InternetFM presents sports content from our partner site YourSportsFan.com including podcasts of “The Weekend Sports Report” with Les Grobstein, Steve Leventhal and Alison Moran, along with “Dorf on Sports” with Fred Wallin and Andy Dorf. YSF also features original sports articles.
….John Poulter joins us to dissect the trade of promising young Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad in a seven player deal with Columbus. It’s no surprise that money was at the root of the deal. The cap strapped Hawks had to make a move before the possibility of getting very little for the restricted free agent. John and Steve also analyze the two semifinal games in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Later, Steve and Dave discuss the rich sports history of North Carolina(not just college hoops), and Jeff Rich talks to us with a mid-season look at Major League Baseball, and why hockey is struggling in the Valley of the Sun.
on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
….Craig Heist from The Fan in Washington, DC joins us to talk about the surging Washington Nationals and pitcher Max Scherzer who lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth, yet still tossed a no-hitter. He has now retired 54 of the last 57 batters he faced. Heist also gives us his thoughts on the Redskins and the rest of the NFC East teams.
John Poulter and Jeff Rich tell us about Toronto and Cleveland sports history. It’s been a long time since those cities crowned a champion, most recently the Blue Jays of the early nineties.
….John Poulter joins us to talk about how the Chicago Blackhawks win a third Stanley Cup Championship in six years, and Jeff Rich dissects the NBA Finals, as Stephen Curry’s Warriors Win the NBA title over LeBron James’ Cavs.
We also preview the US Open Golf Championships from Chambers Bay in Washington State this weekend with Rory Spears from Golfers on Golf.com. Lastly, we talk about the Women’s World Cup being contested in Canad, and the latest NFL news from minicamps.
Hear audio from Joel Quenneville of Chicago, John Cooper of Tampa Bay, Mike McCarthy of Green Bay, and John Fox and Martellus Bennett from Chicago.
Ever since The aptly named Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003, part time and amateur players have been vying with experienced pros to claim some of the richest purses in a the game.
The folks that run the most popular poker tournament in the world added some new wrinkles in 2015 to boost the popularity of the game, which has dipped in recent years with the loss of access to most online sites for American players.
Two new events made their debut this year, one of which was the “Colossus.” It boasted a record field of more than 23,000 entrants who paid a mere $565, about half of the lowest buy-in at the World Series. That winner, Cord Garcia, walked away with over $600,000.
On Wednesday night, another part time player joined the ranks of Poker celebrities, when Adrian Buckley, a 27-year old electrical engineer from Colorado bested 7275 other players, who each ponied up $1500, and took first place for a cool $1,277,193 in the first WSOP Millionaire Maker. These were not all fellow amateurs, as there were several tournament tested professional players in the field, such Erick (E-Dog) Lindgren and Olivier Busquet. Even World Poker Tour commentator Mike Sexton was among those who made the final table, but did not take first place. Runner up, Javier Zarco, a Spaniard living in Atlanta, also realized his first WSOP cash. Zarco’s second place finish was good for $791,690.
“I came here this year with a limited bankroll. And I told myself I’m gonna play in ten events and see how I do,” Buckley said afterwards. “I’ve been playing every once in while since I was a young kid, just trying to get through school and pay for school. I’ve never really had the bank roll to actually play poker. I’ve done well in cash games and small tournaments. I’ve been a cash game grinder for a long time, but never had the money to play in some big events.” He added, “I didn’t expect to final table, I didn’t expect to make it super deep in any of the tournaments, but I knew I had the skill to at least do my best to make it as far as I could.”
It certainly didn’t appear the Adrian was headed for a date with destiny. Entering the third day of this grueling tournament, contested over four days, Buckley’s chip stack ranked him 139th of the remaining 142 entrants. Even on the last day, he began as the smallest stack among
the remaining seventeen players.
By the time the field had been reduced to ten, and the live, online coverage began, Buckley was in seventh place. Then he steadily began to increase his chips, and before long, there were three left, Buckley, Zarco, and Busquet, a skilled heads up player who provides analysis and commentary for poker broadcasts. However, Busquet lost a large pot to Buckley, and was eliminated shortly after the dinner break, leaving the two rookies to battle heads up. That duel lasted slightly more than three grueling hours, with the chip lead going back and forth, until Adrian’s pocket tens bested Javier’s two sixes.
Buckley at the table sat stoically, almost robotic in his actions. However, the cool, calm demeanor he displayed belied his inner turmoil. “I thought I had a heart attack like twelve times. I’ve never been in this situation before, Adrian noted. “I’m just trying my best to take every single hand, one hand at a time. I didn’t let emotions get to me, but inside I was freaking out. But at the same time it was just a regular poker game, as long as you win the poker game you do really well.”
In the post victory he was remarkably animated, in sharp contract to his quiet, and contemplative persona, at the table.
Asked what his future plans are, Buckley, a Colorado University grad, with a degree in Electrical Engineering commented, “I’m going to be in the poker community more often which is a great thing, because I thing I’ll be great face to the game, cause I have a really good time. But I don’t know what the plan is yet. I’ll pay off some student loans, which is huge, and then I’ll get myself out of debt. I’ll be able to start playing poker more. It literally the best thing I do during my days, play poker.”
Yet Adrian still plans to be at work on Monday.
This is one story that happens in Vegas, but won’t stay in Vegas.
….legendary Chicago sports jock, and long time friend of SRN, joins us to give his take on the Chicago Bulls’ new coach and the Bears prognosis for the 2015 season. When Les gets on a roll, there’s no stopping him. Enjoy the lively discussion.
It starts along the lines of, “Cleveland fans don’t want to see this, but…” Then, we’re reminded of our history. It’s just the bad stuff, but that’s really only because all of the bad stuff prevented any of the good stuff from happening. Such is life, with the 2015 NBA Finals, or so it would seem, but first, let’s get everyone caught up on what we’re talking about.
Sometimes, it starts in 1954, in Game 1 of the World Series, and sometimes they don’t go further back than 1980, when Brian Sipe called the dreaded Red Right 88 play in the huddle. There are some legitimate takedowns, by legends of the game, and there are some really messed up things mixed in, the type of messed up things that only happen to Cleveland.
Vic Wertz batted .500 in the 1954 World Series, and went 4-for-5 in Game 1, a home run shy of the cycle. His first inning triple plated the only two runs the Tribe would score against the New York Giants, but the focus is always more about the one time he was retired in the game. In the top of the eighth with runners on first and second in a tie game, he belted one to the deepest part of the Polo Grounds, high over the head of Willie Mays.
Of course, Mays made a historical defensive play. Nobody scored in the inning, and Dusty Rhodes knocked a Bob Lemon pitch over the right field wall for a 5-2 Giants win. They went on to get swept in the best-of-seven series, and the franchise would not make another postseason appearance for 41 years.
That was “The Catch”.
Red Right 88
I can’t really tell you the story of the 1980 Cleveland Browns, champions of the AFC Central Division. Their quarterback, Brian Sipe, was the league MVP, and the team’s insistence of playing (and winning) close games earned them the nickname “The Kardiac Kids”. In the coldest game ever played at Cleveland Stadium, the Browns trailed the Oakland Raiders 14-12 in the divisional round of the playoffs with under a minute remaining.
“Kick the field goal,” the hindsight advice of fans old enough to have lived it, for Sam Rutligliano, the Browns head coach at the time. It wasn’t quite that simple though. The Browns were a mess kicking the football; they’d left as many as ten points off the scoreboard that day, between missed kicks, a block, and a botched snap. On the 13 yard-line they had time. Legend has it the play, Red Right 88, was called with a specific stipulation that if Ozzie Newsome was not wide open, Sipe was to throw the ball into Lake Erie.
He didn’t throw it into the lake. He threw it to Mike Davis, who unfortunately played for the Raiders. Game over, and the Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl
The Drive, The Fumble
I’ll be brief. John Elway versus the Browns, with a trip to the Super Bowl hanging in the balance. The first one was in Cleveland, in January 1987. Bernie Kosar hit Brian Brennan for six, and the Browns led 20-13 with less than six minutes to play. The Broncos fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Elway had to operate, starting at his own 2. It took them 15 plays, and there were 39 seconds on the clock when he hit Mark Jackson from 5 yards out to set up the inevitable game-tying extra point. They faced third down just three times, Elway scrambled twice for 20 of the 98 yards they had to cover, and though he was actually sacked by Dave Puzzuoli on the drive, he hit Jackson for 20 yards on the next play. It was 3rd and 18 at that point, it was that kind of drive.
We know the pill as “the pill”. This was “The Drive”.
A year later, the venue changed. The Browns were in Denver with the same stakes, one year later. The Broncos seemed well in control of this one, through the first 30 minutes of play, leading 21-3. It didn’t look as though this game was destined for the type of dramatic finish we’d seen the year before. However, Bernie Kosar, Earnest Byner, and the Browns came to life in the second half. Byner accounted for 187 yards of total offense, and scored two of the team’s four second half touchdowns.
Near the end of regulation, Byner’s 15th carry of the day was a draw play from the Denver 8 yard-line. He went left, where Webster Slaughter should have paved the path for Byner to get his third score of the day, but Slaughter decided to be an observer, instead of a blocker, giving Jeremiah Castille the chance to make a great play. He stripped the ball, and if you weren’t pulling for the Browns, there was probably something poetic about Elway and the Broncos at their own 2, the spot on the field where history began the year prior.
So, that’s “The Fumble”, but maybe not the ultimate fumble. People in Philly might recall a game involving Herm Edwards at The Meadowlands. The Browns and Broncos also met in the 1990 AFC Championship, but that particular Browns season-ending disappointment didn’t have a defining moment, not one worthy of a well-known nickname anyway.
In most of these cases, the blame falls on a player that Cleveland wouldn’t have been there without. Okay, nobody is blaming Vic Wertz for Mays making that miraculous catch, but that was the only time the Giants kept him off base all day. He even hit a leadoff double in the top of the tenth, but they couldn’t get him home. The Browns’ Dawg Pound defense had held Elway and Company to 216 yards, a number matching Cleveland’s primary area code, before yielding 158 yards between “The Drive” and overtime. We’ve detailed Byner’s great game; it’s a shame that it’s always forgotten.
File this one under “Made out to be a bigger deal than it actually is”. The year was 1989; the Cavs were the 3 seed in the East, facing 6th-seeded Chicago. Craig Ehlo had 24 points, but his final points came on a lay-up with 3 seconds left, which put the Cavs on top of the Bulls 100-99 in a decisive Game 5 (of the opening round).
Michael Jordan split through Larry Nance and Ehlo to receive the inbound pass from Brad Sellers on the right wing. Ron Harper gave chase, but his momentum carried him towards the sideline, so it was up to Ehlo to stay with Jordan. Jordan dribbles twice to his left, double-clutches, and hits from the top of the key. Bulls win, 101-100.
Now, Jordan absolutely terrorized the Cavaliers his entire career, and I’ve seen enough Nike and Gatorade commercials to understand that was a defining moment for Mike, but for the Cavs? Not really. Chicago would defeat New York in the conference semifinals, but couldn’t get past Detroit.
Now, I’m one to get upset at anyone that automatically dismissed any chance the Browns would have been able to beat Parcells and the Giants in Super Bowl XXI, if not for the drive, but those Cavs weren’t beating the Knicks or Pistons. No way. That was “The Shot”, positively devastating in the moment, and obviously a great moment in Jordan’s career, but some perspective should remind us, this was an opening round loss. It would be many years in the future before the Cavs would directly or indirectly stick the dagger in the heart of the Cleveland fan.
In Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, Indians manager Mike Hargrove needed Jose Mesa to get three outs, to protect a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth in Miami. The Marlins plated the tying run, before Mesa could get the third out. He got the hook in the tenth, and then Edgar Renteria singled off Charles Nagy in the 11th, scoring Craig Counsell, and giving Florida their first World Championship in baseball.
The Move, The Decision
For four years, Cleveland connected Art Modell and Lebron James, as the names sat as 1 and 1a on the list of public enemies on the North Coast. Modell took the one thing that Cleveland has always loved the most, their beloved Browns, to Baltimore in 1996, after a struggle with the city of Cleveland over stadium renovations. James left the Cavs in Cleveland, but took his talents to South Beach, and he did it in a tasteless matter on ESPN.
Modell passed a few years ago, with a Super Bowl ring, but the clock ran out on any thought of redemption from the city where he spent 35 years of his life. He was exiled from the area, when rumors of “The Move” began in November of 1995.
On July 11, 2014, in a very classy manner, Lebron told the world he was returning to Cleveland. He didn’t promise a championship, something he did in first go-round with the team, and didn’t deliver. When he left for Miami, he was called a quitter, both for his performance in Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals and for leaving before making good on his stated goal. When he announced his return, he charmed even the cynics who didn’t claimed they didn’t want him back.
Whatever This Is
So, he’s back, back in the good graces of the fans and back in the NBA Finals. This is his fifth straight year in the Association’s championship series. He didn’t do it alone, something that can certainly be said about the island he was on in his first seven years with the Cavs. He replaced, perhaps even upgraded, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Of course, David Griffin should earn some credit for convincing James that a team could be built for him, but it’s very likely that nothing, except maybe the Irving extension, happens without Lebron coming home.
They had their rough patches, but were able to recover and land the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Then, it began in Game 4, with a tug on Kevin Love’s left arm. Love, out for the remainder of the playoffs. He was big in that Boston series; they might not have swept that series, against a really dismal Celtics team, if not for his contribution.
As the playoffs went on, a lot of the regulars got banged up. Iman Shumpert’s shoulder was a problem. James hurt just about everywhere, but promised there was no chance of him missing time in this postseason. Kyrie Irving had a foot injury, then a knew injury. He was able to sit for a few games in the Eastern Conference Finals, as Atlanta posed no threat to beat Cleveland, even without Irving on the floor.
Head coach David Blatt gave Irving some minutes in Game 4 of the Conference Finals, where he logged 22 points in a 118-88 series clinching win over the Hawks, before an 8-day layoff, leading up to Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
In an Opening Night loss to the Knicks, the Cavs started James, Anderson Varejao, Love, Irving, and Dion Waiters. James will play in Game 2 of the Finals. Dion Waiters was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the middle of the season, and the other three will likely be in street clothes due to injury for the remainder of the series.
In Kevin Smith’s clerks, our main character tells anyone that will listen that he’s not even supposed to be here to day, and that’s how Cleveland has to feel after what went down in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors. It was a game of runs, pretty much what you’ve come to expect from a couple of championship-caliber teams, but the Cavs had a golden opportunity with 24 seconds left and the game tied at 98. With Lebron James on your side and an opportunity to score as time ran out, you had to like Cleveland’s chances. Lebron had 42 at that point.
It was a bad possession. James found himself pinned against the sidelines on the left wing, and took an ill-advised jumper with 3 seconds left. Shumpert grabbed the rebound and heaved the rock at the rim, and we’ll tell you, it almost went in! In reality, it missed and we got 5 minutes of bonus basketball in Oakland.
The extra period belonged to the home team. They outscored the Cavs 12-2, basically shutting them out until a meaningless lay-up from James in the final minute. Yes, Cleveland played a poor five minutes of basketball, but losing the game may not have been the top story, and that’s saying a lot for a championship series. For a while now, Irving has been playing bent, but not broken. Maybe he was broken, but just not broken enough to be a spectator, this deep into the playoffs. Early in the overtime period on Thursday, he left the floor, in what can only be described as visually unbearable pain. On Friday, it was announced that Irving was not only out for the series, that he’ll require surgery, and will be out for four months.
Down 1-0 in this series, a lot of people are looking at Game 1 as a blown opportunity, and without Kyrie Irving, many are ready to hand Golden State the Larry O’Brien Trophy already. Man, if only that Shumpert heave would have found the bottom of the net! In Cleveland, they’re already trying to figure what to call this episode of the Cleveland Sports Misery tale.
Done in by unworldly performances on the other side of the field, made to regret some gaffes that professional athletes just shouldn’t make, and slighted by damning personal and business decisions, that’s what fills up the misery montage in the present tense. This is different, this is new. You’d almost think it was funny, if it wasn’t so damn sad.
Never have I seen injuries derail a Cleveland team quite like this, and I can’t recall a contending team in any sport lose two of their three best players in a single postseason. Vince Coleman’s tarp accident during the 1985 National League Championship Series comes to mind, but that comparison might be a stretch. There might even be others, but we cannot recall anything as bad as whatever you might label the unfortunate events that have plagued these 2014-2015 Cleveland Cavaliers during these playoffs.
There are a lot of reasons for Cleveland to very pessimistic about all of this, but they should remember #23 is still going to fight. They should remember those years of rooting against him in Miami, and how upset we were when he inevitably got it done for the Heat. He’s still the best, and might be able to will this squad to four wins. To definitively say that will or won’t happen would be a mistake, but it’s hard to bet against Lebron.
It would be foolish to say it isn’t a possibility. He lost twice in Miami, and he’s lost plenty in Cleveland. We’ll tell you something else that is inevitable, we’re going to see a wincing Kevin Love and a limping Kyrie Irving in that montage, if Cleveland and Lebron can’t find a way.
If not, that montage is getting longer, and we already feel it’s too long. Then, you know someone is going to name this latest fiasco. Of course, the alternative is winning, and then we probably won’t see the Cleveland Sports Misery montage at all. That’s a dream 51 years in the making.
When you look at numbers alone, the Hoiberg hire makes tons of sense.
Though the Bulls had assembled a much better team come start of the 2014/2015 season with
- the healthy Derrick Rose,
- two promising rookies in McDermott and Mirotic,
- the meteoric ascension of Jimmy Butler into a 1B guard,
- the addition of the best version of the small, quick, journeyman guard yet under Thibs in Brooks,
- and the surprising signing of the best available offensive free agent and double double machine in Pau Gasol (Melo did nothing but play in the All-Star game, Love had a very difficult year, and LeBron really wasn’t a free agent, but rather a Cleveland or Miami agent),
somehow the Bulls still struggled to score at times, struggled to rebound for much of the season, and most annoyingly to many fans, led the world in shot clock violations.
Though the Bulls had the star power, the tenacious defense, and a winning percentage of 65 during the regular season over the past five years, they went 23-28 during that same span in the playoffs.
In adding Hoiberg to the mix, who led the Cyclones to three consecutive tourney bid, 23-plus win seasons, scoring an average of 80 points per game over those three seasons, you get the pro-, offensive-minded potential conductor to get the band to play in a fast, fun, and upbeat rhythm (one that leads to an increase in Big Mac consumption within the Chicago metro area).
When you listen to Hoiberg, the hire makes a lot of sense.
When trotted into the Advocate Center and bombarded with questions from the Chicago media, the reserved and young, but subtly nervous Hoiberg had every right answer.
Do you plan to retain any of the current assistants on staff?
With Adrian Griffin hiding in the very back of the gym, hidden from view, and surely some of Hoiberg’s staff in Iowa State listening, he responds:
“I wanna try and get accomplished here relatively quickly, but I wanna make sure to get the right guys that are gonna be on board with the way that we’re gonna approach things. I have actually met with a couple assistants here already today. I’ve got relationships with some of them. I played against Adrian…just the way he competed; I think he’s terrific. Ed was in Minnesota when I was there. I have a very good relationship with Ed.”
At Iowa State, the Cyclones struggled on defense. How do you plan to address that here?
“I wanna get a veteran assistant in here that can really help me through things. Whether it’s a head coach or whether he’s been around the game for a long time, that’s gonna be very important with that hire.”
Already up on Thibs, he is looking for help with something he admits in which he is deficient.
He said things like “I love this roster, I absolutely love this roster,” instead of “we have enough to get the job done.”
He even answered the boldest question of the day with grace:
“Obviously the last five days, it’s been pretty much out there as far as where the Bulls stand with the last couple coaches, was there any reservations on your part that there’s not a lot of job security here?”
Pregnant pause filled with about a hundred “did he really just say that?” ‘s floating in the air, he responded calmly,
“I’m not. I’m very confident in my relationship with these guys. I’ve known them for a long time…I’m very comfortable with my relationship and I’m excited about this moving forward.”
When you get a feel for whom Hoiberg is, and whom/what Chicago is, the hire makes a lot of sense.
He introduces his entire family to the Chicago media, his wife and daughter tastefully dressed, his sons with red and blue polos on, buttoned all the way up.
A Midwestern guy who brought a program back to life, he clearly understands what it means to be to always be the dog in the conference of LeBron.
Referencing decisions he makes with his wife, his hometown sweetheart, and talking about how his twins are “coming home” to Chicago, he proves how he’s a family man.
Cracking jokes about finding his office, he grabs a laugh from the spectators.
However, the less than funny and happy reality is that the Bulls front office picked a very unfortunate time to make the hire. The source of that misfortune stems from the inevitable comparisons of Hoiberg to the other big-name former Bull coaching in the league right now: Mr. Steve Kerr.
Both turned down a number of coaching offers from other NBA teams while comfortably sitting in their previous positions, waiting from a team on their short lists to give them a call. Both follow a really good, though flawed NBA coach. Both are young, vibrant, and bring character along with run and gun offenses (the deficiencies of their predecessors) to the league.
But he feels like he is able to handle the pressure. Hoiberg cited that taking the job at Iowa State was pressurized, as everybody loved him there, held him in high esteem and thus, likely had high expectations.
“I wouldn’t take this job if I wasn’t confident.”
Kerr is favored to make it all the way to the top of the mountain in his first crack. Will Hoiberg be able to do the same? Or will he achieve only normally in a world completely (and somewhat unfortunately) focused on exceptional results? Will the comparisons eat him and the Bulls front office alive?
Only one thing is certain: Hoiberg looks great on paper.
…. Steve Kohn, an original cast member of the Bears-Packers Showdown, and former editor of “The Blue Line” joins us along with John Poulter for a discussion of the Stanley Cup Final game one between Chicago and Tampa. Our show includes audio from both team’s head coaches.
Jeff Rich is here to discuss Cleveland’s overtime loss in the first contest of the NBA Finals.
Don’t miss a cameo from Dan Patrick.
on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
Ryan Leong of CBS Sports in San Francisco joins us for a Warriors-Cavs preview, while John Poulter checks in with his thoughts on the NHL Western Finals game seven between Chicago and Anaheim. Steve and John also discuss the indictment of six FIFA soccer officials this week.
SRN assistant sports director Phil Meyers offers his take on why the Bulls fired coach Tom Thibodeau after taking the team to five consecutive playoff berths.
Don’t miss a cameo from former Saturday Night Live cast member Tim Meadows.
…Jeff Rich joins us to break down how the Cleveland Cavs were able to eliminate the Chicago Bulls in game 6 at the United Center. John Poulter previews the Blackhawks – Ducks and Rangers-Tampa Bay NHL conference finals. He also offers his thoughts on the American League East and NL Central races at this time.
Hear post game comments from Dave Blatt of Cleveland, and Tom Thibodeau, who may have coached his last game for the Bulls. Plus thoughts on Tom Brady’s suspension, and the last two weeks of the English soccer season.
Don’t miss a cameo from sportscaster Brent Musburger.
Headline: Cavs eliminate Bulls
… Matt Loede from Metro Networks in Cleveland and Jeff Rich join us to discuss the Bulls Cavs playoffs, including audio comments from head coaches Dave Blatt and Tom Thibodeau.
Later in the show, John Poulter talks baseball, NHL playoffs, and the final three weeks of English Premier League soccer this season.
Don’t miss a cameo from Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker.
…we have a full plate of events this weekend. David Schuster from 670-AM The Score in Chicago joins us with his thoughts on the big Mayweather – Pacquiao fight in Vegas on Saturday. Jeff Rich chimes in with his take on the NFL Draft, plus a preview of the upcoming Bulls-Cavs series. John Poulter analyzes the second round of the NHL playoffs, and updates us on how the Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, and Blue Jays are doing.
Don’t miss cameos from Bob Uecker and Chris Berman.
….long time friend of the show Les Grobstein joins us to discuss the Bulls and Blackhawks playoffs games. The “Grobber” offers his insights on the NBA Eastern Conference matchups. He also comments on the Cubs season so far.
Dave and Steve get a first look, and analyze the Packers and Bears 2015 NFL schedules. Hear audio comments from LeBron James as well as Jonathan Toews and coach Joel Quenneville of the Blackhawks.
Visit Les’ website at Grobber.com
You have to start with Monday, because that was rock-bottom. It was all Red Sox from the word go, and the thin line that may not exist between winners winning and losers losing, the Red Sox got to win this game in the court of public opinion in their Fenway opener, thanks largely in part to the play of one Mookie Betts. The box score won’t tell you this, but the tone was set when Betts, starting in center field, denied the Nats the early lead off Bryce Harper’s shot to straight-away center, which the Sox rookie brought back from the land of home runs and turned into a long out. The next time Harper came to the plate, his team was down 8-0.
You have to talk about that third inning, and if you didn’t see it with your own eyes, you’ll have a hard time believing there’s truth to any of it. Yes, we’re glancing past the fact that the aforementioned Betts has stolen two bases, scored two runs, and collected three RBI on a 2nd inning home run over the left field wall. It was only 4-0 Boston when Jordan Zimmerman took the ball to start his third inning of work. He yields a baserunner by hitting Hanley Ramirez with a 2-2 pitch. Not to be outdone, Pablo Sandoval also gets hit with a 2-2 offering from Zimmerman, and it hasn’t even gotten weird yet.
Good times for Michael A Taylor in center field, they were not. With two runners on and nobody out in the frame, Mike Napoli sent a long, but catchable ball to left center, right between Taylor and Jayson Werth, and I guess nobody called for it. It dropped for a single and the runners just went station to station. Boston shortstop Zander Bogaerts singled to Taylor for the first legitimate hit of the inning, scoring a run, and Taylor got busy again after Sandy Leon sent one to right-center field, which he and Harper each stood and stared at a ball that dropped no further than 5 feet from either of them. Zimmerman gave up a hit to Betts, and Matt Williams decided he’d seen enough. Dustin Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly, bringing home Boston’s fourth run of the inning and eighth of the day.
The visiting team salvaged some offense and made it look better with a 9-4 final, but it was viewed by many as one of the worst losses in franchise history. A day later, they couldn’t convert their 6-run fifth inning to a victory. At stretch time, they held a 7-5 lead, but it was more what we saw on Monday, a couple of hit by pitches and three errors that gave Boston three runs, without the benefit of a hit in the seventh inning, that led to an 8-7 defeat.
The return of the real Ian Desmond began on Wednesday. He found himself below the Mendoza line after an 0-for-4 performance on Monday, but has hit in every game since. It was Desmond’s 3rd inning home run, his first of the year, that sparked a 6-run frame for the Nats, en route to a 10-5 victory. It was nice to get in the win column, but there was nothing inspiring about Gio Gonzalez’s 4 earned runs over 6 inning outing, despite the nice amount of run support in that one. Desmond was 13-for-29 at the plate throughout the week, good for a .448 clip in the batting average column.
In the series with Philadelphia, starting pitching took over. Doug Fister has looked as good as anyone in baseball, and it was more of the same on Thursday. Another former Tiger and perhaps the most notable uniform change headed into 2015, Max Scherzer picked up his first win as a National on Friday. Zimmerman slipped a bit on Saturday, but they could have used a little more offense against Aaron Harang in a 5-3 loss Saturday, though Harper did tag him for a moon-shot to center field, but that wouldn’t be enough.
The nearly forgotten Stephen Strasburg picked up his first win on Sunday, pitching 7 plus. By all accounts, he pitched well, but the story, especially after Monday, was Denard Span’s return to the leadoff spot in the order. In the fifth inning, he reminded everyone of why he’s been missed so much, scoring from first on Ian Desmond’s double. The Nationals won 4-1, going 4-3 on the week and 6-4 on the year, which puts them 4 games behind the first place(holding) Mets in the National League East.
Last Week in Baseball
- Kris Bryant, the top prospect in the Cubs organization made his Major League debut on Friday to much fanfare, but was not able to reciporcate the hype, striking out three times and going 0-for-4 in a 5-4 loss to San Diego. Things got better when he wasn’t facing James Shields; in the Cubs’ next two games, he reached in 6 out of 10 plate appearances, including a first inning double off of Andrew Cashner on Sunday.
- Good work from the big righty in the Baltimore bullpen, Brad Brach, on Saturday in Boston. I was watching the Boston feed, so it was Don Orsillo introducing the pitching change, in what was a 1-run game at the time. The line on Brach early in the season was that he’d inherited three runners and they’d all scored. Protecting a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, with runners on first and second, he got Daniel Nava to hit into a 4-6-3 double play. He also notched two strikeouts in a scoreless 7th, and the Orioles went on to win 4-1 on Saturday.
- If you have any interest in the Seattle Mariners, you have to happy, at least for a day, about the Nelson Cruz signing this off-season. Forget the fact that former Ranger and Oriole is hitting .354 with 8 home runs and an OPS of 1.258, just look at what he did on Sunday. First and third inning home runs kept it close, making the Rangers’ 7-run third inning survivable. He got his chance to win the game altogether with two out and the bases loaded in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, and put it through the hole between third base and short, for the win.
- What’s wrong with the Giants? Odd year jokes aside, how does this team drop 8 straight to San Diego, Colorado, and Arizona? At least they found a way to win on the night they got their rings, a 4-1 win over Arizona at home Saturday, but one win so far on a 7-game homestand, with the Dodgers coming in for three. If they don’t right the ship soon, 2015 will be over for San Francisco, before we really get going.
- Matt Holliday has hit safely in all 11 of the St Louis Cardinals games in 2015. He was 1-for-3 in the Cardinals nationally televised 2-1 win over Cincinnati Sunday night. The real story of that game was that it ended in 2 hours and 2 minutes. The losing pitcher of record Mike Leake combined with Adam Wainwright, who notched the win, and Jordan Walden for exactly 200 pitches. Now, I’m not sure I’m one to fuss and fight about how long it takes to watch a ball game, but there are worse things than being able to do whatever you want 7:07 PM on Sunday night out west.