The time has come. After a week off and enough media coverage to wear on even the most avid football fan, the Super Bowl is finally a day away. As if you didn’t know by now, the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens will take on the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens earned their trip to the Super Bowl by defeating the New England Patriots 28-13. The 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 to punch their ticket for New Orleans.
The Ravens enter this game on an incredible hot streak. After finishing the regular season as losers in four of their last five games, the Ravens began their playoff run by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 in a home wildcard game. It was the first game of the season that the Ravens defense saw Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed on the field at the same time and it showed. The defense was staring to gel.
The Ravens then traveled to Denver and avenged an earlier loss to the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime. If not for two special teams touchdowns by the Broncos, the Ravens would have closed this game out in regulation. Instead, they needed a 70 yard Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones touchdown to force overtime. The defense stepped up big with an interception leading to the game winning field goal. This win was further evidence of both an offense and defense coming together at the right time. It was a big change from the 34-17 week 15 home loss.
In the AFC Championship, the Ravens hammered the Patriots. Their defense shutdown the NFL’s top offense while Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin connected twice on touchdowns. The Ravens team is peaking and it is thanks to a healthy offense and defense finally getting to play together. Also, do not underestimate the power of rallying around Ray Lewis. After announcing his retirement effective at the end of the season, the Ravens have circled the wagons and helped take their emotional leader, the heart and soul of their team, back to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers enter this game as the most complete team in football. Since inserting Colin Kaepernick in as starting quarterback, the 49ers are 7-2. In the regular season, they ranked 11th in total offense and third in total defense. Of course, the offensive ranking would be much higher if Kaepernick had been running the offense all season. In the regular season, Kaepernick threw for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions. More importantly, he ran for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
The 49ers had a bye during wild card weekend. In the divisional round, the 49ers crushed the Green Bay Packers 45-31. The 49ers defense held an explosive Packers offense in check. If not for a last minute touchdown, the 49ers dominance would have been evident in the final score. Kaepernick caused all kinds of problems for the Packers as he threw for 263 yards and ran for 181 yards. Running back Frank Gore also ran for 119 yards. It was pure dominance on both sides of the ball.
In the NFC Championship, the 49ers rallied to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24. Down 24-14 at the half, the 49ers Super Bowl hopes looked to be over. Not so fast. Their defense shutout the high powered Falcons offense in the second half. The offense did its job by scoring two downs on two solid drives.
So, who is going to win? On paper, the 49ers have more talent on both sides of the ball. Specifically, their offensive and defensive lines hold slight advantages. Their pistol offense still appears to be indefensible. It gives so many different formations and will cause matchup problems for the Ravens. If Kaepernick is making the correct decisions, you are either looking at a four yard run by Gore or a potential long run by Kaepernick. It is no wonder Vegas has the 49ers as solid favorites.
My head says to take the 49ers. They are younger, have more talent, and are playing an offense that I am not sure the Ravens can stop. My heart says to take the Ravens. They are hot and playing for Ray Lewis. Flacco has been on fire since Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator. The Ravens seem to be a team of destiny.
Despite what my head is telling me, I am going to go with the Ravens. I am not totally sure how they will do it. Maybe the big game is too much for Kaepernick who is making only his tenth start. Maybe Flacco continues his remarkable postseason run that has seen him throw for eight touchdowns against zero interceptions. Maybe the 49ers play tight while the Ravens play loose. I don’t know. All I know is that the Ravens are inspired. They are playing for Ray Lewis. They seem to be a team of destiny and who am I to go against that? The Ravens pull off the upset and send Lewis into the sunset with the Lombardi trophy.
The NBA trade deadline is still 22 days away, but what may prove to be the biggest trade of the 2012-2013 season went down Wednesday night. The Memphis Grizzlies sent small forward Rudy Gay and center Hamed Haddadi to the Toronto Raptors for power forward Ed Davis, point guard Jose Calderon, and a second round draft pick. The Grizzlies then send Calderon to the Detroit Pistons for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The question to me is not who won this trade, but did anyone win in this trade?
If you are looking at this trade purely from a financial standpoint, then the Grizzlies were the clear winners. They were in danger of facing steep penalties via the luxury tax next season. By trading Gay, the Grizzlies shed almost $10 million off of next year’s payroll and are now free of tax consequences. The Pistons were not far behind as all they added was an expiring contract. The Pistons, however, were not going to have to pay towards the luxury tax, so their cost cutting was not as pertinent. The Raptors added about $5 million.
While financial considerations are a part of every trade, I am more concerned with on the court performance. Did a team increase their chances to make a playoff run? Did a team add pieces for the future? So who won this trade on the court? I am not sure anyone did.
Based on star power, it would appear the Raptors were the big winners. They far and away added the best player in this trade. However, my question is what is the end game? Gay has two years left on his deal. The Raptors are a young team that is not close to contending for the playoffs. Gay probably makes the Raptors good enough to have poor lottery odds thus decreasing the potential talent level added through the draft. Even if the current team plus draft additions mature into a potential playoff team, I doubt they will be title contenders. I also doubt it will happen before Gay’s contract expires. This is a huge gamble for the Raptors, but one they had to make.
Despite journalists’ opinions that Gay and Zach Randolph could not co-exist on the same court, the Grizzlies looked like a title contender this season. They had a very hot start and are currently sitting at fourth in the western conference. In trading Gay, the Grizzlies parted with their leading scorer. Prince will bring some defensive intensity, but he is not going to replace the points Gay scored. Davis is a good young player who will improve as he gains experience, but he is still a year or two away from his best ball. Daye falls in the same category as Davis with less upside. All in all, the Grizzlies went from a title contender to a playoff team who will be lucky to get into round two.
The Pistons were in desperate need of a point guard and got that in Calderon. However, his contract expires at the end of the season and you have to wonder if he has any interest in re-signing with the Pistons. In trading away Prince, the Pistons dealt their best defender. As the last member of the 2004 championship team, the Pistons lost a veteran presence for their younger players.
So, in this moment, I am not sure anyone won this trade. If the Raptors are able to re-sign Gay and their young players develop, they will win this trade. The Grizzlies threw away any shot they had at a championship run and thus cannot win this trade on an on the court performance review. As a third team helping facilitate this trade, the Pistons were not going to come out as winners. However, if they keep Calderon they just may come in second. As of right now, no one won this trade.
It’s not often I will have a college basketball blog entry in January so you know something special must have happened. The 25th ranked Miami Hurricanes crushed the nation’s top ranked Duke Blue Devils 90-63. That is not a typo. The Hurricanes won by 27 points. This was the third worst loss for a top ranked team ever.
The Blue Devils held a 14-13 lead near the midway point of the first half. The Hurricanes then went ballistic. They hit five three pointers en route to a 25-1 run. The Blue Devils missed 13 consecutive shots and were held without a field goal for over eight minutes. The Hurricanes led 42-19 at the break and never looked back. For the game, the Hurricanes shot 56.9% from the field and held the Blue Devils to a paltry 29.7%.
It was a dominant performance for the Hurricanes who just might be for real. They are now 5-0 in conference play with wins over Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Boston College. Normally I do not condone fans rushing the court after a victory, especially when both teams are ranked, but I will make an exception in this case. This was the first time the Hurricanes defeated a top ranked team in school history. Add in the fact that they did so by 27 and rushing the court seems appropriate.
After a two week vacation and over ten days without cable or internet, I am finally back. I could not have chosen a better time to return because the Baltimore Ravens are headed to the Super Bowl! The Ravens traveled to Foxboro, Massachusetts and defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 to win the AFC Championship. The Ravens will be making their second Super Bowl Appearance. In their last trip, the Ravens defeated the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens will face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. The 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 to win the NFC Championship.
The AFC Championship was a tale of two halves. The first half controlled by the Patriots. Trailing 3-0, the Ravens had their one bright moment when they went on a 13 play 90 yard drive capped off by a two yard Ray Rice touchdown run. The Patriots immediately responded with a long drive of their own. A one yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker completed an 11 play 79 yard touchdown drive. The Patriots had a chance to strike again before the half, but a rare clock management error by Brady left the Patriots with a field goal instead of two shots at the end zone.
With a 13-7 lead to start the second half, all of the momentum was with the Patriots. Their offense tallied 214 first half yards to go along with three drives of nine plays or longer. Meanwhile, The Patriots defense had held the Ravens offense to just 130 yards with only one drive eclipsing four plays. Add in the fact that Tom Brady was 67-0 at home when leading at halftime and things did not look good for the Ravens. The only silver lining for the Ravens was that they only trailed by six at the break.
The second half proved to be no contest, but it was the Ravens who dominated. The Ravens defense shut the Patriots out. Joe Flacco led the Ravens offense on three consecutive touchdown drives capped by touchdown passes to Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin (two). The Ravens defense came up big in the fourth quarter, forcing three Patriots turnovers. Stevan Ridley fumbled when he was knocked out by Bernard Pollard. Tom Brady threw two interceptions that sealed the deal for good.
I am happy Ray Lewis will have a chance to win his second Super Bowl in his final season in the NFL. He has met so much to the Ravens over the years. He is the heart and soul of this team and it is only fitting that the team has rallied around his impending retirement to make this seemingly unlikely run. I also have to take my hat off to Joe Flacco. He is proving to be a much better quarterback than I ever gave him credit for. Flacco has eight touchdowns to zero interceptions in this year’s playoffs. He is the first quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. His six road wins are the most in NFL history.
On a side, I have to give props to CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe. He took Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to task for refusing a post game interview with CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker. There's something to be said about being gracious in defeat," said Sharpe. "We've seen the New England Patriots five times in the last 12 years be victorious. We've seen the opposing coaches who lost come out and talk to our Steve Tasker. Coach [Bill] Cowher did it when they lost to them, we saw this last week. Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can't be a poor sport all the time. You're not going to win all the time, and he does this every time he loses. It's unacceptable." Thanks Shannon for saying what we were all thinking.
Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens – AFC Champions.
Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1, 39 KOs) knocked Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) out cold on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. A right hand counter by Marquez with one second remaining in the sixth round dropped Pacquiao face first to the canvass where he laid motionless for several minutes. It was a perfectly timed and aimed punch by one of the best counter punchers in boxing. The result brought the first definitive winner of a bout in the four fight series.
This was an extremely interesting bout. From the outset, a few things were apparent to me. Marquez’s added muscle had slowed him down. He also looked a bit older overall. Pacquiao’s offense was flowing and he was firing well in combination. It appeared to me as though he could have boxed to a decision win simply by outworking the aging, muscle bound Marquez.
While Marquez was hindered by the increased muscle mass and advancing age, his boxing IQ was as high as ever. His game plan was very smart. He worked the body from the opening bell. His continued attack to the body caused Pacquiao to drop his hands. That led directly to the third round knockdown. Marquez appeared to be throwing his right hand to the body, but looped it to the head. Pacquiao moved his left arm down to guard the body, leaving his head exposed for a direct right hand that sent him to the canvas.
Pacquiao rose from the knockdown and turned up the intensity. His activity increased and he found a home for his jab and straight left on the heavier, more stationary Marquez. Pacquiao scored a knockdown via a straight left in round five. He also appeared to be distancing himself in the fight. His punches were more fluid and his legs were younger. Marquez was beginning to take more and more punishment.
Despite taking a number of flush shots, Marquez stuck to the game plan. He continued to work the body and look for countering opportunities. Then, with one second left in the sixth came the shot heard around the world. Pacquiao followed Marquez to the ropes as round six was closing. Pacquiao dropped his left hand to his waist while jabbing with his right. Marquez fired a counter right straight down the middle that crushed Pacquiao right on the chin. Pacquiao was out before he hit the canvas and the rest was history.
Marquez’s decision to trade with Pacquiao in hopes of scoring the huge counter was a big, but necessary risk. Marquez knew this strategy was the way to go when Pacquiao started busting him up in the fifth round. Pacquiao got over aggressive and Marquez took advantage in a huge way. It was a beautiful, textbook counter that will be replayed for years to come.
So, now talks will turn to a fifth fight. Count me out as wanting to see these guys mix it up again. Despite the win, Marquez’s age is starting to show. He should ride off into the sunset coming off this bout. As for Pacquiao, we need to see how he recovers from this knockout. He needs to get back to the gym and see how his chin and body responds. Then he needs to take an easy fight to see how his chin and body recover. That was a scary knockout and it may be in Pacquiao’s best interests to hang the gloves up while he still has all his faculties about him.
Instead of looking to the future, we should appreciate what we just saw - a fight of the year candidate between two bitter rivals that left us with the knockout of the year and a definitive winner for the first time in four meetings. Marquez showed guts, heart and determination in finally securing his long sought after victory over one of the best boxers of this generation. It’s been an amazing series of fights that was punctuated with a thrilling, dramatic ending in what hopefully will be the final chapter. From all boxing fans, thank you.
HBO PPV 9:00 PM, Saturday, December 8th, 2012 from The MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
Miguel Vazquez (32-3, 13 KOs) vs. Mercito Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KOs)
Weight Class: Lightweight (135 Pounds)
Title: Vazquez’s IBF Title
Analysis: This will be Vazquez’s fifth defense of the IBF lightweight title. Not only will this be Gesta’s first title opportunity, it will also be his biggest step up in competition to date. Vazquez will have the size and length advantages in this bout. He is three inches taller than Gesta and sports a reported reach advantage of four inches. For a fighter who likes to box from a distance, these advantages will be used to the upmost of Vazquez’s ability. While this seems like a very tough assignment for the underdog Gesta, I like his chances in this bout. If he can get inside and fight at a high, aggressive tempo, he has the ability to outwork the more conservative Vazquez. However, Gesta must go to the body to make Vazquez a more stationary target and to take away his movement. I am going to go with the upset and take Gesta to outwork Vazquez over 12 competitive, close rounds.
Prediction: Gesta 115-113
Yuriorkis Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) vs. Michael Farenas (34-3-4, 26 KOs)
Weight Class: Super Featherweight (130 Pounds)
Analysis: We have a Yuriorkis Gamboa sighting. After a 15 month layoff, Gamboa returns to the ring to face Michael Farenas. This should be a pretty easy bout for Gamboa. Farenas has never faced a fighter of Gamboa’s caliber. The only thing Farenas brings to the table would seem to be an ability to go rounds. However, whether he can give Gamboa the rounds he needs to get rid of the rust is a whole other matter. If Gamboa does not cruise as he tends to do when facing lesser opposition, I suspect he will become the first fighter to stop Farenas. After 15 months out of the ring, I think Gamboa will look to make a statement. I like him to use his power, speed, technique and defensive advantages to dominate Farenas en route to a fifth round stoppage.
Prediction: Gamboa KO5
Javier Fortuna (20-0, 15 KOs) vs. Patrick Hyland (27-0, 12 KOs)
Weight Class: Featherweight (126 Pounds)
Analysis: Someone’s 0 has got to go and, unfortunately for Hyland, it is pretty easy to see that it will be his undefeated record that finds its first blemish. Fortuna is a rising prospect who ran through former featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz in two rounds in his last bout. Fortuna is a quick fighter with explosive power. He has defensive liabilities, but I do not believe Hyland is going to be the one to exploit and take advantage of them. Hyland is in over his head in this bout. The class difference between the two fighters will be evident from the opening bell. Fortuna will score the knockout win midway through the bout.
Prediction: Fortuna KO4
Non-Televised, Saturday, December 8th, 2012 from The MCH Messecenter, Herning, Denmark
Mikkel Kessler (45-2, 34 KOs) vs. Brian Magee (36-4-1, 25 KOs)
Weight Class: Super Middleweight (168 Pounds)
Title: The Vacant WBA Title
Analysis: With his eyes set on bigger bouts including a potential rematch with Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler first must face Brian Magee in a bout for the WBA super middleweight title. Magee is a decent fighter who is okay all around, but excels at nothing. That being said, Kessler must be focused and prepared to take care of business or his future plans will be scrapped. Magee fights out of the southpaw stance and is good enough to steal this bout if Kessler has not trained properly and is looking to the future. I think Kessler will take care of business. His jab and right hand are strong punches that will be enough to keep Magee at bay. I like Kessler to win a lopsided decision.
Prediction: Kessler 117-111
NBC Sports 10:00 PM, Saturday, December 8th, 2012 from Temple’s McGonigle Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Analysis: Jennings is a rising American heavyweight prospect. He should not have a problem with Tupou. However, this is a good opportunity to see a young prospect continue on his path up the heavyweight ranks. This is also nice for anyone who would like to see boxing who does not have or want to shell out the pay per view money for Pacquiao-Marquez IV. Bryant’s skill set is developing. His jab is a work in progress, but improving. His combinations have been a bit sloppy but effective in recent bouts. We will see how he is improving along those lines as well. Jennings is the more skilled fighter and should score a mid round stoppage.
Prediction: Jennings KO5
Wealth TV 4:00 PM, Saturday, December 8th, 2012 from Bonus Arena, Hull, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
James DeGale (13-1, 9 KOs) vs. Fulgencio Zuniga (25-6-1, 22 KOs)
Weight Class: Super Middleweight (168 Pounds)
Analysis: If you have Wealth TV, and I actually do thanks to Verizon, you will be able to see this bout between super middleweight prospect James DeGale and former title challenger Fulgencio Zuniga. This is a good step up bout for DeGale who is still finding his rhythm as a professional boxer. His one loss was a close majority decision defeat against undefeated George Groves for the British super middleweight title. In his first bout following the loss, DeGale won the European super middleweight title and has defended it twice. The only reason I mention the European super middleweight title is because it is a good stepping stone belt on the way up the ranks. I like DeGale to pass this test and defeat Zuniga. DeGale’s slight two inch height advantage and southpaw stance will trouble Zuinga. DeGale’s speed and athleticism will also be large advantages. DeGale will win a comfortable decision.
HBO PPV 9:00 PM, Saturday, December 8th, 2012 from The MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs)
Weight Class: Welterweight (147 Pounds)
Analysis: Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will meet for the fourth time Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Nevada. I will not rehash the first three fights in their entirety, but were close bouts that could have gone either way. In their first bout, Pacquiao dropped Marquez three times in the first round only to see Marquez stage a furious comeback winning a majority of the rest of the rounds on the scorecards. The bout was judged a draw. The rematch saw Marquez get dropped in round three with an even back and forth throughout the fight that saw Pacquiao bring home a split decision win. The third fight was a technical battle that saw neither fighter hit the canvass. Pacquiao would be awarded a majority decision victory. Many have scored anywhere from one to all three of the bouts to Marquez. Seeing how the first bout took place in 2004 and the second in 2008 it is hard for me to remember how I scored those two bouts and I did not have time to re-watch them. However, I believe I scored the first bout to Marquez and the second bout to Pacquiao though I really should watch them and re-score them. I know I scored the third bout 115-113 for Marquez. Needless to say, that is how close these two fighters have been with one another in their three bouts.
So, what do I like in this bout? For Marquez, I like the determination and will he has to right a perceived wrong. Understandably, Marquez feels he has won all three bouts and gotten the short end of the stick on the judges’ scorecards. This drives Marquez and gives him a hunger that I doubt Pacquiao possesses. I like how well Marquez’s camp was for this bout. After three years of work with Angel Hernandez, Marquez has achieved the body transformation he was looking for. I also think Marquez has an advantage when compared to the Pacquiao camp. Reports are that conditioning coach Alex Ariza and trainer Freddie Roach have been bumping heads throughout the whole training process. It’s likely that this won’t have a huge effect on Pacquiao, but it is something to note.
As for Pacquiao, I like the confidence he brings into this bout as having an official record of 2-0-1 against Marquez. I also like Pacquiao’s age advantage in this bout. While he may be aging at 33, Pacquiao is six years younger than Marquez. At some point Marquez will show the effects of aging and 61 professional bouts. It can happen at any time and Pacquiao could find himself in the ring with an old Marquez Saturday night. I also like Pacquiao’s size and power advantages. He is the larger fighter. He has grown into the welterweight division while Marquez still looks like a blown up lightweight. Pacquiao’s power is also huge. He has dropped Marquez four times while not being dropped once in the trilogy. Possessing an eraser like that give Pacquiao a chance to pick up extra points or end the bout inside the distance – two factors Marquez does not possess in this bout.
The apparent strategies entering this bout are interesting. Marquez has focused on upper body strength and explosive power. He is looking to land more damaging blows to Pacquiao in hopes of either scoring a late stoppage or scoring hard enough blows to carry more rounds on the cards. This may be good in theory, but I really question the strategy. The last thing Marquez needs to do is be muscle bound and lose his quick hands. He relies on countering Pacquiao and if unable to do so, this could be a long night for Marquez. Also, Marquez looks a bit top heavy. I worry about his flexibility and movement. He already looked off balance in their last meeting and the last thing he needs to do is increase the unsteadiness on his aging legs.
Pacquiao’s strategy appears to be more aggressive and to look to stop Marquez. Again, this is good in theory. Pacquiao has dropped Marquez four times over the course of this rivalry and sports huge size and power advantages now that the bout has moved to 147 pounds. However, Pacquiao blew the first fight, in my opinion, by being overly aggressive and allowing Marquez to counter the heck out of him. Pacquiao needs to be cautiously aggressive if that makes sense. If he just bulls in and tries to blast Marquez, Pacquiao could get countered and find himself digging a hole on the scorecards that can only be rectified by a knockout. I do see why Pacquiao wants to be more aggressive. In the last bout, Marquez slowed the action and I believe he will look to do the same this time around. Pacquiao just needs to do it carefully.
All the way through last night, I was prepared to take Pacquiao by a mid to late round knockout. I first thought round eight and then round ten. I figured Marquez is getting older. I thought the last fight may have been the perfect storm of Marquez putting on one final great performance in his career mixed in with a distracted Pacquiao who had an underwhelming training camp thanks to marital woes, congressional commitments, and a list of other distractions. It seemed logical to me that a properly trained and distraction free Pacquiao would put a final stamp on this rivalry by stopping the smaller, older fighter.
After more thought and listening to other pundits, I feel myself shifting towards Marquez. He had the better camp and is the hungrier fighter. He also has the momentum entering this bout from their third meeting. Pacquiao has been inconsistent in his last three bouts against Shane Mosley, Marquez, and Timothy Bradley. Pacquiao has even started fading over the last third of these bouts. Pacquiao has always struggled with Marquez’s timing. Marquez slow the pace of the fight down and hits Pacquiao with clean scoring blows. If the bout goes the distance and is close, can the judges take another decision away from Marquez, especially after the consensus was that Marquez won the third bout?
It’s all intriguing, but Marquez has to get to the final bell and keep the fight close for this to happen. I didn’t think he could, but my mind may be changing on that. I picked a Pacquiao to score a stoppage win last time and he did not even drop Marquez. There is something about this matchup that dictates a distance fight. Maybe it is Marquez’s sheer will, the clash of styles, or something else, but I have started to get a feeling that this one will now go the distance.
I may regret this, but I am changing my pick from the favored Pacquiao by tenth round stoppage to the underdog Marquez by decision. I think Marquez will look to counter Pacquiao and dig to the body. I think Pacquiao will do as he says and look to increase his punch output to try and secure rounds on the scorecard. I think Marquez will continue to time Pacquiao and score. Each fighter will have their moments in this game of high speed chess. This will be another close bout, but the boxing gods will finally give Marquez his due and give him a justified decision win.
Have no fear, I'm still here. I had to take a little time off due to other commitments, but am ready to pick back up with my thoughts, opinions and analysis of events in the sports world. So, where am I going to start? Would you believe college basketball?
Believe it or not, that is where I am starting. I have a big problem with the latest round of college basketball rankings. The new rankings saw the Indiana Hoosiers remain in the number one position followed by the Duke Blue Devils at number two. Yes, the season is only a month or so old, but Duke should have jumped Indiana in the rankings.
In the last 15 days, Duke had defeated the then second, third, and fourth ranked schools in the country – Louisville, Kentucky, and Ohio State respectively. How is this not good enough to jump Indiana for the top spot in the nation? Were some of the teams overrated? It sure seems that way, but don't make preseason polls if you are going to ignore them when a team starts picking off other high ranked squads. Instead of ignoring what happens early in the season, don't make a poll until a month has passed and you have a better idea of who is a contender and who is a pretender.
I believe Indiana is the better team, but polls are not what we believe. They are based on the results of the games. If it is going to be what we believe, then let's say it is and stop shuffling teams based on when they lost and how many losses they have suffered. Let's keep a 4-3 Kentucky team in the top 25 and remove an undefeated but untested 8-0 Wichita State squad. Until the eye test is the new way to rank teams, we have to reward, or penalize, teams for on the court performance.
What makes this worse is that ranking Duke one for now has no effect on anything. This is not college football where it plays a huge role in a team having a shot at the National Championship. Indiana has time to climb back to number one with victories and/or Duke losses. Even in the extremely unlikely event both went undefeated; Indiana would still have a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. It is not like they won’t have a chance to win a championship.
After their recent run Duke deserves to be number one. It's a joke that they are still sitting at number two. It may not mean anything in the long run, but it diminishes to the credibility of the process.
The San Francisco Giants are one win away from winning the 2012 World Series. For the second straight game, the Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers 2-0. Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong went 5 2/3 innings giving up only five hits. The Giants offense was courtesy of an RBI triple from Gregor Blanco and an RBI single from Brandon Crawford. Both came in the second inning. The rest of the game was a pitching showdown. Tim Lincecum pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief and Sergio Romo pitched the ninth to get the save.
While the Tigers pitching has been fantastic since game one, their offense continues to struggle. After being two hit in game two, the Tigers were five hit in game three. Vogelsong didn’t even have great stuff. He struggled to get ahead in counts and walked four batters. The Tigers 3-4-5 hitters of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young struggled yet again. This game, they went 1-11.
So what has happened to the Tigers? Obviously, the Giants deserve some of the credit. They are pitching pretty well. However, they don’t deserve all of the credit. The starters have not been as dominant as one would think by looking at the statistics. I think the layoff has played a role. The Tigers lost their rhythm. Meanwhile, the Giants are oozing confidence. They were dominant in the final three games of the National League Championship Series. While they are not playing as dominantly now, they are still playing with a high level of confidence. When mixed in with the Tigers layoff, it has been a recipe for disaster for the American League Champions.
So is the series over? I think so. I have a hard time believing the Tigers can win four straight to win the World Series. Even if their bats warm up, the Giants pitching is solid and would only need to reach the level of the final three games of the NLCS once. Also, the Tigers bullpen cannot be relied upon. They would need to hold the lead for four games in a row without getting fatigued. They would also have to rely on a short bullpen considering how cold a Jose Valverde has been. I just can’t see it happening.
The San Francisco Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers 2-0 to take a two games to none lead in the World Series. Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner gave up only two hits over seven innings while striking out eight. Offensively, Hunter Pence was responsible for both Giants runs. With the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh, he scored when Brandon Crawford hit into a double play. In the eighth, Pence hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Angel Pagan to score.
There were two major controversial plays in this game. The first occurred in the second inning. With Prince Fielder on first and no outs, Delmon Young doubled to left. Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont sent Fielder who was gunned out at home by Gregor Blanco via relay to Marco Scutaro. I have to agree with the pundits that this was a bad move by Lamont. You can’t commit the first out of an inning at home. The Tigers have a potent offense and could have not only had a big inning but awoken their bats for the rest of the game or series if they had let Jhonny Peralta bat with no outs and runners on second and third. It was a big mistake that could end up costing the Tigers a shot at the Series.
The other controversial play came in the seventh inning with the score tied at 0. The Giants loaded the bases with no outs. Tigers manager Jim Leyland played the infield back in double play position as opposed to close for a force out at home. The first Giants batter up was Brandon Crawford who grounded into a double play that scored Hunter Pence. Ryan Theriot was next up. He struck out swinging to end the inning. I think Leyland made the right call in this situation. He and the Tigers minimized the damage on what could have been a potentially huge inning for the Giants. By only giving up one run, the Tigers were in a position to equalize or take the lead. Had the inning exploded to four or more runs, the Tigers would have had little to no shot at a potential rally. Limiting the damage was the right call.
It is bad enough to fall behind 0-2 in a series, but I see some real problems for the Tigers. While their pitching bounced back from game one, the Tigers bats have gone silent. The Tigers 3-4-5 hitters of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young were 1-7. Considering the Tigers were two hit, I guess one could argue that this was decent production. Seriously though, the Tigers have to get production from the middle three batters or they will not win a game in this series. Bumgarner did not have great stuff Thursday night, but the Tigers bats are so frigid that he looked like Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series.
As the Series shifts to Detroit, the Tigers need to find some offense. That will be no easy task as the Tigers will be facing the Giants two best pitchers in Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain in games three and four, respectively. The good news for the Tigers is that their pitching seems to have stabilized in game two. If the offense gets going, they can make a series of it. As for the Giants, they have to love their position. They are up two games to none with their two best pitchers ready to go against an ice cold Tigers lineup. Things could not look better.