Thursday, June 14, 2007

College Night Withdrawals

"Yeah send you off to college, try to gain a little knowledge
But all you learn to do is..."

It's Thursday night, and sure, I could be out and about right now, but I have to somehow try and maintain here for the moment, in hopes that there will be some kind of cash windfall coming my way so I can go back to my usual lifestyle. Anyway, so I'm here, and here we go:

Wimbledon just announced that they will implement a replay system for this year's tournament, with each side getting three challenges per set, and an additional challenge for a tiebreakers. To me, this is pretty much the first step to eliminating umpires all together from tennis. First, there will be replays and challenges, then there will be some kind of laser that goes off when a ball hits the line, and then, tennis will be run strictly by computers, and the human element will be completely eliminated from the decision-making process. If you think this will give way to other sports, more specifically baseball, adopting a replay policy, think again. Here's the thing about baseball: Sure, replays would be nice to challenge foul balls and determine whether a ball should be ruled a home run, but baseball has been trying to cut down on how much time an average game goes for, and this has been the biggest factor for why the attempt to bring replays in have repeatedly been shot down. Also, when you think about it, what else could possibly be challenged? In baseball, you could challenge whether a ball is fair or foul, but let's say that they do bring in replays, and a ball that was called foul is actually determined to be fair, what then? Are we going to grant hitters a certain amount of bases based on how far the ball went? See, this isn't going to work. Also, you will never be able to touch balls and strikes, because those calls are sacred, and is what makes baseball great. You can have a guy that calls a high strike one night, and have a guy whose zone is the size of a grape the next. The variation from night to night makes the game interesting, but there is not that kind of wiggle room in tennis. The ball is in, or it's not, and there are defined boundaries that determine those calls, so what is the point iWimbledon just announced that instant replay would be used in this year's tournament, with each combatant (oh yeah, this is serious business) getting three replays per set, including an extra if the set goes to a tie-break. While I will say that I'm not the most knowledgeable when it comes to tennis, I know a few things, so here's my take on this: To me, this is the first step ton having an umpire to begin with? I will say this: If baseball is thinking about some kind of replay system, they should consider doing it for a couple of things. The first, as I previously mentioned, would be to determine if a ball actually left the ballpark or if it didn't. If a home run is called, and it didn't happen, that would probably be ruled as a ground-rule double, and, of course, if a ball is determined to have left the park, then the batter would be awarded a home run. The second item is in terms of things that could be against the rules, like a runner running outside the bases, or a stuck-up third baseman slapping a ball out of a pitcher's glove, those kind of things. The final item would be if a runner is out or safe on a close call. They may end up limiting it to just plays at home, but even so, umpires are going to miss those calls, and sometimes, they come at critical points in the game, so having an extra set of eyes, or camera lens, would probably cut down on those mistakes. Again, baseball is a long way off from having any kind of replay system integrated into the game.

The Rockies just took two of three from the Sox, while the Yankees continued their winning ways, reeling off their ninth consecutive win, sweeping the D-Backs in the Bronx. So, if you weren't worried before, I think it's about time to start showing a little concern. The Rockies blasted off on the best two pitchers we have, and it's not as though the offense was picking up any of the slack. Really, since hitting the west-coast, the Sox have had no kind of spark, outside of their encounter against the D-Backs last Friday, when J.D. Drew had a career in one game, and they ended up scoring 10 runs. During their recent ten-game stretch, the Sox have gone 4-6 while being outscored 41-27, including scoring just five runs in their last three while playing the Rockies at home. So, now the question becomes "was that A-Rod homer off Pap really the thing that has changed the landscape of the East?" Well, yes and no. While that homer was huge and very dramatic, the fact remains that the Yankees were banged up through the first two months, and while they were able to play .500 ball against weaker opponents in the beginning, once they got to the meat of their schedule, they got absolutely crushed. So as soon as they started getting their starters back, and guys like Abreu and A-Rod starting hitting again, which was an inevitability, the Yanks started to get hot. The Yankees knew that they had to win two of three from the Sox, or else their season, even if it was only two months in the books, was going to be lost. So, they showed resolve, and were able to fight from being on the ropes to take the rubber game in that series, which has provided a spark that has yet to be extinguished by anyone. The Yanks will host the "Subway Series, Part II" this weekend, and will trot out Roger Clemens in the first game against Oliver Perez, who has gotten off to a surprising start, going 6-5 with a 3.21 ERA, but is coming off a bad start against Detroit, giving up five runs on seven hits over five innings. If the Yankees are able to somehow sweep the Metropolitans, then the time to become officially freaked out will be upon Red Sox Nation, especially if we continue our woeful ways against the G-Men, who are throwing out Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and Matt Morris, arguably their best three pitchers.

The NBA Finals finally came to a close tonight. I don't recall the last time so many people wanted this series to end purely just to show mercy to the Cavs, who were clearly dominated in all facets of every game. Again, it's true that it takes more than one to win a championship. The Spurs actually had three guys carry them along, with Tony Parker winning series MVP after shooting 58% from the field for the series. By comparison, LeBron shot under 40% and showed absolutely no technique or grace while he was on the floor. Instead, he figured that he would simply overpower the Spurs by bulling his way into the paint in an attempt to draw fouls. Well, the fact was that the refs were letting a lot go, and therefore, James' efforts were futile at best, and he actually caused more harm than help to his team. This tends to happen when you are looked to when everything is going wrong, and there is no one, not even the coach, who will be able to shoulder any of the load. It was all for LeBron to figure out, and when you're 22 and in your first Finals appearance, it's not going to come naturally. I liken this to the first time Shaq was in the Finals against the Rockets in '95. Even though he had Penny Hardaway, he was in his first appearance in the Finals, with a mostly sub-par cast (Nick Anderson (decent), Horace Grant (a little more than decent), and Dennis Scott (good shooter)) with no depth (Tree Rollins, Brian Shaw (love him, but not someone to brag about), Anthony Bowie, Jeff Turner, Donald Royal), along with a bad coach (Brian Hill, who oddly got the same gig back last year, only to get fired again) who didn't really know how to utilize his team and Shaq's abilities, basically letting them run wild. Then, when they ran into a structured team led by two stars (Olajuwon and Drexler) and guys who are just born winners (Sam Cassell, Otis Thorpe, Kenny Smith, and, of course, Robert Horry, who just captured his seventh championship ring). In addition, they were led by Rudy Tomjanovich, one of the most underrated and under-appreciated coaches ever. With all those differences, the Magic really didn't have a chance. So look at what the Cavs were going up against in this series. First of all, the whole team has been there multiple times. I believe Eric Snow, who was inactive for the series, was the only guy on the roster with Finals experience (that could be wrong, and please correct me if I am, but I'm pretty sure about that). This was a team that not only brought out an impressive starting five, but also had depth. Think about a guy like Jacques Vaughn. When he hits the market this year, he'll most likely be playing himself up as being able to start at point guard for most teams, and he would not be incorrect in his assumption. So when you have the back-up point guard on one team that is better than the starting point guard on the other, you are going to have issues. Also, I credit Michael Finley for just being a presence, and forcing Cleveland to think about one more guy. Sure, he only played 16 minutes, scoring 4 points on 1-5 shooting, but the fact that he has been known to go on a tear meant the Cavs needed to pay attention to him, which opened the doors for Parker and Manu Ginobili, who took full advantage all throughout the series. The dynamic back-court duo went on to average a combined 41.2 points a game, including 51 of the Spurs' 83 points (61.5%) in the finale. There was little doubt about whether or not the Spurs were the best team coming into this game, but everyone left the series thinking the same thing: Th Cavs are simply not in the same league as the Spurs. This was the minors vs. the majors. Sure, Cleveland had a good team, and LeBron is a special player, but they were simply no match for San Antonio, who have fulfilled "dynasty" status with their fourth championship in nine years.

Ok, with the human asterisk coming to town for the first time ever, the Sox are in dire need to win at least two of three, having dropped three of their last four series (Yanks, A's, Rockies). Of course, with the Giants coming to town, it also marks the first appearance of Dave Roberts to Fenway since 2004. Just one look at the picture to the right will be a sure solution to any Red Sox fan who may be feeling blue. This stolen base meant everything to us. This was the official signal that the Sox were not going to walk away with our tails between our legs, and get bounced from the playoffs at home again. Happier times are ahead of us Red Sox Nation, so don't despair if the lead slims a bit, because this is still a hell of a team despite their glaring holes, and there's no need to hit the panic button just yet. I hope everyone is staying strong out there, as I am attempting to do so myself. Take care now. Peace.


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