Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Mess Up Your Chance for an NBA Championship

Well, it has been TOO long for me to post something on here...I've been busy commenting on Bulls.com (d-rose01) and ESPN.com (dabulls2012) with little nuggets here and there, but this whole near disaster (and we're not out of the woods yet Bulls fans) with Derrick just pushed me over the edge and I can't take it any more.

I've had Bulls season tickets since 1999 so I've seem some HORRIFIC basketball...I'm thrilled Thibs is here after replacing Vinny Del Negro following two under-achieving .500 seasons BUT let's not kid ourselves...before last season, this guy had the same amount of NBA head coaching experience as you and I...yet, he comes in here acting like he's got Phil Jackson's 11 rings. Heck, he's only been an assistant coach for ONE championship team...he does NOT know it all. What he's done for this franchise defensively and even offensively (taking Luol out of the corner where Vinny stuck him) has been fabulous and he earned that Coach of the Year award by taking a .500 team to the NBA's best record in a single season...of course, co-Executive of the Year Gar Forman and Team President John Paxson surely helped him out with a roster renewal. I love just about everything he's done for this team and credit him with the Bulls success...

But...if you read the title of this post, you knew that was coming, right? But, I've been complaining about Coach Thibs' questionable use of his bench pretty much from day one...of course, it started with Keith Bogans inexplicably "winning" the starting shooting spot out of training camp over Ronnie Brewer who was brought in to fill that spot...that was OK, because surely Ronnie would eventually win out once he was healthy...NOPE, the Bulls were winning so Thibs was right and we were all wrong...who cares about the obvious...he averaged an absolutely PATHETIC 4.4ppg on 40.4% shooting (and we're talking WIDE OPEN shots as the opponent would literally ignore him) in too many (17.8) minutes per game...and his D was OK, but far from lock-down by any stretch of the imagination. Ronnie Brewer did play more minutes at 22mpg but still...Bogans shouldn't have been playing more than 5mpg on a sporadic basis...instead, he started ALL 82 regular season games and ALL 16 playoff games. I've got no ill will for Keith whatsoever...how can you be mad at a guy that was just doing his job...it wasn't his fault his coach played him when he shouldn't. But had he not been playing that much, might the Bulls have had enough last year to beat Miami? As we all know, the Bulls were a couple of shots away from being up 3-2 in that series instead of down and out 4-1. Who knows what might have happened with the right lineup?

Besides the Bogans/Brewer thing, it was his lack of playing time for Omer last season and then again with Jimmy Butler this year. Omer was able to earn more and more playing time as the season went along...actually it was more Joakim and Carlos Boozer giving it away with their play late in games. Either way, he did get more and more playing time and began to develop (that's what happens when you let a guy actually play Thibs!)...even to the point that GarPax pretty much took Omer off the trade market (well, at least they didn't trade him). So Thibs surely learned to trust rookies after Omer played so well last year, right? NOPE! And that now seems to be Thibs' thing...he doesn't or maybe just refuses to learn... Anyway, Luol goes back in a worthless game against the lowly Bobcats when Thibs feels they're getting a little too close...Lu comes out of the game with a torn ligament in his wrist...did it happen at the end of the game or earlier? We'll never know, but my suspicion is that it happened at the end...you know, when Lu shouldn't have been in the game. So Lu misses the next game completely so Jimmy Butler will surely get some minutes now...NOPE...not a single second! WHY?!? And then in Lu's first game from the wrist injury...take it easy on him right...after missing SEVEN games indirectly proving his value as the Bulls go 4-3 in that stretch without him...NOPE...Lu plays a game high 41 minutes (actually 6 minutes more than anyone else) in a 23-point "squeaker". Does this guy ever look at the scoreboard??? Maybe someone should introduce Thibs to it...

Well, speaking of injuries, let's talk about prized free agent and planned Dwyane Wade stopper Richard "Rip" Hamilton...I know a guy who knows the trainer from the Wizards where Rip was initially drafted...says the guy has had groin issues since day one...did the Bulls know this? Again, we'll never know...BUT they did know he was struggling in camp and yet, he was out there for the Lakers and the next 3 games before sitting for first 2 home games and then coming back TOO QUICKLY and completely unnecessarily against his former team...Detroit Pistons. He then missed the next 8 games before again coming back too quickly...did Thibs ease him back into the lineup? NOPE - after playing just 21 min in that first game, he played 26, 32 (back-to-back), 42 (15-point win), 38, and 36 (gutty performance admittedly on one leg in Miami) before finally being sat down indefinitely. OK, so lesson learned on dealing with recurring injuries, right? NOPE!

So Derrick has this toe injury which has gone back and forth between being turf-toe and a strained ligament...I don't know which is worse or which he really has...doesn't matter to me. What I do know is that when one part of your body is hurting, especially something in the leg or feet, that your body automatically compensates to lessen the pain on the injury. Is that what caused the back problems? I don't know...again, doesn't matter to me...Derrick played through it and looked pretty darn good too. Well, then comes the game in Milwaukee...Derrick tears up Brandon Jennings in a patented "revenge game" (revenge after Jennings went off on Derrick at least for the first quarter with 16 points) in the first quarter scoring 16 of the Bulls first 18 points...then he goes out in the 2nd with "back stiffness"...Bulls scored a season high 67 points in the first half and the game was OVER...yet, rather than sit Derrick as a precaution with the stiff back, he sends him back into the game...Bulls win by 23 and were never threatened. So surely Thibs would sit him for the next game against the lowly NJ Nets, right? NOPE (see a pattern yet?)! Derrick plays 11 minutes of the stiffest basketball I've ever seen...he was fairly effective but that was NOT the Derrick we need to win it all. Sit him for the even lower New Orleans Hornets who are playing without their two best players??? STILL NO! Derrick plays 22 minutes and leaves the game with back stiffness reporting he could hardly walk! So now that Derrick can't even walk (has "the franchise" even had an MRI to this point?), Thibs FINALLY sits the kid against the lowest of the low Charlotte Bobcats... The Bulls won all of these games by 20+ points...first team in NBA history to win 4 straight road games by 20+ points...what kind of trophy do they win for that Thibs? I believe it is the same trophy you get for having the best regular season record Thibs...NOTHING! Now is there any doubt they win EVERY one of those games without Derrick setting foot on the floor...hardly! So now the Bulls finish off the road trip against their second biggest rival...the Boston Celtics...now the Celtics aren't having a great year but you know they've had this date circled on their calendars and so did their former assistant coach...our very own Thibs. Well Derrick still can't walk so we're stuck with CJ and Ronnie Brewer in the starting lineup (remember, Rip is still out)...not bad, but limits the effectiveness of the bench mob especially since Thibs' pet midget is the backup point guard...last the world besides Bulls fans saw John Lucas III, LeBron James was jumping over him for a dunk during a 10-2 Heat run (Bulls lost by 4) during the 3 1/2 minutes Derrick rested with CJ out with his elbow injury.

So for the ONLY game the Bulls actually needed Derrick, he wasn't available...now would he have been able to play had Thibs rested him for those 4 games with the lesser teams on the schedule? Again, we'll never know for sure, but he most definitely would have had a MUCH better chance.

Now is it all Thibs here? No, but he's got to take the responsibility...Derrick is a 23-year old kid playing basketball for a living...he's the most competitive player we've seen in Chicago since Michael...if he can stand, he's going to say he can play...Thibs has to be the parent there telling Derrick NO. And where is the Bulls crack training staff? Why aren't they telling Thibs that Derrick should NOT play? And then where's Bulls management? Didn't Paxson fire Vinny Del Negro at least in part for playing Joakim too many minutes while injured? Yet they sit on their butts while their coach runs "the franchise" into the ground in WORTHLESS games?!?

Come on folks...looks like we got away with something here as it appears Derrick is going to be OK. There are MUCH BIGGER things going on this season than winning some regular season games...home court didn't prove all that valuable against Miami last year...why does it matter this year? What's SO MUCH more important is having a healthy team come playoff time...start aiming for that and forget the mealy-mouth BS about "one game at a time" and "we've got to treat each game the same" when you're playing teams that have no chance of beating you...TRUST the team your bosses put together...TRUST the offensive and defensive schemes you've put in place and let's win us a RING Coach!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ready for Some NBA?

Well, the Bulls just finished off the Pacers to go 2-0 in the ultra-shortened pre-season setup by David Stern...the games start for real on Christmas and the Bulls are on the docket of highlighted games on the NBA's opening day. So the question is, are they ready? I know I am...

Ya, BIG fan of Rip so far...Boozer looked WAY, WAY better tonight than he did on Fri so that's a HUGE key too. Rip is certainly going to help a LOT in my opinion...he just seems to make his teammates better and isn't that what this team is all about...TEAM? But to me, Boozer is still the biggest key to the Bulls taking this all important next step. As well as he played tonight, I still would have liked to see Boozer more on the block instead of taking that fadeaway J...much easier for the J to be "off" while scoring from the block would be more consistent...his J was definitely falling tonight and he went to the hole several times in finishing 11-for-17 from the field significantly helping the Bulls shoot over 50% tonight.

After Korver looked pretty good on Fri, he couldn't buy a bucket tonight (0-3)...he's still a threat so the D has to account for him so even when he's not hitting, he's still at least partially doing his job.

Deng was...well...Deng with 15 points and 7 boards with ZERO turnovers...I'm sure Danny "The Chucker" Granger isn't going to miss Luol's D draped all over him as he shot 4-for-11 after going 5-for-17 on Fri night.

Joakim wasn't a dual threat tonight but he certainly had a very positive effect on the game tonight with his 5 blocks...unfortunately his blocks also matched his point total...he had 8 boards (all defensive) and 3 assists too...I'd just like to see him be a little more aggressive on offense...hitting that tornado jumper every once in a while would be helpful too.

Derrick was in a whole different situation tonight...was it just the presence of Rip on the floor with him or was it something else? He took just 9 shots to account for a pretty efficient 12 points with 9 assists in just 28 minutes on the floor...and maybe even more key...only ONE turnover! Was that "something else" possibly the rumor of him signing an ENORMOUS contract extension...said to be 5 years for $95 million starting next year...that means 6 more seasons with his hometown team...our Bulls! That's pretty exciting news, wouldn't you say? He's obviously a VERY humble guy...especially considering he's the youngest NBA MVP ever. He'll be fine...not at all worried about Derrick.

Boy Derrick and Rip missing back-to-back layups that would have seemingly put the Pacers on the ropes...instead both missed and the Pacers went on like a 6-0 run keeping them in the game in the 3rd quarter...when the opponent is on the ropes, you MUST put them away...I'll chalk it up to getting to know each other still, but they need to finish. Also not happy with Hansbrough dominating that way either although he was much quieter in the second half.

One of my concerns is with Thibs and the way he works the bench...why didn't we see more than a few seconds of Jimmy Butler tonight when he looked awfully good on Fri against this same Pacers team? Heck, even the White Mamba played as much as Butler. Omer had a nice game with 4 points including a nice dunk in traffic and 6 boards (2 offensive) in just 11 minutes...again, I'd like to see the bench get more time...how about some time with he and Joakim on the floor at the same time? Especially with Boozer and Taj in foul trouble like they were tonight.

Still...I'll take the W and 2-0 against a tough, up and coming Pacers squad.

Games start for real on Christmas...Ho Ho Ho GO BULLS!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dwight Howard to Bulls???

If you have a chance to grab the best player at ANY position to pair up with your superstar, don't you just HAVE to do it? Howard turns 26 on Thu...pair him with 23-year old defending MVP Derrick Rose without giving up your entire roster and THAT is something. I'd throw Noah, Taj and Luol plus the Charlotte pick along with a Bulls top pick at Orlando for Howard and whoever else makes the salaries line up including Turkoglu if that's what it takes. That's WAY better than any of the other proposed deals I've read. Noah is a near All-Star (would have made it last year if he didn't get hurt) and is easily the best player I've heard in any rumors...Taj is a defensive animal and awfully good shot blocker whose offense is coming around...it's tough to trade Luol after the great 2-way year he had on both offense and defense...definitely an underrated player in this league.

But Bynum? Come on...dude plays like 50 games a year and is such a head case, he's suspended for the first 5 games this year due to his horrendous conduct in the playoffs last year. Gasol? Hasn't he already proven he can't be the best player and actually win plus he's 31! Lamar Odom? Dude doesn't even start for his own team and he just turned 32...how is Orlando supposed to rebuild around him? And Brook Lopez from the Nets plus a couple picks? 6 rebounds per game for Brook...isn't he a 7-footer? Sounds more like Brooke Shields...

The Bulls would be AWESOME with Howard, Rose, Boozer (doubt Orlando would take two big contracts so they'd pick Deng over Boozer...less money, younger player, fewer years), Caron Butler (now you could use a 3), and Brewer/Korver...plus you still have some guys on the bench like Omer, rookie Jimmy Butler and hopefully veteran and solid overall player Kurt Thomas.

The problem with a deal like this is GarPax is too much like ex-Cub GM Jim Hendry...too in love with their own players...so they won't pull the trigger on this under the excuse that they had the best record in the East already and just need a better 2. The problem with that theory is the only good 2-way players are going to make more $$$ than you can give them under the CBA...I'd love 26-year old Arron Afflalo (yep, that's how he spells it) as he'd fit right into Thibs' defensive philosophy plus his offensive game is coming around with more playing time, but with half of his team's players literally stuck in China, I have to think Denver will do whatever they can to keep him. The next guy on my list at 2-guard is Jason Richardson, but he'll be 31 next month and he didn't play too well for Orlando at the end of last year. After that, I think my favorite name is Shane Battier...unfortunately, he's not a 2-guard and is better suited to play the 3.

I guess worst case is what happens if Howard goes somewhere that hurts like NY or Boston or stays in Orlando and gets paired up with CP3? That would be bad, right?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MLB Ball Park Review - Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Arlington, TX)

This is our second ballpark visit of the year and our 19th overall over these last five years. We now have 11 left but as mentioned yesterday, we'll knock off one more this year leaving us with 3 trips left to catch the last 10 teams.

No ballpark tour for this one...we did find RV parking and it was really quite close to the ballpark...we parked for "just" $40 which is what I've paid to park my car in some makeshift lots near Wrigley Field, so $40 didn't seem to bad for an RV.

This is one of the older newer ballparks and was opened in 1994...this was part of what I call the first wave of the old-school new ballparks along with Camden Yards, Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field in Cleveland), Coors Field, Turner Field, etc. which followed an era of cookie-cutter astroturf stadiums...to me, ballparks are just WAY better for baseball than the old stadiums.

This one looks pretty cool on the outside with brown brick and clean lines...there are Texas Longhorns and Stars lining the top of the outside of the ballpark which looks pretty cool. It is really close to the Jerry Jones behemoth called Cowboy Stadium and shares parking which is of course, pretty smart since the seasons hardly overlap and the schedulers for both sports can make sure they aren't hosting games on the same day at nearly the same time. Nice big TV screen above the folks in RF just like The Juice Box I discussed yesterday...quite nice, but not enough replays in my opinion.

Many of the park's features were incorporated from other famous ballparks such as Tigers Stadium (RF roof), Yankee Stadium (white steel in the OF), Fenway Park (scoreboard), and Ebbets Field (non-symmetrical dimensions in the outfield) but there are plenty of other features unique to this ballpark...4-story office building enclosing the outfield in CF and Green's Hill just beyond the CF wall where homerun balls are picked up by scrambling fans.

Going in, I had pretty high expectations...the Ballpark did not exactly live up to those expectations. Don't get me wrong...I certainly enjoyed my experience and we had fantastic seats in the Lexus Club boxes which is the lower seats in the second deck...we had a waitress come by to take our dinner order and deliver it just a few short minutes later...that was REALLY nice. We arrived early and had a chance to get to the bleachers during the Mariners' BP session, but with the wind blowing in and not many big HR hitters on the Mariners, I could count the HRs on my two hands. The Seattle pitchers were shagging balls in the OF and the kids were all screaming for them to throw a ball up to us, but finally at one point, one of them let us know that they were told not to throw balls into the bleachers...see, this is the park where a fan recently died after he fell over a railing catching a ball thrown to him by Josh Hamilton...the security there wouldn't even allow us to stand in the first row during BP without a ticket for that row. No matter, my son and I braved the 100+ heat and it paid off as my son caught a HR...pretty cool!

The food was good (I had the chicken quesadillas), the service was good, and the Rangers pounded the last place Mariners with an absolute barrage of hits. One thing that really surprised us was the lack of fans in attendance...I know the Mariners are in last place and the temps were well into the 100s prior to gametime, but these Rangers just played in the World Series LAST YEAR after winning their first ever playoff series (and second too!)...where's the local support??? They reported 27,000 but there's no way there were nearly that many people there. The crowd was quite subdued too...not much energy...I guess they feel spoiled now and will get back into baseball come playoff time (they only had a 1 game lead on the LA Angels prior to tonight's game so that's no guarantee) and come cooler temps I guess.

That was probably part of my feeling when ranking this park...no fan energy. I mean we were in Houston a couple nights ago to watch the worst team in MLB (Astros) play so I expected their crowd to be dead...but these are the 1st place Rangers...the defending AL Pennant champs...where's the love??? Speaking of the Astros...they have that retractable roof which helps keep the fans in the stands even when the outside temps are in the 100s...heck, they close the roof anytime the temps reach 85...no such technology available for the Rangers...perhaps if they had waited a few more years for the technology to better develop, they'd have an affordable retractable roof too.

The game itself was entertaining...at least if you were cheering for the hometown Rangers (we always cheer for the home team) as they pummeled the Mariners 9-2. Nelson Cruz started off the scoring with the lone HR of the game but the Rangers tacked on an unearned run following a two-base error, a groundout, and a base hit by Mitch Moreland. That would be a theme for the evening as both teams scored at least 2 runs in every inning they managed to score at all leaving the box score with 5 straight innings of crooked number scoring between the two teams. The 5th-8th hitters on the Rangers did the bulk of the damage hitting a combined 11-for-16 with 7 RBIs and 6 runs scored on the night...that's some intense production from the second half of the lineup.

So between the lack of fan frenzy, the lack of any "wow" factor at the park itself, and not having a retractable roof to keep my fan experience from burning up, I've got this park a lot lower than I expected going in.

OK, so here is my updated ball park ranking to date:
1. Comerica Park (Detroit)
2. PNC Park (Pittsburgh)
3. Minute Maid Park (Houston)
4. Jacobs Field (Cleveland)
5. Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia)
6. Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
7. Safeco Field (Seattle)
8. Fenway Park (Boston)
9. Miller Park (Milwaukee)
10. AT&T Park (San Francisco)
11. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Arlington, TX)
12. Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati)
13. Busch Stadium (St. Louis)
14. Yankee Stadium (NY Yankees – pre-2009)
15. Wrigley Field (Chicago)
16. U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago)
17. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland)
18. Metrodome (Minneapolis)
19. Shea Stadium (NY Mets)

Next up is our slow trip back home...in a little over a month, we'll be at it again...we're flying to Denver to catch a Rockies' game at Coors Field in mid-September. That will be ballpark #20 out of 30 on our tour leaving us with 10 parks left to visit...we figure 3 more trips ought to cover it. So come back and check out the blog update following the Rockies' game in mid-September to see where Coors Field is ranked.

Monday, August 8, 2011

MLB Ball Park Review - Minute Maid Park (Houston, TX)

Well, we're off on our 2011 baseball trip...this is our 5th annual and we're visiting the two parks in Texas right now...somewhat similar to last year, we're going to take several days "off" between games 2 and 3 on this "trip"...we're going to catch the Rockies at Coors Field in mid-September on a quick fly-in/fly-out weekend trip to get our minimum of 3 games in.

So this is our first ballpark visit of the year and our 18th overall over these last five years. We now have 12 left but as mentioned above, we'll knock off two more this year leaving us with 3 trips left to catch the last 10 teams.

We had a busy day planned as usual for these trips, but this time we actually started at the ballpark with a behind-the-scenes tour of Minute Maid Park (a.k.a. The Juice Box - my favorite ballpark nickname ever!). The tour starts off at the VAST entrance behind the wall in LF...when they created this new ballpark (originally called Enron Field - not a single utterance of that name nor any evidence whatsoever of this name can be found anywhere in the park...if you can find one, you get $100 and someone on the Astros staff gets fired!), they started by renovating their old Union Station (train station)...per the guide providing the tour, they even painted the inside with what they think are the original colors from the early 1900s ("they didn't have any Fuji film back then, so we don't know for sure"). When you arrive more than 90 minutes before game-time and they haven't yet opened the gates, you can literally wait inside this vast room which is AIR-CONDITIONED. The whole luxury box area is quite nice and is entirely air-conditioned ("if it is carpeted in Houston, it must be air-conditioned or the carpet will just rot"). We got to walk out on the field, but were NOT allowed to even touch a blade of grass...those were the rules...for which a LOT of experimentation has been done to get the ride "flavor" so to speak. See The Juice Box has a retractable roof so they need some sort of grass that doesn't require all that much sunlight PLUS with all the shadows that creep across the field even with the roof open, there just isn't the same amount of sunlight we all get on our backyard lawns at home.

As I've noticed time and again with these newest ballparks, they have ALL the hi-tech features that are available today, but still have that nostalgic old school feel to them that makes you feel like you're back in time at a game in the 60s. And as I have written before, after visiting some of these parks way back in our first trip, I've completely changed my tune on my hometown ballpark - Wrigley Field. I'd be totally fine if they bulldozed the place tomorrow if they were going to rebuild it like these other teams have done in the last 15 years or so. This park similar to Safeco in Seattle (but for WAY different reasons) has a retractable roof...they apparently close the roof for the obvious reason of rain, but they'll also close the roof whenever the game-time temperature exceeds 85 degrees...it was well into the 100s on Fri so there was no question the roof would be closed for our game and it surely was.

Anyway, The Juice Box has an old-fashioned human-operated scoreboard below the LF bleachers...that's where we sat for the game so I couldn't see them, but we saw this scoreboard up close and personal during the tour...just like the one up in Wrigley, but they do have enough room for all the games (Wrigley's scoreboard was build WAY before expansion so it is missing 3 games on a day when all teams are playing).

Another important feature that we didn't get to see in action was the train out in LF...with the connection to Union Station, the ballpark designers kept that in mind with some of the amenities and features. The train is supposed to get into action whenever an Astros player hits a homerun...with as bad as the team is these days, they might as well start getting that guy in action anytime they score a run...the train still would have only been in action one time on Fri night for our visit.

The Astros are the worst team in all of baseball and they were taking on the 1st place Brewers so I felt our winning streak was in serious jeopardy...unfortunately for us, I was right. The AAA Astros (that's basically what they are at this point after trading away their two best remaining players in Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence at the trade deadline...by the way, there apparently was a mural on the wall leading from the Astros locker room to their dugout that included these guys...GONE...painted over with fresh paint) didn't hardly put up a fight against the Brew Crew and were CRUSHED 8-1. Astros' starter JA Happ didn't help his team much giving up 3 runs in the first inning while facing 8 of the 9 Brewers batters...two of the outs in the inning were absolute rockets off the Brewers' bats that just happened to end up in the glove of an Astros' defensive player or they might still be batting now. The lone Astros' highlight was the rookie debut of John Schuck...he singled in his very first MLB at-bat which was one of only 4 Astros hits...the crowd gave him a very nice ovation after that hit...he then stole 2nd base (left stranded of course) as the Astros left 4 of their 5 (1 walk) base runners on base.

The ballpark itself was VERY nice indeed! As mentioned above, we sat in the LF bleachers 6 rows up...these seats are infamously called the Crawford Boxes...we could see everything except plays right at the wall in LF. Minute Maid has THE deepest CF in all of baseball with the wall measuring in at 435 feet from home plate. On top of that, there is a hill...YES, literally a hill with a 20-degree incline for the last 90 feet or so...and, oh, did I mention there's also a flagpole on that hill and it IS in play? The park has been hosting games for nearly 12 years and no CF has gotten hurt out there...some have looked a bit silly falling down as they all of a sudden start running uphill and some have made some pretty amazing catches up there too...that's a LONG way from home plate!

There is a HUGE nearly 7000 sq ft HD scoreboard above the fans in RF...AMAZING picture quality...it's little brother was above the fans down the 3rd baseline (we could easily see both)...I believe it was about 4000 sq ft but was also HD...very nice too! Not a lot of replays but maintained the batting order including position and number which certainly helped my son keep score on his iPod app especially as the 'Stros paraded 5 pitchers to the mound with a couple of double-switches and a LOT of stats associated with the batter which was cool.

When they were announcing the lineup for the game, I only recognized Carlos Lee (now playing 1B) and Clint Barmes (SS) although I didn't know he was on the Astros...apparently I'm not the only one...their own fans don't know these guys either...since we hung around town for a couple days, we were listening to some local radio...they had a call-in contest where the DJ would name a player for the Astros or Dynamos (local soccer team) and the caller only had to pick the appropriate team for that player 4-of-7 times correctly...this guy went 0-for-4 to start so he was officially done, but the DJ gave him one more chance to get a consolation prize just by getting the 5th one right...buzz! wrong answer AGAIN. That's how it is with the 'Stros these days...

Of course, we also sampled the cuisine while we were there...I had some kind of sausage delight my wife picked our for me that had pico de gallo, jalapenos, and grilled onions...it was huge and delicious and quite gone in just a few minutes...I even surprised myself that I was able to finish it. My son had a beef brisket sandwich (BBQ as they call it down here in Texas y'all) that he loved and my girls split some buffalo chicken nachos and authentic steak tacos...all three of them LOVED their assorted food. My wife for some reason grabbed herself a Chicago Style hot dog...apparently overwhelmed by hunger and too many choices...she said it tasted like a regular "eh" ballpark hot dog with Chicago-style trimmings like relish, pickles and tomatoes...not what she had in mind.

After the disappointing game, the 'Stros saved the best for last...the post-game fireworks show. Since the 'Stros didn't hit any HRs during the game, we didn't get to see any action from the train although the engineer made the big-screen during one of the between inning songs as he was dancing his chubby little heart out to the roar (if that's what you call 8000 people cheering) of the crowd. Well after the game the 'Stros put on a fireworks show. First, they had to open the roof which started just seconds after the final Astros out that ended the game. Well, they did NOT disappoint with the fireworks show...VERY COOL and pretty long too as they were able to play 5-6 current songs during a show that rivaled a pretty good one from the 4th of July. I already had The Juice Box placed high on my list before the fireworks show so that didn't really have any bearing on their placement on my list.

OK, so here is my updated ball park ranking to date:
1. Comerica Park (Detroit)
2. PNC Park (Pittsburgh)
3. Minute Maid Park (Houston)
4. Jacobs Field (Cleveland)
5. Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia)
6. Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
7. Safeco Field (Seattle)
8. Fenway Park (Boston)
9. Miller Park (Milwaukee)
10. AT&T Park (San Francisco)
11. Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati)
12. Busch Stadium (St. Louis)
13. Yankee Stadium (NY Yankees – pre-2009)
14. Wrigley Field (Chicago)
15. U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago)
16. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland)
17. Metrodome (Minneapolis)
18. Shea Stadium (NY Mets)

The overall experience at Minute Maid Park was pretty impressive from start to finish...we're in an RV this week and we were able to find parking for the ballpark tour and the game (5:30 on a Fri night) fairly easily.

Next up is Rangers Ballpark in Arlington tomorrow night as the 1st place Rangers take on the last place Seattle Mariners who have been struggling of late as they were .500 at 43-43 on July 5th before dropping 17 straight to go from 2.5 to 15.5 games back in their division.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WORST Officiated Game in the HISTORY of Sports

Sorry it took me so long to post this...I have been brooding since storming out of the United Center last Thursday night after watching that travesty put on display by the NBA.

That was the WORST officiated game in the HISTORY of sports...not just NBA or even pro sports, but I'm including Olympic boxing, Little League games, et al....WHY is NOBODY talking about this? The Bulls should have been up 30 in the 4th quarter if not for the PUTRID officiating that kept bringing Miami back into the game each time the Bulls stretched out to a double-digit lead and then that run of lucky off-balanced shots those guys were able to throw in wouldn't have mattered. Instead everyone is talking about how LeBron is all of sudden clutch and how he might be better than Michael Jordan...GIVE ME A BREAK!

It started with the flagrant foul call on LeBron by Boozer...Bosh must have been working with LeBron on his acting skills because that was terrible! Bulls were up 11, flagrant allows Miami to shoot 4 FTs in the possession scoring 3 points; Korver gets called for a travel, then Joakim is called (actually called on Taj originally) for a ticky tack foul on a rebound, Taj gets T-d up for arguing a call they actually reversed netting the Heat 3 more FTs...that's 7 FTs in two possessions over 39 seconds (Bulls would shoot 6 FTs for the entire quarter!). Following a layup by Derrick where he was fouled THREE times on his way to the basket without a call, LeBron gets the benefit of another call for two more FTs...that's NINE FTs for the Heat in 1:12 taking a Bulls 11-point lead back down to 5.

And then what might have been the "play of the game" for me...the one where you just absolutely KNEW the fix was in...right after the Heat called timeout following Brewer's "nail in the coffin" 3-pointer gave the Bulls their 12-point lead with 3:53 left, Brewer knocked the ball away from LeBron back to half court, both guys trying to get the ball and what??? Foul call on Brewer 45 feet from the basket with about 5 seconds left on the shot clock with BOTH guys laying on the ground...two FTs for LeBron since the Heat were already in the bonus.

Here's the final numbers to review:
LeBron - 2
Bosh - 1
Wade - 4
Anthony - 3
Bibby - 1

Rose - 5
Boozer - 4
Deng - 5
Noah - 4
Bogans - 3

That's the number of fouls called on each team's starters...pretty significant difference, wouldn't you say? That's why Deng couldn't guard LeBron in the 4th quarter (because every time he breathed on LeBron, he was called for a foul)...not a big deal? Well with Luol guarding LeBron pretty much exclusively in the 1st half, LeBron scored 11...he had 17 in the second half...many of which came with the skinnier 2-guard Ronnie Brewer trying to guard him.

What happened to home court advantage? The Bulls were called for 28 personal fouls while Miami was called for only 18 (10-foul difference for two great defensive teams). Miami shoots 33 FTs on the road; 12 more than the Bulls and the Bulls lost by 3 lousy points. I'm sorry, but that is RIDICULOUS! It wasn't like Miami was going inside either...they had a meager 22 points in the paint (that includes FTs as a result of fouls inside the paint).

I stand by my story from last week...the NBA and ESPN/ABC just has too much invested in the Miami Heat for them not to be in the Finals. You say Miami is a much smaller market than Chicago...I say look at the ratings...when Miami plays, people watch...most people are rooting hard against Miami, but they still watch and THAT, my friends is how the NBA, ESPN, ABC, etc. make their money. So as they say...the fix was in, were you? I sure wasn't!

I for one will NOT be watching the NBA Finals...it's going to be a FT shooting contest anyway which is SOOOO boring...David Stern better wake up and do something about this officiating BS because it is ruining the game! The NBA could be so much fun to watch...they have arguably the best athletes in the world and yet the way they call flops and arms flailing around as fouls, it just doesn't have any flow any more...that makes for more commercials (cha-ching!) but sure doesn't make it fun to watch for the fans.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NBA, ESPN, ABC Too Invested in Heat?

Starting with an hour long special where LeBron announced he was taking his "talents to South Beach", the hype associated with the Miami Heat by the NBA and especially Disney owned ESPN and ABC has been unprecedented. How many specific teams does ESPN have a webpage dedicated? Just one as far as I know.

So how are the rest of us supposed to ignore these facts as we watch the playoffs without wondering about the integrity of the game? I mean it doesn't take more than a couple calls to change a game...get Derrick a second foul in the first quarter like we saw in Game 2 and he goes the bench. Call an offensive charge on Boozer instead of a blocking foul on LeBron and that takes Carlos and not LeBron out of the game too. Make a questionable over the back call on Joakim for his second and he's gone either mentally or physically if not both like we saw in Game 3.

If you don't think a couple calls in a close game can make all the difference in the outcome, then you just don't watch enough games. Of course there are other factors like stupid interior passes like Derrick made to LeBron to seal Game 3 or Luol did earlier in the game, blown lay-ups or tip-ins, or losing a ball out of bounds, but the refs and NBA can't really control that...they certainly CAN and DO control the officiating...I mean I know the refs are supposed to be scrutinized following each game, but by who? And if they're told ahead of time how to call a game..."let em play" like Game 1 or "call it tight" like Games 2 & 3...that changes the entire complexion of the game. As we all saw, the "let em play" officiating greatly benefits the non-whiner Bulls because LeBron and Wade are used to getting a TON of calls to go their way and when they don't, they struggle just as they did in Game 1...when the game is called tight and they can get to the line 8+ times each, they usually win those games.

I was thrilled with the old school Eastern Conference Finals officiating in Game 1 that allowed the PLAYERS to determine the outcome of the game, but for whatever reason (and this was my fear going into Game 2), starting with Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals (ya, the one where Dirk was 24-for-24 and the Thunder shot 43 FTs), the refs went to the tight calls because NBA fans really like watching a free throw parade rather than watching the best athletes in the world make athletic plays that the rest of us can't do. I can stand in a gym and make 8-of-10 FTs; heck one night a few years ago, just messing around, I dropped 31 straight FTs...what I can't do is dunk an offensive rebound in traffic...THAT is what I want to see! That is what makes the NBA amazing...isn't that their theme? NBA: Where Amazing Happens! Well I'm sorry, but amazing isn't done at the FT line.