Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spurs are out!

As well they should be. The Lakers are a better team. To be fair, the Hornets were probably a better team as well. San Antonio has a lot of work to do.

It is a little strange. One of the main characteristics of San Antonio over the last ten years is that they have always made the hard decisions. When a player started to decline, the Spurs let him go. When a young guy had a good season and wanted a pay day he didn't deserve the Spurs let him go, preserving cap flexibility. But last summer, the Spurs let sentiment get the better of them. The expected Horry, Finley, and Bowen, who were clearly on the decline, to be able to step up in the playoffs. They couldn't, and now the Spurs have to use that cap flexibility to rebuild this team around Tony Parker, who is still only 25, and clearly represents the future of the franchise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spurs Win!

Finally.  But not for a dodgy plane they would be up 2-1 in this series. Ginobilli looks to have overcome his injuries, which has put the Spurs back on track.  If Manu is hurt, it is almost better that he doesn't play, because he takes so many shots and spends so much time with the ball.

The Lakers' role players are so much better than the Spurs' that if Parker, Manu, or Duncan are off, they can't win.  Guys like walton, Farmar, Fisher, Odom, and Turiaf are younger, more athletic and hungrier than the Spurs supporting cast.  Finley and Barry can still hit a few shots, and Bowen still does a decent job on Kobe, but Horry is done, Vaughn has always been crap, Oberto and Thomas can't guard Odom, Gasol, or Radmonovic, and Damon Stoudamire might as well not come to the gym.  

It was nice to get a big contribution from Brent Barry though, I think he is finally healthy after that calf injury, and is probably the Spurs fourth best offensive player.  Just like the New Orleans series, San Antonio need to win at home and steal one game in LA.  It doesn't matter if that is game 5 or game 7.  

In the other series, I think Detroit will win tonight to even the series at 2 games a piece.  I still don't trust these Celtics on the road.  

I think both conference finals will go seven games, and game 7 is a crapshoot, you never know what is going to happen.   

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Normal Service Restored?

Barry Zito finally won a game!  Better than that, he actually pitched pretty well.  He got plenty of run support, which may have helped relax him, but he still put up some solid numbers.  3 hits and 1 run in 6 1/3 innings is definitely a good outing.  He also struck out 5, which shows better use of his change-up.  The only down side is that he walked 4.  But that is how he has to pitch right now. With his fastball topping out at 84 mph, Zito cannot pitch in the strike zone and hope to get anybody out.

Barry Zito's loss of velocity is one of the great mysteries of sports.  The lefty came up throwing a 93 mph fastball that eh combined with a devastating overhand curve and change-up to quickly establish himself as one fo the top pitchers in the game.  He went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA to win the Cy Young in 2002.  He was only 23 years old at that time, and the future looked bright.  

When the Giants signed him it was obvious to everyone that they had overpaid, but most still expected him to be a solid pitcher.  15 wins a year, an ERA of around 3.50, and 200 innings every season, was a reasonable expectation.  But then his velocity disappeared.  As I said, when he burst onto the scene in Oakland his fastball was consistently at 91-93 mph.  After the 2006 season, when Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan lost their collective minds, he was still at 88-90 with the fastball, occasionally even touching 91.  

Inexplicably, Zito started the 2007 season throwing his fastball at 86-88 mph.  This allowed him to be somewhat effective, and kept the Giants in a lot of games, but they were a bad team, so he finished with a sub-.500 record.  This season, Zito's fastball has been between 82-84 mph.  This is not enough to keep the Giants in games.  Zito has been rocked most of the season, even skipped a start a few weeks ago.  His past few starts have been better, but now he has to pitch very differently.  

The Curveball is still good, and the change-up is still very good, but Zito has to throw the fastball at least 85 mph to get enough of a differential between that and his off-speed pitches to fool hitters.  The man is only 29 years old and does not seem to have an injury.  There is no reason the velocity can't come back, at least to the point that he can once again be an effective pitcher.  He will never be worth $126 million, but I would argue he doesn't have to be.  With Cain, Sanchez, Lowry, Lincecum, Correia, and even Misch in the rotation, the Giants have a plethora of young starting pitchers.  Zito has by all indications done a good job mentoring these young pitchers, and their positive performances appear to be further proof of this.  All of these pitchers are young, a couple have signed long term deals, but most are not even eligible for arbitration yet.  

If the Giants are smart, they can hold onto the youngsters, which will prevent Zito's contract from becoming a complete albatross.             

Friday, May 23, 2008

Champions of Europe

Congratulations to Manchester United.  It was a good performance, and overall a good game.  I still get irritated by the tactics though.  Surely Ferguson and Grant know more about football than I do, after all they are professional managers and I am sitting in a pub in Honolulu, but do they really have to be that defensive.  

Chelsea and Manchester United must have 500 millon pounds worth of players in their respective squads, including such attacking luminaries as Drogba, Ronaldo, Rooney, Joe Cole, Tevez, Anelka, Nani, Kalou, and several more.  Sometimes I just found myself yelling at the screen, "For christ's sake, go and try to win the match!"

As a Bolton supporter, I can only dream about having such attacking options, so it just drives me nuts to see teams with the resources to build such a squad not use it.  

Until this summer that is, when Megson will spend 30 million pounds and buy a strike force that will lead us to glory.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Graduation Day

Well, the ceremonies are over.  I have an MA.  Erin is a doctor.  And New York City beckons.  

I can be a cynic, and I was the last person that thought I would care about wearing some ill-fitting medieval gown.  I was overheard saying on more than one occasion that I was only walking for my mother.  This proved to be wrong during the ceremony.  I was quite excited, and had some pretty active butterflies in my stomach as I walked out on stage.  When I shook hands with the Dean and got my honors sash I was holding back tears.  When you work hard, it is nice to get rewarded, and often very emotional.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Great Escape

WE...ARE...STAYING UP...We are staying up!  That was the chant of the thousands of Bolton Wanderers supporters who made the journey to London on the last day of the season to see an outstanding 1-1 draw against mighty Chelsea.  So it is another year in the biggest league in the world for the mighty mighty Wanderers, thanks to Matty Taylor's dramatic 93rd minute equaliser.

Monday, May 5, 2008


The end of my time in Hawaii is fast approaching.  I am sad to leave this island paradise, yet excited for the opportunities that await me in New York City.  Life will certainly be different there.

It is easy to miss the beaches, the rainbows, and the clear blue skies, but there is more to life here than that.  The friends I have made, and the kindness of all people here, I will always remember, especially when some stockbroker nearly pushes me into the street on a rainy Thursday morning so he can get to his office three seconds earlier.

The next few weeks will feature chaos, in the form of visitors and life-changing events.

Erin will be graduating from medical school, and officially starting her life as an MD.  I will be finishing graduate school, ready to begin life in New York as an ESL teacher.  Both of our families are coming to Oahu for the graduation ceremonies, which will be an adventure in and off itself.  And then, just a few days later, the big move back to the mainland.  Hawaii will just be a memory.  A fond memory.

This picture was taken at Magic Island on Oahu.  It was the first time Erin and I went to a Hawaiian Style BBQ.  We had been in Hawaii for 1 week.  She had just started Med School and we had moved into our apartment in Waikiki.  Four years have passed since then.  A lot of things have changed in our life.  Some have stayed the same.  

We are off to our next adventure.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Champions League Final Set

It will be Chelsea and Manchester United fighting for the Champions League title in Moscow on May 21st.  This all English final, the first in Champions League history, features two teams who are also fighting each other for their domestic league title.  Chelsea just beat United last weekend in a thrilling match at Stamford Bridge in west London, and it will be interesting to see if this affects the players' mindset when they meet up in Russia.  

Last season, Manchester United won the league title, and then the two teams met in the FA Cup final.  Chelsea won that dire and forgettable match.  Hopefully the meeting in Moscow will be a much more exciting affair.

If I had to make a prediction at this point, I would take Chelsea to win it.  The players just now seem to be coming together under manager Avram Grant.  They played their best game of the season against United last Saturday, and looked good against Liverpool Wednesday night, particularly in extra time.  They won't win the domestic title because of United's superior goal difference, but I look for them to win the trophy they really want in Moscow.  

One more thought, once his club have captured Europe's biggest club trophy, will billionaire owner  Roman Abramovich lose interest, and eventually sell the club?