In case you were busy accidentally watching a performance art piece in which the notion of sports was approached from many perspectives without any sports actually happening, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The Miami Heat bounced back from their Game 1 defeat to even the NBA Finals with a 103-84 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Despite the win, questions must be asked of LeBron James, who was held to only 17 points, and I'm not afraid to be the one to take it right to James and throw it down, to split this whole issue wide open, so
OH ARE THERE QUESTIONS? LOOK AT THE RING ON MY FINGER AND ASK ME A QUESTION. HUH? WHAT QUESTION DO YOU HAVE TO ASK THE KING? IS IT "WHO BROKE INTO YOUR HOUSE AND ANSWERED ALL YOUR QUESTIONS?" BECAUSE I THINK THAT'S THE QUESTION YOU SHOULD BE ASKING.
Holy crap guys. I'm not positive, but based on the welt on my forehead and the above text, I think LeBron James just came out of nowhere, broke into my house, knocked me out, and typed up a vicious and unexpected rejection to my question. Well, um, asked and answered. I'm going to go lock my door. Moving on.
In case you were out living your own sports dreams by eating pretzels like Jason Alexander circa '94, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Los Angeles Kings once again showed that Staples Center is a fortress, extending their unbeaten home playoff record with a 3-1 win over the Blackhawks to narrow Chicago's Western Conference finals lead to 2-1. "Man, it's harder to win there than it is at a Staples," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. "I mean, you go in, and the prices are way higher than you'd find online, but it's like, I need index cards today and where the hell else can you get index cards? Then you end up wandering down an aisle and remembering that your wife told you the router was on the fritz, so you go to pick up a new one, but all the models are weird and overpriced. Then you get up to the counter, and boom, Jonathan Quick rejects your credit card. So you go to shoplift some highlighters. Which, and trust me on this one, only makes things worse."
Oklahoma avenged its defeat in last year's Women's College World Series by completing its sweep of the Tennessee Volunteers with a 4-0 series-clinching win. Oklahoma became the first WCWS champion to finish first in the nation in ERA and scoring, putting it in the conversation about the greatest women's college softball teams of all time. Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops differed in his assessment, however, saying, "Last year's model was definitely better; it's always better when you make it to the finals and lose. Builds character. Shows true greatness."
You know the story. Jeffrey Loria bought the Montreal Expos, ran them into the ground, then swapped them for the Florida Marlins. For the next 10 years, he ran, essentially, a skeleton operation, at one point so brazenly failing to compete that Major League Baseball started leaning on him to spend more on player salaries. He argued that, as a multimillionaire, he couldn’t make enough of a profit unless the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County (who have a median household income of $43,957, and 17.9 percent of whom live below the poverty line, according to the latest census figures) bought him a new stadium.
And when they did, at the eventual cost of more than a billion dollars to taxpayers, Loria and his front office made a good-faith effort to compete for one season, before shipping off Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle and replacing them with players who make the major league minimum. All told, it’s a tale of class warfare that would make Karl Marx’s hair stand on end even more than it did before.
But despite the overall ickiness of their ownership group, one that seems to view actually having to field a baseball team as an annoyance (and wouldn’t you, if said baseball team was in the habit of hitting Greg Dobbs cleanup?), the Marlins are in an interesting position. They know they aren’t going to win, and so with all the depressing, .600 OPS-toting retreads and career replacement-level non-prospects they’re marching out there, they’ve taken the opportunity to blood a couple more exciting young players.
This seems to be how the Marlins work — they assemble oodles of talent, develop it slowly, make the playoffs and win the World Series, then sell that championship roster for parts. No owner, perhaps in all of North American sports, is trying less hard to build a champion than Jeffrey Loria. But if these players grow up together, in a couple years he might get one anyway.
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 dusting off the old Maypole a few days early so you can really get your Maypole dancing where you want it in time for May Day, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Denver kept its playoff hopes alive with a chippy 107-100 win over the Golden State Warriors. Both Warriors coach Mark Jackson and guard Stephen Curry complained about the Nuggets' physical play, and forward Kenneth Faried was singled out for a few illegal screens committed in the first quarter. "Is it illegal to commit an illegal screen?" Faried asked after the game. "Is jabbing a smaller man in the chest with your elbow, just to make him think all of a sudden, against the rules of basketball? Is it?" When told that it was, Faried responded, "Oh, it is? Really? Oh, man, I had no idea. I'll clean that up in the next one. My bad, Steph."
If the Los Angeles Kings are going to defend their Stanley Cup crown, they'll have to do better than their 2-1 opening-game defeat to the St. Louis Blues. Kings goalie and noted hockey satirist Jonathan Quick, whose careless giveaway led to the winning goal in overtime, said after the game, "I was caught in reverie, devising a modest proposal whereby the people of St. Louis might avoid the blues: They could eat their young. And then I thought maybe I could just let them score. And before the thought was even finished in my head, it had happened."
In December of 2011, emboldened by a colorful, exciting rebranding and a colorful, exciting, publicly funded stadium, the Miami Marlins signed the jewel of the 2011-12 free-agent class, shortstop Jose Reyes. Miami made room for Reyes by moving franchise shortstop Hanley Ramirez over to third base.
Had Reyes not signed, the Marlins could have used strong-armed, sure-handed former first-round draft pick Matt Dominguez at third base in 2012. Dominguez was already one of the top defensive prospects at his position. But with Ramirez holding down the position, Dominguez spent most of 2012 in AAA. Then, on July 4, the Marlins, for some reason, traded him and pitcher Rob Rasmussen to Houston for Carlos Lee.
Even granting that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is reputed to be one of the brighter guys in the game, and that the long-term rebuilding project he’s undertaken in Houston affords him the ability to take some risks, it looked like a good deal for Houston. After all, Dominguez, who twice appeared on the Baseball America Top 100, was about to turn 23, and the Astros got him for the last couple squirts from the ketchup bottle of Lee’s career.
In case you were busy living on easy street wait — OH, I FORGOT ABOUT MY TAXES — here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Boston Red Sox rode a seven-run second inning to cruise to a 7-2 win over the host Cleveland Indians. Red Sox starter Felix Doubront, who got the win after throwing five solid innings, said, "With everything that happened yesterday, I was just out there pitching for the name on the front of the jersey today, not on the back. Which really helped, because even I have trouble pronouncing my last name. It's Doo-Braunt, by the way I think. I'm pretty sure. Like 99 percent. Don't hold me to that until I call my ma, though."
Veteran starter Dan Haren gave up seven runs in 4⅓ innings as the Washington Nationals fell to the Miami Marlins, 8-2. After the game, a shell-shocked Haren said, "I gave up a home run today to Adeiny Hechavarria. I got shelled by the Miami Marlins. Sometimes it's hard to know when it's over. This is not one of those times." He then announced the immediate opening of Haren Buick, Haren Chevrolet, and Haren Kia/Hyundai, which he hoped would become the Southern California destination for peoples' Buick, Chevrolet, Kia, and Hyundai needs.
But none of that, or even Marlins management ordering protesters be tossed from the stadium on Opening Day, tells the full story. When Jose Fernandez mowed down the Mets in his major league debut Sunday, it was a reminder that the Marlins should be known for something much more positive: developing big-time players, and getting them to the big leagues earlier than just about anyone else.
In case you were out demanding that Red Lobster serve you a never-ending pasta bowl, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
In a thrilling conclusion to the NCAA tournament, the Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win their first NCAA title in 27 years. Reserve forward Luke Hancock was named the Final Four's MOP after his 22-point performance in the title game. When asked if he saw his performance coming, Hancock responded, "I mean, how can you see a thing like this coming?" before Michigan's Trey Burke came up from behind to congratulate him on the win. Unfortunately, Burke's intentions were misinterpreted by a security guard, who immediately removed Burke from the stadium.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's good fortunes continued as he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2013. Pitino, who'll be inducted alongside Gary Payton, Bernard King, and Jerry Tarkanian, among others, also saw his horse Goldencents win the Santa Anita Derby over the weekend. Pitino's great week didn't end there, as he was invited to two separate parties at the Louisville Discovery Zone this coming weekend, both of which are rumored to be supplied with both Pizza Factory pizza and Carvel ice-cream cake.
In case you were busy dancing like no one was watching, despite the fact many, many people were watching, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Clayton Kershaw pitched a shutout and hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants, 4-0 to open their 2013 season. "I've been playing at such a high level for a number of years, and now it's time for me to make an impact at every level of the franchise," Kershaw said after the game, while directing traffic in Dodger Stadium's serpentine parking lot, adeptly moving those headed to the 110 away from those headed toward the 101. Kershaw reportedly spent the remainder of his evening helping the grounds crew reseed the playing surface, before finally heading to the locker room to do the team's laundry.
Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies sent the Spurs to their second consecutive defeat, winning in Memphis, 92-90. Conley hit the game-winning shot with six-tenths of a second left on the clock, but was also held without a steal for the first time in 64 games. "I'm out of the game," Conley said after the win. "I've been taking things my whole life, but I'm done. I've got a wife now, and I think a more stable life is what we need." Despite these comments, Conley was, admittedly, "intrigued" by a plan that Marc Gasol was putting together for "one last big score," but at press time had still refused to commit to any more steals in a potential first-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets.
In case you were out drunkenly explaining that Joel Schumacher was never a good enough director to "lose it Rob Reiner style," here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Lakers were again bested by the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-105. The Thunder played solid fundamental basketball, limiting themselves to only two turnovers on the night while shooting over 90 percent from the free throw line. "We give the fans what they want here in Oklahoma City," said Kevin Durant after the game, before spending the rest of his night handing out small bags of baby carrots to kids asking for his autograph.
On Wednesday, I covered 15 players with compelling backstories who've been invited to spring training with American League clubs. Per that article: "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."
I was just wondering the other day how Miami Marlins fans were taking the Great American Baseball Fire-Sale of 2012. Maybe they were all like, "It's cool. You have to game the system any way you can. We paid our tax money so that we could have a nice place to sit in the sun during the mild, Miami summer. Having a competitive baseball team never really entered the equation. We're just there to work on our tans and think about the wonderful Dubstep we'll hear that night in South Beach watering holes."
The Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins pulled off a 12-player trade, one that's being hailed as a gigantic upgrade for the Jays and the latest fire sale for a Marlins team with a long history of them. All of which overlooks one critical takeaway from this blockbuster for the ages: Jeffrey Loria is a genius.
In dealing Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, and $4 million to the Jays for Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jeff Mathis, the Marlins shed nearly $160 million in payroll. They're now committed to only eight players for next season — Ricky Nolasco, Greg Dobbs, Mathis, and Escobar, major league contracts for recently arrived prospects Jacob Turner, Zack Cox, and Hechavarria, and $4 million for Heath Bell to play in Arizona. For 2014, they owe money to only two players, Mathis and Bell.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Ozzie Guillen was fired as manager of the Miami Marlins, and team officials say his positive remarks about Fidel Castro played a contributing role. As he retreated from Miami into the remote Everglades of central Florida with only a small loyal band of 19 followers (including his brother Raul Guillen and Hanley "Che" Ramirez), Guillen vowed that his fight to dominate the Florida sports scene had only just begun. He was given a hero's greeting by the Everglade peasants, and immediately set up a pirate radio station to broadcast his message into the homes of the people.