Friday, May 29, 2009

The Reverend Rankings — My Favorite Players: Sixers

In the coming weeks/months, with basketball and hockey going the way of football and nothing happening except the dog days of summer, I'll be publishing my own personal lists of my five favorite and five least favorite players of the four major Philadelphia sports franchises.

Read the first installment here.

With Brett Myers facing hip surgery that could potentially end his season, everyone and their mother is writing about the Phils needing to get another starter, especially going all in to try and persuade both the Padres and Jake Peavy to ship the 27-year-old ace to the Phils. And that's 100 percent true. They do need to get at least one other good starter, especially with Brett's situation, and yes, I would mortgage the farm for Peavy, if he'd come. But enough of that. There are plenty of sites covering that.

No, today, since it's Friday and I'm feeling like doing what I want, and since the Sixers are in the news with their coaching search, I've decided to tackle my favorite Sixers of my lifetime in part 2 of the Reverend Rankings. I eagerly anticipate your mocking responses.

1. Allen Iverson

Really, is there any explanation necessary? I don't think so, but here goes anyway. Allen Iverson is the single most controversial figure in Philadelphia sports during my lifetime. There's no two ways around it. For all the hoopla Terrell Owens created in his brief stint in Philadelphia, Iverson did it better for longer. He is, without question, the most polarizing Philadelphia sports figure of my lifetime.

Now, the naysayers love to point out how Allen Iverson was selfish, lazy, never practiced, couldn't co-exist with other scorers, dominated the ball, and on and on and on. All true. All valid. But those of us that grew up with the Sixers being truly one of the most putrid franchises in all of sports during our childhood, it's hard not to look at Allen Iverson in amazement, in awe.

Say what you will about his practice habits, but come game time, there has never been an athlete that has competed with every ounce of his energy every single second during every game more than Allen Iverson. Watch any game during his tenure in Philadelphia, and there's no way you can question his heart, his desire once that ball was tossed in the air.

The biggest little man to ever play this game took a franchise that was beyond dead first to the playoffs, then to the best record in the Eastern Conference, to the forefront of Philadelphia sports, a near impossibility, then to the NBA Finals. He won Rookie of the Year, the MVP, two All-Star MVPs; led the league in minutes played twice, steals twice, total points once, minutes per game 5 times (six if you count the year he was traded to Denver), points per game four times and steals three straight seasons while in Philadelphia.

He single-handedly transformed the perception of the Philadelphia 76ers. He is the greatest 76er of my era, bar-none, a surefire Hall of Famer, and the most exciting athlete Philadelphia has seen in decades.

And if that's not enough reason for me to love Allen Iverson, check these out:

2. Theo Ratilff

When the Sixers traded Jerry Stackhouse to the Pistons for Aaron McKie and Theo Ratliff, I was a little torn. I was elated that McKie, the Temple product and Philly native, was coming home, but I didn't know much about Theo beyond his athleticism, and being a Tar Hell fan as well, I was sad to see Stack go. Clearly, he had to, because he and Iverson didn't mesh, but still.

Well, turns out, this was a steal, and immediately, Ratliff became my second favorite Sixer with his insane leaping ability, tremendous hustle and dominant shot-blocking ability. During his time as a Sixer, there wasn't a better shot-blocker in the NBA, and no one could bounce back up a second time better than Theo.

The year Ratliff was traded to the Sixers, 1997-98, he finished 4th in blocks per game at 3.1. In 98-99, he was third at 3 a game, and fourth in 99-00 again at 3. Then, in the Sixers' run to the Eastern Conference Championship, Theo led the league in blocks per game at 3.7. Sadly, injured just before the All-Star game, which he was elected to, Theo was traded for Dikembe Mutombo shortly after, missing the glorious run. However, he was an integral part, establishing the Sixers as the best team in the East from the beginning of the season. He went on the lead the league in blocks per game the next two season as well, and he's a guy I absolutely love.

I was elated when the Sixers re-signed him, and if anyone has a No. 42 Theo Ratliff Sixers jersey, I will pay good money for it. For real.

3. George Lynch

I have an affinity for defense. This is no secret, and that certainly helps explain why Theo is my second favorite Sixer and, here, why George Lynch sits at three. Along with Aaron McKie (who just missed the list, by the way; I have him at 6), George Lynch was the Sixers' best perimeter defender, able to defend just about anyone on the court. As you can see pictured above, Lynch tangled with the likes of Tracy McGrady and typically the opposition's best offensive threat, especially if that threat was a small forward.

Lynch was a tenacious defender who also could hit the outside shot ("Lynchburg") and provide all the intangibles teams need to win. There was nothing glamorous about his game, but he was the heart and soul of Philadelphia's defense during his three seasons as a Sixer. Need a rebound? George has got it. A bucket? He could provide that. Steal? Check. Assist? Sure. Lock down defense? Absolutely.

After Lynch got injured in the 2001 playoffs, Larry Brown and Billy King traded him, the epitome of a Larry Brown player that "plays the game the right way," for Derrick fucking Coleman, the laziest piece of shit to ever lace up sneakers. This infuriated me to no end, because Lynch was a much better player than people think and could really get into the head of the players he guarded. Just ask Chris Webber.

4. Dana Barros.

Dana Barros only spent two season as a Sixer, and the team was absolutely horrible. But being a short three-point gunner myself when I play basketball, I was instantly drawn to the 5-11 guard who could hit a shot from anywhere on the floor. Honestly, he was the only Sixer worth watching at the time. Sure, Clarence Weatherspoon was a nice, hard-working player, but exciting he was not. Barros provided what little intrigue there was for that team as a deadly three-point shooter (38.1 percent and 46.4 percent in his two season in Philadelphia) and dynamic scorer (20.6 ppg in 94-95).

For a guy with a girl's name, Dana was all right.

5. Hersey Hawkins.

Honestly, I was a little too young to really appreciate the Sixers during the Barkley/Hawkins era, but Hersey Hawkins makes this list for one reason and one reason only: He was a beast in Tecmo NBA Basketball.

Honestly, I would play this game on Nintendo nonstop as a youngster, and Hersey Hawkins, who really was an incredible shooter, was deadly from three in that game. If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I absolutely love great shooters and great defenders when it comes to basketball. Or is that two things? Whatever. Hersey Hawkins was the shit.

There it is, my five favorite Sixers of my era.

BallHype: hype it up!

It's Friday, Time to Dance

This was just too funny not to post for the dance portion of the week:

Yes, you saw that correctly: That's the Backstreet Boys performing at Franklin High School in 1994. Short but sweet. Well done, Mr. Sweeney. Well done.

BallHype: hype it up!

The NBA, Where LeBron is Not Human Happens

As if it wasn't already established, now all questions have been dismissed: LeBron James is not human. Can't be. Humans cannot do what this freak of nature of does.

Last night, with his Cavaliers facing elimination, LeBron goes all triple-doubley on the Magic, putting up 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists to lead Cleveland to a 112-102 win and force a game 6. Look at that again: 37-14-12. Add in a steal and block for good measure and 15-19 from the foul line, and it just boggles the mind.

Yes, Mo Williams finally showed up (24 points on 7-14 from the field, 6-9 from three), and the Cavs got double digits out of Delonte (13), Ilgauskas (16) and Gibson (11), but once again, it was really LeBron and everyone else.

Check it out:

With the Magic just a win away from reaching the finals, I sort of left the Cavs for dead, thinking, with the way the series has gone and how much success the Magic had against the LeBrons in the regular season, Cleveland couldn't win three straight. I should have known better. With LeBron, anything is possible, as he showed last night and has shown all season.

Now, I still don't necessarily think the Cavs will pull this thing out, but I'm definitely not counting them out. Not with the way the greatest basketball player in the world is playing right now. Seriously, I just don't think he's human.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vote or Die, Raul Ibanez

People are dumb. That's a fact. There is no disputing this. That's why it's not surprising that Raul Ibanez is not in the top 3 when it comes to voting for National League All-Star outfielders. That's the only explanation. Shit, Manny Ramriez is ahead of him.

Well, some people aren't taking it lying down, hence the Vote for Raul campaign.

If ever there's a player who deserves to be voted in to the All-Star game as a starter, it's Raul. Just check out the insane numbers that are fueling my first-place fantasy team (Raul is ranked as the top hitter in fantasy by the way, trailing only the insane Zack Greinke in overall ranking, at least in my league).

Here's the stats on Ibanez this year: 38 runs (tied for 4th in all of baseball, tied for 2nd in NL and 1st among all NL outfielders), 59 hits (2nd for NL outfielders, trailing only Carlos Beltran), 11 doubles, 1 triple, 17 home runs (2nd in baseball behind Adrian Gonzalez), 44 RBI (tied for third in baseball, tops in the NL), 4 steals, 123 total bases (tops in baseball), .339 average (3rd among NL outfielders behind Beltran and Hunter Pence), .707 slugging percentage (tops in baseball), .402 OBP and 1.109 OPS (tops in baseball).

Uh, yeah, that guy should be starting. So Phillies fans, hell real baseball fans who care about voting for players that actually deserve it, vote for Raul Ibanez as much as possible or die. That is all.

BallHype: hype it up!

I Love Links, Links, Links

You know what really pisses me off? Someone winning the Power Ball who is not me. Especially when it's up to $232 million and the winning ticket is from South Dakota.

I mean, South Dakota? Really? What the fuck do you need $232 million for if you live in South Dakota? The cost of living has be next to nothing. Fuck South Dakota. I needs the money so I can live the dream of never having to do anything I don't want to do ever. It's bullshit. Everyone knows I'd enjoy doing nothing more than just about anyone else on the planet, but no, I have to work and shit. Ridiculous.

I'm so mad I just might link …

-Watch as Kelli Curcio braces herself for a very nice grab:

Get it, brace herself.

-Byron Parker, who is in camp with the Eagles, used to play point guard at Tulane, and the guy won the NCAA dunk contest one year:

If he doesn't make the Eagles, the Sixers might as well take a look at him.

-I really, really like Big Daddy Drew's This Week in F—k You series:

Per a source with knowledge of Millen’s broadcasting career, we’re told that Millen is not happy about the fact that he didn’t get Kornheiser’s chair.

You really think you’re somehow more deserving of a chair in the MNF than Jon Gruden? Well, let me disclose a little statistic to you there, Matty. Know how many games Gruden won last year? Nine. Not a great number of wins. And they faded down the stretch to miss the playoffs. When you think about it, nine wins doesn’t seem all that great. Then again, THAT’S NINE MORE FUCKING WINS THAN YOUR FUCKING GODBORTION OF A FUCKING TEAM WON LAST YEAR. YOU FUCK.

-Never trust a man with slicked-back hair.

-Forgot to post it earlier, but yeah, Shannon Brown's dunk really was the play that sparked the Lakers:

-Carlos Zambrano kind of freaked out yesterday:

-Great quote from the struggling Brad Lidge:

"I was coming in to some circus music," Lidge said. "That's about right."

-Jeff Van Gundy mentioned it last night and yes, it's true, everything is bigger in Texas:

-Five coaches with the best chance to get Sprewell'ed, via HHR.

-His Airness was once considered the next Dr. J.:

-Say what you want about Bill Simmons, but as Leitch said, he's the best basketball writer alive. Today, he has an excellent article on the NBA and its flaws.

-Finally, if you know anything about me, you know I'm not really the sentimental type. I typically hate when children sing the National Anthem at sporting events because, as harsh as it sounds, they usually suck. Especially that blind kid who sings at Eagles games, no offense. But check out 7-year-old Gina Marie Incandela, who overcame a speech disorder, bring the house down singing before Magic games:

The reactions from Hedo and Foyle are priceless.

For your viewing pleasure (or displeasure depending on the outcomes) tonight, the Phils take on the Nats have an off day and play the Nats tomorrow, unfortunately at home, at 7:05 and the LeBrons try to stave off elimination beginning at 8:30, while the Magic look to secure its spot in the finals.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wow Me Wednesday Night

Last night, not a single team I wanted to win actually won, but the games were fun to watch, Phils game excluded. Seriously, why can't the Phillies win at home?

The Red Wings ousted the Blackhawks last night with a 2-1 win to set up a rematch with Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, beat the Nuggets 103-94 to take a 3-2 series lead.

What you need to know about these two games is that Cristobal Huet and Patrick Kane played awesome, but Darren Helm played the awesomest; Kobe ran the show beautifully for the Lakers as Lamar Odom rose from the dead to be the second best player on the floor; and finally, Mr. Big Shot was by far the single worst player on the floor last night. No joke, Chauncey Billups, for a guy who is supposed to be so poised and such a great player, sucked horribly. He made some terrible decisions, none worse than the back-to-back turnovers on horrendous passes right to the Lakers as he jumped in the air, and took some truly horrific shots.

Kudos to Mark Jackson for calling out the double standards set forth by the media after Chauncey took one of the most ill-advised shots I've ever seen from a "true point guard." Jackson said something to the effect of, "If that was Allen Iverson taking that shot, everyone would say how it was a terrible shot. Chauncey is a great player, but he'll take a lot of bad shots himself." Amen, brother. Get off Al's back already everyone.

That's really all I have to say about last night, so check out some of the awesome highlights from those two games.

An incredible shorthanded shift by Darren Helm, but the best shorthanded shift ever? I think Claude Giroux might have something to say about that.

Patrick Kane is filthy.

Ridiculous save by Huet.

The game-winner by Helm.


Birdman, meet Lamar.

Seriously, Helm's shift was sick, but Giroux's was absolutely better.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wait, Eric Milton is Still Alive?

Listen, I don't have much to say about this, but apparently former Philadelphia Phillie and State College-born Eric Milton is not only still alive, but he picked up his first win since 2006 last night.

In case you forgot, Milton went 14-6 with the Phillies in 2005 despite a 4.75 ERA. Anyway, yeah, he's still alive. Go figure.

BallHype: hype it up!

So About that Kobe-LeBron Finals

Things weren't supposed to be this way. Not by a long shot. The NBA was supposed to come down to two teams, two men really: LeBron vs. Kobe. After all, the Cavs and Lakers finished the regular season with the two best records in the NBA, rolled through the competition to their respective conferences' No. 1 seeds, and it was destined — this year's MVP matched up against last year's MVP for all the marbles.

Someone forgot to tell the Magic and Nuggets to go along with the script. After Orlando's 116-114 overtime victory last night, the LeBrons are on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 to a Magic team that needed six games to put away the 76ers. And the Lakers, who were supposed to have a cakewalk to the Finals, are deadlocked 2-2 with a Denver team that is quite honestly pushing L.A. around.

Now it looks like Superman vs. Melo just may replace Kobe-LeBron.

If you watched last night's game, and game 3, and the whole series thus far really, you'll notice one big thing: The Magic are playing brilliantly as a team, while the Cavs are simply relying on LeBron to carry them through. The Cleveland team that once looked so much like a singular unit, with LeBron the clear leader, all the sudden looks like a team full of scrubs begging its superstar to do it all. LeBron is suddenly all alone, and even he is no match for the Magic.

And who would have saw that coming after Orlando struggled with, quite frankly, a not-so-good Sixers team? Not me. But this isn't the same Magic team that couldn't hit an open three if their life depended on it in the first round. No, this is the Orlando squad that challenged the Cavs and Celtics much of the season, the Orlando team that is lethal from three. The stroke is back, and Cleveland has no answers. None.

Dwight Howard has been a beast. The questions of his intensity, of his desire should be fading rapidly. Dude has been killing anyone and everyone Cleveland has thrown at him. Ilgauskas? Too slow. Anderson Varejao? Too small. Ben Wallace? Joe Smith? No chance. Dwight is eating their lunch.

Try doubling him. Go ahead. Look what happens. The Magic, already up 2-1, go bonkers from three. Skip to My Lou goes 6-12, Rashard 2-4, Turk 2-5, and Pietrus 5-11, as the Magic drain an absurd 17 threes on 38 attempts. That's 44.7 percent in case your counting. Even the superhuman LeBron can't do anything about that, especially when that big fella inside goes off for 27, 14 and 3, along with 4 assists that helped his teammates get those threes.

I was just reading in Sports Illustrated how Doc Rivers said if the Magic are hitting their threes, they're almost unguardable. He's absolutely right. With Dwight Howard posing a problem for anyone inside, you almost have to double him, meaning you have to leave one of the excellent three-point shooters on Orlando open. Pick your poison: leave Rashard, Hedo, Rafer, Pietrus, Lee? No option is a good option.

Just look at the numbers. LeBron continued to just play otherworldly basketball, dropping 44 points, 12 boards, 7 assists, a steal and block, but he was virtually all alone. Delonte West had a decent game, scoring 17 points on 7-15 shooting and dishing out 7 assists with no turnovers, but the rest of the Cavs were awful. Yeah, Mo Williams did get 18 points, but he shot just 5-15 and has really been a complete no-show for Cleveland in this series. No one else did dick.

Meanwhile, Howard got help from all over the place. Rafer kept pace with the big guy, playing by far his best game of the postseason with 26 points and those 6 threes. Rashard chipped in with 17 of his own, including a dagger of a shot down the stretch, Hedo added 15 points to go along with 7 boards and 8 assists, and Mickael Pietrus was a beast in the 4th quarter, draining treys to keep Cleveland at bay. He finished with 17 points on 5 threes and 2 free throws.

It's abundantly clear that right now, Orlando is the better team. No one is playing better basketball than LeBron, but suddenly the rest of Cavaliers look lost. And with Denver looking more and more like the aggressor beyond Kobe, these series are starting to mirror each other. If the Nuggets can pull it out tonight, the scenario would look identical: Denver playing much, much better as a team as Kobe plays the best, just like the Magic, collectively, are beating the insane level LeBron is playing at.

Everyone wanted to see LeBron-Kobe. What we just may get is Orlando-Denver. And that isn't a bad things. Seriously.

I just wish Jameer was healthy so he could be out there for the ride.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Excuse Me While I Throw Up

If you head over to the sports page today, you'll see two columns about Brad Lidge and his struggles this season, and both of them say Lidge should not be removed from his closer role any time soon.

This is the type of thing that's really beginning to piss me off. I love Brad Lidge. I really do. He was perfect last season, a huge part in the Phils becoming World Fucking Champions, and I will be forever grateful for that. But professional sports are all about what have you done for me lately, and lately, Brad Lidge has been nothing short of the worst closer in baseball. Just look at the numbers: 21 games, 0 wins, 2 losses, 9.15 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .337 batting average against, 21 strikeouts against 12 walks in 19 and two-thirds innings, 29 hits, 20 runs, all 20 earned, 6 home runs surrendered and 4 blown saves in 12 attempts.

That's as awful as it gets, yet here we have John Smallwood and Phil Sheridan spinning the exact same PR bullshit that the Phils have been feeding us all season: that Brad Lidge's stuff is fine, he's doing some good things out there, blah, blah, blah.

Oh really? Those numbers, a 9.15 ERA, more runs and hits than innings pitches, blowing 33-plus percent of save opportunities and allowing the opposition to bat well over .300 are good things? Really? And having absolutely no command of the fastball gives hope? How exactly?

Smallwood tells us that the Phils have no other option. Yeah, because it sure looks like Ryan Madson can't get the job done.

Now, Sheridan does point out that maybe Madson would implode and not handle the closer role well. Valid point, but at this point, could he do a worse job than Lidge? That would be hard to do. Smalls also says any fix, like with Romero coming back, moving Madson to the closer role, would only be for the short term, not a long-term solution. Well, what exactly is wrong with that?

I understand Brad Lidge is making a lot of money, top-notch closer money. He is the guy for this team. But why not put him on the DL, get his knee right and his command back, just to see if it has an effect. Clearly, trotting him out there hasn't been working, and it's hurting this team. If now's not a good time to do it, when is? Are the Phils just supposed to keep putting Lidge out there if he continues to fail no matter what? That sounds like a fraudulent idea to me.

I get it, Charlie sticks with his guys, gives them the benefit of the doubt. But right now, Brad Lidge is the worst pitcher on the staff, one of the worst in baseball. He needs to clear his head, get his command and regain his form. But he can't do it at the detriment of the team. Sit him down for a couple weeks, let him go on a couple rehab assignments, get out some minor-leaguers, and if he regains his form, put him back in the role he shined so bright in last season.

But don't just keep putting him out there for the sake of his psyche or because he makes big bucks. We all saw what happened to Lidge in Houston. If that's the Lidge we're stuck with, the Phils can't afford to continue to let him close. The media and the Phils may be putting the PR spin out there, but as Rasheed Wallace once said, "Ball Don't Lie." You are what you are, and right now, Brad LIdge is a closer with 0 wins, 2 losses, 9.15 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .337 batting average against, 21 strikeouts against 12 walks in 19 and two-thirds innings, 29 hits, 20 runs, all 20 earned, 6 home runs surrendered and 4 blown saves in 12 attempts.

Ball don't lie.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Bronx Tale

So Sonny has a great test for determining whether or not a girl is a selfish broad, but can he help me out with how to handle a once-perfect closer who helped deliver the lone world championship I've be able to witness in my life but all the sudden can't get anyone out ever? Didn't think so. Thanks for nothing, Sonny.

In case you were wondering, yes, I did head up to the new Yankee Stadium on Saturday with silver fox, Paul "lil Jon" Runyan and another friend of ours, along with lil Jon's sister and brother-in-law-to-be for what was supposed to be a glorious time. After all, things got off on the right foot when I headed back to Bucks County Friday night to meet up with everyone and Brett Myers shut down the Yanks to give the Phils the win in the season opener. And then, when silver fox and I entered the bar to meet up with lil Jon, literally minutes later I watched LeBron do this:

Great start. And things went pretty smoothly as we drove out to New Brunswick, caught the train to NYC and made the trip to Yankee Stadium. And the subway ride from Penn Station to the stadium was pretty epic.

On our way up there, our quartet stopped to get two of those small Heineken kegs with the intention of drinking them on the train. Well, time was tight, so we decided to wait until we got into NYC and were headed on the subway. One problem: we had no ice or cups. No worries. In Penn Station, we purchased four large cups from Planet Smoothie filled with ice, found the train and broke out the keg. Here we were, four Phillies fans decked out in Phillies gear tapping a mini keg on the subway. Everyone loved it.

Adding to the fun atmosphere was a group of four young black men who entered the subway car we were on with a boom box in toe. Then, these four guys cleared a little space, turned on the music and put forth a tremendous break dancing show right on the train. It was pretty fucking awesome, especially while watching it with a Heineken in hand. After their performance, the leader of the group told everyone they were accepting dollar bills and ... Heinekens. Fantastic.

Things only seemed to get better as we got off at Yankee Stadium. With one mini keg done, we went to find the tailgating section. As we looked around, we broke out the second keg in plain view of everyone, with Yanks fans marveling at our bravado. Apparently, tailgating before Yankees games isn't a big thing. We eventually walked around, and the only people we found tailgating were fellow Phillies fans in a parking garage. Pretty weak display from the Yanks fans if you ask me.

Well, we finally made it inside and prepared for the game. I was all sorts of excited to see how the new stadium stacked up against the old one. Really, the field itself looks exactly the same, which is kind of cool, and the stadium is nice and all, but it's nothing special. Just another new ballpark.

Don't get me wrong, it's nice. But it didn't blow me away. What did, however, was the amount of Phillies fans there. There were a ton, just like on Friday, and that made the atmosphere even better. And things just kept coming up us, as Raul Ibanez hit another bomb to give the Phils the lead, and J.A. Happ went out dealing, just reinforcing the fact he should have been starting all along.

During the game, I struck up quite a back and forth with a very loud Yankees fan two rows behind me. He and I were going at each other, but in a friendly way, and I have to say, he was the absolute coolest opposing fan I've ever dealt with. He earned my respect very quickly, especially when he started yelling, "FUCK YOU, PETTITTE! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR US SINCE 2001?" The guy was hilarious.

Things were a little tame when the Yanks tied it up, but when John Mayberry came up with two on in the 5th, I told silver fox he was going to hit a bomb. When he did, I went nuts, freaked out, yelled at the Yanks fan about how that was his first hit, split my lip celebrating somehow and just was having a ball. A 4-1 lead with the way Happ was pitching was a great thing. The day was going perfectly along.

When Jeter tied it up at 1-1, I still wasn't worried. Like I said, Happ was dealing, the weather was beautiful, and I was talking some trash to the Yanks fans around us.

Then, with just 70-some pitches thrown, Charlie inexcusably lifted Happ after 6. Yes, Durbin and Madson were unreal, completely owning the Yanks in the 7th and 8th, but I really think Happ should have been sent out there for the 7th. Yes, I know it was his first start of the year and maybe he wasn't quite ready to pitch too many innings, but he was dealing. He deserved the shot.

Either way, Durbin did a phenomenal job, and Madson was his usual dominant self. I was having a ball. And, sitting in the leftfield bleachers way up there, we looked in the top of the ninth to see if anyone was throwing the Phils bullpen. Given the struggles of Brad Lidge this year, we were hoping Charlie would just leave Madson, who had just struck out the side, in. We couldn't see anyone getting warmed up, so we were pumped. But then, at the last minute, we saw Lidge tossing, and all of us felt squeamish.

A leadoff walk, followed by a two-run homer by Gay-Rod later and our day was ruined. Another blown save. Cano followed with a single, stole second and as the Yankee Stadium board flashed the stat that Melky Cabrera has the most walk-off hits since 2000-something with four, I said, "Well, here comes number 5." Sure enough, Melky drove home Cano to end the game, and I was beyond pissed.

How did this happen? How can Brad Lidge go from being nearly unhittable, perfect last season, a World Series champion, to being the worst pitcher in baseball overnight? And how can he completely melt down for the second time in his career? I'm not mad at Brad Lidge. I can't be. His performance last year won't let me. But right now, Brad Lidge sucks. Horribly. There has honestly been no pitcher I've seen worse than him. He's been pathetic. Right now, I have as good a chance of getting major league hitters out as Lidge does. That's just sad.

After blowing the save yet again yesterday, it's officially time. Brad Lidge should not be closing for the Phillies anymore. At least not any time soon. Not until he gets his command back and his mind clear. Ryan Madson has been an unhittable machine this year. He's primed for the closer spot. And with Romero coming back soon, it would be perfect, with J.C. as the setup guy and Madson the closer. All I know is Lidge needs to be pulled as closer right now. He's just dreadful. And he ruined my day on Saturday.

Luckily, the four of us wandered around NYC the rest of the night, drinking the night away. And we got into a nice verbal tussle with some Mets fans, making it all the better. And we may or may not have ended up in a strip club, then wandering Brooklyn trying to find my sister's house.

I do know we got drunk, had a reasonably good time and that Brad Lidge sucks. Oh, and New York is way to fucking big. Great place to visit, but damn, I don't think I could live there. However, I'll be back in a few short weeks with silver fox for Blogs with Balls, and I'm sure the stories will be flowing.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Floyd Mayweather is Taking Crazy Pills

Yesterday, at about 6:45 p.m., I walked downstairs and Adam EatShit asked me if I had just watched the interview between Brian Kenny and Floyd Mayweather. I told him I hadn't, so he rewinded the DVR and I watched, mesmerized. I missed the second part, but here's the whole damn thing:


BallHype: hype it up!

Hey LeBron, What Would Kobe Do?

Wow, talk about making up for a pretty bland playoffs, Bulls-Celtics excluded. Game 1 of the Lakers-Nuggets was an excellent game, and last night, wow. Just wow. I mean, watch this:

Normally, when I'm watching a great game, I don't interact with anyone that is not actually watching the game with me. I get so into the game that I block everything else out. But last night, seeing as I was home alone most of the game, I had to talk to someone, anyone after LeBron went on his ridiculous dunk, block, three rampage, at which point I (incorrectly) thought the game was over.

So I sent Joltin' Joe a message, and a game-long conversation ensued:

Rev: Lebron is not human

Joe: Just got back from softball what did he do?

Rev: Sick dunk. Sick block. Hit a 3. Team up 13 and has like 4-5 dimes

Joe: Yeah watching now he's the man...really stoked for lebron and kobe in the finals

Rev: Ridiculous. And wow. Mo

Joe: Haha i know that was great

Joe: Great game man

Rev: Fo real

Joe: Man he may be overpaid but Rashard freaking show up when it counts

Rev: When he wants almost unguardable. Ask thad

Joe: Ugh yeah lebron's got to take that

Rev: Absolutely. And delonte gotta make that but yeah, kobe aint passin there. At worst get a foul call

That was an incredibly awesome game. Which I didn't expect after that flurry by LeBron. He's just un-freakin-believable. Seriously. He comes out and begins by setting up his teammates. Then he completely and utterly goes off ... on both ends of the floor. Insane.

And man, he was in the zone: 49 points on 20-30 from the field, 6 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. That's a monster of a game for sure.

But LeBron wasn't the only one dominating. Not only did Dwight bring down the shot clock, he brought down the Cavs with his complete annihilation inside: 30 points on 14-20 from the field, 13 boards and a huge reason why Rashard Lewis and Hedo were able to get some really, really open looks (Rafer too).

The thing about that game was, after Mo Williams hit that ridiculous shot to end the first half, I thought it was over. The Cavs had this in the bag. LeBron was going off, Cleveland was up 63-48 and the rest of the Cavs were chipping in.

Then it all changed. No one could hit a shot besides LeBron, and the Cavs had the familiar look of those Allen Iverson Sixer teams that used to just stand around and watch Allen do his thing. It's almost as if Cleveland was like, OK, we're up, let's just let LeBron do his thing. As a result, the Magic were able to chip away, since no one other than LeBron could knock down a shot.

And when it was all said and done, it was Dwight's teammate, Rashard Lewis (who had a great game: 22 points on 9-13 shooting, 7 boards, 3 assists) who was able to hit the dagger. Delonte West, who started hot, then went cold, then hit a big three, couldn't hit that final one, and the Magic came out with the 107-106 win.

Here's the thing. Under absolutely no circumstance should LeBron have passed that ball. Not in a million years. Was Delonte open? Yes. But 100 times out of 100 LeBron should be taking that shot. He was already at the rim, and really, at worst, he'd get a foul call you'd think. Not that that would really mean anything, seeing as LeBron went 6-10 from the line. Hit those freebies and you got a win there, LeBron.

I know, it's kind of absurd to call out a guy after scoring 49 points and playing just out of his mind, but honestly, he has to, has to take that final shot. You think Kobe would have passed there? No chance in hell.

It's nice to be an unselfish teammate, but sometimes you gotta just do it yourself, especially if you want to hoist that trophy.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's Business Time

I really wanted to talk about the Lakers-Nuggets game, Red Wings-Blackhawks and Phillies-Reds game, but I've had a full plate at work today. I guess you can say it's business time.

But hey, I have a few moments now, so here goes.

For all the people who bash and badmouth Chris Osgood, last night was just another case of the guy giving a resounded, "Fuck off!" to all the writers, pundits and fans that belittle his play. Osgood made 37 saves last night in Detroit's 3-2 overtime win, stopping 18 of those in the first period.

If Osgood hadn't played tremendously in that opening period, the Red Wings would not have won last night. No question about it. Chris Osgood won them that game. And for those out there who question his ability, as I have on occasion, the guy has now won 3 Stanley Cups, one as a backup and two as the main man in net. His first came as the backup to Mike Vernon in the 1996-97 season, where he only played two games in the postseason but was an integral part of the team, playing in 47 games in the regular season, posting a 2.30 goals against average, stopping 91 percent of the shots he faced, notching six shutouts and winning 23 games.

A year later, it was Osgood's team, and the 24-year-old played in 64 games, posted a 2.21 gaa, .913 save percentage, six shutouts and notched 33 wins in the regular season. Then he hoisted the Cup while manning the net as the Red Wings' No. 1 netminder. Then last year, when the Red Wings won yet another Cup, it was Osgood who led them there. At 35, he split time in the regular season with 43-year-old Dominik Hasek until Hasek got hurt, and in 43 regular season games, Osgood posted a 2.09 gaa, .914 save percentage, 27 wis and 4 shutouts. He was even more incredible in the playoffs, putting up a ridiculous 1.55 gaa, .930 save percentage and 3 shutouts.

And so far this year, Chris Osgood has been stellar for Detroit, who now is just two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals again. Enough is enough. Chris Osgood is an excellent goaltender. What more does he have to do to shut everyone up?

Brad Lidge, on the other hand, has looked anything but good since falling on his knees in October.

Last night, yes, he got the save, but again, he looked really, really shaky doing it. Now, Lidge proved last year he can be a dominant closer when right, but he also has proven in Houston that he can lose that dominance for no apparent reason. There wasn't even Pujols moment to set things off this time. An injury, yes, but if he's hurt, he should just go get healthy, not fuck with his already fragile psyche.

And Cole, it would be nice to not give up home runs immediately after your team gets you some runs. Just saying.

Yesterday, Shoals discussed how the NBA hype machine isn't really going about the Nuggets-Lakers series as Carmelo vs. Bryant, which is both odd and not odd at all, all at the same time. Only Shoals can make this make sense, and he does.

Well, last night, no matter how you want to slice it, it was Kobe vs. Carmelo. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. Kobe 40, Carmelo 39; Lakers 105, Nuggets 103.

It was Melo doing the damn thing early, getting Denver out to a nice lead, and then Kobe doing his thing late, willing the Lakers to victory with 18 points in the final quarter, including 9-for-9 from the line. Melo is definitely clutch, but he hasn't become a playoff closer as of yet. Kobe showed him how it's done last night.

If you missed this game, I feel sorry for you. It was awesome. Just a great basketball game with two very, very good teams. Chauncey, who failed to show up most of the game, did what he's been known to do by hitting two insanely difficult threes in the closing moments to leave the outcome in doubt until — after J.R. Smith made the first free throw down 3 to cut it 2, missed the second on purpose to give the Nuggets a chance at a tip in or putback shot to tie it — Kobe snatched the game-seeling rebound.

Everyone questioned the Lakers after struggling against an undermanned Houston team. Something tells me Kobe won't let his opportunity to take on the King on the grandest stage slip through his fingers, even if he has to do it all by himself, although last night, he did get a nice helping hand from Derek Fisher, who hit a huge go-ahead three late in the game.

BallHype: hype it up!

Who Let Mike Vick Out?

I love dogs. I really do. I'm not even lying when I say I love dogs more than people for the most part. Dogs don't annoy the shit out me. I'm always happy when I'm around a dog, and if I could, I'd just hang out with dogs every day.

Seriously, Arkansas Fred — the only person who may love dogs more than me, maybe — and I have talked about running a doggy daycare of sorts. Imagine just chillin with dogs all day. Sure as hell beats sitting in on office for 8 hours.

What I'm trying to say is, I couldn't even imagine brutally killing a dog or breeding dogs just to have them rip each other apart. Not my style. But having said that, I agree with every last word in spence's post today. Michael Vick, who was released from prison today, deserves a second chance, no matter what that chance might be. Everyone does. Just listen to spence's words:

I cannot stand this kind of shit. Who the fuck are you to say that someone doesn’t deserve another shot to redeem themselves and salvage their career? Yes, what Vick did was fucking terrible and, as a human, it thoroughly disgusts me, and I don’t think he’ll be soon forgiven, but he’s still entitled to earning a living doing whatever he wants to for whomever chooses to employ him.

And you know what? God forbid you or any of your family members ever fuck up anything in their lives either, because if that’s the case, I wish them nothing but the worst of luck getting their life back on track because if Mike Vick doesn’t deserve a second chance, neither does anyone you care about.

The thing is, people in life make mistakes. Terrible, horrible mistakes. I have. My friends have. Everyone has. And you have to pay the price, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to live your life. Michael Vick did his time, nearly a year and half in prison, and if you think that's not a real punishment, go ahead and try spending five days in your local county prison. See how long you think you could last. My guess is not very long.

It's so easy for people to sit around and judge others for the mistakes they've made. It's not so easy to imagine yourself in others' shoes. Or maybe it is, but it's not as convenient. Or as glamorous. I can sit here and tell you Michael Vick is a terrible human being who should be forced to live the rest of his life wandering the earth, but that's not for me to decide. People can change. People can learn. People can grow. Maybe Michael Vick won't. Maybe he will. Without a chance, no one will ever know. And wouldn't that be a shame?

The point of the prison system is not only to punish criminals, but to help rehabilitate them. That's an ideal that's been lost in the shuffle. When someone gets out of prison, they have a stigma associated with them the rest of their life. Just because Vick is out doesn't mean he's done doing time. His crimes, his transgressions will follow him the rest of his life. It's up to him to try and not let those define him. Who am I, or you, or anyone else to tell him he doesn't deserve the right to do that, to try to get his life back, to rehabilitate himself, his career, his image?

People love to cast stones from their glass houses instead of just enjoying the sunlight. Well, one day it's going to hail, even on your house. Hope that glass is bulletproof.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Work Stinks, Let's Link

No time for words. Onto the links …

-In case you were wondering, Usain Bolt is still faster than a speeding bullet:

-John Wall is is headed to Kentucky.

If Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks come back, John Calipari will steer Kentucky to the SEC title. You heard it here first. Hell, even if they don't come back, Kentucky still might win the SEC.

-Ladies, take notice, Ryan Church likes to skip third base and head straight for home.

-James Harrison will not accept free samples if they're free to everyone.

-I get really, really happy when RomanWarHelmet has to write nice things about the Phillies:

The Beltran: This one hurts me. I had this all fired up to go to David Wright. He has been tremendous. Here is his line .565/.643/.739 1.382OPS 0HR 9RBI and 5SB. He should win it. But I am going with some one else. Raul Ibanez. He has been great all season in Philly. The one constant and a huge reason they have been winning everyday.

Team of the Week: Your 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies! A 5-2 week. A 4 game sweep in 3 days of the Marlins and a win over LA. Ibanez was tremendous. Hamels looked back to form with 7IP and 1ER with 7 scattered hits. But they did beat on the Nats. So take it with a grain of salt.

-Ho-hum, LeBron made another ridiculous trick shot:

-I have absolutely no idea why, but the Phillies signed Paul Bako. Yeah, seems pointless to me too.

-Major League Baseball is moving up the start time of World Series games. Finally.

-Meet your 2009 Penn State Nittany Lion football capatins: Sean Lee and Daryll Clark.

Much like BSD, I agree 100 percent with these choices, but just like BSD, I wonder if Jerome Hayes was considered. He should have been and should be a captain as well, because Jerome Hayes is the boss.

-I saw this on Saturday at the bar, and it was great:

-Dear Gary Bettman:

Your accomplishments are legendary - (i) massive league expansion in the southern U.S., where hockey is about as appealing as a rectal scoping (genius!), (ii) moving the NHL from NBC to the highly-esteemed Versus Network (brilliant!), (iii) the introduction of the glowing puck (really?), (iv) four bankruptcies, with a fifth on the way (ok, no one is perfect…), (v) three franchise moves (umm…), (vi) two lockouts (are you even trying?!?!).

-Five NBA draft questions to ponder, but the best part isn't even a question:

(Actually, my favorite story from Williams is when he was the general manager in Philadelphia and drafted Darryl Dawkins in 1976. He called Dawkins and was surprised to hear him answer the phone thusly: “This is Dawk and I’m ready to talk.” Williams said one of his great regrets is that he did not reply, “This is Pat and I’m ready to chat.”)

And yes, the NBA draft lottery is tonight.

-Thirty-five years ago today, the Flyers beat the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup, as Kate Smith sang "God Bless America" beforehand:

-Your National League Player of the Week: Raul Ibanez.

Tonight we get game 2 of the Red Wings-Blackhawks series at 7:30 and game 1 of the Lakers-Nuggets at 9. Enjoy.

And of course, get well soon Jim Johnson.

BallHype: hype it up!