Archive for February, 2014

Collisions at home plate

 

With Spring Training games starting this afternoon in Florida and Arizona, we have a couple of new rules coming in to play that we should be aware of. One being manager’s challenges, similar to that of the NFL coaches’ challenge, and a new rule regarding collisions at home plate between a catcher and baserunner.

The rule is as follows: If a baserunner goes out of his way to cause a collision with the catcher, the batter is called out, regardless of if the catcher maintained possession of the ball. Also, a catcher may only block the plate if he has the ball in his hands.

At first glance, it seemed like the league, led by Joe Torre’s recommendations, was trying to ban collisions at home plate altogether from the game. But looking at this rule from a logical perspective, it makes sense.

Collisions at home plate are part of some of the most exciting plays in baseball. The moment of suspense while the umpire is making his mind up whether the runner is safe or out leaves us in a state of suspense that seems like it lasts forever. But the idea behind this rule is not getting rid of all collisions, but the ones that don’t need to happen. If a runner is going for the plate, and the catcher has the ball and is blocking the plate, the runner has to try and knock the ball out. That’s fine. But if the baserunner is hitting the catcher just to hit the catcher, or the catcher is blocking the plate hoping the ball will get there soon, then we run into unnecessary violence.

We have had nasty collisions in the past, and the one that comes freshest in my mind is that of Buster Posey’s collision that broke his leg and caused him to miss an entire season, and consider leaving the game of baseball. Whether that collision with Marlins’ Scott Cousins would be deemed “egregious” by the standards of this rule is a bit fuzzy or not, this rule change is meant to help promote player safety. By eliminating these unnecessary collisions, players can be safer around the plate.

There always has been an unwritten rule, regarding these collisions, that if you know you’re out, to just give in and let it go. Also, by the catcher, they usually just wait for the ball to come in, because the other baserunners might advance if the ball gets by him. This rule just puts in guidelines of discipline and results of what an umpire might deem inappropriate. It makes sense to me.

People might be looking too much into this new rule, but it’s simply a good move to help player safety. Tip of the cap for that.

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The shots just keep coming.

After losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton was arrested and charged with felony gun possession. This is just the latest hit in an overall tumultuous season for the Knicks. At 21-36 this season, New York is likely to miss the playoffs.

With all the clear problems the Knicks have, there seems to be only one solution for the men of MSG. That solution is to blow up the team.

The amount of problems that New York has right now are countless. Firstly, the Knicks need to dump anyone they can. Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., and whoever else a team will offer a draft pick for should be sent packing. With only one draft pick in the next three years, this is unfortunately necessary. James Dolan has dug such a deep hole for this team to climb out of, it will require a truly horrendous year to get out of.

The next step in this rebuild will be to not spend a penny in this offseason. Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, or Lance Stephenson aren’t enticing enough to bury yourself further in salary cap troubles. Waiting another year will do wonders for this team. The thought of playing in New York will attract free agents automatically. Being patient can end up paying huge rewards for this team.

Lastly, as painful as this sounds, New York may need to let Carmelo Anthony walk. Despite his incredible scoring ability, Melo is not the type of player who can make a team great on his own. Burying money in a contract for Anthony will end up placing the Knicks into the same problem they’ve always been in. Now if Melo is honest by saying hell take significantly less money to stay with the team, that may be another story. However, until that is proven, New York needs to let Melo move on.

At the end of the day, the Knicks need to give up. Between their salary cap troubles, lack of draft picks, and overall lack of talent, New York needs to blow it up. Trade away everyone, let the rest of the contracts play out, and prepare for 2016. 

Gary recaps Sunday nights game against the Lakers and looks ahead at what JAson Collins could or could not bring

Todays Show

Posted: February 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

On From 5-6 Today. Talking Nets, Knicks, and Combine. 
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Why did Team Russia disappoint…again?

Posted: February 21, 2014 in NHL
Tags:

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Entering the men’s hockey tournament in Sochi, the Russians were favored to win gold, or at least any medal. Now, with Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Finland, the host nation will not be on the podium during the ceremony following the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday.

Despite being a world-renown hockey powerhouse, developing superstars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Pavel Datsyuk, they have only medaled twice (neither of which gold) in the Olympics since the NHL was allowed in, in 1998, and haven’t medaled since 2002 at Salt Lake City. Despite this, they are favored to win something, be it gold or any medal, every Olympic games.

So how do they keep letting their proud motherland down?

There are a couple of explanations I will offer you: lack of chemistry, and a back end that just doesn’t shape up like other powerhouses.

Team chemistry is pretty difficult to create and maintain during the Olympic games. Players are separated from their teammates, with whom they’ve been playing for the entire season, if not longer, and joined with members of other teams, and in some cases, different leagues. Teams have maybe a couple of days to acquaint themselves before playing games. Team Russia may have had trouble here, as they had just 14 NHL players on their roster, along with 11 KHL players, compared to 25 NHLers for the USA and Canada, 24 for Sweden, and so on. The Russians had to adjust to new players they may or may not have seen before, with a half/half roster. It’s quite difficult creating good chemistry with players you just met a couple of days ago.

Alternatively, it may just be their back end. We know that they have offensive super-players like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, but their blue line crew isn’t quite up to world-class level. I will list them from most impactful in the NHL to least: Andrei Markov, Slava Voynov, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin, Alexei Emelin, and Anton Belov (with Yevgeny Medvedev and Ilya Nikulin from the KHL). Once you pass Voynov on that list, it might take a true hockey fan, or just a local fan of their respective team, to know really who these players are. Markov’s been around the block, and Voynov was on a recent Cup winner. But there is a reason these guys aren’t so well known: they aren’t nearly as good as their mix-and-match front end. Combine a blue line you can’t completely trust, with boom-or-bust goalies Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov, it can lead to some holes in the back that even a dynamic (no KHL-team-related-pun intended) offense can’t make up.

I could be completely wrong on both ends here. I was just offering some ideas. They played tough teams that were just better than them, or had too much pressure on them to win as the host nation, much like Canada in 2010, or the USA in 1960 and 1980. But this has been a recurring theme for the Russians in the Olympics. They haven’t lived up to expectation in quite some time. Maybe it’s time they take a step back and reorganize their group for the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, although it’s quite a ways away.

They might have to if Vladimir Putin has his way, after this year’s showing.

latvia

 

I originally had in mind to watch the USA vs. Czech Republic game this afternoon, thinking it’d be somewhat competitive, while Canada would walk all over Latvia.

Oh boy was I wrong.

The USA beat the Czechs 5-1 to secure a spot in the medal round, which wasn’t a huge surprise. The Canada vs. Latvia game, meanwhile, made it’s case for game of the Olympics.

Most of the game was played in the Latvian end of the ice, with Patrick Sharp potting the first goal of the game at the 13:37 mark of the first period. At this point, I thought still that it’d be a blowout, and it wasn’t worth tuning in.

But the USA game took a small break in the play to clear off the ice, and I switched channels, just in time to catch something crazy. A set play off a faceoff saw Arturs Kulda spring loose Lauris Darzins for a breakaway and a goal on Carey Price to tie the game. The fans draped in maroon were jumping for joy. I was in disbelief.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis was playing his heart out, stopping 15 of 16 in the first, and then all 19 shots in the second, to keep Latvia in the game. At the second intermission, I decided that this was the game to watch, because something special might happen.

At this point, it looked like the Canadians had a power play for the whole game. But every scoring opportunity the Latvians had, at any rush down the ice, you could hear the Latvian supporters cheering vigorously. The game was exciting.

There were two moments in that third period had me believing that this upset was possible.

First, a slap shot was fired from the point that felled Latvian defenseman Oskars Bartulis, who was clogging the middle. Bartulis was down on the ice for a few seconds, then got up, but was skating on one leg for the remainder of the shift. That moment was reminiscent of Gregory Campbell fracturing his leg blocking a shot in the Stanley Cup playoffs last year.

Second, a scramble in the net occurred after Jonathan Toews of Canada fired a shot that the Canadian team was convinced was in the net. The referee on scene called the play dead and went to the replay booth to confirm the call. The replay showed how remarkably close the Canadians were to the lead. The puck dribbled underneath Gudlevskis, and partially crossed the line when defenseman Kristaps Sotnieks gloved the puck and dragged it under Gudlevskis for a whistle, and to take away the goal.

The Latvians got a couple of chances to take the lead, until Georgijs Pujacs commited a penalty on which Shea Weber scored, giving the Canadians a 2-1 lead. At this point, at stoppages in the play, a trainer was coming off the bench to help Gudlevskis deal with fatigue. Gudlevskis finished the game with a whopping 55 saves on 57 shots. It wasn’t enough.

When Canada scored, I knew in the back of my head that it would put them over the top and win them the game. But I refused to believe it.

The game ended 2-1 Canada. Despite the loss, the Latvians got a standing ovation. They outhit the Canadians, and Gudlevskis so badly outplayed Carey Price, that they really deserved the win, despite getting outshot 57-16. Not to say that Canada played poorly, they played their game to near perfection. They just ran into a goalie who had the game of his life.

It would have been an upset for the ages, though. Despite it not happening, the Latvians deserved it.

The game didn’t have the camaraderie of a USA/Canada game, that we will get on Friday morning. The game didn’t have marquee names on both sides of the ice. The most notable players on the Latvian side are Zemgus Girgensons and former NHLer Sandis Ozolins. But it certainly had the excitement of one of those games.

It will be tough to unseat this game for game of the Olympics.

Todays Radio Show

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

On from 5-6 pm EST today. Talking Knicks, Trade Deadline, and Olympics.

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Should Kobe Retire?

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

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As the NBA wraps up its All Star festivities, something, or someone, was notably missing. Kobe Bryant, who was voted a starter for the western conference, missed the game due to a knee injury.

 

Bryant’s season has been met with constant adversity. When he finally came back from an ACL tear, Kobe played only six games before fracturing his knee. With his age, declining play, and injury problems, it may be time for Kobe to call it a career.

 

Lets start with his age. At 35 years old, Kobe may not be able to keep up. Basketball is becoming more and more of a fast paced game. With teams like the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers feasting off the fast break, the half court team is becoming less and less effective. The only team at the moment to be fully successful playing half court offense is the San Antonio Spurs.  At 35 years old, Kobe may not be able to keep up. Bryant struggled mightily in transition in his six games back this year. If he gets back on the court, he may simply be outran.

 

As far as Bryant’s individual play, a lot was left to be desired. In six games this season, Kobe averaged 14 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. Those numbers are well under Kobe level but aren’t terrible. The real issue comes with the less noted stats. Bryant shot 42% from the field this season. That’s well under his career average of 46%.

 

The real startling stat is his turnovers. Kobe averaged a staggering six turnovers a game in his six games this season. That is an unfathomably high number. In comparison his career high for a season is four turnovers. In addition, the NBA leader in turnovers per game this season is Stephen Curry with four. It is evident that his play is declining.

 

Lastly, it may just not be worth it for Kobe to come back. The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the worst team in the NBA this season. At 18-35, the team just lacks talent. Nick Young, Pau Gasol, and an ancient Steve Nash are leading the charge in L.A.. Despite signing a contract extension, the Lakers are trying to bring in stars such as Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James this offseason. With past problems with other stars, it may be in the best interest of all sides for Kobe to call it a career.

 

Due to all the reasons stated, it might be time for the Kobe Bryant era to end. If he does, it may do more harm than good. Derek Jeter knows when to call it quits; lets see if Kobe knows the same. 

Reaction to Derek Jeter’s announcement.

Posted: February 13, 2014 in MLB
Tags:

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I always wondered what life would be like when my favorite childhood players would all retire.

My parents and grandparents and all other older family members tell stories about players from their childhood, who made a big impact on them, and served as role models for them. They ranged from Reggie Jackson to Mickey Mantle, from Wayne Gretzky to Bobby Orr, no matter the sport.

One of those players I get to tell my kids about is Derek Jeter.

I remember my first Yankees game growing up, July 18, 1999, at the old Stadium. I remember the date, because the game was historic, with not a single Montreal Expos batter reaching base, with David Cone throwing a perfect game. But among the names I knew leaving the ballpark, was Derek Jeter.

He was all my friends and I ever talked about during the 1998-2000 three-peat. Everyone wanted to be like Jeter, making those jump-throws and hitting the ball all over the field. He became the household name for a success story since day one in pinstripes. Growing up surrounded by other Yankees fans my age, we all loved Jeter.

Over the years, I’ve attended many other Yankees games, at both the old and new Stadium. Jeter had played in most of them, and some times he delivered his usual clutch single or home run every now and again to spark the team. I watched his heroics on TV nearly all the time. I remember where I was when he dove into the stands against the Red Sox, and I remember where I was when he deposited hit number 3,000 in the left field bleachers.

Jeter is the last one left of the Core Four, a group of players including Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, who were the backbone of the Yankees from 1996-2010, teammates for 15 years (save Pettitte’s 3 seasons in Houston). I grew up watching those 4 guys and knowing they’d be there to save the day. I never gave thought to reality that they were human too, and they wouldn’t play forever. I never thought I’d see the day where they won’t be there to bring the Yankees a win.

When Jeter announced that he’s ending his illustrious career after this season, or whatever he makes of it at least, it hit me, that it’s an end of an era. An era with a standard of excellence that’s just ludicrously high. An era where the expectation is World Series or bust every year. Every year the Yankees didn’t make a title run, it was a disappointment. No one can live through those standards for nearly 20 years, especially in New York, where it’s always “what have you done for me lately”? No one, except for Jeter.

There have been other players who have contributed to this dynasty of excellence, too many to list here. Every one of those guys had their moments in the spotlight. Yet, with many of those guys, if they start to falter, the Yankees faithful wouldn’t think twice about turning on them. Think about Alex Rodriguez. After his trade to the Yankees, he had MVP caliber seasons, and helped them win a World Series in 2009. But every other year, he was viewed as a goat, because he didn’t come through when they needed him to, or got into trouble off the field, and subsequently booed mercilessly.

Jeter was one of the few that could do no wrong in New York. No matter what he did, the fans just shrugged it off and said, “It’s ok, he’ll get the next one.” It takes a special player for that to happen. Guys like that come once in a lifetime.

He says he wants to settle down and live a normal life after his first-ballot Hall of Fame career is wrapped up. He’s always been quiet and to himself on a personal level. He doesn’t want to bask in the glory of being one of the best ever for one of the most iconic names in sports. He’ll get his day, when the Yankees unveil his #2 monument in Monument Park. He’ll get standing ovations wherever he goes, and it might turn into a bit of a farewell tour, much like Mariano Rivera’s last year. But that’s not the Jeter way.

Yankees fans, like myself, are going down memory lane recently, thinking about everything he’s done for us and the city of New York. It’s hard to sum everything up. But when he’s gone, and the Yankees have someone other than Jeter at shortstop regularly, we’ll be missing him like hell.

I’m still kind of curious what it’s like to recant tales of my favorite athletes growing up. At least I know I’ll be able to tell over stories about a legend of the Yankees, of the game of baseball, and the entire sports universe. Thank you Derek Jeter, for everything you’ve done, and everything still to come.