Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Champ On Which We Can All Agree (To Hate)

This year’s NBA Playoffs have been great. We’ve seen a number one seed go down in the first round (Bulls), the Lakers implode (always fun), the rebirth of one of the sport’s greatest rivalries (Celtics – Sixers), the birth of what could be the league’s next dynasty — or next late 90s/ early 00s Sacramento Kings — (Oklahoma City), and the sport’s best player taking his game to the next level (LeBron). That’s why it’s such a shame that these playoffs are going to end in the least compelling way possible: a championship for the San Antonio Spurs, the blandest, least dominant “dominant” team in NBA history. Think about it, every other possible outcome is way more exciting than the Spur’s winning. If the Heat win, it’s LeBron’s coronation, he’ll cement his legacy, and Skip Bayless will have one less talking point. If the Thunder win, it’s the birth of a potential dynasty and Kevin Durant potentially surpasses LeBron as the game’s best player (Kobe remains in the conversation). If the Celtics win it’s a last hurrah for three Hall of Famers, who rejuvenated the Association’s most storied franchise, plus riot potential. The Spurs? Another championship for a consistent, but boring team that never won two in a row and would have been stomped by any of the teams that won the title between theirs. No one wants to see that. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable.

Look at how the remaining teams and how they match up with the Spurs. The Thunder have already shown that they can’t beat San Antonio, they haven’t even come close in two games. The Heat don’t have the depth or the big men to check Tim Duncan, and as last night showed, they have trouble defending speedy point guards like Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker. The Spurs, meanwhile, have the depth, pieces, and scheme to successfully contain James and Dwayne Wade. The Celtics probably match up best with the Spurs since Kevin Garnett is really the only player left in these playoffs capable of defending Duncan and Rondo owns Parker, but their roster is too thin and they’re not healthy enough to get by Miami. So yeah, the Spurs are the smart money to win it all.

Anyway, since we’re going to be stuck listening to and reading hagiographies of the Spurs for the next few weeks, I may as well take this opportunity to spew some bile on the whole affair by relentlessly hating on their entire roster. Admittedly the task is a bit harder since the Spurs no longer employ Bruce Bowen, a player whose only apparent skill was to try to physically injure his opponents, but I’ll try my best.

Starters

PG: Tony Parker: French. Allegedly slept with teammate Brent Barry’s wife. French.

SG: Daniel Green: Don’t lie, you wouldn’t recognize Danny Green if you saw him on the street. About as bland and faceless a player as you can come up with.

C: Boris Diaw: Name makes him seem Russian. Is actually French.

PF: Tim Duncan: For a player who is constantly celebrated as Fundamentally Sound and Plays the Game the Right Way ™, Duncan sure is a little bitch. In Tim Duncan’s mind, he has never committed a single foul. Marvel as he reacts the exact same way to every whistle, by turning his palms up and bugging his eyes out a full centimeter. Also, unless he’s calling “bank” every time, those shots shouldn’t count.

SF: Kawhi Leonard: What?! I don’t even….

Bench: 

Manu Ginobili: Constantly cited as counter-evidence for the Spurs being boring despite the fact that one player does not make a team exciting on his own (it’s a style thing). Has done more than any other player — except perhaps Vlade Divac — to spur the proliferation of soccer-style flopping in the NBA. Male pattern baldness.

Tiago Splitter: Has a dumb name.

Stephen Jackson: The Palace Brawl is unforgivable. Probably brings a gun with him to the supermarket.

DeJuan Blair: Played at Pittsburgh. Has no ACLs. I can literally hear bones grinding together in my mind when I watch Blair play. You’re welcome for me ruining your future viewing experiences.

Matt Bonner: Ginger. Still probably the most likable player on this team, which says a lot.

Gary Neal, Patrick Mills, Cory Joseph, James Anderson: As far as I’m concerned, these aren’t actually players, just names that Gregg Popovich invented. I defy you to name me one fact about any of these people without googling.

So there you have it, indisputable scientific evidence that the Spurs suck. Enjoy the rest of the playoffs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We’ve Found the Singularity

I like to work out, you know, for the ladies. Unfortunately, I live in the deepest recesses of suburbia, so my gym has TVs in the weight room. Even more unfortunately, due to the hour at which I choose to work out, some of those TVs are often showing ESPN’s First Take, a show which I can only assume is produced for the sole purpose of appealing to whatever it is meth addicted toddlers grow up to become. Anyways, today on First Take, professional yellers Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith were discussing Terrell Owens’ recent appearance on Dr. Phil,  and how it will affect his Hall of Fame chances. As far as I can tell, that conversation is the perfect storm of stupid. Let’s break it down: Bayless and Smith, two of the five WORST sports personalities in the history of sports going all the way back to the first time a caveman threw a rock; Dr. Phil, the Milwaukee’s Best of therapists; Terrell Owens, whose name I thought I would never have to see or hear again; and the NFL Hall of Fame, a place so stupid that it won’t let Cris Carter in already. Ladies and Gentlemen, we can stop looking, we’ve found the singularity. Luckily, the TV was muted and I had my iPod in for good measure so I didn’t have to hear any of the actual conversation, but I feel like my gym should be refunding part of my dues just for subjecting me to seeing it on the screen.

Throwing Dirt on the Angels

The Worst 1st Baseman in the American League

Hey have you heard that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim which is on the West Coast of the United States in North America are 9-15 and in last place in the AL West? Who could have seen this coming for everyone’s favorite World Series pick? Well, no sane observer of baseball would have picked the Angels to finish in last place (they won’t), but I was among the few to predict that they wouldn’t make the playoffs. So while it’s still really early, allow me a moment to gloat, and explain why things aren’t going to get any better in Orange County.

1. The Angels lineup is atrocious

Ok, Albert Pujols will likely hit a homer at some point, and he definitely won’t post a Chone Figgins-esque .547 OPS for the rest of the season. Still, there are a few reasons to believe that Pujols may never again be the same caliber player he was with the Cardinals. The first factor is his age. Pujols is listed as 32 years old — which the history of Dominican imports suggests  is a sketchy figure to begin with (my guess is he’s closer to 34) — which means that for all intents and purposes, his prime as a player is over. A normal aging curve wouldn’t have Pujols dropping off the cliff he has this year, but it wouldn’t have him getting better either. Add to that the fact that Pujols is moving to the tougher league and from a hitters park in St. Louis to a more pitcher friendly environment in Anaheim and the days of Albert Pujols, superstar may be at an end. I don’t put much stock into psychological factors, because I can’t read players’ minds, but the sniping between Pujols, his teammates, and hitting coach isn’t encouraging either.

As for the rest of the Angels lineup, it’s pretty bad. Mark Trumbo has made significant strides in his approach this year and is actually a productive hitter now, but he doesn’t have a position because he was pretty awful at third base and the Angels already have four outfielders. Kendrys Morales was once a beast, but he’s missed two full seasons after a horrific leg injury so it’s going to take some time for him to be productive again if he ever is. Howie Kendrick is an abover average second baseman, but he doesn’t take walks. Chris Ianetta is an above average offensive catcher, but I’m not sure Mike Sciosca (he of the Jeff Mathis man crush) really appreciates his skill set (drawing walks). As for the rest of the everyday players, they range from average regulars (Alberto Callaspo) to aging, below average former stars (Torii Hunter) to negative value guys who really shouldn’t be playing anymore (Vernon Wells). Calling up Mike Trout is a step in the right direction, but counting on a guy who can’t legally buy alcohol to carry your lineup isn’t a recipe for success.

2. The Angels bullpen is pretty bad too

Former GM Tony Reagins gave set-up man Scott Downs a three year contract last winter. Even though giving relievers contracts longer than two years is generally a bad idea, Downs has probably been the lone bright spot in the Angels bullpen this season. That said, his K rate is way down (very small sample) and he’s got a 100% strand rate and .200 BABIP against, so he might be due for some regression. The rest of the bullpen has been atrocious (ERA in the 5s), not Red Sox bad, but still pretty bad. And unlike the Red Sox, the Angels don’t have the offense to simply bludgeon inferior opponents into submission.

3. The Competition is stiff

Coming into the season there were six teams (Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays)  considered legitimate contenders for the two AL wild card spots. Two of those teams will win the AL West and East. Assuming that the Rangers have the West wrapped — again it’s early, but  Texas is clearly better than Anaheim by any objective measure — the Angels still have to compete with the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, and Jays for two spots. All of those teams look better than the Angels. The Yankees rotation is a concern, but they can still thump. The Red Sox rotation actually looks pretty good now (Clay Buchholz as your worst starter is a good problem to have) and although their bullpen could be historically awful, it can really only get better, especially if Mark Melancon’s recent AAA success carries back over to the majors and Andrew Bailey returns in form, also the Sox, unlike the Angels, can score runs. Losing Evan Longoria is huge for the Rays, but they have the depth, and pitching, to survive. The Jays are due for some regression from their pitching — Henderson Alvarez is only striking out 2.5 per nine, making his 3.56 ERA a bit shaky — but their lineup is also good. Furthermore, all these teams are dealing with some serious injuries and therefore can look forward to improvements as they get players back. The Angels for all their underachieving have been the model of health, so no such luck there.

It’s not all bad for the Angels, in fact there are plenty of reasons to believe that they can be a contender. You just might want to revise those World Series prediction.

P.S. For what it’s worth, my World Series pick, the Diamondbacks, are four games out of first and look perfectly mediocre.