Thursday, May 26, 2011

And we were worried about what exactly!?!?

Actually, I'm not going to say 'I told you so,' but I did. May 27th, the once 1-7 last place Boston Red Sox are 28-22, with the 5th most wins in the Majors. 8-2 In their last ten, newcomer Adrian Gonzalez hitting .337 and leading the majors with 44 RBI, pitchers Josh Beckett leading the American League with a 1.69 ERA and Jon Lester already notching (7) seven wins. Oh right, There was a reason everyone and their mother was penciling the BoSox in the World Series prior to the first pitch being thrown.

It's a very long season, 162 games to be exact. I'll say that again for you who didn't understand, it's a VERY long season. Why were you willing to write off this team, of all teams?!?! They've got at least three pitchers (1) Josh Beckett, last five starts just two earned runs, (2) Jon Lester, seven or less hits allowed in nine of his ten starts, and (3) Clay Buchholz, last five starts, just two or fewer earned runs allowed in each, all of whom have been dominant. Between Buchholz, Lester, and Beckett, does it really matter how well your four and fives have done? The Red Sox top of the staff have been nothing short of phenomenal as of late. Wasn't that why we were buying very early on? Weren't we buying because of how well Lester and Buchholz competed last season? Weren't we buying because Beckett was bound for a rebound season after his last couple? Didn't we know this was going to play out as well as we've seen? Maybe not, but that's why the Red Sox have been able to rip off consistent wins night in and night out, consistent starting pitching.

As for their dismal start at the plate; they came around. For All-Stars Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, coming back from injury took longer than expected. Youkilis has rebounded with hits in each of the last ten games and multiple RBI nights in four of those ten. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has come on strong as of late with seven hits in his last five games. Major off season acquisition 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez is straight up en fuego lately. Gonzalez has belted five homers and 16 RBI in his last ten games, aside from that little stint, Gonzalez is also leading the majors as previously mentioned. Ranking amongst the top ten in the American League in runs scored, on base percentage, slugging, RBI, home runs, and batting average, I'd say the Red Sox knew exactly what they were getting when they went hot after Gonzalez in the off season. 'Old-timers,' David Ortiz, already pounded 10 homeruns, and in 24 games behind the plate veteran catcher Jason Varitek has stabilized an exciting Red Sox pitching staff.

I can see the panic if you're a Royals fan, or a Pirates fan, but as a fan of the two-times in the past decade World Series champs, how about we slow down just a bit? After all, when they're in the Fall Classic just five months from now, well remember what you wrote is still going to be in ink!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Quality Picture Forming

It's a wrap, Dallas and Miami will meet in the NBA Finals, you can pencil that in. I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said or is emphatic in nature, but it will happen. With future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki turning in record book performances in the Western Conference Finals and All-Star Heat forward Chris Bosh mashing his way through Chicago, the Mavericks and Heat have one goal in mind, The Finals.

The Mavericks . . .

Down 15-points in a crucial Game 4, in the fourth quarter none the less, something flipped inside Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki. For the 32-year old who will be 33 by seasons end, the opportunities to win an NBA Championship won't continue to present themselves, and Nowitzki has figured that out in this postseason. Throughout the playoffs Dirk has poured in five 30+ point performances, all Mavericks wins, Monday night was no different. As Oklahoma City clung to the lead and hopes to knot up their best of seven series, Nowitzki buckled in. Dirk scored 12-points in the final quarter and was among other things, unstoppable. As the Mavericks went on a 17-2 run to force overtime in the fourth quarter, the Thunder had no idea what to do or how to slow Nowitzki and the Mavericks. The young Oklahoma City Thunder led by 2-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, missed open shots, forced passes to their superstar scorer, and looked lost at times in the fourth quarter and overtime, Mavs veterans Nowitzki, 34-year old Jason Terry, and 38-year old Jason Kidd, not so much. In taking a 3-1 series lead and all but wrapping their hands around the Western Conference Championship, the Mavericks yet again in this postseason, showed why the NBA Finals will be going through the Lone Star State.

The Heat . . .

Look, what were you hoping for? I know we don't 'like' Chris Bosh and the idea that he is in the neighborhood of fellow superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. I know we all want to cry crocodile tears for the people of Cleveland, as if we really give a damn. I respect that, but now it's time for us to show some respect for what Miami is, before they do what they promised, win a title. After Game 3, a game in which we were all reminded of why Chris Bosh (13 of 18, 34 pts.) was as sought after as he was, the Heat saw themselves up 2-1 with Game 4 coming in their building tonight. Head coach Eric Spoelstra figured out one thing very quickly, the Tom Thibodeau coached Bulls are going just as far as their MVP guard Derrick Rose takes them. Shooting 7 for 23 in Game 2, and 8 for 19 in Game 3, it should come as a surprise to no one that the Bulls are down in the series. With 10 assists in Game 3, LeBron James is getting closer and closer to the prize here, I'm officially done bashing the Heat (as if I wasn't projecting my anger from the Celtics series), between James, Wade, and Bosh, the Heat are about to get their first crack at an NBA Finals, send it to the bank! (Consider the 'Jinx' set)

I'll say this, David Stern is probably just as happy as I am to get to see Dirk, Dwyane, Jason Kidd, LeBron, and Chris Bosh in The NBA Finals . . .even if this sounds a bit premature.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sound Off; Preakness Stakes

To the 'Guy who doesn't appreciate The Sport Of Kings' - I've got no love for you either. If the world doesn't end tomorrow your going to miss the second jewel of the most elusive title in sports entertainment, The Triple Crown. If I may say so myself, this is my favorite of the three thoroughbred horse races on center stage throughout the spring months, The Preakness Stakes. (1) A victory for Kentucky Derby winning pony Animal Kingdom, well that would mean horse hysteria for till we arrive in Elmont for the third leg. (2) It's in Baltimore, Maryland. Charm City baby! Pimlico Racetrack, their famed 'Infield,' the Woodlawn Vase, getting excited now! (3) My Call - Sway Away The Colt comes from a former Preakness winner ('05 Afleet Alex), he's had a couple bad outings and didn't make it to the Derby, but I expect Sway Away to put a damper on the Trip Crown. All things aside, just watch The Preakness, it's a wonderful afternoon on the beltway and I couldn't be more excited.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Temporarily Down


Late last week our host site began experiencing technical difficulties. They've been able to get the site back up and running very close to normal. Unfortunately, till all of my posts have been restored I will not be writing another column. Hopefully only another two to three days at the most, Thank You for your patience. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Twitter!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Quality Saturday I'd Say

The first jewel of the Triple-Crown, the 27th-pitcher in MLB history to throw for a second no-no, two great NBA postseason performances, and a nightcap of prize-fighting from Las Vegas, I'd say we had a full slate on Saturday night.

Let's Get After It!

Verlander's 2nd No-No Detroit Tigers 28 year-old right handed pitcher Justin Verlander tossed his second career no-hitter on late Saturday afternoon. With a second no-no, I'm awake on Justin Verlander and you should be as well. Back in 2007, Verlander recorded his first no-hitter which saw him strike out twelve batters and allow just four walks, but as 13-year veteran Hideo Nomo proved to us in 2001, no-hitters don't just happen for the great ones. However, a second no-hitter in your career does more than raise an eyebrow. Verlander has won 17 or more outings in four of his last five seasons and after his 108-pitch no hitter against Toronto on Saturday, I'm prepared to call him the American League's new Roy Halladay, the best pitcher that you don't know.

Animal Kingdom's Derby Victory I'm sure you woke up this morning and buried somewhere under these other stories, you saw the name of the 137th Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. Yet before you begin catering on the mother's in your life today, please watch The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports. Atop winner Animal Kingdom was jockey John Velazquez who showed up in Louisville expecting to ride early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo, then when that horse was scratched due to eating bad Chinese the night before, Velazquez jumped atop Animal Kingdom whose jockey had suffered an injury earlier in the week. Now headed to the 2nd jewel of the elusive Triple Crown, Pimlico Race Track and The Preakness Stakes, all eyes will be on Animal Kingdom and the question will be asked more times than you can digest, can he do it, can he win The Triple Crown?

The Grizzlies Wild Ride Continues I was just as shocked as you when the Memphis Grizzlies, an eight seed in the Western Conference playoffs, knocked off top-seeded San Antonio in round one. Led by 10-year beleagured veteran Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies then dropped Oklahoma City in the first game of their 2nd-round series. Then on Saturday evening after Oklahoma City had sorted out Memphis in game 2 and were clinching to a 16-point lead in game 3, I'd closed the book on the '11 Grizzlies. Now I'm eating 'crow' by the spoonful. Memphis roared back from the deficit, took the Thunder into overtime, and as Zach Randolph pulled down 21 rebounds and scored 21-points, the Grizzlies ripped the series back in their favor. As the Lakers seem to be on the verge of an ousting from the playoffs, Memphis has somehow caught the eye of every basketball fan still watching this years postseason, and for good reason.

Rondo's Game 3 Performance Roll out the footage of 1988 World Series and Kirk Gibson. Cue an ailing Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals. Now, place Celtics guard Rajon Rondo in that same pantheon. After dislocating his elbow in an absolutely gruesome moment during game 3 on Saturday night, making his left arm useless, I immediately texted my brother the following; 'That was gross, the Celtics are D-O-N-E.' Now that last sentence may still be true for a slew of reasons we're going to put a pin in, but when Rondo came out of the locker room shortly after, I was stunned. When Rondo checked into the game, I almost fell off the couch! Fueled by a packed house of rabid Celtics fans, the desire to ensure his Celtics didn't go down into a 0-3 hole, and by the simple fact that Rajon Rondo is becoming the face of the Celtics for the next ten years, Rondo strapped this squad to his right arm and played through. What Rondo did on Saturday night was flat out remarkable!

Then the nightcap. . .

Pacquiao & Mosley's Disappointing Showing Very much like that last drink of the night, we didn't need this one. Champion Manny Pacquiao v. 39-year old Shane Mosley left us exhausted and just wanting it to be over! Pacquiao didn't lay Mosley on the mat but once very early in the night, as for Mosley, I'm still trying to figure out why he showed up for this one? Shane Mosley fought this fight as if he needed the money and just didn't want to get knocked out. Countless times Pacquiao and Mosley tapped gloves, showing a sign of respect for the other fighter, and countless times, Mosley refused to lay in and fight Pacquiao. If there was every a boxing match that left us wanting more it was last night. What we knew before the fight remained true, less Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather get in the ring, the book is out on Pacquiao, he's a record book fighter. As for Shane Mosley, he's forgettable, as forgettable as a Hall of Famer can be anyway.

On a night when we, I mean myself, wanted to dial back the clock and put Thoroughbred Horse Racing and Boxing back where they once were, turns out they proved why they are where they are now. If this is what we're going to get, I'll take NBA Postseason and a No-hitter every night of the week . . .

Till next time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home

The fastest two minutes in sports, Churchill Downs, mint julep's, the finest 3-year old thoroughbreds this side of Dubai, the 137th running, pass the Evan Williams, it's derby weekend ladies and gents!

Now I thought about a couple different ways to approach this column:

(1) Rattle off 3-to-4 ponies that I (an admitted novice) really have done some reading up on. Pants on Fire, the Louisiana Derby winner (March 26th) ridden by Rosie Napravnik attempting to be the first woman winner of Kentucky. Twice The Appeal, a long shot if not being ridden by super-jockey Calvin Borel, three Derby wins in the last four years. Dialed In, the favorite and winner of three starts in his very short career trained by Derby winning trainer Nick Zito. However, if you're watching the Derby the most likely you'll hear all these stories and more all afternoon on Saturday.

(2) Sell you on horse racing. Tell you how knowing something about equine racing makes you just a touch classier and a bit more unlikeable to your friends than you already are. Because let's face it, liking Horses, Ultimate Fighting, Boxing, or NASCAR, places you amongst some minority in the sports entertainment business (going McMahon on you). Telling your friends that they've got to cancel late Saturday afternoon plans with their significant others at Home Depot to join you for the Kentucky Derby doesn't exactly make you the popular one. Then I opted out of this as well, because folks it's the 'sport of kings,' if you can't wrap your mind around three days of elite horse racing from the spring into the summer for the Triple Crown, then you are not buying anyway!

So instead I'm taking another route, I'm telling you what excites me about The 137th Kentucky Derby:

After tomorrow, you and I can discuss the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. For the next two weeks, we'll talk if the winner of tomorrow's Kentucky Derby has a shot at Pimlico Race Track on May 21st.

The Derby has both. For once an event is just as much about the clothes, the splendor, and the atmosphere as it is the gambling and sport! Sure, you don't mind watching 13-hours of non-stop red carpet coverage before an award show, but it isn't fun. Sure, she doesn't mind watching playoff hockey but she won't say she likes it. The Kentucky Derby does both, for the two of you! After watching it just once, most women are hooked on a dream trip to actually see it in person!

The minutes before. When through the television you can hear the buzzing coming from the infield to the grandstands of the 150,000 in attendance. The 3-year olds nervously entering the gates prior to the roar that is about to come howling out of Louisville.

I'm not bought in. I get one day, for two minutes, that's it!!! I don't need to wait for a game 7, I don't need to spend thousands of man hours on regular season games, all-star games, just a few moments and it's over! That's the excitement I look forward toward!

Now I'm not leaving this one without making a call here either!

Pants on Fire, would love to see something we haven't, a woman winning the derby, but more importantly, a story to follow! Pants on Fire satisfies a couple things which make it a quality pick. He's won as recently as March, has had plenty of rest, and didn't get rattled in Louisiana.

Get After It!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Had enough yet?

Seventy-two hours of non-stop, in your face, NFL Draft talk got you spent? Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, a quarterback who has thrown for over 7,000 yards and over 60 touchdown passes in two seasons, slid all the way to pick #74. For the second straight season the Detroit Lions added the most dominant defensive player in college football, this time it was the nearly 300 lb. Nick Fairley. Four quarterbacks selected atop the draft, Newton, Locker, Gabbert, and Ponder, all selected before pick #13. This weekend took many twists and turns throughout the seven rounds, oh and I didn't even mention the most dreaded word used L-O-C-K-O-U-T.

Because there isn't an original way to go about this, we're breaking down the winners and losers in typical '3 up, 3 down' fashion . . .

Get After It!

The '3 Up'

3. The Falcons - How many times do you wait for your team to just go out and swing for the fences, and they don't do it? By trading up from twenty-seven to six to select wide receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons swung. After watching the 5'6" Jacquizz Rodgers move into round five, Thomas Dimitroff laid down a pretty good bunt as well. I've got to give credit to a team that is willing to gamble on a player they think puts them over the top.

2. The Lions - Landing Nick Fairley was not at all what Detroit thought they'd have the opportunity to do in this years draft, but they did. When Fairley and last years defensive rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh make up the core of the Lions front seven, I'd be scared to walk under center if I was Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and whoever ends up taking over the quarterback position in Minnesota. Oh, and I love Titus Young, the super fast receiver from Boise State.

1. The Bengals - A.J. Green, Wide Receiver / Andy Dalton, QB was a perfect way to select their first two rounds. Signaling a new day in Cincinnati with the pick of Dalton in the second round, the heir apparent to Carson Palmer and the pick of A.J. Green, the 6'4" show-stopping receiver from Georgia, the Bengals are moving on from Ochocinco. Bottom line is, the Bengals were taking matters into their own hands and giving new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden exactly what he asked for, the chance to rebuild.

The '3 Down'

3. *The Bills - Buffalo refuses to draft a franchise quarterback, and it continues to boggle my mind. The Bills are the only team who are content on drafting in the top ten of the draft every single year and never getting a guy who can help change things. They had the option to select guys like Blaine Gabbert, trade back and pick up Jake Locker, even take Andy Dalton before Cincinnati could, and they didn't. I don't care who they pick up on defense, they can't get in the endzone with Ryan Fitzpatrick forever.

2. *The 49ers Very similiar to the Bills, I'm not thrilled by the second round selection of Nevada's quarterback Colin Kaepernick. One step further, I wasn't that thrilled with a work out beast Aldon Smith from Missouri at seventh overall. Both players probably won't make an impact this year and the 49ers have some tools already in place that could have looked very nice with some impact drafts. Kaepernick is going to have to adjust to a pro-style system which the 49ers fans don't want to wait around for because they're still waiting for Alex Smith to adjust.

1. *The Buccaneers - Both of their first two selections, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn and Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers have medical issues which caused them to slide in the draft, and the Bucs thought it was their position to select them. Yes, they could come out with two of the steals in this years draft but what if it goes the other way? When New England continued to pass on Bowers I had a feeling there was a very real problem, they would have loved a defensive end with that kind of speed who slid that far down, but they didn't. Don't out think yourself Tampa Bay.

* I refuse to discuss the Raiders.

And for a preview of next year at this time . . .

2012 Top 5 Prospects

5. Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle - USC Kalil is projected to be the first offensive tackle chosen next year and for good reason. When fellow Trojan Tyron Smith was selected as the first offensive tackle in this years draft, the question that was asked most, why did he play on the right side? The answer is a two word answer, Matt Kalil. At 6'7", 295 lbs., Kalil is a monstrous athletic left tackle.

4. Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver - South Carolina The South Carolina wide receiver doubled his receptions and receiving yards in his sophomore season in Columbia, South Carolina. In a two week stretch against SEC heavyweights Auburn and Alabama, Jeffery caught 15 balls, recorded 4 touchdowns, and 319 yards. Jeffery has the opportunity to be amongst the most sought after receiving talents in next years draft.

3. Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver - Oklahoma State There is no doubt of the character issues surrounding the Cowboy wideout, but they're issues that could be ignored if he stays on the field and continues to put up the mind boggling stats that he did in 2010. Last seasons Biletnikoff Award winner caught over 100 passes while recording 100+ yard games in each of the twelve games he played in. Blackmon is slightly shorter than Alshon Jeffery but has tremendous hands and can make big plays after the catch.

2. Quinton Coples, Defensive End - North Carolina Really, how good could the North Carolina Tar Heels defense have been this past season (2010)? The Heels had five defensive players drafted over the weekend, and one top five talent will go off the board very early next year. Quinton Coples, a 6'6" defensive end will compete for ACC Defensive Player of The Year in 2011, you can bank on that. Coples recorded 10 sacks leading the Carolina defense a season ago. Given the run on defensive ends in this years draft, expect Coples to be first off the board at that position in 2012.

1. Andrew Luck, Quarterback - Stanford I'm not the first or the last one to say it, Andrew Luck is the best quarterback to enter the selection process since Peyton Manning. He's mature, he can make nearly every throw, he's intelligent, and he'll continue to show improvement in the coming season. When Andrew Luck decided to go back to college, he actually became even better in my eyes, being able to determine the best decision for him even with his coach moving to the next level. Andrew Luck is the type of quarterback you tank a season for, cough, cough Buffalo and Washington.

Nothing like NFL Draft talk . . . till next year! For more, catch us on TheRightNowPodcast every Thursday night!