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Melky Cabrera’s National League MVP hopes dashed by positive PED test

This post is a bit late, but I’ve been in Singapore and Bangkok, thus causing me to fall behind in the recent news.

It’s a disappointing time to be a Giants fan.

Last week news broke that Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera used performance enhancing drugs and will be suspended 50 games. The first-year Giant was having the best offensive season of his career. He was batting .346, with slugging percentage of .516 and an on-base percentage of .390. He had 11 home runs, 60 RBIs, 84 runs, 13 stolen bases and a 4.5 WAR. Cabrera was leading all of baseball with 157 hits, including 10 triples. A team known for its incredible pitching staff over the past few years, Cabrera had provided the Giants with the offensive lift it so desperately needed. The Giants were battling with the Dodgers for first place and were in serious contention for the Wild Card Race.

But now the Giants are in trouble. Not only are we losing the center of our offense, the overall Giants success is in question. How much of Cabrera’s (and the Giants) success was due to the PEDs? How will losing Cabrera affect the rest of the Giants’ season? 

Sure the Giants added Hunter Pence to the line-up before the trade deadline. Sure Buster Posey is back from his injury and picking up right where he left off from last season. Sure Pablo Sandoval has continued to play at a consistent level despite being placed on the disabled list twice this season. Sure the Giants’ pitching has continued to be dominant. But can the Giants do it without the offense Cabrera was producing? My thought is no.

It’s disappointing to see the Giants play quality all-around baseball for the first time in years, only to have the chair pulled out from under us like some joke. What Cabrera did was not only morally wrong and unfair, it was selfish. And with all the measures put in place to prevent doping and all the measures put in place to catch offenders, how could he think he would not get caught? 

Here’s what my dad had to say in an email he sent me:

I understand how discouraging this can seem — and I don’t underestimate his contribution to the team and its offense — but the rest of the team could well step up.  Hunter Pence seems to finally be hitting his stride; Buster is ho;, Belt is starting to find his swing (I think it’s Belt, but I could be thinking about Crawford); and Pablo is back.  What’s too bad is that the Dodgers just loaded up with more big bats, so we certainly don’t match up with them on paper without Melky.  The good news is that the game isn’t played on paper, so, who knows?  That’s baseball.

 As for Melky himself, how disappointing and selfish for him to have taken a banned substance knowing how much attention has been paid to this topic in recent years, knowing how much scrutiny there is and how likely he was to be tested, and knowing how discovery and the ensuing, certain suspension would hurt his team and its chances for the playoffs.  I would shun him, not because he chose to take a banned substance, but because he did so knowing that his teammates would suffer the consequences.  What a self-centered, selfish attitude to have and how dismissive of his team, his teammates, his and the team’s fans, and the game itself!

My dad is right: it’s time for the rest of the team to step up offensively. We can’t let the weight of our whole team rest on one, two, three or even four players. There must be contribution from everyone. So hopefully the Giants don’t let this suspension affect the team. Hopefully it lights a fire under their asses, as we head into the final stretch of the season and fight for that No. 1 spot in the West and playoff berth. 

Guest post: Matt Cain deserves MLB All-Star starting pitching job

Last week my brother and I were discussing whether San Francisco Giant pitcher Matt Cain deserved the starting pitching job for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game. Cain was in the discussion along with New York Met pitcher R.A. Dickey. Today, Tony LaRussa announced that he planned on starting Cain.

Before the announcement was named, my brother sent me an email with his argument as to why Cain deserved the start. Here’s what he had to say (I added facts in brackets [ ] for clarification):

The stat bug has bit him again this year. He pitched nine scoreless innings against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, where he didn’t pick up a win and was not given a complete game [the game went into extra innings]. Put that together with the blown save against the [Oakland] A’s the other day, and he would be one win behind Dickey [Cain has 9, Dickey has 12], be tied with Dickey for complete games [Cain has 2, Dickey has 3], and pass Dickey in shutouts as the league’s sole leader [both players have two shutouts].  The rest of his stats speak for themselves: second in the NL in WHIP (0.96), second in the NL in innings pitched, fourth in the NL in strikeouts (118). Cain has an outstanding ERA of 2.62, which is good enough for sixth in the NL and better than Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Dickey, and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, the other strikeout leaders.  I believe the stats point to Cain, Strasburg and Dickey as leading candidates for the starting job with Hamels, Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto and others on the outside looking in. Looking at just the stats, I have to believe that Cain should be the starting pitcher.  Looking beyond the stats (which I firmly believe is more important), I think Dickey and Strasburg are just phenom stories and not as worthy of the start as the two time All-Star and World Series Champion, Matt Cain.  Dickey is a knuckle baller no one has figured out, and Strasburg, who has nasty stuff, is pretty new to the league so he hasn’t been seen much.  Matt Cain has been doing this for years and he has the ring because of it.  You watch the second half of the season, and Cain will sustain his pitching while the others will see some decline.  And on the mound, he has a better head on his shoulders than the rest of the league as well.  Plus Matt Cain may have done
something pretty special back on June 13 [a perfect game for those of you who didn’t see SportsCenter].

Matt Cain!!  My pick as the starting pitcher for the National League,
at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

So congrats, bro! Matt Cain, your pick for the NL starting pitcher, will be starting the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

First half shooting and mistakes cause for Mavericks loss

The Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat battled it out Tuesday night in Miami for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals. But unlike the 2006 Finals, the Heat took Game 1 92-84. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was excitement. Whatever it was, this game was not pretty. The Mavs finished the game with 37 percent shooting and the Heat finished the game with a slight edge at 39 percent shooting. Both teams turned the ball over off bobbled rebounds and miscommunicated passes. Free throw shooting was poor (Wade missed three in the first half).

The game opened with a few surprises on the defensive end. Mavericks shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson picked up LeBron James and Mavericks small forward Shawn Marion picked up Dwayne Wade. The defensive switch had more of an affect on WadeS who was bothered by Marion’s length. Wade was quiet in the first half scoring 7 points. On the other end, Miami’s center, Joel Anthony, picked up the red-hot Dirk Nowitzki. The athletic Anthony has been a defensive force during the playoffs, which earned him a starting spot in the last series against the Celtics. Putting Anthony on Nowitzki helped keep Miami power forward Chris Bosh out of foul trouble. Good thing too, because Bosh needed to make an impact on this game, and he did. Bosh scored 19 points and had 9 rebounds in 39 minutes.

The Mavericks double teamed LeBron early which got Bosh involved in the opening minutes of the first quarter. He was a beast on the offensive boards grabbing a couple or tipping them out to his teammates. He had 7 rebounds in the first half. He scored in the paint and with his midrange jumper. He finished the half with 13 points. Heat point guard Mike Bibby was quiet from the floor missing four open three-point shots and was almost a non-factor in this game.

On the defensive end the Heat were suffocating. Joel Anthony came up with two great blocks in the first quarter. The Heat big men were active on the boards. The Heat were somewhat effective with their defensive rotation, but it helped that the Dallas shooters were missing open three-pointers. The Mavericks went 5 1/2 minutes without a field goal in the first quarter. Wade scored two points the first quarter and  missed three free throws in the half. At the end of the first quarter, both teams were shooting 29 percent from the floor. Miami had 2 turnovers and the Heat had 4 turnovers. LeBron lead all scorers with 8 points.

In the second quarter the Mavericks switched to a zone defense to compensate for the size of Jason Terry and J.J. Barea in the back court. The Mavericks have practiced their zone defense and used it on a regular basis during the regular season. Although the defense picked up by the Mavericks, they were not crashing the boards and the Heat continued to pick up offensive rebounds for put backs or second chance points. The Mavericks ended the quarter scoring in 8 of their last 9 possessions, including Nowitzski hitting back-to-back shots (a three and then a turn-around jumper), a three-point play from Tyson Chandler, and a Terry three-pointer. There were nine lead changes in the game by the end of the first half. The Mavericks lead the game at half time.

The Mavs started the second half with a quick 8 point lead, but the Heat came back and took over the fourth quarter, like they have in every game they’ve won during the playoffs. But the outcome of the game was ultimately decided by the rebounding, three point shots and points off the bench. The Heat out-rebounded the Mavs 46-36, 16-6 on offensive rebounds. The Heat, who were shooting 32 percent from the three-point line, but they shot 45 percent during Game 1 making 11 three-pointers to the Mavericks 9 three-pointers.

The Mavs bench was held to a miserable 17 points. Terry had 12 of those points. Give credit to the Heats defense for shutting down the Mavericks red-hot bench shooters, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic. The Heats bench scored 27 points with Mario Chalmers scoring 12 points. Chalmers and Mike Miller combined for five three-pointers.

The Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter with a big three-pointer by Dwayne Wade, a dunk by Chris Bosh and a three-point play by LeBron and a final dunk to seal the deal by LeBron. The Heat continued their streak at home during the playoffs, now 9-0, and broke the Mavericks postseason five-game win streak with a win in Game 1.

In order for the Mavs to win tonight, they need to pound the boards and prevent the Heat from having as many second chance points. The Mavs bench will have to outscore the Heat bench, and more bench players will have to contribute to the scoring. J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic need to make their presence known in this game, otherwise the Heat will win. Finally, the Mavs will have to keep rotating the ball to create open shots. The Mavs had plenty of open looks Game 1 but they did not convert. Keep rotating the ball to open players and keep shooting.

Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday, June 2, 2011 in Miami.

NBA Finals match-up: who will prevail?

The NBA Finals start this Tuesday night in Miami between the Heat and Dallas Mavericks. Personally, I’m rooting for the Heat because I want LeBron James to win his first title; he’s long overdue. But can the King hold off red-hot Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks? Here are the match-ups:

1. Mike Bibby and Jason Kidd. In the two games the Heat and Mavericks played against each other this season, Bibby averaged 7.0 points per game and 2.7 assists per game. Bibby can shoot the three ball; he shot 41.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Mavericks. But the Heat need Bibby to be a better distributor of the ball and contribute more shots, especially when he’s open behind the arc. Against the Heat, Kidd only averaged 6.0 points per game, but Kidd makes his presence felt elsewhere. A great contributor and efficient rebounder, Kidd has been a well-rounded point guard for 17 seasons. In this match-up, Kidd will come out on top. And when Kidd’s on the bench, Bibby and his back-up, Mario Chalmers, will have to guard J.J. Barea, who has made a huge impact off the bench. Barea is quick, aggressive and scrappy coming up with big plays and big shots in the postseason. The Heat points guards have their work cut out for them in this series.

2. Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. Bosh and Nowitski have had big series littered with a couple quieter games during the postseason. Some have questioned Bosh’s playing and if he’s been a real factor, but his number’s against the Mavericks should prove he has been effective. This season, Bosh averaged 20.5 points per game,  8.0 rebounds per game and 51.5 from the field versus Dallas during the regular season. But Nowitzki has been incredible during the postseason. He’s averaging 28.4 points per game and an astounding 92.9 percent from the free throw line. Nowitzki is a dangerous, multidimensional player that can drive,  make the midrange jump shot (with an unstoppable turn around jumper), and make three pointers. Nowitzki’s ability to shoot outside will draw Bosh out of the key and create openings for other Maverick’s to drive the lane. The Heat will need to collapse on defense and help cover the paint when Bosh is preoccupied with Nowitzki. Bosh is great, but he does not have the variety of play that Nowitzki does. Nowitzki takes this match-up.

3. Joel Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Neither center has been dominant offensively during the regular season. Anthony and Chandler averaged 3.3 and 7.3 points per game respectively during the postseason. Anthony is in the Heat’s starting lineup for his defensive presence in the paint and for his determination on every play. Not to be outdone, Chandler made the NBA’s All-Defensive 2nd Team this season. The battle down low between Anthony and Chandler will be a defensive one and both are expected to make big stops during the finals. Anthony has a slight edge on Chandler averaging more blocks during the postseason (2.1 and 0.8 blocks per game, respectively), but Chandler has a few inches on Anthony. Based on his will and determination, Anthony edges out Chandler on this match-up, but only slightly.

4. Dwayne Wade and DeShawn Stevenson. I don’t need to post statistics to prove that Wade is an amazing player, but I will. Wade is averaging 23.7 points per game, 4.1 assists per game and 7.2 rebounds per game during the postseason. Add smothering and suffocating defense and Wade has been an all-around player in the playoffs. No offense to Stevenson, but I had never heard of him until the playoffs. His stats have been nearly nonexistent during the playoffs. Dwayne Wade is going to run circles around Stevenson. It’s hard to stop Wade, and I don’t think Stevenson has what it takes. Wade wins this match-up by a long shot.

5. LeBron James and Shawn Marion. The Mavericks are missing Caron Butler, one of their top scorers this season. Butler was also responsible for guarding the King during the Heat and Mavericks’ previous two meetings. Butler outscored LeBron in both games and held him to 30.6 percent shooting. Marion now has the job of stopping LeBron, and it’s going to be a big job. LeBron has been absolutely incredible during the regular season. He’s also been absolutely incredible during the postseason. He’s driven by the fact that he’s never won a ring. LeBron is averaging 26.0 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game and 5.5 assists per game. He’s spectacular on defense and did a great job guarding guarding NBA MVP Derrick Rose in the previous round. Marion has been solid during the playoffs contributing 11.2 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 1.2 assists per game. I have always liked and respected Shawn Marion, but I do not think he can keep up with LeBron. The Dallas defense is going to have to help Stevenson and Marion with the dynamic duo. LeBron definitely takes this match-up.

Based on the match-ups, the Heat will win the NBA Finals. Mavericks’ Head Coach Rick Carlisle will mix up the match-ups over the first two games to create a more even match-up at the different positions. The Maverick’s have a slightly deeper bench than the Heat. Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and J.J. Barea have been stellar off the bench and can all shoot from beyond the arc. Heat small forward James Jones was stellar in Game 1 of the Conference Finals against the Celtics, but he has been plagued by injury. The Heat miss his three-point shooting and lack a shooter off the bench that can match up with Terry, Stojakovic and Barea.

The other factors:

1. The Mavericks are 2-0 against the Heat this year. The Mavericks won the first game by 11 points and the second game by 2 points.

2. The Heat are 8-0 at home during the postseason. The Heat have defeated Philadelphia, defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics, and MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, which held the best record in the NBA.

3. Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James have made it to the NBA Finals, but neither have won a ring during their careers.

This series will be a great contest between two strong teams. But I think the Heat will take the series. The Mavericks can’t match up with the three-headed monster. The Mavericks should be proud. They swept the former champion Lakers and have stunned fans everywhere. Unfortunately, their road to the championship will end here.

(Statistics were found at http://espn.go.com/nba/)

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