Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for April, 2008

UGH!

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 28, 2008

This has been as bad a sports weekend for the teams that I follow as I can remember.  This does not take into account the Broncos draft, which I am actually fairly pleased with (more on that later – but it might have to be in a future post).  The events in the Denver sports landscape this weekend might not really stand out on an individual basis (think the Broncos’ loss to Jacksonville in the playoffs in January ’97 – none of these single events, or even as a group, come close to comparing to THAT debacle).  That being said, it cannot be argued that anything went even remotely right this weekend for the Rockies, the Nuggets or the Avalanche. 

The Rockies have not had a great April.  Of course, they had an awful April last season and made the World Series, so it’s way too early to hit the panic button.  However, this team has now lost 7 of 8 after getting swept by the Dodgers in LA this weekend.  On Friday night starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t even make it out of the third inning in a game where the Rockies’ offense had given him four runs of support in that time frame.  The Rockies eventually lost the game in 13 innings after many failed opportunities offensively (including Matt Holliday hitting into an inning ending double play with two runners in scoring position in the 9th).  On Saturday Mark Redman got lit up for TEN runs in the first inning!  Imagine walking into a bowling alley, thinking to yourself that it’s a  nice bonus that TVs everywhere you look are showing the game while you’re going to bowl, then seeing a Dodger grand slam sail into the night sky the first time you look at the screen.  That’s a glimpse of my Saturday night.  The second time I looked at the screen I saw it was still the bottom of the 1st and the Dodgers had already put up a 10 spot.  Needless to say I wanted to throw up.  Then there was today’s game.   Jeff Francis pitched extremely well, surrendering just two runs in seven innings while striking out six, and the Rockies had chances to win.  Thing is, the offense never capitalized.  In a 2-2 game, Troy Tulowitzki continued his struggles (batting a whopping .157 – OUCH) by grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the 8th, and then the Rockies left runners at 2nd at 3rd in the 10th.  Enter Manny Corpas, who was given a contract extension in the offseason after doing a great job in the closer role last year.  He has lost it this season after blowing four saves already.  Corpas actually pitched a scoreless ninth today after giving up two singles, so it wasn’t entirely unreasonable for Clint Hurdle to leave him in there for the 10th.  This proved to be a bad idea: a four pitch walk to Rafael Furcal, a walk to Mark Sweeney (who has exactly 0 RBIs and is batting a horrid .063 this season), then runners at 2nd and 3rd after a sac bunt.  After Hurdle elected to intentionally walk the red hot hitting Russell Martin to load the bases, Corpas could have redeemed himself with a double play groundout.  Nope, he gave up a sharp single to James Loney, and the Rockies got swept.  Now, a 10-15 record is certainly no reason to hit the panic button especially after last year, but right now they can’t even see the taillights of the division leading Diamondbacks.  It’s no coincidence Arizona made a big offseason splash in adding elite starter Dan Haren, while the Rockies made no big moves to the roster.  Granted, the Rockies did spend some money to keep their own players, including Tulowitzki (who will rebound).  Still, it seems like maybe they stood and watched while other teams around them got better.  To be fair, they’ve been on the road much more often than they’ve been at Coors Field, and that 22 inning marathon in San Diego can’t have helped.  Maybe a friendlier May schedule will be the catalyst for a turnaround.

As for the Nuggets, I feel bad saying this but I really don’t care to watch Monday night.  There were times this season where this team had really re-awakened by NBA interest.  They have the ability to compete with anyone in the league, and a 50 win season is an impressive accomplishment.  As tough and competitive as the Western Conference is, I really thought it didn’t matter where anyone was seeded because all eight teams were good.  It is clear though that this team will never win when it counts unless major changes are made.  The Nuggets have given three lackluster performances against the Lakers in this playoff series.  Check that, lackluster may be a kind way to describe game three at the Pepsi Center.  There is no reason for Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson to go 10 for 38 from the floor in a playoff game, many of the shots from point blank range.  The players’ body language says this series has been long over, right from the technical fouls  Iverson took in game one due to frustration.  From what I have seen, there are only three players who have consistently played hard in this series: Linas Kleiza, Eduardo Najera and J.R. Smith.  It is not a coincidence that Nuggets have held up best when these guys have been on the floor, even if that’s not saying much.  Anthony has given absolutely no effort whatsoever on the defensive end, and while Iverson has shown up offensively for the most part, his defense hasn’t been much better than Anthony’s.  There is a reason why Anthony’s draft class mates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have both reached the NBA Finals while Anthony has never made it out of the first round.  They are leaders, and he is not, pure and simple.  Anthony has never understood that being a complete player means giving full effort in all areas, including the defensive end.  I’m wondering if it’s time to chuck out Anthony, let Iverson finish his career with a true contender, and try to put the team’s resources into building a true winner.  For the Nuggets to have the kind of payroll invested that they do, they need more results than an annual first round exit.  The Nuggets are missing a true veteran leader who can bring the talent together, a guy who does not constantly need the ball in his hands to succeed, someone who can lead by example.  It is clear that the Anthony-Iverson experiment isn’t working.  Both guys continually need the ball, and while they both get their points, their presence together has not led to the same results as other top duos in the league.  Or better yet, think of the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili trio in San Antonio.  The Spurs have stockpiled championships because these stars can all play together and each understands his role.  Maybe it’s time for the Nuggets to blow up the roster with the exception of Kleiza, Najera and Smith and start over.  They have way too much money tied up in Anthony, Iverson, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby to settle for these kind of results.  Maybe George Karl isn’t blameless either, but I’m never one to think a new coach will solve anything, especially in the NBA, where the players run the show anyway.  I remember when the Nuggets were 11-71 and a complete embarrassment, so I do appreciate a 50 win season and a playoff appearance.  I also expect some semblance of progress, and this will be the fifth consecutive first round playoff exit, with the Nuggets never winning more than one game in any series.  I know there’s another game left, but it’s clear the chance of the Nuggets winning this series is zero percent.  Let’s just say if I was a season ticket holder, there would be zero percent chance of me renewing my seats for next season unless major changes are made this offseason.

Now, surely Avalanche-Red Wings should be fun right?  For years this was the premiere rivalry in sports.  Not just the NHL, but in sports.  Every playoff series these teams squared off in during the late 90s and early 2000s was extremely intense.  The rivalry had everything: bloody fights, close games, great players on both sides, nasty trash talk and a true hatred among the fans.  In recent years as the Avalanche have faded into relative mediocrity and the NHL has faded into complete obscurity, the rivalry has died.  Despite the fact the Avalanche don’t stack up well with the Wings as a six seed this year, I still couldn’t contain my excitement for this rivalry to be renewed with another playoff meeting.  Surely an intense Avs-Wings series could at least be some small help in getting the NHL back on the mainstream sports landscape right?  How could you not get excited about Sakic, Forsberg and several of the old names squaring off against their nemesis?  Well, that too is short lived.  Forsberg has missed the first two games of the series with an apparent groin injury, and the Avs have been outscored 9-4 in losing the first two games of the series.  Jose Theodore has proved he is no Patrick Roy, having been angrily yanked from the first two games after giving up four goals in each one (all in a total of less than four periods of playing time in the two games).  The Avs look hopelessly outmanned, and while I was not at all familiar with the Wings’ Johan Franzen, I now despise him as much as I despised Darren McCarty in the old days after Franzen has lit the Avs up for five goals in the first two games.  Maybe a return to the Pepsi Center Tuesday will help the Avs, after all this is still a seven game series and the Avs have a chance to even things with a couple of wins at home.  It’s not quite like the Nuggets where the chance is zero percent.  Still, goaltending is what wins playoff series, and Theodore is shaky at best right now.  As great as he was in the first round against Minnesota (and he basically won the series for them) he has been awful in round two.  Will Peter Budaj be in net for game three?  The fact that this is even a question does not bode well for the Avalanche.  One thing in hockey though is that a playoff series can turn on a dime.  It actually happened for the Avs against Detroit in the 1999 second round.  Detroit blasted the Avs in the first two games at old McNichols Sports Arena, only to see Colorado win four straight, including three at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.  The Avalanche can only hope that history will repeat itself this week, and that they don’t end up following the Nuggets by getting unceremoniously broomed out of the playoffs. 

At least the Broncos had what appears to be a good draft.  That discussion will be saved for another time, because it doesn’t seem quite fair to lump that with a depressing weekend of bad sports all the way around.  That is, unless the rest of the weekend is an omen and these guys all prove to be busts in three years.  Hopefully that won’t prove to be the case. 

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It’s Never Too Early To Plan Ahead

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 16, 2008

The 2008 NFL schedule is out!  Okay, so most people out there probably don’t really care, but for a football junkie like me this is a big deal.  It turns out that apparently I’m not the only one who waits on pins and needles for the release of the schedule; ESPN and NFL Network had simultaneous TWO HOUR specials yesterday that broke down seemingly every game on the 2008 slate.  If you think it’s insane to be interested in the timing of games that won’t take place until the fall, try booking a hotel in Green Bay on a Packers home game weekend.  Go ahead, try it now, I’ll wait. 

No vacancies?  I thought so.  Packers fans watch for the release of the schedule, and then it’s a mad dash to book hotel rooms on the weekends of home games.  This is how insane us die hard fans can get about the release of the schedule.  We want to make sure that nothing gets in the way of being able to watch our favorite team play.  Personally, I’m ecstatic about the timing of the Broncos’ lone Thursday night game in Cleveland (on Nov. 6) because it means I am free to attend a wedding that weekend without worry that I’ll be missing a Broncos game.  You’d be surprised how many people out there will wait to find out when their team will be playing before booking major events like weddings, and then scramble to book during their team’s bye week.  Seriously, do you want to risk missing the Patriots-Colts showdown because you prematurely scheduled a trip to a remote island with no television?

Planning purposes aside, I want to know what kind of road my team will be facing in the coming season.  Now, I already knew the Broncos’ home and away opponents for 2008 because those are set years in advance, but there is still a sense of anticipation knowing exactly when the games will take place and in what order.  I frankly am disappointed that the Broncos have no prime time home games this season; every regular season home game will be on a Sunday afternoon.  I suppose there are advantages to this (nicer weather, a semblance of routine if you go to all the games) but reading between the lines, this means the league believes the Broncos will not be very good.  The Broncos have three road night games, Monday nighters at Oakland (the season opener) and at New England plus the aforementioned Thursday game in Cleveland.  The Broncos have always been a team that even when they aren’t the best in the league have had their fare share of prime time appearances, in large part because the home environment at Invesco Field at Mile High should be one of the best in the league and worthy of at least one such game on that stage.   That point aside, it’s safe to say the Broncos’ offseason has been less than impressive, so perhaps the powers that be simply feel they are not a team that’s worthy of as many prime time appearances as the elite of the league.    It is interesting to note that it is impossible to tell at this time of year what teams will have a good year and which ones won’t.  This is a challenge the league faces as they try to decide which teams should garner the most appearances on prime time.  The flexible scheduling for the Sunday night games in the second half of the season does help a great deal with this, but it is still a challenge.

As a random side note, the league has selected two teams with lots of star power, the Chargers and Saints, to play a regular season game in London this year.  Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the league playing games outside the country, but I have an issue with the Saints of all teams being the one to lose a home game.  The Saints already lost a home game in 2005 because of Hurricane Katrina (and in fact couldn’t play any games in the Superdome that year) and now the Saints’ fans in New Orleans lose their one chance in an eight year time frame to see arguably the game’s most talented player in LaDanian Tomlinson.  So the Saints not only lose a home game, but their fans lose one of the Saints’ more attractive matchups that would have taken place in the Superdome.  It seems as though the NFL ought to be more concerned with taking care of its core fans here before trying to broaden the game abroad.  This doesn’t even take into account the disadvantage this puts the Saints in the NFC West race, playing only seven home games while the other teams in the division play eight.  Sure the Chargers have to play in London too, but they still get eight home games at Qualcomm Stadium.  Something about that just doesn’t seem fair. 

I do have to admit I am very excited overall from a football standpoint to see the schedule come out.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a larger interest in football than any other sport, even though I very much enjoy several others.  Frankly I’ve been in football withdrawal since the Super Bowl, and the release of the schedule means we’re getting a tad closer to a new season, even if it’s still far away on the radar. 

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An exciting sports time

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 9, 2008

Big game Thursday night for the Nuggets, as they play on the road at the Golden State Warriors.  The Nuggets find themselves in what amounts to a play-in game for the playoffs, tied with Golden State for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west, with four games to play for each team.  After Thursday’s head to head meeting, the Nuggets are at Utah and finish with Houston and Memphis at home, certainly not an easy schedule.  The Warriors host the Clippers and Seattle and have a road game at Phoenix.  Connecting the dots leads to the clear conclusion the Nuggets are pretty much toast if they won’t win at Oracle Arena on Thursday.  The Nuggets find themselves in this position because they blew two games they should have won over the weekend to Sacramento and Seattle.    I still maintain they can do some damage if they do manage to get in the playoffs, but they are going to have to shore up their defense, and they can’t take any more nights off.  Ownership has invested too much in this team to see them crumble this way.  Thursday’s game could even go a long way toward determining the future of coach George Karl as well as some members of the team.  There is simply too much talent for them to miss the playoffs, but it’s looking like that could end up happening. 

………….

For those of you who claim not to be fans of hockey, I recommend you start watching tonight.  The Stanley Cup Playoffs are one of the best experiences in sports.  In hockey, more so than any other sport, there is a tremendous difference between the regular season and the playoffs.  Not to say that the regular season isn’t important, because it is, but the playoffs take on a whole new intensity.  Guys have to practically be on their death bed not to play.  Players are willing to sacrifice everything for their teammates.  I certainly realize that it’s hard to find the channel that carries the games, and it’s hard to find coverage with ESPN shoving highlights way behind the NBA and whatever else they carry on their network.  Just do yourself a favor and watch a game involving Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin.  I for one am very excited to see my Avalanche back in the playoffs after a year absence, which could be a good thing as the Nuggets may miss the NBA playoffs.  Seriously though, take a look in at some of the NHL playoff action this year, for it is as exciting as any other time in sports.  I’d like to see any sports fan who actually gives the Stanley Cup Playoffs a chance and still tries to pretend they don’t enjoy watching hockey.  Anyone who would claim that is simply not a fan of sports, period. 

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I am definitely excited for the start of baseball season, especially after the amazing run the Rockies made to reach the World Series last season.  I do find everyone’s expectations for the team amusing however.  Just because they made the World Series last year doesn’t mean they’ll get there every year, or even be assured to be in the mix.  There are a lot of other good teams out there that improved themselves this offseason, including the other contenders in the NL West (Arizona adding Dan Haren, the Dodgers adding Andruw Jones).  That being said, the Rockies do have a lot of talent and should field another competitive team.  It was certainly encouraging to see them invest some payroll to keep guys like Tulowitzki and Corpas this past offseason.  I just hope that when Matt Holliday becomes a free agent in 2009, that the Rockies will make sure they keep him.  Unfortunately with MLB’s economic structure, the odds are Holliday will cash in big with the Yankees or some other big market team.  Here’s hoping that the Rockies will stay committed to keeping this team together and can figure out a way to keep Holliday for the long haul.  He’s already delivered a pair of clutch home runs in this opening homestand alone, and appears to be on track for another great year.  Regardless whether the Rockies make another run at the playoffs or not, this will (hopefully) be a fun team to watch for a number of years, and that makes it much more fun to follow baseball season during the summer.

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