Tag Archives broken bat

Yes, sometimes this is actually the right call in crunch time.

Last night’s Celtics-Heat game thankfully did not come down to any “clutch” moments as Miami proceeded to shellac Boston to force Game 7 in which should be the most exciting game of these 2012 playoffs.  Now, I don’t say “thankfully” because I am some closet Heat fan or have some tremendous ill-will towards the Celtics (it’s more of a general Boston hatred, not Celtics specific).  I say thankfully because now I won’t have to read articles about whether or not LeBron James is a great or terrible clutch player, whether his willingness to pass the ball to the wide open teammate  while he is double-teamed makes him a coward or not.  I don’t know if LeBron is clutch and honestly I don’t care.

I cannot go further without paying homage to one of the great interpreter of clutch statistics, SI.com’s Zach Lowe.  Anything you want to know about the minutia of how these statistics are compiled is referred to from there, but I wanted to speak to a broader point.  Simply put, isolation plays are the least efficient plays in all of basketball and yet teams with superstars continue to choose this option when the game is on the line.  According to Synergy statistics, isolation plays are worth 0.78 points per possession by far the lowest compared to transition plays (1.12 ppp), off-the-ball cuts (1.18 ppp), etc. 

Adam Jones keeps hitting home runs, but it will take more than that for this team to keep up their pace. (Denny Medley, US Presswire)

With their comeback win over the Royals, the O’s maintained their spot atop the AL East standings as they entered an important series against the cross-state Nationals, who have continued their emergence as a contender in the crowded NL East.  Every series is important for these Orioles however, who have yet to convince anyone (myself included) that their 25-14 (as of Friday) record is anything but a fun diversion before the division reverts back to the standard order of things.  Right now the only thing normal about the AL East is the Blue Jays occupying their usual spot in third.

And there are certainly reasons for concern.  The injuries are starting to pile up on this team, and there aren’t any more reserves left in Norfolk that give me reason for confidence.  Once Bill Hall was plugged back in at the major league level, you knew things were getting desperate.  Mark Reynolds remains out with a strained oblique (which one does not want to risk re-aggravating), and while that gives Ryan Flaherty a good opportunity to develop it strips Buck Showalter of the flexibility to insert anyone other than Nick Johnson into that spot.  With Endy Chavez and Nolan Reimold still out, Xavier Avery has performed admirably (his average may be low but he is showing tremendous poise at the plate) but he is not going to be a season-long answer, at least not yet.  The current roster is performing well, but there is very little depth for a team that was already thin to begin with.

Suggs will be missed this season, but that doesn't mean players shouldn't be allowed to exercise in their own way.

This week has been bookended by two players at the top of their sports being cut down, at least for the year (I am not buying Terrell Suggs’ optimism that he will be back in November).  Suggs tore his Achilles playing a pick-up game of basketball while Yankees star closer Mariano Rivera tore his ACL while shagging fly balls during batting practice, a regular practice for both players and a way they try to stay in shape.  It would be easy to use this as an opportunity to question what players should be allowed to do, but it is important now more than ever to recognize that players need the freedom to exercise on their own terms regardless of what fluky but terrible accidents might happen.

In sports, perhaps more than any other career path, one’s economic wellbeing is determined by their performance.  If they fail to perform in the NFL they will be cut with minimal repercussions to their employer, and even in baseball players are constantly playing for the next contract.  There is no flying below the radar and keep collecting pay in professional sports.  As such, the best keep themselves in incredible shape and constantly train, and it can’t always be under team supervision. 

Don't smile. Whatever you do, don't smile. This is not funny... (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

While the city of Baltimore remains inexplicably allied to the Washington Capitals’ playoff run (Why?! I will never understand it. I wouldn’t root for the Wizards and the Redskins and Nats are not my #2 teams in football and baseball so why in god’s name would I root for the Caps?  Go Flyers.), the NFL draft drones on (what is it now, three more weeks to go?), the Orioles continue to torment me with their success.  Why torment?  Because this team is so epically bad on paper, it is the team that truly looked like a rebuilding team, the kind of rebuilding that happens when you are building a sand castle at low tide.  The kind of rebuilding that causes you to ditch the few assets with any value for a bunch of assets with even less value.

2011 looked like a team ready to make a leap based on what would turn out to be unfounded optimism.  2010 had a number of proven pieces that resembled a .500 team back in March.  We know how those years turned out. Yet here we are about to turn the calendar to May and no matter what happens the Orioles will still be over .500 on May 1.  So… what gives?

There is a lot to like about Dwight Howard. His relationship with the Magic is not one of them.

The Dwight Howard saga is done for the remainder of the season.  Correction: Dwight Howard is done for the remainder of the season.  Thanks to machinations both externally and of his own creation, the star center- one of the few true centers with anything resembling a well-rounded game- the headlines aren’t set to quiet down very soon.  While he will be sitting on the sidelines in a suit with his herniated disk, I am sure Coach Stan Van Gundy would much rather he stay home altogether.  It’s a sad end for a year that started with anticipation and ends with just discomfort- and I am not talking about Howard’s back.

If the LeBron James Cleveland experience has taught us anything, it should be that teams are incapable of keeping a star player by prostrating themselves at his feet and trying to build a team to win a championship right now.  All that has created is a scenario where the Magic are on the hook for Gilbert Arenas’ albatross of a contract and have compounded a long-term salary disaster over the past several years.

I consider that face the least that kharma could do.

Bobby Petrino is a great football coach, and despite his ignominious background and unceremonious ouster from the University of Arkansas, he will find a job somewhere else- and sooner rather than later.  But Petrino is not unique, as countless coaches have found themselves on the wrong end of a scandal in the last few years.  He is also not unique in his affair, as men in power sleeping with attractive young women is almost a cliché in today’s society.  No, Petrino’s crime, aside from lying to his boss, family, and the public, goes far deeper than that.  It is the very thing that put Jessica Dorrell on the staff in the first place.

She was named Player Development Coordinator for the football team just a month ago, in front of 160 applicants for the position in an abbreviated hiring process (great SI story here on the details) that was spurred on by ex-Coach Petrino.  He fast-tracked his mistress into a job that literally hundreds wanted because she was sleeping with him.  This may not seem like a big deal on the outset, but in today’s economy the hiring process must be more sacrosanct than ever.  There is no place for nepotism, for cronyism, for filling the ranks of your staff with friends and girlfriends when qualified people are waiting in the wings.

Kentucky continue to roll through a suddenly less interesting tournament. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

I thought I would mix things up a bit this year in my bracket.  I saw all my family members picking Kentucky or North Carolina to win it all with a couple of lower seeds making it to the Elite Eight.  I thought after all the tumult of the last two seasons things in March Madness would start to return to the norm this season.  To separate myself from the fans of pure chalk I decided I would go with Missouri as my dark horse to win it all.  I say that because my bracket has been dead for so long I think it gives me enough context to say that this has been one of the most mundane tournaments since the all- #1 seed Final Four of 2008, without many more opportunities for teams to make it truly compelling.

Of course there are a lot of ways to consider what is “compelling.”  Some would say seeing the “best” teams play in the Final Four is compelling because there is higher quality basketball.  Well if we watched sports simply to watch the highest quality of play we would throw our hands up when the Orioles beat the clearly superior Red Sox on the last day of the regular season to knock them out of the postseason.  In fact, how do we define quality except by who wins the game? 

Earlier this week, Cory Redding signed on with the Indianapolis Colts and he caught a lot of grief from Ravens fans for making the switch.  The same fans who rooted for him through his years in Baltimore now found themselves railing against him for making the same kind of decision that brought him to the team in the first place.  We as fans view our teams as an emotional investments, but for players they are a financial investment, trying to make as much money as they can in the 10-15 years that they have to earn income as professional athletes.

Now, I have heard all the excuses about players “deserving” whatever they receive from fans because they aren’t properly loyal, but frankly that argument doesn’t hold any water, no matter how much money these athletes make.

Is one great game against the Lions enough to hand the keys to an offense over to Matt Flynn?

The Peyton Manning sweepstakes is on, with the latest report putting the former Colts legend on a flight to Denver to talk with the currently Tim Tebow-led Broncos.  I imagine when John Elway said that the Broncos would look to add a few quarterbacks Tebow wasn’t thinking about Peyton Manning walking into the locker room.  But this won’t be the last visit Manning makes, nor the last visit that Matt Flynn makes as he takes his sterling record as a starter to franchises across the NFL looking for a savior.  But of course that record is shining because it comes in just 132 career passing attempts and sporting 9 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  Already it is being debated which teams will snatch up Flynn after Manning signs.  One thing is for certain- whichever team signs Flynn will be getting far from a sure thing.

The expanded playoffs may make baseball more dramatic, but baseball wasn't designed for one-game series.

I have to be honest; I am lukewarm on the addition of two new playoff spots for major league baseball.  It feels like terribly manufactured drama to me, where we are content with days off between games in the playoffs yet this sudden death game is crammed right after the regular season, one contest which is completely anathema to the spirit of a 162-game season.  The playoffs already have systems that work against the best teams making the World Series, and while this system solves some of those issues it doesn’t solve them all.

For instance, I love that the sudden death game occurs right after the regular season.  Too often you have teams that are able to go through the playoffs with just 3 starters due to the excessive days off, failing to play 40% of their starting rotation.  Would we shorten football games because one team tends to tire more easily than another?  Then why would we allow some teams to possibly omit a serious weak point in their team (a poor back-end of the rotation) due to conditions that are completely different than the regular season?  Just look at last year’s playoffs.