Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the basketball free agency...

First of all, I have to say that I find basketball the most interesting thing to talk about.  Unlike baseball, you're allowed to talk about things like team chemistry, character, clutch shooting, and coaching decisions without immediately being shouted down by a bunch of guys with spreadsheets telling you that none of that matters.  Football's a little too technical and complicated.  Basketball seems most analagous to problems in other organizations.  Who's the best lead player?  What kind of players should you surround him with?  How should the teammates relate to each other and to the coach?

This past postseason was a very interesting study in what kind of teams are successful.  LeBron James who seems to get along with his teammates and had rolled with them to a 60 win season got knocked out in the second round.  Kobe Bryant, who occasionally seems to regard his teammates with thinly veiled contempt, won the title.  The difference seemed to be that when Kobe Bryant went 6 for 24 in Game 7, his teammates were able to pull them through.  When James had a bad game, his teammates shrunk.

There's been a lot of talk about where James and the others should go if they want to win a championship.  But I'm not sure James or anyone else can know that for sure.  Do we know how any set of teammates will react in a playoff game when James doesn't have it going?  Who will be the next Derek Fisher?

The critical thing will be the culture of the team, defined mostly by the head coach and James himself.  That could happen anywhere or it could happen nowhere.  We don't know yet if James can lead a team to a championship. It seems likely but we don't know.

Whatever James chooses, it will be interesting to see if it will work.

One more note -- an undercurrent of recent commentary has been the wonders of Pat Riley.  Now Riley is one of three coaches to win multiple championships in the past 25 years.  But his team has been lousy the last three years.  I'm not so sure about the magical tough.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cardinal Rant

It seems like poor form to "rant" about a team that's only a half game out of first place, but I think a 10-3 loss to Bruce Chen and the Royals is sufficient cause.

My problems with this team:

  • Poor situational hitting
  • Boring offense
  • Lack of competitive spirit
  • Old players whose ceiling is well-known and not that high.
This team is playing with all the urgency of a team that knows it's in the NL Central and can win its division with 85 or so wins.

I think part of the problem is that management screwed up the culture of the team by bringing in released veterans like Randy Winn, Aaron Miles, and yes, Jeff Suppan, and shipping down young players.  Suppan is forgivable because the team was desperate for starting pitching and he's delivered some quality innings.    But Opening Day invitees Alan Craig and Joe Mather are long gone.  Remaining young player like Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker are playing scared.

If this wasn't bad enough, La Russa like to find ways to get these veterans in the lineup, at the expense of guys like Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick, the one guy who has been hitting as well as expected.

Another problem is that the two longest tenured Cardinals, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, play with an occasional and marked lack of hustle.  Both are among the league leaders in double play percentage, and usually seem to be jogging halfway down the line when the DP is completed.

I don't want Albert Pujols blowing his hamstring busting down the line on a third inning ground ball, either, but I think it sets a bad tone for the team.

Of course, the team this year's version most reminds me of is the 2006 Cardinals, a team I also couldn't stand, and we know how that ended.  So what do I know?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Modest proposal for the NCAA

Meta-note: We're back here for now as the host for MBB is having issues.  May turn out to be permanent.  RSS feeds should be OK.  If you have any reason I should prefer Tumblr, let me know.

Two news items from last week in college football:

  • Colorado joined the Pac-10; Nebraska joined the Big 10, remaining Big 12 South teams may bolt to Pac 10.
  • USC given sanctions for recruiting of Reggie Bush.
Look, I'm way past moral outrage about recruiting violations in big time college football.  Let's face it, there will always be some athletes who will come out of high school looking to cash in.  And some college programs willing to facilitate that. (e.g. wherever John Calipari is coaching).  

Meanwhile, you've got Division III tennis players afraid to eat a slice of pizza for fear of running against some NCAA rule.  To maintain the illusion that the two big-time college sports are amateur, we've made everybody's lives miserable.

So here's what I propose -- the losers in the Great Conference Shuffle secede from the NCAA and play by their own rules, including reasonable compensation for the athletes, and compete with it.

I suppose there would be some loss of prestige.  But, in football especially, it seems we're moving toward a world where a few big teams dominate.  Why should the test of the teams just do their bidding?

Anyway, this has zero chance of happening, but it would be interesting...




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