Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jam Shots - June 12th, 2011

Well, kicking this weekly blog off was short-lived. I will be taking off to the Bahamas this Tuesday, then continuing on the MV Explorer for Semester-at-Sea to Barcelona, Naples, Rome, Athens, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, Casablanca, and Varna, Bulgaria. Needless to say, sports (unless it’s European soccer) will not be on my mind very much.

But fear not! I return August 25th, and Jam Shots returns with me! Hopefully without an accent. So this is the last week for a couple months, but here goes anyhow! Today’s topics: Miracle Mavs, Nyjer Morgan is absolutely ridiculous, a personal revelation, and a very objective, unbiased approach to this burning question – can Matt Kemp actually win a Triple Crown?

Jam Shots, Episode 3, 6/12/11


Amazing. The Mavs have defied all odds and already accomplished the impossible. No, I don’t mean being up 3-2 on the mighty Miami Heat. Screw that, I meant they actually won more games than yours truly predicted! Proving me wrong when it comes to sports is akin to out-scarfing Joey Chestnut, out-running Forrest Gump or out-tweeting Anthony Weiner It just doesn’t happen.

Seriously though, I’m very impressed. LeBron disappeared behind a casual triple-double in game 5 and D-Wade missed time with a hip bruise, but I still must give props where props are due. The Mavericks shot almost 70% from three-point range. J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and of course Dirk Nowitzki were very clutch. The Dallas role players are stepping up huge in this series, whereas the Heat are just getting random spurts of brilliance from players like Juwan Howard, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. No consistency though, and it is all resting in the awkward hands of Chris Bosh, and on the bruised ego of LeBron James and the worn-out Dwyane Wade.

Don’t get me wrong – each of those three at their worst is still a pretty good NBA player, but something needs to happen in Miami tonight to spark this team. They have a huge advantage playing at home for this game and possibly the next, but the way the Mavs have been shooting and effectively shutting down LeBron in the 4th quarter is bad news for The Franchise. I’m not one to go back on my word, so I still have the Heat winning, just in 7 now.

The hopeful bandwagon fan in me says LeBron and D-Wade will combine for at least 60 points in game 6 and completely deplete the momentum the Mavs have built up. And while I (seriously!) would love to see Dirk win a championship, there is this indescribable desire in me to see Dallas lose this series. Not because I necessarily like Miami. Not because I’m mad at Mark Cuban for not purchasing the Dodgers and getting them out of their damn financial predicament. Partially because those fans are all fans of the arch-nemesis Dallas Cowboys. But, mostly because I have a man-crush on LeBron. There, I said it! Can you blame me? The guy (at least for the first three quarters…ZING!) is unstoppable and just an absolute freak. Too much fun to watch.

Oh, and for the people who think the “give-LeBron-a-dollar-he-will-only-return-3-quarters” joke is that funny? It’s called a processing fee. Get over it. It’s only 25 cents for Heatles’ sake! If you are really so cheap that you are going to cry over a single coin, then you shouldn’t be rooting for the richest owner in sports to win the championship. And if you’re not rooting for the Mavs after that brilliant way of proving you wrong, there is plenty of room on the Heat bandwagon over here, so jump on (we lost about half of our wagon after Game 5. It’s getting lonely in here…)!

Speaking of how I love the most hated player in basketball…


…I thought about it and realized I must have some sort of major personality flaw. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I seem to gravitate toward both rooting for and admiring the most hated athletes on the planet. Sure, there’s LeBron (who I still don’t think deserves all that hatred by the way, though I can understand it). But what about Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter in baseball? Manny was the MLB’s class clown, but also to many a villain. A-Rod is pretty much hated by everyone who isn’t a diehard Yankee fan, and he does something every few weeks that makes me hate him a little bit too. But I can’t say I don’t respect the guy’s ability to play ball. Let’s just say I hate him a lot less than most people.

Jeter? This one doesn’t make sense to me – all he has ever done to be a target of hatred is wear the pinstripes. You won’t find a classier act in all of sports than Jeter, who cemented his place in the Hall of Fame by about 2001. He and Ken Griffey, Jr. will always be the two guys that made baseball for me when I was growing up. I think if I was in either situation, I would miss the birth of my first child and/or ditch my wedding if I had the opportunity to see Jeter get his 3,000th hit in person. Forget the uniform, this guy is a living legend and deserves to be treated like one, so all Jeter haters (yeah, that’s you Hank Steinbrenner! What?) can go to Hell!

Perhaps the most confusing one to most of my friends, but the one I’m most proud of is my beloved San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Besides his good looks, incredible intelligence and professional demeanor, Smith is a beast on the football field. He has the arm of Peyton Manning, the heart of Drew Brees, the legs of Michael Vick and the confidence of Tom Brady, all wrapped into one future Hall of Fame QB. Okay, well that’s what he was supposed to be. Unfortunately his stats don’t match and he’s currently leading the Niners’ volunteer training camp as a free agent who new coach Jim Harbaugh (in a VERY subtle attempt to share who their new QB would be…) gave a playbook to despite the lockout.

Smith is approximately on chance #16 with the 49er faithful. Most fans are absolutely fed up with his lack of production and the 49ers dismal record with him at the helm. So why, you ask, do I still back him? Why do I love Alex Smith? Is it because I have his jersey ($30.00 at Big 5)? I’m a huge fan of the University of Utah, where he played in college? I’m delusional? No, no. None of the above. It’s because he does have the brains to be a top-tier NFL quarterback. He does have the confidence. He does have the physical tools. And we have seen those flashes of brilliance here and there. He has looked like Joe Montana in a few games over his career, like Steve Young on a couple 4th-quarter drives.

Now, that last part isn’t a bunch of comedy. It’s absolutely true. I have watched every second of every 49er game since Smith came into the league. I know the day he puts all these tools he has together is going to be a beautiful day, as long as he’s still wearing 49ers’ red and gold. I know if we let him walk, he will do it somewhere else. Smith took a huge pay cut to stay in the Bay Area and take care of “unfinished business.” He feels he owes something to the fans, and that’s why he won’t give up, despite being the most hated player on the roster. I have to respect that, and I have reason to hope. Harbaugh is our coach, a notorious developer of quarterbacks. Our O-line is improved again. And we have an offensive scheme in place that actually utilizes Smith’s strengths for once and doesn’t rely on handoff, handoff, and screen pass every possession.

Long live Alex Smith and go 49ers!


Just a real quick Dodger plug here. I know it’s always a conversation that comes up. I know I’m biased. But STILL, does Matt Kemp have a legitimate shot at winning a Triple Crown (even if not this year, eventually)? Right now, the kid is hitting .331 with 19 home runs and 55 RBI’s for an offense that is finally starting to pick up. He has been the unquestioned star of this team and is finally playing to his potential after a huge Rihanna-induced hangover last year. Kemp leads the National League in homers, is 2nd in RBI’s by 1 and 5th in average by 10 points. Pitchers have not figured out a way to get him out yet. I’m just saying, if it comes down to the wire and he’s still close in average, he’ll have a shot at it because the power numbers will be right up there. How can you root against this?

My last order of business today is Nyjer Morgan. If you haven’t seen his post-game interview yet, catch it here:

First of all, he didn’t know it was the 9th inning? Are you kidding me? Anyway, that guy must have something wrong with him. He looked like a child hopped up on way too many Pixie Stix after the game. I kinda liked the reaction though; it made me laugh almost as much as his Answer Man session last year.

He also got into a brawl with the entire Marlins team last year after he was retaliated against the day after taking out their catcher at home. He got a couple good hits in on the pitcher, but was absolutely leveled by Marlins’ first baseman Gaby Sanchez who came running in with a blindside clothesline hit. It was baseball brawlism at its finest. I couldn’t find any good video on it for you, but definitely look around for it because it’s awesome. Just imagine what would happen if he played outfield on a team with Manny Ramirez in left and Coco Crisp in right. And if Carlos Zambrano was pitching, John Rocker closing?? My god, there would be a brawl every single night. And Buster Posey would still be crying about the violence, asking us to play in football pads with Nerf balls.

That’s all folks. Keep an eye out for this blog while I’m abroad – I will be updating at least once a week on the ship about my exploits in Europe and Africa! Thanks for reading, and Jam Shots will be back in a couple months!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jam Shots - June 5th, 2011

I just want to say, for the record, that I’ve seen a few collisions at home plate since the Buster Posey situation, and nobody’s made a big deal out of it. Although Jordan Schaefer did bunt a pitch off his face, and the league is now considering outlawing bats and balls. In other news, the Mavs pulled off the impossible, and won a game against the Heat! Unbelievable.

In today’s episode, Albert Pujols wasn’t dormant for long, Adam Jones makes an incredible catch, the Heat choke on their own ego, and an argument that would make Skip Bayless proud (that’s not a good thing). Plus, the most overrated baseball players in the game today. Enjoy!

Jam Shots, Episode 2, 6/5/11


Let’s start with the biggest sports story of the week. The Miami Heat, behind 36 points from Dwyane Wade, had a huge lead midway through the fourth quarter of Game 2, only to start bricking shots, throwing the ball away and performing a vanishing act on defense en route to losing by 2 to the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki had the last 9 points for Dallas, who showed a ton of confidence and impressed me with their ability to keep cool in that situation.

The Heat looked foolish celebrating Wade’s three, the last shot before the furious rally mounted by the Mavs. Well, the celebration was kind of cool actually, and was blown way out of proportion by the media, (surprise, surprise), but there is no doubt that it fueled the Mavs. So the question is, after the comeback and heading home to Dallas for three games (why do they change the format?) in a row, can they actually pull off the upset and win?

Well…no. It was a fantastic game and all, but it took a miracle for them to pull that game out, coupled with a complete collapse by the Heat. Wade, Bosh and LeBron will not let this opportunity slip away. I’d be hard-pressed to believe the planets will align again like that. Don’t get me wrong; Dallas is a good team, and Dirk is a star. But, I’d be shocked to see them win more than two games in this series. Sure, they have home-court advantage now, but the Heat have been an amazing team on the road this postseason, and playing that poorly at the end of Game 2 is going to fuel the three-headed beast.

I’m giving the Mavs one game at home, losing in 6 overall.

In other completely unrelated basketball news, a few mock drafts have Washington State University’s Klay Thompson going to the Warriors with the 11th pick. Why is this relevant? Because, as a WSU alumnus, I would absolutely love to see him go to Golden State so I can see him play nearby…sure, it’s selfish, especially since he doesn’t exactly fit the Warriors’ needs. But still, he’s the greatest player in Washington St. history so you won’t hear any complaints from me if the Dubs snag him. But, if Bismack Biyombo, the unknown center from Congo falls to that spot, we must take him. Forget the team needs, I want that jersey!

And just for the hell of it, I’m still baffled that Reggie Miller was not elected to the Hall-of-Fame on his first try…blasphemy! Wait, he wasn’t even one of the 12 finalists? What the f*&! are those Nazi’s in the Hall committee smoking? That’s more ridiculous than…


…the fact that the Buster Posey talk is still dominating the headlines (or the fact that I used the EXACT same segway as last week). Even Buster himself is sick of the talk, saying “we all need to move on.” At least one respectable person who has given their two cents is on point about this. Cue Hall of Fame catcher, 14-time All Star, and widely regarded “best catcher there ever was,” Johnny Bench:

“Buster is laying in front of home plate, and it’s like having a disabled car in the middle of a four-lane highway. You’re just going to get smacked. Show them the plate. You can always catch the ball and step, or step and catch the ball, as long as you’ve got the runner on the ground. And if you have the runner on the ground, there’s less chance of any severe collision.” - Bench

Okay, seriously. We’re moving on now.

Remember that Albert Pujols guy? Well, um, yeah. He’s back. Pujols hit two home runs yesterday, including a walk-off in extras. He almost single-handedly won that game for St. Louis, who already has a lead in the NL Central. That’s not very fair to the other teams that they can still be so good with below-average production from Pujols and Adam Wainwright out for the season. It also doesn’t bode well for my pre-season pick of the Milwaukee Brewers to win the division crown…sigh. Oh well, I love watching Albert play and it looks like he’s heating up with the weather, which is great news for all baseball fans (save for anyone who likes the Cubs – but they never had a chance to begin with).

Speaking of home runs, anyone who hasn’t seen Mitch Moreland and Justin Upton’s home runs from Monday, can find them here:
Anyone who thinks Moreland’s home run did not travel over 500 feet must be dealing to the NBA H-O-F committee. I just love a good dinger. Ah…that came out wrong.

Even though those home runs were sweet, nothing compares to this unfreakingbelievable catch by Adam Jones of the O’s. Tell me what you think: is it better than Willie Mays’ catch? We know Mays’ will always be the original icon of that kind of play, we know he made the catch in the playoffs and also covered tons of ground, AND wheeled and fired a strike back to the infield to keep the runners from advancing. But, Jones made his as he crashed into the center field wall, and I’m not sure how the ball physically went over his shoulder and into the glove before impact. You be the judge; let me know which catch you think is better.

Last but not least, Sports Illustrated released their annual “Player’s Poll,” which asks almost 200 MLB players to rank their fellow players and coaches in certain categories. The most popular, most read and most controversial list came out recently. Who is baseball’s most overrated player? According to the poll, Alex Rodriguez tops the list, followed by Yankee teammates Joba Chamberlain and Derek Jeter. The Nationals’ Jayson Werth and Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon rounded out the top 5. This is another interesting debate – surely, I can see why these guys are on the list, but I question if A-Rod and Jeter are actually “overrated.” Overpaid, definitely. But so is anyone making that much money to play a game.

The two relievers’ numbers don’t warrant any praise, so they definitely have earned their spots on this list. And as soon as Werth inked that contract (I called it by the way – check out my Bold Predictions/Burning Questions blog), he became Werth-less. I have a soft spot for DJ as he and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the two faces I point to as the guys who epitomized the sport for me growing up. And it’s hard to hate on someone who is so respectable. But A-Rod on reputation and salary alone claims a spot.

So, who do I think should slide into that last spot? Here’s a doozy for ya: how about someone like Zack Greinke? He’s likeable, got filthy stuff and a Cy Young award to boot – but his career numbers are really not that good. I don’t know if I would go as far as to include him on the list, but he is treated like the second coming of Tim Hudson, when he’s really not.

*Other Sports*

General -
I hate Skip Bayless. There is no reason for me to introduce this topic with that line, other than the fact that I know he would side with the wrong argument in this debate: To be considered a truly great player, does one have to win a championship ring? The issue obviously arose with Dirk and LeBron, both ringless, facing off in the Finals this year. Apparently, whoever wins will finally be labeled “great.” Because they both are not already, right? I can think of plenty of players who will never, ever be remembered, let alone considered “great” like James and Nowitzki who have a ring; even multiple rings!

Look, I can see where the argument comes from. Who cares how dominant a player is in their sport if they never win it all? But for some, it just wasn’t meant to happen. I normally wouldn’t be one to believe in credence like that, but it’s different in sports. The logic just isn’t there for the other side. Bayless, undoubtedly, and his cretins would have to say then, that Ernie Banks is not an all-time baseball great. Same with Ted Williams, the last man to hit .400 in a season. Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton and Karl Malone in the NBA. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in the NFL. The list goes on and on.

Greatness is based on individual achievements and legacies are built on how many championships a franchise has won. Williams' Red Sox were mired in the middle of an 84-year title drought while he played. I think he did all he could though: he hit .344 with 521 home runs in his career. He was elected to the All-Star game 17 times and won 2 A.L. MVP’s. The debate for greatest hitter of all time is never complete without him being mentioned in the top two or three. And you’re going to tell me that because he never won a World Series, he’s not an all-time great? Screw you Skip Bayless.

Soccer –
Sooo…I would love to see the USA National Team be a world force in soccer. And I know Landon Donovan wasn’t playing yesterday, but we looked like a Special Olympics team losing 4-0 to Spain in a friendly in New England. We still have a long, long way to go. But, for the casual soccer fan, how pretty were some of those goals by Spain??

And I leave you with this clip. The coolest thing I’ve seen since Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick goal a few months back.

That’s all for now. Check back next Sunday for more Jam Shots!