Bring Back The Big Ball

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The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
29 October 2014

I. Pitchers of L.A.?

On the most recent episode of Preachers of L.A., Pastor Wayne Chaney and his wife Myesha were outside kind of shooting baskets and messing around on the court. The musical accompaniment to this scene was an instrumental version of Take Me Out To The Ball Game…which would have been great, except for the fact that this is a song about attending a baseball game. There are not one, nor two, nor three strikes to be out on in basketball.

Wouldn’t “Basketball,” by Kurtis Blow, have been a better choice?

II. Spurs Again or Don’t Change

In 1986, just barely after the Mets’ world championship ticker tape was removed off the streets of New York City, the Mets decided not to bring back left fielder Kevin Mitchell and third baseman Ray Knight. Mitchell, whom they claimed was a bad influence on Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, went on to hit 47 home runs and become the 1989 National League MVP. The Mets, winners of 108 regular season games in their 1986 championship season, have yet to win the World Series since.

Unfortunately…for Met fans, that is…their management did not heed the words of one Ric Flair, who has stated that “in order to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” Until someone showed that they were better than that enormously talented young team, they should have gone forward with what they had…which brings us to our NBA Preview.

This year the defending champion San Antonio Spurs have basically brought back their entire squad that ran roughshod through the whole playoffs, which is a plus. Having Kawhi Leonard – who is on his way to becoming the leader of the Spurs and one of the greats in this league – is a gigantic plus, and one of the reasons why the advancing age of their Big 3 is less of a problem than it could be. My prediction is that for the first time in their success-filled run, the Spurs will win consecutive titles.

III. Could’ve Fooled Me

If I didn’t know any better, all the media coverage, magazine covers, and Vegas odds would make me believe LeBron James’ team won the title back in June. That said, I would question whether King James’ current team – named by some as the odds-on favorites to win the championship – is currently better than his previous one. Maybe they will get there, but I’m not sure they’re there now.

The Cavs will score the ball and will certainly win a bunch of high-scoring contests, but if the truth be told, it was stifling defense that the Miami Heat could hang their hat on to turn games around. I don’t doubt Cleveland can win 118-116 now…but can they win 88-86 in May? With a recovered Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol and rookie Doug McBuckets, I believe the Chicago Bulls will make their first trip to the NBA finals since the Jordan era.

IV. Eastern Contenders

It’s best, if you have LeBron James on your roster, to keep him…but if you can’t, bringing in Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts is about as good as you can do. So the Miami Heat should remain in the upper echelon of the weaker Eastern Conference, along with the Washington Wizards (having added Paul Pierce), the Toronto Raptors and the Charlotte Hornets (having added the mercurial Lance Stephenson).

The Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets should round out the Eastern playoff contenders – although one of the above will be going home after the regular season. The Boston Celtics – should they retain Rajon Rondo – and the youthful and athletic Milwaukee Bucks, with the “Greek Freak” and Jabari Parker, will be back in the playoffs soon, but they are long shots for this year.

V. Western Contenders

Where do you start? Maybe with the team that I have predicted to win the title sometime soon, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder’s biggest problem this year is that Kevin Durant is out for a while at the beginning of the season…although that presents an opportunity for us as fans to see an extended stretch of the superb talent Russell Westbrook as the head honcho in OKC. The problem is that in the Western Conference, the games that they play without KD may make their playoff seeding slip, making their road to the finals harder.

At the top of the list of other contenders are the new kings of Los Angeles, the Clippers, who are without the distractions of last season. The Golden State Warriors with their Splash Brothers backcourt remain dangerous, as do the Portland Trail Blazers. The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Phoenix Suns will all be in the hunt, as well as the Denver Nuggets if they are healthy and the New Orleans Pelicans, who will benefit from the explosion Anthony Davis’ game. Once again, at least two Western teams that could have been third seeds in the East will be eliminated in the West.

VI. No One Knows

The other day I was in discussion with someone who has had some real issues with a close family member extending back several years. I shared my wishes that there could be some reversal or reconciliation, a concept that they proceeded to dismiss as a real possibility.

And then came the news about the death of the 22-year-old St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. The last time some of us may have heard his name was when he hit a big pinch-hit home run in the National League Championship Series; now he’s gone.

We don’t know when our number, or anyone else’s, will ultimately be called, or if we – while remaining alive – will regress to a point where communication as we know it will be impossible. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you carry some dispute with someone you have loved to the grave without resolution?

VII. One More Time

In this year of Mo’ne Davis, I thought it apropos to throw her picture up once again on the eve of Game 7 of the World Series. Look for Madison Bumgarner to add to his growing post-season legend by coming in on three days rest to help the Giants win Game 7 on the road.

A Picture Is Worth…

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The SEVEN
20 October 2014

I. What A Start

The playoff coverage on FOX Sports 1 has been informative and enjoyable…but the wonderful spelling in the above screen shot would seem to connect this network with cousin FOX News in terms of inaccuracies. Hopefully not.

II. What A Series

Who would have forecast a World Series matchup between the Kansas City Royals – who have not seen the playoffs in 29 years and, as a wild card team, came very close to missing them this year – and the San Francisco Giants, another wild card entry but winners of the last two even-year Series? Both are scrappy, small ball, get it done type of teams, but in Madison Bumgarner, the Gigantes have the best starter who would be in line to pitch three times should the series go seven games – so for that reason, my guess is that the Giants win their third Series in the last five.

III. Not That Serious

The World Series is serious, especially for the baseball fans around the world that will be tuning in. Breaking up with your lover…well, that too might be serious, but no so much as to jump off of a building, as a gentleman did recently in New York City. If only he had done the math…8 million people, which means there are approximately four million other women (or men, if that’s how he rolled) in town to choose from. Maybe not really that many eligible ones, but you get the point. The sun will come up tomorrow…

As we approach the start of the Series, this incident brings back to mind the story of Donnie Moore, an outstanding relief pitcher for the-then California Angels, who gave up a crucial home run to Boston Red Sox slugger Dave Henderson just as the Angels were on the verge of advancing to the 1986 World Series. Moore apparently never got over it and, tragically, later committed suicide. In a sport where failure is regular – for instance, a batter that is successful 30% of the time may go to the Hall of Fame – what a shame it was that this young man took his sorrow to that level.

IV. Breakfast Of Champions

I wonder what the General Mills folks are saying to themselves when they walk in the supermarket and see Adrian Peterson on Wheaties boxes?

V. Double Fault

The Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev just referred to Venus and Serena Williams as the “Williams brothers.” Envy extends across the Atlantic as well.

VI. No. You. Didn’t.

A Republican Missouri office holder, Debbie Dunnegan, used her Facebook page to basically call for a coup against President Obama. I wonder what would happen if one of the residents of Ferguson, MO would make a citizen’s arrest on her?

Had an African-American office holder publically advocated a coup against President Bush, he or she would have at the very least gotten to have a conversation with the Secret Service or the FBI.

VII. Not So Fast

In an experiment which the NBA wanted to try in the the Brooklyn Nets played a 44-minute exhibition game against the Boston Celtics, as opposed to the regular 48. I would venture to say that come next week, upon the start of the regular season, both of these teams will need as many minutes as possible to accumulate points.

NBA Previews to come.

TGIF

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The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
3 October 2014

I. Friday Night Lights

Today marks the one week anniversary of my trip to what turned out to be a mini-family reunion in MD/DC, as we traveled to see my young cousin play in a JV football game. Travel costs: about $60.00. Hanging with family: Priceless. Seeing him on the field: not so much. In fact, not at all.

Memo to coaches, from one who has coached basketball and baseball from T-ball on to the travel and high school levels: when you’re up by six touchdowns with 5 minutes to go, that is the point in time to empty your bench.

II. Make It Last Forever

One of the topics of interest being discussed as the NBA teams report to training camp is how effective Kobe Bean Bryant will be, coming off of an injury…returning to what many think to be a mediocre team at best…at the age of 36 (after having walked in the door at 17).
For years, when people would wonder aloud when the “next Jordan” was going to show up, I would say that he’s right here, wearing #24 in purple and gold. This year that point may be proven yet again as, just like Mike who adjusted his game post-baseball, Kobe might need to tweak his game post-injury.

A telling sign of his condition, and what is to come, may be that Kobe is putting no specific date on his retirement. I believe he still wants to go out the all-time leading scorer.

III. Hammer Time

The Cinderella team in this year’s baseball postseason would have to be the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t even been to the playoffs since an umpire’s missed call helped gift them the World Series in 1985. And so far they’re off to a good start, up 1-0 in the American League Division Series over the Los Angeles Angels after beating the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card game.

As for the A’s, if not already, their fans in Oaktown may soon curse the day this summer that the Oakland front office laid the Hammer on their lineup by trading cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester. In 2015 Cespedes will likely help lead the Red Sox back to the playoffs.

IV. See Ya

Minnesota Twins fire manager Ron Gardenhire. Not unusual to see a coach or manager fired…often a scapegoat is needed, since you can’t fire 15 or 25 or 50 players, many of whom are under guaranteed contracts. That said, I hate a situation where the front office – for one reason or another – has failed to put a credible team out there, and then turns around and fires the skipper for not winning.

V. Metrics Schmetrics

I could care less what these new “metrics” may say about Derek Jeter as a shortstop relative to some of his peers. Those metrics weren’t flying into the third base line seats after making that running catch against the Red Sox, they weren’t unbelievably there by the first base line to flip that overthrown relay home to get Jeremy Giambi, nor were they the heart and soul of five championship teams. Whoever doesn’t vote for Jeter as a first-ballot Hall of Famer has got some ‘splainin to do.

VI. Truth or Consequences

There is no justification for the actions of Ray Rice in that infamous elevator video.

But…Ray Rice hit his fiancée – now wife who is alive and well – and is on indefinite suspension from his job without pay. Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown to death, and he is on paid leave from his job. Really?

Meanwhile – to the consternation of Republicans – voter registration has surged in Ferguson since Brown’s death. It won’t bring him back, but hopefully Michael has awakened a sleeping giant. If only that would happen elsewhere as well.

VII. Please Don’t Go

Eric Holder, who has done an outstanding job as Attorney General – often seemingly taking positions and actions that the President may have chosen not to publicly champion in as forceful a manner – is resigning once a successor has been found.

Since Republicans have become so good at blocking what Obama wants, just because he says he wants it with no consideration of how it will affect the people, maybe they will block all of Obama’s choices for the position and Holder will have to stay on.