A Few of My Favorite Things…

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Is there anything better than a Saturday afternoon with no responsibilities and a full sporting event slate on the tube?  It got me to thinking of a few of my favorite things in the world of sports.

Last second shots. As I write this Marco Belinelli has just hit an off-balance, corner jumper to tie up the Celtics-76ers Game 3 at the buzzer and send it into OT.  Ironic, as Belinelli was already on my board to get a mention in this post for two entirely different reasons.

One, the commentators mentioned what, to me, was a staggering stat about Belinelli — that this was the 55th playoff game of his career. It was amazing to me because it is actually the first playoff game I ever remember seeing him appear in (way to make an impact, Marco).  And two, I couldn’t help but notice how the guy looks totally stoned every time he is captured on camera.  Of course this has nothing to do with last second shots, but just sayin’…

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Unexpected stars. Where did Terry Rozier come from anyway? It’s just cool when a player comes out of nowhere to suddenly become a major story line in a series (or even in general).  And when I get past my jealousy that the Knicks never unearth a guy like Rozier (actually we did, once, when Linsanity took center stage, but Carmelo took it upon himself to suck the fun out of that run, too), it really is pretty amazing to see how the Celts haven’t missed a beat following Kyrie’s injury because this no-name has come off the bench and totally taken charge of the club.  Even if I do continue to accidentally refer to him as Mike (Mike Rozier, the 1983 Heisman winner out of Nebraska), I hope his run continues into what is now appearing to be an inevitable matchup with LeBron and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals.

As for Mike Rozier, does anyone happen to remember that his first professional team was none other than the Pittsburgh Maulers of the old USFL?  I actually got to see him in person against my hometown New Jersey Generals back in May of 1984 at the Meadowlands.  The Generals (with Doug Flutie at QB) won the game 16-14, but what I remember most is the biggest and ugliest fan brawl in the stands I’ve ever witnessed.  The entire second deck became the setting for a battle royal.  Like most of these fan fights it started with a few drunk guys throwing beer and then punches.  But oh did it escalate. Literally thousands of people ended up joining in the scrum, throwing haymakers as  dozens upon dozens of security officials poured out of the tunnels and into the fray wearing those yellow SECURITY windbreakers.  I never realized just how many security personnel are employed during a football game, and also couldn’t help wondering where the heck they are all hanging out when there isn’t a riot taking place. The fight lasted almost the entire second half of the game.  Never seen anything like it before or since.  Mike Rozier and the Pittsburgh Maulers everybody.

Surprise playoff runs. I’ve previously stated that hockey is the Achilles heel of my sports fandom, and as a result I will rarely opine on the sport, however if I were a bigger fan I think I might have to jump on the Las Vegas Golden Knights playoff bandwagon. I actually am a marginal San Jose Sharks sympathizer, given their proximity to my home, and should they advance to the Cup I may even attempt to get to a game (after all, there really is nothing quite like the intensity of playoff hockey witnessed in person).  But for now, I simply marvel at the run Vegas is on, leading the series 3-2 and possibly on the verge of a Stanley Cup appearance in their first year as a franchise?  Only in the NHL, I suppose, but still cool.

The last time I got this excited about an unexpected NHL playoff run was back in 1988, when the previously downtrodden New Jersey Devils were throwing a major scare into the Boston Bruins. Following a loss in Game 3, irate Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld confronted referee Don Koharski (who may, or may not, have had a bit of a weight problem), leading to an awkward Koharski spill.

When Koharski pointed the finger at Schoenfeld, accusing him of bumping the big ref, Schoenfeld responded with “good ’cause you fell you fat pig. Have another doughnut.” And from that day on the Devils became my team.  Ahh, fond New Jersey reminiscences on a Saturday afternoon. Good stuff.

The optimism that accompanies the hiring of a new coach. Yes I’m a Knicks fan, and yes I grasp at straws looking for the slightest sign of optimism about the future amidst a dark and foreboding present, but I really like the hiring of David Fizdale as our latest head coach.  We’ve done this new hire drill so frequently over the past 15 years that I need to harken all the way back to the Pat Riley hiring in the early-’90’s that brought us the Patrick Ewing/Charles Oakley/Anthony Mason era to remember feeling this good about our new head man.

I’m not just a hopeless homer either, as I’ve had visceral reactions to big Knicks moves in the past (and I won’t even mention the Carmelo trade, or the resigning here, oops…).  Most notably, I remember with vivid clarity the day the announcement came across WFAN Radio in New York that the Knicks had traded for Stephon Marbury.  I was driving on the Long Island Expressway and had to get off at the first exit I came to and pull over to compose myself.  Wish I had been wrong on that one, but sometimes the internal instincts are screaming truth.  They sure were right about Starbury being a disaster as a Knick, and hopefully they are equally on target with the good vibes I’m feeling about Fizdale today. Oh, and about that Eddy Curry trade…

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Good announcers. Maybe the most important and under appreciated aspect of the fan experience.  Good announcers can turn an exciting game into a lifetime memory.  This afternoon offers a couple of perfect examples.  I’m watching the Mets getting shut out in the 7th by the Rockies as I sit here typing, and despite the continuing futility of our New York Mets, it is a pleasure hearing the voices of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen in the background calling the game.  To me they are the gold standard of current baseball announcers, both in terms of group chemistry, as well as for outstanding game coverage, knowledge, humor and candor.  They make my investment in the MLB Package worthwhile despite the fact that it has completely sabotaged the Mets 12-2 start.

I also must admit to my growing appreciation and respect for Doris Burke.  This is a tough one for me, for as a traditionalist I was slow to warm up to the idea of female game announcers.  And no, that wasn’t a sexist comment (at least I hope it wasn’t).  The idea of having the token female sideline reporter on every football and basketball telecast seems pandering and obvious, and that annoys me as well, but for different reasons. Put the best person in these roles, please! Which is why I am totally hooking onto Ms. Burke’s growing bandwagon of supporters.

As a dad with two daughters (who both happen to be above-average athletes and solidly knowledgeable sports fans I’m proud to say), I am in favor of seeing these glass ceilings broken through, wherever they may exist. Just please let the “breakers” do it on merit.  Doris Burke has done that.  She’s just damn good — smart, informed down to minute details on back stories as well as strategies, and with a cool sense of humor as well.  She is terrific and it’s great to see her getting the accolades her work has earned her.

When I think about my all-time favorite announcers (a post for another day, for sure), I can’t help but realize I am fortunate to live in an area with terrific local baseball announcers (to fall back on in the event I’m forced to cancel my MLB Package should the Mets drop under .500), as both the Giants (Kruk and Kuip — although I hated Mike Krukow as a player because he owned the Mets) and the A’s (Ray Fosse is in the elite category in my opinion, and he I liked as part of those great A’s squads of the early-’70’s) put out an awesome announcing team for both TV and radio every night.

Others names to smile and ponder on a lazy afternoon (hopefully without stealing too much material from that upcoming all-time announcer post) would certainly include Bob Murphy on radio doing Mets games, Vin Scully (of course — he could read from the phone book and make it entertaining) and the Madden/Somerall tandem on the CBS lead NFC game back in the ’80’s. And reserve a special section in my history for Marv Albert. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only five-year-old kid sneaking a radio to bed at night and falling asleep to him calling Knicks games during their first championship season back in ’69-’70.  “Yes!”

A business man’s special on a sunny afternoon. Gotta love when the first pitch is prior to 1:00 in the afternoon.  Usually a half-full crowd allowing for easier entrance to and exit from the stadium, and the ability to get on with your day while it’s still light out.  I went to see Giants-Padres the other day at AT&T Park (if you haven’t been yet, please figure out a trip to SF and go, it’s absolutely a Top 5 ballpark).  First pitch: 12:45 p.m. Perfect. The afternoon was sunny and 75 degrees and the ball was traveling toward the right field power alley and McCovey Cove.  Multiple dingers, clam chowder out of a bread bowl and through the tunnel on the way back home to the East Bay by 3:30. The Giants won easily (sorry Padres fans, but I still don’t see where all this hope for the future is coming from, you guys are awful), the orange-clad, pennant waving fans were thrilled, and all was right with the world for those three hours.

Futility streaks. I rooted against the Cubs in the 2016 World Series for the simple reason that I wanted the losing streak to continue.  Nothing against the Cubs or the city of Chicago (sort of indifferent to both actually), but I think those kinds of streaks are good for the fabric of the game.  I rooted against the Red Sox for the same reason during the 2004 World Series (despite being overjoyed when they came back from down 3-0 against the Yanks in the ALCS) and I had hoped the Astros would fall short last year and keep their 0-for-existence World Series run intact.  I strangely like the Indians for reasons I can’t even explain to myself, so should they make it to the Fall Classic this year I’m not sure where my rooting interests will lie. But one thing is for sure, and that’s if the Expos/Nationals somehow get there (and I am supremely confident they won’t for reasons about to be revealed), I will root hard against them (unless they play the Yankees, in which case I will root for a 3-3 tie).

I plain don’t like the D.C. teams.  Some of it is life history and rivalries with the NY sports franchises. Some of it is frankly, just because. To that point, as little attention as I pay to the NHL these days, I am totally rooting for the Penguins to beat the Caps (seems like an annual thing, doesn’t it?) in their series that is taking place right now (Penguins look poised to take a 3 games to 2 lead as I type this). I will delight in seeing the Penguins extend the run of futility for the Caps franchise and their tortured fans for yet another year (yes, there is a long backstory behind this dislike that will be discussed at a later date). And I don’t even like Pittsburgh.  Go Pens!

Sam Darnold. I know, Sam is not a thing, he’s a Jet, but I had to figure out a way to include him in this post.  I am that excited. My new favorite player, number 14 on your scorecard and number 1 in our hearts!  Only 20 years old and with a cannon for an arm, this is the guy we will ride to our first Super Bowl victory since Joe Willie trotted off the field in Miami forefinger held aloft.  I liked Darnold in his two seasons starting at USC and can’t believe he will be in Jets green come the fall.  Hope springs eternal, and at least for now I feel hope that one of my personal futility streaks (I should have noted that I don’t like them when one of my teams is involved — 49 years and counting for the  airplanes) may actually come to an end during my lifetime (c’mon Fizdale, 45 years and counting for the Knickerbockers — exercise those demons!).

 

 

 

 

It Must Be The Shoes

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It’s gotta be my new shoes.  The Mets were solidly in first place, sporting a record of 12-2 on April 15th that was as remarkable as it was unexpected.  In my irrational exuberance over the start none of us Mets fans had anticipated (c’mon, none of us…) I made two highly questionable decisions that I believe may be costing us big time right about now.

First, I called up DirecTV and ordered the MLB Package, ensuring that I could watch from my California home every Mets game played this season (and any other baseball game I wanted for that matter), in what was clearly shaping up to be a 120-win, 42-loss kind of campaign (and by the way, this MLB package purchase was no easy feat, as it meant working through those highly-trained people that man DirecTV’s phones at midnight Pacific time on a Sunday night).

Second, following the well-intentioned yet badly misguided advice of a friend and fellow Mets fan, I went on the New Balance website and custom-designed and purchased my “lucky” New York Mets sneakers you see in the photo above (including, for an extra cost, expedited shipping, and yes, the “NYM” monogram you see in orange on the back of each shoe).

I knew at the time I was tempting the fates (in fact I had nearly torpedoed the Knicks season well before KP’s injury finished them off when, at the urging of the same friend, I nearly designed a similar pair of Knicks custom sneaks back in November of last year), but they just looked so darn good (the Mets, not the sneakers, although I must admit to being pretty damn pleased with my design at the time of the order). It was a classic “double-whammy” and I threw caution to the wind and proceeded anyway.

We sports fans are a superstitious lot in general, and when it comes to our favorite squads we need to tread awfully carefully. No one knows this fundamental rule of sports fandom better than me (during Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS against the Astros I refused to turn on any lights in the house as the game shifted from afternoon to evening, move from my seat, or God-forbid remove my rally cap, until the game had ended and the Mets were safely on their way to the World Series — yup all 16 innings and no bathroom break). Which is why I now lament these recent decisions of mine that were so clearly steeped in the emotion of the moment — I’m supposed to know better.

As if on cue, the Mets immediately blew a late 6-1 lead to the Nationals (anyone else still find themselves calling them the Expos by the way, or is that just me?), costing poor Jacob deGrom another win (more on him in a second), but managed to rebound and hover around .500 P.S. (post sneakers) for a week or so.  Now, still only a couple of weeks later, we sit in second place having been humiliated 11-0 this afternoon by the upstart Braves (and swept at home no less), a game and a half behind Atlanta (really??) in the division race. We’ve gone a miserable 5-9 since I hit “send” and placed my order.

So I’m dealing with a couple of thoughts right about now.  The first comes from the logical side of the brain (right side?  I can never remember…), which throws out that tired old chestnut of “if someone told you when spring training began that we’d be in the first week of May and the Mets would be 17-12 and in second place wouldn’t you have been happy?”  Yes, but…

NOT if you told me it would be in the midst of a catastrophic slide brought on solely (no pun intended) by an idiotic sneaker purchase by yours truly.

Anyway, the real thoughts I’m having are simply about how I might redirect this train wreck I’ve personally caused and somehow save the season before it’s too late.  So idea number one revolves around some sort of ritualistic burning of the sneakers in my backyard.  Maybe include an old Jim McAndrew baseball card in the blaze and/or my autographed 8X10 photo of George Theodore (The Stork!).

Idea #2 would be to return to the New Balance site and order customized sneaks of each of our primary rivals contending for  National League supremacy, and rotate wearing a pair whenever the Mets faced off against one of them (thinking Nationals/Expos, Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, D’backs, Rockies, Dodgers, etc.). However I’m afraid the baseball gods would see through that one, plus it’s too expensive and would take more effort than I feel I can expend.

Three, I could try to place the blame at the doorstep of DirecTV and cancel my subscription to that hexed MLB package.  Hahahahaha… I’m sure we can all agree that there is no way they will let me cancel (certainly not with any hopes of recouping my annual fee that was no doubt debited from my account within seconds of me completing my order). Not to mention the apoplexy I’m certain to feel while frantically screaming “REPRESENTATIVE” and “DON’T YOU DARE PUT ME ON HOLD AGAIN” over and over again into my iPhone…I am sweating and feeling shortness of breath just imagining the degree of difficulty involved here.

Sorry my fellow Mets fans, but I suppose we are simply stuck.  I will fall on the sword and take full responsibility going forward every time we see a recurrence of some variation of Jake deGrom hyperextending his elbow (while batting, for chrissakes), or for every headline about Matt Harvey making an ass out of himself (before miraculously finding himself in 2019 while wearing a Yankees uniform and winning 15 games — we know that one is coming, don’t we?), or when we all collectively scratch our heads and wonder how someone with the filthy stuff that Steven Matz possesses in his left arm can possibly stink it up so badly every fifth day — yup, I’m to blame.  The burden is a heavy one, I won’t lie.

I really can only come up with one other viable solution, and even that is a long shot.  I will make one final attempt at “reversing the curse of the orange and blue shoes” using my own secret powers in a quest for good over evil. Many of you close to me are well aware that my frequent predictions often have the unintended effect of causing the exact opposite result of what I anticipate happening to actually happen. Armed with the acknowledgement of that painful reality, let’s see if the following sure-fire prognostications can move the needle for us in a positive way:

*Yoenis Cespedes never gets his average above .250 this year and ends the year with a Granderson-like HR/RBI line of 19/41 (but gets his handicap back to single-digits, which is a good thing since he will have the entire month of October to spend on the links)

*deGrom’s elbow turns out okay, but he breaks a toe covering first on a slow roller to Jay Bruce (playing out of position at first base and making a poor toss behind Jake causing him to lose his balance before breaking the big digit stumbling over the bag) on  Memorial Day weekend.  He returns but is never the same, ending the year with an ERA over 5

*Amed Rosario never hits, but does lead the league in errors, as well as gaining notoriety for having the lamest beard in the National League

*Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton join D’Arnaud and Plawecki on the DL as the Mets set a new MLB record with 5 catchers DL’d at one time (who is the fifth you say?  Why none other than J.T.  Realmuto, who gets shelved only one game after we acquire him for Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith in a trade initially applauded by the masses)

*Brandon Nimmo becomes the Marlins lone representative at the All Star Game after hitting .380 with a .475 OBP following his trade for Realmuto, quickly joining the ranks of Nolan Ryan, Amos Otis, Jeff Reardon and countless others in the pantheon of “great ones that got traded away”

*Dominic Smith balloons back up to 300 pounds as he dives deep into the wonderful culinary delicacies and nightlife of South Beach, while watching his batting average remain below the Mendoza Line for the Marlins despite amassing over 400 AB’s following the trade for Realmuto (sorry but had to include a cheap shot at Smith, since it’s so easy)

*Jeurys Familia is suspended by the team for punching out Dave Eiland after Eiland questions the big closer’s manhood for refusing to throw inside following his 11th blown save of the year in mid-June.  New closer?  Yup, Matt Harvey

*Jose Reyes ends the year as our starting centerfielder following a collision between Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto that lands both players on the DL, while bringing back memories of other great collisions in Mets history, like Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran and Don Hahn and George Theodore (The Stork!)

*Todd Frazier sets a new club mark with his 200th strikeout in late-August, and flips off the fans on his way back to the dugout amidst a chorus of boos streaming from thousands of fans all doing the salt and pepper motion, which months before had morphed into a form of ridicule employed by the Mets faithful to show their disgust for Frazier and his .190 average and 11 dingers

Okay, I think that’s enough. Now let’s hope that all that negative karma combines with my penchant for picking the wrong side of the trade and counteracts the shoe curse before the 2018 season totally gets away from us. Additionally, I will begin thinking about positive predictions I can make about the crosstown Yanks to see if I can transfer all of our recent bad luck over to the Bronx.  Stay tuned and fingers crossed.

*Oh and one more for good measure — Mr. Met proclaims to the world we are #1 once again in 2018!

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Just couldn’t resist that one. But then again, hey, if someone told you back in February that we’d by 17-12 and challenging for the division lead on May 3rd…

Hosing in Salt Lake City (and other NBA musings)

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*Okay, so who out there was rooting for Oklahoma City last night? Didn’t think so.  Outside of the great state of Oklahoma, I can’t imagine there were too many not on the bandwagon of the upstart Jazz. Personally, I was thrilled to see the Thunder go down, had rooted for that outcome heading into the game, and other than my small desire simply to see how the Jazz might respond to a Game 7 on the road (not well was my best guess), there was just so little to like about OKC (hello, Carmelo!). So all the Jazz do is lose their point guard seven minutes in (Rubio already had 3 assists at that point), yet still manage to pull away in the third and hold off the Thunder down the stretch, as the veteran OKC squad desperately tried to stay alive and bring things back home for a 7th game. So I should be happy, but…

But man did the Thunder get jobbed on that non-call at the end.  After what seemed like umpteen OKC attempts at a game-tying three had rimmed out in multiple, agonizing caroms, the unspeakable actually happened.  Gobert fouls George in the act of shooting a three, and a desperate Jazz team was now visibly teetering on the brink.  Except no foul was called, and it was awful.

Would George have converted all three from the stripe and tied the game with almost no time left?  No way to know, although my own opinion is that he would have hit all three despite the fact that he’d suffered through a dreadful shooting night up to that point. Even if he just hits two of three, I saw little chance that the Jazz would go down and execute on the offensive end, and the game seemed to be unequivocally slipping from their grasp.

And how about the official’s post-game explanation that Gobert had jumped to the left and George had leaned into him, thus earning the “no-call?” Nope.  C’mon guys, this was on television! We all saw it. Yeah Gobert jumped left, and yeah, George leaned.  And yeah, a foul should have been called. Yup, it was a hosing of the first degree.

So instead of an agonizing choke for the second game in a row, the Jazz move on into what should be a five-game (maybe 6) series loss to the top-seeded Rockets. And let the finger pointing by the Thunder’s “Big Two and a Half” begin in earnest (tonight’s NY Post Sports online headline:  “Carmelo Anthony is done making sacrifices for Thunder”). Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…I’ll give you $28 million reasons Carmelo doesn’t opt out of that ridiculous contract of his (thank you, Phil Jackson).  It will actually make for a fascinating case study to see what Melo actually does (he says the money’s been made and this is about “figuring out what I want out of the rest of my career, what I want in my future, what am I willing to accept, if I’m willing to accept that at all.” Uh huh).

If he surprises us all and decides to put his legacy where his mouth is and opts out it will be telling to see where he signs.  Who wants him?  Does he really think LeBron will let him tag along wherever he goes in hopes of scabbing a cheap, end-of-career ring? LeBron is a lot of things, but dumb isn’t one of them, and he can’t possibly see how Melo can help him win somewhere, can he?  Can he?

Instead, look for Melo to parlay the one-year and $28 mil remaining into a multi-year deal with a second-tier team looking to sell a few tickets while the rebuild takes hold (Atlanta? Memphis?). Maybe three years, $45 million? Plus a free reign to shoot every time down the court with defensive effort optional?  Sign him up.  Legacy my ass.

Some other thoughts:

*Did anyone else find the Bucks-Celtics series incredibly uninteresting?  I know it’s been an uphill climb of a year for the Celtics, whose two most entertaining players are both out for the season (one since the campaign’s first game), and the fact that they are advancing at all is a huge credit to the guys they are putting on the floor, plus the great coach and strong front office.  But man, wake me when they get eliminated (by Philly in 6 in the next round methinks) will ya? I mean we had a Game 7 tonight and there was never even a question as to the outcome.

I blame the Bucks for that, as you could argue they are every bit as talented as the Jazz, were facing a lesser opponent (Celtics are not as good as the Thunder), but throughout this series looked happy to simply show up at home, while barely competing on the road.  And then quietly and dutifully go home for good, satisfied they’d taken the depleted Celts to 7 games.  So don’t blame the Celtics for winning a blah series, but don’t blame me for not caring.  Even a little. Ugh…

*If Steph Curry never gets back to 100% is he a Hall of Famer? Right now he’s got roughly 14,000 points, a career average of 23.2 points per game and 4000+ assists (just under 7 a game) over 9 seasons.  Oh yeah, and two titles (three if the NBA hadn’t shamelessly given the 2016 title to LeBron and the city of Cleveland).  That’s not a Hall of Fame career, at least at this juncture on statistics alone.  And if foot, ankle and knee woes begin to rob him of his quickness, hamper his ability to play defense, and get off that shot with his usual lightning-quick release, what happens to him?  Give him three more years as an above-average starter playing 65 games a year and averaging low-20’s and he starts to get close to 20,000 points, That, along with the titles (another this year? I’m thinking no…), and now he’s on the doorstep of The Hall. But not yet.

Steph’s lower leg injuries scare me, so let’s take my statistical projections one dramatic step forward and give him five more productive, but injury-riddled years, where he becomes a one-dimensional, spot-up shooter playing 20-25 minutes a game in 55 or so games a year? Now he’s finishing up in more of a Ray Allen-at-the-end type of stat line with 12-14 points a game, thus dropping his overall PPG average closer to 20 for his career and leaving him in a vulnerable spot with respect to The Hall.  He just concluded a regular season where he played in 51 games in his age 29 season, averaging 26.4 points and 6.1 assists. He’s going to be 30 soon and he seems to be taking longer and longer to heal when injured. Hmmmm…

For comparison sake, take a look at another awesome scorer who lit it up for awhile before injuries derailed his statistical juggernaut:

Tracy McGrady:  Hall of Famer. His last big statistical year was when he averaged 24.6 in his age 27 year with Houston in 2006-2007.  The following year he averaged 21.6 and appeared in 66 games.  He then played in 35, 30 and 30 games in the following three years, before rebounding with a role-player type of season for Detroit in 2010-11, averaging 8 points in 23 minutes per over 72 games.  He played one more year and retired with a career 19.6 average and just under 19,000 total points.  And never won a title.  But he got into The Hall. The prevailing sentiment being that when he was at his spectacular best, T-Mac was elite, and the fact that it continued uninterrupted (for the most part) over seven consecutive seasons sealed the deal.

How much are Steph’s titles worth to his legacy?  Says here they are pretty darn important (although adding one more this year would sure be a difference maker).  No title this year and a couple more injury-decimated seasons followed by an early-30’s retirement, and he is no lock.

*Will the Pelicans get swept? What if Boogie Cousins never got hurt? Both tough questions, but I’ll go with “no” and “no playoffs.”

I like how the Pelicans match up with Golden State in this series despite the destruction that’s taking place about 20 miles west of me at Oracle Arena tonight. Yes, in front of 20,000 hysterically gleeful Dubs fans, all clad in gold (yellow, really) t-shirts cheering hard for every three right to the final buzzer.

Rondo and Holiday are a tough backcourt for the Dubs to dominate though, and could steal at least one game on their own.  I’ll also give Anthony Davis one game of dominance and that makes it at least a 6-game series.  Don’t see it going further than that, but those Dubs fans better hope they make it out of this one healthy, as they’ll need all hands on deck for the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, the series we all want to see.

And as for Boogie?  I love the guy.  He’s just so fun to watch, but this is a classic case of the team concept actually being stronger after the elite player goes out with an injury.  The New Orleans system is better with AD having room to roam and let his entire array of freakish skills be on display.  Hard to do that with Boogie needing the ball so much.  I’m afraid the problem is Cousins may actually be one of those guys who’s so much fun to watch but will never take a team all the way (see Wilkins, Dominique; Iverson, Allen; Haywood, Spencer). As much as it would be fun to see him in a Knicks uniform at MSG next year, we can’t.  Simply can’t.  Just can’t.  Please don’t! That is, if we are serious about building a real team that can contend one day.  Sorry Boogie.

*Anyone give the Pacers a chance going into Cleveland for Game 7 tomorrow? Me either. He’s still LeBron. I will bet that Indy gives us a better show than the Bucks did in Boston today, but we haven’t heard the last of The King during this postseason, and my bet is they will also take out the Raptors in Round 2 (and that one won’t go 7). Cleveland beating up on the Raptors will in turn set up my best case scenario in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Philly hosting the Brons (I mean Cavs).  Simmons, Embiid, and company will have to grow up fast in that one, but I feel like we may be witnessing the Ben Simmons Coming Out Party here in May and June of 2018, so look for the year of the Liberty Bell to continue if that one comes off as I expect it to.

In the meantime, look for 44/12/12 from King James tomorrow night, while one of his supporting cast members figures out how to do just enough to push them over the top in a close one (Larry Nance Jr. anyone?).  And oh by the way — short the Pacers next year.  Regression back to the mean for Oladipo and not enough upside going forward for the rest of that roster (except maybe Sabonis).  Fun while it lasted, but good night Indiana.

 

Three Quick Hits Across the Sports Spectrum

Football:  Okay, I’ll just say it.  How will the Jets foul up tonight’s draft? My worries center around the two teams drafting in front of them, the Browns and Giants.  If there is one franchise that can outdo the Jets in terms of shooting themselves in the foot, it’s the Browns.  So I anticipate them starting things off with the unexpected.  Like maybe they take Barkley (kicking off office pools all across Cleveland as to which preseason game will he suffer the major knee injury during), causing the Giants to trade down out of the 2-hole.  Pick-a-name takes the Giants spot at #2 (Bills maybe?) and takes Mayfield.  So do the Jets go for Broadway Sam at that point?  Or do they pull a Johnny Lam Jones 2.0 and draft the guard out of Notre Dame, figuring the Teddy Bridgewater regime is ready to roll.  Look for the unexpected in the draft’s first half hour and here’s hoping the Jets just stay steady and by accident they end up with Mayfield or Darnold (last what if — Browns take Darnold #1 and the Giants trade down, leaving some other team to come and take Mayfield #2.  Now what?  Logical thinking says Rosen becomes a Jet, and I like Rosen, but…we are the Jets and didn’t the kid have two concussions last year at UCLA?  It’s not easy being green…)

Basketball:  What a gut check for the Thunder last night at home agains the Jazz!  I have to admit I turned it off when the lead got to 25 in Utah’s favor in the 3rd.  So Billy Donovan opted for the go-simple approach from there — let his two stars win it, and they did.  Notice I said two.  Russ and Paul George are true beasts. Melo will be more and more of a ghost to the extent that the playoffs continue for OKC. And that’s the only way they pull this thing out. Of real interest to me though, is how the Jazz bounce back in Game 6 at home.  To me, this is by far the most interesting first-round series going, and I can’t help but wonder if the young Jazz had too much, too soon, what with their blazing finish to the regular season and then going up 3-1 (and by 25 points in the 3rd quarter of Game 5).  We will learn a lot about this highly entertaining squad in Game 6, as I give them ZERO chance to go back to Oklahoma for a Game 7 and pull it out. Here’s hoping I don’t have to hunt for NBA TV to watch Game 6 tomorrow night!

Baseball:  What’s up with Kershaw?  Six walks against the Marlins last night?  Man…something smells wrong in DodgerTown right about now.  Maybe it’s Matt Kemp.  It kind of seems like anything he touches goes the wrong way, even when he plays well.  And all the feel good stories from a year ago seem a little askew right about now.  Bellinger with a gaping hole in his swing; Wood no longer unbeatable; Turner still out; Kanley looking like all those innings have caught up to him — logic tells me there’s too much talent on the roster for them not at least get a Wild Card, but the NL West is the league’s toughest division this year, and if Clayton isn’t right I don’t see another ace emerging to lead them out of the wilderness.  Stay tuned.

Unbreakable

I had one heckuva blog post all ready to go at about 12:12 eastern time last night/this morning (midnight, in other words), when a combination of bad luck and my sorely lacking  technical skills conspired to delete the post as well as my futile attempt to save it in this thing called “the cloud.”. Given the hour and my inability to retain thoughts all that much longer than it takes to type them into my trusty laptop, that one is history. Gone, goodbye.

However, I do remember the gist of how I had ended things right around 12:13 a.m.  I had concluded the post with my list of the Five Unbreakable Records of Major League Baseball.  As with everything associated with The Sports Attic, these are my own biased opinions, and I’m interested in any and all other records you may consider the equals of these five.  Here they are:

  1. Cy Young’s 511 wins.  This one isn’t even worth debating and should lead off everyone’s list.  The bigger question today may be is there currently an active pitcher who will get to 300 wins?  Or, will we see another 300-gamewinner in our lifetime? My answers to those two questions are “no” and “yes” (hoping for a long life, which I will surely need if I expect to be here for the next Knicks championship parade).
  2. Cal Ripken’s 2632 consecutive games played streak.  No one approaches half of this record total ever again.  And yes, “ever ” is a long time for sure, but no one will get halfway.  Ever.
  3. Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak.  I remember Pete Rose getting to 44 and it seemed like if anyone could handle the pressure and grind it was him.  Nope.  Today’s bullpen specialization makes this one impossible to break.
  4. Hack Wilson’s 191 RBI’s in 1930.  This is like a video game number.  And by the way, this record was always 190, but somehow in the late-1990’s MLB added another ribbie to the Hacker, taking his current total to 191.  Nice to see that even Hack Wilson benefitted from inflated power numbers during the steroid era!
  5. Johnny Vänder Meer’s two consecutive no-hitters.  This is somewhat of a trick stat (and also one of my favorites to dish out at cocktail parties if I can manage to steer the conversation to arcane baseball stats), as someone could come along one day and throw two no-no’s in a row, but that would only tie the record, not break it.  I strongly believe it will never be equalled (“never” is a long time, too, by the way), but without a doubt no one comes along and breaks”Double No-Hit Johnny’s” mark with three no-hitters in a row.

I had stumbled upon the idea discussing MLB’s most unbreakable records after going through a favorite airplane exercise of mine, which is annualizing out early season stats to see what trends (or preposterous run rates) form at certain mileposts of the season. The 20-game mark is a good one, as there is enough critical mass to see a little of both, plus the math is pretty easy (the only kind of math I choose to engage in these days), as you just take the stats today and multiply by 8 to get roughly to that 160 game season total needed for comparison-sake.

So for example, Johnny Cueto (who won his second decision the other day) is currently on track for 16 wins for the Giants, possibly signaling a bounce back year for him.  At the same time, Patrick Corbin is on track for 32 wins.  Not only is that one preposterous, but coupled with his absurd comments in yesterday’s New York Post about wanting to be a Yankee one day so he can be part of a playoff team (huh?), immediately moved him to the front of my line of people to root against for the remainder of this baseball season.

Someone needs to tell Mr. Corbin that his Diamondbacks have the best record in the Senior Circuit (a few games better than his beloved Yanks, by the way) and were a playoff team last year.  I can envision the Post being passed around the Arizona locker room as I type this with a whole lot of head shaking going on.  He best keep up his Dizzy Dean impersonation circa 1934, as those kind of quotes don’t fly for a .500 pitcher (which, by the way, is what Corbin’s history tells us he is).

The stat that got me going down the road of unbreakable records using my “times 8” theory though, was seeing Didi Gregorious currently on track for 192 RBI’s.  Preposterous and absurd? Absolutely and also the result of a scorching start by the guy who replaced Derek Jeter (and seems poised to extend the torture session Jeter annually inflicted upon Mets fans another 10 years or so).  Which makes Hack Wilson’s 191 RBI record all the more impressive, as taking the hottest start in MLB this year, annualizing it out (with a slight boost, as the Bombers have actually played 21 games thus far in 2018) still only barely bests Wilson’s all-time mark.

But enough of that, because thinking about baseball’s unbreakable records took tonight’s  new and improved blog in a new direction. If we turn our attention to the other major sports, what are their unbreakable marks, and do they matter to us fans as much as the MLB records do? My quick answer is sort of in certain instances, but generally much less so.

I love the history of baseball and how the statistics allow us to compare players of different eras with at least the semblance of a level playing field baseline to begin the debate.  My disdain for those who were the main villains of the Steroid Era comes primarily from the statistical distortion it threw into this sacred historical perspective (that and the fact that somehow the worst offenders also seemed to be the biggest assholes in the game at the time — Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens. They messed up history, so hell yeah keep them out of the HOF as far as I’m concerned, even if I would let Rose and Shoeless Joe in tomorrow if given a vote).  Topic for another post.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the two other major sports (remember, I’m sorry but just not capable of speaking intelligently on the NHL, but guessing Gretzky probably has some stats that would have made their way into this post if I were), and see what records achieve  “unbreakable” status.  We’ll begin with the NFL, because it’s easier.

  1. Sorry NFL fans — in this age of readjusting rules annually to drive whatever may impact television ratings most positively, you simply can’t put any record in the out of reach category.  That is the short answer, but we did say five, soooo…
  2. As a kid when O.J. Simpson rushed for 2003 yards in only 14 games during the 1973 season I thought that would ever be equalled. Not only was it, but it was bested by great, but not iconic, backs like Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson (and even a “who’s that guy” named Jamal Lewis).  Barry Sanders beat it, too, but he was iconic.
  3. Dan Marino’s 1984 season was the best I ever witnessed by a QB.  He threw 48 touchdown passes before the rules were overwhelmingly stacked in the QB’s and receiver’s favor.  And even if the guys that came along years later and topped him were true Mount Rushmore types (as an aside, my Mount Rushmore of all-time NFL QB’s are Brady, Manning, Unitas, Namath…uh, I mean, Montana), I’m not convinced someone like Marcus Mariota, a good not great QB, won’t have a season where the moon, stars, offensive rules changes and right offensive coordinator all align into a 55 TD season.  Could happen.
  4. Emmit Smith’s career rushing record?  C’mon.  Barry Sanders would have blown by that if he hadn’t walked away when he did.  Look for Saquon Barkley at the top of this list one day.
  5. Okay, I will throw this out there, but it is with high levels of trepidation.  Jerry Rice caught 1549 balls for over 22,000 yards.  Today those totals rank number one by a solid margin.  Unbreakable?  Maybe, but dangerous terrain trying to call any NFL stat that is forward-pass-related unbreakable in today’s NFL.

Okay, so “unbreakable” doesn’t really apply to the NFL.  What about the NBA? This is really a Wilt Chamberlain discussion, as The Dipper posted such extreme numbers early in his career that most of his records will never be challenged, but still worth a look:

  1. We all have to immediately go to Wilt’s 100 point game (against the Knicks, of course, but no he wasn’t defended by Carmelo Anthony, or he would have gotten to at least 110). Is it unbreakable?  Welllll…a brittle and old Kobe Bryant scored 60 in the final game of his career, didn’t he? Of all of Wilt’s records, this is the one I can’t say with 100 percent conviction won’t get broken.  In today’s NBA, where stars are universally supported and promoted by the league, protected by the refs and idolized by the role players, is it too far fetched to imagine that LeBron might one day wake up and decide he wants to break Wilt’s single-game points record?  So Bron posts his intentions on Twitter, informs the Cavs front office and coaches this is going to happen, and with enthusiastic support from both his teammates and opponents (none of whom would want to do anything to alienate The King and risk the chance to one day wave the towel for him at the end of the Cavs bench), goes out and scores exactly 101.  Sorry, but could happen.  SMH.
  2. In Wilt’s third year in Philly he averaged 50.4 points per game.  Even Russ Westbrook can’t touch that one.  Yes, unbreakable
  3. In Wilt’s second year in the league he averaged 27.2 rebounds per game.  That one’s safe, too.  And I don’t care how bad the league’s collective shooting percentage was in the early-’60’s,  this one is mind boggling.
  4. And to finish this off, Wilt had 55 rebounds in a game in that same second season. Talk about bucking the whole Sophomore Jinx storyline. That record has zero risk of being broken.
  5. Despite those first four phenomenal records (three of which are unequivocally unbreakable), my personal favorite Wilt stat has nothing to do with points or rebounds.  In 1961-62 he averaged 48.5 minutes per game. He played every minute in 79 of the 82 games that year.  Add in overtime games and he actually averaged more than a full game played a night.  Unreal.

If you are ever bored go to NBA.com and hit up the list of records Wilt holds. It just goes on, and on, and on…

Michael Jordan remains the greatest NBA player I’ve ever seen (footnote that I only caught the tail end of Chamberlain’s career), but Wilt’s stats are absolutely staggering.

So while I may not have been able to recapture last night’s blog now currently drifting aimlessly in cyberspace, this one gives you the core concepts — Five Unbreakable MLB Records, “Times 8” philosophy for looking at standings and box scores at the 20-game mark of the baseball season, root agains Patrick Corbin, Hack Wilson was an absolute beast — I think that about covers it.

Topps Time Machine — Destination 1972

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Who remembers Walt Williams?  If you do, you probably can’t help but insert his nickname here — “No Neck.”  I’ve been killing some time recently going back to the days of my youth by leafing through old baseball card albums and shoe boxes that used to be prominently stored in my boyhood closet (in fact, when I remember those days of the early ’70’s, there was a curious dichotomy between the complete chaos of all things strewn about my bedroom, and the meticulous system of order I had put in place to properly classify my baseball cards).

As I look through these cards today I find it fascinating to compare and contrast the reactions I have now versus those I recall having had as a kid. The ballplayers captured back in the 1972 Series were all 20 to 30 years older than I was, and today those same stars, benchwarmers and solid major leaguers are all 20 to 30 years younger than I am.  Circle of life, or something?

So when I look today, I fondly recall the uber-cool nickname of Walt “No Neck” Williams, but I can’t help but find it puzzling why no one took a look at Ed Brinkman’s 1972 Topps card and began calling him Ed “Long Neck” Brinkman.  Or Ed “Two Necks” Brinkman.  In fact, if I was either the Tigers or White Sox GM back in the day (by the way, to this day I consider being the General Manager of a major league baseball team to be the absolute most desirable profession going — something current-me has in common with 7-year-old-me), I most certainly would have orchestrated a trade to add one to the other, or maybe for each other, just for the “neck comparison.”

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I mean, come on, take a look at Brinkman!  Missed opportunity all around back in ’72. And while on the subject, Brinkman actually had a well above-average career, spent mostly with the Senators and Tigers, with a plus glove and occasional pop as well (14 HR’s in ’74).  What happened to those days when the shortstop was an automatic out?  I kind of miss those slick fielding, choke-up-the-bat and hope-for-the-best shortstops of the early-’70’s.  In my preferred division, the NL East, at that time the starting short stops included our beloved Buddy Harrelson, Don Kessinger in Chicago, Dal Maxvill for the Cards and Larry Bowa for the Phils.  Over in the NL West you had Roger Metzger in Houston and Sonny Jackson in Atlanta.  Punch and Judy’s all around.

Slot that skinny guy into the 8-hole in the order and pencil in a .225 average with 2 homers and 37 RBI’s over the course of 500+ AB’s and call it a day.  No Cal Ripkens or A-Rods back then, and there was something that felt right about that if you ask me.

But I digress.  Flipping through those ’72’s, there seems today to be so many untold backstories dying for a caption practically jumping out of the staged batting stances and defensive ready positions that the Topps photography teams used for their shoots in the early ’70’s.  For instance, let’s start with poor Lee May for a second.

In 1970 he was an anchor in the middle of the order for the initial version of the Big Red Machine. He absolutely mashed NL pitching and helped lead the Reds to the World Series (in Sparky Anderson’s first year as Reds manager), where they lost to a scary good Orioles team. In 1971 he followed that up by finishing third in the NL in round trippers during what was a down year for nearly all of his Reds teammates.  They finished under .500 and May was basically the only guy who didn’t take a notable step back in his stats.

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So how do the Reds reward him?  Yup, they traded him.  And didn’t just trade him, but sent him to what at that time was a hopeless outpost of desperation — Houston. Now full disclosure here — the Reds got Joe Morgan in return for May and Tommy Helms (another above-average middle infielder back in the day), but he wasn’t Joe Morgan the Hall of Famer at that point in his career, so you really can’t blame Lee if he was a bit bewildered when the Topps team arrived on the scene that spring.

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If that expression on poor Lee May’s face doesn’t say “you traded me where???” then I don’t know what does.  And in classic Topps style, I’m pretty sure that the Astros logo on Lee’s helmet was painted in by the team back at the lab.  Yup, Lee May.  To his credit he kept on hitting, even in the Astrodome in front of crowds of 11,000 or so, but it was never the same for ole Lee.

A couple of others I found funny.  Take a look at the expression on Bobby Valentine’s face here.  In the spring of ’72 he was being touted as the next great Dodger, and everyone had high expectations (including I’m sure Bobby V) for what he would accomplish in Dodger Blue.

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As sure as Lee May looked to me like he was about to burst into tears in his 1972 Topps card, the inimitable Bobby V is clearly announcing himself to the world in his card (by the way, I was always a fan of the “backhand reach” pose that Topps frequently used with middle infielders) with his best “Hey, look at me!” smile.  With the benefit of 45 years of history now at our disposable, what we can say with certainty is that the baseball world was getting an early glimpse at someone who would go on to distinguish himself as one of MLB’s biggest horse’s asses, first as a player and later as a manager (and yes, he got us to the 2000 series, but he also put on a fake nose and mustache in the dugout once, too — defense rests).

Not to be outdone, Billy Martin’s 1972 Topps offering speaks volumes.

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Take a close look at Billy’s left hand resting on the bat.  Yup, he’s flipping Topps (and I suppose both 7-year-old me and 50-something-year-old me) the bird!  And again, armed with the benefit of the historical rearview mirror, we just know that’s no accident. While Bobby Valentine’s shit-eater of a smile only foreshadowed years of all-about-me, smartest-guy-in-the-dugout narcissism, Martin’s middle finger salute simply confirmed what all who had witnessed both his playing and managerial career to date in 1972 already knew — he was one of the all-time great jackasses of the game.

Only a couple more.  This seemingly harmless Dave Duncan card contains a jewel for those interested in obscure statistical anomalies.  Duncan was an above-average catcher with some pop for several great A’s teams, including their first World Series winner in 1972. However, he is perhaps best known for becoming one of the game’s most esteemed pitching coaches following the conclusion of his playing career, primarily working his magic on championship staffs managed by Tony LaRussa in Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis.  But for baseball wonks like yours truly, here’s what caught my eye:

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In 1969 Dave Duncan recorded 127 AB’s for the A’s and hit .126.  Really?? He hit .126 and stuck around for over 120 AB’s??  Today he doesn’t last more than 10 games with that stat line, but back then the catchers were in the lineup for their gloves/arms and for the pitchers.  So you could appear in more than a third of your team’s games (58 in 1969 for Duncan) and not hit a lick.  Wow, not sure why this strikes me as amazing, but it does.

While on the subject of those great A’s teams of the early ’70’s, was there a cooler pitcher (heck, was there a cooler Major Leaguer) than Vida Blue?  From his name itself (kudos to his parents for coming up with “Vida”), to his off-the-hook 1971 stats as essentially a rookie (only 312 IP, 24-8 record with a 1.82 ERA and 8 shutouts, not to mention 301 K’s) that earned him both MVP and Cy Young awards, the guy was just bad ass.  Plus he could hit reasonably well for a pitcher and chose to run off the mound at the end of the inning during a time when starters always walked back to the dugout (shout out to Mel Stottlemeyer who also ran as I recall — I’m sure there are others, but I just remember Vida Blue and Mel).

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And yes, this is the 1971 Topps (my personal favorite by the way, for those awesome black borders), and even though a year prior to my 1972 Time Machine destination, it just had to make it into this post for the peace sign (or at least what I like to think today was a peace sign).  Vida is still kicking around the Bay Area these days, primarily as a community ambassador for the Giants, with whom he resurrected his career in the late-’70’s, and he is roundly revered by all as simply a great guy, but to me he will always be an A’s starter with that peace sign in the air. Yup, so cool.

Last note from the Time Machine.  It’s interesting what memories get jogged loose when stepping back in time to another era.  Who remembers Cleo James?

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Guessing this may be a darn small fan club.  Most of us baseball fans have that one game they remember that got them hooked.  Mine was on June 23, 1970 (thanks once again to Baseballreference.com for taking a random memory and finding the exact game when it took place), when the Mets were in the process of winning an exceptionally exciting afternoon tilt in extra innings against the Cubs, 12-10.  My memorable moment took place in the 5th, when the Cubs erased an 8-5 Mets lead with a rally that included a speedy Cleo James racing around from first on a Randy Hundley double to tie things at 8.

It was a bang-bang- play at the plate and as the ump signaled safe I raced off screaming to my parents about the injustices of my Mets losing a BIG lead (more foreshadowing here Mets fans about what my future as a diehard would so frequently feel like) and that the WORST PART was that the Cubs player who tied the game was CLEON JAMES.

Not the at-the-time clean shaven Cleon Jones of the Mets, but a faster, cooler Cleon who was part of the hated Cubs (did every team have a “Cleon” I wondered?), and who had just ruined my afternoon! I’m not sure which was more frustrating to me at the time, the loss of the lead or the patronizing way my parents tried to tell me I must be mistaken about the identity of the Cub who had scored.

There surely could not be another Cleon in the league, let alone one with the last name “James,” so similar to our Cleon’s, they explained to me. Try as I might, all I got was that “isn’t he cute” reaction that made me want to start kicking grownup shins with reckless abandon.  The fact that the following morning’s Star Ledger sports column and recap vindicated me (sort of, since his name was Cleo, not Cleon) did little to ease the pain.  At least the Mets had come back and won in extras. And I was hooked as a Mets fan and remember that sequence to this day.

Fast forward to May 1, 1972, somewhere near Madison, NJ.  My friend Roddy’s birthday party (he was a year younger than me and also a fledgling card collector and baseball fan, although through some bad decision-making ended up a fan of the Yankees) included a “colored peanut scavenger hunt” with peanuts painted colors spread around Roddy’s yard to be collected by the dozens of party attendees, with corresponding points allotted for the various colors, and totals to be tallied at the end (of course anyone reading knows the real reason for the hunt was so the kids would be tired and sleep on the car ride home).  Being a year older than most of Roddy’s other friends counted for a lot at that age, and somehow my peanut colors added up to the most points.

To this day I remember my Aunt Alida smiling at me as she came outside with the prize (she had a great smile, my Aunt Alida), saying “I had a feeling you might win something today” before tossing me one of those super, three-pack, clear plastic covered Topps packages. This was the Magnus Opus for us card collectors, and what made those “three-packs” particularly awesome was the whole see-through thing, meaning you could get an idea of which ballplayers were waiting for you inside those plastic vaults.  And on top of that first sleeve, there in all his glory, was Cleo James.  Still have the card above, and will always have that memory.

If you are sitting on any old cards and have some time to kill (or maybe a mood that needs to be turned around), I recommend getting into that Time Machine and seeing where it takes you.  Nothing but good destinations await.

 

Three Unrelated Things

1.Farewell Bruno Sammartino.

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Sometimes an obscure news item can transport one in time.  I hadn’t thought about good ole Bruno and his WWWF championship reign that kicked off my early-teen years of the late-’70’s in what seems like forever. Wrestling was way, way, way off the grid back then. Those were the days of of sleepovers with buddies and trying to catch a few squared-circle matchups airing after midnight on WOR Channel 9 in the New York area.

Vince McMahon (my gosh, how old is he??) was host and announcer, and often the butt of crude jokes from the mouths of bad guy managers like “Classy” Freddy Blassie (“you pencil neck geek!”) and Captain Lou Albano. They were the larger than life characters that made hating the bad guys in all their “beer-belly hanging over their tights” glory (often with foreign objects tucked just out of sight of the easy to fool refs)  so easy for us young and impressionable fans.

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These days WWE has become a mainstream, multi-billion dollar industry with huge television and merchandising deals, and it is all too easy for me to turn up my nose at those fanatics who tune in to all these staged extravaganzas.  Which is why it was healthy for me to get sent back to that time in my youth.  I was all in back then. I bought the magazines, my friends and I mimicked the moves (my buddy Palmer had a great Chief Jay Strongbow face — “the chief is confused!”) and we rooted hard for our favorites as if we were talking Mets and Yanks (does anyone else remember scouring the Star Ledger sports section for that small, buried paragraph on a Monday morning with the results from Saturday night’s card at Madison Square Garden that had finished too late to make it into the Sunday editions?).

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It was good, clean fun, before girls, beer, etc. starting trumping WOR’s late-night programming on Saturday nights.  And Bruno was the king.  I remember fans crying legitimate tears when he finally lost the title (and me vehemently disputing the fact that it was all choreographed and “fake” with the nay-saying older kids in the neighborhood).

My guess is if you are reading this you can relate, whether you were a fan of that vacant look on George “The Animal” Steele’s face as his enormous tongue hung from a corner of his crooked mouth, or one who crowed “Polish Power” at the top of your lungs when Ivan Putski hurdled the top rope and made his entrance into the ring, or if you thought it was cool that Superstar Billy Graham’s manager (The Grand Wizard of Wrestling!) slathered baby oil on his overinflated biceps pre-bout (kinda just creepy today, but then again, the Grand Wizard was big-time creepy).  It was an hour of pure entertainment.  Thanks for the memories Bruno.

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2. Not sold on the salt and pepper thing.  Tonight’s Mets comeback win against the Nationals was inspiring.  Maybe we have something here with this 2018 squad.  They don’t quit, the high character guys brought in over the winter are certainly panning out thus far, and (knock wood, knock wood, knock wood) the starting pitching could actually meet the lofty expectations of a year ago.

My one gripe (admittedly more of a gripe when we were down 4-2 after 7 tonight, than after we put up the 9-spot in the 8th) is this whole salt and pepper rallying symbol.  Sorry but it seems contrived to me. And while I really like what Todd Frazier has brought to the club (is there a Mets fan out there not psyched to have a real third-baseman in the lineup, and that the “David Wright could be back soon” charade is a thing of the past?), I feel like he came up with the salt and pepper idea sitting in a conference room sipping a latte with his agent back in January.

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As much as I despise the Yankees, the whole “thumbs down” thing for them in 2017 was arrived at organically.  It was funny, just happened one day (at the expense of a stereotypically bitter Mets fan no less) and ended up being a legit “thing.”  The fact that Frazier got the ball rolling on that one makes me even more skeptical this season.  Is he now the “symbol guy.”  Handing out t-shirts?  We haven’t played game 20 out of 162 yet.  Sure, maybe we’ll play .700 ball throughout the season with no prolonged slumps, but I just have the feeling that at some point this could become an awkward albatross hanging over the clubhouse.

I mean, what if a couple of pitchers go down, Cespedes and Rosado topple over in a golf cart on an off day and Familia reverts to his 2017 form, not the 2015 reincarnation we are currently witnessing?  Say we are 55-70 in August (God forbid, but not completely unrealistic), and 10 games out of the wild card?  Do we still grind the pepper when we get a two-out base hit? Hopefully I’m dead wrong and simply stuck in that purgatory familiar to any Mets fan fearful of getting expectations too high after a good start.  I know, I know, I’ll probably be doing the darn thing by next week if the winning continues, but just sayin’.

3. If you are Billy Donovan, what do you do about Carmelo as this first-round series with the Jazz turns into a dogfight back in Salt Lake City? The Jazz are young, strong and fast. They play great team defense and move the ball well on offense, with this rookie Mitchell kid announcing to the NBA that his regular season wasn’t a fluke (even though he still finishes second in the Rookie of the Year poll — Ben Simmons is a beast). Down the stretch tonight, with the Thunder AT HOME, it looked like four on five when the Jazz had the ball.  Oklahoma City is that disadvantaged on the defensive end, and that’s with George, a plus-plus defender, on the court. And what’s (almost) sad is that this isn’t about Carmelo’s lack of effort on D anymore, it’s his absolute lack of ability.

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I’ve always felt the Melo just didn’t care about defense (see photo above, beautifully illustrating what we Knicks fans witnessed on the defensive end during his tenure in NYC), but tonight it became apparent that he just can’t keep up.  And on offense he literally heaved two god-awful three-point attempts as the game clock was winding down and the Thunder were still hanging on to a final shred of hope.  He just can’t be the guy taking those shots anymore, especially not with Russ and Paul out there in full stud mode.

Donovan is cursed with a thin bench (that’s how you acquire the Paul Georges and Melos these days, by giving up your depth), and removing Anthony entirely would be met with lots of criticism from the jersey-buying, towel-waving Thunder fans who think they still have Melo from five years ago.  I stand by my call that if (and after tonight it appears a HUGE if) the Thunder escape the first round and ultimately face the Warriors that they will beat the Dubs.  The matchups work for them, but Melo needs to become part of the second unit — a late-in-his-career Bob McAdoo 2.0 — who can fill it up in spurts when their Big Two are getting a blow.  And that’s it.

Will be interesting, but having Carmelo on the floor when the game is hanging in the balance will cost Donovan and the Thunder this series.

Who Are These Guys?

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You know what they say about good intentions.  As I set out planning my last post on MLB Brothers, my intention was to sprinkle in a few photos of one or two of the more obscure players I’d be bringing up over the course of that day’s discussion.  For example, the handsome devil above is none other than Henry Mathewson (aka Christy’s brother).  Projected as the batting practice pitcher on my All-Time MLB Brothers squad, a photo insert of young Henry circa  1906 would have added a little something extra to my post.  Not that my obscure references to hazy childhood memories aren’t already scintillating enough, that is.

Cleon Jones Pic

Unfortunately, I am a tech dinosaur. I blame it solely on lack of training. In fact, my high school graduating class was the final one able to escape graduation, diploma in hand, without having to take a mandatory computer science class.  And it shows.  Case in point, I recently allowed my euphoria over the launch of the Sports Attic blog to motivate me to drive to the local Apple store and purchase a new laptop. All the better to allow for posting arcane tidbits while channel surfing through multiple, simultaneously-scheduled sporting events.  That was about two weeks ago, and with the exception of the flukey insert of the Cleon Jones “mustache” card (above) from the 1975 Topps series in my inaugural blog entry, I’ve been flummoxed in my attempts to add pictures and photos ever since.

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But look at me now (although I shaved at least year off my life expectancy with today’s second visit to the Apple store for instruction from an impatient 22-year-old technician)!  Above you see Gary Gentry, the actual starter of the first Mets game I ever attended (in 1971, not 1972 as I had erroneously believed for only 40 years or so), alongside Jim McAndrew (the guy I thought had been the starting pitcher that day). As previously noted, I never liked McAndrew for no particular reason, and the idea that he was the first starter I ever witnessed for the Mets at Shea was just…so…wrong.

I have to say that while neither had storied careers, the move to Gentry and away from McAndrew in my memory bank is actually a significant  uptick to my “first game story,” and I’m feeling overall pretty good about this late-in-life realization (thank you Baseballreference.com). Not only did Gentry figure in the backstory of the infamous Nolan Ryan trade, but also was part of the key trade that led to the Mets facing off against the A’s in the 1973 World Series, when he and Danny Frisella were traded to Atlanta for Felix Millan and George Stone before the 1973 season. It remains to this day one of the few trades the Mets executed on during my childhood that was lopsided in our favor.

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Which, perhaps more importantly to yours truly, allowed the smooth-fielding second-baseman Millan to turn double-plays with my second favorite Met player of that era, Teddy Martinez (above). Martinez actually had 263 AB’s in that World Series year of 1973, and another 334 in ’74 before moving on to the Cardinals. So he was a relevant contributor to those Mets rosters, but never as relevant as on that July day in 1971 when he absolutely owned the Houston Astros and their young starting pitcher, Ken Forsch.

And of course none of these discoveries would matter at all if I didn’t somehow remember over all these years that it was the lesser Forsch brother, Ken, on the hill against us in that first game of mine back in ’71.  And I remembered him simply because he was a “brother,” thus earning him and younger brother Bob consideration for my All-Time MLB Brother team. That they didn’t make the cut over Christy and Henry Mathewson, among other HOF brother pairings, is really besides the point.

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So there it is.  Look for more photos going forward, and if I get really ambitious I’ll figure out how to have each player’s name become a hyperlink (I think that’s the term?) that will take the reader upon clicking it to the player’s lifetime stats.  And then we’ll move onto video clips, music, movies — the possibilities are absolutely endless!  Maybe Morristown High School was onto something when they started making their students take computer classes back in the ’80’s.

 

Baseball’s Best Bros

Funny how the mind plays tricks on us when we get to a certain age.  For years I’ve had etched in my memory that the first major league baseball game I attended was a matchup between the Mets and Astros at Shea Stadium back in 1972. What I remembered most clearly from that day was an extremely long trip to the ballpark (that included a car, train, subway and path ride), that I got to pick one friend to join us (Ricky Ruffino from the down the street), that my father almost careened over a railing in pursuit of a foul ball, and that Teddy Martinez had a big day at the plate.  Oh, and that the starting pitchers were Jim McAndrew for the Mets and Ken Forsch for the Astros.  In my mind, those facts were incontrovertible.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  I decided to look up the boxscore on Baseball Reference.com (my new all-time favorite website), and refresh my memory on the more minute details of my first ever game that presently escape me.  Well it seems that while Forsch did start one game against the Mets in 1972, it was against Jon Matlack for the Mets.  I know Matlack didn’t start “my” game, because I also vividly recall having to mask my disappointment that it was one of the Mets “other” starters (McAndrew) on the hill for us that day (any fellow Mets fans from those days understand what I mean by “other”). To cement my certainty that the ’72 game wasn’t the one I was looking for, I only had to see that Buddy Harrelson started at short for New York and that Teddy Martinez didn’t even get into the game.

So I moved it back a year and checked our tilts against the ‘Stros in 1971.  Sure enough, there was Forsch starting a Sunday afternoon game in late July.  It made perfect sense, as my family would have likely only made the trip from New Jersey to Flushing on a weekend, plus there was Teddy Martinez starting at short and going 3-4 that day.  The ah hah moment for me, though, was that the game’s starting pitcher for my Mets was Gary Gentry, not McAndrew.

Yeah, I recall not liking Gentry much as a kid, and yeah he was one of the “other” starters of the staff (meaning he wasn’t Tom Terrific or Jerry Koosman).  There isn’t the time right now to go into how if I had known then as I watched Gentry start my maiden MLB voyage that that same Gary Gentry would be the guy the Mets would choose to hold onto the following spring, when ultimately deciding to part ways with Nolan Ryan, I would have hated him even more, and this whole sketchy memory issue would be moot.  But Nolan was still on the roster in 1971, and Gentry was just one of the “other” starting pitchers (although he had clinched the Mets first division title back in September of 1969 with a shutout of the Cardinals).

This McAndrew/Gentry realization shook me for a variety of reasons.  One, I tend to conclude that anything I remember is a stone-cold-lock of a fact.  Two, in my baseball fandom rearview mirror, I had for years been somewhat critical of my parents that it took them all the way to the 1972 season to get me out to Shea (1971 was actually about right as I think about it now, as I had arrived on my Mets lifetime bandwagon in 1970).  And three, what if I didn’t have the Ken Forsch part of the equation right?  I mean, I had McAndrew wrong, so why was I right on Forsch, an unremarkable innings-eater for forgettable Astros ball clubs throughout the ’70’s?

The answer is because he had a brother.  Bob Forsch of the Cardinals.  A slightly better (yet still unremarkable, other than for throwing a no-hitter — on opening day I think?) version of Ken who came on the MLB scene a couple of years later.  As a kid I was always fascinated by brothers in the big leagues.  I didn’t have a brother, and the idea just seemed so cool.  So Ken Forsch being a part of that fraternity of MLB brothers is what allowed me to correct and galvanize the proper details and memories of that first game of mine all those years ago.  And for the record, the game in question was played July 25th, 1971 (the day after my mom’s birthday, which I’m sure made the day even more fun and festive for us).  Attendance was 28,776 (still riding the championship attendance spike from ’69 for sure), and the Mets won, 7-6.  Cleon Jones (pre-mustache) hit his 10th homer for the Mets and Joe Morgan hit one out for the Astros (how do I NOT remember that??).

Anyway, the whole experience got me thinking about who were the best brother combinations, BY POSITION, in MLB history.  And like most posts on this blog, my conclusions are simply based on my memory, biases and personal preferences.  In doing some cursory research on this topic, I learned that there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of brothers that have played professional baseball at the highest level.

Narrowing it by position whittles it down considerably, but also poses some unique challenges, such as the fact that I couldn’t come up with a first baseman brother tandem, or one for shortstop.  I tried to shoehorn Carlos May (alongside brother Lee) onto first, but he really was an outfielder throughout his career.  Similarly, it just doesn’t seem right to put Billy Ripken at short just for the sake of getting Cal in the lineup.  Billy was a second baseman (and probably a career minor leaguer if Cal wasn’t his big brother).

The lineup is pitching heavy with lots of outfield options, but the infield is limited, with a couple of obscure selections (even if they are personal favorites) rounding out the squad.  So here goes my All Baseball Bro squad by position:

Catcher:  The Molinas.  No surprise here.  Even if I’ll never forgive Yadier for taking Aaron (effing) Heilman deep to win the 2006 NLCS for the Cards over my Mets, he is a stud and his big brothers would both start for the Mets today if they were in their prime.  No real competition, although I briefly wondered if Frank Torre ever caught?  Doesn’t matter — three Molinas lap the field and then some.

First Base:  Open, but did you know Dick Allen had a brother who played major league ball?  I sooo hoped he had also played some first base, but alas he was an outfielder.  And in an ultimate twist of nepotism fate, he finished his career with the White Sox alongside brother Dick (or was he Richie then?), where he hit .143 in 1972 and .103 (not a typo) in 1973. Yup, Hank Allen.  You can look it up.

Second Base:  This was a tight one between two capable yet mostly forgotten brother pairs — the Andrews brothers and the Doyles.  I opted for the Andrews brothers simply to bring up the ’73 World Series.  Mike Andrews joined the A’s at the tail end of the ’73 season (18 AB’s) to provide depth in the infield.  He was at the end of his career, but in his prime had some highly productive years, mostly for the Red Sox.  So he gets in Game 2 and boots a couple of balls for errors in the 12th inning, directly leading to the A’s 10-7 loss, evening the series one game apiece.  The teams then had an off day to travel cross country back to New York for Game 3, but A’s owner and nefarious villain, Charlie Finley, tries to “fire” Andrews for his transgressions at second before he can board the plane back east.  The A’s players pushed back, the press had an awesome story to fill in the off day void, and Andrews became the only A’s player to receive applause during introductions at Shea once he was reinstated for the beginning of the 3rd game.  He retired at the conclusion of the series, but he got his ring.  His brother Rob came up a couple of years later and played second for the Astros and Giants.  Apologies to Denny and Brian Doyle, but the Andrews/Finley saga is just too much fun.

Shortstop: Open, but maybe the Seagers make this one happen one day?

Third Base:  The Boyer Brothers by a landslide.  Ken did it all for some tremendous Cardinals teams of the 1960’s, while his brother Clete had one of the all-time great gloves at the hot corner for some solid Braves teams (plus you just gotta include a dude named “Clete” whenever possible).  Honorable mention to Graig Nettles and Jim Nettles.  Needed a little more from Jim, though, to get in this conversation more seriously.

Outfield: This one is fun.  You have to start with the gold standard — Joe, Vince and Dom DiMaggio.  Joltin’ Joe has had plenty written about him, but take a look at Dom’s stats when you have a minute. From 1941 to 1951 the youngest Dimaggio brother absolutely mashed AL pitching for the Sawx.  And Vince (the oldest) had some big power years for the Pirates before anyone was paying attention.  Hard not to follow up the Dimaggio Boys with the Waners.  Big Poison (Paul) and Little Poison (Lloyd) are both enshrined in Cooperstown, the only pair of brothers to be so honored (nuff said). From here I’d go to  the Alou’s (see the Molina’s above).  The fact that the three of them actually started together for the Giants in the outfield in the early-’60’s is just plain amazing, but they put up numbers, too.  Matty was among the league leaders in hits and batting multiple years in the late-’60’s and early-’70’s, and Jesus (as a kid I couldn’t get over the fact that there was a ballplayer actually named “Jesus”) was a solid fourth outfielder for multiple teams over a long and successful career.  Felipe, the eldest, who also appropriately had the most power in his bat, finished up with over 2100 hits and 200+ dingers.  Not to mention he went on to be an outstanding manager when his playing days were over.  The Alou’s are a no-brainer to round things out.

Here’s the thing, this position is deep with bro’s. We’ve got the Uptons with some big-time numbers.  The Conigliaros have quite a story to tell.  And who would ever want to leave out the Canseco boys?  Jose and Ozzie…SMH. And speaking of discrepancy of talent among brothers, no list of outfield brothers is complete without Hank and Tommie Aaron.  Just for good measure we’ll add on the Gwynns — Hall of Famer and all-time great Tony, and his brother Chris, who must have been holding the door for his big bro when they were giving out the batting gloves up in the sky.

Pitchers:  Talk about depth.  Let’s start with the Hall of Famers with strong brothers right beside them:  Gaylord and Jim Perry; Greg and Mike Maddux; Phil and Joe Niekro; Dizzy and Paul Dean (don’t think he really called himself Daffy); and of course Christy and Henry Mathewson.  The Mathewsons warrant a closer look through that nepotism lens once again, as poor Henry only lasted two seasons — in 1906 he went 0-1 while appearing in only two games (he did complete one of them), and in 1907 he only got into one game, logging merely an inning.  His addition to the big club roster in ’06 by the New York Baseball Giants coincidentally (or maybe not) followed the third of three successive 30-win seasons by big brother Christy. That’s called leverage.

Then there’s the soon to be HOFer Pedro Martinez and his big brother Ramon (no slouch himself); Rick and Paul Reuschel; Andy and Alan Benes; Jeff and Jared Weaver; and the aforementioned Forsch brothers. In the pen there isn’t much to add, but I will add in those knuckle headed Mahler brothers, who always seemed to be throwing at Mike Piazza back in the  ’90’s, just because.

If I was forced to select a five-man rotation out of this embarrassment of pitching brother riches, I’d have to go with the Mathewsons, Maddux’s, Perrys, Deans and Martinez’s.  Henry Mathewson can throw the BP.

And since by definition we have at least two brothers manning each position, I suppose we could always throw both Boyers on the left side and go without a shortstop, and maybe an extra Dimaggio, Molina or Alou could cover first for us.

 

Who’s Next

I wish I felt as good about the pending answer to the question of “Who’s Next” that faces the New York Knickerbockers top brass on this Thursday morning as I do about the sunny weather I’m enjoying as I sit in Pasadena waiting for my next meeting to begin.  Or as I did when I used to listen to The Who’s hit album of the same name back in my teenage years.

But it is the Knicks, and there are so many variables that give me a stomach ache when I think about the team’s upcoming process for finding yet another head coach of this cursed organization. So rather than go too far down that specific rabbit hole (plenty of time to speculate on the “who” in the days ahead), here’s a few random thoughts (two NBA, one MLB) to think about on this sunny morning:

1. What did Jeff Hornacek do to deserve all this?  And I don’t mean the firing.  Mills and Perry were completely within their rights, and probably making the correct long-term call in taking Horny out last night/this morning. They need their own guy. And he was just a really poor fit for New York (and I truly don’t believe I’m exercising revisionist hindsight when I say that we all could see there was no chance of this ending well for him when he took the job a couple of years ago, on the heels of Steve Kerr clueing us all in to his excellent judgement by running from the job when everyone thought he was the guy).  Horny never had a chance of making this a success.

All Hornacek did during his tenure at the helm was display high integrity, honesty with players and the press and toughness befitting his outstanding NBA player career (take a hike Joaquin Noah), all the while dealing with Big Chief What’s-his-name; the umpteenth chapter of Carmelo’s primer on how to kill a head coach; a staff he only partially selected; and most recently devastating injuries to his two best players that cratered the glimmer of hope that had emerged early in the 2017-18 campaign. Guys like Horny belong on the sidelines somewhere in the NBA and I agree with Perry when he said at this morning’s presser that the fired coach will land on his feet.  Look for him in a smaller market having a big impact taking some unexpected team deep into the postseason in the not too distant future.  Atlanta?  Dallas? Orlando?

Sure, like most of us when we wake up following an unsuccessful venture, there are many things he could have handled better. But I’m left with the impression that this is the type of guy who is honest with himself on self-appraisal and I’m guessing he comes out of this stronger for the experience.  And as much as I hate “I told you so’s” — to my friend out there who happens to be a close bud of Horny’s — I told you to counsel him to run, not walk, from James Dolan back when news of his hiring first leaked out, lest a pox befall him and all those close to him.  A rare time SportsBro is sorry he was right. Good luck, Jeff!

2.  How the hell are the Cleveland Indians 7-5 this morning?  Is it too early to award Francona the Manager of the year Award (sorry Mickey Callaway, but we can credit Tito for your success, too, kinda, can’t we?)? Yes, this morning the Indians are sitting TWO GAMES OVER .500 after posting a lineup with the following batting averages last night against the Tigers:

*Lindor .184; Kipnis .109; Ramirez .146; Brantley .235; Encarnacion .146; Alonso .184; Gomes .179; Naquin .235; and Zimmer .188.  YIKES!

And this was AFTER they scored five runs in a win over the Tigers last night.  My gosh.  Yes, they have terrific pitching, and sure the AL Central is putrid, but still.  Buy calls on the Indians hitters RIGHT NOW.  They might win 110 this year (but here’s a guess that Indians fans are already sweating who their first round opponent might be in the playoffs — can anyone say Ohani and Trout??).  Yeah the weight of that piano-sized baton handed to them by the Cubs year before last may be feeling mighty heavy right about now in Cleveland.  Add to that the karma Gods must have been paying attention when the NBA rigged LeBron’s title in Cleveland two years ago with that WWE-inspired Draymond Green suspension.  The city of Cleveland may have won big on that one, but the micro-curse transferred to the Indians and it may take some time to get it lifted.  So here’s hoping the Indians and their fans enjoy the summer (maybe another consecutive games winning streak to celebrate that no one will remember by their annual October ouster?), and hopefully Tito and the staff stay intact into the postseason and bring home a title (especially if their playoff run includes a total annihilation of the Bronx Bombers along the way).

3. A reason to cheer for Carmelo?  Yup, I think so.  One of the members of my personal “Least Favorite All Time Starting Five” (stay tuned for that upcoming post), I didn’t like him in his one year at Syracuse (to this day he gets too much credit for carrying the Cuse to the title during his one and done Freshman year, when it was the seniors on that squad that were the differentiators), felt he was an irrelevant gunner during his time with the Nuggets, never making good teams better and ultimately killing his coach in the process, and of course watched him underperform on the big NY stage from Day 1, while deftly deflecting any blame and taking a couple more coaches out along the way.

But man, I can not agree more whole heartedly or respect and appreciate more deeply his view on Russ Westbrook’s shameless stat padding and rebound “stealing” that got him his second annual “season triple-double.”

To me, this accomplishment is about as irrelevant and and somehow less meaningful than Kobe scoring 60 in his last game as a Laker.  When BOTH teams on the court are overtly rooting on a particular stat-based outcome, the meaning is zero.  Less than zero.  Just bad for basketball, but in this mob-culture-like NBA present day, the average player genuflects to the LeBrons and Westbrooks out of fear of somehow alienating them and ruining their chance to latch on to some residual fame or benefit attached to riding their coat tails.  Give me a few more hard picks and pointed elbows during the game, and a little less of the group selfies among combatants only seconds after the contest concludes.

And while we are at it, give me Oscar Robertson’s seasonal triple-double as the gold standard forever.  Doing it before it is a “thing” is the real deal, and yes, I recognize rebounds were easier to come by in many ways back then. Still, the Big O did it exactly as Russ professes he is doing it today — in the context of being the best player on the court doing everything he can to help the team win.

Watching OKC’s supporting players pull up on every loose carom so Russ can grab it himself, thus enabling his quest for personal stats and the accompanying slot in the record books is shameless and hurts the game and those of us who cherish the stats that act as mileposts in the history of our fandom.  So way to go Melo, laughing out loud on court at his teammate’s selfish actions and correctly calling him out for what it is with the press — “stealing” another rebound while teammates and opponents all stand around hoping they somehow get captured in the ESPN video of the “historic” moment. Arrgghh.

Unfortunately, all that being said, Mr. Westbrook is both a freak and a force.  Maybe the best player in the league today (different than MVP, by the way). Bringing in Paul George was a brilliant move by OKC and he makes a much more complimentary and effective wingman to Westbrook than KD ever did.  The Thunder will be a tough out in the playoffs, and if they somehow face off with my hometown Dubs, I see them winning — easily.

That’s it for today.  Would love to hear your thoughts.