I am a hockey fan. We all know that, right? I want what is best for hockey. Trust me. It isn’t this. After watching the Stars play the Red Wings, I thought it was a matter of the Stars not having enough talent. Now, after watching the Red Wings demoralize the Penguins even worse, I have come to the conclusion that the Red Wings are playing such suffocating defense that this can officially be declared “bad for the sport”.
Sore loser? Sure. But, there is no way any unbiased party could have enjoyed Game 2. Very tough to watch. I am declaring the Detroit team bad for hockey. And the sure thing Champions. Yuck.
And, by the way, I retract any positive things I projected for the NBC numbers on Wednesday against Celtics-Pistons Game 5. Sorry bout that.
Detroit Papers hold no superlatives back …
If this really is the NHL's dream matchup, the Red Wings are destroying it and enhancing it at the same time. They're doing their share, more than their share, multiple shares, and they're turning the poor Penguins into frustrated flailers.
The Wings are back on one of their familiar rolls, filling familiar roles, and here's a truth no one should ever forget: Once they get going, they're awfully difficult to stop. That's really bad news for the Penguins, who are looking more and more like dumb, flightless birds.
The Wings are squeezing the life out of them, smothering them with dominant defense, a noisy crowd and more rock-steady doses of Chris Osgood. This was yet another brutally efficient effort, and after the Wings' 3-0 victory Monday gave them a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, it's apparent the Penguins have few answers for the Wings' dizzying mix of speed and spunk.
Sidney Crosby? Evgeni Malkin? Anyone seen Pittsburgh's stars yet, buried under all that red, outscored 7-0 in two games? The Penguins' top three centers, Crosby, Jordan Staal and Malkin, have been about as effective as Crosby, Stills and Nash, only with mangier beards.
The Penguins even mixed in a ridiculous display of nastiness in the third period, when Gary Roberts leveled Johan Franzen with a hit to the face. Yes, just as Franzen returned from concussion-like symptoms, Roberts pathetically leaped at a chance. Franzen returned to the ice but was furious, a rightly riled Mule.
Really, this series is laughably lopsided right now, and there aren't a lot of reasons to think it'll change.
Speed? The Wings are skating as if they own the ice, and in this one, they absolutely did. On the clinching goal in the third period, Valtteri Filppula zipped past defenseman Kris Letang, swiveled brilliantly and fired the puck in, even as he was being tripped.
Spunk? The Wings catch your eye with flash, then slam back. Niklas Kronwall remains a hitting machine. And early in the third period, when Ryan Malone bashed Henrik Zetterberg into the boards, here came Pavel Datsyuk leaping after Malone, swinging away.
"No, we didn't expect (two shutouts)," defenseman Brad Stuart said. "We wanted to limit their chances and we've done that. I don't know (if the Penguins got frustrated) but if you don't score in two straight games, maybe you do. It's not any of our concern. We're not gonna get caught up in that."
Penguins coach Michel Therrien sounded positively flustered, complaining the Wings' defense gets away with obstruction, scoffing that Osgood embellished a fall when he was clipped late in the game.
The Wings reacted with modest shrugs.
"The way we try to do it is, we play as hard as we can between the whistles, and we try to shoot the puck in the net when you take penalties," Mike Babcock said. "To me, we just try to keep our poise and play."
This is the formula that almost always works for the Wings when they get this far. It's their puck and their time, and they dare anyone to take it away. Going back to 1997, they're an astounding 14-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals, an imposing number that should make the green Penguins quiver.
Osgood was his normal, lonely self, making big saves when needed, which wasn't often. The Wings didn't wait around, jumping immediately after the last chunks of pregame octopus gunk were scraped from the ice. The Wings played so precisely with the puck, and so responsible defensively, the Penguins couldn't know what hit them.
The Pittsburgh Paper tries to keep a brave face …
History suggests the Penguins have very little hope of winning the Stanley Cup this season.
Reality suggests they have absolutely none, unless they can figure out how to make some radical changes during the rest of the series.
Start doing some dramatically different stuff, like scoring a goal every now and then.
They haven't managed that in the first two games of the Cup final, including a 3-0 loss to Detroit in Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena last night that gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead in the series, which will shift to Mellon Arena for Game 3 tomorrow night.
This defeat came in the wake of a 4-0 loss to the Red Wings in the opener, and makes the Penguins the first team since Anaheim in 2003 to be shut out in the first two games of the final.
"Obviously, it's a surprise," Penguins left winger Gary Roberts said. "We've had some success scoring goals in the playoffs."
True enough, but they are shooting 0 for 41 from the field and, while Detroit goalie Chris Osgood obviously has made every stop he has had to, there have been times when his greatest challenge simply has been to avoid the temptation to nap.
Times like the first 12 minutes of Game 2, when the Penguins didn't have a shot and Osgood's teammates staked him to a 2-0 lead.
With the way Detroit can clog the neutral zone -- there are times when opponents couldn't get through it if they were using machetes -- a two-goal lead, even one with 21/2 periods to play, can seem almost insurmountable.
On to Baseball….Rangers baseball!
While we wish to keep the positivity going with the local baseball franchise, we do have 4 questions with answers that should concern us greatly (or encourage us that the Rangers are where they are)…
Question: What team’s hitters have struck out more than any other team in the American League in 2008? Texas, 381 (Cleveland is 2nd)
Question: What team’s pitchers have struck out fewer opponents than any other team in the American League in 2008? Texas, 276 (Minnesota is 2nd)
Question: What team’s pitchers have walked more opponents than any other team in the American League in 2008? Texas, 226 (Detroit 2nd)
Question: What team has more errors than any other team in the American League? Texas, 46 (Minnesota 2nd)
Those 4 statistics are all led by the same team! Our Texas Rangers. How are they not in last place? It makes you wonder if this is a smoke and mirrors hot month, or if the Rangers are making up for it elsewhere. The truth will be told over the course of 162.
Kazmir dominates the Rangers …
The Texas Rangers' run back to respectability over the last month has brought them to .500, but never above.
For the third time in 10 days Monday, they ran straight at the hurdle and fell face first. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances in the 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay. They were facing the team with the best record in baseball (now 31-20). And they were facing that team's ace: Scott Kazmir.
"I can't recall the reasons for the other losses right now," manager Ron Washington said. "But tonight was all Scott Kazmir. Good pitching stops good hitting, and he certainly stopped us tonight."
Kazmir dominated the Rangers, piling up 10 strikeouts while allowing just three hits in seven innings to win his fourth consecutive game. But the Rangers shouldn't feel all that bad. Since a rough first outing of the year after a month on the DL, Kazmir has won his last four games and put up a 0.69 ERA while doing so.
He made it clear quickly: He had no time to mess around. Relying primarily on his fastball-slider combo, Kazmir struck out the side to start the game. He threw 16 pitches in the first inning; only three were balls.
And just in case anybody missed it, he struck out the side again in the third. In that inning, he threw 17 pitches. Four of them were balls. By the time he left after the seventh inning, Kazmir had struck out every Rangers starter.
"He didn't have his electric stuff, but he was just in the right place at the right time all night," Marlon Byrd said. "He didn't really follow his usual setup of guys, and that kept guys off balance."
While Kazmir dominated, Sidney Ponson, coming off a complete-game win, struggled to keep the Rangers in it. Ponson allowed 15 hitters to reach base in five innings.
Then, this to make it smart more…remember Drew Meyer?
THE NEWBERG REPORT
You can’t win ’em all on Draft Day – nobody does – but yeah, June 4, 2002 wasn’t a real good day in Rangersland.
(Or in Exposland, where Montreal hung out at the correct high school field but chose the wrong guy . . . or in the war rooms of nearly half the teams who had the chance to name their player before the Mets came up):
1. Pittsburgh, Bryan Bullington, rhp, Ball State
2. Tampa Bay, B.J. Upton, ss, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Chesapeake, Va.
3. Cincinnati, Chris Gruler, rhp, Liberty HS, Brentwood, Calif.
4. Baltimore, Adam Loewen, lhp, Fraser Valley Christian, Surrey, B.C.
5. Montreal, Clint Everts, rhp, Cypress Falls HS, Houston.
6. Kansas City, Zack Greinke, rhp, Apopka (Fla.) HS.
7. Milwaukee, Prince Fielder, 1b, Eau Gallie HS, Melbourne, Fla.
8. Detroit, Scott Moore, ss, Cypress (Calif.) HS.
9. Colorado, Jeff Francis, lhp, U. of British Columbia.
10. Texas, Drew Meyer, ss, South Carolina.
11. Florida, Jeremy Hermida, of, Wheeler HS, Marietta, Ga.
12. Anaheim, Joe Saunders, lhp, Virginia Tech.
13. San Diego, Khalil Greene, ss, Clemson.
14. Toronto, Russ Adams, ss, North Carolina.
15. N.Y. Mets, Scott Kazmir, lhp, Cypress Falls HS, Houston.
Our intern, the great Mr Bacsik is featured on ESPN …
So much has changed since the fifth inning of that August 2007 game by the bay. And yet, these two career ballplayers are connected by a singular moment and a stark reality.
Bonds is no longer a San Francisco Giant. Bacsik is no longer a Washington National.
And they both want the same thing: another chance.
"I was 22 when I first reached Triple-A," said Bacsik. "There were some veteran guys on that team who had played in the big leagues. I remember thinking, 'Man, I'm not going to sit around here when I'm 30 years old playing Triple-A baseball. If I haven't established myself by then, I'm not going to be here.'"
A short pause.
"So here I am," he said, "30-years old, sitting on a bus from Toledo to Columbus, trying to make it to the big leagues."
If you want to root for somebody in baseball these days, Bacsik is a nice place to start. You root for him because he's taking those bus rides again, this time as a converted reliever for the Columbus Clippers of the International League.
He doesn't want to be there. Who would? Nine months ago he was a starting major league pitcher facing arguably the game's greatest hitter in one of the game's greatest moments. Now he's facing the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) IronPigs.
Bacsik has thought about quitting. He's talked about it at the weekly chapel services, about -- how did he put it? -- "letting go and being free of the game." And then the game pulls him back.
"I love this game so much," said Bacsik. "[Union executive director] Donald Fehr wouldn't want me to say it, but I'd go play in the big leagues for the same salary I'm getting here."
Do you think Bonds loves the game as deeply as that? Or does he love the game only when the game loves him back? I'm just asking.
You root for Bacsik because on April 4, the day after Opening Day at Columbus, Clippers manager Tim Foli handed Bacsik a phone in the clubhouse. It was Bacsik's wife, Sue. There were complications with the pregnancy.
The condition is known as Placenta previa. There was hemorrhaging and had it continued without medical attention, both Sue and the baby could have died.
A clubhouse manager rushed Bacsik to his apartment. Then they followed the ambulance to nearby Riverside Methodist. Sue, a pediatrician herself, spent the next 20 days in the hospital. So did Bacsik when he was in town.
"Hospital in the morning ... game ... back to the hospital ... sleep," said Bacsik.
Jacob Ryan Bacsik was born April 21, 2008, by C-section. Mother and son were fine. The father fainted during the procedure.
Years from now Bacsik will take Jacob to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame gave Bacsik a lifetime pass after he donated the Nationals ball cap he wore the night he gave up the dinger to Bonds.
What will he tell Jacob that day? That he pitched against the man who was tied for the all-time home run lead with Henry Aaron. That in 1976, Bacsik's father, Mike Sr., pitched against the great Aaron when Aaron had 755 career homers. That when it became obvious that Bacsik would face Bonds in that Aug. 7 start, Mike Sr. told him, "Go after him with your best stuff. If you strike him out three times, nobody will ever remember you. But I will."
Bacsik gave it his best, but the pitch stayed middle up and that was that. Bonds' bat left a bruise mark on the ball.
Afterward, Bacsik and Bonds met briefly. Bacsik congratulated him on the historic home run. That's when Bonds said something that caused Bacsik to do a double take.
"He said, 'I'll see you on TV next year,'" said Bacsik.
It could only mean two things: Bonds thought he would play in the American League this season. Or Bonds thought his career was finished.
Matt Mosely with a very interesting piece on the life of Roy …
Six years ago, he was given the opportunity to become the face of the Dallas Cowboys. As a rookie in 2002, he was one of the few bright spots on a 5-11 team, and his No. 31 jersey quickly overtook No. 22 in the Texas Stadium crowd.
But now as the Cowboys prepare to christen a $1 billion stadium in 2009, there's a
good chance Williams won't be around for the grand opening. How could a player with so much promise fall off the map? Well, it's important to go back to the beginning.
In his first two years, Williams became one of the most feared players in the NFL because of his punishing style. Turns out, though, that Jerry Jones and his scouting department overlooked flaws in Williams' game leading up to the 2002 draft.
In recent conversations with men who were privy to those discussions, I learned that former secondary coach Clancy Pendergast, now the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, had serious concerns about Williams' ability to learn the defense. When he traveled to the Oklahoma campus and put Williams on the dry erase board, he quickly learned that it would be a difficult transition for the college All American. Veteran scout Jim Hess, a former college coach, agreed with Pendergast's assessment.
Jones and his right-hand man, Larry Lacewell, were able to look past that potential flaw because they knew Williams would be playing next to Darren Woodson, one of the league's best safeties.
The Cowboys thought Williams could be much like John Lynch was in the vaunted Tampa 2 defense, but even more dynamic. And for the first two years of his NFL career, they were rewarded. Playing next to Woodson in 2002 and 2003, Williams was a bone-crunching playmaker. Running backs and receivers flinched when they sensed his arrival.
Williams began his string of five Pro Bowl appearances in 2003, although you can make a strong argument that the past couple have been on name-recognition alone. The 2004 season started off with a bust when QB Quincy Carter was released only days into training camp. The story line that got buried was that Woodson's injured back was preventing him from practicing. The Cowboys placed him on the physically unable to perform list and hoped for the best.
But it was apparent from the start that the odds were against Woodson, and he was eventually forced into retirement. Suddenly Williams was thrust into a leadership role in a secondary that included cornerback Terence Newman, a first-round pick in 2003, and safety Keith Davis, who had starred in NFL Europe the previous spring.
"I take a lot of blame for what Roy has had to endure," said Woodson, now an ESPN analyst.
"[Former defensive coordinator Mike] Zimmer and myself just wanted him to be a football player when he first came into the league. He didn't have to think about where he needed to be because we made the scheme pretty simple. He could just come downhill and wreak havoc. I'd never seen a player with that type of ferocity. But I didn't involve him in what the corners were doing and some of the linebackers' gaps. He could change the whole outlook of a game because of his ability to separate players from the ball. But we probably kept it too simple for him."
In Woodson's defense, he thought he had at least two more seasons left in the league before his injury forced him from the game.
"I would have approached it differently if I'd known," Woodson said. "He looked at me like a big brother, and we were always honest with each other. He used to ask me why I was in such a bad mood during practice, and I'd say, 'This is the way I am in practice.' We could say anything."
and a follow up piece today ….
thanks to the guys over at dallasbasketball.com , here is Avery’s new bit: WOW!
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