Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Quest for the Cup: The HoG's 2009 Stanley Cup Finals Preview

We've made it, at last, to the Stanley Cup Finals, and I've waited 'til the last minute to write about it for a number of reasons: 1) I've been all-around horrible on making predictions this post-season, 2) the last thing I wanted was a repeat of last year's finals, and 3) the last time I put together a hockey post, all hell broke loose, which is vaguely reminiscent of our playoff-hockey commentary from a year ago. All of that aside though, one thing's for certain: This is going to be a fantastic series. You have the best of both worlds in terms of complete hockey teams, competing for the title. In Detroit, Mike Babcock's core of gritty, experienced veterans look to defend the championship in what will likely be the final season for the 47 year-old Chris Chelios. In Pittsburgh, you have the most impressive nucleus of young players that could very well be moving into The Sprint Center a dynasty mode if they can knock off the ferocious Red Wings. Enjoy minimal analysis and a couple of clips after the jump.

I hate Detroit. They're a division rival to my St. Louis Blues, and they're always fucking stacked. Always. I've grown to appreciate them, however, as a franchise that perennially makes the right moves. And they named their building after Joe Louis, which is pretty cool.

Problem is, I also hate Pittsburgh. I lived with Flyers fan for several years and grew to like them quite a bit, and the Pens have handled Philly in consecutive post-seasons now. Plus, I thought it would be cool for Ovechkin and the Capitals to knock off the defending Eastern Conference champs, but so much for that.

I've also tried pretty hard to hate the non-NFL, non-MLB teams that The Lone Reader roots for, so I'm obligated to not pull for the Pens. And I'm still bitter at Mario for his shenanigans with Kansas City and the whole leverage-for-our-new-building ploy, but who am I to hold a grudge. Not really. I got mad respect for Lemieux, and it would've been weird to have Pittsburgh's club move here.

Anyway, the puck drops in just over an hour, and I've got two points to make.

First, the Penguins have been incredible these playoffs. They've repeatedly surprised me with their poise, and impressed me with a cohesiveness I wasn't willing to give them credit for. Kudos to them for that. I don't, however, think that Pittsburgh, or anyone else for that matter, can or will stop the Wings. They are, as usual, just too darn good. The one thing standing in their way, though is their health. Detroit is an older club and they've got some injury issues to deal with early in the series. Along with Kris Draper, one time Saturday Studmuffin Pavel Datsyuk will be out for game one, and they've got a couple of other guys that aren't exactly 100 percent.

So the Penguins could build some early momentum and take game one at the Joe, which was a difficult place for them to play last year. In fact, I think they were shutout in the first two contests. I envision a late surge from Detroit, though, if that happens, and think that they repeat, moments before Chelios hangs up the skates.

The pick: Wings in seven

(Editor's Note: It's incredibly unsexy to pick a series to end in six or seven games. This I know. I just don't see either team folding that early.)

There you have it. Below is the television schedule. Game on!

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Baseball In The Daytime: May 29 2009

Friday brings us a pair of day games. That's right, folks, the final weekday is not, repeat not, the sole domain of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are still here, but they're joined by a game to be played in Arlington, Texas. That town sounds goofy, it must be made up.

So join in, ranch hands and milk maids, for another edition of Baseball In The Daytime--where we take our national pastime, soak it in lemonade and tobacco spit, then iron it out with a 33-ounce ash bat...

Editor's Note: I have no idea why I can't italicize or emboldify my text here, or add a photo...stupid free website.

LA Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs, 12:20 Mountain

The Cubs are a fiasco right now, an official four-alarm fire in a town that's skittish about such conflagrations. By my count they've lost 64 games in a row, but that may be off by one or two. Their longtime ace Carlos Zambrano is fading, often injured and now suspended for completely losing his marbles in a game on Tuesday.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are cruising and on pace to wrap up the NL West by Flag Day. I don't actually know when Flag Day is, but I hope it's soon--there is absolutely zero chance that any of the other clubs in the division will catch this juggernaut. The best news for Humberto and his fellow LA fans is that in early July they'll call up this prospect named Manny Ramirez, who's currently on the DL due to complications from bearing his first child.

Today Chad Billingsley, who has a giant ass, starts opposite Ted Lilly, who owns a springer spaniel.

Oakland A's @ Texas Rangers, 3:05

Down in the Lone Star State, where George W. Bush once used other people's money to build the most roided-up roster in baseball history, Billy Beane's A's undertake an effort to slow down the red-hot Rangers. With a ball-crushing offense and a picthing staff that somehow gets a lot of outs, Texas has skated through the first two months of their season in first place. Today they send out a kid named Tommy Hunter to face off with Oakland's Josh Outman. Outman wears a sharp-looking pair of stirrup socks, which I'd show you if this God damned site would allow me to. Use the Googles, kids, and Play Ball!
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baseball in the Daytime: A Little Twinny Twin Twin, Fell-a

Welcome back for another installment of the feature you just can't get enough of. I don't blame you. I'd come back, too. There are two, count 'em, two, games on the sandwich board today, and they both look so enticing, that I think I'll go somewhere else to eat. Not far. Just, you know, further than the jump.

Tampa Bay @ Cleveland, 11:05 Central: The fact that Jesus' favorite metropolis kicks today's day baseball slot off today is fascinating. I want nothing but salvation for the fans of professional sports teams that call Cleveland home, but there's something humorous in the way that things are shaping up at the moment. Here's what could quite possibly happen today: Right-handed Jeff Niemann, who's sporting a 4-3 record and a 4.53 E.R.A., goes out and tosses a gem, while Indians starter, lefty David Huff of the 0-1, 17.55 situtation, gets lit the frank up, and pulled from the game. Angrily, he leaves Progressive Field and has 17 shots of Old Crow before running into Brady Quinn at the neighborhood saloon, who then, half-sauced himself, challenges the pitcher to an alley boxing match. Naturally, Quinn loses, and breaks every bone in his throwing hand in the process. These events promptly hit the local news just in time for the Orlando @ Cleveland 7:30 tip, which the Cavs of course lose, and trade LeBron James within a few short weeks. Watch at least the baseball part of this glory unfold on DirecTV 721 or 722, or listen in on XM 176.

Boston @ Minnesota, 12:10: Elsewhere in the Central, some jackass right-hander named Anthony Swarzak takes the hill for the now-second-place Twins. He's 1-0 wit a 0.00 E.R.A. What a dick. Speaking of cocks, Josh Beckett fondles the bag for the visiting Red Sox. This cornhole's been dilly-dallying around all season, barely scraping together four wins, and only recently getting his E.R.A. down to an even five. He's one of many highly toted kids on my fantasy club that've produced a whole lot of awesome in the way of my five-week losing streak, which is just the pinnacle of good times, I tell you. So I say screw the Twins, and screw Josh Beckett, but if you disagree, you can catch them making out facing off on DirecTV 723 or 724, or listen in on the hot man-to-man frames on XM 177.

That's your pair of afternoon baseball today, folks, and believe it or not, it's nearly half of the games taking place for the entire day. Try not to be a slouch like professional baseballers today and get some work done, will ya'?
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Historically Speaking: 5-28-09

There are a couple of good series going down over in the NBAs and the NHLs are set to drop the puck for the big one, so what are we bringing to the mix? Nothin' but baseball, baby. That's how we roll. Peep our massive sense of untimeliness after the jump.

* Today in 1951, Willie Mays got his first Major League hit. It happened to be a home run. Mays had gone 0-12 prior to the jack, and his solo shot wasn't enough to give the Giants a victory over Warren Spahn and the Braves. Mays joined the army the following year, which may or may not've contributed to the first-place-by-two-and-a-half-games Giants losing eight of their next 10. And don't, by the way, get Cecil started on anybody but Mays being the greatest living baseball player in history. If you're lucky, he'll school you for 37 minutes and then punch you in the gut. The unlucky? They just get the gut shot.

* Infamy riddled baseball today in 1957 when the National League approved of the move of the Dodgers and Giants to head west to Californ-eye-ay.

* The American League, in 1968, agreed on the following divisional alignments: Boston, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington, and Detroit in the Eastern; and Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle, Oakland, and California in the Western. The decision would be put into effect the following year, and lasted, more or less, until 1993, when each league received a Central division.

* The year was 1995 when the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox hit a collective 12 home runs in one game to set an MLB record. The home team Tigers hit seven of the blasts, but still drop the contest, 14-12.

* Finally, it was three years ago today that The Head hit home run number 715 to move beyond Babe Ruth's mark on the all-time list and into second place.

And your quote of the day came from former MLB catcher, long-time MLB hitting coach, the author of The Art of Hitting .300 and Lau's Laws on Hitting,

the late Charley Lau, who, for all the young Willie Mays and Barry Bonds out there, said, "Don't try to hit the ball far. Try to hit it hard."
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

(Not Quite All the Way) Live Bloggin'

So I'm sitting here, wife at a trade show, McCormick's gin and frozen pizza at the ready, thinking why the heck don't I start a post about the second half of this here Nuggets - Lakers contest?

I know better than to ignore my conscience, so here we go. Hit me with comments. I'll just keep updating, in an ever-more-drunken fashion, on this likely ref-assisted* Laker victory.

*Even if that happens, I won't actually complain, because whining about the Refs is for Chargers fans and (unindicted) rapists.

Second half hasn't started. Jeff Van Gundy sounds like a d-bag.

Ok, here it is. 59-56 Denver.

Offensive board! Fuck yes. Keep missing shots, LA.

Loose ball foul, Dahntay. Of course. Trevor Ariza (ex-UCLA) is coming into his own this series. Kenyon for two, then fouls Gasol. Again, of course.

Bynum, keep on fouling, please. I just realized this whole concept is not going to make much sense at a later read.

Who knew Kenyon could make a jumper? 67-62 Denver.

Bullshit foul. Nice acting job, Ariza.

So maybe I won't be able to update after every shot? Drugs will help.

Ahhh...'Melo and one. Dig it.

4th personal on Bynum!

4th block for noted thug Chris Andersen, whose name adorns the very first basketball jersey I've ever owned--and before any Lone Readers start droppin' that bandwagon talk, my first Bronco jersey only happened last year. I'd been unfamiliar with your mid-American habit of collecting such athletic togs, but now I might as well be eating barbecue whilst I piss.

71-66 halfway through the third, advantage Denver. Come on now.

I hate this Progressive commercial with the "Dave Aisle." Fuck Dave in his Dave-hole.

Back, and now three straight turnovers? Fuck. Lamar Odom hits a three to tie it. And so a seven-point lead becomes a tie, just like that.

I just thought I'd take this commercial break, with the teams tied at 73, to state that I have never, ever, liked the Los Angeles Lakers. Screw Magic "I'm a part owner of the team and still am expected to give honest analysis" Johnson. Screw A.C. "I'ma Virgin" Green. Screw James "I Don't Really Have a Nickname" Worthy. I even still have Stormin' Norm Nixon's basketball card somewhere, and I'm honestly starting to dislike it a little.

Christ, J.R. Make one of these 3s, already.
FUCK! What I just said, but plus.

Wow, this second "A Night at the Museum" movie smells like a sack of rotting red potatoes.

OK, back in. Fuck Lamar Odom, you highly drafted chunk of worthless.

Offensive foul. Nice. Carmelo on the bench, Lakers with their biggest lead...and Nene gets a tech? Naturally. If they let this snowball, the refs will be more than happy to help.

This is the part of the game that scares me. The Lakers are showing life, it's the 4th quarter, we have our best player sitting. George Karl, you have a reputation of Coachsuckery to disprove, and this ain't the way to go about it. I know there are more than 9 minutes left, but come on.

They are getting good looks, but nothing. This has the makings of 3-2 LA written all over it.

Van Gundy blowing Kobe. What a sooprise.

Wow. This is getting ugly. 87-76 LA.

I dunno. Screw this. Linas with a 3, much needed. Imaginary foul on the greasy Spaniard Gasol, maybe the ugliest man in sports.

Oh, woo, woo, we love the Lakers, says the crowd of botoxed robots. Fuck all of you people. You root for success. When the Lakers sucked a few years back, they could hardly give tickets away. Go yell at your gardeners.

So, it's not too early to say that this game is likely over. The Nugs are showing nothing and the Lakers are on a tear--so we have to win in Denver to force a 7th back here. F. Double F.

Fuck. With an open 3 like that, Linas...and then Nene misses a layup. Fuck me.

OK, entertain yourselves for a minute. I have to go curse. We could have just made that lead disappear.

Linas, make your free throws. It's still in reach. Only 4:47 left.

Melo with the transition jam!

Wow, a blocking foul? Because Gasol sat in his lap? Bullsheeeeiit. And now the Brazilian has fouled out. LAME.

93-89 after Melo's free shots.

Doesn't matter, though, because the Lakers just drive to the hoop and GET FOULED.

Speaking of the totally non-mafia owned NBA refs, anyone who doesn't believe in the star system should be watching this game. Except, of course, if the star is Carmelo, who gets less love than any comparable talent in the game. Fuck, Trevor Ariza is getting more in this series.

Jeff Van Gundy loves watching people foul relentlessly and not get called. That's because he's a proponent of caveman ball. Dear Jeff, please go coach in Europe and stop talking to us.

I should mention, again, that bitching about the refs is loser talk.

You get the D, you have numbers, and then J.R. jacks up a brick.

This game is ov-ah. Nuggets deserve to lose. You can't miss shots like they have on the road and even have a hope. Now it's just fouling and making the gamblers happy.

Lamar Odom had a good game, Pau Gasol couldn't miss early, Derek Fisher re-discovered his range. Plus, the Nuggets never found an offensive rhythm and seemed to miss every big shot. Back to Denver on Friday for what we a Mile High are hoping is a chance to stretch this to seven games. Sigh. 104-93 L.A.

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We Are Hot Chicks Wednesday: Conference Finals

Seeing as how we're neck deep in playoffs this time of year, this would normally be the venue in which I take great liberties to bag on the National Basketball Association and offer a mutiny of praises for the National Hockey League. But I won't. I'll take the higher ground and throw the both of 'em a bone.

No. I haven't had a leap of faith. I've turned over exactly zero new leaves. I'm a little irritated, actually, at the notion that I way more appreciate the matchups in the NBA's Conference Finals versus those played atop frozen water. It would be so much easier if the never-tiresome allegations of fixes and rigs in the NBA were obvious right now, and the Lakers and Cavaliers were handshakes and airline tickets away from playing for a championship, but that's far from the truth, and the NHL meanwhile, saw both of last year's Finals contestants destroy their this-year's opponents, and are locked in for a rematch, which is totally and completely lame.

Jennifer Denise

In any other season, I would've laid out my soap box, and adorned it with jewels.

Circumstances, however, have forced me to turn my views, at least for now.

The NHL will likely crown the Red Wings again, while in hoops, we're all shrugging at who the champs might be.

Though I've barely watched much of either NBA series, I've embraced these playoffs a bit.

I'd love for the Magic to give Cleveland an ole in the East;

all the King James hype is a bit silly to me.

And I couldn't be more pleased that the Nuggets have stood up to Phil Jackson's crew.

Few expected Denver to show their swagger, but they've done so with confidence.

Orlando, on the other hand, has established a novella of braggin' rights all their own.

Joanna Prus

Call me what you will, but I can't stand Kobe Bryant.

This is not to say I don't recognize his talent. I just can't freaking stand him.

And really, the whole Lakers squad has never meant anything to me, even though I admired their old-school look with Worthy, Jabbar, and Johnson.

But a breath of fresh air is always good for a professional sport,

and if you can do so, and shed the Ass in the same breath, well durn tootin'.

Same goes for James. Not that I dislike him. I just refuse to pretend that he walks on water.

For all I can tell, Cleveland has laid down and let Orlando have their way with them,

which doesn't give the they're-not-a-one-man-team theory much upon which to lean.

I think the Cavs have just found themselves dazzled;

they brought their black-and-white game to a color court,

and if the Magic were a coloring book, I'd pull out my Fervor crayon.

I'm hoping that the Nuggets and Magic can square shoulders for the championship.

Over in hockey, though, we're gettin' a look we've seen before, and too soon at that.

Sometimes it's nice to see the same gig, but Detroit is perennially that stubborn-willed woman that just won't budge.

Ursula Vargues

Having met just last year, Detroit and Pittsburgh are again the identified beacons.

They'll come out of their corners swingin', no doubt.

I just hope we get different angles on this series,

like this seemingly plain Pittsburgh crew has proved themselves not to be.

They've ravished opponents with their two stars certainly not disappointing.

Like any fan, I hope it's a backyard brawl, a basement slugfest,

not a senior stuffing a freshman in the latter's locker.

One thing about the series, though, is that it will definitely be classy.

Detroit's long-established as the best of the American originals,

but this showy young Penguins club has a chance to steal their throne.

I'll be tuned in to see how this talent will, if they can, compete.

That's it for this week. Thanks to the Bettmans and the Sterns for keeping their hands out of the cookie jar.
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Baseball In The Daytime: May 27 2009

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. It's Baseball In The Daytime, and I need to stop this rhyme. Now.

On tap today are divisional battles, six in all. That's right, every game on the sked has a bearing on some division race somewhere. OK, so you could argue that the Rockies game is completely meaningless because it involves the Rockies. Fine. But unless you dig on the NL East you've got something to draw your interest today.

And if you do dig on the NL East, you're most likely a tool anyway. All those clubs have fan bases made up of tools.

St, Louis @ Milwaukee, 11:05 Mountain Beer is the theme here, as America's two most prolific brewing cities vie for the title of, um, something. Oh yeah--they're tied for first in the NL Central! Winner gets to sit atop the standings for a day in May, which is no small potatoes. Also, beer. Todd Wellemeyer and Manny Parra start, and Parra you'd better not walk ten fucking guys today--I'm playing Cecil in the fantasy.

Toronto @ Baltimore, 11:35 Even if the BJ's run at the front of the AL East was just an early-season mirage, they've still got a hell of a team. I think they'll end up as the best fourth-place club in recent memory. Doc Halladay starts today against a Hill of some sort--Rich Hill? Is he still in baseball? It doesn't matter--Halladay versus the Orioles is as close to a lock as you'll find in this perplexing game.

Detroit @ Kansas City, 12:10 On Monday night, Detroit's ace Justin Verlander completely handcuffed the Royals with seven shutout innings. Last night KC's own ace Zack Greinke returned the favor with his fifth complete game of the year. Today we see Rick Porcello go for the Motor City Kitties and Kyle Davies for the hosts.

Somebody wrote about this yesterday, I apologize for not remembering to whom to attribute. The Royals had the second pick in the draft two years ago and Porcello was widely acknowledged as the second-best prospect. He was also a Scott Boras guy and demanding a fat bonus commensurate with his talent. So the Royals did what the Royals always did back then--they went cheap. Mike Moustakas may end up as KC's shortstop for a long time (Mike Aviles sure the hell isn't) but watch Porcello today and tell me you wouldn't rather have him as part of a nasty, Greinke-led staff.

Pittsburgh @ Chicago Cubs, 12:20 It's actually a pretty nice pitching matchup at Wrigley this afternoon, as Carlos Zambrano continues his comeback from injury against the underrated Zach Duke. The Cubs snapped an eight-game slide yesterday, so expect the red tank tops and the booze to be out at the Friendly Confines.

LA Dodgers @ Colorado, 1:10 Were you aware that the Rox have the second-worst record in the NL, ahead of only the Nats? You can fire Clint Hurdle all you want, it still ain't gonna shore up this pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez goes for the home nine today, while the Dodgers tap Clayton Kershaw. These two both have no-hit stuff at times, but they also have six-run innings in their back pockets.

Seattle @ Oakland, 1:35 I can say with definitive certainty that the A's will not contend this season--too many holes, especially in the starting rotation. Seattle's much more of an enigma. I think they suck, they should suck, but for the most part this year they have not sucked, or at least they've sucked less than expected. They do have a huge advantage over second-division clubs like Oakland, and that's a legitimate one-two punch in Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard. But Felix is kind of a basket case, and Bedard is always hurt--except today, when he starts against Trevor Cahill. Keep the trainer on the bench, young man, and Play Ball!
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Historically Speaking: 5-27-09

If you think that photo's old, wait'll I upload the photos of my liver after this weekend. Thing looks like some 18-wheeler tire scrap that's been on the shoulder of the freeway since Carter was in office. I unintentionally drank so much beer between Saturday and Monday, that I still, five days later, cannot figure out what I did Friday night, which must mean it was an insane evening. I've been thinking, though, if we get the extra day off, and we use it to drink, shouldn't we just get Tuesday off as well? Sounds fair. Anyway, we're sort of back in the saddle with a few factoids, after the jump.

* After 48 years of coaching the Chicago Bears, George "Papa Bear" Halas retired today in 1968.

* It was today in 1975 when the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Buffalo Sabres for the Stanley Cup championship, four games to two. It was the second consecutive Cup for the Broadstreet Bullies, as they had downed the Boston Bruins in the finals the previous year.

* The year was 1982 when a handful of New Jersey businessmen purchased the Colorado Rockies NHL franchise. The group received permission to relocate the club to New Jersey and become the Devils after the team saw little success in six years as the Rockies, and even less in two years as the Kansas City Scouts.

* Five years later, then New York Yankee Phil Neikro became only the third MLB pitcher in history to log his 700th start. At the time, Don Sutton and Cy Young were the only others, but Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, and Tommy John have all since joined the club.

* In a 1997 game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs, two inside-the-park home runs are hit within five minutes of each other. Sammy Sosa and Tony Womack contribute the feats as the Cubs beat the Pirates 2-1, and the National League witnesses such a feat for the first time in 21 years.

And your Sports Illustrated quote of the day came from the mouth of...

...former New Englad Patriot defensive end Julius Adams, who, in 1977, was asked about whether or not the Oakland Raiders hold. His response: "Every time I rush the passer, I have to tuck my shirt back in."
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