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Ramblings 06/07/2010

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I snapped this picture of Ryno coaching 3rd base Sunday in Des Moines.A Monday morning mish-mash….

I spent a BEAUTIFUL Sunday afternoon watching AAA baseball in Des Moines, home of the Iowa Cubs and their current head coach Ryne Sandberg. I grew up a Cub fan, and visited Wrigley Field in most summers growing up. I have seen many Cub greats play in the Friendly Confines. Santo, Banks, Reuschel, Suter, Monday, Jenkins, Beckert, Grace, Maddox. The list goes on and on. I then watched the Cubs when they visited Coors Field when I lived in Colorado for the 90’s and most of the 00’s. I guess I have seen most every Cub great play in person for the past 40+ seasons. To me, the greatest Cub of all during that time was Sandberg. His Hall of Fame Career in Chicago has cemented him as one of the best 2nd baseman to ever play the game. During his career, he combined tremendous range and skill defensively with power at the plate. A rare combination at 2nd at the time. He was a 10 time all-star, won 9 gold gloves and 7 silver slugger awards. He was the NL MVP in 1994 and was elected to the HOF in 2005. In addition, he is still the last 2nd baseman to lead his league in home runs when he topped the NL in ’90 with 40 round trippers. I have been out to the ball yard a few times this season and I must admit it is still a thrill to see old #23 in Cubbie blue. My hope is to see him manage in Wrigley in the future……..

The Flyers allowed 7 pucks into their net in game 5 (photo Jim McIsaac-Getty images)

The Flyers are in trouble. They dropped game 5 to the Blackhawks in Chicago to go down 2-3 in the series. Sure, the home team has won all 5 games so far, but in the 3 games played in the Madhouse on Madison, Philly has had no answer for the energy the Hawks draw from the largest, and perhaps loudest crowd in the NHL. That place gets ROCKING during the National Anthem and the Flyers find themselves down before they gain their legs. Even if they can extend the series by winning a game 6 in the City of Brotherly Love, game 7 will be back in the Windy City. The Hawks WILL win the Cup!………

What a gutsy performance by the Celtics in game 2 of the NBA Finals. After failing to show up in game 1 against the Lakers and getting waxed in LA, Boston

The Celtics rose above the Lakers Sunday, capturing game 2 and sending the series to Boston tied at a game each (photo: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images)

came out and took a big lead early in game 2. To their credit, the Lakers refused to roll over, and took a lead in the 4th quarter. Boston then closed out a 16-4 run over the last 5+ minutes to take game 2, and home court advantage, away from LA. As the series now shifts to Boston, make no mistake about it, this will be a long series. If Beantown wants to prevail over Hollywood, they can not afford to take another game off as they did in game 1……

Finally, as I flipped back and forth between the NHL and NBA games on Sunday, I was reminded of an old addage. While the seconds of the last 2 minutes of the basketball game melted slowly away, the final few minutes of the hockey game flew by. It took twice as long to play the final 2 of the Celtics-Lakers than to play the final 5 of the Flyers-Blackhawks, reminding me that if you only have 2 minutes left to live, you want it to be the last 2 minutes of an NBA game.


Wednesday Whimsey 06/10/2009

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Some random thoughts and observations…..

Flipping between game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and game 3 of The Finals of the NBA reinforced my long held opinion that there is more crowd energy at a hockey playoff game than at an NBA playoff game.  I will admit that I have attended many more NHL playoff games than NBA playoff games, but that building in Pittsburgh rocked from the first puck drop.

The rackus "white out" fans in Pittsburgh raised the roof all game Tuesday

The raucous "white out" fans in Pittsburgh raised the roof all game Tuesday

What a game between the Red Wings and Penguins.  Game seven on Saturday should be quite a battle.  I know this series has been all about home ice and the last six game sevens in a finals series went to the home team.  That’s why I’m picking the visiting Penguins to win the Cup in Detroit.  They had more energy in game six.

No such luck in the NBA Finals.  The underdog Orlando Magic won game 3 (their first at home) to make the series 2-1 Lakers.  But If I were a Magic fan, I would be concerned that Orlando shot 62% from the field and still only won by 4 points.  Sure, they sped the game up as they needed to do, and they broke the century mark for the first time in the series, but they can not continue to shoot at this rate.  The Series is in the bag for the Lakers, probably in 6 games.

The way that the MLB Atlanta Braves treated future hall of fame pitcher Tom Glavine last week was disgraceful. 

Tom Glavine deserved better treatment from the Braves

Tom Glavine deserved better treatment from the Braves

 I have no problem that he was given his release.  Baseball is a business.  But all Glavine did for the Braves in his 17 seasons with them was to record 244 of his 305 career wins with them, make 8  all star games and win 2 Cy Young Awards. (He also had 2 All Star appearances during his 4 seasons with the New York Mets.)  This guy gave his heart and soul to the Braves.  He deserved better than to have been released after a rehab stint in A ball.  The Braves organization showed a complete lack of class.

While we are on baseball, has anyone noticed that the hottest team in baseball currently is the Colorado Rockies with 6 straight wins? ……. No, I didn’t think so!  Hey, 6 more and the Rocks will find the .500 mark.

Word out of New York is that the Jets and their first round (#5 overall) pick QB Mark Sanchez have reached a contract agreement.  Sanchez was already in camp learning the system and is battling Kellen Clemens for the starting job.  How refreshing to see a high skill position draft pick actually show that he wants to play, and not miss part of camp for a contract holdout.

Hockey Forrest 05/06/2009

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It is the age old question.  If a tree falls in the forrest with no one around to hear, does it make a noise?  That is the question currently facing the NHL.  In round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the league has it’s best individual match up, as well as a series that includes the last two Cup champions. 

Hockey considers itself the forth major sport in the US.  But with the majority of  TV coverage limited mainly to

Super stars Crosby and Ovechkin face each other in round two

Super stars Crosby and Ovechkin face each other in round two

 regional networks, is that a fair assessment?  Broadcast coverage of the NHL is limited at best during the first two rounds of the playoffs.  NBC covers two games a week, one each on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  It will pick up coverage during the Cup final series.  The only other network coverage is on the Versus network (channel 603 on DirecTV), which carries games in all time slots played.  There is hope, however for the league.  Amid concerns that the current economic downturn would mean that playoff games would be contested in half empty venues, fully 40 of the 44 first round games were played to sellouts.  In addition, Versus reported a 22% increase in US viewership this year compared to last.  The April 19 game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on NBC was the most watched opening round broadcast TV game since 2001, according to the NHL.  While the numbers are small compared to NFL and MLB playoff numbers, the increase is encouraging.

Now we come to the round two showcases.  Washington – Pittsburgh features the two biggest young stars in the game today.  The Capitals Alex Ovechkin and Penguins Sidney Crosby match up is akin to a Kobe – James match up in the

Red Wings-Ducks will feature hard hitting action

Red Wings-Ducks will feature hard hitting action

NBA or a Manning – Brady NFL dual. With the added dimension that these two do not like each other.   And in the first two games of the series, these two mega-stars have not disappointed.  Game one, a 3-2 Washington win features a goal by each player.  Alex the Great lead his team to a 2-0 series lead with a hat trick in game two.  Not to be outdone, Sid the kid answered with 3 goals of his own in the 4-3 loss.  The series now switches to Pittsburgh for games 3 and 4.  Viewership should be up for this series.  In what may be the most exciting team match up in round 2, the 2007  Cup champion Anaheim Ducks are contesting the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.  This series features hard hitting, fast skating and an energy level that creates excitement all game long.  After a Detroit 3-2 victory in game one which featured the game winning goal in the last 50 seconds of regulation, game two went to the Ducks 4-3 in triple overtime, sending this series to Anaheim tied at one game each.  Game 3 went to the Ducks 2-1, but an apparent game tying goal by Detroit with one minute left was disallowed when it was ruled that a referee’s whistle had stopped play before the goal.  Hockey fans will not want to miss a second of this match up.  In addition to these two series, the big market Chicago Blackhawks have moved past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1996.  These three series should help viewership  continue to increase in round two.

This increase of viewership has to continue.  Hockey needs to drive the type of numbers that will make it attractive to more main stream TV outlets.  A better broadcast agreement would help, but at the very least a cable/satellite agreement that will allow for exposure into more homes is needed.  The NBA has agreements with TNT and ESPN, for example, which allows for potentially larger exposure.  Something akin to this, and the money such agreements would bring to the league is what is needed for the NHL to be considered one of the big boys in US sports.

Chops Night In San Jose 04/20/2009

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The eight seeded Anaheim Ducks defeated the top seeded San Jose Sharks 3-2 Sunday night to take a 2 games to none

Ducks Bobby Ryan scores the first goal in game two.

Ducks Bobby Ryan scores the first goal in game two.

 series lead in their best of seven NHL first round playoff matchup.  Both games were played in San Jose.  The Sharks are now in danger of becoming the eighth top seed to drop a series to the 8th seed since 1994.  The series shifts to Anaheim for games 3 and 4. 

Sundays victory by the Ducks featured the first ever Stanley Cup Playoff goals in the career of 3 Ducks players.  Bobby Ryan, Andrew Ebbett and Drew Miller each picked up their career first markers.  All three played earlier this season for the AHL Iowa Chops in Des Moines.  Ryan opened the scoring just 3:45 into the first period with a power play goal.  He took a rebound off Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov and beat him  to his stick side.  The shot, however, was just wide and bounced off of the left goal post.  Ryan then dove, and while airborne redirected the rebound with his stick from behind Nabokov and into the goal. (See Ryan’s goal at http://www.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?hlg=20082009,3,152&event=S.J29)

The Sharks Ryane Clowe tied the score at one 5:38 into the second period.  It was the first goal in the series for the

Former Chops Bobby Ryan (top left), Andrew Ebbett and Drew Miller (bottom)

Former Chops Bobby Ryan (top left), Andrew Ebbett and Drew Miller (bottom)

Sharks, who lost game one 2-0.  The score remained tied at one until 9:44 of the third period when Ebbett took a rebound off the boards behind the San Jose goal and slapped an odd angle shot off Nabokov as he moved from the left of the goal to the right to cover the near post.  The goal gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead.  They made it 3-1 three and a half minutes later when Miller stuffed a rebound off Nabokov just left of the net through traffic past the goaltender’s glove and just inside the far post.  The Ducks then held on for the 3-2 win.

Random notes from a weekend of Sports:

Clean Sweep.  Saturday was a rare day in Chicago sports.  It was the first time in 17 years that both the Bulls and Blackhawks won playoff games on the same day.  The NBA  Bulls defeated the Boston Celtics 105-103 in overtime while the NHL Blackhawks defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2.  In addition, Baseball’s Cubs defeated the St Louis Cardinals 7-5 with a walk off 2 run homer in the bottom of the 11th and White Sox beat the Rays 8-3 making the Chicago teams 4-0 for the day.

Rocky relief.  The Colorado Rockies are off to a 4-7 start.  While the schedule has been brutal (series against the Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs and Diamondbacks) with only 3 games played in Denver so far, pitching has been poor for Colorado.  The team era of 5.74 is too high, and only Jason Marquis has been consistent among the starters.  He is 2-0 with a 1.93 era in his two starts.  The bullpen has been a horror show, allowing 53 hits in 36 2/3 innings of work  including 11 home runs and has only 2 saves in 4 opportunities.  This team will hit and score runs.  But it will go only as far as the pen will take it.  It is early, but improvement must be significant.  And soon!