JumpBall

March 25, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 9:32 AM

Welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Ramblings. Let’s begin:

• It’s been a very subdued year for March Madness. There haven’t been any huge upsets worth discussing this year and in fact every 1, 2, and 3 seed is still alive. I want to say that I like it more as a result, but in reality my greater interest is simply that I have had the best bracket of my life so far (even then it’s really just an above average 38 out of 48 picks chosen correctly.) • In the end, I still don’t really care about college basketball. So let’s focus on the NBA angle from the tournament. I really, really like what I see out of Blake Griffin. I think that if you want to win a championship, he can be your second best player or even tied as your best player if your team is deep enough. I think pairing him up with Kevin Martin in Sacramento, OJ Mayo/Rudy Gay in Memphis, or Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas in Washington could potentially create a team that never missed the second round of the playoffs or even the conference finals in the case of the Wizards. If he went to the Knicks somehow, I do not see how Lebron wouldn’t jump ship and sign with New York. However, I think the best fit for him is Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant is still growing into a future hall of famer so long as he stays healthy, and they have a lot of great young pieces. With a very good GM in Sam Presti and an excellent, young head coach in Scott Brooks, this team even without Griffin has a bright future, but with him? I think, as long as everyone’s ego doesn’t get too big, that it will result in a team like the Spurs in that they will be a contender every single year and even win two or three championships. That’s certainly a lot of hype for such an unproven (in the NBA) player, but I was really impressed by his play. We will see.

• The Detroit Pistons have to be the most disappointing team in the entire league. Yes, Toronto and Washington have been bad, but neither of them had even the slightest chance to win it all like Detroit did. Yes, they didn’t have the greatest chance to win, but with all that championship experience still there with Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace, you still expected them to be there in the second round of the playoffs. Now, the only reason they will make it at all is because the bottom of the East is full of records even further below 500 then the Pistons. So the question then becomes why has this happened? My belief is not that it’s really Allen Iverson’s fault. Simply that the Pistons were trying to do too much all at the same time. They were trying to get Stuckey to blossom into a point guard, get Iverson to acclimate into the offense, hide their lack of depth at the swing positions defensively, and try to figure out which of their mediocre big men would step up. Ultimately, the main reason that this team isn’t as good is intensity. They simply lack someone who energizes this team and gets them to play good defense consistently. Rasheed Wallace can do that here and there, but he’s simply unable to do it on a night in, night out basis. I think that’s where the loss of Chauncey Billups hurts them, because he was their leader and consistency guy whenever Wallace was being Wallace and spacing out. Allen Iverson is not that guy, because Iverson isn’t the type of guy who helps out in practice (or hell even shows up to some.) He’s not someone that you want young players emulating, because he’s not going to teach them much off the court and on the court he’s too much of a one of a kind player. I’m not trying to knock Iverson by the way. He’s the type of guy that can do whatever the hell he wants the night before or even the morning of a game, and still drop 50 points on the opposing team that night despite a myriad of injuries. Listen, that’s amazing and certainly respectable in its own right, but that’s not something 99.9 percent of NBA players can do. Regardless, the mighty Pistons are no more.

• I was reading ESPN the other day when I came across an opinion piece that consulted some current/former NBA players that concluded by saying that the dregs of the East will be harder in the first round of the playoffs than those who make the playoffs in the West. I know that they’re the experts and all that, but that’s a huge bunch of BS. What I will agree with, however, is that the middle rounds will be much easier in the west than in the eastern conference. That’s because there is no one in the west who seems like they can play evenly or even match up with the Lakers while Boston and Cleveland will not only have to probably play each other to get to the finals, one of them will have to play Orlando, while the other (sorry, Atlanta fans) will have to play D-Wade and the Heat. Meanwhile the Lakers will have to play some collection of: the hobbling Spurs, the too-green Blazers, the imploding Hornets, the Nuggets/Jazz/Mavericks who match up terribly against the Lakers, and the Rockets. The Rockets could potentially make some noise if they play the Lakers because they actually match up well against them, but I honestly doubt, even with home court advantage, that they make it out of the first round. The rest of the west will probably be too tough for them to even make it to the Lakers.

• So is this an advantage for the Lakers? Certainly, they will be less beaten up than either the Cavs or Celtics should some combination of those teams meet in the playoffs, right? The truth is that it probably will not be an advantage unless there is some shocking injury to any of the Cavs or Celtics’ key players. Playing against the brutal defense presented by either of those teams in the conference finals should toughen up the victor enough to actually give THEM an edge over whoever makes it out of the west. If you want an example, just look no further than last year. The Lakers didn’t have a bad defense in the regular season, and in fact had the number one defense overall based on per possession. However, after facing the Cavs smothering defense and the Pistons brutal, physical defense, the Celtics felt that, against the Lakers in the finals, every shot they took was wide open. On the flip side, after facing the cream puff defenses of the Nuggets and the Jazz (who were physical, but actually a poor defensive team, which they still are actually) as well as the battered Spurs (who are battered once again by the way,) The Lakers simply didn’t have the physical, game experience against such mighty defenses and faltered as a result. Again, it’s a different year, so, we will see, come June.

• Moving to baseball, the WBC is over and Japan was crowned champions. It was interesting the way they simply toyed with their opponents throughout the tournament before being supremely tested by South Korea in the final. Personally, I felt the ending was the perfect way to crown a champion and generate the appropriate amount of press and hopefully interest into this international event. For those who missed it, Korea valiantly rallied in the bottom of the ninth to force a tenth inning, before Ichiro with a full count singled home two runners to finally put the game away. It was a great ending to a very interesting tournament.

• More importantly for most of America, the WBC is over, which means that regular season baseball is about 2 tantalizingly close weeks away! With that I thought I would pick my division winners and wild card for even conference. In the American league, I believe the playoffs will consist of the New York Yankees (after a year off,) the Boston Redsox (too much talent to miss the playoffs altogether, but I feel like they’re going to implode just a little and actually settle for the wild card,) the Chicago Whitesox (I just think this team has a great lineup when healthy,) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim filling out the AL west spot (the AL west is largely terrible although the As will be frisky. I also will go ahead and predict that the Cleveland Indians, Oakland As, and Tampa Bay Rays will all fall short in the final two weeks of the season, but will otherwise be in the hunt the entire year.

• As for the National League, I think that the NY Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Arizona Diamondbacks all win their divisions while the Philadelphia Phillies scrape by with the wild card. I think both the Mets and the Cubs have dealt with their late/post season meltdowns and have actually become stronger as a result. As a big San Francisco Giants fan I want to pencil them in as the division winner, but even I know it will be a huge (and awesome) shock if they pull that off. Instead, the Diamondbacks, whose rotation is either as good or almost as good as the Giants in terms of 1-5, will most likely win, because their hitting is better. Still, I think the Giants as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Atlanta Braves will still have a chance to make the playoffs with two weeks left in the regular season.

• Moving to football, the NFL safety commission passed four safety proposals, but none were larger than the elimination of the wedge formation in football. The wedge occurs only during special teams—specifically kickoffs—and is when three blockers stand close together (less than 2 yards apart) and essentially form a ‘wedge’ for the kickoff returner. That might not be the best description in the world, but John Madden doesn’t really describe it much in his video games that I play, so is that really my fault? Anyway, the wedge has been around since forever, and eliminating it seems like quite the stretch. There have been a rash of injuries resulting from it over time, but that can be said with virtually any football play. By removing this key strategy from the kickoff team, I simply wonder how often, if at all, it will be possible to get the return for a touchdown. Just something to ponder in the long months until football season.

• Another rule change that has not been voted upon yet was the ability to review fumbles like the famous Jay Cutler one last year that cost the Chargers a game. This seems like an obvious rule change, but there are some people who might actually vote it down, because they believe it slows down the game. It does in fact slow down the game as the referees take their time to review the call, but if the alternative is to screw a team out of a win like in the case for the Chargers, then I say, by all means, slow down the game. Even if you do, it’s not like you are tacking on three hours to a 15 minute game with this. Instead, you’re adding 10 minutes to a 3 hour game, which most people won’t even notice. Sometimes, it’s best to just chill out a little more.

• That’s all for the Tuesday Ramblings. Stay tuned for next week.

March 18, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings

Filed under: Ramblings — siddhant2001us @ 1:42 AM
  • The World Baseball Classic is going to be a huge success. First, there was the Netherlands beating powerhouse Dominican Republic not once but twice. Then, came today’s Team USA’s ninth inning rally to beat formidable opponent Puerto Rico. Last Sunday, my friends and I even went to Petco Park to watch Japan play Cuba. To be honest, it wasn’t that far away from being as full capacity-wise to a regular Padres game—although that may say more about the Padres fans than anything else. Still, the fans are smart and passionate. With some exciting games already getting press, it is only a matter of time before this thing catches fire. That’s especially true now that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport.
  • So what chance does Team USA have of winning? Honestly, it is a complete toss up at this point of the tournament. The sample size of games remaining and completed are too small which generally means that whatever team strikes fire is the one to win rather than the most talented or consistent team. Pedroia being out actually is a blessing in disguise because he stunk up the joint whenever he had to bat. I say Japan is the favorite right now, followed by America, and then South Korea. I know that Japan lost to Korea tonight and has to beat Cuba just to be in the semifinals, but I do think it will happen. Plus, I expect Japan to destroy Korea in a rematch. There were a lot of fluky things going on tonight.
  • Speaking of Japan, they are simply dominant right now. Yes, their hitting is more than solid, but their main for this is pitching. I got to see Dice-K live and, let me tell you, he looked great. He was great at getting out of jams and actually got better as the game went along. He does allow too many people on base, but at the end of the day his whip is never as high as you think it should be, and his era is much better than you can ask for. He’s going to sell a lot of tickets whenever he plays.
  • Last baseball point: Manny Ramirez tomorrow is going to try out playing cricket for a promotional event. He’s doing this right after
  • March Madness is upon us again! I am effectively done trying to accurately predict what is going to happen there. I did fill out a bracket, but I did so basically using zero logic and just going primarily on seeds and familiar names. That’s because if I used logic and experience I would end up losing anyway to someone who…used zero logic and went based on gut feelings. March Madness: turning idiots into geniuses and geniuses into pig farmers since 1862.
  • Ok, in all seriousness, I have Oklahoma winning it all the last time I fiddled with my bracket. The only reason is because Blake Griffin is the number one pick for sure in the NBA draft and that’s good enough reasoning for me.
  • Moving to football, I sincerely hope that Marshawn Lynch gets past his current off the field issues right now. Lynch plays behind a mediocre line which hurts his stats, but the kid can just flat out play football. He has a fair amount of quickness that gets defenders to miss, but more importantly is that he consistently moves the chains. You cannot tackle Marshawn Lynch with just one defender very often. I still remember a play early in his rookie season where he knocks down one defender, dodges another, knocks down one more, gets his helmet knocked off, and then gets the first down. I want that guy on my football team.
  • By the way, Lynch is in trouble for having a concealed weapon in the trunk of his car. First of all, it isn’t clearly written why the police searched his car in the first place. I think there may in fact be tinges of racism involved, but I wasn’t there and I do not know, so who knows, really. The second point I would like to make is that pro athletes in the last five years have been getting robbed or shot at an alarmingly high rate. Listen, I would prefer that everyone was peaceful and the world was only a happy place, but that’s just not realistic. Lynch lives in a world where his peers are being targeted. With that in mind, is it completely crazy for him to have a weapon? I understand he should get his paper work in order, but my point is that as long as he does get that paper work in order, he should not receive a suspension at all. Just yesterday, Carl Landry of the Houston Rockets was shot after getting out of his car while trying to figure out what happened after an accident. It could be a random incident, but if you are Marshawn Lynch doesn’t that worry you all the same? Listen, I understand that generally having a gun in that situation probably just makes it worse, so I am in no way condoning Lynch for having the gun, but at the same time, I can kind of understand.
  • There is a lot of talk about the collective bargaining agreement in the NBA which must be extended by the league by December 15, 2010. If it is extended, then the NBA is good through the 2011-2012 season. The question becomes what will the league, which in this economy has all the power, try to pull on the players? My guess is that David Stern will try to lower the length of contracts to 5 years max for resigning your own players and 4 years for other team’s free agents. He may even try for 4 and 3. The league will want to do this because it helps bail out teams whenever they get fooled signing a free agent who doesn’t pan out because at least then he’s only on the team for around 4 years before they can get rid of his salary. Plus, the shorter the length of the contract, the smaller the chance there is for a player to not try. Clearly, the players would be better off with that not happening, because if it does then they lose that extra financial security. Their best chance for success in arguing against lowering contract length would be that one, it already was lowered to its present levels of 6 and 5, and second, that the more players there are during free agency, the less continuity there is for rosters. The lack of continuity is going to lower the level of play, which is a fair reason for arguing against the lowering of the lengths of contracts.
  • The second thing the league will try to pull is increasing the age limit once again. At this point they will probably aim for getting it to 20. I think that this is something that is good for the NBA, as it will improve the overall quality of play. I do think however, that the restriction should be scrapped once the NBA has a truer minor league system (ie, 30 minor league teams for the 30 NBA ones.) By then if you do draft someone who isn’t ready, you can send him down to your minor league affiliate. Technically, you can do that now, but because NBA teams currently share a D-league team with one or two other NBA teams, sending down a player is risky, because you have such little control over him at that point. Once you have your own team, you can choose the system that you want in place, and can effectively grow your own players in your farm system. At the very least, if you do draft a player that is too young for the NBA, you can just have him play for your minor league team and have him rack up a cult following much like he could do in college, except now he’ll get paid. For those who have not figured it out, I cannot wait for a true minor league system to come into place.
  • That’s all for now folks. Good luck for March Madness!   

March 11, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings

Filed under: Ramblings — siddhant2001us @ 5:29 AM
  • My friend Jono (no relation to Bill Simmon’s friend Jacko) is the only true boxing fan I know. I personally like boxing and I will always watch a fight on ESPN Classic if it is on, but Jono is the one who actually stays on top of the whole thing. Anyway, we were discussing the upcoming Pacquiao/Hatton fight when the discussion came to ticket prices. Front seats cost 10,700 dollars. On the flip side, the worst seats in the back, they still cost 268 dollars. So which one is more ridiculous, especially in this economy? On one hand 10,700 dollars is just ridiculous. Who the hell has that kind of money? 268 dollars on the other hand gets you crappy seats with obstructed views, but at least you’re not out almost 11 thousand dollars plus you can still tell people you saw a fight live. Anyway, my pick? I think I’m going to wait for it to come on ESPN Classic. Kind of a cop out, but who the hell still has that kind of money to blow anyway?
  • I just spent a few hours (or it felt like hours) arguing over fantasy baseball stat categories with my friends. Anyway, that led to a discussion about the importance of wins as a stat category. It is, after all, the most celebrated stat for pitchers with 300 wins being the equivalent of 500 homeruns for hitters. Anyway, this isn’t news for those of you who love the stats, but wins are actually a terrible metric for how good a pitcher was or is. That’s because it has so little to do with a pitcher’s actual performance. Listen, last year Matt Cain had an era of 3.76. He ended the year with 8 wins. Meanwhile, Ted Lilly had an era of 4.09 and had…17 wins. Cain had more strikeouts while Lilly had a much better whip. Ultimately, those two guys both had very good seasons. However, many people would tell you that Lilly was the better pitcher because he had more than double the wins of Cain. However, all the other stats as I’ve posted, show them to be about equal if not the slight edge going to Cain. The only reason the wins are higher is because Ted Lilly plays for the Cubs who score runs like crazy while Matt Cain plays for the Giants who only score enough runs to avoid being sent down to Triple A. So having wins is really just a way to penalize a player whose teammates are not so good and to reward guys who play for winning teams. Anyway, I argued that as a result, wins should not be used as a category, because to me fantasy sports is all about creating a team of players that you think can beat your friend’s collection of players. Thus, all that matters are the players you choose, not so much their situations, because after all, this is a fantasy team. So what happened after giving my impassioned speech? It was a success! Ok actually…it was shouted down and we’re still having wins as a category. It is what it is.
  • My best friend is a huge Portland Trailblazer fan so I had to make sure I was there to watch his Blazers play my Lakers. Of course rather than have a nice, clean, close game we had the Blazer blow out LA and have the whole game marred by Ariza sending Rudy Fernandez to a hospital and a fight breaking out that included Lamar Odom leaving the bench and ultimately being suspended for doing so. First of all, I saw the play where Ariza knocked Rudy down. Its one of those plays where if the timing was better it is an amazing block. Instead Ariza was late and Rudy was taken off a stretcher. It wasn’t a dirty play, but since Ariza was so far behind Rudy, it was a reckless one. So what it comes down to was that Ariza wasn’t thinking and ended up with that reckless act of knocking him down. This isn’t a defense of Ariza by the way. My point is that he should have been suspended for not thinking. This is the NBA, which is the best league in the world. If you forget to think and you injure a player, you should be penalized for having been caught not thinking. If he is penalized, then he’ll think twice before doing something like that. If he’s not, then he probably won’t. Sometimes it is that simple.   
  • Man, the Raiders decided not to sign Khalif Barnes or Terrell Owens leading to a variety of speculation about what they will do with their first round draft pick. It is kind of understandable that they didn’t want to do anything that would decide their draft pick just yet, but they effectively lost out on two decent players to take a huge risk on some college player who by the way would only be able to fill one of those two holes on their team. I guess I cannot stress how fun it is to be a Raiders fan, because they just keep you wondering day after day…
  •  Shaquille O’Neal needs to come out and say something random that’s good about the NBA. We need this guy spending more time talking about what he’s done or what is good about the league and less about how much he doesn’t respect Stan Van Gundy or Dwight Howard. This guy has the potential to be great ambassador for the game when he retires, and I really hope he doesn’t burn all his bridges before he gets the chance.
  • That’s all for the Tuesday Ramblings. I’m sorry the number of posts has gone down in the last few weeks, but I have finals coming up next week so it is what it is. Some of you have been clamoring for a return from my co-writer Ankur. Let me just say, he is busy scouting a really great prospect in Tibet right now. I can’t wait to see what he says about that guy. Apparently, it is quite the journey, which will make for quite the story. Good times.

March 4, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings

Filed under: Ramblings — siddhant2001us @ 5:43 AM
  • The decision to appeal the Judge’s decision that certain evidence against Barry Bonds be inadmissible without collaboration from his former trainer stinks of desperation. This will delay the trial an additional 19 months and further add to the costs on everyone’s side. Basically, the prosecution is saying that they have nothing, and really hope something comes up in 19 months that will save them. The Feds have spent too much money in this witch hunt of Barry Bonds, and are trying not to lose face, but I really, really hope they just cut their losses now. After all, that money they are spending is tax money that in these tough economic times is hard to justify being spent here.
  • Speaking of Bonds, now that A-Rod has been revealed as a steroid user, why won’t anyone sign Bonds? He still has great eye sight and should still have decent power. If he plays 80 games for you, he’ll probably still get you 15 home runs. Plus, in these troubled economic times, Bonds is a guaranteed ticket seller.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made some very interesting off season moves. They added Derrick Ward and Kevin Winslow to their list of playmakers while keeping Antonio Bryant and Earnest Graham. This is all good and dandy except that uh they left out on huge thing: the quarterback. My two cents would have them at least bringing back Jeff Garcia if not also drafting his replacement. Otherwise, I think offering their number 1 is the least they can do in order to try and obtain Jay Cutler right now.
  • Speaking of Jay Cutler, way to piss off your franchise quarterback, Denver Broncos. In a division as volatile and mediocre as the AFC west, the Broncos had a great chance of making the playoffs next year. Trust me even with their terrible defense, all they needed were a handful of decent personnel moves and they would be getting home court in the first round. Anyway, all that was true until the franchise pissed off their only dependable offensive piece in Cutler. In a game like football where talent levels are ultimately close to equal, emotions are often what carry a team to victory. It may sound cliché, but the team that wants it more generally will win the game. Thus, the Denver Broncos better try to patch things up in a hurry or else it would be in their best interests to ship him to the Bucs for as many picks as they can weasel out of Tampa Bay.  Actually, as a fan of the Raiders, I would really prefer them to do the latter.
  • Speaking of the Bucs, they are one of a handful of teams that have gone younger in terms of head coaching age. The media is hyping it up as the NFL simply being a copycat league trying to emulate the success that the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers have had with Mike Tomlin, but I don’t buy it. The real reason that experienced coaches who have had success are out of jobs and inexperienced young guys are landing the opportunities of a life time is that it’s seen as the smart business decision. You have to pay more for experience, and, if the Steelers can win without it, then the stereotypical tight-wad owner will want to pay a lot less to get a coach that still has a chance to win it all. One of my points being that owners will simply jump onto whatever trend saves and possibly makes them the most money.
  • The other point I want to make is that experience does in fact matter in this league. The media likes to complain about teams recycling coaches, but there is in fact solid data to support teams hiring a coach who has been fired before. A second time head coach has dealt with all the first time jitters and has a system in place instead of building from scratch and with no experience to draw on. He also has most than likely learnt from his failures. The proof is in the pudding: Bill Belichek, Tony Dungy, and John Gruden are all current era coaches who won a championship while coaching their second team. That’s just something to think about for all the owners who are all to ready to save money by hiring some hotshot secondary coach or something to lead their franchise. 
  • Apparently, this is the Tuesday Ramblings where I just bitch and whine about the economy’s affect on our sports leagues. Anyway, the NBA is no different. Instead of trading for that missing piece, teams are just signing the best players that are getting cut. Boston added Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore, Cleveland is reported to have added Joe Smith, and San Antonio is rumored to be adding Drew Gooden. Each move is one that could put each team over the top. Looking back, I’m pretty sure this is the NBA’s way of telling me that I need to stop writing trade columns to discuss the most important trades of the season. Yeah, that has to be it.
  • You know who could really use Robert Horry? Phoenix. He helps space the floor even more for Shaq on offense, and probably is still an adequate (if not good) defender on the other end. With all the other powers sans Lakers making moves to improve, the Suns cannot afford to stand pat especially since they resisted the urge to blow up their team during the trading deadline.
  • I really hope some more teams move to California, clearly four teams is not enough, because Anaheim and San Jose are likely destinations for two more NBA franchises in the next 5 years or so. By the way, one of those teams will most likely be the Hornets, which means rather than endure the futility that comes with the first couple of years of rooting for an expansion team, some lucky fan base will get to just root for Chris Paul. 6 teams…I get the feeling other states must hate California. They have 3 NFL teams (and probably a 4th to LA someday,) 5 MLB teams, and 4 (most likely soon to be 6) NBA teams. That’s like having 60 flavors of ice cream to choose from while the rest of your block combined as maybe 10 and often has to convince themselves that frozen yogurt is basically close enough (no, it isn’t by the way.) The people of Nevada may now tie weights around their ankles and jump off a cliff.
  • That’s all for now folks, hopefully I finish these Power Rankings and have them up for you to read later this week.

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