Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Michigan Wolverines aren't afraid of a "Justin Bieber" chant, and they absolutely crushed college basketball this week

Last season Michigan made it all the way to the national title game, led by All-American point guard Trey Burke (who beat top seeded Kansas with this ridiculous three pointer along the way).  Despite losing Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA, the Wolverines still began this year ranked in the top 10.  Shortly after the season started potential lottery pick Mitch McGary elected to have year ending back surgery, and ten games in Michigan was just 6-4 and out of the polls.

Fast forward to today: The Wolverines are now 15-4, winners of 9 straight (the last 7 of which have all been Big Ten matchups), and sit alone atop their conference standings at 7-0.  In the last eight days Michigan has won at #3 Wisconsin (which moved the Wolverines back into the rankings at #21 in the AP poll), knocked off #10 Iowa at home, and beaten the new #3 Michigan State on the road.

Defeating two different third ranked teams in consecutive away games is borderline impossible, and when you throw in the Iowa victory Michigan is the first team in 27 years to win three straight games all against top 10 opponents (oddly enough it was Iowa who last did it, in 1987).

So where did the above title come from?  With the Wolverines' Spike Albrecht (pictured, #2) on the free throw line Saturday night, the Spartan crowd looked to distract him by pointing out his somewhat Bieber-like appearance (and they go nuts when he misses):

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm not of fan of the "saving your parking spot when it snows" phenomenon

There's a "rule" in South Boston that when it snows you're allowed to save your parking spot on the street if you shovel it out.  I have three basic issues with this:

1. More often than not people don't actually clear the spots of snow, they just get rid of what's necessary to be able to move their car.  Why should that entitle you to unlimited access the the place you happened to park before the snow fell?  You were going to have to shovel enough to get your car out anyway, it's not like you're doing some sort of public service.

2. The neighborhood looks like garbage.  I've seen people save their spots with plastic buckets, old furniture, broken appliances, cardboard boxes, trash barrels, and once just a random single shoe.  The streets are full of crap like it's some sort of shantytown.

3. People take advantage of the system and cling to the rights to their spot for way too long, often when the snow is no longer even remotely a factor.  Case in point, this photo:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Good luck to the Yankees with overpriced unproven Japanese pitcher version 3.0

I wonder how good Tanaka's "gyroball" is?
With football season now officially over around here, it's a good time to start talking about baseball.  On Wednesday the Yankees spent $175 million on a Japanese pitcher who's never faced a single MLB batter.  They paid $20 mil to his old team, and another 155 on a seven-year contract.  At roughly $22 million per season, Masahiro Tanaka will now be one of the 7 highest paid pitchers in baseball, and among the top 13 most expensive players overall.  New York is even giving him more money than Jacoby Ellsbury (7 years, $153 mil), but I'll get back to that later.

The obvious comparison to Tanaka is the 2006 Japanese wunderkind Daisuke Matsuzaka, for whom the Red Sox paid $51 million for his rights, then another $52 mil for a six-year deal.  Matsuzaka's final numbers in Boston: 50-37, a 4.52 ERA, and a 1.42 WHIP.  Extremely mediocre seems to be the best way to describe his performance.  Clearly the Yankees weren't scared off by this, but you might think they might be a little more wary of their own history.

Once upon a time there was another Japanese phenom by the name of Hideki Irabu.  In 1997 the Padres bought Irabu's rights from his team in Japan, but Irabu only wanted to play for New York.  The Yankees obliged, trading for him and inking a four-year $12.8 million dollar deal.  Irabu lasted just two and a half seasons in New York, while posting a 29-20 record, 4.80 ERA, and 1.36 WHIP.  By the end of 2002 he was gone from MLB altogether.  I'm not exactly sure how to respectfully tie this in, but I think it has to be mentioned that Irabu killed himself in 2011.

As ridiculous as this Tanaka deal seems, at least the Yankees are doing something.  I was in favor of the Red Sox re-signing Jacoby Ellsbury at all costs.  While New York was spending nearly half a billion this winter (they also brought in catcher Brain McCann for 5 years, $85 million, and outfielder Carlos Beltran for 3 years, $45 mil), on the same day the Yankees added Tanaka Boston signed Grady Sizemore for one year, $750,000.  If this was 6 or 7 years ago Sizemore would be a worthy replacement for Ellsbury, but if he manages to suit up for the Red Sox in 2014 it'll be Sizemore's first MLB appearance since 2011.

If you have another 5 minutes to spare I highly recommend reading this Yahoo article in which I discuss my concerns about the defending World Series champions' lack of offseason activity.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Celtics Tankometer: Welcome to Boston Chris Johnson & Vander Blue

The 14-29 Celtics have now dropped 12 of their last 13 games.  They are 0-3 since Rajon Rondo's return, despite holding a lead with less than three minutes to go on each occasion.  Against the Lakers on Friday Boston was ahead 104-96 with 3:12 left before allowing LA to finish the game on an 11-0 run.  Last night in Miami the C's led 86-84 with 3:08 remaining when the Heat closed things out with a 9-0 run.  Those are two eerily similar uninspiring finishes.

Rondo is clearly rusty, shooting just 7-27 (25.9%) in that span.  His backup, Phil Pressey, has been playing well, but he can't shoot either (23.5% on the season).  To make matters worse Boston's two other backcourt regulars, Avery Bradley (sprained ankle) and Jerryd Bayless (sprained toe), are both out with injuries.  The Celtics have filled their spots by adding a pair of D-League players, first Chris Johnson (not the Chris Johnson who had a cup of coffee here in 2011), and now a guy by the name of Vander Blue.

Considering all of this, how has the Tankometer dropped just six points from 49% to 43%?  For starters, Johnson was actually one of Boston's best players last night, making some big shots as well as getting a huge steal and offensive rebound late in the game; he's the reason they had a lead late in the 4th quarter in Miami.  Secondly, the Celtics had a late lead in the 4th quarter in Miami.  Boston is still competitive, and despite being unable to close out opponents they do appear to be trying to win, a key component of the Tankometer.  Plus, Rajon Rondo is playing.  The team could have easily held him out longer if they wanted to.

4:23 PM UPDATE: It was just announced Rondo will be rested tonight as a precaution for back to back games after his return from ACL surgery.  That would probably have knocked the meter down another point or two...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The demolition of the Metrodome ruins one of Kevin Costner's post-apocalyptic futures

I bet that's a title you didn't expect to read today.  The Metrodome in Minneapolis Minnesota was deflated for the last time this past Saturday, and is currently in the process of being demolished.  The longtime home of the Vikings (and previously the Twins, as well as the Timberwolves in their inaugural season) will give way to a new stadium being built in the same location.  This blog isn't about Minnesota sports memories though, but rather mid 1990's Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic future movies.

In 1997's The Postman, Costner plays a guy fighting for the people against the tyranny of an evil clan in a time not too far off in which the world is starting over from scratch.  I always though it was sort of weird he made this film, because just two years earlier in 1995 Costner did Waterworld, in which he also plays a guy fighting for the people against the tyranny of an evil clan in a time not too far off in which the world is starting over from scratch.

So what does this have to do with the Metrodome?  In The Postman Costner's character claims he works for a re-established U.S. government led by "President Richard Starkey."  He also says:

"The new capital is based in Minneapolis. Inside the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome. You know, where the Vikings used to play?"

Well, I guess that's out.  The world being totally covered with water might be kind of cool though...

Monday, January 20, 2014

UMass basketball is ranked #12 in the country. I wish they were that good, but they're not

Derrick Gordon made the game-winning layup at GMU, 88-87.
When the UMass Minutemen first cracked the Top 25 in late November, I had a feeling they might be there for a while.  After knocking off then #19 New Mexico back on Nov. 22nd, they haven't played a ranked team since.  With Temple, Xavier, and Butler (yes, Butler was actually in their conference for a year, weird I know) now gone the Atlantic 10 isn't what it used to be.  As of right now UMass will only play one more Top 25 team this year, when they host current #19 Saint Louis in the regular season finale on March 8th.  

The thing about college basketball polls is that if you don't lose you tend to keep moving up, regardless of the quality of the wins or strength of schedule.  In three of the Minutemen's last four victories they trailed St. Joe's at home by 9 with under six minutes left, St. Bonaventure by 4 with less than two minutes remaining (as well as by 13 with nine minutes to go, also at home), and at George Mason by 5 with just :40 seconds left on the clock.  Most recently UMass led throughout the game in a 10 point victory over Elon, but if you can tell me where Elon is located or what name they go by I'll be very impressed (the answer to one of those two questions is Phoenix, but I'll leave it up to you to figure out which it is).  The 16-1 Minutemen have ridden their string of comeback victories all the way to #12 in the USA Today Coaches Poll (#13 AP), but should a bunch of close wins over mediocre (at best) competition really have them climbing that high in the rankings?

Kentucky (who's entire starting five is projected to be drafted by the NBA) dropped a two-point game in OT at Arkansas last week, and because of that fell to #14.  As much as I want it to be true, it's a bit of a pipe dream to believe UMass is actually better than Kentucky (or Duke, Ohio State, Michigan, and probably several other squads currently ranked lower).

The Minutemen visit my alma-mater Richmond Spiders (12-6, 2-1 A-10, another solid but unspectacular team) on Wednesday, and I wouldn't be surprised to see UMass stumble.  They've been living on the edge for far too long.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

AFC Championship Game inspired Awesome Old Song of the Week: "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles

The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have met three times previously in NFL post-season history:  Most recently was in the divisional round two years ago, January 14, 2012, when the Pats demolished a Tim Tebow led Broncos team 45-10 in Foxboro.  In 2006 a Jake Plummer quarterbacked squad eliminated New England 27-13 in Denver, also on Jan. 14.  And all the way back on January 4th, 1987 (the year after the Patriots first Super Bowl appearance) John Elway and company beat Tony Eason's Pats 22-17.

On that day 27 years ago the #1 song on Billboard's Top 40 was The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian."  If only New England was playing Cincinnati instead...

Originally called "The Bangs," the band added the "le" due to a copyright issue, creating a name that's pronounced the same as the tiger of a different spelling (Bengal).

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