The NHL could have waited until after the two Game 7s of this week’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series ended to announce the start of the Western Conference semifinals. Thankfully, it didn’t.
The Kings’ second-round, seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues will start Saturday, with Game 2 on Monday, before heading to Staples Center for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday, May 3 and Sunday, May 6. The faceoff times, and NBC TV outlets, has not been sorted out yet.
(For those wondering: The BB King’s Blues Club that used to be at Univeral City Walk is long gone. The franchise has places in Orlando, Memphis, Nashville, Vegas and West Palm Beach. Not in Utah? Isn’t that where the Jazz thrives these days? Or did they miss the playoffs?)
The other Western Conference semifinal between Phoenix and Nashville starts Friday and Sunday in Phoenix. Games 3 and 4 in Nashville will be Wednesdday, May 2, and Friday May 4.
As a followup to ESPN’s Hubie Brown and Jon Barry addressing Metta World Peace’s seven-game suspension (linked here), the question was also put to TNT’s Steve Smith and Chris Webber , two former players (neither of them a former Ron Artest teammate): From what you know about him as a guy and a player, is the punishment fitting the incident and could it change his behavior?
Steve Smith: You’re asking us to be psychologists. When you start to look at it, a seven-game suspension, for me, was the right amount. The league did an excellent job of taking their time, assessing it. Looking at Metta World Peace, he had 109, 110 games suspended before this with the Pacers, (with the) Rockets there were no games, and only one (previously) with the Lakers, now he gets seven. Obviously we can’t speak for Metta. It was unfortunate what happened to James Harden. The bigger picture is hopefully he can recover from this but I think seven games is appropriate with what the league dished out for Metta.
Chris Webber: I agree with Steve. It was appropriate. That play was uncalled for. The league took their time and made their decision and hopefully James Harden will be able to play at a high level.
ESPN NBA analysts Hubie Brown and Jon Barry responded when asked this morning on a conference call to chime in on the seven-game suspension handed to the Lakers’ Metta World Peace, how it impacts the Lakers immediate playoff matchups and if it’s the kind of punishment they think could lead to any kind of change any behavior:
Hubie Brown: First of all, I think that he came off quite easy, mainly because when you say seven games, and tomorrow (in Sacramento, the regular season finale) counts as one, and if first round goes to seven we all that he could play in that game. The Lakers came out good in that situation. As far as it was quite, how should I say, lenient, was due to the fact there were 12 previous suspensions. I thought they might count that. But I feel possibly the condition of (Oklahoma City’s James) Harden isn’t as severe – it’s a concussion no doubt about that and no one is downplaying it – but the way the action happened and then even the after-affect going down the floor and encountering another player, all of that was taking into consideration. So it depends upon the individual and what you think.
As far as the position (small forward) we know that it’s been questionable most of the season in production (for the Lakers) but they can go with Ebanks at that spot and keep Barnes coming off the bench because he’s been in an excellent groove and making contributions.
The pitch: Where’s your reference point of Willie Mays Aikens over the last 30 years?
For an Angels fan, he’s the rookie out of Seneca, South Carolina who came up for a month in 1977, making his debut against Ferguson Jenkins and the Boston Red Sox. He spent the entire next season in Triple A but then came up and hit 21 homers with 81 RBI during their 1979 AL West-winning squad — only to tear up his knee during a game in Kansas City in mid-September and miss the playoffs. A couple months later, he was traded to Kansas City to get outfielder Al Cowens.
For a Royals fan, he was supposed to be cleanup hitter to protect George Brett in the lineup. In 1980, the year Brett challenged the .400 mark, Aikens hit 20 homers and drove in 98 with 151 games. He actually hit .400, with a record of hitting two homers in a game twice during the ’80 World Series six-game loss to Philadelphia. But he was frequent the target of ridicule and booing for his lumbering efforts at first base. It depressed him.
For those who remember the drug culture of the 1980s Major League Baseball scandal, Aikens was in the middle of it, implicated by the FBI with several other Royals teammates. He admits that he first did coke in 1977. He figure out ways to do three lines of coke with a vodka chaser before going to bed to make him feeling high during games the next day.
We did a Q-and-A (linked here) with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, creator of the Tommy John surgery, last January as he was about to be honored by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, where the topic of whether he’s worthy for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame came up.
“I’d be happy to accept it,” the 87-year-old said. “I’m not sure if I know what ‘worthy’ means. It’s been a wonderful 38 years (since the John surgery), and if (the Hall acknowledge) happened, that would be a beautiful thing. I’d be very proud and happy about it.”
== Change.org founder Ben Rattray explains, during an appearance on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” on Monday, how his site could be the one, after five years of operation, to effect more social media change in the world than ever before:
== A 2010 column by USA Today’s Mike Lopresti on Jobe’s Hall qualifications (linked here), as well as a 2010 blog post by the L.A. Times’ Steve Dilbeck (linked here) as one here from 2007 by CNN’s Chris Isidore (linked here)
== Jobe is on the 2012 ballot for the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals for the 10th year (linked here)
== An endorsement from Ross Porter on his Real Sports Heroes website (linked here)
== Today, CNN’s Todd Sperry did an article about Tommy John/Dr. Jobe. (linked here).
The pitch: We admit to backtracking here in an effort to make sure all our bases are covered.
On Day 1 of our reviews, we savored all that the Baseball Prospectus had to offer its annual publication (linked here). At the end of the review, we linked to similar books of this number-crunching, argument-starting genre, and included “Extra Innings,” even though he had not come across it yet (it hits stores on April 3).
Now that we’ve had a chance to divide our attention and conquere the concept, this must have a review on its own.
This followup to the 2006 book, “Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong” is more than just what Goldman writes in the preface as a “gateway drug” to the annual Prospectus, but hard-headed analysis through all kinds of prisms in trying to relook at the way baseball has always been preceived to be through tradition, myths and other ordinary thinking.
A quote from former President John F. Kennedy from 1962, before one even gets to the table of context, correctly sets the tone: “As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of trusims and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the rassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, bur essential confrontation with reality. For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrives and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all the facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
Seems a little reachy for the premise of a baseball book, but maybe it works? Have we reached a tipping point for which sacred cows are we apt to start tipping over here?
The pitch: When the first version of this came out in 2002, there were 16 perfectos in the books. The cover highlighted Sandy Koufax in motion.
That four more perfect games (including one in the playoffs) happened over a 10-year period is testament to the fact of what we already know– it’s not that common an occurance.
Take that for what it’s worth. Between the time this updated version hit the shelves a month ago, and the time we got around to adding it to our reviewing process, another one happened Saturday in Seattle.
With our humble apologies to Phil Humber, we dive into this revived effort.
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
(AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani) Lakers forward Metta World Peace stretches against the stantion before a game against San Antonio last week. The Spurs beat the Lakers twice in the matter of a couple of days,and Peace got himself a seven-game suspension for an elbow thrown against OKC’s James Harden, knocking him out for awhile.
NBA playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals, Game 1: Lakers vs. Denver, Staples Center, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; Clippers at Memphis, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., TNT, Prime:
The NBA says its TV ratings are up and the average game attendance will be about the same as last season. So why not just play a 66-game regular season every year? All the exhausted and injured players must be clamoring for it. Why even bother with a regular season? Draw the seeds out of Charles Barkley’s feedbag and start the playoffs fresh. “If you cut the season shorter, we cut our revenues significantly as well,” said NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. “Players would make less, so no, and I think it’s not optimal to play a condensed season in this fashion.” So, a season that started on Christmas day because of a labor dispute ends right after Administrative Professionals Day (ask your secretary what that means) and leaps right into a post-season that’ll be a full four rounds — 16 wins to the title. Which translates to the Lakers or Clippers possibly playing 28 more games to win a title, or about 42 percent of the length of the regular season.
The Lakers won three of the four against the Nuggets in the regular season; the Clippers took two of three against the Grizzles in that same shortened time frame, but but lost their last meeting by nine in April 9.
MLB: Dodgers vs. Atlanta, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
The video making the rounds last week was of Braves center fielder Michael Bourne holding up a game against the D’backs because, well, he was back in the clubhouse, perhaps watering down the callouses on his hands? “So much for Michael Bourne being the fastest player on the team,” said Dan LeBatard on his ESPN2 show. “Clearly, there’s some things he does faster than others.” That’s a relief. The series continues on Channel 9 for Tuesday and Wednesday (both 7:10 p.m.), with at least 18 bathroom breaks built into each contest.
MLB: Angels at Tampa Bay, 4:10 p.m., FSW:
Ervin Santana’s 0-3 start (with a 6.75 ERA) comes with six surrendered homers — two in each game. Based on his ESPN.com statistical breakdown (linked here), he’s on track to go 0-35 in 35 starts in 208 IP. How’s that add up? Same way it’s adding up for a 6-10 start for these Angels. The series continues on FSW for Wednesday (4:10 p.m.) and Thursday (10:10 a.m.).
NBA: Clippers at Atlanta, 4:30 p.m., Prime:
The Hawks are aligned to open the playoffs against Boston, a team that they beat 97-92 late last week.
NBA: Clippers at New York, 5 p.m., ESPN, Prime:
The Clippers dock in New York for the regular-season finale, and the “Linsanity” crazyship has already sailed.
NBA: Lakers at Sacramento, Channel 9, 7:30 p.m.:
The future of the Power Balance Pavilion is in the balance again, as the Kings apparently may be stuck in Sacramento for another year in this arena, but who knows beyond that. No more cowbells after this regular-season finale? Whatever the case, it’s been fun. And the NBA can’t figure out how to capitalize in the state capitol? What can Jerry Brown do for them? Meanwhile, in Oakland, San Antonio finishes the regular season against Golden State, trying to lock up the No. 1 spot in the West and finish off the pairings.
NFL Draft: Round 1, 5 p.m., ESPN, NFL Network:
Our mock draft: Indy takes that big quarterback from Stanford, the next team takes that fast guy from Baylor, whoever goes next — your Los Angeles Vikings of Minnesota — takes the lineman from USC . . . we’re not even sure why we’d even care after that point. Just so Chris Berman can validate it? Rounds 2 and 3 are Friday (4 p.m., ESPN), with rounds 4-7 on Saturday (9 a.m., ESPN and ESPN2). There are no rounds past 7th, but if there were, somehow ESPN would figure out a way to spread it over the next three weeks. Former Colts President and Vice Chairman Bill Polian has been added to the ESPN talking heads crew, but he’s at the kids table back in Bristol, Conn., with Trey Wingo and Todd McShay.
Golf: PGA’s Zurich Classic from New Orleans, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Bubba Watson finally gets back on the tour following his win at the Masters — and does so after fashioning a mini green jacket for his newly adopted son, Caleb, a photo of which he tweeted out (linked here). Watson defends his title in New Orleans, which he won last year in a playoff over good friend Webb Simpson. CBS has the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.
MLB: Dodgers vs. Washington, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
That Don Drysdale-Maury Wills mini-bobblehead giveaway on Saturday (6:10 p.m., Prime) likely comes with the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.08 ERA, 25 Ks in 25 IP) going up against Chad Billingsley. The Nats, who lead the NL with a 2.34 staff ERA and a meager .202 batting average against, send Ross Detwiler (2-0, 0.56) up against Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.61) in the opener. The series ends Sunday (1:10 p.m., Prime).
MLB: Angels at Cleveland, 4:05 p.m., FSW:
Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez was hit with a $750 fine from Major League Baseball for a “reckless” message on his Twitter account after a bench-clearing scuffle recently in Kansas City. After batters for both the Indians and Royals were hit by pitches, touching off two bench-clearing dustups a week ago, the message @chrisperez54 said: “Huge team win tonight; time for a sweep to tell the Royals it’s not ‘Our Time’, it’s #TribeTime. P.S. You hit us, we hit you. Period.” Keep that in the memory bank. The series continues with day games Saturday (10:10 a.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (10:10 a.m., FSW).
NHL: Western Conference semifinals Game 1: Kings at St. Louis, 4:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
A few weeks ago, Edmonton coach Tom Renney was fined $10,000 for suggesting the NHL maybe “needs Hollywood in the playoffs,” implying that calls going against his Oilers were to insure the Kings’ post-season appearance. So now, how far does the league want the Kings to hang out? St. Louis knocked off San Jose in five games during the first round and won the franchise’s first playoff series in a decade. The Kings beat the Blues three out of four meetings, but consider their 1-0 shootout victory on March 22 more indicative of how things could go here.
NHL playoffs: Conference semifinals Game 1: Washington at N.Y. Rangers, noon, Channel 4:
The Rangers just came off a Game 7 first-round win over Ottawa on Thursday and have no time to rest.
MLS: Galaxy vs. FC Dallas, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56:
The teams split their series a year ago with a win apiece, but the Galaxy’s 3-1 win late in the season got a little chippy with a couple of ejections and two more yellow cards.
NBA playoffs: Conference quarterfinals Game 1s: Philadelphia at Chicago, 10 a.m., Channel 7; New York at Miami, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7; Orlando at Indiana, 4 p.m., TNT; Dallas at Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m., TNT:
The Lakers had their eye on playing the Mavericks for some first-round payback until they slipped to the No. 7 spot — actually tying Utah for the No. 8 spot with a record of only six games above .500. The defending NBA champs are just 5-5 in their last 10 games, the worst mark for any Western Conference playoff-bound team.
NBA playoffs: Conference quarterfinals Game 1s: Utah at San Antonio, 10 a.m., ESPN; Boston at Atlanta, 4 p.m., TNT:
How the Spurs ended up with another late spurt, winning nine of their last 10 and taking 50 victories in a 66-game season remains a mystery. They tied Chicago for the best overall record in the league.
NHL playoffs: Conference semifinals Game 1: New Jersey at Philadelphia, noon, Channel 4:
A Devil-may-care attitude will get New Jersey through this opener just a couple days after going two overtimes to win a Game 7 in the first round at Florida.
The pitch: Before the summer of ’03, Pahigian and O’Connell, fresh out of grad school and not looking to do any real work, pitched an idea to Lyons Press: Let us go on the ultimate baseball road trip. It happened. And they wrote about it.
By the time their first “Ultimate” book was published in 2004 (linked here), the reader response was overwhelming — of fans sharing their own experiences at ballparks across the country. One of the letters was from an American soldier in Iraq, who got he book and said that as soon as he got home, he and his buddies were going to get a van and see all 30 big-league parks. The talk about the trip and plotting the course helped them pass the time.
“We were amazed and humbled,” they write in the intro of this latest edition. “Our book was playing a meaningful role in real people’s lives.”
Trip 2.0 comes with a ton of experience, more reader suggestions, and new stops — the new Yankee Stadium and Bush Stadium, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, the Mets’ Citi Field, San Diego’s Petco Park, the Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., the Twins’ Target Field and even Miami’s new Marlins Ballpark — with the promise of revealing as much not-so-good as good. Such as:
There are enough NHL-smart people who believe the Kings have no business being on the verge of knocking out the President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks from the playoffs in the first round, which could happen with Game 5 of their series tonight.
The man who heads the Kings’ business department knows how the numbers add up on his spread sheet.
“Even when you looked at our roster last summer, on paper, a lot people thought we could be very dangerous,” said Luc Robitaille, strategizing from his El Segundo office the other day. “You look at this team now, no one wants to face us in the playoffs. When you have the goaltending we have, the way we play structurally, we don’t give up things. We’re very tough to play against.
“If we get a couple of guys hot, like we’ve had the last couple of months, we are dangerous.”
There could be a danger in setting expectations too high, but there’s also a shoot-high mindset that Robitaille, the Hockey Hall of Fame left winger and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, has brought to the organization since he was named the head of business operations six years ago.
Although he’s not in full playoff-beard mode, the 46-year-old who still looks like the rookie he was when he broke in with the Kings as a ninth-round pick out of Montreal is in full playoff focus:
Question: Clean shaven? Your playoff beard isn’t looking too good, is it?
Answer: No, no . . . I’m up and down on that. I love how in this city people just jump on that kind of thing. Our community relations people want me to do it, but, listen, when I do the beard, we don’t win. The one year I didn’t do the beard (2002 in Detroit), we won the Cup. I can’t even get a good beard going. It’s all in the neck. I think I did it back in ’92 (during the playoffs with the Kings) but I had hair going everywhere.
Q: But you always look like you’re 14 anyway. With a beard, it just wouldn’t look right.