Thank you all for returning to the recently hit or miss showing up of the Friday Five. Last week was a total blur, and the days ran together and before I knew it, it was Saturday. There is a reason for this, but I don’t feel that this is the proper medium to go into, but if you’re really that interested, shoot me a message on Facebook or e-mail me and I am more than willing to share my gripes about the world with you.
So there has been a lot going on lately, and what I want to begin this week with, is my response to an every growing issue that I have been seeing, and just discussed with a friend of mine, so let’s jump right in, shall we?
The Big News: Last night, the San Antonio Spurs visited the Miami Heat in what is one potential NBA Finals match-up. Rather than try and make it interesting (which ended up happening anyway, as Miami pulled ahead in the last minutes of the game to win) the Spurs sat 4 of their starters. The reasoning behind this is likely due to the fact that tomorrow, the Spurs will play the division leading Memphis Grizzlies, and wanted their stars to be at the top of their game in order to make a bigger splash in the rankings. The Miami game was the 6th game in 9 nights for the Spurs, and Coach Gregg Popovich decided to let his veterans rest before the perceived more important game tomorrow. NBA Commissioner David Stern stepped in, threatening sanctions against the Spurs for doing this, apologizing to the fans for the decision to sit players. This is where I have the problem. Who is David Stern to decide who plays and who doesn’t? And how is it legal for him to fine a team for resting players? In the discussion with my friend, we both agreed that lately, leagues have been getting out of control in their wanting to police the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of it. How can the NBA fine a team for sitting players, there is no rule against it. David Stern is neither a coach, nor a team general manager, yet he feels he has the authority to punish a team for not breaking any rules. This is completely preposterous. This is similar to the NHL attempting to punish teams for making huge contracts that don’t outright break the salary cap, such as the one the New Jersey Devils made with Ilya Kovalchuk. The contract may have circumvented a rule, but by that very definition, it didn’t break a rule. With the case of Stern wanting to punish the Spurs for resting players, no rules were broken because none exist. I challenge David Stern’s authority to arbitrarily punish teams for doing things that are not illegal. What next? Does he fine teams because of the color of their cars? Does he suspend players because of the restaurants they eat at? David Stern has shown himself to not be the worst commissioner in professional sports, but to make boneheaded decisions like this seems to make people think otherwise. Mr. Stern, you are not a coach. If you’re concerned because it was the one match-up San Antonio and Miami were playing against one another, why don’t you establish home-and-homes for every team in the league? Or schedule your games better so that San Antonio didn’t have this game at the end of a packed week, when they are about to play a DIVISIONAL RIVAL. Seriously, I feel like my dogs could have made a better schedule. But most importantly, do not think that your job allows you to hand down fines when no rules have been broken, because what does that teach anyone?
With that out of the way, let’s get into some of the things that you may have missed, or that you really need to be looking forward to.
Football: I had contemplated discussing the Quarterback issues plaguing the league as a whole, from injuries to controversies, but I figured that would be too broad a topic, and I really just do not care about the nonsense going on in San Francisco (for the record, just pick a damn starter, you don’t need to have a huge press conference about it). As plain as that weird mark on his face, everyone can see that Drew Brees isn’t cutting it this season. His Saints began the year winless for weeks, and they have been feeling the strain that Bounty-gate has caused. The team, who is regularly in playoff contention, has been playing extremely mediocre as of late, and the issue of Brees, and whether or not he is truly an elite QB, has come to the forefront after his disastrous performance against the Falcons Thursday night. Five interceptions, just a few short days after throwing two pick-sixes against the 49ers, and the end of a mightily impressive 54-consecutive games with a touchdown pass streak. He hadn’t not thrown a touchdown pass since 2009. Let that sink in for a minute. On top of his poor accuracy, Brees also displayed poor clock management, and couldn’t get a play off at the end of the first half that could’ve drastically cut an Atlanta lead. Brees believes the Saints just haven’t been playing up to their ability, which may in fact be the case, but the possibility must also exist that Brees is getting a bit older, and perhaps early criticisms in his career were completely justified. I don’t want any Saints fans to use the loss of Coach Payton as an excuse, because the plays should be the same, and the players should still possess talent even without one man on the field. Otherwise it is a poor painting of how the coaching staff has been trained in New Orleans.
Baseball: Offseason free agency is in full swing, and already some huge deals have been made. The New York Yankees have kept Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and have now re-signed Mariano Rivera, but have lost catcher Russell Martin, who signed a pretty big deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. B.J. Upton signed a heft five-year deal with the Atlanta Braves worth upwards of $70 million. The Mets have agreed to an extension with third baseman David Wright, for 7 years and $122 million. Zach Greinke and Josh Hamilton remain by far the biggest potential catches for the offseason, as many teams should be interested in the two players. The San Francisco Giants do not look like they will make an offer to offbeat closer Brian Wilson, and who can blame them? The zany closer is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery, and it remains to be seen whether or not he still has his stuff, and with Sergio Romo’s playoff performance, the Giants seem to be willing to allow Wilson to reach the market in free agency. Anibal Sanchez also remains a question, as he seemed to improve drastically down the stretch for the Tigers, and was dynamite in the post-season. The Tigers would be wise to hang on to him, in my mind, as he has a good arsenal of pitches, and really seemed to find his rhythm, and could be a dynamite second or third in a line-up if he keeps it going. Nick Swisher remains up in the air, as his disastrous post-season performance did not endear him to the New York fans, and it keeps up with his dreadful post-season career stats. He is good in the regular season, but atrocious in the playoffs when you need people to step up the most, it will be interesting to see what happens with him in the coming weeks.
Basketball: Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics was suspended for two games after attacking Brooklyn Nets player Kris Humphries. Apparently Rondo was finally able to catch up on DVR’d episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians in the offseason and didn’t take too kindly to the way Kris handled his divorce with Kim. What? That’s not it? Loyalty? To who, Kanye West? No? Oh. So Kris Humphries had a minor incident with Kevin Garnett, and Rondo responded by going after Humphries. Okay, that makes a bit more sense. Rondo does have a bit of a history with a hot temper, most recently making contact with an official against the Atlanta Hawks in last years playoffs, which also cost him a game. This time, however, the ejection and suspension have cost him a bit more than the games, as it ended Rondo’s attempt to break a consecutive-games assist streak that he had been building. And while wins are important, one has to imagine that breaking records to come with a small sense of pride in one’s accomplishment. But that night, rather than playing above the Nets, and helping his team on the court, Rondo acted in a brash manner, and only hurt his team more. The Celtics are not setting the world on fire right now, and it appears as if they really need to get their heads on straight if they hope to make the playoffs. One thing is certain, however, and that is in order for the Celtics to win games, they need their star players you know, in the games.
Hockey: Lockout still going on. Sidney Crosby got spotted at a Justin Bieber concert. More players are playing in Europe (including Evgeni Malkin stating that he doesn’t miss the NHL) and more and more games get cancelled and it seems the League and the Players Association get further and further away from a deal. However, rather than just give useless lockout updates, there is actually a story that I’d like to get into. Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, who returned last year after a devastating knee injury, was a lot better than his W-L record seems to indicate. He came up huge in a number of games, and posted a 2.62 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. He signed a 3-year deal with the Wild in their hugely impressive offseason (in the sense that they signed the 2 biggest free agents, but the team still largely…well…sucks) but it has come to light that he has just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This is a crushing blow to the improving 28-year-old goaltender, who looked to become Minnesota’s top goalie if this season had begun. The lockout may have done some good, as a practice schedule is a lot less grueling than a full season schedule, and it may be good that he didn’t exhaust himself in the regular season without this diagnosis being found. I sincerely wish Josh all the best in dealing with this illness, and hope he is still able to make a go of it if the NHL ever gets its head on straight.
And with an important game coming up on Sunday, I thought I’d go ahead and give an American professional league a little attention…
Soccer: The MLS Finals are this Saturday, featuring last year’s champion L.A. Galaxy taking on the Houston Dynamo for MLS superiority. This weekend will also mark international soccer celebrity David Beckham’s final game after his six-year stint with the Galaxy, which was one of the most ridiculous sports contracts I have ever seen. Beckham’s last several years spent playing soccer in the United States was a tactic to try and raise the popularity of the sport in the U.S. While it can be argued that soccer has become more popular over the last several years, the contribution of Beckham to this can be debated. Soccer is not taken seriously by a lot of sports fans in the U.S. and that is a damn shame. It is the most popular sport on the planet, and can be played with just a ball, hence its appeal in poorer nations. The perceived lack of action and physical contact serve to obfuscate the raw athleticism and endurance of the people who play the game. With coverage of the game on ESPN, hopefully the ratings prove to be something improving over previous MLS Finals, but it is silly to think it could rival World Cup or Olympic Soccer television ratings. If you’re looking for something to do at 4:30 Saturday afternoon, do yourself a favor and watch the end of the Beckham era in U.S. Soccer.
That is going to do it for this edition of the Friday Five, and I thank you for dropping back in to check out what it is that I am doing here. I know I keep promising you more stability, and I hope that I can deliver. In the mean time, check out the ever growing amount of content all around the Farm Club, and if you want to contribute to the site, get in touch with us, and let us know what you’d like to bring to the table. See you next week!
Random Fact I Just Found Out: Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is really named Ronald McDonald. Yeah. That’s true.