Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals Preview!

"KD, has anyone told you that you have bad posture?"  "Not after I drop 40 on them, your majesty."

It's the finals at last and you couldn't ask for a better matchup. The Thunder and the Heat, no plural nouns allowed! It's a dream matchup for any NBA fan with a lisp. More importantly, it's showdown time: Kevin Durant vs. Lebron James; Dwayne Wade vs. Russell Westbrook; Shane Battier vs. Thabo Sefalosha...okay that last one isn't as appetizing, it's just fun to say "Thabo Sefolosha" out loud. Those first four names put us as close to an NBA Jams video game finals as we'll ever get. Lebron and Durant are the two best players in the known universe while Westbrook and Wade are easily in the top 10, though Wade is slipping downward as Westbrook trends upward. I'll thank everyone else to kindly step the hell off the floor and let these four superstars go at it... wait, that's not allowed? Alright, well  lets then take a look at seven factors that will determine this series: Why seven? Because this series is going seven, guaranteed. 

1) Length: You've heard it said before with Oklahoma City, they have extremely long arms. All the better to swat you with. It's like a team with 5 Kevin McHales on it. The Heat barely defeated the Celtics and their T-Rex arms and now they have to deal with a flock of condors. It's going to be an adjustment. Even their coach Scotty Brooks, who is only 5-ft '7 in lifts, has got a wingspan of 8 feet. It's FACT. It also helps him clothesline refs after bad calls.

"Guys, this hand signal means Lebron is now the coach!"
2) Which Wade will show up? People can't forget that Wade is now on the wrong side of 30 and has battled injuries for a long time, because we're told that repeatedly by his apologists like Jeff Van Gundy. At some point, he just needs to play better, and it's not the fault of his overmatched coach that he clearly hates. Wade shot only 40 pct. in the last 5 games against Boston and only 27 pct. from 3-pt range. More of the same will lead to a parade in Oklahoma City in about 10 days.

3) Will Westbrook to defer to KD when needed? Up until recently, the answer to that question has been a resounding no. Westbrook always goes shot crazy in the 4th quarter of close games. He's a tremendous talent, but Durant is still more efficient and a better pure shooter. If Westbrook goes into full YMCA chucker-mode in this series, it could spell big trubs in little OKC.

4) The Chalmers Theorem: When Mario Chalmers scores, the Heat win. The problem is the Heat often ignore him like a drunk uncle on Thanksgiving. He's their best 3-point shooter, and finishes nicely at the rim, but also defers to his teammates. If he shoots less 3s than Bosh and Wade in this series, it will be over in 5.

5) Fear the Beard: James Harden is easily the 5th best player in this series (sorry Bosh, take another fade away 22-footer, and ice your little boo boos, you wuss), and he'll have to be accounted for. If Battier guards Durant, Lebron may end up on Harden some of the time, as well as on Westbrook. Basically, Lebron will cover everyone at some point, because he's ridiculous. If Harden gets into the lane, Miami doesn't have great shot blockers to stop him. Harden also trained at the Ginobili Academy of Flop in Buenos Aires, and knows how to get to the line. Miami would be wise to force him right, but no one's bothered to do that to Ginobili for 10 years, so I doubt that kind of in-depth strategery takes hold yet from a Spoelstra-coached team.
Even James Harden can't believe no one knows he's going left yet.

6) Can Serge Ibaka stay out of foul trouble? When all else fails for the Heat, James and Wade throw themselves at the rim with reckless abandon. Ibaka is the Thunder's last line of defense and is a fantastic help defender. His timing will have to remain excellent, as it was in the Conference finals. It wouldn't hurt if he goes 11 for 11 again either.

7) Will the refs let them play? In the post-Donaghy era, the refs must be discussed. Most assuredly they will blow some calls, but let's hope they aren't game changing, like this one in '06. This means, please NBA, don't let Joey Crawford or Dick Bavetta call any of these games. And to all the players, it's enough with the flopping already. It's not the World Cup, suck it up and play and let the best team win. Thank you.

Prediction: The Thunder just beat an outstanding Spurs team, while the Heat struggled to overcome a Celtics team that was so old (how old were they?), Larry King calls them his contemporaries. Thunder in 7.

Enjoy the series!

Monday, June 11, 2012

World Series Game 6, 1986 ... in Kenya

This is pretty cool, a group of Kenyan students re-enact the 10th inning of game 6 of the '86 World Series. Why did they do it? Why not? They do a great job too, getting the little details down perfectly, such as when the kid portraying Ray Knight raises his hands to his head as he crosses home plate. After a tough weekend sweep at the hands of the Evil Empire, Mets fans could use a little sunshine as they endure what is sure to be a week of mocking from their Yankee fan friends. Hat tip to AmazinAvenue.com for finding this.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Obscure Baseball Player of the Week: Beauty McGowan

"Evenin' ladies. Beauty's the name, baseball's my game."

In this week's edition of Obscure Baseball Players that time has forgot, we travel back to the roaring 1920s and check in on the curiously named Beauty McGowan. McGowan played outfield for the Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Browns and Boston Beaneaters. He didn't play all that well, but by golly, he looked fantastic.

Look at that photo, there can be no doubt, he was a handsome lad. Admit it ladies, you want him, but you know you can't tame him. Beneath the azure eyes, angelic smile and cherubic cheeks lay inner demons. And those teeth, well, they were a dentist's dream.

Born in Branford, Connecticut in 1901, McGowan was a bit of a foppish gent. He went to the finest finishing schools and was the first male in his town to have his own cotillion on his 15th birthday. He insisted. It's widely acknowledged that he was probably the first metrosexual to play professional baseball. Indeed, during his rookie year with Philadelphia he was often seen getting pre-game mani-pedis, and shopping at the local apothecary for the latest skin lotions and colognes. And he was always forcing the latest Al Jolson records onto his teammates and demanding they listen to it. Anyone who didn't like his music and clothes was "full 'o applesauce" and "all wet," according to him.

McGowan somehow batted .363 in 1928 with this swing.
Beauty's career took place in three odd intervals. He played two years for Philly in '22 and '23 batting an unimpressive .242. Then, he didn't play again until '28 and '29 for St. Louis. In '28 he played out of his mind. He got called up in July and batted .363 with a .524 slugging pct. Even in a hitter's era this was a fine and unexpected season, although he only got 167 at bats. No doubt his coach, Dan Howley, wasn't believing what he was seeing from a guy who had always been a scrub.

The following season he came back to earth, batting .254. He did lead the league in fielding pct. though. For that effort, he was promptly cut by the Browns when their GM famously said, "Beauty, I'm gonna give ya the straight dope... if you could hit half as good as you look, we might have something."

Unfortunately, 1929 wasn't the best year to lose your job, and who knows what he went on to do. Most likely, he rode the rails as a hobo and boxed part time under the name "Boxcar Beauty". Or maybe he ventured down to Atlantic City and worked as a bootlegger for Nucky Thompson. All these scenarios are in play. What is known is that he won International League Player of the Year in '36 for the Buffalo Bisons. Thanks to that, in 1937 he was given another chance by Boston. In 13 at bats, he managed 1 hit for an .083 avg. And that was it. A strange end to a strange career. He died in 1982 in Connecticut and witnesses said he looked fabulous. 

Notice how Beauty keeps his eyes on the camera while making the catch.

It takes a lot of confidence to stroll around with the name "Beauty", and McGowan had it in spades. Look at that photo to the left. He makes a catch while mugging for the camera. He knew where his bread was buttered. And for for that, Dave's Deep Dish salutes him.