Well the Players Championship was pretty lame. Nobody within sniffing distance of the lead played well on Sunday with the exception of Tim Clark, letting that weird little midget and his gay-ass long putter to end up taking the win. I refuse to acknowledge he is awesome despite the fact that I was planning on bestowing that status on whoever won at Sawgrass, because I refuse to compliment anyone who uses a long putter - and little people creep me out. Also amongst the things done by creepy little people that I won't be acknowledging is Dallas Braden's perfect game against the Rays on Sunday. To throw a perfecto against that lineup would normally be amazing, but every since his little 12-year-old-boy-like outburst against A-Rod for "stepping on my mount" I can't stand the little guy. Plus his name is Dallas.
Actually, I suppose I could just put an entry for "Dwarves" in the Who Was Awesome section and talk about these two, but I don't really want to get into it because I have a couple of small friends and I'm not sure what side of the normal/freaky line they fall on. So let's just ignore these oompa loompas this week and move on. Agreed? Agreed.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Nick Blackburn. Pretty tough to ignore the week Blacky pulled out, going 2-0 with a complete game against Detroit earlier this week and then following it up with seven shutout innings on Sunday against Baltimore. I really don't know what to make of him. He doesn't strike anyone out (just 9 this year in 40 innings), but he doesn't walk anybody (11) either, and when he keeps the ball down and gets batters to keep it on the ground he can be very effective, like in that CG against Detroit where he got 22 ground balls to just 11 fly balls. Of course, when he's bad and batters are hitting the ball in the air, he generally gets shelled. All said, he's a good middle of the rotation starter, just like every other Twins' pitcher not named Liriano. In other words, he's good enough to win more than he loses, and with this team's offense should have a solid year.
2. LeBron James. Wow, talk about making a statement. After the Celtics stole game 2 in Cleveland to even the series at 1-1 there was a lot of chatter about how the Celtics were going to win, and the Cavs choked and were likely to choke the series away and blah blah blah. I'm guessing LeBron heard that, because he absolutely took the Celtics behind the woodshed on Friday and showed them his dark secret. He scored 21 points in the first quarter on something like 9-11 shooting, grabbed every rebound, and assisted on several other Cav baskets in route to a huge 1st quarter lead that ended up in becoming a huge blowout win. I've really never seen anything like it. Against a very good defensive team, James could literally do anything he wanted. I don't watch a ton of NBA, but now I know what all those NBA dorks are talking about with the "greatest ever" talk. Just wow. Of course.....
3. Rajon Rondo. Thanks to Rondo, you can't count the Celtics out just yet, because just as when LeBron is on nobody on the Celtics can stop him, the Cavs don't have anyone on their roster who can stop Rondo when he gets it going either. Paul Pierce absolutely sucked on Sunday, but it didn't matter since Rondo basically became LeBron (who, by the way, gets every single call to the point of embarrassment), putting up 29 points, grabbing 18 rebounds, and dishing 13 assists. Like James in the previous game, Rondo could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. And as impressive as LeBron was, there's still a sense that he could do it whenever he wanted and sometimes coasts on his jumper. With Rondo it was more impressive, because you really got that "raising his game" vibe. Very fun to watch.
4. Purdue. With JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore having put themselves in the NBA draft but not hiring an agent, there was a pretty clear best and worst case scenario here. If Johnson and Moore stayed in the draft, the Boilers would become Robbie Hummel plus talented question-marks and would likely be a fringe NCAA type team with a Sweet 16 upside and an NIT downside. If those two pulled out of the draft, the become a national title contender where a Sweet 16 elimination would be a failure. Since I'm putting this team in the Awesome category, you can probably guess that Moore and Johnson have decided to return. Actually, with Talor Battle, Mike Davis, and Demetri McCamey all doing the right thing and coming back to school, the Big Ten is only losing Evan Turner and that dumbass Manny Harris to early entry. Great. I love it when the conference gets stronger.
5. Vladimir Guerrero. Monster week for Vlad. It seemed like every time I was watching Sportscenter they were showing a Vlad home run this week. And he certainly was ripping the ball, hitting .360 and slugging .840 this week with 4 home runs and 13 ribbies in the 7 games, probably because he's feeling threatened by the awesomeness that is Justin Smoak. Whether it's Smoak-related, the change of scenery to Tejas, or health related, it's working. After a disastrous 2009 where he hit just .295 and OPSed .794 with 15 home runs (all career worsts) , his stats this year are at a much more robust .348 average with an OPS of .941, numbers much more suited to his prime years. Ponce de Leon was wrong. The Fountain of Youth isn't in Florida. It's in Texas. At the Alamo. In the Basement.
1. Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, a big-time SP propect for the Dodgers, had a very, very nice season last year - his second in the bigs. He was just 8-8, which doesn't really matter, and in 171 innings pitched he allowed just 119 hits while striking out 185. Those are pretty incredible numbers, which makes his struggles this year even more confusing. Going into Sunday he was sporting a 4.99 ERA this year (it was 2.79 last season) and a WHIP of 1.70 (it was 1.23 last year), and he hit his nadir (at least thus far) in a disaster of an outing last week against Milwaukee, where he lasted just 1 and 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and seven runs before getting yanked. I've watched Kershaw pitch a couple of times, and the kid has electric stuff. I'm not sure what the issue is, but I'm sure he'll get it figured out and start making morons look like fools at the plate again soon. Or he's in a death spiral and will be out of the league in two years. Since he actually bounced back with a really nice outing on Sunday and out-dueled Ubaldo, I'm betting against the death spiral thing.
2. Atlanta.. Starting with the Hawks, who are now down 0-3 to the Magic, and haven't even been close in a game yet, losing by 43, 14, and 30, and I literally watched three Hawks watch a missed Orlando three pointer bounce right back to the shooter, then continue watching as he waltzed in for an uncontested dunk. They can't shoot either, with their best shooting performance in the three games has been just 40%, and "star" Joe Johnson has practically torn-up the max contract someone was going to give him this offseason by chucking it up some stinkers: 10 pts (4-11 shooting) and 5 TOs in game 1, 5-16 shooting and just 2 rebounds in game 2, and just 8 points on 3-15 shooting in game 3. He's helped to guarantee that this is the most boringest series of the most boringest NBA playoffs ever. Seriously, three of the four series suck. At least Phoenix/LA and Cleveland/Orlando should make for a pretty good Final Four - as long as LA doesn't win again. And although the Braves haven't been terrible, they did toss out a couple of clunkers this week. First, they almost get perfected by Scott Olsen on Tuesday, and then on Friday night they let old man Moyer toss a complete game two-hitter against them, just his second shutout in the last seven years. And don't forget, this is the team that was no-hit by Ubaldo earlier this season as well. The Braves might not be a horrible team overall, but at their worst, they hit like a collection of nine Puntos. Or Kubels, at this point, jesus.
3. Tiger Woods. Well he made the cut at the Players, which is good, but had to withdraw in the middle of the fourth round due to a neck injury, which is bad. And his swing right now is all kinds of F'd up. Not only can he not hit a fairway to save his life (he only 6 last week at Quail Hollow), but he can't hit for distance either - he was dead last in driving distance this week at just 258 yards. Seriously, Brad Faxon thinks Tiger hits the ball like a girl. Clearly, he rushed himself back a bit early, and if he's smart he'll shut it down for a bit and maybe target the PGA Championship for his return. Of course, he won't be able to stay away from the rest of the majors, at a minimum, but I really think he needs to take a lot of time, and get himself back into the same shape he was before his wife lost her mind. He's at a very interesting crossroads, that's for sure. Can't wait to see how this goes down.
4. San Antonio Spurs. Speaking of boring series, I knew the Spurs window was closing, but I wasn't expecting it be slammed shut on their fingers with a 4-0 sweep by the Suns. I guess when, except for a couple of guys, every contributor on the team is either old or white Father Time can catch up pretty quickly. You might be tempted to chalk it up to the fact that they were playing the Suns and their unusual-ish style, but the Spurs have basically owned the Spurs over the years. Getting swept by the Sun in round 2 is probably more damaging and soul-baring than getting swept in the first round by the Mavs would have been. Realistically, they can hold on and be a non-threatening playoff team for a couple of years, but if they're smart it's time to start trying to get all the value they can out of whichever pieces they can move, otherwise they'll be looking at a long fall down the line.
5. Jason Kubel. As you probably know, I am Kubel's biggest fan. However, he is starting to lose even me, going just 3-15 this week and is still hitting just .209 this year and is still sitting on two home runs - the same amount as Orlando Hudson. He's still walking, which shows he hasn't completely lost it, and he isn't striking out significantly more often, but he just isn't hitting. I haven't seen a lot of hard hit balls right at people or miraculous plays to rob hits, it's more a bunch of super weak tappers at infielders and infield pop ups (he's doubled his IF popup % from last year) and he's now losing at-bats to Thome. I know one of these days he'll be back, and when he does he's going to be white hot, you can count on it. I just don't know when. So I'm going to try to jump start his season for him - we'll be benching him in fantasy this week. That practically guarantees he's going to break out. Or at least he better. I don't want to have to burn my Kubel shirt. It cost me like fifteen bucks.
Finally I'd like to add a couple more people that are awesome in honor of Mother's Day: Mama W and Grandma W. You both rock, and have been a huge influence on the person I have become.
Shame on you.