Is Brian Sabean a Good General Manager? (Hmm) Does Barry Bonds belong in the hall of fame?

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This weekend the Giants lost 3 straight to the Dodgers and the Hall of Fame inducted people without Barry Bonds. I care to comment.

Sabean. He’s won 2 World Series rings and kept the Giants in contention for 17 years, turning around and stabilizing and bringing glory to San Francisco after decades of bad crabs.

And yet, he pisses Giants fans off like no one else. He makes so many bad decisions. He pays so many over-the-hill veterans too much money (too many to mention), signs flash in the pan free agents to long term deals (Rowland, Huff), pays other free agents past their prime way too much money (Zito), and never is willing to trade for bats. This last thing especially pissed me off in the Barry Bonds era, in that he never gave Barry a suitable bat to hit behind him (with the brief exception of Ellis Burks). Every time Benito Santiago bounced into a double play after a Bonds intentional walk, I yelled of my pure hatred of Sabes. And he never changed. He kept signing shit free agents who were washed up.

And yet…. We know the “and yet.” One of those shit free agents, Edgar Renteria, ends up the MVP of the World Series. Aubrey Huff amazingly gave them a good year. Juan Uribe (or Juan Urine as my autocorrect prefers to refer to him) and Cody Ross. Barry Zito made all the overpaying worth it with a singular performance to never be forgotten, followed by a second singular performance (all the more impressive when he showed us the following season that he hadn’t turned any corners.)

Quick aside: what’s the most amazing performance you’ve ever seen given the player’s capabilities at the time? Bill Simmons, this is for you to ask with your massive research staff. But off the top of my head, Barry Zito’s two games in the fall of 2012 can hardly be matched. Also off the top of my head, maybe Pablo Sandoval’s 3 home runs off of Verlander, but that’s not close. Eli Manning’s two Super Bowl performances? Not comparable to Zito. Mike Miller’s three point barrage in the NBA finals. No, because I don’t like him, and shooting wide open threes while 4 guys guard LeBron isn’t as hard as what Zito did. Ok, enough with the aside. I’m out of ideas.

Mike Rowland never did anything and cost them tons of dollars, but Sabean rode Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner to brilliance. Does he deserve the credit, or did he just have some good scouts?

Assessment on Sabean: I remember vowing to never say a negative word about him again at least twice in the last five years. I’ll stick to it.

Bonds. I don’t care how many PEDs Bonds did (although, admittedly, picking a picture of him from the web reminded me of the sheer size of that head of his….its like young and old Elvis, which do you want to remember…and in this case, old Barry with his big head hit a lot of big homers, so that’s what I want to and will remember). Bonds walked 232 times in 2004–don’t just keep reading. Pause and think about it. 232 walks in one season. In fact, he hit 258 home runs in 5 years while walking 872 times in 716 games. Phenomenal. Watching him play in game after game, he’d get one to two pitches a game to swing at. Sometimes not even that. He was walked intentionally with the bases loaded. [Damn you Sabean--wait, no, not criticizing Sabean]. And when he got the one pitch of the day, he unloaded with that quick swing and juiced biceps so squarely on the ball so as to smash it like a laser into the water. I loved it. I’ll never forget it. Cue Witney Houston’s, “I will always love you.”

Everyone rehashes why or why not Bonds belongs in the HOF. But its simple. He was so singularly dominant in every way. He was by far the best player before ‘roids and he become super human with them. He no doubt benefitted from them, but he also faced huge obstacles—like all the walks and a horrible baseball park. Hank Aaron played in a homer field fiesta. If Bonds played in Atlanta with his big head, he’d have hit 1000 home runs.

Still think its unfair to give a cheater an honor like the hall of fame? Compare it to what the University of California, Berkeley did: they just gave a prestigious endowed chair to a war criminal, John Yoo. Bonds just swelled his head and everyone screams bloody murder. Yoo literally promoted screaming and bloody murder and a university gives him one of its highest honors. I realize the inanity of even comparing these two things, which makes the Yoo scandal all the more revolting. And puts Bonds and his quite sizable head in just perspective.

The Pace is the Trick

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Mark likes the hardcore sports. Basketball and football are great. WWF is even better.

He’s less enamored with baseball and soccer. There’s less immediately gratifying action, not as much violence (though I think I’ve seen him wearing a Suarez jersey in recent weeks), and a lot more activity that leads to nothing. He wants convincing that these sports are worth watching.

Tonight was a great audition for baseball. Dodgers-Pirates had violence, home runs, and lots of swagger. Then the Giants one upped them with Buster Posey homering to tie the game in the 9th, and Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum coming in to get his first major league save in the 14th inning. Giants go one game up on the Dodgers. Lincecum becomes one of the very few pitchers in major league history to get both a save and pitch a no hitter in the same season.

And while the World Cup was the obvious entree to soccer, the MLS is suddenly emerging too. Sports are all about different paces and the way to enjoy any sport is to settle in and accept the pace its providing. Boxing is not soccer; football is not baseball. And if you are watching football, it can be jarring to adapt to the pace of a baseball game. But I’d argue it’s equally jarring to go the other way. If I’m watching soccer, its hard to adjust to the NFL–all of a sudden, the lack of fluidity is acute, the helmets and pads constitute obstructions, the constant substitutions a drag. This weekend, I watched a lot of MLS. Seattle showed it can play with Tottenham. Sporting Kansas City showed it can totally dominate the pace of a game while leading, for most of it, just 1-0. Yeah, the Revolution were pretty dull, but any team in any sport that’s on a long losing streak is dull. Would you rather watch the Revolution lose or the Sixers lose or the Jaguars lose?  The MLS is starting to find its rhythm, and its thriving off smaller cities with real crowds and blue collar players. And now, for the first time, its got a bit of star quality–not in the bloated past their prime Beckhams but in the Dempseys and Zusis.

Back to Lincecum real quick. He just turned 30, and he’s coming off more than 2 years as arguably the worst full-time starting pitcher in all of baseball. And I think he’s on a trajectory to make the Hall of Fame. Few players have been as exciting, as quirky, as human, and as a guy that everyone wants to watch than Tim Lincecum. And now with his seeming reinvention as a pitcher as opposed to a flame thrower, a mustache as opposed to long hair, he’s starting to rack up the kind of things that eventuate in the HOF. Two Cy Youngs, two championships, two no hitters; a no hitter and a save in a matter of weeks. If the Giants get a third championship, if Lincecum reinvents himself as Dennis Eckersley or just keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s there.

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Either Danny Ainge is throwing a major pity party and taking it out on Celtics fans, or he really wants us to hate him, or he has something up his sleeve. I really hope he has something up his sleeve. But it sure doesn’t appear to be Kevin Love, and the latest reports out of summer league is that Smart can’t shoot and that the guy drafted right after him by the Lakers appears to be the real athlete of the draft.

Ok. No problem. The Celtics just need a guard or forward or center who could shoot or maybe rebound.

Enter Evan Turner.

Evan Turner. Just one more letter than Kevin Love, minus the shooting, rebounding, and sweet outlet passes. He’s another ‘tweener who can sort of score, but can’t really shoot, can’t really defend. I’m really looking forward to a lineup with Smart, Thornton, Turner, Young, and Green. It’d really confuse the defense because they’d all be guarding the same guy.

Danny, please tell me this isn’t some sick revenge fantasy your casting on Celtics fans because we never really accepted you as one of the big 5 (Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, Walton/Maxwell). Please tell me you aren’t going after Cody Zeller’s other brother and one more veteran ‘tweener who once averaged 18 for a lottery team. Please tell me you aren’t wooing Ricky Davis out of retirement. (Ok, I’d be happy to hear you are wooing Antwan, “I’d like to shoot 4s if they’d let me” Walker out of retirement).

Please tell me you are setting up the big deal that brings it all together. Where we all exclaim, ‘genius!’ Please. I’m ready to be wowed.

Am I being too harsh with what we’ve got now? Lets go upside. Rondo returns to elite PG, Smart becomes a young D.Wade, Young becomes a young Kobe, Green becomes old Sugar K Leonard, Sully, Olynyk, and the brother of Cody Zeller that we already have all clog the middle, Bradley comes off the bench for defensive energy and keeps emerging as the former best high schooler in America, while Turner, the Wallace not related to Rasheed, and Bass add depth. El Hombre truly becomes Indestructable.

I’m feeling better. I’m ignoring the obvious and fun ways to attack this trade from the likes of Deadspin and Kirk Goldsberry. I’m envisioning a lot of balance. Not a lot of boards, not too many shots outside of 12 feet or inside 3 feet, but a lot of shots, a lot of energy, a different tweener leading the team in scoring every night with a bunch of fast break dunks.

Unrepentant homer, right?

 

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Will Bosh step up?

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Will the Miami Heat be better than the Cleveland Cavaliers? I think so. I have a feeling Bosh is going to have the kind of step up that Scottie Pippen had post-Jordan 1, and D-Wade is going to surprise people with greater range. I wouldn’t be surprised with a step-up year by Mario Chalmers, too. Miami is going to be loose, playing without expectations, and I could see 55 wins.

Could the Charlotte Hornets be the best team in the east? Its not implausible. Is there a clear cut better team? With the exception of Cleveland and maybe Chicago depending on the healthiness of Derrick Rose, every team in the east has declined between June and now. The old Bobcats gave the old Heat a pretty good series. Now they have LeBron defensive specialist Lance Stephenson and they are pulling out the old-new uniforms. Switching uniforms got us excited here for about 3 seconds. Our powerful research team here sort of remembers something good happening when the Patriots and Broncos changed their uniforms, and definitely remembers the Brooklyn Nets getting better. But then we googled it, and we discovered (on the first page, which is as far as we’re ever going to go with a google search) that the University of Buffalo football team’s efforts to benefit from new kits resulted in only 2 more wins and a losing season. So, that was enough to convince us that the answer is a definitive ‘no.’

My current predictions for the Eastern conference, soon to be deleted: Chicago, Indiana, Miami, Cleveland, Charlotte, Washington, New York…Boston. Yes, Boston. Why? Why not. Its that or a complete implosion. Only Rajon Rondo can predict which way it goes. But if he plays hard, they ought to be scrappy, more athletic, and competitive. Rondo, Smart, Young, Green, Sulli…that’s not an awful 5, especially with a pretty decent bench of Bradley, Bass, Olynyk, Thornton, Wallace, not Cody Zeller, El Hombre, Pressey, and Bayless. In fact, looking at the current Celtics roster is making me want season tickets to their scrimmages. They may not be competitive with the top teams, but the balance of the roster ought to lead to a lot of exciting greens v. whites pickup games.

I’d have ranked the Celtics in the top 4, but they just gave up on Kris Humphries. Another Celtic headed to the Wizards. I always liked him; he threw elbows and hit 18 foot jumpers (the former more than the latter). I also thought he was unfairly branded as the bad guy by the Kardashians. Us Weekly, which must be owned by the Kardashians given how many covers and fluff pieces they get in that magazine, said ridiculous things about him like that he was using the Kardashian name to get into NYC clubs. (I love that one in particular. We all know how hard it is for people who make $8 million a year and play for an NBA team to get into NYC clubs.) He was frequently a bit of a D-bag on the show, sure. But in an alternative reality world of the Kardashians, wouldn’t you be mean and snarky too? He and Reggie Bush are the only athletes to get out of that family with any semblance of their sanity left.

(For the record-I’ve never watched the show or looked at an Us Weekly; its New York Times and PBS 24-7 when we aren’t watching ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNnews.)

 

It’s Really Over this Time

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Like any other good stalker, I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to the possible end of my relationships. So when Paul, Jesus, and KG said that while it wasn’t me, things weren’t working anymore and they had to ‘move on,’ I said, OK. Because I knew they weren’t really going anywhere. They’d enjoy their delusions for a year or two before realizing how great things are over here at homer, and they’d come running back. They’d realize quickly that the big city lights of Miami and Brooklyn would quickly fade and they’d return to something real.

But now it’s really over. The Truth is going to the Wizards. There are no championships to be won in DC, no KG to play with, no Doc Rivers to join. And I have to accept that even the unexciting Wizards are better than coming home. The Big 3 are really no more. I might even have to deal with my drinking problem, let alone Jeff Green not getting traded back to OKC for Perk.

Its also time to accept that the Celtics are not just in temporary reloading mode. They are going to suck again. Kevin Love is not coming to join Rondo, Carmelo, and the Truth. Its going to be a team of Rondo, Cody Zeller’s brother, El Hombre who is definitely not Indestructible, and 9 guys who aren’t guards because they can’t shoot and aren’t forwards because they can’t rebound.

If we can’t get the Three Amigos back, how about Delonte West?

Things Learned Today

 

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Tyler Zeller is not Cody Zeller. I was upset to hear the Celtics had traded for Cody Zeller. Now, I realize, they got his lesser known brother.

Marcus Thornton once averaged 21 points a game in an NBA season. It was only in 27 games, but then he averaged close to 19 points a game the following year, playing more than half the season. It made me wonder: is 20 the new 8 in the NBA? But I looked at this season’s list of players averaging 20 points plus a game–its a good group. Not a Marcus Thornton (himself included) in the bunch. (For whatever reason, the number of players averaging 20 points a game more than doubled this year from last. Someone needs to figure out why.)

I will reserve judgment for now with the hopes that Danny Ainge is up to something big involving Kevin Love. Or that the Celtics are the secret third team in the LeBron James sweepstakes, and not just the team that takes Tyler Zeller to open cap-space for Cleveland to sign him.

I do like this line from Gary Washburn at the Boston Globe about the possible Celtics interest in Lance Stephenson: “He would make a major impact in the Celtics’ backcourt; just imagine a Stephenson-Rajon Rondo combination, which perhaps would be one of the more irritating in NBA history.”

Another things learned (actually a few days back, while watching Brazilians sing the second verse of their national anthem after the official music allowed by FIFA stopped): the U.S. national anthem has a second verse…actually it has four verses. I think we should pull out the third verse next time we play England in the World Cup.

And with the Men in Blazers apparently headed home from the World Cup after such a great run that put them so much on the map, I’ll honor them with my favorite quote from their podcasts, this in reference to showing Mexico’s coach Miguel Herrera celebrating after a goal: Herrera, in that celebratory moment, has experienced “more happiness than any Englishman has felt in his entire generation.”