In case you were busy making more than $1,244 a week from home using one simple trick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Things are getting interesting in the Eastern Conference finals as the Indiana Pacers took Game 4 from the Miami Heat, 99-92, to even up their series at two games apiece. Roy Hibbert was immense for the Pacers, amassing 23 points and 12 rebounds while anchoring an impressive Indiana defense that held All-Star forward Chris Bosh to seven points on 1-for-6 shooting. "They seem to be playing some sort of strange formation," Hibbert explained after the game. "They put out guys who are shorter than we are on the court, and then they try to go around us. It's like they have no idea that height is an advantage in basketball. It makes no sense. It's some crazy sort of tiny orb strategy, because they're small and we play with a regulation-size basketball. I think I'm gonna dub it 'wee sphere,' and hope they keep doing it because man, it's really easy for me to guard short dudes." Hibbert then shrugged before adding, "Baby globe."
The Los Angeles Kings will be returning to the Western Conference finals after holding on to beat the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, in a climactic Game 7 at Staples Center. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Kings, however, as they lost the services of superfan Samuel L. Jackson midway through giving the following motivational speech: "You think water moves fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once and got a taste for murder. After the Avalanche knocked us out at this stage in '01, it took us a decade to climb out. Now, I don't know exactly when we turned on each other, but I know that nature is lethal but it doesn't hold a candle to man. To Kings!" Jackson was then bitten savagely by Sharks goal scorer Dan Boyle, and decided that hockey "ain't worth my damn time."
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 June 2010, I suggested for the first time that the Phillies should draft South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley when he became eligible in 2011. He was rated as a top-15 talent going into the season, coming off a season in which he was named MVP of the College World Series, but after suffering a wrist injury that wiped out much of his junior season, Bradley looked like he might actually fall to the Phillies at No. 39.
And he did, much to my astonishment, but the Phillies passed, choosing instead to pick high school outfielder Larry Greene. The Red Sox took Bradley with the next pick. Being the hyperbolic, evangelical Gamecock baseball homer that I am, I began a two-year-long crusade to make sure everyone knew what a mistake the Phillies had made, building Bradley up into a Homeric hero. Greene, by the way, did exactly what I did at his age: moved out of his parents’ house and put on a ton of weight. Which is more of a problem when you, you know, play sports for a living.
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 out feeling agnostic toward piña coladas, but still got caught in the rain, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Kobe Bryant was en fuego, scoring 47 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 113-106. Bryant's big night overshadowed a stellar performance from Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who described going toe to toe as "really fun for a while, until things started to get, um, personal." When asked to explain, Lillard got very quiet. Bryant, when asked about Lillard's comments, said, "Kid's a kid, and when you're a kid, you're maybe not ready to see a grown man call another grown man who is wearing the same jersey he is some of the names I may have called some of the men who were wearing the same jersey I was. But if he didn't want to see that, then maybe those men who were wearing the same jersey that I was should maybe rebound, as they were expected to when some other men were traded for them this past offseason. The point is, we can stay quiet for the kids, but I say they gotta grow up sometime. Damian's a trouper. He'll be all right."
The Kansas City Royals completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 3-0 win at Kauffman Stadium. The win keeps the Kansas City Royals atop the AL Central, and while the season is still young, it's never too early to prepare yourself for the consequences of a potential Royals playoff berth. In the event of a Royals playoff berth, you'll want to keep five gallons of purified water on hand for each member of your household. You'll also want to have cash on hand; remember, in the case of a Royals playoff berth, it's likely that the telecommunication systems we rely on in our day-to-day lives will fail, and you'll want to be prepared. While having a roll of duct tape handy in the case of a Royals playoff berth might help you build a makeshift shelter, you should not rely on it if a Royals playoff berth leads to unbreathable air conditions. Consider purchasing rated ventilation masks now. And when in doubt, an ounce of prevention can save a pound of heartache in the event of a Royals playoff berth.
When a manager employs a bullpen-by-committee — let's junk that term forever and call it what it is, a bullpen-by-matchup — he usually does so because he lacks the kind of archetypal, fire-breathing closer who takes decisions out of his hands. When you've got Mariano Rivera or Aroldis Chapman standing by, you can shut off your brain, play your rockin' closer intro, and that's that. If you're going to use a bullpen-by-matchup, you'll likely need to leverage a group of capable but flawed pitchers: lefties and righties with big platoon splits, maybe a combination of ground-ball and fly-ball pitchers, too. That takes prep work, nuance, and foresight.
Jim Leyland showed none of these things on Wednesday.
The Philadelphia Phillies dealt young starting pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May to the Minnesota Twins for center fielder Ben Revere, addressing Philly's biggest lineup hole and dramatically changing the market for available outfielders now that Michael Bourn's most likely path is blocked.
In Revere, the Phillies get one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball; only Josh Reddick, Jason Heyward, and Torii Hunter played a better right field last season than Revere per Defensive Runs Saved, and Revere should be an above-average fly-catcher in center, having moved off that position in Minnesota only because of Denard Span's presence. Revere's also blazingly fast, having stolen 74 bases in his first 254 major league games, with 160 swipes in 403 minor league games before that. On defense, baserunning, and base stealing alone, Revere could net two to three wins a year for the Phillies.
The Baltimore Orioles were a bad team in 2011. Terrible, really. They won 69 games, finished last in the AL East, and allowed 152 more runs than they scored. If anyone other than Dan Duquette and the players' moms figured the O's could storm back, win 90-odd games, and make a run at the AL East title and maybe even a World Series, those true believers certainly kept their opinions to themselves.
Last year's Baltimore team — along with fellow sub-.500 clubs turned 2012 playoff entrants Washington, Cincinnati, and Oakland — offer hope for those teams already eliminated from postseason contention this year. With that in mind, let's take a look at the 16 teams whose playoffs dreams had been dashed as of Monday (i.e. not these guys), and see if we can find a candidate or two to be next year's Orioles.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Freddie Freeman hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves a 4-3 win over the Marlins and help his team secure a playoff berth. The team's celebration took an odd turn when Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen burst into the locker room wearing only a jock and holding a bottle of champagne. "I'm always up for fun!" he screamed, before accidentally shooting himself in the testicles with the cork.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Red-hot Mariners ace Felix Hernandez tossed a five-hit, complete game shutout as the M's squeaked by the Twins 1-0. In related news, Las Vegas is now a bankrupt ghost town after more than 100 million gamblers placed significant bets on the Mariners-Twins game ending 1-0.
Here are the most compelling matchups, stories, and personalities in Major League Baseball for the coming weekend.
10. Reality Cometh for One (BAL-CLE)
Now for this weekend’s metaphorical boxing match between two of the luckiest teams in baseball. In one corner, we have the Baltimore Orioles — 48-44, in a really good division, with a run differential of -55. In this corner, you've got the Cleveland Indians, standing 47-45 in a pretty good division, with a run differential of -36. Stick with me while I analyze these teams with some complex baseball terminology: They are total flukes. In games decided by two runs or less, the Orioles are 32-14 (first in baseball), and the Indians are 25-16 (good for fourth). But do they have great starting pitching? Nope. Do they have great bullpen pitching? Baltimore is pretty solid, but Cleveland is near the bottom. What about run-scoring from the seventh inning on? Again, average to below average for both. Average with RISP and two outs? Mediocre. All this means that both teams have been very, very lucky to stay above, and that both are due for bad times. If you get excited by regression, then you'll be riveted by this series, where cold, hard, statistical truth will dig its icy claws into temporary luck.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The Brazilian basketball team couldn't capitalize on a strong first quarter, and fell to the United States 80-69 in Washington, D.C. Alex Garcia led the early charge with eight first-quarter points, and NBA star Anderson Varejao finished with 12 points and 13 boards for an impressive double-double. But the team's counter-attacking style grew less potent as the game progressed, and an early 10-point lead vanished as the shots stopped falling and the guards committed a slew of costly turnovers. The loss cast serious doubt on coach Ruben Magnano's controversial assertion that this year's team is better than the 1964 Equipe de Sonho, which won the Olympic bronze medal.
Last week, The Flaming Lips unveiled “Thunder Up! Racing for the Prize" — a track based off their seminal 1999 single “Race for the Prize.” It’s a whimsical and catchy pop song that the band hoped would latch on as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s anthem during the NBA playoffs. In sharing “Thunder Up!” with the world, the fellow OKC group actually did fill a void for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & Co. — a team that lacked a defined musical identity since moving from Seattle.
An effective theme song can be adopted as part of a team’s culture. If it’s a good tune, it becomes the soundtrack to a playoff run. If it’s a epic hymn, it lasts for a lifetime. There have been plenty of attempts — we’ve ranked the 10 best in recent memory.