AARON RODGERS MAKES CHICO PROUD AGAIN
They were lying in wait. The vulchers were circling after Ryan Braun's admission and subsequent suspenion in the Biogenesis scandal. But, the vulchers weren't circling to hammer away at Braun. No, the focus of the media's ire was Chico's Aaron Rodgers.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback had taken to twitter after Braun's initial denials two years ago to support his friend and defend him against charges of being a "drug cheat." In uncharacteristic fashion, Rodgers was outspoken, opinionated and firm in his defense. Aaron told people on twitter that they need to be careful what they read and believe and that he was willing to bet "next year's salary" on Braun's innocence. These were bold statements by Rodgers.
And, even as evidence mounted against the Brewers outfielder, I have to admit, Rodgers adamant defense of his friend caused me to pause and think maybe there was something to this strong defense. Maybe there was something wrong in the testing mechanism. Seriously, when has Chico's favorite son made repeated verbal gaffes. How about never !!!
So, when word leaked that Braun was busted and he would be suspended for 65 games, everyone, and I mean everyone wanted to see what Rodgers would say. On Friday he finally spoke at Packers training camp. Again, it was Rodgers "wowing" us by handling a difficult situation with aplomb, class and integrity.
"He (Braun) looked me in the eye on multiple occasions and repeatedly denied these allegations and said they were not true. I don't regret backing a friend, Obviously, in hindsight, a more measured approach would be a better course of action. I definitley believe in forgiveness and moving forward. He has a tough task in front of him moving forward with his career. I am just shocked and disappointed. It doesn't feel good being lied to."
In one short paragraph Aaron Rodgers had put out a growing fire. Just as he had done with the Favre controversy in his first year as a starter. I believe Rodgers answers in the Braun fiasco were on point and quite simply........................perfect.
RODGERS (left) and BRAUN HAVE BEEN THE TWO BIGGEST WISCONSIN SPORTS STARS IN RECENT YEARS
He told the media how not only were the fans of Milwaukee and the Brewers deceived but so was he. He showed us what being a friend is all about when you are loyal to those close to you. Some friends run, some hide, and some stay and take the fire. Rodgers showed us he is not a fair-weather friend. He stuck by Braun when the coals were hot. His statement also showed us that he is not immune from mistakes, in citing his "measured approach" when put in a position to defend and support friends in the future. He also laid it out in plain language where we all knew where he was coming from. His "doesn't feel good to be lied to" line was perfect. We have all stood up for friends and found out they had done us wrong. It happens to all of us. In his true humble and self-deprecating style it became another true Aaron moment. A relatable moment. Putting US in his shoes getting US to empathize.
He could have gone in several different directions during this drama. But, as we have come to expect with the Pleasant Valley High and Butte College product he made us proud again. Ardent in support, empathetic in disappointment, conciliatory when convinced, and human when let down by a friend......
PHIL MICKELSON RECENTLY WON TWO GOLF TOURNAMENTS; YOU WON'T BELIEVE HOW MUCH HE HAD TO PAY IN TAXES ON HIS WINNINGS
With back-to-back wins in Europe including his 5th Major tournment of his professional career Phil Mickelson should be basking in the glow of his golf prowess and rolling in cash. And, while the former is true, the latter is not, on a relative scale.
The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Lefty earned more than 2.2 million dollars with his wins at the Scottish Open and the British Open the last two weeks. Quite a haubl for a golfer that was told his game didn't cater to the links courses overseas. What many people do not know is that because of exhorbinant tax rates in Britain, Mickelson has to take a 45 percent tax hit to his largesse. Since Mickelson resides in California he will also have to pay an additional 13 percent in state taxes. According to Forbes magazine, Mickelson will not only have to pay tax on his winnings, but also any income derived from bonuses and endorsements that he earned while playing there.
Mickelson will get to use a foreign tax credit and be allowed to offset much of his tax burden to the feds. But, when you add it all up he will have to fork over roughly 1.4 million dollars in taxes to Britain, the Federal Government and the State of California. What's wrong with this picture ?
We all know there are serious flaws in the tax code that allow the wealthy to offset tax burdens with targeted loop-holes. It's how corporations make millions, even billions without the tax implications faced by the common man. I get it. The deck is stacked because politicians are paid off. Until we move to a flat tax without these specific targets the deck will always be stacked against the common man. The California and New York tax codes are also why big business moves to states like Florida and Texas. Why pay state taxes when you don't have to ?
I just find it incredibly distasteful to penalize success. Mickelson EARNED his 2.2 million dollar pay day with his talents. Mickelson EARNED these endorsement dollars with his unique talents. I believe in everyone paying their fair share. But, why do highly sucessful people have to pay 61 percent of their EARNINGS to taxes. Granted much of this penalty comes from Britain, where the astronomical tax rates make for public debate all the time. But, if you don't think we are steadily moving to a similar situation in this country then you just aren't paying attention.
Do I feel sorry for Phil Mickelson ? No. He is successful and well-paid for his talents. But, I also believe the wealthy and rich are disproportionately penalized through the tax code for their success. While the ultra-wealthy take advantage of targeted tax loop-holes that give them breaks, there is also a climate in this country where the have-nots expect to be taken care of by the well-off and successful. I don't understand this thinking. No one owes their fellow man a living. If we had an across the board flat-tax where everyone paid the same rate, fairness would ensue and I think personal responsibility would reign supreme.
Phil Mickelson caught heat a few months back for criticizing the tax rates in the State of California. He said he would have to move out of the state because the costs of living in the state were prohibitive. People saw it as a rich guy complaining about the hard-ships of making millons. It was not smart for Phil to take this tact. Ultimately it would have been better if he just did as we all do, just bitch to his wife Amy in their living room about the inequities in the tax code.
In the end Phil made more than 2.2 million dollars with two golf tournament wins in Europe, yet will clear, according to the LA Times 842, 000 dollars. Not a bad take for a few weeks work. But, with this 61 percent tax hit, I can understand why the wealthy are growing sick and tired of paying into a system that is only getting worse, while the minions continue to lobby for continued penalties (taxes) on the wealthy.
ALL SMILES FOR MICKELSON AND HIS LEGION OF FANS AS HE WINS THE BRITISH OPEN AT MUIRFIELD
Even though I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning I was not going to allow myself to miss the possible glory of my guy, Phil Mickelson. So despite lifting my wary head after five hours of sleep on A weekend, I had to see how Lefty was doing on an early Sunday morning.
As I rubbed my eyes and fumbled with the remote I finally found the British Open coverage on the mothership. To my surprise I found that Phil was not only in contention but he was on the leaderboard at the turn. Sitting at +1...two strokes behind Lee Westwood and Adam Scott. He was five back entering the final round. Well, this is surprising, I thought. Phil, in contention at the British Open on a Sunday. Really ?
What transpired over the next two plus hours was some of the most glorious golf action for a member of Phil's Army that I can remember. Not only did Mickelson play great golf, he was nearly perfect at a venue where not many of his fans thought he could compete. Hell, Phil had his doubts on whether he could compete on a links course.
As Phil teed it up at 13 the one thought that ran through my mind, "You can not afford a bad shot, straight off the tee, put it on the dance floor, and go to work." Phil immediately stuck it within 10 feet on the par 3 13th. He drained the putt and moved to even par for the tournament one shot back. 14 was thrilling as well. Phil put it perfectly on the green but still had a lengthy 18-footer for bird......DRAINO ! -1 under for the tournament and tied for the Open lead. As Phil was making shots we saw the likes of Westwood, Scott, Tiger and Mahan all scuffle down the stretch. The door had opened for Phil.
Phil went par on 15 as his ball tasted every part of the cup on a tricky 7-footer. He would then hit a great tee shot at 16, only to see his shot on the par 3 roll off the green. It was the type of disappointment that could bury the old Mickelson, but not today. Phil would get up and down for a great par save. The tournament would be won on 17 with true Phil drama. As Mickelson teed it up on the par 5 17th, Westwood and Scott were collapsing behind him. Shanks, duffs and mis-hits were the norm as these two great players were having troubles navigating Muirfield.
Phil would drill it right down the gut on 17 leaving him 303 yards from the cup. There was a stiff wind blowing in his face. Not knowing the troubles behind him with Westwood and Scott, Mickelson would hit a monster 3-wood. It will be his signature shot of this tournament. The ball took two huge bounces and rolled onto the green. A gutsy second shot where he was determined to get there in two. He now had eagle in sight, with a birdie a virtual certainty. But, with Phil, is anything ever a certainty ? That, is why we love him.
Phil would lag it wonderfully to the cup and then tap in for his birdie. All the while Westwood and Scott were giviing away a shot on cue. It was as if they were fulfilling their own destinies, so Phil could LIVE his.
Phil would birdie 18 wrapping up an amazing 32 on the back nine and a blistering 66 in the final round of the British Open. His legion of fans rejoiced. Mickelson has now won three of the four majors with the most elusive, that pesky US Open, where he has finished second six-times, most recently last month. Sunday's win shows how far mentally Lefty has come. In years past, it would have taken Mickelson weeks, even months to "deal" with the disappointment of having a US Open slip through his fingers. Now, a month later not only did Mickelson win the Scotland Open, but he takes down the British, the tournament that even his most loyal supporters never thought he would conquer.
I wrote more than a month ago that Phil has a legion of fans because we can relate. Phil's failures are our failures. We get it when he screws up, because we do it everyday. His "aw shucks" smile and his love of family is something we can admire. In short, he is easy to cheer for. There aren't many athletes in the world who have made more than 72 million dollars playing a sport and tens of millions in endorsements that we, the fan, can relate to. But, Phil Mickelson is that guy. We cheer when he wins, we shutter and mourn when he lets a US Open slip through his hands.
Mickelson, in a strange sense is how we wish life would be, thrilling in victory, colorful in defeat, yet never boring.
THE NBA IS EXPANDING THEIR USE OF INSTANT REPLAY....GET READY FOR MUCH LONGER GAMES
Changes to the NBA's replay policy will result in longer games and a virtual stoppage of play at every whistle at the ends of games. In their pursuit to get every call right, the NBA's brain-trust has decided to expand the use of replay in a move to improve their product. On the surface this isn't such a bad thing. We all want the calls to be right and the game can be served on several fronts if calls are more consistent and they are correct.
But, with the change, there is no way around the fact that the continuity of an NBA game will be affected. Out-going Commissioner David Stern told assembled media in Las Vegas this week that officials will now be able to use replay for things they didn't necessarily see in "real time." Therefore, if they go to the monitor for a goal-tending or out-of-bounds play and they see a shove, a trip or a push they can call a foul and dis-regard what they initially went to the video to see.
Second, game officials will now be able to go to the video replay on controversial block/charge calls in the paint. Referees will only be able to view replays of the block/charge on plays that take place within the restricted area. The restricted area is that small half circle under-neath the hoop that was put there to prevent defensive players from setting up shop too close to the bucket. THIS is the call that I think is going to really stretch these games out. I am not mad the league wants to get the call right. But, the excess time at the ends of ALL NBA games will be prohibitive.
If the league wants to get more calls right and have a free-flowing game I suggest doing something a little bit different. Why not have your game officials go through a training regimen that tells them to quit "anticipating" plays and making calls when in some cases there are no infractions. Too many times during an NBA game we see officials "take games over" in the waning minutes, making calls that they haven't made all night long. Now, I will concede that some of these calls are made because the intensity levels at the ends of NBA games are wratcheted up a few nothches (i.e. teams playing harder) but in most cases its just game officials who just can't help themselves and make calls for the sake of making calls.
In the end, I hope the product is better with the use of replay. But, I know I better bring my blanket and pillow because I will be off to never-never land while the officials haggle over a block/charge at the scorers table.
CLAYTON KERSHAW IS MIFFED AT NOT STARTING THE ALL-STAR GAME....WHY ?
Clayton Kershaw is not a happy camper and I don't understand why. Kershaw is having a tremendous season and appears on his way to another Cy Young Award. Yet, this week he has made a stink in New York site of tonight's All-Star Game at Citi Field because he is not starting the All-Star Game. Really ? THIS is what is bugging you ?
Now, whether this is Kershaw making this a story or he is trying to get a "dig in" on San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy is not known. But, we do know that Kershaw was rather terse in his responses when asked whether he should have started the game. When Bochy was asked whether New York Mets phenom Matt Harvey is only starting the Mid-Summer Classic because the game is being played at his home ballpark? Bochy responded with, "it really wouldn’t have mattered what city we were playing in." Kershaw countered with "that's his opinion." Ding Ding !
Kershaw says he understands that it makes sense to start Harvey because its being played at his home ball-park. But, that is not what was said by Bochy and evidently it has torqued the Dodgers lefty. When Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked whether Kershaw should be considered to start the game, Donnie Baseball responded with, ""I don't know why not. he's definitely pitching good enough to be the guy. I read what he said the other day and that says a lot about Clayton's character." Mattingly was alluding to complimentary comments made by Kershaw about Harvey.
Here is how I feel. Why is Kershaw giving these types of responses ? No one can argue with Kershaw's resume. 8-6 with a 1.98 ERA and 139 strikeouts. But, this is an EXHIBITION GAME. Regardless of the importance that Bud Selig and his legion of old codgers thinks, this game means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it determines home field in the World Series, but what is really important is the regular season and getting into the playoffs. The All-Star Game is an "I" guy thing. Its an individual event in a team game. Its means nothing, so why waste so much energy protesting why you aren't the starting pitcher in the game ?
Kershaw should have said, "Sure, I wanted to start, but can't really argue with Matt Harvey. He is having a great year." PERIOD ! End of story. Now, with Kershaw's responses we might have a little something-something generated between the dominant Dodger and Giants manager Bruce Bochy.......hmmm, come to think of it, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Enjoy the exhibition everyone ! Remember, its an exhbition game !
GIANTS BANDWAGON IS EMPTYING QUICKLY AS THE CELEBRATIONS HAVE STOPPED
Baseball is a game of passions and joys, but over the last three weeks it has been a game of despair for the San Francisco Giants and their fans. In one of the most miserable stretches in recent memory the Giants have dropped and amazing 16 of 19 and 14 of 16 to fall into last place in the National League West.
For the loyal, grinding "can't miss a game" fan this negative ebb is not a surprise. Its simply part of this wonderful game that we all love. For all of the Giants success over the last couple of years in winning two of the last three World Series Championships; real fans know the other shoe can drop at any time.
IT HAS DROPPED
The wear-and-tear of two deep post-season runs appears to be affecting what was a strength of this team. Giants pitching has faltered significantly. Tim Lincecum has lost 5 miles per hour on his fastball and is an average right-hander. Matt Cain is not locating his pitches and has also lost velocity. Madison Bumgarner is still young and good and should be considered the anchor.
The Giants offense right now is virtually non-existent. Buster Posey is hitting but that's about it. Hunter Pence is inconsistent and Pablo Sandoval is eating himself out of the game and out of a big contract. While Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are nice players, they are not corner-stone offensive players. This unpredictability is hurting the Giants and causing General Manager Brian Sabean to reassess. The Giants minor league system is not flush with prospects. It was recently rated 28th out of 30 by Baseball America meaning the Giants have some work to do. Most of their best prospects are at the Low-A level.
This titanic shift in Giants fortunes is also causing a voracious fan base to conduct their own reality checks. Living in Northern California it has been nothing but "Giants this" and "Giants that" for the last three years. But now we are seeing the difference between the casual "johnny-come-lately" fan and the true fan that lived and died with this team through the years.
I really like talking and conversing with these "lifers" as I like to call them. These Giants fans know the game and can converse at more than a pedestrian level about their team. I love when a Giant fan can break down the 1991 rotation and how Trevor Wilson owned the Dodgers in two late season match-ups. If a Giant fan hasn't heard of Mike Ivie or Johnnie Lee LeMaster, then I don't want to hear from you. The fact is, I have heard more from these "band-wagoneers" over the last three years than the true and real Giants fan. It happens with all winning teams, but this "band-wagonism" is annoying none-the-less and it happened so fast and with such frequency during the Giants title runs, that it simply pre-disposes me to be annoyed with all Giants fans.
So, with the Giants recent slide I am hearing two different reactions. The "lifer" says it has been a great run but its time to jettison some players, re-build the minor league system and re-group. This TOTALLY makes sense. I love talking about these types of moves with "lifers." Then you have the recent converts....Guh !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
They don't understand the ebb and flow of baseball. They don't get that it is not easy to win a World Series. They don't get that championship teams are built from ground-up and just don't happen. They are honestly completely confused and disgusted by what is happening with their 2013 San Francisco Giants. Pragmatic they are not. They will argue until they are red in the face that the Giants are "one hitter away" and that the Giants simply need to start playing better......Duh !
Are the Giants out of it ? No. But, are they in a transitional period where they have to critically analyze their organization and start preparing for the future ? Yes. The difference is knowledgeable fans get this and understand the organizational overhaul that is needed. Recent converts will bragadociously tell you that they are the World Series Champions and that this team needs to just start playing better and that your team "sucks."
Ah, the joys of rivalry, bad-blood and baseball. Its a beautiful thing. You just have to pick and choose who you choose to wage this verbal warfare with.
YOENIS CESPEDES (left) AND YASIEL PUIG (right) ARE BEACONS TO THEIR CUBAN BRETHREN
Riches, fame and noteriety are not promised to baseball players defecting from Cuba. But, with the emergence of Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics, ballplayers from the tiny island nation will now go to even greater lengths to try and make it off the island.
The reason ? Well Cuban baseball players are technically amateurs and paid like amateurs in their home country. This is not a generalization, Cuban players are some of the most talented baseball players in the world and are not allowed to leave. They watch from afar as the games best players perform on a grand stage while they dream of what could be. Many players, including Puig and Cespedes, are trying to change that. They just can't sit idly by. But, the price for leaving the island and defecting can be banishment from the game on Cuba and even imprisonment.
In post-revolutionary Cuba (1961) the Cuban government abolished the professional system and league of baseball and established a primary amateur and nationalistic identity. As K.E. Baird wrote in the Journal for Sport and Social Issues in 2005,
"In 1961, the Cuban government replaced the former professional baseball system with new amateur baseball leagues, most prominent among them the Cuban National Series The reorganization aimed to organize the sport based on a socialist model of sports driven by national ideals rather than money."
With this move to a more nationalistic approach to baseball, gone were the days of exhoribinant salaries and the highlighting of individual talent. The Cuban teams were trained to perform on the global stage and to entertain at home. But, as Steve Fainaru wrote in the Cuban Reader, "
The situation would get worse in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which was Cuba’s main trading partner. This led many players to defect to the United States due to deteriorating economic conditions. Amidst such action, even Fidel Castro admitted himself that it's hard to prevent the baseball stars from defecting. He would later proclaim, “if you have to compete against six million dollars versus three thousand Cuban pesos you cannot win.”
PUIG HAS DAZZLED DODGER FANS WITH HIS IMMENSE 5-TOOL TALENT AND STYLISH FLAIR
So, here we sit in 2013. Cuban players have shown they are more than capable to perform against big leaguers as evidenced by their performance during the World Baseball Classic Baseball Tournaments. These Cuban players want to perform on the grand scale, but there are inherent road-blocks.
They can defect but that can be dangerous on several fronts. First the risk of injury or even death. Like a thirsty man wants water, a confined man wants his freedom. That rings true especially when there are untold riches waiting for him in the United States. Second, many of these Cuban ball-players don't have the connections or support to try and get away from their oppressors. The Cuban government keeps a close eye on athletes of special talent making it even more difficult for them to get away.
We know the stories of some of baseball's recent greats, the trials and tests they went through to make it to America. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez of New York Yankees fame was on a rickety raft in shark infested waters and eventually made it to the States. Most recently 22 year-old phenom, Yasiel Puig tried to defect numerous times and was caught in one instance by members of the United States Coast Guard. Puig told members of that Coast Guard unit that he will keep trying to defect because he wants to play Major League Baseball. He told them his dreams would be realized.....signing a tennis ball for the crew. Puig eventually ended up in Cancun, Mexico. Then, weeks later he was trying out for baseball teams in Mexico eventually leading to his 7-year 42 million dollar contract he signed with the Dodgers.
The emergence of Puig and Cespedes tells us two things. One, the talent on the island is significant and would greatly impact our national game, which for any true baseball fan is a great thing, better players equals better product equals better game. Two, as native Cuban players hear through the grape-vine the tremendous success of Puig and Cespedes it will only make these bands of talented players more driven to escape their shackles and make it to America to play ball. They will leave to play the game they love, but also to be a free human being. To not be confined by a nationalistic mandate or doctrine. To simply play the game they love for a price determined by a market thirsting for this unique brand of Cuban talent.
I can't wait for the day there is a natural conduit for these Cuban players to make it to the big leagues. The game of baseball is so unique. Baseball is better with diversity. Adding the Cuban element on a grand scale to the mix will make the game even better
Some of the Cuban players on Major League rosters today......
Yasiel Puig Los Angeles Dodgers
Yoenis Cespedes Oakland A's
Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds
Leonys Martin Texas Rangers
Yunel Escobar Toronto Blue Jays
Kendrys Morales Seattle Mariners
Yuniesky Betancourt Milwaukee Brewers
Jose Iglesias Boston Red Sox
Adeiny Hechavarria Miami Marlins
Dayan Viciedo Chicago White Sox
Jorge Soler Chicago Cubs
Livan Hernandez Milwaukee Brewers
BIT O BACA:
SACRAMENTO KINGS PULL ROOKIE MANEUVER IN YANKING IGOUDALA OFFER
If the published reports are correct, then I think the Sacramento Kings new ownership and front office just made a huge mistake that doesn't send the best message.
ANDRE IGOUDALA GOT A 52 MILLION DOLLAR OFFER FROM THE SACRAMENTO KINGS
BUT, WITH THAT OFFER CAME CONDITIONS
On Monday, the Sacramento Kings presented free-agent forward Andre Igoudala with a contract offer for 4-years and 52 million dollars. It was the largest offer on the table for the multi-faceted forward. There was one catch to the offer though. Igoudala had to make a decision......QUICKLY. The Kings didn't want the former Philadelphia star shopping that price elsewhere and leveraging their offer to get better offers elsewhere.
Then, suddenly, in the wee hours this morning the Kings pulled their offer off the table. It can be debated whether Igoudala was worth that kind of money in the first place, but what can't be debated is this is a bad precedent to set for a new ownership group, front office and staff as they try and gain credibility in the highly competitvie Association.
The fans will see the move as fans see it. They will weigh whether the money and the talents of the player were worth the significant offer and potential hit down the road on the salary cap. But, this move of pulling the offer will hurt the Kings in an even more important arena, credibility.
What if the Kings are interested next week, next year in a free agent and they make an offer. There needs to be a symmetry and understanding between the teams, the agents and the players that once an offer is made, that offer is in stone. There is a trust in simply making the offer. The Kings new owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Pete D'Alessandro are not novices to the free agent game. They should have known better.
I understand this new group is under the gun. And, with Tyreke Evans getting a lucrative 4-year 44 million dollar offer from the Pelicans, the Kings need to make some pop-gun decisions. But, to make such a substantial offer, but put conditions of expediency on THAT offer seems unreasonable, especially when you are trying to become relevant again.
No doubt the Kings fans and the entire North State is thrilled the Kings are staying in Sacramento. But,
Ranadive and D'Alessandro better not make a habit of such sketchy ploys. The ownership group will get a pass on this one from the fans, hell, they are just thrilled to still have a team. But, if I'm a player or agent, there will be some skepticism when you hear the Sacramento Kings have made a contract offer.
Ranadive and company get a pass.......THIS TIME. But, don't let that happen again
PANDA'S GIRTH IS NO LONGER A LAUGHING MATTER FOR GIANTS FANS
When Pablo Sandoval is hitting his weight is really a non-issue. He turns into loveable Panda. The fuzzy third-baseman who hits lasers into the gaps and there is nary a peep over his tremendous girth. But, when the Panda stops hitting, the proverbial weight of the world surrounds the San Francisco Giants third sacker and all of sudden it becomes a problem.
Well folks, its a problem.
When Sandoval went on the disabled list several weeks ago Giants fans were hoping he would come back a new man. He came back a new man alright, there is a lot more of him. Sandoval clearly didn't spend his rehab on the stair-master or at least getting in a little bit of cardio. He is now tipping the scales at near rotund levels which clearly puts his Giants future in doubt.
The Giants are not about to invest a multi-year contract on a guy who can't take care of his body. I am not raising a new issue here. This is fodder for Bay Area sports talk hosts. And, lets be clear, this isn't cute. Sandoval is not big boned, he is not the loveable Panda when he is eating his way out of the game. There is no doubt the guy can rake. He can hit like nobody's business. But, he is not a physical freak like Detroit's Prince Fielder. Fielder is overweight, yet for his entire big league career he hasn't gotten hurt. He has been one of the most durable ballplayers in the game, despite his puffy attributes. Fielder is just a baseball/athletic anomoly. Panda is not.
Sandoval is constantly hurt. Breaking his hamate bone in his hand was a fluke a few years ago, but last year he pulled his hamstring when stretching at first base. He has had numerous muscle pulls and strains so far in his short big league career. And, one would have to be naive to think that his lack of conditioning didn't have something to do with it.
His enormous belly is also causing problems defensively. He simply can't get to some balls that should be easy outs ranging to ones' left or right. With the excess pounds he doesn't have the lateral movement to make the plays a big league third baseman needs to. And, we will start seeing teams bunting on the Panda if he keeps playing third base. The man simply can't bend down to field the ball.
The Giants front office has been patient. They sent him to Panda Camp a few years back and he dropped 35 pounds in the off-season. He then proceeded to go home for three weeks and gain 15 of those pounds back. If he wasn't so important to the Giants present and future, no one would care. But, we all believe if he just took a little better care of his body he could be a special player. While his waist line increases, his baseball talents are being wasted.
Its not too late for Pablo Sandoval, but the clock is ticking and patience has to be growing thin. Thin, an odd word to say when talking about The Panda. His weight has gone from cutesy, to disconcerting and unless he acts fast the Giants may have no other option but to trade him and get whatever they can for him.
THE WARRIORS SHOULD PASS ON THIS GUY FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS IN TODAY'S BIT O BACA
Today the Golden State Warriors will sit down with free agent Dwight Howard and tell him how much they love him, want him and how he will be the face of their franchise as the club prepares to move into beautiful new San Francisco arena. And, I am here to tell you Warriors fans that Howard's arrival would mark the destruction of something that looks so promising. Don't do it Dubs !
As tempting as Howard looks, and he certainly is a physical specimen, In my humble opinion the negatives far outweigh the postives. Let's look at the reasons why the Warriors SHOULD sign Howard.
1) He is the most dominant center in the game when his mind is right. He is physically over-powering and can single-handedly patrol the lane and defend the basket like no other player in the game. His attributes on the defensive end are unparalleld in the game today.
2) If you put Howard in the line-up with Golden State's plethora of shooters defenses would have very difficult decisions on a nightly basis. Do you double-team Howard leaving Steph Curry and company open or do you single team him and hope. Howard could easily be a 25 point and 15 rebound guy NIGHTLY for the Warriors.
3) Signing Howard immediately turns the Warriors into Championship contenders. And for a franchise that has languished at the bottom of the NBA food chain for roughly 40 years, this would be a major coup. He would be the face of the franchise and the Warrior fans would embrace him, even with his baggage. It would turn into Dwight's town....
Now, lets look at the reasons why this ISNT a marriage made in heaven.
1) BAGGAGE, and lots of it. The guy is an admitted sulker who pouts when things don't go his way. Is he motivated by winning or compiling numbers? He says all he wants to do is win, yet it seems at every turn he destroys his own teams with his self-centered attitude and play. The Warriors don't need a malcontent. They need a tough-minded superstar who wants to grind and work hard. Despite his immense talents, I am not convinced WINNING is at the top of Howard's list of priorities.
2) The Warriors will not be able to simply sign Howard. They just don't have enough money under the salary cap. To acquire Howard the Warriors will have to do a sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. Do you know what that is going to cost the Warriors ? Wrap your arms around this......Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and the expiring contracts next year of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins. If I'm the Lakers I am salivating at the thought of Howard wanting to join the Warriors. Two of the best young players in the game with limitless potential plus 25 million dollars in expiring contracts. It would be a no-brainer and even Kobe Bryant might "thank" Joe Lacob if Howard wants to bolt for the Bay. Simply stated, the Warriors depth, which was such a strength in their playoff run would be decimated.
3) This may seem trivial but check the numbers. Dwight Howard has been in the league for 9 years and he is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the history of the game. Rarely does he get to the line and become a threat, more like an albatross. Two years ago Warriors head coach Mark Jackson incorporated the (Hack-A-Howard) strategy. It worked. He made only 21-39 free throws and looks completely lost most of the time. His free throw shooting woes make me wonder, what has this guy been doing in the off-season for the past 9 years. Chris Webber came into the league a 50 percent free throw shooter. By the time Webber was flourishing with the Sacramento Kings he shot his charities at an 80 percent clip. Howard will be a liability at the ends of games. Do you keep him in to miss free throws, or do you pull him off the floor and lose your franchise guy at the most important part of the game.
4) And, in conclusion. I just don't think the guy is a winner. I have major questions about his attitude. He didn't like Orlando because he didn't think they were doing enough to win. He alienated his teammates with his whining and complaining. He went to the media complaining about Stan Van Gundy, and then when Van Gundy showed up to stand right next to Howard, just seconds after he ripped him, Howard denied having any problem with his coach. He took the Magic on a two-year torturous ride that ultimately led to Howard being dealt to the Lakers.
When he arrived in Los Angeles all seemed well until he determined he wasn't getting enough touches and inferring that Kobe Bryant was hogging the ball (hasn't he watched NBA basketball for the last 17 years.) He gave veiled references to being the odd man out and needing to feel part of it, when in reality he should have kept his mouth shut and done what the Lakers needed him to be, which was a defensive stopper, rebounder and post-threat. Instead Howard sulked and then gave himself a public pep-talk telling everyone that would listen that he just wanted to play ball. Its always excuses with this guy, rarely being accountable. It was Orlando's fault, Van Gundy's fault, Kobe's fault, Mike D'Antoni's fault but never Dwight's fault.
So, despite the Warriors dining with Dwight tonight to try and persuade him to come to the Bay, I hope their efforts fail. I hope he goes to some other franchise giving them false hope. As a Warrior fan we have dealt with high hopes before and been bitterly disappointed. This time I will celebrate when the Dwightmare decides to infect some other franchise with his less-than-spirited play and finger pointing....
Say NO to the DubNation, Dwight !
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