May 26th, 2014
How did this happen? The Kings are suddenly up 2-1 in their Western Conference Finals best of 7 series vs Chicago. In the last two games, LA has completely imposed their will in the 3rd period, and their offense has exploded. The Blackhawks are still more dangerous than Justin Bieber speeding through a neighborhood with kids, and are still the favorites to win it, but things are much different than last spring. The Kings physicality is wearing down the Chicago defense, the Kings are scoring goals, they are healthier, and Jonathan Quick is much better than last year. Still, the Kings need to approach tonight as a must win, because they will need three opportunities to close out this Chicago team. Especially since the Hawks are much better at home.
I love the fact that Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Tanner Pearson are now universally known as “That’s 70’s Line”, and were referred to as that on multiple television networks on Saturday night. I never imagined that Pearson would make this kind of impact in the NHL so quickly after being drafted. Has anyone noticed how great the Kings special teams have been so far in this series? Has anyone also noticed how badly the Blackhawks power play has been? That’s because the Hawks power play coach is Jamie Kompon. The same Jamie Kompon who ran a horrendous power play with the Kings during their 2012 playoff run.
On to baseball and the Dodgers, where there’s some good and some bad to discuss. Let’s start with the good, since Josh Beckett threw the 11th no-hitter in Dodger history yesterday against the Phillies. I’ve gotta admit, I thought Beckett’s career was over after his season ending surgery last year. I thought having him as our 5th starter would be a bigger mistake than marrying a Kardashian. Instead, Beckett has completely re-invented himself by developing much more effective off-speed pitches, instead of overpowering fastballs, which have kept the hitters off-balance. Beckett’s contract will be up at the end of the season, as will #4 starter Dan Haren, which gives these guys extra motivation each and every time they take the mound this season. I think it’s pretty obvious that starting pitching isn’t the problem for LA.
Then there’s the bad. We’re more than a quarter into the season, and the Dodgers are barely over .500, and trailing the Giants by 5.5 games in the NL West. LA has the highest payroll in baseball, but looks like one of the lowest baseball IQ teams in the league. Only two teams in the MLB have made more errors than the boys in blue. Hanley Ramirez looks like a major defensive liability at shortstop, and Matt Kemp has not been the same defensive center fielder we used to see. Offensively, these guys are ok, but not doing nearly enough to make up for what they are giving up in the field. This team also commonly makes silly base running mistakes that cost them. This is not Dodger baseball. I realize it’s early, but these types of mistakes are very concerning, and make me question whether or not this is really a championship team.
It’s definitely not too early to draw some conclusions about the Angels. The Halos season has been over around this time, during the last two seasons. After nearly two months, they lead the Wild Card and are only 1.5 games out of 1st place in the AL West. It’s amazing what a little starting pitching can do for you. The only bad news is that Josh Hamilton had a setback in his recovery from his thumb injury. However, for a team that’s top 5 in the majors in runs scored, I think they can continue to survive for a little without him. Other than Detroit, there isn’t really a team in the American League that scares me right now. Oakland us vulnerable, the rest of the central division is a train wreck, and the AL East is overrated by all those New York and Boston honks that think the world revolves around them. The Angels should be feeling pretty good about things right now.
To the NBA, where the Lakers got some bad news this week about their lottery pick. They’ll be picking 7th in this years draft, which was one slot worse than their 6th worst record. I’d like to thank Mike D’Antoni for being an ass hole and winning a few extra meaningless games when he shouldn’t have. I’m not saying that the NBA lottery is rigged, but they sure aren’t doing much to prevent us from thinking that. I mean the odds of Cleveland getting the #1 pick in the draft three out of four years has to be less than 1%. This is basically the NBA’s form of welfare. There is simply no way that anybody wants to play in Cleveland, so its the only way they can get good players to go there. It’s not like the Lakers can’t get a good player at #7, however, it’s going to a much slower rebuild than if they had a top 3 pick.
As for the coaching search, I will never understand why the Lakers continue to interview Mike Dunleavy every time their head coaching job is available. The guy hasn’t had success in the NBA in more than 20 years, and has been out of the game for a while. Another brilliant idea by Jim Buss. Let’s be loyal to the guy who took us to the NBA Finals 24 years ago, when we got crushed, but screw Phil Jackson, the guy that is responsible for our last 5 championships! Makes perfect sense. Glad to see Byron Scott getting an interview, who as I mentioned before, would be an excellent choice, as would Lionel Hollins, who will be interviewed later in the week. Neither one of these guys are “splashy” hires, but would be very good choices that know how to coach.
Finally, the mid-season finale of Mad Men aired last night, or “season finale” if you want to look at it that way. Either way, it was the last episode until 2015, when we’ll see the final 7 episodes of the series. Spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see the show. To recap quickly: Bert passes away at the same time Apollo 11 touches down on the moon, Jim tries to oust Don for breaching his contract, Peggy steps up and wins Berger Chef’s business with a great presentation, while Rodger saves the firm and Don’s job by striking a deal with McCann-Erikson. Bert’s death meant that Rodger no longer had the votes necessary for Don to keep his job. Rodger was also worried about the direction Cutler wanted to take the firm, which is why he struck a deal with McCann to buy SC&P, even if it meant bringing Ted back into the business.
This was an interesting and somewhat surprising way to end the mid-season. There were no major cliffhangers. Bert’s death was sad for those who have followed Mad Men from the start, but very necessary for advancing the plot for the last 7 episodes. This partnership that is forming to work with McCann is a complete band of misfits, and it’s highly questionable how they will function together. They simply made it work because they are going to make a lot of money. The phone call between Megan and Don is strange. First we think Don is moving out to LA. Then it seems Megan doesn’t want him to come. Then it seems like they are done for good. However, we thought this at the end of last season, yet they remained together. I would not be surprised if Megan is tied to the Charles Manson murder in the last part of the show. Either she dies, or someone she knows is killed. I also thought the musical at the end of the episode was a nice tribute to Burt’s character, although a very surprising finish. It’s going to be a long wait until 2015, but should be a great finish to the series!