Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thoughts and opinions

Proportionately speaking, no two teams in any professional sport have dominated their league the way the Lakers and the Celtics have. This latest meeting is the 62nd NBA Championship and at the end of it, no matter who wins or who loses, the two teams will combine to account for 50 percent of the league's titles.

To put that into perspective - the next two teams with the most titles, the Bulls and Spurs, combine for 10 total titles.

Counting each conferences' entry into the finals as a separate entry, the two teams account for 49 of 124 possible appearances in the finals.

No two (professional) teams in the Unites States account for as large a percentage of finals competitors.

Even if you wanted to be anal and discount the five wins as the Minneapolis Lakers, that's still 27 championships and 43 appearances.

Just going Super Bowl Era alone, there are no two teams that even come close to approaching the 50 percent mark in combined titles. Of the 103 World Series played, the Yankees and Cardinals combine for around 33 or 34 percent of the titles at 36 combined. The closest is in the NHL where the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs make up 37 of the 83 titles that are held by teams still active in the league (in other words, there are teams no longer in existence that hold titles that would push it to 92 titles since the 1914-1915 seasons).

That's domination.

One last basketball observation - I would like to see the Celtics win, however, I don't think they will. How I hope I'm wrong regarding that.

Required reading...

Peter King's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, essentially his mail bag for his Monday Morning Quarterback column at should be required reading this week for everybody. If you haven't read it, you should.

His readers, for the most part, are responding to his Monday column dealing with Aaron Kampman and the tornadoes that tore apart Iowa last week. They are some of the more eloquent and touching letters I have seen from any columnists' fan base, and deserving of both our time and consideration.

Three for four...

Winning a championship is an exceedingly difficult feat on any level of sports. Even getting to the big game is a chore.

Last year, after an undefeated season, the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl. To stress the "any level" point - the Aussie rules team I play on was bounced in the national tournament one game shy of the championship match after an undefeated season.

Boston teams are three for four in just getting to that championship game, with only the Bruins not making it quite as far as the other three. And they still made it to the post season.

Right now the teams are one and one, waiting on the Celtics to see if that winning percentage jumps to .667, or drops to .333.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Baaaad things, man

I am a cyclist. I bike and run to keep in shape and play Australian football.

I am not a cyclist on the level of my brother who bikes several hundred miles per week, but I do like to get out and ride. I might ride on average about 40 to 50 miles per week in season (when I am able to get out regularly) - sometimes more if I get serious alone time and get in a 25 mile ride.

My brother, on the other hand, will crank through 50 miles in a day and not think about it.

He's touched.

But I digress.

One of the biggest fears of a cyclist is motorists. Many are very inconsiderate of cyclists (granted, there are a number of boneheads that don't understand the idea of single file when riding bikes in groups), often accelerating to make a right turn in front of a bicyclist without really having enough room to do so, or not checking rear view mirrors before opening car doors.

Races are a sanctuary. We have the road to ourselves as we vie for position. Cars don't even enter our thoughts.

In light of this story about a race in Monterey, Mexico, maybe motorists need to stay in our thoughts.
For the most part I think the photo ganked from CNN speaks for itself. A drunk American motorist fell asleep at the wheel, veered into a race, injured 10 cyclists and killed one. This is the sort of thing that's on my mind every time I go out for a ride.

The Manhattan Project...

The Joba Experiment started with a whimper rather than a bang. The Yankees dominating set-up man lasted for only two and a third innings, barely throwing more than half his 62 pitches for strikes.

Here's the math on that, to put it in perspective -

It's a respectable 3.91 ERA (only one of his two runs were earned). However, it projects to 242 pitches over nine innings - which makes a sub-5.00 ERA unlikely. It also translates to 16 walks per nine and four hits - also unlikely to stay that low over nine if his pitch count is that elevated, particularly four a guy that is used to only going an inning to two innings, max, per start.

Consider, the following - according to the YES Network, Joba averages (as a reliever) 3.97 pitches per plate appearance - over the league average of 3.77. He faced 12 batters in his start. Assuming for 28 batters over a seven inning appearance, Chamberlain is throwing on average six more pitches than other starters.

That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's six more opportunities for a team to put a ball into play. It's also likely that someone not used to going more than two innings is going to have a higher average per plate appearance (his first start was 5.17 per plate appearance). While Chamberlain may straighten this out somewhat, Yankees fans will be foolish to expect him to be a dominant starter. He might turn into a good one, but you can get away with being a reliever with one or two dominant pitches - you can't get away with being a starter with fewer than three good pitches.

I for one, as a Sox fan, want to thank Hank Steinbrenner for taking their best reliever out of the pen so he can help the team only once every five days (and I think that it's likely to be a much lower average than that as this plays out).

For Yankees fans offended by this post - consider the following. Chamberlain has 39 career relief appearances. In those appearances he is 3-1 with 20 holds, 12 this season alone with one of his three wins. His only loss was in the start. That means that he had a hand in 13 of the Yankees 28 wins. That translates into a positive impact once every 4.5 games this season, but it also translates into a hand in almost 50 percent of the teams' wins. With approximately 21 starts left in the season, if he stays healthy, and assuming the team wins half his starts (giving him the benefit of the doubt that he will go 10-6 with 6 no decisions), that becomes a positive impact approximately in one out of every ten starts.

Yup, that's the sort of baseball IQ I like to see from the Yankees.


Sox phenom Justin Masterson finally had a mediocre start, giving up four runs in six innings. Masterson in his first two starts on the major league level has been lights out - so much so that the four runs he gave up last night failed to nudge his ERA over 3.00 (2.95). Still, Masterson secured his second major league win with what, so far, appears to be a substandard start for him.

Boston's Russian-Roulette bullpen managed to find the empty chamber and not shoot the team in the head last night, and the hitting came up big during Life Without Papi.


In light of the recent revelation that Nick Kaczur was nailed for illegally buying prescription pain killers, and the recent signing of veteran offensive tackle Oliver Ross, one has to wonder if Kaczur is short for the team. Generally considered by scouts to be the weakest starter on the O-line, Kaczur did himself no favors getting nailed by the Feds in April.

Pure Joy and other musings

There's a lot of talk about the right way to play the game - whether football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or whatever else out there people play. I've noted before in this space that when I was growing up that Pete Rose was the example.

Rose was a hard-nosed, blue-collar sort of player. He never took a play off, he didn't walk around the bases. Even on a home run, he ran down the line. He played every game like it was going to be the last time he was going to be allowed to step onto a field. Charlie Hustle brought an intensity to the game that few did. He played the game with love and respect. The Red Sox had Fred Lynn and Carlton Fisk - both of whom played with a similar intensity.

We used to say that these men played the game the "right way."

But that isn't the only way that is the "right" one.

There are others.

Manny Ramirez does not bring the intensity that those competitors did. At times he has infuriating and confounding lapses of concentration. But the man demonstrates a pure joy in playing the game. He revels in it.

We call it Manny being Manny, but its the Red Sox' man-child playing the game with the same sort of excitement as a five-year old child finding his first bicycle under the Christmas tree. He laughs, he jokes with the crowd, he slaps a high five with a fan at the outfield wall before doubling the runner off with a cannon throw back to the infield. He might be the best pure hitter I've ever seen.

Better than Yaz, Wade Boggs, or even the inimitable Tony Gwynn. There is a certain effortlessness to his swing, born, I suspect, of the joy with which he approaches the game.

It is as much the right way to play the game as the approach of Rose, Fisk, and Lynn. And it's part of the reason that Ramirez hit his 500th homer this weekend.

Big Papi...

The buzz in the national press is that the Red Sox are in trouble with the wrist injury to David Ortiz. They might be - but I think the bullpen woes have been a bigger problem than being without Ortiz for a month...or the remainder of the year, for that matter...will be.

The Sox have an enormous amount of depth - both in the line-up, and in the starting rotation - but pitchers that were lights out in the pen last year, are a crap-shoot this year.

Can they replace Ortiz's production? Maybe.

But I wouldn't be surprised, if he's lost for the season, to see the Sox make a run at someone like Junior Griffey, or even Adam Dunn in an effort to replace the production if they are unable to do it from within.

Of all the teams in the East, only the Sox are well enough stocked in minor league talent to pull something like that off.