Monday, January 16, 2017

Another Reason I Love Stephen Curry

"One thing my pops always told me is you never count another man's money. It's what you've got and how you take care of it. And if I'm complaining about $44 million over four years, then I've got other issues in my life."
Stephen Curry

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Early December

The San Francisco Giants made a deal to address their biggest need by signing former Pittsburgh Pirate closer Mark Melancon.  Reportedly, ex-Giant and a Pirate last year Ryan Vogelsong was instrumental in praising the Giants team culture, and Melancon--like Durant to the Warriors--really wanted to play for them.

Another Pirates to Giants move is still possible but looks less likely now--the Pirates are less than quietly shopping around their star, Andrew McCutchen.  I was surprised to see what a bad year he had last year, even defensively.  But he played center well enough to beat the Giants (with Vogelsong on the mound) when I saw them play each other in August.

  Cutch would be a huge loss to Pittsburgh--he's always said he wanted to play there forever, and he was a star there on bad teams before they got good.  Now they may be on the wane again, and Pittsburgh has to watch its payroll still it seems.  He would fit in well in SF, though it poses questions for who plays where in the outfield.  But Giants officials are playing that possibility down, expressing faith in farm system grads Parker and Williamson to share left. And probably figuring a healthy Hunter Pence and better years by one or two others will add to the long ball totals.

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors are rolling.  Their top four have all set some sort of record already in this young season, including Steph Curry's record 13 treys in a game and last night, Klay Thompson dropped 60 points in less than 30 minutes of playing time--for the first time in the shot clock era.  It's also the highest point total by anyone this season.

The offense is fast, sharing and joyful--breaking records for assists, and putting up lots of points.  The defense is a work in progress but there are brilliant plays every game, most often by Durant and especially Draymond.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Congratulations Chicago

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning the World Series, their first in 108 years, the longest period without a championship in American sports.

They were also the first team since the 1979 Pirates to be down 3 games to 1 and win the Series on the road.  I sure remember the feelings from that series--I watched every minute of it (except when I was pacing around in the next room) and I recall the feeling when it was over.  It was the third Pirates world championship in my lifetime, and so far the last.  But Pittsburgh also had a long drought--before 1960 they hadn't won it since 1925.

I loved the stories of the Chicago fans, sacrificing seeing the game to gather together outside Wrigley Field.  And the stories about the memories of absent fans, family and friends who didn't live to see this.  Getting into the Series seemed to reawakened memories of them.

As for this seventh game, the Cubs had it won until the 8th inning, just as the Giants had their last game won until the 9th.  Like the Giants in that game, the Cubs saw their closer fail--only they have one of the top closers in the game, who was just gassed from recent appearances.  But they didn't lose it, they were tied, and went to extra innings.

But before the 10th started, there was a rain delay, something like 17 minutes.  I can't imagine what that was like for the teams.  Maybe it settled the Cubs down, who knows?

But in the 10th they scored the go-ahead runs exactly as they came back against the Giants, with opportune hitting: going with the pitches, finding the holes.  Of course, earlier homers helped, as did terrific base running.  Both teams made big mistakes, and big plays.  Cleveland got closer but couldn't prevail.  It ended with the tying run on first, 8-7.

I admit that once the Series started I was rooting for the Cubs.  I went to college in Illinois and I thought about all my classmates from Chicago.  John Podesta being one.  But then Hillary and Barack are also Chicago people.

On the other hand, being from the Pittsburgh area, hating Cleveland teams is second nature, and I particularly hate the racist name and logo of their baseball team. So I sure wasn't rooting for them.

The Cubs are a young team, and they'll probably be a factor for years to come.  Right now they're world champs, and there's going to be some joy for awhile in Chicago.

The NBA season has started.  The Warriors ended all suspense about how many games they would win in a row to start the season.  Turned out: none.  But they've won three games since, starting to get it together against Portland the other night. Thursday they face the Thunder, and all eyes will be on Durant and Westbrook playing against each other.  Plus Durant has to score 20 to keep his streak going, to match Michael Jordan for second most consecutive number of games with 20 or more points.

Durant looks great but it's Curry who is a big relief--after his injuries hampered him in the finals, he looks like his old self, moving, shedding defenders, hitting lightning-quick release and otherwise impossible 3s.

It's probably too early to tell, but I get the sense that there's a lot more parity in the NBA than sport writers said.  It's supposed to be a boring year, but I don't think so. Some teams look better than they're supposed to.  Could be a more competitive year than the experts think.

Friday, October 21, 2016

NFL Violence Over Skill

Network ratings for NFL games are down considerably, and lots of folks are spouting off on why that should be.  Everything from the Internet to political protests are offered as the reasons.

What almost nobody is taking seriously is that a growing number of people may just be fed up with the NFL's wanton violence.  The NFL can minimize the concussion issue, and the vested sports interests including sports media can ignore it, but lots of parents have to take it seriously.  They have to make decisions for their boys on whether football is worth the risk.

Parental concerns may be having some influence on the rules and how the game is played at the school level, maybe even the college level, though for the big schools, football is an addictive big business of enormous profit--especially since there are few paid employees.

But in the NFL nothing meaningful has been done, and the violence increases.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are charging that the knee injury to their star quarterback was intentional, though the NFL refused to even fine the miscreant.  He is one of several players who are known to deliberately injure opposing players.

Who wants to see that?  Who wants to see a team with its best players injured, because the NFL values violence over skill?

I don't.  And I wonder how many others are turned off as well, and are turning off the NFL.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Post Giants Season

As the postseason develops, a couple of things are apparent: relief pitching is proving crucial to winning teams, and with a better bullpen, the San Francisco Giants could beat anybody still playing.  And if the Dodgers make it to the Series, the Giants will really be kicking themselves harder.

Though the Giants immediately fired both first and third base coaches, the words out of the club have emphasized no panic, but yes, we're going into next season knowing who our closer is.

It won't be Casilla or Romo, as it's pretty likely they won't be with the team.  It's sad because they both contributed so much to World Series seasons.  The story of Casilla in tears after the horrendous 9th inning meltdown that ended the Giants season, because he was even asked to warm up, is heart-breaking.

Other absences are likely to be free agents Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.  Pagan's contributions--heroics, even--are pretty well known, but there were stretches in several years when Blanco carried the club. When healthy he was a real asset.

Management signals that it will concentrate on getting that big time closer, with several available through free agency.  That had better work, because big money is their best option.  They can't afford to lose position players through trades.

Otherwise it seems they're looking to keep young arms in the bullpen, and look at others to compete for the fifth starter.  They could use another bat with some pop. The infield is interesting, with now two possible starters at third, and Kelby Tomlinson becoming a reliable pinch hitter as well as utility infielder.  If a power hitting left fielder suddenly presented himself they might jump at it, but otherwise it seems they'll be content to platoon with young players.

Bruce Bochy seems itching to come back, so that's a plus.  We'll see what happens in the Hot Stove League (do they still call it that?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Done, Done In

Two things about this final game of the SF Giants' season.  First, if you're a team of destiny, you get hits like the Cubs got in the 9th inning.  Derek Law induced a double play ball, except there was an overshift and nobody was at home in the usual shortstop area.  And the hit that tied the game was a slow hit ground ball that just happened to be perfectly placed, also due to the defensive alignment.

Second is that if you have a bullpen that can't hold a 3 run lead in the 9th, you probably don't deserve to get very far in the playoffs.  The Giants were that team.

Had the Giants won this game, they would have felt good about this season even if they'd lost in Chicago.  They got two magnificent starting pitching performances in the first and fourth games by Johnny Queto and today by Matt Moore, they had their surprising hitting star in Conor Gillaspe, solid hitting by Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, with signs that the bats of Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt were coming around.  They were resilient.

But for all that, the total bullpen meltdown in this game has once again given this season a bad taste.  There are few things in baseball more dispiriting than a bullpen loss in the 9th, and the Giants went through that way too many times.  It's going to make a difference in who is on the field in 2017, probably beyond the bullpen.  

Well, at least here come the Warriors.

We Had 'Em All The Way

The Chicago Cubs came into the division series a confident team, and it showed.  They risked starting a pitcher the Giants had gotten to earlier in the season instead of their ace for the first game, and it worked.  They got to the Shark in game two, stifled the Giants and left Chicago looking for the sweep in San Francisco.

The Cubs took the lead on an improbable home run by ace pitcher Arrieta off Bumgarner.  Neither of the starters made it out of the sixth due to high pitch counts, although it was just a 3-2 game.

The Giants started giving the Cubs some doubt in the 8th.  They put two on and the Cubs tried to restore order with their flame-throwing closer Chapman.  But Conor Gillaspe, long ball hero of the wild card game, smoked a 101 fastball into triples alley and therefore got a triple (the first Chapman has given up to a left handed batter) and drove in the tying and lead runs.  The Giants got one more to go to the 9th ahead 5-3.

But of course the 9th has been the Giants' Waterloo since July, and new/old closer Romo walked the leadoff hitter and hung a slider for home run hitter Kris Bryant, who barely got it over the wall to tie the game.

There would be more drama, especially some amazing defensive plays by both teams, as both teams were rapidly running out of players.  Until the bottom of the 13th, a Brandon Crawford double and a Joe Panik triple, and the Giants won their 10th straight postseason elimination game, the longest streak in MLB history.

Now both teams come back barely 17 hours after this game concluded, to go at it again.  The Cubs may not be quite so confident, but they sure don't want to take it to a 5th game, not with Johnny Cueto on the mound.  And they know the Giants have done this before--come back to win a 5 game series after losing the first two. They'll face Matt Moore on Tuesday.  

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Wild Night

Mike Krukow's foolproof formula for how a pitcher wins: pitch a shutout, hit a home run.  Madison Bumgarner did the first.  Conor Gillaspe did the second--with two men on in the ninth inning.  SF Giants won their wild card game, defeating the Mets 3-0.

The Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was, the Giants said, virtually unhittable. Brandon Belt got into one in the 6th, and only a great running catch by Granderson in center kept the game scoreless.

But the Giants kept after Syndergaard all game, extending their at-bats, until a high pitch count ended his night after seven innings.

The Giants had their best chance in the eighth.  They faced Reed in the eighth and loaded the bases.  But they didn't score.  They then got the Mets closer Familia in the 9th.

 Brandon Crawford led off with a double.  Pagan couldn't advance him and struck out.  Then Joe Panik came to bat, in what the Mets' manager described as the key at-bat of the game.  If they got Panik out, they would walk the next batter--Gillaspe--to get to the pitcher's spot, and get Bumgarner out of the game.  And it might have worked, because Jarrett Parker was on deck behind Gillaspe.

But fouling off good pitches, Panik worked a walk.  Familia had to pitch to Gillaspe, who has been on a streak at the end of the season, when he's been playing more.  The infield was set up for a double play.  But Gillaspe hit it a little farther--into the Mets' bullpen.  It was only the second homer Familia had given up all season.

 The scoreless tie was broken, the Giants were ahead 3-0.  And Parker was called back to the dugout.

Bumgarner had used high fast balls all game to get Mets swinging, and he got three fly balls in the 9th off high fast balls.  It was his second complete game shutout in a wild card game.  In Pittsburgh in 2014 he pitched much of the game with a lead.  This one was a little different.

Johnny Cueto gets the ball on Friday for the first of a five game series with the Chicago Cubs, owners of the best record in baseball and consensus favorite to win it all.  This is when lining up those killer starters can pay off.  Especially when they throw complete games.