caps would have been able to tie and win the game. Down 0-1, who knows if the Caps would have been able to rally to win the series. Beyond that, it was just a sick save.

MLB Highlights: Sabathia loses (again!)... Dan Haren (11 K) and Ted Lilly (10 K) are the best of the day... I REALLY picked the wrong day not to start Ryan Spilborghs on my fantasy team; it was the best day of his career (3/4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB)... Hey, the Red Sox finally won at the Trop!

Yeah, Manny Pacquiao is pretty good.

-- D.S.