Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sharks Heating Up, Play Best Game Of the Year

For those who thought the Sharks were on the verge of laying down this year, may I direct you to the box score of last night's thrashing of the "Team to beat" LA Kings.

The Sharks had 6 goals by 6 different players, including at least 1 goal from each of the 4 lines.

The Sharks were already dubbed a mediocre team this early in the season, yet these last 3 games have shown that maybe they just needed a little time to rev things up a bit. Oh, and Jumbo Joe Thornton is back.

Sure, you know what you are going to get from the 1st line pretty much every night. They're arguably the best line in hockey. What is cool to see is the 2nd line produce, no matter who Todd McClellan throws out on that line every night.

One staple of that 2nd line is Ryane Clowe who has 2 goals and 4 assists in the last 4 games, and has been the reason why the Sharks are on a 3-game winning streak right now.

But what concerned the Sharks prior to the season has been the Sharks best asset in my opinion. I'm talking about the youngsters Mitchell, Couture, and McGinn. But mostly Mitchell and Couture, although McGinn, 22, does not get enough credit for the little things he does.

Couture, 21, has 6 goals and 4 assists on the year, while Mitchell, 25, has tallied 3 goals and 2 assists. McClellan has moved them up and down the lines so often, it's impressive to see how little that fazes their play.

With the team starting to come together, the Sharks are starting to heat up and we shouldn't be surprised. This has been the best regular season team in all of hockey these past few years. What made you think any different?

In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. And the Kings got a rude awakening last night at The Tank.

Monday, November 15, 2010

With Troy Smith At the Helm, 49ers Hang By Slightly Thicker Thread

If you weren't sold on Troy Smith as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night, you sure were by Sunday night.

Smith went 17/28 for 356 yards including a late 4th quarter drive culminating in a touchdown to Michael Crabtree with 2 minutes to play in regulation that could have sent chills up your spine if you were so inclined.

It was a huge win for the 49ers not only because it was against division rival St. Louis who fell to 4-5, but because the 49ers really don't have any choice from here on out but to win. They put themselves in a hole early in the season going 0-5, but now have put 2 wins back-to-back and look rather impressive with the "other" Smith at the helm.

Smith brings something different to this team. Maybe it was the 65 yard deep ball to Josh Morgan in the 1st quarter, but it seems Smith takes logical chances deep. When Alex Smith went deep, it usually meant bad news. But when Troy Smith throws deep, the ball seems to have life and the receivers seem to be better timed to catch it. Weird.

Taking good chances deep leads to more holes for Frank Gore to run through and a chance for OC Mike Johnson to open up the playbook a little more.

With Alex Smith, you needed him in the shotgun for him to do damage, if that. That led to Gore running into brickwalls. On Sunday, Gore ran for 87 yards and had 67 receiving yards. He was used on Sunday like he was always meant to be used, smashmouth runner paired with good receiving skills.

A happy Gore is a happy offense is a happy team......with wins.

Troy Smith has made life happy for this team within just a couple of weeks.

A big win against a legit division opponent could fuel something in the underbelly of this 49ers team. The problem is they don't have much room for error.

But that's nothing 4 remaining games against the NFC West can't fix.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sharks Unimpressive So Far, Blame the Previous Seasons

Not to say there is something wrong with the Sharks, but when they have been that good for so many years, a start of 6-5-2 is just not acceptable.

It's true. We have been accustomed to such a high level of play each of these last several seasons that when the Sharks start losing a couple games people start to worry. Don't.

Something doesn't seem right, though. Maybe it's the loss of Nabokov in net, maybe it's the loss of Malhotra, or maybe it's the fact this team suddenly looks real young with Mitchell, Couture, and McGinn all on the 3rd line.

First order of business, the defense looks ridiculous. It's probably not the best way to welcome two new goalies onto the team, but maybe the retirement of defenseman Rob Blake hurt this team more than we thought. There seems to be no leadership on that defense, no person to stand up and say that this level of play is unacceptable. Blake brought that to this team last year, and I know Dan Boyle is trying.

Bad defense leads to bad goaltending, and that is what we have thus far in the season.

Although the Sharks are off to a rough start, after watching these last couple of games, this team seems to be getting more familiar with one another. They have been quicker, the defense isn't as bad, and when that happens goaltending seems to flourish. And Antero Niittymaki has benefitted from that going 5-2 in his last 7 starts.

Make no mistake, this Western Conference is legitimate this season. It will not be as easy to win the West as it was in previous seasons. Even winning their own division may be a problem this year with the LA Kings being as good as they are.

This early in the season, it really is hard to predict how everything will go down, but the Sharks take a little time to get started, it's a fact. They're getting used to each other and life without Nabokov and a few other key players that have played big roles in the past.

Once Joe Thornton is back in the line-up, I think you will see this team's season officially begin.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Warriors Hot Out the Gate

The Golden State Warriors are 4-0 on their home court for the first time since the 1990-91 season when Run TMC was running house. So let's forget about the World Champion Giants and focus our hopes and dreams on the new-look Warriors. Right? Eh.

The Warriors look good out the gate, let's give them that. A constantly evolving new style of play to override Don Nelson's run 'n gun basketball, new coach Keith Smart is pushing all the right buttons. He is seemingly teaching a team that is young and full of potential how the NBA is played, and doing it well as a matter of fact.

The addition of David Lee looks extremely smart right now. He has benefitted both himself and Andris Biedrins who is looking awfully good when he isn't the only rebounder on the floor like he was in previous seasons.

On thing that has stood out, rebounding is not a problem anymore.

Remember when second-chance points for the opposing team frustrated the hell out of you in previous seasons? I'm not going to say it's gone, but opposing team's second-chance points are limited these days.

The Warriors are talented and can do great things season with the additions of Lee and Dorell Wright to go with the backcourt of Ellis and Curry (pending they both stay healthy).

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Is this just a good start for a below average team? Or is this a playoff-bound team willing to work hard both at home and on the road? We will soon find out.

Just a little perspective. The way the Western Conference sets up this season, there are 7 teams pretty much a lock for the playoffs (Lakers, Suns, Mavs, Hornets, Spurs, Nuggets, Thunder...in no particular order).

But let's get real. The Warriors are legitimite contenders for that 8th spot. Why not?

Sure, it is too early to predict how this team will play out, but I like what I see. I like Keith Smart. I like David Lee and the addition of Dorell Wright. I like the backcourt of Ellis and Curry.

Can they put it all together?

Talk to me in a month or so.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winning With 'Misfit' Roster May Never Happen Again

Brian Wilson heaved the final pitch, a slider middle-in starting at the defenseless Nelson Cruz's elbow and ending across the heart of the plate with a swing and a miss. Wilson turned to center field, as we saw him do 48 times in the regular season and 6 additonal times in the 2010 playoffs, and throw up his crossed arms with fingers pointed to the sky.

The Giants won the World Series. The Torture is over.

"I wanna rage...right now."

52 years in the making for the city of San Francisco. This team of idiots did something that none of the infamous Giants players of the past could do, bring a World Series Championship to San Francisco.

But guys like Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, and Edgar Renteria did?

Who are these guys and how did they just win a World Championship?

When I think World Series, I think about the Yankees or some big market ball club with big market names like Jeter. Not Cody Ross.

Before the 2010 playoffs, could a fan on the east coast even name 3 players on the Giants? Doubt it. Fact!

The 2010 Giants were a collection of cast-offs and misfits who dared to show the nation that they were, in fact, a bunch of no-name players with big hearts, big bats, and big arms.

Might we see this ever again? A team of throw-away players winning it all?

Who knew about Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner? Or Buster Posey and Andres Torres?

These are not household names, but their performance in the 2010 playoffs sure changed that.

To win World Series of the past, you need big name bats and big name arms to boot. The Giants had one big name and that was Tim Lincecum, only because he has won 2 Cy Young Awards.

We will never see a team with a cast-off like Aubrey Huff batting 3rd, or a throw-away like Pat Burrell batting 5th, win a championship ever again.

This team reached down for a little extra because they had to. They were against the odds to begin with. Nothing to prove. Something the Yankees or Phillies couldn't do.

The Giants made a mockery of Major League Baseball and ESPN, for that matter, being a team from the west coast with no-name players. Then why does this feel so deserving?

They may have not been the best in all of 2010, but they were the best for the last month and a half. Isn't that the point?

Call them what you want, but the fact is this roster does not have any no-names anymore. Sure, they were cast-offs and misfits, idiots and beard growers. But for this next year, they are World Series Champions.

Monday, November 1, 2010

When the Lights Go Down In the City, Giants Are World Series Champs

Does it seem real yet?

Our beloved Giants who came into this season worried about so many things have found a way to snatch away a World Series Championship from the hands of the overwhelmingly favored Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers. This truly is an underog story.

How many times have you heard this? A team of unwanted players comes together and wins a championship.

Not in real life you didn't.

How shocked are the Yankees and Phillies with payrolls through the roof? They're looking up at a team whose biggest signing this offseason was Aubrey Huff, who nobody wanted. The Giants did Huff a favor, and in Game 4, he repaid them.

I want to thank...ummmm...Big Time Timmy Jim...Cainer...Mad Bum...ahhhh! I know I'm forgetting someone.

You can even throw Jonathan Sanchez in there for his role down the stretch of the playoff run.

This Giants team was poised to make a run in these playoffs with pitching like that. They did not disappoint. And how could they? There were zero expectations for them.

Never in a million years would the Giants be favored to win the World Series with this team. That's why it's amazing what they've accomplished.

You can take any player off the Rangers roster right now and put them on the Giants, and they are going to bat either 3rd, 4th, or 5th in this line-up.

Then how did they win? Destiny, torture and it was all worth it.

A group of good 'ol guys who finished first. Misfits, if you will.

What else do you call them? Misfits? Idiots?

How about World Series Champs?!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

National News Doubting Giants, What Else Is New?

If you have been paying any attention to the World Series coverage on any of the big TV stations like ESPN or MLB Network, you know that the Giants are underdogs heading into the World Series. What else is new?

Of course they are! Why shouldn't they be? The Giants cannot match the hitting of the Rangers, and you can make an argument that the Rangers have the better pitching staff.

These two teams matched up in the 2010 World Series are from opposite sides of the baseball spectrum. The Rangers tend to win games by 5 or more runs with their big bats that complement their big pitching, and the Giants tend to win games by 1 or 2 runs while scoring no more than 5 runs a game. You can credit that to the Giants consistently good pitching, or that the teams they have played just were not hot enough offensively, as it seems the national panel of "baseball experts" has taken to it.

"The Phillies were not hot offensively coming into the NLCS. The Rangers are hot right now."

On ESPN.com, you can find a list of all the baseball analysts ESPN has to offer. Only 4 of the 20 chose the Giants to win the World Series over the Rangers.

In their defense, how can you make an argument for the Giants to win? They don't score runs, most of the times their pitching is spot-on, but when it's off, it's off as we witnessed with Jonathan Sanchez in Game 6 of the NLCS.

What the baseball analysts at ESPN didn't take into account is the "wildcard factor."

I'm talking about timely hitting, a bullpen that can carry the team if needed, and an ability to win the close games. The Giants have that. They showed it against the Braves and Phillies.

But the Giants didn't have a choice because this is the style of baseball they play. Torture baseball. For better or worse. Good pitching mixed with timely hitting, and the ability to close out close games. It's all they know.

The Giants were counted out in the Phillies series as well. The Phillies had the better hitting and the best all-around pitching. Problem was they didn't have timely hitting, and that was ultimately their downfall.

So no matter how much ESPN counts out the Giants in the World Series, pay no mind. The Giants have been counted out before, and they're used to it. This team seems more like a team of destiny, and they will find a way to win. It just hasn't hit us yet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Torture Never Felt So Good

Did you expect it to happen any other way?

The entire 2010 San Francisco Giants season would have been a lie had the NLCS clinching game not come down to a tension-driven, palm-sweating, ulcer-forming torturefest.

The San Francisco Giants are headed to the 2010 World Series, and well-deserving of it.

Let's face it. This is a team of misfits, forgotten by their respective teams who have found home in San Francisco. I'm talking about guys like Pat Burrell, who Tampa Bay basically payed to go away; Andres Torres, who is a career minor-leaguer and had 3 hits last night; Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez, who have never been in a playoff situation before; Cody Ross, who was placed on waivers by the Florida Marlins and picked up by the Giants just so the division-leading Padres couldn't snag him. Now he is your NLCS MVP.

"They're idiots!" as Joe Buck so fondly called them. But these idiots with dyed black beards and forgotten players are headed to the World Series. Enough said.

Leave it to this team to clinch a trip to the World Series in the most nerve-racking way possible, though.

Jonathan Sanchez getting yanked in the 3rd inning certainly wasn't a good sign. Neither was the fact he left the Giants in mental disarray after he and Chase Utley sat down and had a tea party in the middle of the diamond.

Ok, it was a benches-clearing brawl, but it sure felt like two chicks going at it.

Yet the Giants did it. This time, they did it behind the heels of their bullpen. 7 innings of 0 runs, including Jeremy Affeldt, who hadn't even pitched in the Braves series, turning the tide for the Giants by going 2 innings of no-hit ball.

And how big a breath of fresh air did you take after Juan Uribe flipped the bat and thew those hands up? He knew it and every Giants fan who has ever witnessed a Uribe homer knew it. That ball was gone.

'Destiny' is a good word for it. Or 'Torture.' Or both!

How about a 'torturistic destiny?' Works for me.

But never has torture felt so good.

One final note. The fans of Philadelphia really showed their true colors last night, booing the Giants off the field after winning the game. Rude and disrespectful to a team who has shown nothing but class during these playoffs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Joe Buck: 'Giants Are A Bunch Of Idiots'

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are the worst. There's no doubt about it, Buck hates the Giants and any team that isn't a legitimate favorite, and McCarver just isn't bright.

McCarver: 'He is a good two-strike hitter, but he strikes out a lot.'

Enough said.

As for Buck, he is a notorious hater of all things not him, but the fact he seems to throw his arrogant one-sided opinions into his play-by-play calls is simply unprofessional. Nobody cares about your opinions. Just give us the game straight without showing us how full of yourself you actually are.

But one thing he said last night struck me as an actual intellectually flattering statement to the Giants, albeit a back-handed compliment.

'The Giants are a bunch of idiots just crazy to pull this thing off," Buck said.

It seems like Buck was the pot calling the kettle black, but, of course, he was referencing the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox who were given the name 'idiots' because of their long hair, 'don't care' attitude, and 'cowboy-up' mentality.

Now, dying your beard jet black is an idiot move in its own right, but Buck was correct. This 2010 Giants team is a bunch of idiots. Huff, Burrell, Uribe, Sandoval, these are all eccentric characters who could be referred to as something far worse, but 'idiot' is the polite term.

Between Sandoval's pre-at-bat routine, Wilson's Jim Rome interview, and the fact that Lincecum looks like a 13 year-old girl from behind is proof enough that this team is unusual.

But doesn't the fact that these idiots torture us fans and we love it make us idiots as well?

Yes, but it hurts so good.

These torture-enjoying idiots from the west coast may be just crazy enough to pull this thing off. And Joe Buck will be a witness to it all, accompanied by Tim McCarver's insightful analysis and color commentary.