Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hey Commissioner Stern, Show Me the Car Fax!

The NBA draft on television has been a fixture in many households since its inception in 1985.   The big fish in the draft that year was Georgetown Hoyas center, Patrick Ewing.  The New York Knicks was a struggling franchise at the time with a 14% chance of winning the first ever NBA draft lottery.  We all know what transpired next.  The Knicks became relevant!  However, their were speculations all over the the league that the NBA's sticky fingers had something to do with the Knicks getting the first pick of the draft.  Back then the league used envelope as their lottery system. 

In 1990, the league decided to change its format to a lottery system because franchises were losing games on purpose to receive the higher draft pick.  The lottery system consist of 14 numbered ping-pong balls that would be drawn to determine who would win the lottery by non-playoff teams.

Through the years we watch this silly drama during the halftime show of an important playoff game and it always crosses my mind when the number two pick is revealed.  "How in the world did this team get the first pick of the draft?" 

Conspiracy #1 Orlando Magic

1992 Orlando Magic, an expansion team lands Shaquille O'Neil.  I won't question that, the house that Mickey Mouse built needs to thrive down there in Orlando. The Magic won 41 games Shaq's first year in the league.   The next draft, Orlando had less than a 2% chance of getting the first pick, and they used MAGIC to get it again!  Back to back years.  Commissioner Stern, something fishy is going on.

Conspiracy #2 San Antonio Spurs

Between the years of 1989-1996 the San Antonio Spurs average 54 wins a year.  Never finished lower than second in their division.  In 1997, David Robinson hurt his back and broke his foot. The Spurs won 20 games that year and landed the Player of the Year, Tim Duncan with a 14% chance.  The Boston Celtics had two chances of getting Duncan.  They ended up with Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer. San Antonio Spurs have won four NBA Championships with Tim Duncan leading the way.  Boston had two opportunities to get the first pick of the draft and failed both times. Commissioner Stern!  Really!

Conspiracy #3 Cleveland Cavaliers exhibit A & B

The 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers were tied with the worst record in the NBA with Memphis Grizzlies.  Memphis had to give up their pick to the Detroit Pistons that year.  This draft is probably one of the greatest drafts in some time.  The prize was a can't miss Le Bron James.  All you heard was Le Bron will go to Cleveland, even before the lottery system took place.  When the pick was revealed, Cleveland won and received the first pick.  All I could say is "IMAGINE THAT!"

We all remember when Le Bron took his talents to South Beach, it was WOE IS ME!  The city of Cleveland thought the sky was falling.  Fans making threats against Le Bron, even the Cavaliers owner was threatening this man for leaving.  June comes, the lottery happens, and what do you know, Cleveland gets the first pick again and draft the Rookie of The Year, Kyrie Irving.  Commissioner Stern, this is becoming a habit!

Conspiracy #4 Chicago Bulls
Deja Vu! The Chicago Bulls in 2008 was the ninth worst team in the NBA with a 1.7% chance of landing the first pick.  The Bulls mysteriously won the pick and drafted the home town kid Derrick Rose. He also won the Rookie of the Year and won the 2011 Most Valuable Player.

Conspiracy #5 New Orleans Hornets

First off, I don't know who owns this team, is it David Stern or Tom Benson? The Hornets have been a lame duck team the past few seasons.  Instead of "SAVE FERRIS", the NBA wants to save the New Orleans Hornets from losing their franchise.  David Stern, vetoed a blockbuster deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. LA may still be playing in the playoffs today if it wasn't for the Commissioner.  The New Orleans Saints owner, Tom Benson, came in and purchased the team, ensuring the community that the Hornets will stay in New Orleans. After Wednesday night, the Hornets got a great parting gift by landing the number one with the opportunity to draft Anthony Davis in this summer's draft.  History has shown that the number one pick will make drastic improvements for the organization.  Anyone feel sorry for MJ and the Bobcats?  I can't believe Commissioner Stern wouldn't help his old foe Mike, then again it seems he had an invested interest in New Orleans. There will be plenty of time to help #23,  like next year!

To the Commish

We are well into the twenty-first century and I don't understand why all the secrecy. This is a society where privacy does not exist.  The NBA has been pulling this lottery stunt for years.  We the fans, demand the right to see the lottery LIVE.  I don't know what is more covered up, The NBA Lottery or the mystery death of Jack the Ripper!  So, Commish lets cut to the chase, SHOW ME THE CAR FAX!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Top 5 Non Traditional Grand Slams

With the recent walk-off grand slam home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Votto, I was taken back by some of the wackiest grand slams in Major League Baseball history. The intriguing part about walking to the plate with the bases loaded is getting a good pitch to hit. Grand slams have no names on them, it's about being in the right place at the right time. Some ballplayers such as Lou Gehrig have a history of hitting grand slams. Til this day, he is still the all-time leader in total grand slams with 23, one more than Alex Rodriguez. Travis Hafner and Don Mattingly are the all-time leaders in grand slams in a season with 6. After throwing a mistake pitch, I wonder how many pitchers would have considered intentional walking some of those multiple offenders. It's better to give up one run than four! Here are my top 5 wackiest grand slam home runs, major league pitchers wish they have never thrown.

(#5) June 12, 2010 - Rookie Daniel Nava first ever pitch, grand slam! Philadelphia Phillies vs. Boston Red Sox

Daniel Nava was called up from the minor leagues to replace a depleted Boston outfield. On his first at-bat, Nava faced Philadelphia Phillies starter Joe Blanton with the bases full of Red Sox. The first major league pitch Nava saw was a fastball that ended up in the bullpen, over the right field wall, for a grand slam homerun. Since that day, he has been in and out of the majors.

Daniel Nava surfaced amongst the major league as a Red Sox again. On May 14, 2012, he was called back to the Majors, where he wasted no time belting a 2 run shot against the Seattle Mariners in Fenway Park. That hit was the second big league home run of his career and first since the grand slam he hit against Joe Blanton.

(#4) July 3, 1966 - Tony Cloninger 2 grand slams in a game! Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants

Can you imagine what kind of stories Tony Cloninger has told his family about his time playing professional baseball? Well there is one story that happened in the Major Leagues that was true. The night before the 4th of July, Tony Cloninger decided to set off his own fireworks at Candlestick Park in San Francisco by hitting two grand slam home runs in one game. Cloninger mastered that task in front of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Oh, did I forget to mention that he was a pitcher? He also added another hit that scored an additional run. Cloninger's nine RBIs is still a record for pitchers. On the same day, he threw a complete game against the Giants as his team won 17-3. Since setting the record of two grand slams in 1966, only 12 other MLB players have accomplished the such a feat, none of whom have been pitchers.

(#3) August 25, 2011 - once, twice, three times grand slam! Oakland A's vs New York Yankees

Never in the history of the New York Yankees have the "Bronx Bombers" hit two grand slams in front of their home crowd. After being behind 7-2 in the third inning, Robinson Cano quickly erased a five run deficit on one swing as he hit a grand slam off Oakland A's pitcher Rich Harden. In the sixth inning, Russell Martin took Fautino de Los Santos yard for the second grand slam of the game as his ball barely cleared the right field wall. Martin's grand slam was his second home run of the day, and gave the Yankees the outright lead 10-6. Curtis Granderson stepped up to the plate in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and an eight run lead. Bruce Billings was on the mound adding to the A's misery as Granderson pulled a line drive over the right field wall to make it a historical day at the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees became the first team in major league history to hit three grand slams in a game, on the way to a 22-9 win.

(#2) April 23, 1999 - Fernando Tatis hits 2 grand slams in one inning! St. Louis Cardinals vs LA Dodgers

In 1999, there was a guy name Fernando Tatis, batting cleanup for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was protecting Mark McGwire, who batted third at the time. Fernando faced Dodger pitcher, Chan Ho Park, who is known for giving up the long ball (ask any Texas Ranger fan). Heading into the top of the third inning with a 2-0 lead, little did Park know, this was going to be the longest inning of his career. He started the inning off by giving up two singles and he hit a man. Fernando came to the plate and drilled his first grand slam over the left field bullpen. Later that same inning the bases were loaded again, Chan Ho still on the mound, and guess who was up at the plate! Park threw a hanging slider and that was all she wrote. Fernando Tatis is the first, and only Major League ballplayer, to ever hit two grand slams and have eight RBIs in one inning.

(#1) July 25, 1956 - Roberto Clemente inside the park grand slam! Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs

Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates walked up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, down 8-5, with the bases loaded and no outs. At the mound stood Chicago Cubs reliever, Jim Brosnan, whose first pitch to Clemente, was smacked off the left field light tower at Forbes Field. As the bases were emptying full of Pirates, Clemente rounded third base, bypassing the stop sign from his third base coach, determined to score that winning run. He originally missed the plate on a routine slide but was savvy enough to touch the plate before Ernie Banks was able to make the tag. Pittsburgh won the game 9-8 in front of 12,000 happy fans. It was Roberto Clemente's first grand slam home run. He is the only player to hit a walk-off grand slam inside the park home run.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Ryan Express!

If you could choose any Major League pitcher, retired or active, to pitch in game seven of the World Series during the dead-ball era or the steroid era with success, who would you choose?  Without any hesitation I would choose Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. He was the most intimidating power pitcher in his era, for more than a quarter of a century. He pitched 27 years in the majors to be exact.  In fact, his last major league pitch registered at 98mph.  Mr. Ryan was a bulldog of a pitcher, who never fraternized with any opposing players because he wanted to keep his edge.  He amazingly pitched in the major league in four different decades. Nolan Ryan is the only major league ballplayer outside of Jackie Robinson to have his number retired by three different teams (Anaheim Angels, Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers).  It's hard to believe that the Ryan Express has been away from the game since 1993.  It seems like he would put up legendary stats each time he appeared in a game. I would like to share with you my top 5 most memorable moments in Nolan Ryan's career.

(#5) July 15, 1973 - NO HITTER!  California Angels vs Detroit Tigers

Nolan Ryan gets his second NO HITTER of the season at Tiger Stadium.  He struck out 17 Detroit Tigers that day which at the time was two shy of the Major League record of 19. That year was golden for The Ryan Express as he won 21 games with a 2.87 ERA, broke the single season strike out record (383) by one held by Sandy Koufax, and after almost 40 years, that record still stands today.  As puzzling as it sounds, Nolan did not win the Cy Young Award that year, (losing to Jim Palmer who had one victory more than Nolan) in fact, in all of his 27 years playing he never brought home the trophy.  Nolan ended up with seven no hitters, three more than his closest rival (Sandy Koufax).

(#4) August 22, 1989 - #5000! Texas Rangers vs Oakland A's 

Who better to be at the plate than The Greatest!  Not Ali, but this individual was the greatest lead-off hitter of all time in Ricky Henderson.   The Ryan Express at the age of 42 threw a 3-2 pitch fastball down the pipe......and a WHIFF by Mr. Henderson! Ricky graciously quoted, "If you haven't been struck out by Nolan Ryan, you're nobody." Although Nolan Ryan is in elite company, he is the only pitcher to top 5,000 strikeouts in a career (5,714total).  He has 938 more strikeouts than second place Randy Johnson, a record that probably will never be beaten.

(#3) July 31, 1990 - 300th Win!  Texas Rangers vs Milwaukee Brewers

After failing to win number 300 at home in Arlington, Texas, Nolan travelled to Milwaukee where he went out and pitched 7 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, one earned run, and eight strikeouts, to record his 300 career victory.  That was one month after recording no hitter number six.  Nolan is the fourth oldest player behind Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro and Early Wynn to have won 300 games.   He finished his career with 324.

(#2) August 4, 1993 - Don't Mess With Texas! (The Lesson) Texas Rangers vs Chicago White Sox

After five years in Texas, Nolan had recorded his 300th victory, 5000th strikeout, and his sixth and seventh no-hitter as a Texas Ranger.  In the final season of Nolan Ryan's illustrious career, he showed why you "Don't Mess With Texas"!  The 46 year old Ryan hit Robin Ventura's backside with the ball.  Like most ballplayers, they take exception to getting hit by the ball and he charged the mound.  Nolan is 20 years older Robin. I am sure when Ventura ran toward the old timer, his plans were to even the score. This is when keeping it real goes wrong!  Robin learned a valuable lesson that day.  Little did he know, Nolan, who placed the young Ventura in the same head-lock he used on steers, struck Robin in the head six times before Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez pulled Robin away!  After the brawl happened, Robin Ventura was ejected from the game, and somehow Nolan dusted off his cap and remained pitching.  Why was he allowed to remain in the game you might ask?  After the can of whoopin  he gave Robin, who's going to tell him he can't pitch!  By the way, Ryan didn't give up another hit the rest of the way.

(#1) August 5, 2010 - Nolan Ryan delivers the Texas Rangers

Not many people can stack the credentials next to the legend Nolan Ryan. He can literally be compared to the stories you hear of Babe Ruth. 5714 strikeouts, 324 victories and 7 no hitters are marks that may never be reached. He won a World Series in 1969 with the New York Mets. He has had a full career pitching in the Major League. There is no other ballplayer in the history of the game that has made such a significant impact on the field, and now he is calling shots as an owner. A little bit past midnight on August 5, 2010, Nolan Ryan and his investment group swooped in and saved the Texas Rangers franchise by purchasing a team that had filed Chapter 7 under owner Tom Hicks. Since Ryan's arrival as president and owner of the Texas Rangers organization, the atmosphere of the last place team has changed full circle.  No longer are the Texas Rangers the laughing stock of the American League West. His presence has made pitchers tougher, and their endurance to pitch deeper in the games has increased the team chances at victories. With shrewd business moves in free agency, building up the farm system that is the best in baseball, the Texas Rangers have enjoyed success in the last two years by winning the back to back pennants for the first time in Texas history and a trip to two World Series. Although the franchise has yet to win the World Series, the future of the Texas Rangers baseball is positive. 

I am pretty sure at age 64, Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. passion's for baseball still exist. If by chance the Texas Rangers need an out with the bases loaded, a 3-2 count and a one run lead,  I bet he would deliver a strikeout to win the game.  Who is going to say he can't take the mound?  He owns the team now!