Monday, June 29, 2009

Sandman Reaches Milestone-500 Saves

Not even close.

He's one of my favorite baseball players of all time. He's been a fixture for the NY Yankees for as long as Derek Jeter. He's been the most dominant and reliable closer for the last 13 years, and at the same time, one of the more humble players ever.

On the night when Mariano Rivera got his first ever RBI, the Sandman became the second player ever to reach 500 career saves. And by the way, MO really has a nice swing.

The all time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman with 571, is still a good two seasons ahead of Rivera, but we can hardly compare the two. Hoffman pitched most of his career in the NL West. Rivera will pitch his entire career in the AL East. Rivera has kept his composure and dominance throughout his entire career while playing on the sports' biggest stage.

Of course what puts "The Great Mariano" ahead of everyone else is his career post season performance. To go along with his 4 championship rings, Rivera holds the record for most post season saves with 34. Coming in second, Dennis Eckersley with 15. His 9 World Series saves are also a record.

In his post season career, Rivera is 8-1 with a 0.77 ERA to go along with his before mentioned record of 34 saves.

In an injury bug era, we rarely encounter a player who reaches double digits in years played at the same time never showing signs of fatigue or diminishing skill. This is the same era where the closer's role was changed to pitching only the ninth. Rivera's 500th save last night was his 110th save of more than 3 outs.

Rivera has shown great durability in his 15th season while showing tremendous consistency. Since being named the Yankees' closer in 1997, Mariano has recorded at least 28 saves in each season. And yet he's done this entirely with one single pitch, the cutter, which starts out on one side of the plate and cuts across it at the last second. A total thing of beauty.

So it came as no surprise last night when manager Joe Girardi called to Rivera with 2 outs and 2 on in the 8th inning with the Yankees clinging to a one run lead. It was Joe Girardi who was behind the plate for the Yankees when Mariano recorded his first save ever on May 17, 1996.

When asked if Rivera was the greatest he has ever played with, Derek Jeter replied,

“Yes, No question,” he said without a moment of hesitation. “There has never been anybody more consistent. Mo is great in the regular season, the postseason, even spring training.”

Rivera has been a fixture for the Yankees and their fans for 15 years now. And for those 15 years, when the Yankees have the lead late in a game, MO is all everyone needs to know. I can't imagine the Yankees without him.

OK, so more recently, Rivera might be more remembered for his blown save in the 2001 World Series. Or the blown save in Game 4 at Fenway in the 2004 ALCS. But really, those are two small blemishes on a Hall of Fame career. Remember, the Yankees would not have won 4 World Series's and would not be in position to win ever year without "The Great Mariano."

The clock is ticking. He probably has at least two magical seasons left, seeing Mariano pitch in person is a sight every sports fan should experience. Try to see him at Yankee Stadium because when he comes out to "Enter Sandman," the moment is almost as breath taking as seeing Rivera pitch.

Is Mariano Rivera the best closer ever? Not even close.

Congratulations Mariano Rivera! You are one of the best players of all time.

For more on Mariano's milestone achievement check out Peter Abraham's post.

After Rivera's 500th save, ESPN had a Sunday Night Conversation with MO and Tim Kurkjian did a really nice piece of Mariano's career thus far.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Day That Music Died, Part 2

From the "King of Pop" to "Wacko Jacko," Michael Jackson had two separate lives. Let's face it, the Michael Jackson we all fell in love with died sometime in the late '80's. Jackson ruled the music world basically from 1969 to 1984.

His name will now forever be linked with Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. All three performers' music will played till the end of time. But Jackson's music is different. I don't anyone from my generation who owns an Elvis CD. Sinatra was pure classic. With MJ, his music is still played on the radio, bars and clubs, karaoke, wedding receptions, etc, and will be forever. I can guarantee sometime in the next 20 years my daughter will be listening to Michael Jackson and will probably have her own "Thriller" album.

Jackson was another performer who to shot to stardom at a young age only to see their career take a tremendous plunge. Michael's plunge was totally different. His extracurricular activities made him just as popular from his "Neverland Ranch", obsession with young boys, buying the bones of the "elephant man", to dangling one of his kids from a hotel balcony. This was a guy who sold a gazillion records, seemed to have more money than Wal-Mart and yet died greatly in debt.

The day Michael Jackson died will be one of those days when you'll remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. My girlfriend called me just after 5pm and asked if I was watching TV? In this era, when you get that kind of call you immediately think some horrific accident or terrorist attack. How I wasn't watching TV or on the computer is amazing itself. My daughter was watching "Mary Poppins" when I got the call. I shut it off immediately as my girlfriend said, "Michael Jackson died!"

What!? I can't say I was totally shocked or surprised. Considering Jackson's lifestyle, you're kind of surprised he lasted this long. At the same time chills raced through my body and mind. Someone who once owned the world and seemed at times "Invincible" (no pun intended), was mortal. Someone who influenced a whole generation and will influence many more to come, had left this world.

A celebrities death is always something that shocks the world. Yeah, I remember the days Tupac and Ronald Reagan died, but you don't get much bigger than Michael Jackson. You know it's huge when nearly every television station cuts to breaking coverage of Jackson's death. Even more, when every radio station is playing continuous MJ music, when you drive by a bar you can hear Billie Jean pouring out the door, it really hits you knowing that a historic icon has died.

What was great was the fact that MTV and VH-1 played Jackson videos throughout the weekend. I can't think of the last time I watched these two networks but it was outstanding to see MTV and VH-1 actually play videos! Funny cause it was Jackson who made both these stations. Watching his videos was like a trip down memory lane, making you fell like a kid again. His videos are still incredible today as they were 25 years ago. And they still will be in 25 years.

Jackson's career started well before I was born and I was merely 8 years old when he moonwalked across the stage. Honestly, that may have been one of the greatest moments of this era. The next day at school, everyone was trying to moonwalk. No one moved like Michael. No one ever will.

He was an inspiration for so many today and will continue to inspire future musicians. No other person had the type of impact on music and pop culture as Michael Jackson.

There's already jokes about MJ and his death. There's already the conspiracy that he's not really dead, he faked his death because of financial debt. I'm sure Elvis impersonators in Vegas will soon be joined by Michael Jackson.

Now a legend, Michael Jackon's legacy will continue forever and there will never be another quite like him.

RIP King of Pop

My favorite Michael Jackson videos:

Billie Jean


Rock With You

You can never get enough of this one with Naomi Campbell.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Magic Choke Away Another One Late

Somehow the Orlando Magic find themselves done, down 3 games to 1. The Magic could easily be up 3-1. After being blown out in Game 1, Orlando has actually outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers the last 3 games.

Boy, does experience matter. Orlando was a missed layup away from winning Game 2. They had no chance in OT. And last night, they controlled the entire first half, blew the game in the third quarter, and then came back and had the game wrapped up in the 4th.

But honestly! Do basketball players not watch other basketball games? Do they not learn from experience? Do they not understand Basketball 101?

With Orlando in control in the final minute of Game 4, up 3 points, Dwight Howard bricked two crucial free throws. Howard only needed one to basically seal the deal. And even missing both shots from the charity stripe, the Magic were still up 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining.

All they had to do was defend the three point shot, something you would think Orlando knows a lot about. And if LA doesn't drive the ball for an easy two, FOUL the guy before he has a chance to shoot a 3! Like I said before, Basketball 101!

Not only did Orlando fail to foul Derek Fisher, Jameer Nelson failed to get up in Fisher's grill and contest the shot.

Did we not learn anything from Memphis and the 2008 NCAA Championship Game? No, not cheating on your SAT's.

I know you can't put the total blame on the players. A lot has to fall on Stan Van Gundy who very much played the role of the Master Of Panic last night. I don't know what he told his team on that possession, but I hoped he told them to foul once the Lakers moved the ball past half court.

By not fouling Fisher, Van Gundy gave Phil Jackson, one of the most overrated coaches in NBA history, his record 10th Finals ring. I will write an article on why Jackson is one of the most overrated coaches in all sports in some other time. Really not much explaining to do there.

Orlando should have won last night's game by double digits. The reason they lost, free throws! Larry Bird used to call them "free points." The Magic were 22-37 from the "free point" line, just under 60%.

And with the game tied 91-91 with just over a minute to go in OT, it seemed like the Lakers had the ball an eternity. How many chances did Orlando give them before Fisher hit the game clinching 3? Like the whole second half, Orlando failed to crash the boards as a team.

And Kobe got away with a huge no call on Fisher's trey. Kobe hit Jameer hard with an elbow to a face that should have been an easy offensive foul. But at the same time, what's been fun about the last few games is the fact that the refs have been letting the teams play.

Kobe Bryant is the epitome of a street baller. You know, whenever he misses a shot, his hands immediately go up in the air and he has that astonished look on his face. "What! No Foul?!" Whenever he loses the ball, the same surprised expression. Everyone's played a pick up game with a guy similar to this. And how fun is that?

We've always heard about how important experience is when it comes to the NBA Finals. There was the Piston's trying to get over the hump in the late '80s. Even Jordan had his learning experience before polishing off 6 rings.

This same Lakers' team couldn't get over the hump last year against Boston, but are now proving last year's Finals lost has been a major stepping stone. But hey, you wouldn't think that with guys like Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher would need a learning experience.

The last three games of the NBA Finals have been great with two overtime games. But you could just feel Orlando not having the magic to finish a game off. (I know, good one.) If Kobe and the Lakers hadn't struggled from the line in Game 3, this very well could have been a sweep.

And speaking of Magic, one final note (since this will probably be my final post for a couple of weeks, I'm moving and will actually be going back to work for a week.)

I miss Charles Barkley and TNT's NBA coverage. I've heard that TNT's crew is covering the Finals on the NBA Channel. That must be on the same satellite feed as Versus, I don't get it but wish I did. I can't stand ESPN's studio crew and don't care to watch it. Really no personality there. Stuart Scott is stuck in 1997 and thinks he is still cool. Was he ever? I don't even know what Barry that is on the show. And Mike Wilbon, well, since the popularity of PTI, Wilbon has grown a huge head and is so stuck on himself that he's more worried about going out and being seen at the big city clubs. Like he's some big time celebrity.

And Magic Johnson? Yeah, Magic is one of the best players to ever dribble a basketball. But last night during ESPN's halftime "show," I heard Magic say, "Like I said before the game, if Odom, Gasol, Ariza and Fisher don't shoot well, the Lakers won't win."

Really Magic!!! That's the best your basketball mind can come up with? Duh! That's like saying the team that scores the most points will win the basketball game.

What's even worse, I'm sure on the postgame show, Magic said something like this, "I told you before the game those four players need to shoot the ball for Lakers to win. And the second half they came through." Note: I have yet to see the postgame "show."

How right you are Magic.

As for Orlando, do they really want to win Game 5 and have to travel back to LA and get blown out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kobe Leads Lakers As Magic Disappear

When Kobe gets that look in his eye, Mamba's zoned in and there's no stopping him. Kobe single handily took over Game 1 of the NBA Finals as the Lakers routed Orlando.

LA basically only needed the 2nd and 3rd quarters to seal Game 1. Orlando actually had the lead after the first and were even up 33-28 in the second quarter when Mamba stole the show. Bryant had 30 points in a 16 minute span from the second quarter into the the third. The game was well over by the start of the 4th quarter.

In 38 minutes, Kobe had 40 points, 8 boards, 8 dimes, 2 steals and 2 blocks while hitting some ridiculous shots.

As for the Magic, call it stage fright. They just couldn't hit anything. You know the old saying, "Live by the 3, die by the 3. After putting on a 3 point clinic against Cleveland, Orlando shot just 8-23 from downtown in Game 1. The Magic shot 30% overall.

And it's not like the Lakers were playing great defense. Orlando had their shots, but they just couldn't hit anything from wide open 3's to missed layups. A lot of their shots weren't even close.

How does Dwight Howard only attempt 6 shots, making just 1! Howard did get to the line 16 times but finished with only 12 points. The Lakers outscored Orlando 56-22 in the paint.

Mickael Pietrus was the Magic's leading scorer coming off the bench with 14.

The entire starters for Orlando had a combined 46 points, shooting 11-46. That's 24%! Kobe had 40 by himself!

The good news for Orlando, it's just one game. We've seen this team catch fire and when they do, the best player on the planet can't stop them. They've dug themselves deep a couple of times in the playoffs. They were down 2-1 in the first round to Philadelphia. In the Conference Semifinals, they were blown out in Game 2 at Boston. They were down 3-2 to the Celtics.

The bad news? Phil Jackson coached teams are 43-0 when they win Game 1 of a playoff series.

One other note. The Conference Finals wrapped up last Saturday night. That's a 4 day layoff. And now Game 2 of the Finals isn't until Sunday night, at 9pm EST. That's one! playoff game in a week! What the hell are you thinking David Stern. Especially after last night's blowout Game 1, this great post season has quickly lost momentum. Why not Game 2 Saturday night prime time. Do you realize how many people will be turned off by the Game 2 late start on a Sunday night. Did you look at the World Series ratings in the last few years?

And it's between Games 1 and 2! It's not like there's travel involved between the games.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ortiz Heats Up, Goes 1-5

How bad are things for David Ortiz? He went 1-5 last night and actually raised his batting average! Ortiz, we need to find a new nickname for this guy because "Big Papi" doesn't work anymore, came into last night's game batting .185. By going 1-5 with 3 K's, his average actually sparked up to .186!

I wish I could say I feel sorry for the guy and the Red Sox, but Nah!!!! I fucking love it! I'm not going to bring up PED's, steroids, no Manny hitting behind him, being an average player when he was with the Twins, etc. Whoops! Just did. Sorry. No, not really.

This guy is a mess. And I love it! Maybe it was a good thing that guy tried to bury an Ortiz jersey in the new Yankee Stadium. And maybe it was a good thing the Yankees spent X amount of dollars to dig up that jersey. The Yankees are in first place and everyone's hitting homeruns at the new Yankee Stadium, except Lil' Papi.

Maybe the "Mendoza Line" should now be referred to as the "Big Papi Line"?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Yankees Still Rolling, Set MLB Record

On a night where Joba Chamberlain had the best game of his career, the first place New York Yankees set a MLB record. That record? 18 straight games without an error. During that span, the Yankees are 14-4.

A big part of that record can be credited to Mark Teixeira. Not only does Teixeira bring consistency at the plate, by he also brings a gold glove to first base. The Yankees really haven't had a solid first baseman since Tino Martinez.

While exorcising the demons from the 2007 playoff "bug game" in Cleveland, Joba returned to the scene of the crime and Progressive Field was littered with birds and the infamous midges.

Chamberlain got to work right away retiring the first 11 Cleveland batters he faced. Joba also had the longest outing of his career pitching 8 innings. For the night, Joba gave up 2 runs, 4 hits, 5 K's and 2 walks. He also hit 97 mph as he approached 100 pitches.

But the biggest play of the game was Joba's defense. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Kelly Shoppach bunted a ball that popped up toward the third base line. Joba quickly jumped off the mound and made a full body dive to catch and ball and land on his stomach. Joba got back up and fired the ball to second for the double play. After the play, Joba did his signature fist pump. It was an amazing play!

Mariano Rivera came on and worked a perfect ninth for his 11th save and the Yankees have now won 15 of the last 19. The scary thing? This team is only getting better.

Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 15 games and has upped his average to .311. Guess he's washed up. Teixeira also extended his hit streak to 14 games.