Sunday, May 5, 2013

To Fire, or Not to Fire?

To Fire, or not to fire….What the hell are we going to do with George Karl?

Damn you John Elway. And you too, Joe Sakic. Without you two, Denver would have never won anything. You spoiled us with Super Bowls and helicopter flips, Stanley Cups and wrist shot winners. You gave us a taste of glory, without which, the Denver faithful would not be thirsting for the sweet, sweet taste of a championship. DAMN YOU!!

 It has been four thousand three hundred and forty eight days since the Colorado Avalanche delivered the city of Denver its last championship. Times were good. Well, good enough anyway. The Avs just wrapped up their second Stanley Cup in five years, and the city was still drunk off of the champagne of back to back Super Bowl wins just a few years before (wandering around in our drunken stupor asking, “Can John still come back?”).  The Rockies weren’t anything special, but up-and-comer Todd Helton was obliterating the National League, and the Nuggets….well, who cared about the Nuggets? They were downright awful, and had no place in our newfound city of champions.

Times have changed.

Since January 27th, 2005, the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, and Colorado Avalanche have appeared in postseason play exactly eight times. Combined. Each franchise has acquired either the first or second pick in their respective drafts at least one time over that span. And the one constant over this roller coaster of success? George Karl’s Denver Nuggets.

Nine seasons. Nine Playoff appearances. 423 wins. A .622 winning percentage in the regular season. Three division titles.

Fire George Karl?

“Come on, man, they’ve only made it out of the first round one time over that span.”

The Nuggets have lost to the eventual NBA champions three times in the playoffs since Karl took over (SAS 04-05, 06-07, LAL 08-09) and once to the Western Conference champions (LAL 07-08). That’s forty five percent of the time that the Karl Nuggets lost to the team that EVERYBODY lost to (or everybody minus one).  In fact, only five teams have won the NBA championship since 04-05, and the Nuggets drew two of them in these “failed” first rounds. The Nuggets have fallen at the hands of Tim Duncan twice, Kobe Bryant three times, and Kevin Durant once. Hell, you can even add Steph “I’m-in-range-when-I-step-off-the-bus” Curry.

Only four times have the Nuggets finished the regular season with home court advantage in the first round (05-06, 08-09, 09-10, 12-13), and George was out with cancer for the 09-10 disappointment against the Utah Jazz. In 08-09 the Nuggets went on their only run of Karl’s career, losing to the eventual NBA champion LA Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (F***** Anthony Carter). That leaves two years of unexpected disappointment directly correlated to Karl.

There’s no debating that this season’s brief playoff run was crushing.  After winning 57 games, I don’t think anybody in this city expected this Nuggets team to lose, and I know nobody in this city expected them to lose so convincingly. You can blame the referees, or Mark Jackson for lobbying the officials for calls in the decisive game six, but the bottom line is that the Nuggets got absolutely out-played, out-hustled, and out-heart-ed throughout the series. But let’s make one thing clear; The 2012-2013 version of the Denver Nuggets was NOT going to win a championship. As much as we want to believe that we can re-create the Detroit Pistons a la Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups, and win a championship without a superstar, we all know the underlying truth; It’s just not going to happen, not with this group.

This city is most certainly still reeling and grudging against our beloved sports’ teams; In 2013, the Broncos and Nuggets have broken our hearts in the playoffs. The Rockies look promising, but history (and “heavy legs”) suggests that this success may be short lived. And don’t even get me started on the train-wreck Colorado Avalanche.

Before the 2012-2013 NBA season, the Nuggets were supposed to merely be a part of the lower seeded playoff race. There’s no way this team could, or would, finish higher than sixth in the Western Conference. But George Karl took this team to 57 wins, and a third seed, and frankly, he deserves to be coach of the year for that accomplishment. But somehow this accomplishment has morphed into the grindstone for his axing. It would be great to sign a big name free agent like Dwight Howard, or go after a legendary coach like Phil Jackson. There’s only one problem: THEY AREN’T COMING TO DENVER!

Last time I checked, there are no legendary quarterbacks refusing to join the Baltimore Colts, or any Canadian franchises looking to relocate at 5280 feet.

Fire George Karl? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Sign? Or Just Another Crappy Day?

Today a bird pooped on me. I wish I was kidding. Apparently the Italians believe this occurrence is good luck. I happen to believe that catching the sewage from a flying creature around one’s face, is terribly UNlucky. And frankly, it stinks.

 Oddly enough, this is the second time in my life that I have had the pleasure of acting as a porcelain throne for our feathered friends. The last time this happened, I was a junior in high school in the spring of 2007. It stunk then, too.

Who cares, right? But what if those darned Italians are on to something? What if it’s a sign?

If your father is anything like mine, he talks of the glory days of "fill-in-the-blank-team-he-watched-growing-up." For my dad, it was the “We are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates of the late 1960s and into the 1970s. It was Three Rivers Stadium and Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, who could “throw out a base-runner, and the ball would never get more than six feet off the ground.”

The Colorado Rockies simply don’t have those stories. No rings, no division titles, no all-time greats. Legendary players include the Blake Street Bombers, Larry Walker, and the Toddfather; most of which probably won’t sniff the hall of fame. Up until 2007, the most wins in a season was 83. And the forecast for the upcoming season was bleak.

Nine ESPN “experts” out of ten chose the Rockies to finish with less than 80 wins, with seven of them predicting a last place finish, with only Peter Gammons predicting an above-.500 season. That season's edition of the MLB preview talked of Todd Helton trade rumors (who would have been traded to the Red Sox, if not for Boston’s hesitancy to part ways with “young gun” Manny Delcarmen. Ha, hindsight can be fun.), expectations for another big year for Garret Atkins, and different scenarios to fit up-and-comer Ian Stewart into the fold. We had a superstar in Matt Holiday, and some young stud shortstop who was supposed to be a decent addition. The pitching could improve, but our lineup would be "stacked" with the power of Atkins, Helton, Holliday, Hawpe, and Ianetta. 

Hmmm…A stud left fielder who seemed like he would be in a Rockies uniform forever... A third base prospect who just needed to find a way to break through to the big leagues… A starting rotation anchored around a couple of regulars with some promise, and some old-timers looking for redemption…A power hitting catcher waiting to take advantage of Coors… A fed-up fan base waiting for the Monforts and O’Dowd to prove themselves…”What to do with Todd Helton?”…Zero expectations...

Sound familiar?

Who knows how good the 2013 Rockies are/will be; They have looked great against the worst teams in baseball, and brutal against our San Francisco nemesis. They may not be contenders, but they sure are better than that Triple-A team who inhabited 20th and Blake in 2012. In a week we could be talking about the countdown until Broncos season once again, making a big deal about OTAs and 7-on-7’s, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Am I expecting the Rockies to repeat the magical run that captured this town and infuriated television executives at Fox? No. Am I expecting to have tickets to Game 5 only to have my heart broken as the Rockies get manhandled in four? Please God, No.  Am I still wishing/waiting/hoping for Rocktober to electrify this city again? More than anything in the world.

Let’s call a spade a spade; the 2007 Rockies were a bigger fluke than Moby Dick’s tail. It’s not everyday that a team catches fire en route to a pennant. Then again, it’s not everyday that a bird takes a dump on your head.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rockies-Mets Preview: April 16th, 2013

The Rays and Rangers played “the coldest game in the history of the Ballpark at Arlington,” last week. The temperature? 39 degrees --- Which would be balmy compared to the snow filled streets today in Denver.  The Rockies and Mets are scheduled to play a double header today at Coors, less than 24 hours after a typical spring storm dumped close to a foot of snow in the city. Ain’t no May flowers coming from these April showers. But hey, we need the moisture right?

The expected temperature for today’s afternoon first pitch is 37 degrees, with the sleet rolling in around the fourth inning. Baseball weather. According to the esteemed and respected sources that consume the Twitterverse, the MLB has already pre-approved a triple-header for Wednesday. I don’t think I’m alone in hoping for that scenario to play out; brings new meaning to the importance of a “Short memory.”

But, assuming the Rockies and Mets play the most miserable double header in baseball history (as if they weren’t miserable enough), here’s what you need to know:

  • ·      The Mets roll in with a 7-4 record, having just beaten the Twins in equally as miserable weather, so they are starting to get used to playing with snow balls. The Rockies come in having swept San Diego, so, I’m guessing this snow is just a bit different from the Southern California conditions, but that is pure speculation. The Mets have six wins against the Padres, Marlins and Twins, which aren’t exactly perennial contenders in today’s baseball landscape (A combined record of 10-28 in 2013), and dropped two of three against the only decent team they have played, the Phillies. That being said, the Rockies have all eight of their wins against the Brewers and the Padres, and had one of the most discouraging series I have ever witnessed last week in San Francisco. So both teams have beaten the worst teams in baseball this year, and seemingly joined the cellar-club when faced with solid competition. But for both teams, mediocrity would be an improvement over the misery of 2012.
  • ·      These teams match up surprisingly well in both pitching and batting. Both have pedestrian starting pitching and the Mets gain the advantage when it comes to the bullpen. There’s no hiding the fact that the Rockies “strength” coming into the season, their solid bullpen, has been virtually their only short coming thus far. Cold temperatures and April scheduling could bring the bullpen into focus in this series, so we’ll find out how this group responds. Both teams have swung the bats well also, ranking near the top of the National League in batting average (Mets .272 Rockies .277), Runs (Mets 69, Rockies 65), and the Blake Street Bullies gain the advantage over the entire Major Leagues in terms of Home Runs with 21 through only 12 games (Mets have 15).
  • ·      The only real discrepancy between these two teams in 2013 has been the defensive play. While the Rockies haven’t exactly been stellar, making 4 errors thus far, the Mets rank towards the bottom on the NL with 8 errors. To make matters worse, 8 runs have resulted from Metropolitan shortcomings contributing directly to one of the Mets four losses thus far. Defense will be even more important in the wet, cold conditions here in Anchorag—I mean Denver.

Bottom line: The two games today will emphasize the importance of defense and pitching. Whichever team gets better starting pitching tonight, will set itself up for a successful series.  Pitch counts will be extremely important, and the Rockies can ill afford to walk several batters (yes, that means you Nicasio). The Rockies offense needs to put the pressure on the Mets defense and put the ball in play. If they can continue to get solid starting pitching as they have in all of their wins this season, there’s no reason they can’t win this series. It’s highly unlikely that the offense will bail them out however, and this bullpen needs to step it up.

Player to watch: Troy Tulowitzki—Tulo has consistently destroyed the New York Mets and he needs to continue to do so tonight. With Dex out of the lineup for at least the first of the double header, this offense needs to find its spark from those who are paid to do so.

Tulo has a .373 BA with 4 HRs and 10 RBI in 51 AB against pitchers on the Mets roster including 2 hits in 3 trips against game one starter Dillion Gee.  


Monday, April 15, 2013

All You Need Is Love

“This world must be coming to an end.” This though has crossed my mind far too often lately. In the span of merely nine months, we have witnessed a crazed man turn a midnight showing of a comic book hero, into unspeakable carnage and tragedy. We watched as another estranged man took the lives of so many innocent children and their teachers; an act that supersedes understanding. And now today, on “Patriot Day” in Boston, evil has again reared its ugly head.

The images that flash across the screen are horrific as they always are; scenes of utter bewilderment and confusion; scenes of grief and overwhelming sorrow. And we sit here with our eyes glued to the television, wondering “who?” and “why?” and “Is anything safe anymore?”

But even the purest of evils cannot escape the loving embrace of humanity; of first responders who run towards chaos, forfeiting any idea of personal safety in order to help their fellow man; of the supposed runners who finished the grueling race only to proceed to area hospitals to give blood, to give life; of the Bostonian people extending a helping hand to those without a place to go amidst the chaos. Far outnumbering the cries for justice and vengeance, are the wishes of love and prayer for those affected.

I will never understand how anyone would have so little happiness and love in their life that they would want to take the lives of innocent human beings. But much more astounding, is that love can prevail so strongly in the face of these events. Just as even the smallest beacon of light can destroy the deepest darkness, love will always prevail over hate. So in the coming days, do not voice your shouts for those responsible to be brought to justice; instead voice the shouts of your heart. Show the city of Boston and the families of the injured and killed that we are here to support them in any way possible. Show them that we love them. Because no war or execution will ever rid the world of these types of events. The only way to prevail is through love. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

I hate Kobe Bryant.

Man, I hate Kobe Bryant.

I hate his self-given nickname, and his crooked teeth.

I hate that he goes to the free-throw line seemingly every-time he drives the lane. And on those rare-occasions that he loses the ball on his own, I hate that the refs bail him out with a call.

I hate his demeanor. I hate his stupid underbite that he gets towards the end of the fourth quarter. You look like an idiot Kobe, just stop. And invest in some braces; you arrive at the Staples via helicopter for goodness sake. “Screw the car, I’m Kobe Bryant; I don’t do traffic.”

I hate that he changed his number. Why would you do that?

I hate his success. I hate that he’s won five NBA championships, been selected to 15 all-star games, and totes 14 All-NBA memberships. I hate the he’s led the league in scoring twice, while simultaneously attaining 12 selections to the All-Defensive team. I hate that he’s been named NBA MVP, and Finals MVP twice.

I hate that he burst onto the scene as a teenager; skipping college for the pro’s after breaking the southeastern Pennsylvania record for points in a high-school career, passing the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons, easily winning the Naismith prep player of the year. I hate that while his former classmates and teammates were studying for freshman midterms, Kobe was busy becoming the youngest player to ever win the slam-dunk contest at the ripe age of 18. But don’t you know college is important Kobe?

I hate his game. I hate that it is a well-known fact in the NBA that Kobe’s clutch gene dwarfs everyone-else’s, and that no matter what, with the game on the line, the ball is in his hands (“HE’S GOING TO SHOOT THE BALL YOU IDIOT!!! WHA…NO!!!!DAMMIT!”). I hate that he’s crushed my spirit more than once with his un-paralleled killer instinct that would scare Freddy Kruger. I hate that he owns the Nuggets; especially in the play-offs; Can’t we EVER avoid the Lakers?

I hate that he couldn’t get along with Shaq. It’s Shaq! Yeah, that same Shaq who played Kazaam.

I hate his Nike endorsement. Because I love Nike. And I hate that I laughed at his Nike commercial with Aziz Ansari. No, Kobe, you were not funny.

I hate that he plays on another level. Sure, Lebron and Durant might be more talented, but nobody matches Kobe’s intensity. I hate that he can twirl in midair and flip the ball into the basket while getting slammed by 7-foot behemoths, performing impossible athletic choreography. I hate that he can simply take over, spontaneously combusting into a streak of eight…nine…ten in a row. Nothin’ but net.

I hate that he’s compared to MJ; 23 is the greatest of all-time. I hate that he deserves the comparison.

I hate that he comes into my city, and fills my stadium with half Laker fans. Stupid bandwagoners. And I love watching them leave disappointed, only to realize that come playoff time, Kobe will surely return the favor.

Yes, I hate Kobe Bryant.

But, boy, I will hate it when he's gone.