Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keep It Real Birthday!?!?!

It's my birthday and I'll Keep It Real if I want to. (Yep, I just did that) What better day to return with America's most beloved column, Keep It Real ________ [insert day of the week]. With a surprising amount of stories taking place in the sports universe, I'm going to weigh in with a mixed bag of topics. From the U.S. soccer team to the NBA Draft, we're getting after it this Thursday morning by taking anyone and you to task!

Get After It!

U.S. Soccer Advances (time to tune in) You've got to pay attention now America. As much as the majority of you would like to go back to our baseball highlights, NBA free agent talk, and the occasional athlete scandal (Cough! Cough! Lawrence Taylor) Story #1 is easily our United States World Cup team. With the U.S. team advancing on a 91st minute tournament saving goal, the Unites States are making noise from coast to coast. Aside from the hero of yesterdays game, Landon Donovan, U.S. goalie Tim Howard is becoming a household name. We're sitting on the cusp of a U.S. team that has made significant noise with every sports platform using them as topic number one and story number one. Heading into the one and done round, the U.S. team will play a tough Ghana squad on Saturday afternoon. With America already on board, given our Championship in Golf, Hockey, and Basketball have just completed, it's about time we wake up and Keep It Real! Soccer is in!?!?!?!? GOAL ! GOAL ! GOAL! GOALLLLLL !

Graeme McDowell, McDONE THAT! I know our focuses had been on other events around us. Father's Day. Crowning NBA Champs. Previously mentioned World Cup. But the man from Northern Ireland that won the U.S. Open this weekend with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Ernie Els chomping at the bit, should get a few more moments of glory. With the Saturday leader Dustin Johnson choking his way through 18 holes on Sunday, it was his playing partner that kept his chances alive and stayed ahead of the pack. Doing Late Night, guest appearances on Entourage, Graeme McDowell has officially placed his name under a long list of U.S. Open Champions and probably still hasn't gotten enough credit. While his 74 isn't usually the score you see on day four of a major, a score that wins the thing, it was on this past Sunday. McDowell shot his worst day of the tournament the same day everyone else did and still took it home. Can't say it enough, with every heavyweight in the game coming at him and then falling back, McDowell will leave with a victory at Pebble Beach and a name etched in history. Keep It Real, he's a just as impressive in a major victory as anyone else could have been.

The NBA Draftologists, self included. The day of, it heats up. You get trades here and there, and I love it! With all the hub about one and done Kentucky Wildcast John Wall, the draft is being overlooked. From Ohio State standout Evan Turner to Georgia Tech big man Derrick Favors, the whole front end of this draft is front loaded to the max. Then we go deeper into the draft with players the caliber of Patrick Patterson, another Kentucky standout. Damion James, the 6-7 Texas Longhorn. What about veteran college guards like Maryland's Greivis Vasquez and Kansas' Sherron Collins???? From my sleeper steals like Xavier's Jordan Crawford and Dwayne Collins of Miami, the NBA draft is deeper and more exciting than it's been in years. If you aren't on board with draft night, you better call somebody and find out. Keep It Real, off season, hot stove, trade buzz, the drafts are just as big in U.S. sports!

Happy Birthday ME! . . . .


Friday, June 18, 2010

About All I Could Handle

It's Friday Morning. Looks to be somewhat sunny out. Can definitely hear some birds chirping. Note to sports crazed self: Life isn't all that bad, but today it for sure sucks.

When the final buzzer sounded and Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers recorded their franchises 16th NBA Championship I was visibly shook. At the expense of the Boston Celtics who just completed their three-year restoration of basketball in The Hub, the L.A. Lakers are back-to-back champions. That's about all the Lakers talk your getting, I'm taking a different, more bias road.

The year, 2007. With a record of 24-58 through the regular season, the Boston Celtics were primed for a very high lottery pick. Theirs, the second worst record in the Association placed them in perfect position to earn a top pick in one of the most promising drafts of recent memory. Then May 22nd, 2007 happened. The Celtics, with a 19% chance of winning the rights to the number one overall pick, and a 34% chance at winning one of the top two selections, their future would be altered quicker than we could have ever imagined.

Turns out the Boston Celtics didn't get either, they didn't get the third, or fourth pick, but NUMBER 5! However, three years removed from that night, the Boston Celtics have won nearly sixty games a season, raised another banner to the rafters, slammed the door on the coronation of LeBron James not once but twice, been to two NBA Finals, and pumped more life into a hoops starved region of the country than any draft pick would have done. So yes, we're all winners on this lowly Friday morning, no amount of LA-LA Land celebrations are going to get this cat down. It may not be over but I've got a couple Thank Yous to give out, call them preemptive, call them too early, but I'm doing it . . .

Thank You, Celtics Team President Danny Ainge Not to many people in this league would have known what to do when you were staring at drafting the likes of Yi-Jianlian. What did Ainge do? (1) Sent the rights to his draft selection, an expiring contract named Szczerbiak and Delonte West to the Sonics (now the Thunder), in exchange for one of the hardest working shooters in this league, Ray Allen, and the #35 pick which would result in the drafting of this kid from LSU, a Big Baby from LSU. (2) It took weeks, five-players, two first round picks, and cash included for the Boston Celtics to land the future Hall Of Famer referred to as, The Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. Aside from the countless additions to help out his star players over the last several years, Ainge has added the likes of Rasheed Wallace, P.J. Brown, James Posey, and Nate Robinson to name a few. It was Ainge who traded for our current stud point guard Rajon Rondo in 2006. Danny Ainge, we owe you a huge thank you for bringing these stars to Boston and making us relevant once more. You put the pieces together, Thank You!

Thank You, Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers Here's a head coach who was fully on the chopping block, laying flat out on the thing after the Celtics horrible losing season of 2006-2007. Given the players from the front office, and the confidence from them as well, Doc Rivers built buy in from every one of his All-Stars. He got more out of an undersized Glen Davis, he turned Nate Robinson into a jolting bench player, and that was all just this season. Putting up with Rasheed Wallace for an entire year, playing as if he had no care at all during the regular season. Managing the young up and coming Rajon Rondo, battling with his veteran teammates, Doc Rivers got it all of out of every one of them. Out coached Phil Jackson in the 2008 NBA Finals, developed a game plan to stop the explosive Cleveland Cavaliers, Doc Rivers has etched his name into the history books. Could Doc be the best coach of the green since Red?!? For the job that Doc Rivers has done coaching the Celtics to 18 wins shy of 200 in just three seasons? Thank You Doc! An even special Thank You if this is your last season at the helm.

Thank You, Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen First off, Garnett. I've never seen a player with as much passion and toughness as Garnett. A title was all Garnett wanted to play for, not money, advertisements, fame, just an NBA Championship. The chest pounding, the floor slapping, for three seasons I've had the pleasure of seeing a a player like this and I couldn't want more. Garnett put aside the rumours he'd heard about Boston, it's negativity to say the least. Kevin Garnett in Minnesota was just an All-Star, in Massachusetts, he's grown into a legend and we should all Thank him for that. Ray Allen, the smoothest jump shot I've ever seen. His second tour in the Northeast, first being in college at Connecticut, would not only net him a championship, but I believe it'd allow him the opportunity to play in front of some of the most thundering crowds he's ever seen. Winning games from behind the three-point line, hounding Kobe Bryant in more than one NBA Finals, and more importantly running circles around defenders for the better part of three seasons. As much as Boston was good for their careers, their careers were amazing for us, Thank You Ray and Kevin!

Finally, Paul Pierce. Thank you. Despite what people say about your acting, your game, about anything else they'd like to, Paul Pierce is a living Celtic legend. Multiple NBA Finals, game winning shots, Paul Pierce is going to end his career not just in a Celtics uniform but as one of if not the leading scorer in Celtic history, a history that is long and storied. Through great now times now, and bad times before, Paul Pierce was a gamer. I'll remember his performance against those New Jersey Nets in 2002, against the Lakers in the '08 Finals, always. What I will remember most though, is the fact that he wanted to be a Celtics, he knew what it meant, when it needed to be said he said it. For his entire career in uniform, Paul Pierce stood up the challenge of being compared to the greats that came before him. I can't thank Pierce enough, led through the bad times and came out on the right end. The time has come to just say Thank You, and hope he doesn't leave us now that it's his choice. Thanks Truth!

Whether this is the end of the road for this team or not, as sad as that sounds, they put together a three year stretch we never saw coming in the spring of 2007 waiting on a hope and a Durant. Thank You to these Celtics, I'm greatful.

Monday, June 14, 2010

All Around Impressed

Disclaimer: Throughout the history of this blog I've made a significant effort at having an unbiased opinion, really I have. Earlier this season I went so far as to call out these Boston Celtics (Green With Little Envy). That being said, after Sunday nights impressive performance from Paul Pierce & the Celtics, the cuffs are off and anything goes.

With the season on the proverbial line for the second straight game, the Celtics moved all their chips into the middle of the table and showed their hand. Boarding a plane bound for the west coast and game six, possibly seven, the team that captured New England during the summer of 2008 is once again in the very same position to do so. Some of the pieces have changed, but most remain the same and while it's been quite a long strange trip, it couldn't be more exciting. As previously mentioned we could still bear witness to as many as two more games, at this point however I'm not to sure I can handle it.

How we've gotten there . . .

April 17th Showing a total lack of discipline, Celtics 34-year old veteran Kevin Garnett unravels slamming Miami's Quentin Richardson with a deliberate elbow earning him a one game suspension in his first playoff appearance since the Celtics 2008 Finals. After this game the naysayers were out in full force, this team is old, slow, and too rough around the edges to get back where they were. As most of the country responded with criticism and doubt that the Celtics could dispatch Miami in game 2 while Garnett was sidelined with the suspension, that locker room wasn't buying it. Serving as a wake up call to Boston, the short handed Celtics came out and rocked Miami to the tune of a near 30 point victory. Bell answered. In just five games Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat would have their bags packed and headed home, season over. So much for a first round upset from the number five seed, the Boston Celtics were waiting for LeBron in round two.

May 3rd Just two days from losing game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a game the Celtics had all but dominated for the better half of three quarters, Boston defeated LeBron James and company to knot the series up headed back to Massachusetts. Led by a 19 assist performance from super guard Rajon Rondo, the Celtics shook the Cavaliers at their core by handing them an 18-point loss. For the first time in the postseason, the Cavaliers who had the best record during the regular season seemed more than just rattled. The Celts had gone into their house, a house which saw them lose just six games in the regular season, and almost dropped them not just the one time but twice. As in the case of the Celtics, it was more than just a series tying victory. For the first time since joining the Celtics last summer, 14-year veteran Rasheed Wallace showed up. In 18 minutes Wallace began to show Celtics diehards why he was an important signing eight months earlier. Scoring 17 points and playing tough defense on the other end of the floor, Rasheed Wallace answered the call from his future Hall Of Fame teammates.

May 11th After an embarrassing game three loss on their home court, 124-95, the Celtics had to come back and even the series in game four just to guarantee a trip home for game six. In the middle, an all-important game 5 back in Cleveland on May the 11th. Both teams looking to avoid being pushed to the brink, the Celtics would have to do so in rough waters away from their friendly confines. Knowing they'd done so before, behind great bench play from Glen Davis and some sharp shooting from Ray Allen, the Boston Celtics showed no fear of the road. In Cleveland's worse playoff loss in the history of their franchise, the Boston Celtics would run away with a 32-point victory all but sealing the fate of LeBron James and his hopes to bring a coveted championship back to his home state of Ohio. From Ray Allen's 6-three pointers to Paul Pierce's 10 defensive rebounds, and can't forget Big Baby's 15 points in 21 minutes, the Celtics steam rolled an unsuspecting Cavaliers team that folded it in quicker than it came out. If there was any tougher way for LeBron to play his potentially last series in a Cavs uniform, I'd be interested to hear your theories. The championship swagger was back and after finishing off Cleveland in six and headed to the ECF, what else was left to do but celebrate with these Celtics.

May 18th Claiming home court in game one, the Celtics faced a game two opportunity against the Orlando Magic to seize control over the Eastern Conference Finals. Behind 53 combined points from Celtics stars Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce the Celtics would hold onto a late lead and take the first two games of this series while on the road. In the midst of a mini-run that would consist of six straight post season wins the Celtics couldn't have looked stronger. It'd take two more games than the Celtics would have liked to finish off Orlando, a team they'd been up 3-0 against, but in the final game, game six, the Celtics would come out and polish them off like they had each of the previous two opponents. Still, we'd have to go back to May 18th to see the pivotal game in which Boston put the clamps on Orlando and significantly dug them a hole that made it all but impossible to get out of for Dwight Howard and company. When Celtics head coach Doc Rivers needs that victory he leaves it in the hands of Pierce and Rondo, in game two of this Orlando series Rivers turned to his stars the only two to play 40 minutes or more and allowed them to take over. As the power shifts toward Rondo in Boston, Paul Pierce is still the player to turn to in crunch time, and Orlando just didn't have anyone to contain him.

June 6th With Kobe Bryant being held to limited minutes due to foul trouble, someone on the Celtics had to take advantage being down one game to none. That someone was Ray Allen. Putting his stamp on the NBA Finals, the game two star would drill seven three pointers in the first half en route to setting an NBA playoff record with eight three pointers in the game. If the Celtics were going to even up the series they'd need every one of Allen's game high 32 points and then some. The second half would once again belong to super guard Rajon Rondo who would record yet another triple-double in this postseason. Pulling down 12 rebounds and dropping 10 dimes to go along with his 19 points would give the Celtics that win they so desperately needed to go home with home court. With Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol chipping in 46 points the Celtics were able to withstand with their fantastic guard play. An NBA series doesn't begin till the home team loses and in game two this series got under way. If you thought L.A. was just better you had another thing coming.

June 10th Why were Celtics bench players Nate Robinson and Glen Davis at the podium after this game? Down two heading into the fourth quarter with the starters getting some rest for the stretch run, the Celtics bench would come out and lead an attack that would end up outscoring the Lakers in the fourth quarter by nine points. Led by the self proclaimed 'Shrek & Donkey' the Celtics starters would rest while watching Glen Davis impose will pulling down five rebounds and forcing in 18 points. Backup guard Nate Robinson would make his presence felt for the second time in these playoffs twelve bench points. As many have said at this point, Doc Rivers was comfortable leaving the bench in while they were playing so well. The bench got the crowd on their side and were clearly being fueled by the fans. Every NBA Finals gives you something you didn't expect, game four was exactly that. Knotting up the series and avoiding a 3-1 deficit, the Celtics bench stepped up and did exactly what they needed to, light a monstrous spark.

June 13th (Last night) Knowing a loss would mean they'd face back-to-back must win road games if they planned on raising Banner 18, the Celtics avoided heading to the west coast down in this series. Game 5 would watch Kobe Bryant have an amazing second half and even more amazing third quarter in which he scored a mind bending 19 points. How did the Celtics win a game in which Kobe recorded nearly 40 points? The Truth. Equally impressive was the 27 point performance from Paul Pierce. Pierce time and again made tough shot in that third quarter to withstand the onslaught from Bryant. Abusing Ron Artest for the first time in this series, and when the Celts needed it most. Both Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo would do their part, each adding 18 points, pulling down 10 boards for Garnett and adding 8 assists from Rondo, taking advantage of the night Pierce was having. As the Lakers closed in late the Celtics were able to avoid a fate they'd seen so many times in the regular season with a fourth quarter lead evaporating. We're headed back to L.A. and will have to win yet again in California if they plan on taking this.

The Boston Celtics could very well lose both games in L.A. this week and fail to win the franchises 18th World Championship, but at the beginning of this postseason not many believers thought they'd even be in the position to close it out with just one more victory. Amazing considering this starting five has never lost a playoff series, something Celtics coach Doc Rivers has reminded us of time and again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

That Was What You Got Hyped For?!?

For two weeks the LynchyRightNow readers have been clamoring for some Fifa World Cup talk. After running screaming out of my the RightNow sanctuary to make sure I was in the country that witnesses October Classics, the Kentucky Derby, and the god damn Super Bowl every calender year, I'm calm and ready to give you something. (I use that term loosely.)

Before I get going, and I will, let's make a few things clear:

1. I'm not a hockey fan, but we've been in the midst of the Stanley Cup Finals for the better half of two months. If you sent me an e-mail asking about U.S. keeper Tim Howard and I didn't respond, it's for a reason. In America if you stand in front of a net, your a goalie or Misty May-Treanor.

2. The Boston Celtics, my Boston Celtics, have been working their way towards Banner 18 since late April. If you e-mailed me looking for a little Brazil v. Portugal back and forth, the Lakers and Celtics are duking it out for the NBA Finals right now. That's a matchup of epic proportions.

3. The 1919 Chicago Black Sox throwing the World Series. The 1994players union lockout causing play stoppage for the fourth time in twenty-three seasons. Twenty plus seasons of performance enhancing drug use throughout an entire professional baseball system. Still ticking. If you e-mailed me about soccer growing in America after this tournament, there is a reason I didn't respond. You & I know what we appreciate more.

Now that I've got that off my chest. These are my thoughts about what The World Wide Leader slammed down my throat for the past six months with everyone from Bono to that guy in Blood Diamond.

The most intriguing thing about the epic buildup of England v. The United States was that I just didn't care. I'm a bit to young to remember the Revolutionary War (circa. 1775) If I did, I'd be a bit more jacked up to face the Red Coats. Sure the matchup may have taken quite a different tone if we were playing say the Soviets or Vietnam, but for me, I think of the English as allies who are years behind the U.S. in dental hygiene.

Has there ever been a better name for an American villian than Clint Dempsey?!? He gets my vote to take the World Cup by storm even if I couldn't tell you what position he played or how old he is. I hope he does some crazy stunts that get the South African crowds all fired up. I'm thinking some throat slashing gestures, crotch chops, and even a double middle-finger salute after leaving the pitch! Come on Clint, make this World Cup into a future movie about you titled Villian Abroad: How Clint Dempesey led the American to the dominance.

Soccer fans in other countries take this sort of thing more serious than 'hockey dads,' do in America. You know, those dad's who kick other parents in the face or take their kids coach out behind the rink, that kind of crazy is dwarfed by soccer fans. If you don't have your countries flag painted on your face, spit dribbling down your chin, or a crazy hat that makes the 'Derby women look normal, then you just aren't doing it right. During Saturday's England v. U.S. matchup, the camera panned over twenty-thousand people with one or all of these things I've described. Makes you think twice about going to a soccer game in England, a second thought that would lead me to staying in from the comfort of my hotel room with a stocked mini bar if I was abroad.

I can't fathom a athletic event that I care about ending in a tie. [Insert joke about ties being like kissing your sister here] To watch some 90 minutes of a sport and have all things equal at the end? What the hell is that sh*t?!?!? At least in the Hockey postseason they finish the games, on soccers biggest stage, ties are not only allowed but you get points for them. Riiiight, and you wonder why uber competitive Americans can never get behind this thing.

As a wise friend said to me prior to busting out this column, we've got to root for South Africa, at least that way Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman can begin shooting on Invictus II: Apartheid Out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Need A Cigarette

After one of the most stressful first weeks of any NBA Finals I can remember, I'm prepared to deliver. Through three games, almost 160 fouls called, and a 2-1 Lakers series lead, the NBA Finals has got me in need of a cigarette. Throwing on my zebra colored jersey and taking The Finals to task . . .

Calling My Six Finals Fouls

1. I want to see the superstars on the court. Game 1, Ray Allen saddled with early fouls and held to playing just 27 minutes. Game 2, Kevin Garnett records 5 fouls and is contained to just 24 minutes while Kobe Bryant does the same and plays just 34 minutes. Game 3, Paul Pierce plays just 34 minutes picking up 5 fouls in the process. "Hey, David Stern! You watching this?" The best way to promote the game in the NBA Finals is not to have the casual fan sit through 10-15 minutes a game from the likes of Luke Walton, Michael Finley, Sheldon Williams, and Jordan Farmar? The Staples fans must have loved seeing Kobe with a towel over his head for 14 minutes, just about as much as the TD Garden fans sat through 20 minutes of Tony Allen with Pierce without a drop of sweat on the bench. Anyone else curious why four future Hall Of Famers with a bundle of championship rings have built up zero respect from the league? This has got to be the biggest atrocity of these NBA Finals.

2. Someone explain the 2-3-2 format to me. The first three rounds of the NBA postseason are designed 2-2-1-1-1. However, when you get to The Finals, we change it up. Figure that one out. The Lakers are forced to play three consecutive games in Boston. The Celtics don't get a chance to play pivotal, potentially closing games six or seven at home, where they would in any other round. Home court advantage in the first three rounds give you the benefit of playing game 7 in your backyard. In the finals you get both games six and seven as home court advantage. In a sense, all the team who holds home court has to do is win two of the first five games and you still have an advantage. As currently standing, what do the Lakers really have to do over the next two games in Boston? They won't return to TD Garden if they lose both. In an age where people take private jets from Chicago to New York for a 12:00 PM meeting and land back at O'Hare by dinner time, can the Lakers and Celtics really not travel cross country with a day rest in between and play again? Really?

3. What's the purpose of the final two minutes instant replay? Three times in the final minutes of game 3 the refs went to the scorers table to review an out of bounds call to find out who should have possession. Now I get that the NBA is attempting to make the right call and not have an error decide the winner, but what about the other 46 minutes of play, is it okay to make the wrong call then? Or how about the fouls which you can't review to find out if that's actually what happened? Is that allowed? Is the judgement of an official with a bad view from his position making the call not the same as an out of bounds error call? I'm not saying make the game longer, I'm saying what's the point of a review in the final two minutes if your not going to the rest of the game? When these games are decided by possessions, by last shots, by crucial plays which determine history, is it only the final two minutes which are important enough? But no, NBA basketball isn't dying and the fans aren't turning away in droves.

4. All in favor of the road team getting no intro music or dimmed lights. Both in L.A. and in Boston, the organizations game both dimmed lights and a small music intro to the road team. I say, hell with that! Whatever happened to the day where the road team being introduced was a mere afterthought. During Michael's championship seasons and what can be considered as the dawn of the titan tron, the opposing team got nothing! Yet now we allow that same titan tron to drown out the sound of the crowd booing from the very top of the rafters? Can't handle it, nope needs to stop and I'm calling a foul on it!

5. Flopping is an issue in the NBA Finals, it's embarrassing in slow motion. Between Lakers guard Derek Fisher, Celtic Glen Davis, and a slew of other players, I'm tired of flopping. I don't blame these guys though, because refs love making that call at every age level in every league, they love firing the offensive foul and pointing to the other end as the crowd errupts. Here's the thing though, it's not just the offensive foul it's the faking like you got hit as your man blows past you, it's the acting like you got plugged with an elbow after a rebound, give me a break fellas! What ever happened to moving your feet and playing defense? Come on, if I have to see another game plan aimed at not running an actual offense and just getting a guy in foul trouble I'm going to puke!

6. Cool it with the M-V-P chant in both cities, it's overdone and lame. Who cares who the NBA Finals MVP is? Seriously people. Kobe Bryant isn't playing as well as Pau Gasol, so Laker fans stop chanting it as he goes to the free throw line for another touch foul free throw. Furthermore, we're three games into this series, no player has played well enough in clutch time to have them lock up this trophy yet, so cool it with the "M-V-P, M-V-P" chants, it's tired. Every un-original fan loves doing this, but I ask you to please refrain it's pathetic. To take it one step further, the only M-V-P people should care about is the actual MVP who is at home right now. God Damn!

Game 4 Thursday night . . .Get After It! Oops, I just fouled out!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Seeing Is Believing

Albeit against the (23-35) Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday evening gave us and the nations capital a first look into the growing legend that is Stephen Strasburg.

No player in recent memory has come to the show with as much hype as this 21-year old right handed pitcher. For the baseball starved beltway, Stephen Strasburg is holding their baseball future in the palm of his hand. The 2009 top pick overall is arriving in the major leagues with little failure in the last two years. A phenomenal college season a year ago, chewing through the minor leagues this spring, Stephen Strasburg is ready to take the big stage not just for his first start, but for the entire season.

The crazy thing in all this hype, the 28-win Nationals who are currently in the cellar of the National League East, are the center of the baseball universe for every start this kid makes over the next month. Think people are going overboard? No. While trying to stream the Nats game live last night just to get a peak at Strasburg, I realized three things:

1. First off, Strasburg is pretty good and it isn't just hype. Aside from allowing a two-run blast at the hands of Delwyn Young, Strasburg looked great. Striking out 14 batters including his final seven, Strasburg electrified everyone in attendance and everyone on television. For a kid who got paid $15.1 million prior to ever taking the rubber, it seems as if they've just made a huge investment for D.C. baseball that will pay off.

2. The Orioles should be nervous. The Beltway is buzzing with baseball fever, despite their two franchises the Nationals and Orioles taking up residence in the basement of their respective divisions. Yet now, with Strasburg being able to pitch every five days and the Nationals getting their hands on the two most hyped up prospects in recent memory, if their bets payoff Orioles owner Peter Angelos is going to have a very empty Camden Yards and a very empty fan base.

3. Are we crazy to buy the jersey? Nationals fans may be great, they may have a magic eight ball in their homes, but who goes out and buys the jersey of a baseball prospect? A kid who might not even be in the majors for the full season. As I watched the sold out crowd in D.C. pile into the stadium wearing nothing but #37 Nationals jerseys, it was the first thought that crossed my mind. Would Yankee fans do that? What Cardinals fans do that? Of course the desperate Cubs faithful would. Yes, fans are this crazy!

The hope and optimism of the baseball enthusiasts everywhere lie in the arm of the young Stephen Strasburg, called a possible hall of famer in his first start, referred to as the future of beltway baseball, Stephen Strasburg is the real deal after one start, thas' bout it. Now that we've seen it, at least we can believe it!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rubber Dominance

Coming from the American League East, former Toronto Blue Jay turned Philadelphia Phillie, Roy Halladay was bound to have a fantastic jump on the National League. Two months into this season and twelve starts, Halladay has done just that. Twenty-one runs allowed in 93 innings, putting a 2.03 ERA on the board. Then on May 29th, Halladay smashed his way into the record books becoming just the 20th pitcher in the history of the game to toss a perfect game. In just 115 pitches which included 11 strikeouts, the 33-year old shut down the Florida Marlins in dominating fashion. Called this one. In our National League preview, we predicted Halladay would slice through the National League with little trouble.

All things aside, in any other year, Halladay would not be overshadowed. However, in this year, a 26-year old righty is dominating the big leagues and is conversation number one 1, moving our Cy Young hopeful to the back of the room. That pitcher is Colorado Rockies ace, Ubaldo Jimenez.

Before we get to his eye popping stats, don't be as shocked of his success by just this year. Over the past two seasons, Jimenez has logged major innings, increasing them to 218 just last season, up twenty from the prior year. In '08, he recorded 172 strikeouts, in '09, he finished just two k's shy of 200. Allowing fewer earned runs last season, posting a lower era, winning three more starts, and dropping his WHIP (go ahead stat geeks), the Dominican born pitcher was in line to have a quality 2010. Then came this April, May, and early June . . .

Ten Ubaldo Factors:

10. In back-to-back months, Ubaldo Jimenez recorded 5 wins each. Just added another this afternoon. More than 30% of his teams victories have come when he takes the mound.

9. Six separate outings this season, Jimenez has shutout opponents allowing zero earned runs in those games. No surprise he's posted a 0.93 ERA through 12 starts.

8. Before being broken up in the 8th inning today, Jimenez had yielded 33 consecutive innings of scoreless baseball. That's more than three-full games!

7. In 87 innings, Ubaldo Jimenez has allowed just two homers. Fewer than Halladay. Fewer than Tampa ace David Price, fewer than Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, and fewer than Yankee stud C.C. Sabathia.

6. Among both National League and American League pitchers, Ubaldo ranks eleventh in walks allowed, just 29 surrendered.

5. For pitchers who've pitched in a minimum of 80 innings, Jimenez ranks #1 in fewest hits allowed, just 52 hits!

4. No pitcher in the major leagues comes within 10 earned runs of Ubaldo's league low of 9 allowed.

3. Only two pitchers who've started as many games Jimenez have lasted more innings. Ubaldo has gone 87.1 innings through his twelfth start on Sunday.

2. When your on a 4th place team in your division, wins matter. That being said, Ubaldo Jimenez has three more wins than any pitcher in the major leagues with 11.

1. 8 of Jimenez' 11 victories have come with run support of 5 runs or fewer. Bottom line is, you don't have to put a ton of runs on the board for Jimenez to shut it down in 2010.

Two months into the season it's hard to believe Jimenez will show any signs of slowing down. If it's so we may be witnesing one of the greatest pitching performances we've seen in any regular season. Belmont Stakes, NBA Playoffs, Stanley Cup Finals be damned, Ubaldo Jimenez is taking center stage.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Is It

For the Lakers & Phil, it's about revenge, payback, and one more time to the well. For the Celtics, it's about a last stand. It's about laying claim to being one of the best teams ever assembled. At nine o' clock tonight, the NBA takes center stage with the best scenario it could have dreamed up. Folks, it's Celtics v. Lakers and it don't get better than this.

The Edge

Paul Pierce v. Ron Artest This time 'round, The Truth won't see the likes of Vlad Radmanovic. Rather the Lakers full tilt defensive stopper, Ron Artest. The real question is, does it matter? With the emergence of Celtic guard Rajon Rondo, not enough has been said about the equally impressive Pierce. The 11-year veteran has proven to be the only member of Big 3 (2.0) that has yet to lose a step, whose game looks oddly familiar if not better, and who has taken to big game performances like the legends numbers that hang in the rafters above him. When closing out Miami in round 1, Pierce went for 21 points with seven rebounds and six assists to boot. When Cleveland needed to be stomped out, the 32-year old small forward pulled down 11 rebounds and dropped seven assists to go along with his 21 point night, pushing the Cavaliers to the brink. Then there was the Orlando Magic, who for all intents and purposes had no idea what to make of Paul Pierce. Pierce scored 81 points in the final three games of the series, including two double-doubles and went 29 for 33 from the charity stripe. If your of the mindset that Ron Artest is going to put the clamps on Pierce, just give me an example of where it's been done before in this situation? Just one. Edge: Pierce

Pau Gasol v. Kevin Garnett I'm not as quick to say Pau has an edge now that didn't exist in 2008. I'm also not going to say Kevin Garnett is the same player he was in 2008. However, with Gasol playing as he's played in this postseason, and Garnett's mileage becoming as blaring as my alarm clock, I'm more apt to agree with masses on this one. In the first two rounds of the postseason, the Lakers 7-footer amassed 8 double-doubles in 10 games. Of those games, a night which Pau ripped down 18 rebounds and only scored 9 points is not included. Impressive. For the Celtics who have struggled on the glass during the regular season, they've continued their struggles into the postseason. If L.A. can get glass work from Pau as they did in the first two series, against similarly bad rebounding squads, Kevin Garnett and the Celtics bigs will have their hands full. All joking aside, enough about the Pau Gasol being as hard as they come two years removed from looking as soft as it gets in the '08 Finals, he's not that tough or that soft. Gasol's game will come from being able to move Garnett around in the post, just like Howard did with ease when he saw Garnett move to his side in the Eastern Conference Finals. Edge: Pau

Rajon & Ray v. Kobe & Fisher Be prepared to watch Derek Fisher v. Rajon Rondo tonight and possibly in Game 2. After that? Not a chance. Why? Because Rajon Rondo will make a living over the next 15 years off of abusing guards like the veteran Fisher. Derek Fisher is more Mo Williams than Jameer Nelson. May I remind everyone, if you haven't been reminded enough, of what Rajon Rondo is capable of against slower guards who can't keep up. Rondo has dished out more than 10 assists eight times this postseason, he's scored over 20 points five times, and he's had an 18 rebound night, from a 6-1 guard. Does anyone Kobe Bryant isn't going to man-up Rondo after one of his mind numbing nights? That being said, it'll be up to Rajon Rondo to find Ray Allen early and often once Kobe leaves him to cover Rondo. No player in this finals stretches a lead like Ray Allen, who when he's hitting shots, is second to no one. All of that being said, are we going to see the killer instinct Kobe that we saw in the Western Conference Finals? Are we going to see the player who went off for 30+ points in 10 of the Lakers last 11 playoff games? Who abused Utah, ushered out Phoenix, is that Kobe Bryant more than Boston's famed defense can handle? Is Kobe Bryant really going to let fans of these Celtics say, "You never beat us." Edge: Kobe

Phil v. Doc Doc Rivers has successfully done more in a three year span than most coaches do in 30 NBA seasons. Already wearing one giant diamond encrusted shamrock on his ring finger, Doc Rivers is preparing to etch his name into Celtic lore for the next 50 years. Rivers has managed to tame an emerging superstar point guard in Rajon Rondo, a player who'd hands down run 25 teams in this league on his own. Rivers has been able to pull the reigns on Rondo and allow his aging superstar teammates to follow him on their terms, not his. What Doc did with Nate Robinson proves the point, he got buy-in, something rarely seen on the pro-level and more fit to collegiate basketball. Why has Doc Rivers been able to get more out of players like Glen Davis, James Posey, Eddie House, Nate Robinson, and even Rasheed Wallace over this three-year stretch, because they love playing for him. As for Phil Jackson, he's always been a front-runner as a head coach in this league, from running with The Bulls, to the Shaq & Kobe Lakers, and now with the toughest player in the league running his show, when has Phil had to out coach the man across the table? With plenty more rings than any coach this side of Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson may have just met his coaching match, Doc Rivers. Ask Stan Van how that tasted? Edge: Rivers

Am I a homer? The answer is yes. Fortunately for me, it works in this town. This series has more promise than that of any NBA Finals since Karl & John v. Michael & Scottie. Kobe Bryant looking to add the Celtics to his hit list. Phil Jackson looking to avenge his 2008 Finals loss. Doc Rivers possibly looming a retirement while going out on top. Paul Pierce looking for an NBA Finals MVP for the second time, a vaunt into the greatest Celtics of all time. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen looking to pull on another ring and add to their Boston legacy. Banner 18 or Banner 16. Edge: Celtics in 6