Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sure He Killed Someone, But He's A Nice Guy

I am not a lawyer and I don't know the specifics of either case well, but the apparent sentences in two similar trials from the sports-world right now tell you all you need to know about what celebrity and cash can do for you when you get busted.

Donte' Stallworth accidentally hit a pedestrian with his car, killing him. Stallworth was under the influence at the time of the accident. He happens to be a famous professional football player and is very rich. His victim was a construction worker.

Andrew Gallo accidentally hit another car, killing 3 passengers. Gallo fled the scene and was found to be under the influence at the time of the accident. He is not a professional athlete but one of his victims happened to have been one.

Guess which one was able to settle out of court with his victim's family and get the charges reduced to DUI manslaughter, with a sentence of a suspended license, 1000 hours of community service, 30 days in jail, and then lifetime probation so that he won't miss any work.

And guess which one faces 45 years to life in prison for three counts of 2nd degree murder.

By no means do I think Gallo is getting an unfair deal. He's likely getting the sentence that he deserves. But the fact that as long as you are a professional athlete with a good reputation, you can actually drive drunk and kill someone, and not miss a day of work is absurd and disgusting.

And why is it that Plaxico Burress is being treated like he burned down an orphanage when all he did was (staggeringly stupidly) shot himself in the leg in a bar? Michael Vick ran a dog-fighting ring. Disgusting. He is a clearly a terrible person and served prison time for his vile actions. But he didn't get drunk and kill someone. Stallworth is reportedly a stand up guy and was cooperative with police. And it was obviously an accident that he killed a man, but he killed a man.

Am I saying that Stallworth should be crucified? No. Should he serve more than a month in jail? Yes. But so should the officials responsible for this terrible iniquity, even travesty, of justice.

Monday, June 15, 2009

SoCal Sports Hub: Hardball Weekly (6/15/09)

With Titles being handed out in the NBA (yawn) and the NHL (in spectacular fashion) last week, it seems appropriate to discuss SoCal baseball with the World Series in mind.

Let's Get This One Out Of The Way

The Padres are not going to win the World Series. For a long time. They are now being outscored by more than 1-run per game (second worst in baseball, and whenever that's the case, you know the only one they're ahead of is Washington). Their ace will be traded any day now, and even if he isn't, he's not really very good anymore (6-6 and on the DL). After a nice hot stretch to get back into 2nd in the division, they have gone 5-12 since and are now barely hanging onto 2nd to last and Adrian Gonzalez hasn't homered in 10 games.

But San Diego is a really nice place to live and EZ J's in Pacific Beach makes a hell of a sandwich.

Ladies And Gentlemen, Your 2009 National League Champions...

It seems like the Dodgers are coming back to earth, but they're still 7-5 in June, the West is still basically clinched, and they still have the best record in the National League by 7-games. Colorado has won 11-straight and the Dodgers are still beating them by 10.5 games. They have survived the Manny Ramirez suspension and the injury to opening day starter Hiroki Kuroda. They are clearly the team to beat in the National League.

So pencilling the Dodgers in to the World Series, how will they fare? Joe Torre will have the players prepared and while they are young in age, they have playoff experience, they have solid veteran presence, and their young guys have been in the league for a long time. They're not relying on rookies. The Dodgers hit the ball like crazy and have pitched well, but the pitching will likely be their biggest question mark. Chad Billingsley and Kuroda will be starters. But then the next options are Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf, and Jeff Weaver. None of these five are what you'd call playoff-tested reliable starters.

Can The Monkey Pitch?

After a rough start, Chone Figgins has taken the Angels on his back of late, hitting in 28 of 30 games (2+ hits in 16 of them!). And with the Texans slowing down a bit, the Angels have crept to within 2.5 games of the West leaders (and just 3 of the Wild Card leading Yankees). Vlad Guerrero is hitting .288 in June after taking over a month of due to injury, but his production is still abysmal (1 homer, 9 RBI in 52 games). John Lackey and Ervin Santana have both been inconsistent since returning from injury and Kelvim Escobar is having shoulder problems again.

So with that many mixed signals, it is impossible to predict much about the Angels' hopes in October. They have so much going wrong but are still in the race with the Rangers (who have so much going right). So by the law of averages, you'd think the Angels will pull it out and win the West but with their pitching as bad as it has been (5th highest ERA, 3rd highest batting average-against in baseball), an early exit may be a sure thing.

The Lineup (9 Things To Watch This Week)

Dodgers at Angels (Friday-Sunday)
Angels vs. Tim Lincecum (Wednesday, at San Francisco)
White Sox at Cubs (Tuesday-Thursday)
Nationals (most runs allowed in baseball) at Yankees (5th most) (Tuesday-Thursday)
Troy Tulowitski (Rockies) had 8 runs, 3 homers, 5 RBI, 3 stolen bases, and batted .421 last week
Jose Contreras (White Sox) returned from a stint in the minors with 2 wins in 16 shutout innings, with 11 K's last week
Colorado has won 11 straight (host Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh)
Trade Watch: Mark DeRosa, Matt Holliday, Jake Peavy, Jack Wilson, Nick Johnson, Miguel Tejada, Ryan Spilborghs
Manny Ramirez drops to 6th in All-Star voting

This post is a copy of a weekly feature I write for SoCal Sports Hub. Check out their site for great info., articles, interviews and comments on all Southern California pro and college sports.

Who Am I More Disgusted With: Laker Fans, Kobe, Morrison, Jackson, Or My Brother-In-Law?

I should preface this post by saying that I do not like the Lakers at all. I would not say that I am a "Laker-hater" because "hater" is not a word and it is really, really annoying. But I recognize that I was not exactly watching the game last night objectively.

If someday my children ask me to explain irony to them, I will tell them there are three kinds of irony but the most common one is situational irony - when what happens is basically the exact opposite of what you expect to happen, given the circumstances. Like a few weeks ago, I saw a sign on a car advertising for a personal trainer to help me lose weight fast. The driver was a little fat person.

Another example could be Phil Jackson, one of the more self-important, smug people I have witnessed, saying after last night's clinching game that "it's all about them," pointing to his players and referring to how this title came to happen. At the time, Jackson was wearing a bright yellow baseball cap with the Roman numeral "X" on the front to signify his record 10 titles as a head coach. "Ignore this blatant and obnoxious self promotion that shows how great I am, because it's all about them!"

Earlier in the day on Sunday, I had changed my Facebook status to say that I was excited for the Lakers to win so I could go out and loot a new TV and birthday presents for my wife. I sorta thought I was kidding. Once the game ended and the throngs of Laker fans looking for an excuse to riot in the streets showed up on the news, I realized that some people really are as ignorant and violent as I had been joking that they were.

In 2000 the Lakers won it all and 70 vehicle were damaged by rioters, mostly at a car dealership down the street from Staples Center. Some were police cars that these jackasses lit on fire. Another was a news van that they tipped over. This time, they threw fireworks and road-flares at police, damaged a police car, and set bonfires in the streets. Apparently there was some looting as well. What a proud heritage. Does this happen in other cities?

Last week NBC prevented the Red Wings from televising Stanley Cup Finals games from Pittsburgh at Joe Louis Arena because having that many fans all in one place was hurting their ratings for the area. I am disgusted by this and wonder if sports bars will be next to get the axe, but I thought it was funny that they didn't show it there for that reason, but they didn't show the Laker game at Staples Center because they knew that that many Laker fans in one place would certainly cause a riot. They got a riot anyway, of course (at least 25 arrested and at least one cop in the hospital).

When the Giants won the Super Bowl two years ago, I can't quite remember, but I don't think there was any part of me that thought, "I'm so happy, I could assault a police officer!"

Perhaps the greatest shame in all of this is that Sasha Vujacic and Adam Morrison now have NBA Championship rings. One of my favorite moments from the awkwardly staged celebrations after the game was when ABC went to the locker room to see them celebrating and Laker players were obediently standing around Kobe Bryant in a semi-circle, watching as he poured champagne on himself and repeatedly screamed, "Hell yeah!" No one seemed to be able to remember their cues and they all just stood there. In the background was Morrison in a now-disheveled shirt-and-tie, drinking out of a bottle all by himself. You could almost feel him thinking, "Suck on that J.J. Reddick, I am the next Larry Bird."

Maybe I am overly critical (yes I am), but didn't the entire postgame celebration feel like they were waiting for cameras to be on Kobe and his family? Didn't it seem like bad-sitcom TV. Like they'd call go to those cameras and then after a momentary delay, everyone would react for a time and then sorta stop and look at the cameras as if to say, "Are we still on? I don't remember what else I'm supposed to do in this scene." Everyone else seemed genuine and ecstatic, but the Bryants just seemed cardboard and staged. I can't wait for those little girls to grow up and write memoirs about how terrified they were all the time as children.

Why were Kobe's wife and daughters on stage-center for the trophy celebrations? MVP trophy...OK, but why the championship trophy? Derek Fisher's wife was with him on the court for a postgame interview, but I didn't see her on the stage.

Anyway, moving on. The person I really can't stand after all of this is my brother-in-law, Jeff. In my lifetime, I feel a bit spoiled to have seen the Giants win three Super Bowls and lose another, the Mets won a World Series and lost another, the Clippers made it to Game 7 of the second round once, and the Kings once lost a Stanley Cup Final. Also my college basketball team won a Tourney game in 2008. Pretty good success overall. So how has Jeff's 2009 gone? USC football beats the hell out of everyone all the time, but didn't win a National Championship (because there isn't one). The Lakers won the title. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup. The Steelers won the Super Bowl. And the Dodgers have the best record in baseball. Bastard.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Look How Cute He Is When He's Mad

The Magic got off the mat last night and beat the Lakers in Game 3 thanks, in part, to Kobe Bryant's dismal performance down the stretch. "The best closer in basketball" finished a terrible second half with this final minute stat-line: 1 missed fall-away 3, 1 missed unnecessarily desperate heave from 3, 1 rebound and put back, 1-2 from the free throw line, 0 angry-3-year-old faces.

My theory is that he came out poorly in the second half because he strained his face practicing his new angry-3-year-old face in front of the mirror at halftime.

I was glad to see that ESPN.com had a piece somewhat mocking Kobe's new phony-intensity face yesterday. Other Lakers were interviewed and they pretty much all mocked him (that's the last time he ever passes), but then each of them got serious and remembered what the P.R. department had apparently told them to say and they repeated by rote, "I guess it just shows how intense he is. You know, how much he wants this."

So he never really wanted it before? The fact that we've never seen this, the latest of Kobe's transparent "look at meeeeee" stunts, must mean he never tried before right? It can't be that he was envious of the "warrior"-status given to Kevin Garnett because he makes this same insanely stupid face all the time. It can't be that Big Baby Davis got a ton of air-time when he made his contorted "angry lower-jaw" face after his buzzer-beater early in these playoffs.

No, I'm sure it is authentic intensity that causes him to inexplicably have a wicked underbite after he makes a shot late in games.

In other Finals news, I am nominating the following four quotes for the 2008-2009 Dumbest NBA Commentators Moment award.

"The Lakers are down by 8 and have missed 8 free throws. Make those and they'd be tied. Or close to tied." - Mychal Thompson. As Chevy Chase once said, "It was my understanding that there would be no math."

"I always used to tell my players, don't shoot 3's with a foot on the line." - Jeff Van Gundy. I like Van Gundy, and I like John Madden, but sometimes Van Gundy sounds just as confused and excited and desperate just to say something as Madden.

"I always say, these are the biggest free throws of his career." - Mychel Thompson. Perhaps in Bahamian English, "biggest" means "most recent."

"The 1st thing you gotta do is get the ball in bounds." - Jeff Van Gundy. This was great because he didn't follow it up with any kind of strategy for doing so, or what to do next. He just wanted to make the point, in the last minute of a tied Finals game, that passing it in comes first.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sports' Worst Rules

In the midst of the NBA Finals, it seems like a perfect time to write about bad officiating in sports. More accurately, this is a list of the worst rules and practices in sports. I have shied away from this topic because it is far too easy to come up with more items; every time I watch a game there are things about it that drive me up a wall. So we'll call it a running list, in no particular order:

Defensive Indifference. When a base runner is not held on and steals a base without a throw, he is not credited with a stolen base. This is a strange rule because, well...the guy stole a base. I get that there was no challenge to his attempt, but they credit a guy who is intentionally walked with a base on balls. He didn't exactly earn that, did he? If a player actively moves himself towards home plate, and out of a double-play situation, he is actively helping his team, whether he is held on or not. Whether there is a throw or not. Whether it is a blowout or not.

NFL overtime. Since 2000, the team that wins the coin toss wins the game around 60% of the time. The team that loses the coin toss actually gets possession around 30% of the time. So the coin toss offers a massive advantage - far greater than home field advantage even. And as exciting as college overtimes are, they put an unfair burden on the defense but do not really reward the defense much for stops. Solution: hold a coin toss to determine possession and direction of play. Have a full kickoff. If the team with the ball scores a touchdown, game over. If they kick a field goal, the other team then gets one possession to match them (sudden death from then on) or score a TD (game over). If the team that gets the opening overtime possession does not score (turnover, downs or punt), the game instantly becomes sudden death.

NCAA football down by contact rule. A wide receiver finds himself 20 yards behind the defense but stopping for an underthrown ball. He has to go to a knee to catch it. He could get up and walk 40 more yards for a touchdown, but he's down where his knee touched. I can't even come up with a defense for this one that I would then counter.

The clock in a soccer game is merely a suggestion. Humans began using clocks somewhere around 5000 years ago. Soccer can't figure it out. Yes, they have clocks; they count up from 0:00. Why? Because only the referee on the field knows the true time. How about his personal stopwatch is connected wirelessly to the stadium clock? How about he signals the timekeeper (whistle or hand motions) when to start and stop the official time. Is it really this hard?

Soccer shootouts. Entire seasons ... World Cups ... Olympics come down to which team has fewer guys that will accidentally miss the goal from 12 yards away, or accidentally hit the goalie with a shot. Shootouts are like admitting that your sport is stupid and you just want it to end. Make the goal bigger, make the field smaller, make the time shorter, and play till someone wins.

Baseball's Designated Hitter rule. I get that I don't like it because my favorite team is in the N.L. However, I feel that the strategic intrigue created by a pitcher hitting for himself outweighs the deeper offense with an extra hitter. More players play, more interesting situations occur, advantages are gained by pitchers who bunt or even hit well, etc. Do you pinch hit for a pitcher who is cruising? What is the risk/reward in a double switch and will it backfire in later innings? And if you do have a pitcher who is a decent hitter (.250), he will never get the chance in a DH league, thus not rewarding him for the overall balance of his game.

American sports leagues playing regular season games overseas. "Sure we have lots of fans here and they pay our salaries through tickets sales, merchandise sales, and purchasing the products that our advertisers sell. But we don't like them as much as we like those other fans. Let's take home games away from our fans and give them to people over there who only come to watch because it is a spectacle...they don't actually understand anything that is happening. Our fans at home won't mind."

The NHL trapezoid. The goalie is not allowed to handle the puck outside a trapazoidal space behind the goal. If he takes it outside that area, it is a 2-minute penalty. The idea is that goalies could handle the puck in the corner and bring it into the crease and waste time or more likely, that goalies can go out to play pucks and clear them too easily. The NHL wants scoring, not slower play. But having your goalie handle the puck is generally like having a 2-year-old carry your crystal on his head down the stairs. It's probably not going to go the way you want it to. Goalies handling and being out of position can only cause more goals...and more hilarious blooper reels.

MLB All-Star game determines the World Series home field advantage. You can't have it both ways. Either the All-Star teams need to be determined by players and managers and G.M.s and the game counts for something, or they are determined by star-struck fans and it is just for fun.

There is no such thing as a receiver force-out in the NFL. If a receiver catches a ball in the air near the sidelines/endline, and is driven out of bounds before getting his feet down, he is out-of-bounds. No catch. So conceivably, a guy could jump up over the middle to catch a ball, I could catch him on my shoulder and carry him to the sidelines and put him down out-of-bounds and it is a no-catch. Update: you can't actually do that.

NBA officials do not enforce the rules, particularly for stars and at in big moments. Traveling, carrying-over, and 3-second violations are simply not called anymore. Fouls seem to have no rhyme or reason. Out of control players are bailed out with fouls (as long as they're All-Stars). The officials have turned the league into a joke with their adoration and protection of stars and individual biases for and against certain teams. I am OK with "playoff rules" - that is that calls are made differently in the postseason, but they must be called consistently for every player and every situation throughout the course of every game.

A few years ago the NBA made a no-complaining rule. Apparently that no longer applies.

College basketball possession arrow. Kid makes a brilliant defensive play: he either is not rewarded for it this time or he costs his team a possession next time. Why not jump it up? The only conceivable argument is that it takes too much time. And to that I say shorten halftime by 11 seconds to account for it.

Soccer flops. There is a rule against it but it is only called for egregious flops, not the run-of-the-mill 30-times per game variety. Solution: If a player goes down and rolls around screaming and holding his leg, he must leave the field for at least two minutes for treatment. The team may substitute for him (but remember: they only have a set number of subs per game), or they must play down a man for the injury break. This will discourage flops while still giving actual injuries the treatment they need. If he's hurt, sub him out. If it's not bad, he gets time to recuperate before rushing back in and injuring himself worse. If he's faking, it's like penalty minutes.

The clock-stopping foul in the NBA. There is a rule in the NBA that if you foul someone on purpose without making a play for the ball, but it is not overly forceful or violent, it is an intentional foul. The player gets a free throw (two if he was shooting) and his team retains possession. But for some reason, this rule is not applied late in games when a losing team is trying to stop the clock. Suddenly it is a simply personal foul to go up and shove someone lightly or wrap your arms around him, without attempting to knock the ball away.

The BCS.

Without doubt, I will add to this list in the future (probably after the next game I watch today), so stay tuned.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stay In School

I have a group of friends who send a constant stream of political emails to one another, arguing any and every point that can be argued. We argue about agreeing sometimes. Lately the hot topic has been the economy and the government's handling of it, and when I see videos like this one, I only grow more confident that our elected officials have the education, the wisdom, and the ability to fix what ails us.

I give you U.S. Congresswomen Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) and their takes on the NBA Finals.

If you feel like Rep. Brown is familiar, perhaps it is from this video in which she congratulates the "Gator" on their recent BCS championship.

I suppose this goes to show that when they say anyone can be somebody in America, they really mean anyone.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

SoCal Sports Hub: Hardball Weakly (6/8/09)

Dodgers Help Lower Phillies' Team ERA

The Dodgers offense has finally slowed down a bit from its torrid pace. Whether it was with Manny Ramirez or without, they seemed to be able to string hits together at will and score runs in bunches. Facing a Phillies' pitching staff that boasts the second worst ERA in the National League, they probably expected to have four huge offensive games last week at home.

But the Phils put up a fight and held the Dodgers to just nine runs over the course of the four-game series. While Andre Ethier seems to have finally awoken from the slump he fell into when Manny went out, Orlando Hudson, Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, and Russell Martin are all now slumping.

As for Juan Pierre, who is hitting .362 in Manny's stead, the Dodgers will likely try and trade him for pitching help while his value is still sky-high. Pierre is in the final year of one of many terrible contracts the Dodgers have signed over the past few years and is making $10,000,000 this year. Clearly Manny Ramirez' job is waiting for him when he comes back, and Matt Kemp and Ethier are part of the "untouchable" group that the Dodgers have repeatedly said they won't move. Plus Ethier makes just $3.1 M this year and Kemp $467,000 (yes, you read that right).

The Gang's All Here

Although the Halos were just 3-3 on last week's road trip in Toronto and Detroit, they have to be thrilled with the pitching they got from Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar.

Santana had missed the first six weeks of the season with an elbow injury and allowed 15 runs in his last two starts over just 6-1/3 innings. He was back to his All-Star form against Detroit, scattering six hits and seven K's over 8-2/3 innings, and allowing only 1 run to score for his first win of 2009.

Escobar took the mound for the first time since 2007 and allowed just four hits through five innings, taking the loss as the Angels fell 2-1 a day after they'd beaten Detroit by the same score on Friday. With their stellar rotation of Jered Weaver, John Lackey, Santana, Escobar, and Joe Saunders back together, and the offense continues to improve, the Angels have only given Texas a 4.5-game lead and will look to make that up by the All-Star break.

I Wouldn't Want To Pitch To The Phillies Either

Since winning a Major League Baseball season-high 10-straight last month, the Padres are just 3-8 in their last 11, and have slipped back to a double-digit deficit behind the Dodgers. They play five games in Los Angeles this week, facing the Dodgers twice and Angels thrice.

Jake Peavy left after just one inning against the Phillies last week (upper respiratory infection), but will be back on the hill twice this week. Peavy is just 5-6 with an ERA over 4.00 this season, though his 84 strikeouts put him fifth in the National League. The lone bright spot for the Padres continues to be Adrian Gonzalez whose 22 homers lead all of baseball.

The Lineup (9 Things To Watch This Week)
Major League Baseball's Draft (Tuesday-Thursday)
Padres at Dodgers (Tuesday-Wednesday)
Angels at Rays (Tuesday-Thursday)
Dodgers at Rangers (Friday-Sunday)
Mets host Phillies (Tuesday-Thursday) and visit the new Yankee Stadium (Friday-Sunday)
Red Sox at Phillies (Friday-Sunday)
Oakland (6 straight wins) vs. Minnesota (Monday-Thursday) and at San Francisco (Friday-Sunday)
Ian Stewart (Colorado) has 4 homers and 12 RBI in his last 5 games
Edwin Jackson (Detroit) is 5-1 with 7 earned runs in his last six starts (at White Sox Thursday)
Seattle takes the AL's best ERA to Colorado (Friday-Sunday)

This post is a copy of a weekly feature I write for SoCal Sports Hub. Check out their site for great info., articles, interviews and comments on all Southern California pro and college sports.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It Wasn't A Lockout, They Planned This Week Off

I could have sworn that there was more basketball to be played after the Conference Finals. Was there a strike? Did I miss it? I could swear that it has been a week or two since they last played so I guess they're...oh, what's that? After playing every other day for 100 games, they just suddenly needed a week off to rest up? That makes sense.

I suppose the NBA looks at this pre-Finals week-long break the way the NFL looks at the Super Bowl layoff. The difference, of course, is that the NBA Finals is not the Super Bowl. The interest from the common fan is not remotely as high, especially without the Kobe-LeBron storyline. And even when the NFL takes an extra week off before the Super Bowl, they are only skipping one day since they can only play once a week anyway.

"But the players need the break." No they don't. Kobe is tired? So is Dwight Howard. May the best man win. If hockey players can play the same number of regular season games, the same number of playoff series, each with the same best-of-seven format, and then can start up the Stanley Cup Finals with no extra break, basketball players should too. And not only did the Stanley Cup Finals start right away, they actually played on back-to-back nights for the opening games!

So when this two-and-a-half month old tournament comes to an end next week, who will be on top? Laker fans and the L.A. media seem to think it is a foregone conclusion that L.A. will win based on the fact that they played so beautifully in their final game against Denver. The problem I see there is that you are taking their lackluster performances from the previous 20ish playoff games and throwing them out, and saying that that one game was the "real Lakers." How often during the season were they that spectacular? They won all the time, but they were never particularly impressive (except when playing the Clippers).

Ultimately the Lakers are a better balanced Cavs-clone. The vaunted depth of the Lakers is pretty overrated and in the closing minutes, they shift to Kobe-mode every game. Who is on the bench? Sasha Vujacic (hahahaha), Luke Walton (one good game this postseason), Shannon Brown (exciting, but not that good), Trevor Ariza (very good), and that's it. Andrew Bynum is not right yet. Lamar Odom is Lamar Odom and many not show...may look like an All-Star. Pau Gasol is great but against Dwight Howard? And Kobe Bryant will score 40 per game.

Once upon a time, the New York Giants had the best record in the NFC and absolutely crushed the Vikings 41-0 in the NFC Championship game. They had played a perfect game, with Kerry Collins throwing for five touchdowns and close to 400 yards. They held Randy Moss to two catches for 18 yards. Bother sides of the ball...perfect. So the momentum was theirs right? Wrong. The Ravens, and their defensive mindset, crushed the Giants 34-7 and if it were not for the outfit that Britney Spears wore at halftime, the day would have been a total and complete loss. See any parallels here? Best record, perfect semi-final game, high confidence, defensive opponent.

So the moral is that the Lakers and their fans should not hang their hats on that deciding game against Denver. That said, I still don't see how a jump shooting team can win it all, but they did just beat the reigning champs (or a shadow of them at least) and the LeBrons. I suppose if I had to pick, I'd go with the Lakers in an ugly 6 games. I don't think it could be less since the NBA inexplicably shifts to a 2-3-2 format for the Finals after playing three rounds of 2-2-1-1-1 in the playoffs. Also because NBA refs won't allow a road team to win two games.

So don't miss out on any of the action (from about midway through the third-quarter to the end of each game)!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rodney Harrison To Stop Headhunting, Possibly Go Gay

Noted cheater Rodney Harrison has hung up his head-hunting shoes and retired from the NFL. There is no word on whether will retire again after playing next season. But the real news here is that in his retirement press conference, he apparently came out of the closet saying, "I worked hard and I played hard."

Now, I am not expert on this topic, but if I am not mistaken that is some kind of secret coded phrase meaning that the person is gay. Seems far-fetched? You don't know your Simpsons. Sorry about the quality of this video, but the quality of the clip makes up for it.

So as a fan of the NFL, I say good luck Rodney. Good riddance too. And finally, you go girl.

Monday, June 1, 2009

SoCal Sports Hub: Hardball Weekly (6/1/09)

Wanted: Season-Saving Rally Monkey

Ervin Santana’s much anticipated return to the Angels has not gone as the team hoped. He is 0-2 with a 9.50 ERA (31 runs allowed in four games), but he isn’t much worse than the rest of the Angels right now. Hovering just one game over .500, the injury-riddled Angels just stumbled through a 2-4 home stand that left them 4.5 games behind the red-hot Rangers, and staring a 9-game road trip in the face.

But if there is such a thing as a turning point, the Angels may have had one Sunday when they overcame a seven-run deficit in the 6th inning, capped off with a 3-run ninth for the walk-off. Torii Hunter continues to lead the Halos in nearly every offensive category, hitting .313 with 12 homers and nearly an RBI per game. If the Angels can keep riding Hunter until Vlad Guerrero, John Lackey, and Santana get back to form, they are still the favorites in the AL West despite the Rangers’ start.

Odd Man Out

With just 32 calendar days left, the Dodgers are nearly halfway through Manny Ramirez’ steroid-suspension. A few weeks ago, it seemed that the Dodgers might be in deep trouble when their saw they Division lead dwindle and their hitting stop. Now it seems the biggest problem they will deal with in the West is where to put Manny when he is eligible.

Andre Ethier’s batting average has fallen 60-points in Manny’s absence, and Juan Pierre has hit over .400 for most of that span (.374 on the season), but Pierre cannot be played in right field because of his weak throwing arm. Matt Kemp would be tough to move from center field with his solid defense and impressive hitting. But you can’t take Manny’s bat out of the lineup either. So Pierre will likely be relegated to the bench again despite his torrid hitting.

Maybe They Should Threaten To Trade Other Guys Too

The Padres completed a trade with the White Sox to send ace Jake Peavy to Chicago, but Peavy vetoed the deal. Since then, Peavy is 3-0 and the Padres have done what they needed to do to get back into the race in the NL West, going 12-3 (including a 10-game win streak). Unfortunately, the Dodgers regained their form just before that stretch and have surrendered only 1.5 games during that span, and the Padres still sit in third place, 9-games back.

Adrian Gonzalez continues to put up MVP numbers, even though he is a long shot for the All-Star game. Gonzalez leads baseball with 20 homers, and has 40 RBI through 50 games. But Scott Hairston and Gonzalez are the only two Padre regulars hitting over .250, and despite Peavy’s renewed success, they simply cannot compete with the Dodgers over the long haul. The clock is ticking louder and louder on the Padres’ stars careers at Petco.

The Lineup (9 Things To Watch This Week)

Dodgers vs. Phillies in battle of Division Leaders (Thursday-Sunday at Dodger Stadium)
Angels start 9-game road trip (Toronto, Detroit, Tampa Bay)
Jake Peavy vs. Phillies Offense (2nd in NL in runs scored) (Wednesday at Petco Park)
Juan Pierre: 1-13 in last three games (Dodgers went 1-2), 12-24 in previous five (Dodgers were 4-1)
Rangers take West division lead to New York and Boston
Baltimore’s Luke Scott hit .533 with six homers and 14 RBI over a four-game stretch last week
Carlos Zambrano returns to the mound after suspension (Thursday at Atlanta)
Washington (on pace for 43 wins) has lost 6 straight (host San Francisco and New York Mets)
Mets (7-2) and Phillies (12-4) red hot and separated by .5
Phillies (5.02) and Yankees (4.94) have the 4th and 5th worst ERAs in baseball despite leading their divisions

This post is a copy of a weekly feature I write for SoCal Sports Hub. Check out their site for great info., articles, interviews and comments on all Southern California pro and college sports.

Winners And Losers In Sports Last Week

Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Leads 2-0
Winners: Red Wings, my friend Googs, the downtrodden people of Detroit that we were all supposed to support during the NCAA tourney but apparently don't need to worry about anymore since we remembered that Detroit wins the Cup every other year and they don't care about any other sport anyway.
Losers: NBC (Did you know this series is on NBC? No one else does either.), the NHL (the Golden Boy is getting crushed by a faceless red blob)

Rafael Nadal Loses At French Open
Winners: Roger Federer, Captain Fist Pump (aka Andy Murray)
Losers: Fans of Federer-Nadal epics,

Rachel Alexandra Will Not Race In The Belmont Stakes
Winners: People who don't like horse racing and want it to go away
Losers: the Sport of Kings (not only is there no Triple Crown chase, but now there is no Derby/Preakness winner rivalry), whoever is airing the Belmont this weekend

Manny Ramirez Will Be Voted Into All-Star Game (thanks to all this press)
Winners: Manny Ramirez, wig makers, hypodermic needle makers
Losers: Baseball ("we kinda have rules in place to condemn steroid use, but not really"), Raul Ibanez (by far the best overall outfielder in baseball right now, won't be voted in for sure...but will be there).

NBA Finals: Lakers vs. Magic
Winners: Basketball fans (Kobe-LeBron would have been cool, but could you really have watched five or six more games of the Cavs lining up all 11 other players on the bench and watching LeBron hold the ball till there were 5-seconds on the shot clock before making a move?), Adidas (they need to make a commercial where Dwight Howard is the the person holding the strings on those Kobe and LeBron puppets)
Losers: The NBA, Nike, the Lakers (home court: yes, but it is a worse matchup), Cavs fans (sure, he'll still stay in Cleveland with all the help they've managed to get for him over the years...of course!)

Charles Barkley Swearing On The Air
Winners: Fans of the English language because maybe he'll finally be fired
Losers: TNT (the fine can be as high as $500,000 thanks to Janet Jackson's boob)

The Yankees Are Back On Top Of The AL East For The First Time In Two Years
Winners: The Yankees, fans
Losers: Society

College World Series Freakish Box Scores
Winners: Florida State, Texas, fans of amazing hitting, fans of amazing pitching
Losers: Ohio State (lost 37-6...in baseball), BC (lost 3-2 in a 25 inning game that featured 28 consecutive batters being retired)

Soccer Team Beats Other Soccer Team
Winners: Fans of whichever team won that big game last week
Losers: Bar-hopping fans of the team that won who were subsequently crashed into by a bus driver who was angry with them because he is a fan of the other team

Some Kid Won A Spelling Bee
Winners: No one
Losers: Everyone who watches this every year and is subjected to not only a freaking spelling bee, but also the desperate, clumsy, and obnoxious phony mannerisms and attention grabs by these painfully socially awkward young people

Simona Halep Is Getting A Breast Reduction To Help Her Tennis Career
Winners: No one
Losers: Society

Donald Sterling To Be Honored By NAACP For Longtime Help Of Minority Youth
Winners: Donald Sterling, minority youth
Losers: Elgin Baylor (who is suing Sterling for wrongful termination in part because he claims Sterling is a racist), socially conscious people who try to avoid using archaic and offensive racial epithets by accident but still have to say "colored people" because of the NAACP

Clippers Win NBA Draft Lottery
Winners: The Clippers, fans (all 4 of us)
Losers: Blake Griffin