In case you were busy concocting an elaborate theory in which the film The Faculty exists as a prequel within the Fast & Furious universe, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
LeBron James had a triple-double and scored the game-winning layup as time expired in overtime as the Miami Heat fought off a ferocious effort from the Indiana Pacers to win, 103-102, and take Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals. I may be in the minority here, but I think the question remains, when will James really prove his greatness? Here's the supposed greatest player of all time, and he hasn't even quit the NBA to pursue his dreams of playing professional baseball? Gimme a break! Michael Jordan made it all the way to Double-A; that's two A's, which is already the highest grade that you can get in college, which LeBron James didn't even attend! No BA, no AA, no GOAT.
Bryce Harper scored both of his team's runs and made a game-saving catch as the Washington Nationals beat the San Francisco Giant, 2-1, in 10 innings at AT&T Park. I may be in the minority here, but I think the question remains, when will Harper really prove his greatness? Here's the supposed best young player on his team, and yet he has never once been rested in the postseason to avoid long-term injury ramifications? Gimme a break! He was left in this game even after reaggravating a minor knee injury? If Bryce Harper wants to show he's the best young player on the Nationals, he needs to play less and rest more at the end of the year, when it really counts. No DL, no DNP, no GOAST (greatest on a specific team).
Coming into this season, Scott Feldman owned a career 4.81 ERA. It wasn't all bad, of course. You could blame some of those runs allowed on the harsh pitching environment at Arlington in which he toiled for eight years. There were flashes of strong results, such as the 2009 season that yielded a 17-8 record and 4.08 ERA — though even then his numbers weren't supported by strong peripherals. For fantasy purposes, Feldman's name wasn't one you had to remember at the draft table, unless you were in a really deep league.
Feldman's first three starts this year did nothing to change anyone's opinion. Lasting just 14 combined innings, he allowed 15 hits and 10 walks, for a 4.50 ERA. Except that ERA was a gift, the result of the stat's silly way of distinguishing "earned" runs from "unearned" ones. Turns out Feldman actually allowed twice as many total runs as he had earned runs — 14 in 14 innings. Throw in the weak contributions of the Cubs' offense and defense and you had a mediocre pitcher playing on a lousy team, someone you wouldn't think would be worth starting against anyone.
That's when the schedule gods smiled upon him. On April 26, Feldman got to face the Marlins, owners of the second-worst offense in the majors. He didn't dominate by any means. But Feldman's line — 6⅔ innings, seven hits, two runs, two walks, two strikeouts — proved enough to earn his first win of the year.
That was just the appetizer. In his next start, Feldman squared off against the Padres. He obliterated them, ceding just two runs on three hits, walking one, and striking out 12, en route to the first complete game of his career.
In case you were busy discovering something magical, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The New York Knicks blew out the Indiana Pacers, 105-79, behind 32 points from Carmelo Anthony to even their second-round series at a game apiece. "Now I will grant an exclusive interview to any member of the New York media who didn't write our epitaph after Game 1," Anthony announced after the game while sipping an ice-cold Diet Coke. But no one in the New York press stepped forward. "Come on, anyone? OK, how ’bout anyone who didn't call me Car-Smell-O." But again there was only silence. "Um, anyone who didn't personally insult my family?" Howard Beck of the New York Times then raised his hand to ask if cousins counted, but Anthony granted him the interview before Beck had the chance to clarify.
Craig Kimbrel gave up back-to-back home runs with two outs in the ninth inning as the Cincinnati Reds shocked the Atlanta Braves, 5-4. "I'd be more ashamed if it weren't the Reds," Kimbrel explained after the game. "They were cool, which is what I think of when I think of things wrapped in red-and-white. They were ice-cold. You could throw six of them in a cooler, take ’em on a picnic, and have a hell of a day. As an Atlanta man, that's just an instinct for me at this point."
In case you were out meeting the Mets, meeting the Mets, stepping right up and greeting the Mets, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Golden State Warriors blew a 16-point lead, and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili hit a game winning 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime as the Spurs took Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal at home, 129-127. The final result overshadowed an epic performance from Stephen Curry, who played every minute of the game and scored 44 points. "It's too bad that I'm not allowed to come out of games," Curry said afterward. "I really could've used the rest at the start of the fourth quarter so that I didn't lose the accuracy on my jumper." He then paused and added, "It's weird that everyone else came out for at least a little bit. I wonder why the rules are different for me." Curry then shrugged, before collapsing in a fatigued heap under the weight of his own shoulder movement.
An injury-ravaged Chicago Bulls team shocked the defending champion Heat in Miami, 93-86. The Bulls closed the game on a 10-0 run, which once again raises the question: Can LeBron get it done in the postseason? Hold on. Let me watch some tape of LeBron from last postseason really quickly oh oh, wow, yeah, he totally can. Never mind.
Sportswriters love telling people how unbiased sportswriters are, and a big part of that is rooting for stories, not individual teams. That’s pretty obvious. It’s much easier and much more fun to write about an unusual defensive play, or a no-hitter, or a walk-off hit, than it is to write about an arduous 12-5 yawner that stopped being close after the third inning.
And it’s not just writers who do this. Even without the professional self-interest, fans want to see the underdog overachieve. They want to see the unusual, the exciting, and they want the drama and uncertainty to last as long as possible.
So in the spirit of lasting drama, everyone ought to be rooting as hard as they can against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are kind of old news, with two consecutive division titles in their pockets. They rely heavily on slow guys who walk and hit home runs (and if you’re going to do that, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are two pretty good slow guys to have), and they’ve got a starting rotation that might be better than all the other rotations in the division. To balance those strengths come two glaring weaknesses. First, the bullpen has been quite good so far this year but is built on a foundation of quicksand. Second, they have the kind of defense one might expect when a lineup has a lot of slow guys who walk and hit home runs.
Now, none of this makes the Tigers particularly objectionable. The reason you should root against them is that they’re by far the best team in baseball’s worst division, and they’re starting to pull away in the standings.
In case you were busy making a new nonalcoholic mixed drink that's half soda water, half tonic water called the Van de Velde, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Playing without Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, and Kirk Hinrich was too much for the Bulls, who fell 95-92 to the Brooklyn Nets. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau regrettably informed his team of their depleted forces before the game, adding, "I didn't know the games were optional." He then proceeded to drink straight from a bottle of Gilbey's gin, tell Taj Gibson that he wanted to sleep with his sister, and unleash a barrage of awkwardly profuse "real talk about love and pain" upon the injured Hinrich. Bulls forward Carlos Boozer then yelled out his signature catchphrase, "Can you smell the booze stank in the room?!" before being told by Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin that games are not optional. A visibly intoxicated Boozer fouled out of his team's defeat in the fourth quarter.
Even though he had another solid outing, Atlanta starter Kris Medlen fell to 1-4 as his Braves lost to the Washington Nationals, 3-1. Medlen, snacking on biscuits after the game, blamed his spotty start to the season on fatigue based on his home life. "I've got young boys, and they're up at all hours," he said. "I've only been a little off, which just makes me think I could be 5-0 if it weren't for those Medlen kids!"
Stating the obvious, strikeouts are a wonderful thing for a pitcher. Retire a batter by your own hand and you don't have to sweat the vagaries of luck, defense, park effects, and all the factors that can conspire to ruin a pitcher's day, through no fault of his own. More broadly, strikeouts are a great predictor of success: Other than the occasional Carlos Marmol, the top strikeout pitchers in baseball often double as the top pitchers in baseball, period.
But that doesn't mean pitchers can't find success in other ways. In 2011, Jim Johnson shook off a career full of mostly unimpressive results to become one of the league's top setup men; few noticed because he lacked the glory that comes with getting the last out of games. Given his first extended shot at closing last year, Johnson flourished, marking just the 12th time in history that a pitcher had racked up 50 or more saves. The Orioles played a ton of close games last year and famously posted the best record ever for one-run games, which played a big part in Johnson's gaudy save totals. But Johnson himself was responsible for much of that success, and not because of his strikeouts. The right-hander's 15.2 percent K rate ranked just 219th among 270 pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched last year. His 62.3 percent ground ball rate, on the other hand, ranked 6th among those same 270 pitchers, his tidy 5.6 percent walk rate ranking 45th. If you walk very few batters and induce a ton of grounders, you're simply not going to put many men on base, nor allow many extra-base hits. Sure, you'll be susceptible to a few five-hoppers sneaking through the infield. But if that's the worst of a closer's problems, he's probably going to put up a bunch of big seasons.
He might not fit the profile of the fire-breathing ninth-inning man. But Johnson is one of the game's best, his hold on the closing job is rock-solid, and there's no regression monster lurking around the corner.
In case you were busy using an already awesome milk shake as the base for an even thicker and more decadent uber-milk shake, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman shot 6-under to share the opening-round lead at the Masters. Garcia, considered among the best active players to have never won a major, said afterward, "Oh, no, please don't notice I'm leading. I can't choke if I'm not in front. I had no idea my round would be good enough to put me on top. Please, don't even talk to me. Talk to Leishman! Just talk to Leishman! Why won't you just talk to Leishman?!" Garcia then ran into a greenside bunker at the fourth hole, attempting to bury himself in the sand.
The Bulls continued their streak-snapping ways, and Nate Robinson scored 35 points in Chicago's 118-111 win over the New York Knicks at United Center. New York came to Chicago on a 13-game winning streak. Knicks coach Mike Woodson was reflective after the loss, saying, "Oh, we laughed when Erik Spoelstra came in shouting, 'I'm out!' when the Bulls brought down his team's streak earlier this year. And we shrugged off his warning that they'd lay us low, as well. We were sure we'd remain kings of our castle, masters of our domain, lords of our manors. And yet here we are, sweaty, drained, and out of the winning streak contest ourselves."
In case you were out dressed up as Grimace to serve as a decoy for a hamburger-related heist, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Denver Nuggets stayed hot, winning their 12th straight at home, 107-92, over the Los Angeles Clippers. Denver pulled away late, despite the mind games of Blake Griffin. Nuggets forward Andre Iguodala said after the game, "Blake kept calling me the Iguanodon, which I get, but he also kept calling [Nuggets center] Kosta Koufos the Koufosaurus. I don't even think that's a real dinosaur." When asked what he was up to, Griffin responded, "I just think dinosaurs are cool," before jutting out his mouthguard and winking.
The Pittsburgh Penguins stormed back from a three-goal deficit to beat the Flyers in Philadelphia, 5-4. I'm sorry, I mean the city formerly known as Philadelphia, which is now officially Philahellphia, as the local government has been seized by enraged Flyers fans. Martial law currently reigns in the city, with sober rationality the only official crime on the books. Fortunately, this has caused nothing to change for the citizens of Philahellphia in the aftermath of this rare American coup d'etat.
You'll need to know who you're watching. Unlike in the regular season, when you become all too familiar with your favorite team's designated cipher, recognizing players during spring training often takes a well-trained eye. There are the many players wearing 70-, 80- and 90-something who you won't see on the big league roster for a few years, if ever. Then there are the "Is that who I think it is?" double-takes, the veterans who peaked years ago, only to show up in Mesa or Kissimmee or Peoria doggedly trying to fight their way back for one more shot at glory.
These are the NRIs, the non-roster invitees promised almost nothing — not a job, not a major league deal, nothing more than a chance to come to camp, overcome often astronomical odds, and somehow make the Opening Day roster. Today, we'll review the AL NRIs, one player from each American League team who fits the mold of failed prospect, faded star, or just someone with a story to tell (NL later this week).
The series of tubes are still buzzing over Sergio Romo's parade-stopping T-shirt, and already we've got reams of Hot Stove news to sort through. Here are some of the biggest happenings from the past week:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Russell Wilson's last-second Hail Mary pass fell into the arms of well, it fell into the arms of M.D. Jennings, who plays for the Packers, but the replacement refs awarded Golden Tate a touchdown, upheld it on review, and the Seahawks won 14-12. Luckily, About Last Night was able to obtain a transcript of a post-game phone call between head referee Wayne Elliott and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Matt Ryan threw his 100th career touchdown pass and the Falcons defense harassed Peyton Manning into three first-quarter interceptions in a 27-21 win over the Broncos. "Each turnover has its own story that no one really wants to hear," Manning said afterward. He then paused, looked in every reporter's eyes, and said, "Actually, let's do this. Turnover one was a lonely girl with big dreams who wanted to escape the drudgery of life in her tiny Nebraska town. Her father was an undertaker, but she longed for more, so she joined a traveling circus. She found joy and she married a carnie, but late one drunken night she died while riding the zipper and they sent her body back to her father. INTERCEPTION. Turnover two was a lot like the boy in Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer." Poor kid, ragged people, bleeding winter, dead from boxing. INTERCEPTION. Turnover three was just a bad pass. WRONG. TRICKED YOU. Each turnover has a story, never forget that. Turnover three was the look my father gave me one October morning, age 8, when I said I wanted to become an artist. "I hate football, Daddy. I love paints and oils." Old Archie threw me in the back of our pickup truck, drove me out to the woods, and left me with nothing but a football for six days. It worked. I fell in love with that football and named it Godfrey. My artistic dreams died with the midnight howling of the wolves. INTERCEPTION. COME BACK, GODFREY. But Godfrey's gone."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The University of Connecticut announced that legendary men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun will announce his retirement today. They were going to let Calhoun himself break the news at the press conference, but then realized they should prep everyone since his mumbling, near-unintelligible speeches have previously been misinterpreted as everything from presidential endorsements to sexual advice to, in one case, a recipe for something called "fried Krzyzewski."