MLB is in high gear as is NASCAR and the PGA. Plus, the NBA and NHL playoffs are entering their final rounds. And sooner than later NFL and NCAA football will be prepping for another season. Here’s a look at what’s going on in the world of sports.
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Sports never cease to surprise me. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is going to happen in games or events, and I like to think that I am right from time to time. Sometimes, though, I am truly surprised by things that happen, or by stats that I read. This weekend in particular was filled with a surprising number of happenings that didn’t go as I expected them to. Among them:
The Belmont Stakes got a lot less interesting from the public perspective on Friday with the news that Rachel Alexandra will not be running in the race. Though I was beginning to hold out hope because the decision was taking longer than expected, this is pretty much exactly what I was expecting since about 12 seconds before the Belmont ended. Though the filly ran one heck of a race and deserves all of the credit in the world for what she accomplished, she was losing ground to the Derby champion, Mine That Bird, awfully quickly, and it was just a matter of moments before she would have been caught and passed. The Belmont is significantly longer than the Preakness (5/16 of a mile), and is further than any horse in the race is ever likely to be asked to run again in their lives. She clearly didn’t like the track at Pimlico on Preakness day, but the fact is that there are more reasons to believe that she could have been beaten in the Belmont than there were to think that she could have won the race. That’s not to say that she couldn’t win – she certainly could – just that there was a much greater chance that she could lose the Belmont than there was that she would lose the Preakness.
Three quick thoughts to end the week:
Joe Torre said today that he doesn’t think that Manny Ramirez should play in the all-star game if he gets voted in. I’d go a step further – if the fans vote Manny into the all-star game then MLB should immediately ban people from entering every stadium in the league. It would be better to play in empty stadiums then to let people who are stupid enough to vote a suspended druggie into the all-star game make the team. This would make a mockery of the all-star game. Of course, the mockery ship sailed years ago when it come to all-star games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, down three games to one, survived one more day by beating the Orlando Magic 112- 102 in game five. That’s old news by now. The news on the Eastern Conference front will be made Saturday when these two teams meet again.
I find myself writing about Kentucky basketball way more than any single program deserves in the offseason, but so much of what is going on there is just so compelling that I can’t help it. It’s rare that a team goes through such a complete overhaul in an offseason, never mind an iconic program like this one. The program found itself in the news three different times yesterday, for three totally unrelated reasons:
As a baseball fan I love this time of year. Actually, I love different parts of the season for different reasons. This time is great because it’s when hot young prospect typically get called up by teams that can’t wait to see what they have on their hands any longer. The biggest gem of this current period has been called up already – at least a couple of weeks before he was expected to be. Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters is the top prospect in all of the minor leagues right now, and he will be making his debut on Friday. He’s a big hitting prospect who is very strong at handling pitchers. The comparison is obvious – he’s regularly called the next Mike Piazza. He’ll get lots of opportunities to play in Baltimore – they are lousy and their best catching option is currently Gregg Zaun . I can’t wait to see what he is able to do with the opportunity. All indications should be that it will take a while for him to find his game, but he’s so talented and hopes are so high that maybe he’ll just jump right in like he belongs – like Evan Longoria did last year. Either way, the hype will be at such a high level that it will be fun to watch. It’s been a while since we’ve had a megastar at catcher – since Pudge was in his prime, I guess. It would be nice to have one again.
It continues to amaze me just how bad the American tennis players are on clay. The latest disaster came today in the French Open when James Blake was beaten in straight sets by a 22 year old Argentinian qualifier making his grand slam debut. Mardy Fish is out as well after a first round setback to another Argentinian. The Americans have three players ranked in the top 22, and only Andy Roddick survived to the second round. It’s pathetic, really. Roddick has played in seven French Opens. He has lost in the first round four times, the second round twice, and once more in the third. This was Blake’s seventh Open. He has two first round departures, four more in the second, and one in the third. Fish has only made it as far as the second round once in four tries. That’s 18 tries combined without so much as a round of 16 to show for the effort. Over the same period the players have a grand slam win, five semifinal appearances, and 12 more quarterfinal showings in the other three slams. It’s pretty clear what the problem is – clay.
How in the world are the Padres doing what they are doing?!? I look up and down that roster and I see very little that stands out as impressive – a couple of pitchers and a position player or two. Not only that, but they have no payroll, and they are looking to dump much of what they have. That’s a recipe for disaster. Or at least it should be. Instead, they have won 10 in a row, and they do it by fighting and clawing and showing so many things that they shouldn’t really be able to show. One of the amazing things about sports is the continuous ability to shock and surprise, and this is a perfect example of that. Tonight San Diego scored five runs in the eighth and one more in the ninth to tie the game, and then scored two in the 10th to take the win. Even more incredible, they had lost six in a row and 16 of 19 before this streak. If you tell me that you saw this coming then I’ll call you a liar.
It’s amazing to me how uncompetitive this round of the NHL playoffs is. I felt confident that the finals this year was going to be a rematch of last year, but I thought that Detroit and Pittsburgh would at least have to fight for their berth. The game this afternoon was so one-sided it wasn’t even entertaining. I actually felt bad for the Blackhawks. Yesterday was just as bad – Pittsburgh never gave Carolina a chance. You never want a team to look past their current opponent, but I’m certainly looking to the next round. I definitely like Pittsburgh to win it all – Detroit is beat up, and Pittsburgh’s top two players are playing truly spectacular hockey right now.