Monthly Archives: March 2011

2011 Major League Baseball Predictions

As the year goes on, I’ll talk more in depth about each team, but just so they’re on record, here are my predictions for the 2011 season.

 

National League East

1. Atlanta Braves

2. Philadelphia Phillies*

3. Washington Nationals

4. Florida Marlins

5. New York Mets

 

National League Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals

2. Cincinnati Reds

3. Chicago Cubs

4. Milwaukee Brewers

5. Houston Astros

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

 

National League West

1. San Francisco Giants

2. Colorado Rockies

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

5. San Diego Padres

 

American League East

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Tampa Bay Rays*

3. New York Yankees

4. Toronto Blue Jays

5. Baltimore Orioles

 

American League Central

1. Chicago White Sox

2. Detroit Tigers

3. Minnesota Twins

4. Kansas City Royals

5. Cleveland Indians

 

American League West

1. Oakland Athletics

2. Texas Rangers

3. Los Angeles Angels

4. Seattle Mariners

 

NLCS Atlanta over Philadelphia

ALCS Boston over Oakland

 

World Series

Atlanta over Boston

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Sports

Jordan Crawford Illustrates Hawks Problems

By most accounts, experts and fans alike, the Atlanta Hawks are offensively challenged. The offense too often becomes stale, and stagnant. The ball goes to one players hands, and seems to stop. The long jump shots go cold. There are several reasons for the Hawks offensive woes, everyone has their own perception as to what the primary culprit is, but everyone knows the offense is anything but a thing of beauty.

So man, what would the Hawks do to have an elite, and consistent scorer in the fold?

Well, they’d trade him away without giving him a chance to be of any help, that’s what they would do.

If you’re thinking, “wait, that makes no sense”, join the the rest of the Hawks fanbase in thinking aloud, “what the hell is wrong here?”

Beginning on March 8, Jordan Crawford has now played 25 minutes or more in 12 consecutive basketball games. In those 12 games, Crawford has scored in double figures in all of them. In fact, in only 3 of those 12 games did he fail to reach at least 16 points, and in 7 of his past 12 games he’s gone over the 20 point mark, with 5 of those being 25 point or bigger nights.

Sure, there have been games where he’s taken a ton of shots to get those games, and a few games with a few too many turnovers, but remember, he is a rookie. A rookie who has quickly become the number one scoring option for his team.

Becoming that primary option contributes to both the high number of shots, as well as the higher number of turnovers, as the added attention given to a teams primary scorer will increase the turnovers, and make shots even more contested.

Nevertheless, he’s moving the ball, his assist numbers while not those of a point guard, are of a guy willing, and capable, of moving the basketball around and getting his teammates open looks.

But the bottom line, he fills it up, and the team who drafted him, because, well, he was supposed to be the next Jamal Crawford, a guy who could come in, and well, score, NEEDS a player who can do just that.

Well, it turns out the team that drafted him, that needed a player just like that, HAD a player like that once they drafted him. Then, after apparently deciding that just a few months into his rookie season he would never be that player, he’s shipped off to Washington.

Since putting on a Wizards jersey, the points have come in bunches.

Well, in Washington, Crawford has become the explosive scorer he was expected to be. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the lack of offense looks like it’s going to undermine any serious post-season run the team was thinking about making.

And apparently, for whatever it’s worth, Lebron James simply brings the best out in Crawford. Remember, it was Crawford who dunked on Lebron at a camp where Nike quickly confiscated the video. And it was against Lebron’s Heat tonight that Crawford just put up 39 points. Considering the Hawks see the Heat four times a year, that could be useful.

The absurdity of how absolutely illogical and backwards this is is nothing new to Hawks fans though, and that is what is so disappointing.

We’ve seen Jeff Teague have outstanding games, and then not even play a minute the very next night.

We never hardly even saw Crawford play, but now that he’s playing a lot in Washington, well, fortunately we’ll get to see him four times a year in the future.

Apparently Larry Drew is clueless when it comes to evaluating talent, or making use of his roster.

Clearly, Drew's message isn't getting across, or his message just doesn't work.

People claim the Hawks aren’t a deep team. That isn’t entirely true, they have some solid players on the back end of this roster. Damien Wilkins and Jeff Teague make up the 8th and 9th guys on this squad, and I’ll tell you, a lot of teams would really like to have guys of that caliber that far down their bench.

Actually, just about every team would be happy to have guys of that caliber on their bench, every team but the Hawks and Larry Drew.

Drew refuses to let young players develop, or so it seems, much in the way Mike Woodson wouldn’t. One can say we can blame it on scouting and making poor draft picks, but when you see what Crawford is doing once given a chance, you’ve got to start thinking the talent acquired wasn’t the problem. The application and management of that young talent is where the problem is.

No wonder why the Hawks brass wants to maintain this core, and why they resigned Joe Johnson to such a long deal. They went cheap with the hiring of Larry Drew as a coach, basically making a change at the position without actually making a change (if only for perhaps the worse). They made themselves a bed they now have to lie in.

Hawks management knows it can’t attempt a rebuilding job, or any sort of major tinkering like that. Such things would require the influx of young talent, and the management of young talent, which might mean the coach might have to deal with some growing pains with young players.

Clearly, “coach” Larry Drew isn’t one for dealing with youth, nor is he apparently a guy who can help a young player maximize the potential at their disposal. So rather than try to bring in some young talent, and new pieces, the Hawks management did the best it could, keep the best players they had, and go with the status quo.

No, Mike Bibby could not defend. Yes Kirk Hinrich is a better defender. But are the Hawks a better team now? That’s debatable.

The problem with Mike Bibby’s weaknesses, the antidotes were already on the roster. Jeff Teague can defend, and very well. He can penetrate, and put pressure on a defense. Jordan Crawford, he can get his own shot off, and provide offense off the bench.

For the Hawks, the answers to what ailed them was right under there nose. Larry Drew just couldn’t see it, or refused, I’m not sure which. Now, he’s down one less option to alleviate some of this teams ills, as Jordan Crawford is off putting up points in bunches in Washington, while Hawks fans everywhere wonder why they can’t find a player to do something similar for their team.

These types of problems run deeper than a simple trade, or free agent pick-up can fix, and that is where the true problems with the Atlanta Hawks lie. The problem runs so deep, there is no quick fix.

Band-aids don’t fix internal bleeding.

Leave a comment

Filed under Basketball, Hawks, Sports

The Best Sports Months of the Year

12. August- Yes, there is pre-season NFL football, and officially the start of college football, but what else? Okay, there is the PGA championship, and then what? Yep, that’s what I thought I’d hear, a lot of crickets.

11. December- Really, thank goodness Christmas is in December, because aside from that, what else is there? A bunch of meaningless bowl games? Yeah, pretty much. Sure, there is the closing run of the NFL season with playoff births on the line, and some really big, and intense games, I don’t want to forget that, but that’s not enough to pull this month from the basement. Yes, we do get the conference championship games for college football, but aside from that, there’s really nothing else going on as far as sports go in December.

10. November- Football is the only thing that keeps November from being forgotten altogether, and if you’re not a college football fan, then quite possibly you already have dismissed November. November means the close of the college football season, which means its the time of the year when the most bitter of rivals take the field against each other. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog in one of these fights, you spend all year waiting for November to get here to get bragging rights against your hated rival. If you don’t, it hardly qualifies as a month. There’s also the conclusion of the NASCAR season, but with that simply being a Jimmie Johnson coronation the past five years, it’s lost a bit of its shine. I’d also be remiss to omit Thanksgiving NFL games, but with so many games on so often now, some of the allure of playing on Thanksgiving has been lost, and the specialness of those turkey day games has ebbed a bit.

9. July- It’s just hot, and maybe that’s why the options are so limited. NFL training camp opening might very well be the highlight of July. There is the British Open across the pond, and Breakfast at Wimbledon, two rather big events for the Brits, and still pretty big in the States as well. However, it’s not enough to keep July from coming in near the bottom of this list. And no, the MLB All-Star game is no longer important enough to bring it up any further.

8. October- The baseball postseason keeps October out of the cellar, and does so in a rather substantial way. If your team is playing, there’s not much better than October baseball. If your team isn’t playing, or you aren’t a fan of baseball, October is a pretty barren month. The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup gets rolling, and the NBA season starts, but October is known for one thing and one thing only, baseball playoffs.

7. February- Two events make this month, but the fact that NASCAR, in terms of mainstream popularity is still seen as a step below the likes of the NFL, MLB and the NBA, probably keeps February from elevating itself up this list. The pluses for this month are that basically two Super Bowls are played, there is THE Super Bowl, the single biggest sporting event in the country, if not world. This of course is followed up by Daytona speed weeks, culminating with the Daytona 500. Unfortunately, aside from a couple lackluster all-star games for the NBA and NHL, there’s not anything else February offers. The importance though of the two events that it does host however keeps this month off the bottom floor.

6. May- This is really just all about speed, and nothing but speed. Yes, the NBA playoffs do get into full swing, as do the NHL playoffs, and the French open kicks off, but what makes May, May, is basically Memorial Day weekend. NASCAR runs its longest race, the Coke 600, while Indy Car runs it’s most prestigious, one of the greatest spectacles in racing with the Indy 500. NASCAR’s all-star race also takes place in the month of May. The NBA & NHL playoffs, as well as the French Open may all take place in May, but the fact that they end in June takes away a slight bit from the luster of them in May.

5. April- Baseball gets going, and well, it is baseball. It’s the first sign of spring, really, to see ballparks everywhere filling back up with America’s past time. But it’s not just baseball that shows us spring is fully in the air. Golfers ascend on Augusta National, quite possibly the most beautiful place on the planet where a sporting event takes place as the Masters tradition continues. In the middle of April, the NBA playoffs get kick started. While not as full a month as some of the others above it, there’s still something special about what does take place during this month.

4. June- If the NHL mattered more, so would June, as it is, it’s just a notch below the elite sports months of the year, but still compelling nonetheless. The NHL and NBA finals both commence in June, but aside from that, the month is rather bare. The French Open concludes, as both golf and tennis have their second major in June with the U.S. Open taking place on the golf side. It’s a decent month, but as mentioned, if the NHL were a bit more popular, the magnitude of this month would increase.

3. March- March Madness in and of itself catapults March near the top of this list. What other sporting event is a month long adventure that takes you all over the country with one compelling story after another, not to mention a lot of great basketball. The fact that spring training gets underway, and technically, baseball does open its season in March, only cements March’s place high on this list.

2. January- When the Super Bowl was actually played in January, this month could arguably be the best sports month there is, instead it comes in a close second place. The NFL playoffs and the prime of the college football bowl season make January an exciting time for football fans. You also have to throw in the fact that you the Australian Open as well as the 24 Hours of Daytona. College basketball is just getting into conference play and the season is starting to take shape. While not as superior to all other months as it would be if the Super Bowl still took place in January, it’s still the most complete sports month on the calendar.

1. September- If for no other reason than football is getting into full swing, the NFL is opening and college football gets itself really going (week one in August is nice, but it’s a lot of mismatches that are scheduled strictly to fill out schedules and make a dollar) this month is one of the best of the year. Furthermore, September sees the NASCAR regular season come to a close as the Chase field is set. There’s also the final tennis major of the year with the U.S. Open, and on the golf side there’s the FedEx Cup culminating with the Tour Championship in East Lake. Did I mention that baseball’s pennant races are coming to a close as well? Talk about a full schedule. Playoff fields are pretty much set in three sports, a major in another, and the beginning of football.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Hawks, the Worst Team I’ve Ever Cared About

I’ve lived in Atlanta all of my life, safe to say, I’ve seen some really, really bad sports teams. However, the 2010-2011 basketball season is shaping up to take the cake.

While I won’t touch too much on them, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were easily one of the worst major conference teams in all of college basketball. Hell, as evidenced by their loss to Kennesaw State early on in the season, they were simply one of the worst teams in the nation, period. But that story has been told.

There is a basketball story that reeks of far more ineptitude and sadness than the Georgia Tech story does. It’s the story of the Atlanta Hawks.

As has been stated, I’m an Atlanta sports team, I’ve seen plenty of horrible sports teams. The Falcons, until the Arthur Blank era, were putrid. The Atlanta Braves were a wreck throughout the 80s, and had a rough spell lately before rebounding the past two years. I won’t even start with the Thrashers.

However, this Hawks team may very well be the most disappointing, and disgusting, sports team I’ve ever watched.

Yes, they are still in 5th place in their conference. Yes, they are returning to the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Okay, and?

They also are the holders of the three worst home losses suffered by an NBA team this year. Yes, you heard that correctly. The same Hawks team that once made Philips Arena a very difficult place to play, to the tune of just a mere seven home losses ALL of last year. They’ve managed to lose 6 in the past 18 days.

This is a team with an All-Star at guard, an All-Star in the post who might be the 2nd best such player in his conference at his position (and that is while playing out of position), an all-star talent at the other forward position (who ultimately, is a microcosm of all things wrong with this team), the reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner, and a former number two draft pick. They have a young, fast, defensive minded, explosive point guard, and off the bench some veterans with some playoff experience. Yet, no team in the league loses in such brutal ways as often as these Hawks do.

Please, someone explain.

Here’s what I’ll explain, blow it up. All of it. There are the positives to this collection of players as mentioned before, but there are a lot of negatives too.

I’ve addressed the issues with Josh Smith, and they only seem to be manifesting, and even spreading to other players on the team. His disease is infecting the rest of this squad, and making him a captain prior to the year only made it even easier to immediately get to the heart of the squad.

Joe Johnson, well, I’d prefer not to speak about him. His contract given appears more and more each day as one of the worst contracts handed out in Atlanta professional sports history. He still dominates the ball too much. People can argue his assists are up, ok sure, I still see too many possessions consist strictly of Joe Johnson dominating the basketball. J.J., there is no “M” as your first initial, quit thinking there is.  Hopefully the impending labor strife with the NBA and new CBA will rescue the Hawks from themselves here. If there was a way to be rid of this contract, the Hawks would be dumber than even I think they are not to explore it.

Marvin Williams is a nice player, but he will never, ever, ever, be worthy of his number two overall pick. And this is only magnified considering the caliber of player drafted behind him. What’s worse for Atlanta, his trade value has only decreased. The day his contract becomes an expiring contract will be a day of much rejoicing in Atlanta, if of course management makes proper use of such an early get out of jail free card.

Jeff Teague must just be the worst practice player since Allen Iverson. Seriously, can anyone else explain the baffling decision of Larry Drew to play him so sparingly, and inconsistently. Isn’t it just common knowledge that sometimes you have to go through growing pains with young players, take the good with the bad? We don’t get to see much good with Teague because his opportunities come so infrequently. When he does get on the court, we’ve seen him put it all together at times with magnificent games, and at others, seen the obvious talent, athleticism, and skill set that could make him a very solid NBA point guard come in flashes.

Apparently in practice he just looks like Jordan Crawford or something.

Oh, wait, Jordan Crawford, the rookie that Larry Drew refused to play, despite having a team that struggles to put the ball in the basket, who averaged 24 points per game in his last three games as a starter in Washington, that Jordan Crawford? Oh, yeah, about that….

Sure, there’s Al Horford, but really, what is he? Other than perhaps the most under-used, most out of position played, elite NBA player in recent memory? He’s still stuck at center, and he’s still one of the last options for the Hawks offense. Never mind the fact that he’s arguably the Hawks best offensive player, he’s far down the list on the pecking order. Joe has to get his, Josh Smith is going to take his, and from less than desirable spots on the floor, and then Jamal Crawford is going to come in and want his. So who cares if Horford is in the process of going 6 for 7 from the field, those other guys need to be shooting their jump shots.

Al Horford has become the really pretty soap in your grandparents bathroom that you’re not allowed to actually use.

As for Larry Drew? Well, I just thought Paul Hewitt was bad. Yikes.

This isn’t a team who suffered a catastrophic injury (such as Jamal Anderson or Michael Vick for the Falcons), or who suffered through some horrible injury luck to their entire team (the 2008 Braves) or just a roster devoid of talent. This is a team that’s been relatively healthy, has been together to grow together for a few years, and has plenty of talent. Yet it has managed to embarrass this city in ways not seen since the summer of 1996.

For all of the individual talents, and the positive things each can bring, there are the negative aspects to this collection of talented players. And therein lies the problem, this collection of players just simply will not work. It will never work. The sooner they give up on that, the better.

The worst part however is that I don’t think they even really care. The Hawks teams of the 80s, and then the one of the mid 90s were a similar bunch. A good team, but not a great team. They couldn’t ever quite get completely over the hump. However, you rarely, RARELY found yourself questioning the desire and effort of those teams. The same can’t be said of this bunch, and that is the difference, and that is reason number one to find the self destruct button and send these pieces scattering around the league.

Leave a comment

Filed under Basketball, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawks, Sports

NCAA Tournament Quick Thoughts

  • Yes,  I know the Big East only saw two of eleven teams advance into the Sweet Sixteen, however seven did advance to the round of 32, which is over 1/5 of the field.
  • Arguments are made that the only reason two Big East teams made the Sweet 16 is because they were able to beat other Big East teams. On the other side of that coin, it also means that perhaps two of the five teams to lose in the round of 32 lost simply because they played Big East teams.
  • Watching Butler run their offense is a treat. The difference in the movement off the ball for the Bulldogs compared to Pittsburgh was night and day. Bradley Stevens is absolutely one of the elite coaches in America.
  • Jimmer is the truth. Period. I didn’t see BYU surviving the opening weekend without Davies. Not only did they, they did so rather impressively.
  • Michigan basketball is on the way back.
  • Which team benefited most from the pod system, and from the court they got to play on during the opening weekend? I think it’s safe to say Duke and North Carolina share that, as both squeaked out of the round of 32 with close victories in Charlotte. It makes you wonder what would have happened had they been on a truly neutral court.
  • The fact that Xavier and Michigan State both have made the Sweet 16 for the straight years prior to this tournament was, and still is, irrelevant to this years tournament. The squad that started that run for each bears very little resemblance to the ones that were ousted in the opening round.
  • For the first time since Los Angeles did it in 2007, a city has two teams in the Sweet 16. The city? Richmond.
  • Seth Greenberg, please shut-up now. You aren’t even the second best team in your state, you absolutely have done nothing to show why your Virginia Tech Hokies belonged in the tournament more than the VCU Rams. All the Rams have done is shown they belong with the big boys, while your Hokies can’t get out of round two in the Not Important Tournament.
  • Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, please return to Athens. If you do, the 2012 NCAA Tournament run could be special for the folks in Athens.
  • Have you ever seen a dumber foul than the one Sheldon Mack committed at the end of the Pittsburgh/Butler game? The answer is no. Well, except for the fact that Pittsburgh committed an even more egregious foul on the other end.
  • Picking upsets isn’t the way to win a bracket pool, but it’s a way to make watching the opening round much more fun, and feel some vindication when you nail one.
  • I did pretty well with the upset picks. Richmond, George Mason, and Gonzaga delivered. Utah State, Old Dominion and Georgia took their opponent down to the bitter end while Clemson just tired down the stretch in a game they were in throughout. Belmont was the only one who kinda make me look silly.
  • Speaking of Clemson, the scheduling of this tournament screwed them pretty royally. No way they should have been playing in the first game of the tournament after playing in the First Four, especially considering they didn’t even get in ’till about 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Pretty inexcusable if you ask me.
  • Was there any game more exciting to watch throughout its entirety than Arizona against Memphis. Neither possession seemed to last more than 12 seconds, and the game was played at break-neck pace. It also had plenty of drama down the stretch. Two very, very athletic teams. Memphis could be very good next year.
  • Florida State just plays ridiculous defense, period. They are an extremely tough out, reminds me of some of those old Wisconsin teams that seemed to regularly crash the party.
  • On the note of the Badgers, things have shaped up rather nicely for them. Butler’s offense won’t catch them as off guard and out of position as it did Pittsburgh. Watching Taylor go head to head with Mack is going to be a real treat.
  • Missed free throws make the end of college basketball games in March the most exciting thing in sports.
  • At this point, I don’t see how anyone can pick against Ohio State. Everyone else has looked extremely vulnerable, with Kansas perhaps being the second strongest. Right now, Ohio State though is playing head and shoulders better than anyone else.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Basketball, College Basketball

Atlanta’s 10 Most Heartbreaking Sports Moments #7

So I’ve put this one off for far too long now, and well, I”m ready to just get to number six, so here goes.

Frankly, I really don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s still too fresh in my mind to go back into in depth. That should give a hint as to what it is. If you haven’t figured it out, here’s a couple more.

Second best regular season in franchise history, ends in……..

I hated cheese for a while, still might.

Now I can get to working on number six, and I’ll be bringing a better effort for that one. I just can’t discuss this one at length yet.

1 Comment

Filed under Falcons, NFL, Playoffs, Sports