Saturday, May 24, 2008

VOW: Stars Playoffs '08

Thnks fr th mmrs

Past VOW

HR replay reviews

I find myself in full baseball mode now that I'm on the road calling these games for the Long Beach Armada. So let's take a look at the big controversy currently brewing in MLB: homerun instant replay.

Currently, there is no instant replay in Major League Baseball; it's the only one of the four major sports in the country that doesn't use some form of replay. NBA reviews period-ending baskets that may or may not have beat the buzzer. The NHL reviews goals from all sorts of angles to make sure the puck completely crosses the goal line. The NFL, heck, they review virtually everything - including field goals next season.

But baseball is now facing some heat after a few blown home run calls in the past week. One ball went off an outfield wall. Another off hit some yellow-painted stairs above the outfield wall. And more and more have taken awkward bounces to come back into the park, and in all these situations the umpires are in the difficult position of making the correct call.

Easy answer: just use instant replay. We can see it all and have clear-cut answers in mere moments. Plus baseball does not have the same concerns of getting the games in on time as other pro leagues considering the sport has no time limit. So naturally instant replay is the answer for home runs. Solved. Done.



I think instant replay will get the calls correct for the most part, but it is not 100 percent. One problem with the NFL's replay system that I have is the fact that not every game has the same number of TV cameras. The higher-profile game, the more cameras, the better chance for a good camera angle on the play in question. Not to mention the person responsible for feeding the video clips for replays to the NFL's replay officials sits in the TV truck and has his own biases that are not governed by the National Football League. (conspiracy theorists, have fun with that)

But with baseball replay, it seems more clear-cut. Did the ball go over that yellow line on the outfield wall or not? I think baseball, more than any other pro sport, has a very slippery slope when it comes to replay. Football, hockey, basketball are very subjective games for an official (yes, I know that the rules say what is pass interference or what is a blocking foul, etc, but in those games the referees are there to make those judgement calls).

The plays in baseball are not subjective like a pass interference call. Well, there was some contact, but not enough contact, and we haven't been calling minimal contact all game, plus I'm not entirely sure the ball was catchable anyway, so I'm going to not throw a flag. No penalty. Baseball, however, doesn't have those types of plays. The umpires make simple YES OR NO decisions. The ball got there before the player touched the base. OUT! The runner touched the bag before the tag got down. SAFE. As a result, if baseball starts using instant replay just for homers, I wouldn't be shocked if the domino effect caused the entire sport to be officiated by mounted cameras while the entire umpiring profession as we know it faced extinction.

Is that a bad thing? Well...? Nevermind, nevermind. Sorry, but when given the prospect of never dealing with umpires again, a guy can dream right?

As much heat as these guys face, the one thing we need to remember is the fact that they get most of the calls right. Granted, as I'm typing this, I just saw another replay of the Rangers-Indians game from last night where umpires ruled a should-be homerun a double for Cleveland. What was I saying again? Okay, so most of the calls. Most of. Not all.

I realize a home run is more important than a regular old play because it means point are either on or off the scoreboard. But where does it stop?

Home runs are okay to replay. But not a play at the plate, which might be more difficult to call despite an umpires close proximity to the play. I don't like the concept of limited instant replay. That's how things started in the NFL, and the league seems to expand replay every year to include more and more rules that were either overlooked or deemed not important enough when the NFL originally added replay. I do think the NFL is better off for it because they now seem to get the majority of calls right - the objective ones at least (both feet down, cross the goal line, down by contact, etc).

But baseball isn't like many other sports. The ballparks aren't even the same dimensions. Some have much higher walls (the green monster in Boston). Some have different nooks and crannies in the outfield. Some even have a miniature-golf-like obstacle course (centerfield in Houston). What is a home run in some places would not be even close at other venues (which is cause for an entirely new debate, but we'll save that).

If MLB is going to use instant replay, they shouldn't decide to do it just for HRs. Might as well implement it everywhere and get the whole thing over with.


Last night the Armada dropped a game for the first time this season. They are now 1-1 with the series-deciding third game coming up today (weather permitting) in St. George, UT. Here's my recap from last night's game that was posted on the team website.

STG evens opening series
By Josh Feldman

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- As the rain began to pour down, the Roadrunners bats continued to produce. Long Beach could not keep pace with St. George, which used a three-run third inning to take the lead for good in the 6-9 Armada loss on a wet night at Bruce Hurst Field.

Early Friday, St. George DH Trevor Dimick sat at his Odgen, Utah home when Roadrunners manager Cory Snyder tapped him to fill a open spot on the roster. Dimick, one of final cuts of St. George training camp, went 3-3 with 2 runs and an RBI. Roadrunner SS Brandon Taylor contributed three runs of his own, including a solo homerun in the eighth inning. Taylor finished 2-4 on the night.

The pitching debut for Long Beach native Nick Bierbrodt started off promising, as he struck out the first batter he faced. He finished with 5 IP, 9 hits, 7 run (5 earned), 4 SO, 2 BB and 2 HBP. Bierbrodt (0-1) took the loss despite flirting with fastballs in the low 90s throughout the night.

Offensively the Armada dipped from last night's 23-hit, 14-run outburst. Long Beach scored three in the top of the first inning to jump out to another early lead in this series. 2B Cleatus Davidson led the game off with a triple, and came around to score. 3B Ryan Lehr and LF Dan Trumble also scored in the first.

The Roadrunners third inning appeared to be the back-breaking difference-maker for St. George. Taylor reached base on an error to kick off a 3-run frame that put the Roadrunners up 6-4.

Lehr also blasted a solo homerun for the Armada in the seventh inning to narrow the lead to 8-5. Each team scored once more in the latter innings to bring the game to its 9-6 final.

SP Justin Abbott (1-0) earned the win for St. George, with 5 IP, allowing 5 run (3 earned), 4 hits and 4 SO on 88 pitches.

Ryan Claypool will start for Long Beach tomorrow night as the Armada look to win the season-opening series in St. George. First pitch will be at 6:05pm PDT, and you can hear all the action with Josh and JR at

Friday, May 23, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

Time flies when you're out of town

Wednesday night I sat in a hotel lobby in downtown St. Louis watching the seconds tick off the clock as the Stars postponed a seemingly imminent elimination at the hands of the mighty Detroit Red Wings.  A 3-1 win, and a 3-1 series.

No matter.  The Red Army could now just finish things up at Joe Louis Arena where Marty Turco is 0-for-pro, having not won their since his college days.  As I boarded a plane heading back to LA Saturday afternoon, my friend counted down the seconds until time expired and the flight attendant ordered my cell phone turned off.

But the facts are the facts.  Dallas, having won two straight games, is heading back to the AAC for Game 6!  This is no longer a joke of a series.  While Detroit has been in control and - don't let this win fool you - they still are, Dallas has confidence.  Dallas has a home crowd.  Dallas has a realistic chance to force a Game 7 in Detroit.

Granted, the SJ Sharks weren't able to force a seventh game after their 0-3 series deficit to Dallas.  Then again, the Sharks weren't playing at home in Game 6 (in which Dallas still needed four overtimes).

I'm not saying the Stars will win this series.  I'm not even saying they'll necessarily win in Dallas in Game 6.  If you're a betting man, I'd probably keep your money away.  But if you're a hockey fan, you know where you'll be when the puck drops tonight at 7pm CDT.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Talkin' sports on KLBC

I was fortunate enough to tag along with KLBC's #1 rated sports show, Talkin' Sports with Wes & J.R., on Tuesday.  Good times indeed.  Please take a listen and let me know what you think.

Segment 1 - intro
Segment 2 - Stars / Red Wings series
Segment 3 - Spurs/Hornets + fav movies
Segment 4 - Lakers/Jazz, Josh's rant on Lakers effort
Segment 5 - Knicks; OJ Mayo & NCAA violations
Segment 6 - Romo @ Wrigley; SPORTS DUEL: Josh vs. Wes
Segment 7 - Wes & JR
Segment 8 - Wes & JR

You can catch Wes & J.R. not only online on KLBC but also as the voices of the Long Beach Armada's home games this summer.

VOW: Out-of-Tune Tony

When Tony Romo "sang" Take me out to the ball game at Wrigley Field, I wonder if somewhere Jessica Simpson was thinking to herself, "Okay, fine, Tony. You can never laugh when I try to throw a football again!" Unlike some past VOW where you can watch them over and over, this is tough to make it through, even once.

Past VOWMavericks Memories

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hockey mattering is all that matters

The year is 2008. The last time a team came back from 0-3 in the NHL: 1975. Before that? 1942. My point: It's probably not in the Stars this season.

Will I be disappointed if the Red Wings sweep the Stars out of the Western Conference Finals? Yes, a little bit. I'd like them to at least get one win in this series. Then again, anyone would like to get one win against Detroit since Osgood replaced an aging Dominator in net after Game 4 of Detroit's opening round series.

But can I really be disappointed? Stars fans, can we really be disappointed when we zoom out and look at not just a potential sweep at the hands of the Red Army, but look at this series in the context of the playoffs? According to many hockey savants, the Stars shouldn't have gotten out of the first round.

Remember the feeling - just a few weeks ago - when they beat the Ducks at AAC, smiled down a row of handshakes and got ready for the first second-round series in five years. Remember that? It was great.

And to do the same thing against the Sharks, despite allowing SJ to climb back into the series, the Stars held their ground and claimed a marathon victory to advance to this Western Conference Finals for the first time since going to the Cup Finals in 2000. It's been great to not just watch (like Stars fans have done the past few years) but it's been great to truly experience playoff hockey once again in Big D.

And the Stars couldn't have picked a better time. The Mavericks just fired their coach after a second straight first-round disappointment. The Cowboys - despite their 13-3 record in '07 - fizzled against NYG in the divisional playoff round. As Wade Phillips said, the Cowboys made it to the "final eight." Well, the Stars can be proud of their "final four" finish - if that is where it ends, and in all likelyhood it will. More importantly, the city of Dallas once again is championing the Stars, much the way it did during the Belfour years.

I don't have any figures on this, but I'm sure the 2008-09 Stars season will see an increase of season ticket holders from this year. People around town are wearing green caps, hockey jerseys, thinking about sewing a "C" onto their suit (that last one might be just me, but there may be others).

The Stars - barring a historic comeback, the likes of which have been seen only twice in NHL history - will not win the Stanley Cup. They won't win the Western Conference. But perhaps more important than any trophy, the Stars won back Dallas.

It's a victory that's long been overdue, but it's one that is still oh so sweet.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fracas at the finish! Game 2: Det 2, Dal 1

As the clock wound down on a gritty 2-1 Stars loss in Game 2, I was just getting ready to leave my seat at the bar (again, Versus Network?) when I saw the usually cool-character Mike Ribeiro attempt to chop down a tree.  He swung his stick hatchet-style across the chest of Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, sending him to the ice.

WOW.  What set that off?

Turns out it was Osgood, who butt-ended his stick into Ribeiro's face as the Stars center skated past him.

Either way, the exchanged escalated into a post-game broohaha that will surely lead to high emotions and an extremely physical Game 3 in Dallas.  I would hope neither Ribeiro or Osgood is suspended because both play such key roles for their team that to not see one of these two taking the ice for Game 3 would cheat us out of what I'm expecting to become a great series.

That being said, Ribeiro probably over-reacted (granted, I've never taken the end of a hockey stick to my chin while harmlessly skating by), but Osgood really embraced his role of the victim.  There are no small roles, just small actors.  For wearing all that padding, Osgood seemed to put on a hell of a performance.

Osgood says it was an accident, but I don't know if I can believe that based on how he said it.

Ribeiro was assessed a match penalty, which brings with it a mandatory review by the league office and might result in a suspension.

“When he went by, Osgood put his stick in the face,” Tippett said. “Ribeiro was actually letting up. He’s not going to do that unless he’s provoked. Whether Osgood thought he was going to run or not...”

“Even if I did butt into him, it was an accident,” Osgood said. “I was more or less trying to protect our best player, making sure they didn’t get a clean run at him with two seconds left. If I did, it was an accident. But I don’t think that justified a two-hander over the top of the net. He could have went about it a different way or said something to me.”

Osgood says he was trying to protect his own guy. Well, if he was then the only protective effort he demonstrated was putting the end of his stick into Ribeiro's face. Maybe he wasn't trying to hit him in the face, but Osgood butting him with his stick was no accident.  (more thoughts on Ribeiro/Osgood from DMN Stars blog)

The post-game ordeal put an exclamation point on what wasn't as one-sided a game as it appeared. Watching the game, I felt the Stars were in it simply because they only trailed by one goal (unlike Game 1 where things got out of hand). But beyond the actual score, the Stars found themselves dominated in many facets of the game.

Detroit won 39 faceoffs, to the Stars' 16, good for 70% of the draws. Not only that, but the Red Wings continued to take the puck away from the Stars (8 to 2 in takeaways). The Wings were more physical, outhitting the Stars 39-26. But the biggie, shots on goal, proved to be the most disappointing. Dallas took 18 shots. 

Let's take a look at the shots on goal from Dallas' first two series.

Vs. ANA: 37, 30, 33, 20, 42, 26 (188 total, 31.3 shots per game)

Vs. SJ: 18, 26, 29, 18, 26, 55 (172 total, 28.7 shots per game);
(oh, and if we do the math to count 4OT Game 6 as two games when taking this average - it was longer than two games - then it works out to 24.6 shots per game)

Vs. DET: 21, 18 (19.5 shots per game thru 2 games)

Dallas isn't forcing Osgood to make enough saves (17 in Game 2). The more often the puck gets to the net, the more chances for a rebound, a goofy bounce, or for Osgood to simply miss one. The guys in front of Osgood did a great job limited Dallas' shots and blocking ones that did get off making things easier for their netminder.

The Stars did have chances to even things up in the final period, but simply couldn't convert.  So while I'm disappointed in the loss and the 0-2 series deficit, it could have been worse.  (By comparison, I'm not nearly as upset as I am over the subpar series finale of Scrubs on NBC.  That show better get picked up by ABC - as is rumored - to sort a few things out, or I will be less than thrilled.  Seriously, is that how things will end between JD and Elliot?  How did Kelso get back?  And why did Keith reappear after being gone for 5-6 episodes? "Frick!") (review of Scrubs finale)

So as this Western Conference Final (yes, back to hockey) heads south to Big D, the Stars find themselves in a 0-2 hole, the likes of which is unfamiliar to this team. They had not trailed in either previous series in these playoffs. Going back to 2001, when the Stars trail in a series by 2 games, they are 0-5. When Dallas was down 3-1 last year to Vancouver, they were able to force a Game 7 thanks to superb goaltending by Marty Turco. Perhaps some more great work between the pipes and a little bit of home cooking is what these Stars need.

Game 3, Monday, May 12 @ American Airlines Center
Puck drops at 7pm central time

Saturday, May 10, 2008

MaveRick Carlisle

With the Dallas Mavericks inserting Rick Carlisle as the franchise's newest head coach, I decided to take a look why exactly Carlisle was fired as head coaching in Detroit and Indiana after experiencing a respectable amount of success. It was Carlisle, after all, who turned around a Detroit team and created today's always-in-contention Pistons. True it was Larry Brown who led them to their 2004 title, but the work Carlisle did to get them to that point cannot be discounted.

Here's what I got...

There is some similarities to the knocks against Carlisle as their were to Avery Johnson in 2006-07, according to this column by ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher.

That, of course, is part of the rap on Carlisle -- that he has sacrificed the team's playoff readiness by playing it too close to the vest in the name of grinding out regular-season victories. And I wholeheartedly agree that playoff success for players and coaches is a more important measuring stick than regular-season accomplishments.

So Carlisle apparently gassed the Pistons going into the playoffs much like Avery Johnson did in 2006-07, when Dallas went on to win 67 games but fizzled in the postseason. Definitely not what you wanna see, because - let's face it - it's all about postseason success.

Carlisle was let go in Detroit after consecutive 50-win seasons, but the Pistons finished the head coach's second season by getting swept in the playoffs by Jason Kidd's New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals. The 2003 Eastern Conference's top seed belonged to Detroit, but the Nets were #2 with only one less win than the Pistons. Furthermore, the Nets only lost two games the entire playoffs before entering the Finals against San Antonio. Regardless, the Pistons removed Carlisle simply because Larry Brown became available, according to this Bucher column.

I can tell you I've been told managing partner William Davidson, team president Tom Wilson and basketball operations president Joe Dumars felt Carlisle was too rigid in how he dealt with the front office as well as his playing rotation. Or that the Pistons probably would've hung with Carlisle for the final year of his contract if Larry Brown hadn't become both available and amenable to moving to Detroit. And that the postseason performances of rookies Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur drew criticism that Carlisle should have had them in his rotation the entire season. Carlisle also had a couple of vets in the locker room privately questioning his adjustments and playing-time distribution.

But fire the guy? After only two years as a head coach? After winning Coach of the Year his first season and directing a team with clearly less talent than the Pacers, Raptors, Hornets, Celtics and Nets -- and arguably Magic and 76ers as well -- to the Eastern Conference's best record?

Wait a second. Malcontent between coach and front office? Not playing rookies/young talent to management's desires? Players questioning the coach? Didn't the Mavericks just get rid of this coach?

I still don't know if the Mavericks needed a change. The problem was more with a Mavericks team that continued to be wrapped in duct tape each season since the 2006 Finals appearance in an attempt to hold some semblance of a contender together.

Back to Carlisle. The next season, he resurfaced in Indiana as head coach of the Pacers. Lots of talent: Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Reggie Miller in the twilight of his career, Jermaine O'Neal. Not surprising this team became the best in the league in 2003-04.

In the Pacers' first year under Carlisle in 2003-04, they went 61-21 for the best record in the NBA, and the club reached the Eastern Conference finals. Indiana started the 2004-05 season in similar fashion, winning six of its first eight games.
Then came Nov. 19, 2004.

Artest went into the stands after a Detroit Pistons fan he thought doused him with a beverage, and some of his teammates joined in the melee. Artest was suspended for 73 games and the playoffs, and teammates Jermaine O'Neal, Jackson and Anthony Johnson were given shorter suspensions.

The remaining Pacers clawed their way to a 44-38 record and the second round of the playoffs, but Pacers fans were upset that Miller's final season ended that way. (read entire article)

The Pacers - after starting so hot under Carlisle - just weren't responding to him, and after such a promising start, people were calling for Carlisle's head. Here's the beginning of a column by Rick Teverbaugh of the Herald Bulletin in Indiana.

Now is the time to evaluate the Indiana Pacers. And, unfortunately, I can come to no conclusion except that Rick Carlisle has to be replaced as head coach.

In pro sports, you can’t replace most of your team, and the majority of the team’s talent just doesn’t fit in with Carlisle’s coaching style.

Carlisle is one of the league’s better coaches and still a young man by coaching standards. He will land on his feet and maybe even coach a championship team in time. My guess would be that Seattle might snap him up if the team fires former Indiana coach Bo Hill at season’s end.

Indiana has a young team with a lot of talent individually, but getting those talents to merge into a successful unit is another matter entirely. The Pacers probably need to be mobile and fluid on offense and hard-nosed on defense. Right now, they are neither.

Okay, I have to ask.  Did the Mavericks just hire Avery 2.0?

To some degree, I hope so. Avery is a Coach of the Year and led a team to the NBA Finals. The Mavericks were good under Don Nelson, but it took a shake up (replacing Nellie with Avery) to get this team over the hump. Now, less than four seasons after Avery took over (with his can-do-no-wrong coaching start a distant memory), the Mavericks are once again trying to shake things up.

Dallas is clinging to the remnants of their Western Conference championship team, and the hope is that a new face preaching what appears will be a similar message is what the Mavericks need. If it's true that Avery simply wasn't getting through to the players, then it's safe to say this is where Carlisle needs to be at his best. Interesting then that when Carlisle was fired by the Pacers just last seasons, he had similar issues.

Carlisle acknowledged his struggles to connect with the players.

"It's a people business, and communication is really important," Carlisle said. "You can never be too good a communicator. It's something I want to continue to work on."
(read entire AP article)

Mavs fans can only hope the 2001 Coach of the Year has learned from his stints in Detroit and Indiana, and that things fall into place in Dallas.

I don't know if it will work. The evidence says the Mavericks are an aging team with no youth (save Brandon Bass), no draft picks, and no chance to improve with the current roster. Dallas fired Avery Johnson because things weren't working despite a rosy start. Dallas has been declining since the 2006 Finals collapse against Miami, as demonstrated by the 2007 playoff fiasco against Golden State.

Carlisle did turn around Detroit, but I'd say it's easier to take a 30-52 team and turn them into a 50-32 team than it will be for the newest MaveRick to take this 51-31 team back to the top of an increasingly competitive Western Conference.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sexson Suspended

After Seattle Mariner Richie Sexson essentially went nuts and charged the mound during last night's game against the Rangers, MLB handed down a 6-game suspension for the big guy. Good. His blow up was completely uncalled for! I still haven't been able to find anything on the internet defending Sexson charging the mound.

Have you found anything?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

TEX 5, SEA 0: Stupid Sexson

What was Richie Sexson thinking?

The 11-year veteran should know better than to charge the mound after a pitch by Kason Gabbard that didn't even seem to brush him back (VIDEO). Was it high? Yes. High for someone of Sexson's height (6'8")? Yes. But did it seem to merit charging the mound? Absolutely not.

And not only that, but the Seattle Mariner decided to take off his helmet and fling it at Gabbard while he was running toward the mound. Um, excuse me? He didn't even look like someone who knew how to charge the mound. He looked like a crazy person in the purist sense of the word. The pitch didn't really look like it was near him, but I guess Sexson felt it was a revenge pitch perhaps (two Rangers had already been plunked ... then again, TEX already had a 4-0 lead too).

Apparently the Rangers broadcaster called out Sexson for his best attempt at personifying the phrase "crazy train."

The brawl-sparking Sexson also perplexed Dallas Morning News blogger Richard Durrett.

I had to go back to the DMN Rangers blog and several other online sources to look for what exactly caused Sexson to apparently flip out and go after Gabbard. I couldn't find anything. The article on the Mariners team website even notes that the pitch wasn't much of a threat to Sexson.

SEATTLE -- Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson precipitated a bench-clearing incident in the fourth inning Thursday night, when he charged the mound after ducking away from a high pitch thrown by Rangers left-hander Kason Gabbard.

The first pitch of the at-bat wasn't that far inside, but Sexson threw down his bat, removed his helmet, charged the mound, threw his helmet at the pitcher and then wrestled Gabbard to the ground.

The 5-0 win gives the Rangers a series win over Seattle, putting them in 3rd in the AL West.  Texas is still six games back of Oakland and LA/Anaheim, but they have shown great signs of life over the last week or so.  Granted, the Rangers did commit an error in tonight's game (surprise!), but it didn't come back to hurt them on the scoreboard.

Also keep in mind tonight's win was without All-Star SS Michael Young (hip flexor, day-to-day).  Great outing by Gabbard tonight, despite having to leave after his leg started bothering him after the scuffle.

Rangers 5, Mariners 0 (recap) (box score)

Armada Audio

Today the LB Armada held open tryouts before training camp next week. Two of the Armada arms who signed in April were on hand and voiced their thoughts on the upcoming season. Check it out.

VOW: 1999 Stars montage

I'll never forget the Cup-winning call as long as I live. Deep in the heart of Texas, the Stars are shining! With Dallas advancing to the conference finals for the first time since reaching the Cup Finals in 2000, the comparisons to that magical '99 team have already begun. So let's revisit the 1999 NHL playoffs and the current co-GM's championship goal.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's okay to be wrong

In reading Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's blog about his thoughts on the Mavericks after their recent playoff exit, something struck me as odd.

Not the fact that Mark was writing about the state of the franchise (which if you regularly read his blog, you know is relatively rare).  One sentence in his entire post about the state of the Mavericks struck me, and I haven't been able to shake it.

In regards to the Jason Kidd trade: "...I know I would make the same deal again."

Um, Mark, I don't know if you noticed, but as long as you're going to play the hindsight game, it's okay to admit a mistake.  Granted, I can understand if he doesn't want to do that while J-Kidd is still a Maverick, but at least don't publish those words.

No one would blame you for saying, "Well, the trade didn't work out as we hoped."  It appears it didn't.

In this same post, Cuban talked about losing Steve Nash to the Suns and what it did for the Canadian's career.

i also know what I learned from Nash leaving. As great an offensive coach as Nellie is, Nash wasn't playing at MVP levels with us. A change of scenery and coaches and system, some payback motivation and he became a very, very deserving 2 time MVP.

My hope, is that with the changes that have taken place with our Mavs, we will see the same effect with JKidd this coming year, and that will lead to another great year and another and a Mavs championship along the way. If it doesn't work, we hopefully have limited our downside

The effect Nash had on the Suns (and vice versa) is not the effect Kidd had here.  And if the latter end of the 2007-08 season is any indication, the change of scenery for Kidd won't have that effect next season as Mark hopes.

By the way, I hope I'm dead wrong.  It's no secret I'm a huge Mavericks fan.  I hope that all it takes is one training camp and one full season to get this thing going with Kidd and Dirk together.  The optimist in me says 2008-09 will be a bounce-back year where the Mavs break their string of recent playoff failures.  The person in me who watched the Dallas-New Orleans series, however, thinks the optimist in me is on Prozac.

The Mavericks are returning a core that - despite the criticism that says they aren't tough enough - got to the NBA Finals in 2006.  Dirk, Jet, Josh, Damp and Stack.  They got there in '06.  And despite the recent yet drastic decline of Jerry Stackhouse from super-sub to super-scrub, the acquisition of Kidd demonstrated a new level Erick Dampier is capable of.

Dirk, Jet and Josh should ideally be getting better or at least still be just as good.  Dirk and Jet I feel are currently plateauing at the pinnacle of their careers.  The hope for the Mavericks lies within what Josh Howard does.  If he improves to the All-Star caliber forward everyone expected, then the Mavs can compete - and contend - in the West.  If he continues his latest regression on the court (all the pot talk aside), the Mavs will hurt.

With the performance of both Dirk and Jet only really capable of declining, the Mavericks window is now with no bright spots of the future currently on the roster.

That is why the upcoming season concerns me so much.  It is the last bullet in the chamber.  The Mavericks have one more year to get it done and make a final run at returning to the top of the West and getting back to the NBA Finals.

From Cuban's standpoint, the upcoming season is the reason we got J-Kidd.  The two months we just witnesses were merely a dress rehearsal.   A disappointing one? Sure, but not the only chance.  Well that "only chance" is rapidly approaching.

So if Mark Cuban is so dead-set that he would make that deal again, the proof of that confidence will reveal it self over the next year.  I can only hope - as Mark hopes for next season - that he's right.

Blow up doll blow up

All the attention and talk about the Chicago White Sox blow up doll in the club house is starting to get obnoxious. Despite the views of some people that this proves the entire White Sox organization is sexist, this was merely a harmless display set up by the players to counteract a recent hitting slump.

That's it. Period.

The Chicago Sun Times had several stories regarding this blow up (pun intended)...

The gimmick, called a slump buster, apparently was put together to help the White Sox snap out of a recent losing streak. On Saturday, Sox players shaved the head of one of Guillen's coaches, another uneffective trick.

"This was in the same spirit," Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said. "In terms of taste I think people would find it tasteless. They were just trying to get the bats going."

Reifert said players have "burned bats, kissed bats, slept with their bats, blessed their bats, you name it."

On Sunday, the bats were circled around the two naked female dolls, one of whom had a bat inserted in its backside to prop it up. Each wore a sign over her breasts, one saying "Let's Go White Sox" and the other reading "You've Got to Push," the National Post in Toronto reported.

I seriously doubt that the players in the White Sox club house thought to themselves, "Ya know what, I think women are second class citizens, so let's set up a blow up doll shrine to denigrate women while telling people it's to stop our hitting slump."

I truly feel the (over)reaction and uproar to this issue has been unnecessary. And I wouldn't be surprised if things like this happened in other club houses across Major League Baseball. I realize that the "boys being boys" defense isn't going to fly here (and the White Sox aren't defending the incident as such). At the same time, however, I think the White Sox are entitled to do whatever they want in their own club house.

This wasn't on the field or in the dugout. Many media members in radio, TV and print have called this despicable, sexist, etc, etc because they as media have to go into the club house to do their jobs. Get over it. It was a few bats around two blow up dolls. One bat was being used to prop up a doll.


Why is this a big deal?

The hang up is over the fact that women work in the media, and if women are in the club house, then this sort of display is offensive and should not be tolerated.

Okay, let's roll with that thought for just a second...

Sure, this might make someone feel uncomfortable. Then again, foul or abusive language might make someone feel just as uncomfortable. Should athletes be restricted from using foul language? NASCAR fined Little E and docked him points in the cup standings for cursing in 2004.  That happened over a live TV broadcast.  This blow up doll "shrine" existed in the privacy of the Sox club house.

Or how about this.  In many club houses or locker rooms, teams will play music before or after games.  What if some of the songs being played have contain a racial slur and someone of a slurred race is working as a media member in the locker room to cover the team?  Should that reporter consider this an indictment of an entire organization or - more rationally - the simply musical likings of a few individuals.

In the Sox's case, this appears to be a simple prank-like set up to ease tension in the locker room amidst a hitting slump rather than an organizational backlash against women.

One Sun Times columnist is even go so far as to condemn White Sox GM Ken Williams, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and MLB commish Bud Selig. You've got to be kidding. How can this be an indictment of all of major league baseball? I realize I said I wouldn't be surprised if this sort of thing happened in other club houses (and I wouldn't be), but how does this columnist go off on baseball in general while in the same column saying that she wouldn't see something like this happening in the Yankees club house or the Red Sox club house because they have some magical mystical leadership.

For anyone offended, the White Sox front office apologized for the blow up doll display. Manager Ozzie Guillen did not. Frankly, I'm glad he didn't.

"I'm not going to say I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I can't come up with the words, because as soon as I say that, that means I'm guilty of something. I'm not. I'm not guilty. ... We just had a plastic thing sitting on a table and, wow, we're bad people," he said.

No, you aren't bad people - at least not for this. Ozzie Guillen has had his moments for which he's needed to be apologetic (calling Jay Mariotti a "british cigarette"), but this isn't one of them.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Save me! Game 6: Stars win 2-1 (4OT)

I arrived at a sports bar - the only one in this area of North Orange County that actually got the Versus network - at 5:45pm Pacific time to watch Game 6 between the Stars and Sharks. By the time Brenden Morrow scored the game-winning goal, the clock read 11:34pm. The eighth-longest game in NHL history proved to be worth the wait for Dallas, as the Stars advanced to the conference finals with a 2-1, 4OT victory at American Airlines Center.

Marty Turco was simply outstanding. While Evgeni Nabokov's glove save on Brad Richards just above the line (way back in OT #1) was spectacular, the kick-save Turco made at the other end equaled Nabokov's brilliance. When hockey broadcasters use the phrase "kick save" they typically mean the goalie flinched his leg to deflect a puck traveling closer to the ice than a higher shot. This was truly a KICK save. Marty rivaled the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as he shot his right leg into the air to halt a shot midway through the first OT.

Shot after shot, Turco simply turned the Sharks away, stopping a franchise-record 61 shots on goal.

The two unquestioned leaders for this Dallas team during the post season - Morrow and Turco - proved to be the catalyst for advancing. I still can't decide which was bigger: Morrow's game-winning goal or his jaw-shattering hit on Machalak just before the end of regulation. Machalak might have the outline of that "C" imprinted on his face after Morrow sent him to the ice. Morrow simply destroyed him, and then followed up the hit - only an hour and nine minutes of ice time later - with the series clincher.

There was a lot of talk about how the Stars needed to win tonight or else they would have blown their 3-0 series lead and had to play game seven back in San Jose to decide the series. Turns out the Stars and Sharks ended up playing a seventh game, and even got 9:03 into an eighth before Morrow closed out the conference semifinals series with his goal.

Fortunately the Stars will have some time to regroup - and just plain sleep - before they start their conference finals series against the hated Detroit Red Wings on Thursday in Motown. (conference finals schedules)

Conference Semifinals Recap:
Game 1 - STARS 3, Sharks 2 (OT)
Game 2 - STARS 5, Sharks 2
Game 3 - Sharks 1, STARS 2 (OT)
Game 4 - SHARKS 2, Stars 1
Game 5 - Stars 2, SHARKS 3 (OT)
Game 6 - Sharks 1, STARS 2 (4OT)

** Looking at this series, it's very comforting to know the Stars earned three of their four wins in overtime, including the marathon last night/this morning. That ability to close out games in OT will definitely work to their advantage as the playoffs continue.

By the way, in looking to the NBA, the Boston Celtics proved why it's always nice to have home court/ice/field advantage in the playoffs. While it's never a good idea to lose three games to a team that you're expected to sweep, the C's simply held serve four times in this opening round series to advance to Round 2. And frankly that's all they need to do. It's foolish to think they can win an NBA title by only winning at home and losing each road game, but this does show the benefit of a higher seed.

Boston doesn't have to worry about NEEDING to win a road game. It would certainly help, and all those Celtics fans could probably sleep better at night. But it's not a necessity. So when a top seed like the C's do win on the road, it's really just icing on the cake.

The Stars - the underdog in each series thus far - have been fortunate enough to open each of their first two series with consecutive road wins. It's safe to say that will be a much tougher task going to Detroit. Once again, if the Stars can simply steal on game in Motown, they own home ice advantage the rest of the way. The Red Wings task is a much simpler one: just defend Joe Louis Arena while - if possible - also taking a game in Dallas.

The puck drops for Game 1 of Detroit/Dallas on Thursday. The Dallas Stars are only four wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Just knowing that will make it easier for me to sleep tonight - which is nice considering how late the game ended.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Objects in mirror...

Attention American League West. Attention American League West. Please be advised, the Texas Rangers are starting to figure out this whole "baseball" thing.

Thanks to a four-game winning streak, Arlington's Boys of Summer are showing signs of life, and they're doing it from the mound. Despite the Angels 5.5 game lead in the AL West, the Rangers have demonstrated why they have an ability to not plummet down the standings as they did to open the 2007 campaign.

Amazing to think that just a week ago manager Ron Washington was all but fired. Now the Rangers have had several solid pitching performances. Last night, A.J. Murray took the ball for Texas and threw 5.1 innings to get the win (TEX 6, OAK 3). It doesn't hurt when David Murphy blasts a three-run HR in the 1st inning to give you a lead before you have to throw a single pitch.

The night before, the Rangers opened their three-game set in Oakland with a 4-3 win (highlights) thanks in large part to a struggling Athletics fielding unit and by playing some small-ball. The Rangers scored their runs on sac-flies or ground-outs and an A's throwing error. It got the job done.

Now I realize the A's are not supposed to contend this season, but they are not on the Texas Rangers rebuilding plan - a nine-year period of delaying expectations two seasons at a time. Both the A's and the Rangers produce errors at an alarming rate. Texas is tied with Florida and Pittsburgh with the most errors in MLB so far this year (32) while the A's are second in the AL (27). Texas, however, has been getting things going at the plate. So far in this young season, Texas has the third-highest batting average in the AL (.269), trailing only Boston (.285) and LAA (.274).

But the surprising aspect of this current four-game winning streak, as I said, starts on the mound. The Rangers have been getting solid performances from their starters, taking some of the pressure off their bullpen. Texas is currently second-to-last in MLB in ERA (5.18), and last in strikeouts (155) while leading baseball with 142 walks. Pitching seems like an unlikely place for the Rangers to find success.

Now, hold on, don't jump all over me because I referred to what the Rangers are doing as "pitching success." I realize it's not success like the Diamondbacks have in Brandon Webb (7-0), but it's good enough for what the Texas bats ca produce.

Yesterday, the bullpen gave up exactly 0 hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. The day before that, 2 hits, 0 runs. On May 1 against KC, starter Sidney Ponson went 8.0 IP and gave up only one run before CJ Wilson closed up shop to get the save. The Rangers starters gave up a few runs but not enough to really hurt the club's chance at winning the game. In those three games, the Rangers only produced 2, 4 and 6 runs. This is an organization in the top 10 in RBI (136), so if the pitching staff can keep things tight, the bats will provide the firepower to get the W.

Today, the Rangers - having already clinched the upper hand in their third consecutive series look to earn their second 3-game series sweep of the season.

First pitch: 3:05pm CDT
Probable SP
TEX - Scott Feldman (0-0)
OAK - Greg Smith (2-1)

By the way, I completed my 1445-mile drive last night and even had time to stop in Phoenix to catch a perfectly-timed Diamondbacks-Mets game at Chase Field.  Ace Brandon Webb got the win, as he always does, to push his record to MLB-leading 7-0.  The D-Backs lead the Majors with 21 wins.  Amazing watching him pitch.

A few pictures from my road trip / stop at Chase Field...

The exterior of Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark)

The view from my front-row seat in left field...

I had to wear my Rangers garb to support TEX amid their four-game winning streak...

After the game, I just drove west into the sunset until I reached LA...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Go west young man

Today, I leave for Los Angeles for the summer. I'll be working for the Long Beach Armada, a minor league baseball team in the Golden Baseball League, doing play-by-play for their road games and working as the on-field MC when they play at home. Should be a lot of fun. I'll definitely make sure to post a link so you can hear me call the games.

I'm going to do my best to keep things rolling here at No Joshin' but do be patient as there probably won't be too much new content over the next few days while I make the 1450-miles drive out there.

- Josh

Thursday, May 01, 2008

VOW: Mavericks Memories

This week's VOW offers a triple-dose of Mavs Memories from the turn of the century. Back then, Dirk had a crewcut and guys named Finley and Nash were celebrated in Dallas.

Here's a clip of rookie Dirk in the rookie-sophomore game. I was astonished by him going to the rim. Not the Dirk we see these days (granted, this was in an exhibition game)

Remember the 2001 playoff win over Utah in Game 5? So great. Reunion Arena was truly rockin. Watch this video from 2:59 to 3:46 to avoid all the other fluff. How weird is it that I will never forget the name of Calvin Booth.

One year later, the Mavericks were back in the playoffs and taking it to the T-Wolves in the first round. Some of Michael Finley's dunks in this clip look like something the current Mavs only dream of. And the circus shot Steve Nash gets to drop is something out of a pipe dream (*cough* Josh Howard *cough)

view past VOWs
Cowboys/Bills MNF '07

Thoughts on Avery's press conference

Based on what Avery Johnson just said at his farewell press conference, the Mavericks are in some trouble. Or they have been for some time.

When talking about the 2006-07, 67-win, first-round-exiting Mavericks, Johnson said that team "significantly overachieved" and that in regards to this 2007-08 team, it was "a miracle we made the playoffs." That's probably not a good thing for the Mavericks franchise if the Little General is correct. If this team was not a playoff team yet managed to claw its way into the 7th seed, Johnson should probably have been rewarded rather than discarded.

So if that's how Avery feels about it, I'm guessing Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson (so really just Mark Cuban) feel this team should have been a playoff team. Maybe this was supposed to be a playoff team because they were in the finals just two years ago (but so was the league's worst team, the Miami Heat). Being two years removed from the finals doesn't guarantee a playoff berth. If Cuban and Donnie agreed with Avery's assessment that the team overachieved in '07 and miraculously made the postseason in '08, Johnson would still be the Mavs head coach.

Johnson played the role of politician, refusing to really step out of line other than saying that he wasn't cool with the fact that he was out of a job, but the coach spoke with pride about his team's accomplishments over the past three seasons.

Avery also laid out his guidelines for what it takes to be a championship team. Read this and then think if the Mavericks have any of these pieces (not if they had them in 2006 when they were so close to a championship, but if they have them now).

A. Superstar player
B. Strong center position
C. Guard that can dribble-drive, get to free throw line
D. Depth on bench
E. Experience on coaching staff

Right now, the Mavericks have one of those five key components. They have a superstar in Dirk Nowitzki.

Strong center position?
Erick Dampier? Um. He does play the center position. But Dampier has hands like the Caretaker in Scary Movie 2, and there is no one behind him who is a true center. So no strong center.

A guard who can get to the free throw line.
The Mavs have a great point guard in Devin Harris who will be a great player for-- Wait, what? We don't don't have him anymore? Oh. Oh yeah, the Kidd trade. Hmm. So the Mavericks had that key part of a championship team in the making. Avery said Devin Harris was on his way to being an 18 and 8 player and a player at an all-star level. While that may be true, Johnson did not badmouth Kidd or the trade for the veteran point guard. But if Harris is on his way to that level, why'd we ever get rid of him???

Jason Terry can drive to the basket sparingly, but he's more a shooter than someone who drives and kicks or drives and creates his own shots. So no guard who can dribble-drive and get to the free throw line.

Depth on the bench?
Brandon Bass will probably start for this team next year, but even if he doesn't, he's the only one on the bench. Devean George showed flashes in Game 5, but not the other 86 games this year. Jerry Stackhouse has fallen off from where he was as a could-be NBA 6th Man in 2006. Stack was instant offense. Now he's instantly awful. Sorry, Stack. Malik Allen, Tyrone Lue, Antoine Wright, Jose-Juan Barea, Juwan Howard? (trying not to laugh) So no depth on the bench.

Experience on the coaching staff?
The Mavs had that when they went to the finals (Del Harris). If Mark Cuban is telling the truth that the next Mavs coach isn't already on the bench, then there's a chance the new coach brings in his own coaches. So this we can't really gage, so right now it's an incomplete.

If that's what it takes to win a championship, which seems pretty accurate, the Mavericks are in serious trouble in the next few years.

The team's young star has faded drastically in the past two weeks. Josh Howard's playoff performance and marijuana confessions rocked what's left of this franchise. "I really hope he gets his game going to that next level because he's a talented young man," said Johnson. "But again, this window closes on your pretty quickly as a player with the wrong move." It seems Howard has made a few of those wrong moves, first with his tell-all radio interview then his birthday party after Game 4.

After listening to Avery Johnson's press conference for 30 minutes, I'm glad to see him take the high road. I hope he gets another coaching job in the NBA (he said other teams have already contacted him), and I hope to see him succeed. Johnson may have lost this team, but after the way they've played down the stretch, it's going to take a coach with the talents of Sherlock Holmes to find them.

When you hear all the franchise's problems Avery addressed, perhaps it's the coach who is be better off without this team and not - as many thought - the other way around.

Game Fourgetable: Sharks 2, Stars 1

Tough loss in Game 4 for the Stars. The 2-1 Sharks win sends the series back to San Jose for a now-necessary fifth game. I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about how "it's never easy to sweep a team" and how "the toughest win is the one to close out a series", but the Stars had their chances last night.

I'm not here to poo-poo on a Stars 3-1 series lead, but if we look at this one game at a time, Dallas should be a little disappointed in Game 4. Both Sharks goals came off Stars errors. The first one on another Sergei Zubov no-look pass that was picked off and taken the other way for a breakaway shorthanded Sharks goal. No, this isn't a Game 3 recap. He did it on consecutive nights. The second goal came on a San Jose power play in the 3rd period after Mike Modano flung the puck into the stands.

Speaking of playing on consecutive nights, I hate hearing that as a reason why it's hard for a team to win. Perhaps that's an argument during the regular season when both teams are playing completely different schedules. It's the playoffs now. Both Dallas and San Jose had to play three games in four days. And from the looks of things, the Sharks are still hurting much worse than the Stars.

Maybe the Stars lost because American Airlines Center only allowed small broom-heads and not any brooms with a broomstick attached. Bad karma is a tough thing to overcome. Although I would argue that mental mistakes are tougher. The Stars don't have to play perfect to beat San Jose, but they do need to limit errors.

Between the pipes, the Stars seem to have very little to worry about. It was only nine years ago that Reunion Arena echoed with chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" as the Eagle protected his nest en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Here we are now in 2008, and the packed AAC crowds can be heard chanting "Marty! Marty! Marty!" Turco has been great this series. Two of the three goals he gave up in Games 3 & 4 were on breakaway chances for the Sharks off the Zubov turnovers.

Then again, the only Stars goal came off a Sharks turnover right in front of their goal on what could only be described as a centering pass from San Jose's Devin Setoguchi to Stars winger Jere Lehtinen. Dallas's offense has been able to score 11 goals so far in this series, but keep in mind that eight of those goals came in the first two games. The Stars averaged 3.3 goals per game in their first round series against Anaheim, but Dallas failed to score more than once in regulation in both home games in this second round series versus the Sharks.

Perhaps the best cure for whatever ailed the Stars in Game 4 lies in Northern California. There's a chance that Dave Tippett has to pay taxes in San Jose because the Stars have owned the Sharks at HP Pavilion. So while Dallas coulda, shoulda, woulda in Game 4, they now have three more chances to close out this series. Doing so as quickly as possible is in their best interest as the next round holds what will be a bruising match up between this series winner and the NHL's best team, the Detroit Red Wings.

It's not panic time ... yet. If the Stars cut down on some of their mental errors, they are going to be very tough for San Jose to contend with the way the Sharks have been playing. San Jose will need to win four consecutive games after a 0-3 start to advance, something that hasn't happened since 1975 and only twice ever in hockey.

If the Stars are going to make a serious playoff push at Lord Stanley's Cup, they need to dispense of the Sharks ASAP and get some time to rest up before starting the conference finals. And Stars fans, please - *PLEASE* - don't think that the Stars could be making deep playoff runs now for the next five years based on this year's success. There's another Dallas team that disproves that assumption.

Game 5 is Friday, May 2 (tomorrow) with the puck dropping at 9pm CDT. So stay up late, get yourself a mug of hot chocolate and curl up on the couch (or get yourself a bottle of beer and invite your buddies over), as the Stars head to one of their best venues with a chance to close out the series.

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