Late winter / early spring is a great time for the NBA. Football is over and baseball is months away. With a little more attention on basketball, San Francisco fans have a lot to be happy about at the All-Star break. The Golden State Warriors are currently boasting the best record in the NBA, and have lost less than 10 games (42-9). It’s not too early to talk about a possible championship.
The Warriors are fantastic with outside shots, but might want to consider looking for a player who is strong in the post before the trade deadline hits. Right now there is no insurance for Bogut – we can’t rely on his consistency to seal up the season. Otherwise the bench looks great. Some are saying they can be inconsistent, but it ultimately comes down to wins – and those have been very consistent. Quality players make the difference.
What’s going so right? Stephen Curry has been a monster lately, and is in a strong lead to become the season’s MVP. He recently scored 51 points against the Mavericks, just amazing. He averages over 30 points a game with a 50% average – 45% from deep, along with multiple turnovers per game. And he’s showing no signs of slowing down. With such a sizable lead in the Western Conference and a deep bench, Kerr has the luxury of resting key players in preparation for bigger games.
Stats can be misleading, but the Warriors are on the short list of teams with a legitimate shot at earning an NBA title. The Grizzlies, the Spurs, and the Hawks are among the other strong contenders.
The Warriors weren’t playing their best during the last weeks before the All-Star break, but that was more a result of some tough travel schedules during that time. In that respect, the break came at the perfect time for the team. The team’s confidence will be further renewed by Curry’s win in the three point shootout.
The key things to look for are getting back to moving the ball and playing tough defense, both a little lackluster in the past couple weeks of games. Sure, they’re giving up less than 100 points per game, but the defense was much stronger at the top of the season. Bout was out for a while, which forced the team to scramble on defense. We can’t afford to have that happen again, particularly once playoffs begin. So stay healthy, Bogut!
Please read my response to people who say the Giants farm system is a mess. Would you rather they win minor league championships or produce the all-stars that lead to World Series championships?
This Sunday’s Super Bowl is stumping Vegas. There’s a general feeling that the Seahawks have a better shot at a win – the Patriots haven’t faced a defense as strong as theirs all season – but these are both excellent teams with plenty of forward momentum coming into the championship game.
Combined, the Patriots and Seahawks are 20-3. Combined, they have allowed only three second-half touchdowns in the past 16 games. Both quarterbacks have already won a Super Bowl. Against quarterbacks who have already won a Super Bowl, Brady is 15-8, Wilson is 10-0. Strangely, both teams lost during the season to Kansas City.
The difference will come down to the performance of the quarterbacks. While their first three years as starters were very similar, Brady and Wilson are at very different points in their careers. Or, as 49ers safety Antoine Bethea says – “They’re so different.”
Tom Brady, despite his divisiveness and penchant for under-inflated footballs, is a great quarterback, proven with three Super Bowl victories. Russell Wilson earned his first ring last season. While his future looks bright, Wilson is realistically not one of the league’s top five quarterbacks. He’s young, and it shows. His game is limited. He looks good when outside of the pocket, and takes advantage of the times when he’s forced to use his legs. Brady is still more agile, mind and movement.
Yes, Brady is showing signs of slowing down – he was drafted in 2000 by the Patriots in the sixth round. Brady’s experience will be an asset on Sunday. This will be his sixth Super Bowl start, a league record. Russell Wilson was an young teenager when Brady was the Super Bowl MVP in 2002. Playing into his late 30’s, Brady has kept his head down and pushed forward to continue delivering standout performances.
Here’s looking forward to a great game – and to next season, when the 49ers will get another crack at a championship game.
After Saturday night’s loss to the Chargers, the San Francisco 49ers are now officially out of the playoffs, ending a 3-season record of making it to the conference championship game. It’s the end of a tumultuous season, and there may be a lot of change coming in the off-season.
Looking back, there’s been a lot of confused disappointment in Colin Kaepernick, who is at once one of the fastest and currently the second-most sacked quarterback in the league (Kaepernick’s 49 sacks is only second only to the Titans’ Blake Bortles 50). When he was signed for a six-year deal, the expectation was that his speed would be a sack-preventer. His completion percentage is 60.5%, putting him dead last in the entire NFL.
What happened? Here we have a quarterback who is capable of excellent play – just take a look at his playoff debut in 2012, when he threw four touchdowns against the Packers. Now he seems hesitant, doubtful.
And so last week’s Sports Illustrated cover was dedicated to the struggles of the team, whose off field problems may have contributed to the poor performance. The article asks, ‘how did it fall apart so quickly?’
Of course, there is plenty of attention given to the behind-the-scenes battle between 49ers ownership and head coach Jim Harbaugh. It’s likely Harbaugh will leave this season, as he has been rumored to be considering a number of other coaching jobs. It’s a shame, as Harbaugh is a great coach who would probably be able to do a lot more with some control over his team’s roster.
On Monday morning, it was announced that Giants third-baseman Pablo Sandoval has signed a 5-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. So comes to an end San Francisco’s relationship to the All-Star (two times) who was part of a team that won three championships over five years.
Newly a free agent, Sandoval had been considering a $90m 5-year contract with the Giants, but countered with a negotiation for 7 years. When that couldn’t be fulfilled, Sandoval (along with his agent) began looking elsewhere. The rumor mills started after an in-Boston meeting last week. Shortly after, we’ve learned that the Venezuelan right-hander (and sometimes left-hander) has landed a 5-year deal worth nearly $100m.
Naturally, there has been a good deal of vitriol online in response to the move. Forget the fact that fans ought to be used to the comings and goings of players, or even that the cross-pollination of baseball personnel makes the game entirely more interesting and exciting in the long-run – I think the Giants lucked out on this one. Sandoval probably (and hopefully) has another great season or two in him…but I think we’ll look back on his career and know that we had him at the peak of his game. Spending another hundred million probably might not be the best investment for a team that DOESN’T have the second-highest budget in the MLB.
So instead of lamenting the departure, let’s celebrate his time in San Francisco. Watching him develop from a 16-year old international free agent in 2002 into a home-grown World Series MVP has been a textbook baseball success story. Fans will remember his stellar showing in the 2012 World Series, when he became the first player in history to hit three consecutive home runs against the Tigers in his first three at-bats. He was the fourth baseball player to hit three home runs in a single World Series game, which adds to a list along with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. His overall post-season average is a whopping .366.
And here’s Sandoval’s official goodbye, straight from his Instagram account…
To the greatest fans in San Francisco! Leaving the #SFGiants & this city I love is the most difficult decision I have ever made. I have grown up w/you, laughed & cried w/you & you have blessed me w your support, friendship & love. It has been an unforgettable @SFGiants career, a great run & 3 World Series championships in 5 yrs w/great teammates, coaches, front office & fans. I will always remember you w love & my heart will always be in #SF.
We’ll miss you, Kung Fu Panda…best of luck in Boston!
But in the past few weeks, there have been an alarming number of stories coming out about the negative after-effects of a championship title. It doesn’t shine well on the Giants, the MLB, on San Francisco, or on the state of sports at large in this country.
After Game 7, the city got predictably rowdy. Some of the street celebration was all in good fun – cheering, hugging strangers, etc. But, as it seems it always does, things took a darker turn as the night wore on. Cars began to be vandalized. When police tried to organize the mayhem, they were struck with thrown bottles. Many thrown bottles.
And then people started bonfires. BONFIRES. In the streets.
While I have a hard time believing acts like these are terribly attached to the actual game, it seems like we can’t enjoy a victorious season without the municipality falling apart for a night. It sullies the experience, and must elicit terror from people who live in the areas where all of this happens.
This year’s celebration has, so far, accounted for an estimated $140,000 in damage to cars alone. This includes police cars. In fact, several officers were hit by bottles. Some were reported to have been hospitalized. There were two injuries due to gunshots, and a stabbing. It’s truly too much.
There’s something about the culture surrounding sports these days that is toxic. Both wins and losses are often accompanied by some as an excuse to exercise testosterone and adrenaline to the fullest. Maybe what these ‘fans’ need is to spend less time watching sports and more time playing them and blowing off some steam.
Another very sad piece of fallout due to the World Series involved the parade, and the number of school children attending. Because 3,500 students skipped school to see their heroes in the parade, public schools in San Francisco lost $140,000 in state funding, which uses absentee rates as benchmarks.
Considering the role professional sports play in our culture, it is unbelievable that there isn’t an exception made for rare instances like these. Surely there are reasonable solutions that would be able to protect valuable education funding amidst the excitement of the World Series.
I look forward to the day when a national sports title fills the city with pride and excitement, not terror and dread.
Both teams have a chance to come out on top, but as a Giants fan, I’d say it’s looking very sunny for the Giants. After all, having won it all in 2010, 2012, we can now apply Adrian Bejan’s constructal law, which states (if I may simplify it greatly) that patterns in nature reinforce themselves. If they win again this time, we may confidently extrapolate that they will win at least half of all World Series going on forever. Besides the year, here are a few, possibly less absurd, reasons the Giants have a big chance of taking the title again.
First of all, we have the admirable, twenty-five-year-old left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who has managed to make up for in pitching what he lacks in personal decorum — an astonishing thought. Already Bumgarner has played in two World Series, starring in fifteen shutout innings, striking out fourteen, and yielding five hits. His pitches are both high in speed and accuracy, and the best part is Bumgarner flourishes under pressure.
The Giants’ pitcher is by no means the only successful player on the team, of course. The team’s hitters, Buster Posey, Joe Panik, Hunter Pence, and Pablo Sandoval, all know how to knock one out of the park. This offensive fantastic four knows how to pounce on weakness.
Third is Bruce Bochy, who consistently keeps his cool. The Giant’s coach expects the most from his players, and he consistently gets the results he wants. He treats champions and third-strings equally, emphasizing that baseball is team sport, not a one-man show. Bochy deserves nothing but respect from his team, other teams, and spectators alike. The authoritative-but-fair mentor is a fan favorite.
If the Giants have one thing down pat, it’s experience. This team knows what to do to make it into the World Series, and they know how to channel all of their energy into the game when they get there. This year, the Giants have sixteen players who starred in both 2010 and 2012’s World Series games, excluding Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy – two veterans who really know what it means to show up.
Lastly, the Giants have the best fan base I’ve ever encountered. Decked out in black and orange, roaring from the first inning to the ninth, no matter how long it takes to get there, and no idiots running around the stands blocking your view and screaming about selling you hot dogs or ice cream. I’ll be watching like everyone else on Tuesday, waiting for the blast of “Bye Bye Baby.” Go Giants!
Summer is officially over, and that means that a portion of the city’s football fans will give some deserved love to the Giants as they ramp up for the postseason. The baseball season is a long one, but as it winds down, the Giants look increasingly likely not only to maintain their lead for the wildcard, but maybe even take the division.
The importance of the games is magnified as we enter the final week of the regular season, including games against the first-place Dodgers. This matchup is very exciting. Besides us, the Dodgers only have to face the Cubs and the Rockies. But other than the Dodgers, we only have to defeat the Padres. The Dodgers and the Giants have played each other 16 times this year so far, with each team taking 8 wins.
What’s worrying for Bay Area fans is that Giants batters will be going up against Clayton Kershaw for the final game of the Dodgers series. A reliable left-handed pitcher, Kershaw is even better against the Giants. He currently boasts a 1.40 career ERA against San Francisco. The importance of the game may draw an even better performance.
The Giants have gained a lot of ground to be just a couple games behind first place, but the Dodgers can’t be underestimated. They’re potentially the best team in the league. And even with three losses against the Giants this week, they could still clinch the division by beating the Cubs and Rockies.
In the Central division, the Cardinals will run away with the title. No other team is close to matching their record, and their talent isn’t about to wane. Pittsburgh has been performing exceptionally, with eleven wins in their last 13 games. Not only that, but their upcoming schedule looks easy, with match ups against Cincinnati and Atlanta. Even still, they’ll most likely fall short of St. Louis.
This means that its likely that the Giants and the Cardinals will be the two wild card teams, going head to head for a chance at the playoffs. When is the National League Wild Card game? October 1st. Assuming the Giants don’t displace the Dodgers to take the division, I’ll be tuning in.