Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Curse of the Fab Five

Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.  20 years ago these five players took the basketball world by storm, leading the University of Michigan to the championship game of the NCAA tournament as freshmen.  Since then, it has all been downhill for these men.  A second loss in the NCAA championship the next year led the Fab Five to disband, and four of the five eventually made their way into the pros.  However, despite great individual success none of them has ever won a championship.  Based on these statistics, it doesn't look like the Heat will be winning a title as long as they have the last playing member of the Fab Five on their team.

Chris Webber: #1 overall pick in 1993.  Instead of creating what would have been a lethal front court with Webber and Shaq, Webber gets traded to the Warriors.  The Magic go to the NBA Finals that year, and despite playing well in Golden State, Webber doesn't get along with his coach and flees to the Washington Bullets.  In Washington he plays well, but injuries limit him.  Eventually, he finds his way to the Kings and has great success, but the Kings never make it to the NBA Finals.  Severely limited by knee problems, C-Webb plays out the rest of his career on the Sixers and Pistons.

Jalen Rose: #13 overall pick in 1994.  Jalen Rose arrives in Denver the year after the Nugs upset the Sonics and make it to the Western Conference finals.  After two average years there, he is traded to the Indiana Pacers and is a crucial part of a team that makes three consecutive Eastern Conference finals and one NBA finals.  Of course, they do not win the ultimate prize though.  In 2003 he is traded to the Raptors.  Injuries and lack of talent lead the Raptors to rebuild, and Jalen is shipped to the Knicks.  We all can guess what happens there.  Rose finishes his career quietly in Phoenix in 2007. 

Jimmy King: #35 overall pick in 1995.  In and out of the NBA, King never achieves much notoriety with the Raptors or Nuggets.

Ray Jackson: CBA Rookie of the Year 1995-96

Juwan Howard: #5 overall pick in 1994.  Many thought when the Washington Bullets drafted Howard and had C-Webb that they were going to be a force to be reckoned with.  However, injuries and contract disputes led the Bullets to a dismal three years with the two Fab Fivers.  Howard stays with the Wizards for four more years after that with little team success.  Since then Howard has played on contender after contender (Dallas, Denver, Houston, Orlando, Portland, Miami) without winning the big one.  He is seemingly only hanging around to win a title, and this year may be his last shot with Miami.  However, now that Chris Bosh is injured that is looking less likely.  Coincidence?

The Fab Five were supposed to win several NCAA titles, and Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard seemed destined to dominate the NBA.  Despite great personal success, and some near misses every member of the Fab Five has failed in their championship quest.  Juwan Howard is the last one left, and he doesn't have much more time.  Something tells me that as long as he is in the NBA, the Curse of the Fab Five will continue to ruin the chances of whatever team he is on.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

TIGER!

After a terrible finish at the Masters, a missed cut last week, and now a two-over 74 at TPC Sawgrass today, I thought I would take the time to dissect just what in the hell is going on with Tiger Woods after picking up his first win in almost two years.  Two things have really stood out at me with Tiger; he is making (and compounding) stupid mistakes, and he is still not where he needs to be with his short game.

The first thing Tiger Woods needs to admit to himself is that he is not the same person he was 12 years ago when he was far and away the best player on the PGA Tour and could win tournaments without his best stuff.  He is now 36, and needs to accept the fact that he can't hit the ball as far, or pull off the crazy shots that he used to.  Example: I believe it was Saturday of the 2012 Masters, Tiger has just driven his ball into the rough on the par-5 13th hole at Augusta National.  The normal player would think, "Ok, my ball is in the rough, lets just lay up and then try and hit an approach close.  Still a good chance for birdie here."  Not so for Mr. Woods.  Instead of laying up, Tiger rips a three-wood from the rough in a very risky attempt to go for the green.  The balls plugs in the creek bank short of the green and Tiger is forced to take a penalty and a drop.  He is able to get the ball up and down for par, but if he had just laid up, he would have had a great chance at birdie.  He needs to start thinking this way, instead of the "I can do anything" mentality that he has always had.  That style just isn't going to work for him anymore I don't think.  Easier said than done for the game's greatest player though.

Second, his short game still needs work, and might never be the same.  Tiger seems to have lost that killer instinct on and around the green.  No longer do Tiger fans such as myself just assume every putt is going to drop, in fact it is probably the contrary now.  His chipping and short irons have also left much to be desired.  I had never seen Tiger fan a 9-iron until this year's Masters.  Unheard of.  This aspect of his game seems hopeless at times, but if he can adapt his game to suit his age like I previously stated, there is hope.

Ben Hogan once lamented to his wife that he couldn't for the life of him make the medium-range putts he needed to make to win tournaments.  His wife told him that he would have to just find a way to hit the ball closer to the hole on his approach.  This is essentially what Tiger needs to do.  Tiger needs to cut out the mistakes that exaggerate his short-game deficiencies, and put himself in better shape once he gets to the green.  This is especially true on par-5s.  There is no reason why he shouldn't still be birdieing par 5s at an alarming rate.  He just needs to go about it in a different way.  As soon as Mr. Woods realizes that he is not 19 anymore, and that his abilities have changed dramatically over the years, I think you will begin to see more of the Tiger that won at Bay Hill this year rather than the Tiger that is missing cuts.


Monday, May 7, 2012

What's With the (N)Attitude?

It will be a cold day in hell before TPLIYP is ever accused of being an unbiased sports blog site, but I am honestly very surprised at the negative reaction that Cole Hamels has received for delivering a 93mph heater straight into the flank of Bryce Harper.  Earlier today I lauded Cole for his leadership, cojones and honesty, and thought others would too.  The response this afternoon has caused me to take another look at this story.  Having done that, I still believe that I am right and everybody else is wrong.  Go figure.  Let me say a few more things about this story and I will be done with it.

First and foremost, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo (any relation to Frank?) is a grade-A bozo.  He came out with a statement saying “I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless chicken-shit act in my 30 years in baseball."  He also went on to use the phrase "polar opposite" way too many times and compared hitting a player with a pitch to the Saints bounty scandal in the NFL.  Really Mr. Rizzo?  In 30 years, you haven't seen anything more gutless than a pitcher beaning a hitter just above the waist?  Maybe you should pay more attention.  You also ought to hire yourself a PR person.  I understand that you are trying to bring the Nats franchise back from the dead here, but respect is earned and your team hasn't earned anything 30 games into the season.  Shut your mouth.   

Secondly, what kind of message is Major League Baseball sending by suspending Cole Hamels for 5 games?  I understand it has to be done to set a precedent, but think about it; you are suspending a player for being honest about what he did.  Jordan Zimmerman went and plunked Cole Hamels in the leg an inning or two later and faces no suspension because he lied about it after the game.  If anyone honestly thinks he did not deliberately go after Hamels with that pitch they are crazy.  So one pitcher is suspended and one is not, the difference being that one player told the truth and one lied.  Sounds like a pretty dangerous game, eh?

Finally, is this the first time that a player has ever admitted to throwing at somebody?  Where did this sudden outrage come from?  I believe the great Jose Mesa once vowed to throw at Omar Vizquel every time he faced him, and did.  I don't recall him ever being suspended for 5 games.  Hitting batters and retaliation are part of the game, and should remain that way.  The fact the the league, players and GMs are trying to decide what is kosher and what isn't is just stupid in my opinion. This is nowhere near the level of danger as we have obviously seen with the deaths in the NFL and the NHL, and to play it up as such is ridiculous.  Everybody needs to settle down and let the players play the game. Okay, I'm done.   

I Luh Dat Guy


This weekend in sports wasn't short on interesting story lines.  The L.A. Kings (aka Flyers West) and Jonathan Quick are making a statement in the playoffs, Rickie Fowler finally exercised the Curse of TPLIYP, and the Sixers are taking advantage of the injured Bulls in the playoffs.  All stories for another day though, as I want to re-affirm my love for Cole Hamels.

Safe to say that the best word to describe the Phillies season so far has been "lackluster."  Their offense has been anemic, injuries abound, and they are currently bottom-dwelling in the NL East.  Then last night happened.  Cole "Hollywood" Hamels, who has deservedly taken a lot of heat over the years for being a bit of a diva, made a statement last night to the NL East leading Nats that at least he is not going to roll over and let the Nationals turn this division into a cakewalk.  He stepped up in the first inning last night and drilled Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper right in the back.  He did it deliberately, and admitted it too. 

I have always loved Hamels, but this move added a new wrinkle into his persona.  He may be from "California" but he is a tough guy.  He wanted to show the rookie that he was nobody special and he did, and admitted it.  Do all the fashion shows and drink all the fruitinis you want Cole, you're good in my book.  The Phillies needed something to get them going this season, Hamels pegging Harper (good on Harper for taking the plunking in stride and stealing home in the same inning as well) might just have done the trick.  Afterwards Hamels got beaned in retaliation, pitched 7 more innings of one-run ball, and the Phillies offense erupted for 9 total runs.  It all started with one pitch. 

Hamels will most likely be suspended since he admitted that he intentionally threw at Harper, but this is exactly the kind of thing the Phillies needed.  Hopefully this is the start of something big for the Phightins the rest of the way. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Is Going to Hurt

Well, it's certainly been a while.  Every now and then a writer needs some time to sit back, and let the world contribute some new ideas to his work.  For this writer, that took over a year.  Things have changed.  Brett Favre is retired.  There are two teams called the Jets again.  We elected "Tricky Dick" twice.  The Clippers are in the playoffs, and now Mo Rivera is out for the season.  And that is what I have decided to put pen to pad to talk to you about today.  Mo Rivera, to borrow a phrase from the movie I already reference earlier was a "constant" for the Yankees.  With him out for the season, and possibly for good, the Yankees will begin to see how the other half lives.

Over the past 15 years, there has been no more dominant closer, and possibly pitcher, in all of baseball than Mariano Rivera.  When the 8th or 9th inning rolls around in the Bronx, hitters have expected to feed on the splinters of their own bats from a steady diet of 95mph cutters.  608 saves and one torn ACL later, the Yankees are now in search of a new closer.  No doubt a crucial cog in the Yankees winning machine over all these years has been the fact that the Sandman is holding any lead in the 9th inning.  Except for 2002, Rivera has never really been hurt and the saves have piled up.

Without Mo to put the clamps down in the 9th inning, the Yankees will finally start to understand what all 29 other teams feel like.  The 9th inning is no sure thing.  I know they have several solid bullpen pitchers waiting in the wings, but let's be honest, there will never be another closer as lights out as Mo.  It will be interesting to see how many games the Yankees fritter away without the man they have counted on since the mid-90s.  More pressure will be applied to the bullpen; and the starters, who are shaky to begin with, will have to go deeper into games.

Getting down to brass tacks, I think that the loss of Mo Rivera will end up costing the Yankees 7 or 8 wins and could have a significant effect on their playoff chances.  So Yankees fans, get ready to feel what the Phillies fans felt with Brad Lidge in 2009, or what Red Sox fans feel like already this year.  It is your turn now.  Less Mo, mo problems.