Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Photos and Video

The Fieldhouse goes CRAZY


Mario For three...........


Self loving life.....

Getting the Trophy...CHAMPS BABY!!!

Tha Hawks watch One Shining Moment


It's all over. My demons have been exorcised. 32 years of frustration have all melted away with a flick of Mario Chalmers wrist. This just doesn't happen to my teams. It doesn't. MY TEAMS are the ones that choke away a nine point lead with 2:12 left. MY TEAMS are the ones that don't make the insurmountable leads disappear. MY TEAMS are the one that experience excruciating heartbreak. But you know something. For once in my life and for once in this crazy, ridiculous world we live in, the good guys won and karma was on our side.

With a minute to go, the game seemed over. With 10 seconds to go, the game seemed over. That is when I received the following text message from my brother: "Come on dad! work your magic!" he was referring to our late father who was no doubt looking down and smiling last night. Just like that, Derrick Rose missed his first free throw and Chalmers tied the game with a shot that the Jayhawk Nation will never forget.

Seriously though, did this really happen? Did Memphis really miss four of their last five free throws in regulation? Did they really get an offensive rebound with 10 seconds to go and weather two different storms in the last 20 seconds, yet still give KU a chance to tie it? Did they really not foul right away and allow Chalmers a chance to tie it? YES! Did Roy Williams really put a KU sticker on his shirt and sit in the stands rooting for his old team?

I just can't believe this really happened. I was a wreck all night long, but when Derrick Rose hit that ridiculous bank shot fade-away with about four minutes left, I knew it was over and it wasn't meant to be. Was I ever going to get that championship feeling? I was convinced the answer was no. But then came the run.

A Sherron Collins inbounds pass and steal turned into a big three. The Joey Dorsey fifth foul away from the basket and the Chalmers free throws. The Darrell Arthur fadeaway. The missed Memphis free throws. The Chalmers three. WOW. Not until KU had the ball back down two with about 20 seconds left did I actually think there was a shot. Then Collins went OOC and drove wildly to the hole and was swatted. All of us in the room were cursing his poor decision. Still, Chris-Douglas Roberts granted us all a reprieve with two misses at the line. Yet, Arthur forgot to box out Robert Dozier and KU had to foul Rose. Now I was 100% SURE he would hit both and we'd be done. So much for "we will hit them when they count," right coach Calipari?

When the Chalmers three was in the air, it felt like five minutes went by. When it dropped, I screamed "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!" I literally didn't believe it had just happened. On to OT we went and you just knew Memphis was done.

As the clock hit zero, I didn't know what to do. I hugged my boys, I teared up, I stood in disbelief watching as the KU players and coaches celebrated. But more than anything, it felt as though the weight of the world was off of my shoulders. I seriously felt different. Something that has lived with me for 32 years had died. One of my teams actually won it all and the championship I had so badly wanted was here.

I couldn't sleep all night. The boys went out in Chicago for some drinks to celebrate. I came back to Sean's apartment and we watched highlights. I was so geeked up. I'm up early again. The whole thing just feels so good. I came to a conclusion last night, it's over for me and the blog. I can now officially retire "My Teams are Cursed," because you know something, they aren't. Maybe my Cleveland teams still are, but my beloved Kansas Jayhawks have delivered something to me that I have always wanted and needed. Later today, I will post the article link roundup as well as game analysis, but after that, it's over folks. Thanks for everyone's well wishes, support, and love. This was truly one of the great nights of my life.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

One More!

One more. That's all it is going to take. If Kansas wins Monday night and gets MTAC their first title, do we have to change the name of the website? Do we retire the site? Who knows. It's clearly not the right move to even think about having that conversation since my teams have been this close before, only to fail to seal the deal. Maybe though, just maybe, this team is different. Maybe, they are the ones to give MTAC that feeling that we have longed for our entire 32 years of existance. I said to my Mrs. MTAC last night that there is only one thing missing in my life, and we are 40 minutes away from it. I've got the coolest wife (who else could put up with all of my bullshit) and family, amazing friends, and the best son any man could ask for. Scott van Pelt on ESPN Radio said on Friday that when his beloved Maryland Terrapins won the national title in 2002, he said he knew what it meant when they said "now, I can die in peace." Is MTAC about to finally experience that feeling?

If last night was any indicator, Monday could be a wild ride. What a tale of three games this was. In all of my years of watching KU Basketball, I have never seen a first 15 minutes. It's almost as if the 'Hawks couldn't miss and the Tar Heels could hit anything. The defense was swarming. Everytimg you looked up, Russell Robinson or Mario Chalmers was taking the ball away or Cole Aldrich was blocking a shot, starting a fast break that would end in a layup or a Brandon Rush three. Before we could stop from holding in the giddyness, it was 40-12 and CBS's Billy Packer actually said "this game is over." Shots of a desponent Roy Williams brought smiles to the KU Nation watching on TV. We've seen that look too many times.

But you just knew the Tar Heels would make a run. Game two was just starting. The last five minutes of the half was dominated by UNC and their super sixth man Danny Green. Sherron C0llins buzzer-beating layup put KU up 44-27 at the half. Self diagrammed a beautiful screen and dish to the post for Darrell Arthur on the first possession and that is where the game turned. Tyler Hansbrough and company were attempting to make our worst nightmares come true. The run we were awaiting was happening. The Jayhawks decided to stop going into the post and started jacking up wild jumpers whole UNC couldn't miss. (Oh, I forgot to mention the various b.s. charge calls that Hansbrough received. If you bump into him going to the hole, its a charge). I felt myself getting sicker and sicker. A 28 point first half lead all of a sudden turned into a 54-50 game. UNC was on a 47-24 run.

But once again, the game turned. We don't remember whether it was the big Sherron Collins three, the Brandon Rush driving left-handed layup, or the renewed move to go into the post with Darnell Jackson, but KU put the game away with a 13-0 run and finished the game 20-7. The last two minutes, we finally had a safe feeling. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. KU fans had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs again. Now, they are just one win away from winning it all. You can see it in Bill Self's face, he is having so much fun with this team. We can't imagine what he'll be like if his squad closes the deal Monday night.

The Whup

Cole Aldrich - Say it again. COLE ALDRICH! If you would have told us that Cole Aldrich would play 13 first half minutes, score six points, grab six boards, and block three shots in those 13 minutes, and while he was on the floor, KU ended a 17-10 lead to 40-12, we would have asked what you were smoking and where can we get some. Cole was sensational. This was by far his best game of the season. He was so active on the glass and on the defensive end, who knew HE'D be the one who gave Hansbrough fits. With Sasha Kaun and Jackson in foul trouble, he stepped up big time. “I thought Cole was the best player in the game for a stretch in the first half,” Self said. “He may have won the game for us as much as anybody because he bought us so many great minutes.” The best is that thanks to Cole, we no longer have to hear about Hansbrough working harder than anyone else in the world, well at least for nine months.

Rush to the Rescue - Everyone has been telling us that Rush is an NBA prospect. I think I finally saw it last night. He had the eye of a player trying to move up the draft board on the season's biggest stage. In 32 minutes, Rush was as aggressive as he has been all year, scoring 25 points and taking 17 shots. He grabbed seven boards and played his usual excellent defense. You can bet he will be the one who gets the assignment of Chris Douglas-Roberts on Monday night.

The Post Defense - Not many teams can hold "the great" Tyler Hansbrough to 17 and nine boards, but the KU rotation of bigs did the job. Jackson, Kaun, Darrell Arthur, and Aldrich all took turns guarding him and the double-teaming worked to perfection. You could see the difference in the two teams right there. KU has four agile, tough, and smart big men, UNC had one. Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson? What do those two do?

The First 15 - This bears repeating. This was the single best 15 minutes of Basketball any KU team has ever played, especially in a game of this magnitude. The Hawks shot over 70%, nailed 4-5 threes, and were all over the Heels defensively. It was truly a thing of beauty.

The Real Sherron - OK, he turned the ball over seven times and played out of control at times, but KU's offense just rolls when he is on his game as he was late in the game. He shed the knee brace and finally looked 100%. This was the perfect kind of game and matchup for Sherron, because he wants to run, run, run. “Everybody keeps saying ‘their pace’, but it’s our pace." He said. "We’ve played like that all season. That’s the big thing. Everybody’s saying ‘How you gonna stop them? How you gonna run with them?’ How you gonna stop us? We run, too. I think that played into our hand, everybody’s worried about how we’re going to run with them and we ran them.”

The Glass Work - Kansas 42 North Carolina 33. Did you know that North Carolina led the country in rebound margin? That and a quarter would have gotten them a newspaper last night. Didn't matter. KU was the more physical team and it showed on the glass. UNC had no answer for Aldrich. Did we really just type that last sentence?

Vintage Roy - While his team was getting it's doors blown off, Roy Williams once again refused to slow things down with timeouts. Some things never change. You can also question why, with five minutes to go, trailing by nine, he had Ty Lawson on the bench in favor of Quinton Thomas. By the time he went back to Lawson with just over two left, it was too late. Credit him for the motivation to get his team back from a 28 point deficit to four. But late, Self outcoached him.

Game Quotes (courtesy of KUsports.com)

Rodrick Stewart on watching the game hurt and losing control of his emotions late: “They used it as motivation, and every time they came over in the timeout, they would just say ‘Keep your head up’ and stuff like that. But it’s all about the team. I don’t know if my knee really helped motivate us. I hope it did. It looked like it did. Whatever worked. Played with a lot of energy and had a lot of fun out there ... I was over there crying, trying to hold it in the whole time, but I think that set it off a little bit with the fans chanting my name.”

Sasha Kaun on Cole Aldrich’s contributions Saturday: “He played the best game of his career. I think he did a phenomenal job. He came out strong, got some boards, made some shots, and he was a huge, huge, huge help to us.”

Sasha Kaun on comparing going against Tyler Hansbrough to Michael Beasley: “They’re both great players. They’re so different from each other in a way that Beasley is more of a talent and Hansbrough’s such a hard worker, and he always fights. Beasley can just take you off the perimeter, so creative with the ball.”

Darrell Arthur on the efficiency KU played with: “If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing and come out like that (Monday), I don’t think anybody can beat us.”

Darrell Arthur on answering UNC’s second half run: “I think those guys got winded, because they were down 28 and had to make a massive comeback, so I think those guys got tired and we just took advantage of those guys on our offensive end.”

Sherron Collins on Memphis: “They’re tough. They’re fast, tough, strong, similar to our guards. We’ll be ready to play them, though ... We feel confident. We feel we’re one of the best teams in the country and it’ll be proven Monday.”

Sherron Collins on the game’s pace Saturday: “Everybody keeps saying ‘their pace’, but it’s our pace. We’ve played like that all season. That’s the big thing. Everybody’s saying ‘How you gonna stop them? How you gonna run with them?’ How you gonna stop us? We run, too. I think that played into our hand, everybody’s worried about how we’re going to run with them and we ran them.”

Mario Chalmers on the huge first half lead: “I kinda was surprised, but I knew a lot of it had to do with them missing a lot of shots and we were hitting our shots. Our defense was excellent tonight, so it was hard for them to get going ... Once we got them down, we just wanted to make sure we kept them down and were able to do that.”

Cole Aldrich on his performance against Tyler Hansbrough: “It was a blast. I don’t even know what to say, because he’s such a great player, and just being able to be on the same court, in the Final Four, in San Antonio, playing against him, it’s a huge honor ... We’ve got four really good big guys, and I don’t know if he’s quite gone against four big guys like that. We just tried to double the post, constantly deny the post and keep him off the glass.”

Cole Aldrich on literally taking a rebound away from Tyler Hansbrough: “I wasn’t gonna let it go. I got it, and I was like ‘He’s gonna try his dangdest to get this, and I won’t let him.’”

Bill Self on Cole Aldrich: “I thought Cole was the best player in the game for a stretch in the first half. We’re playing out of foul trouble, Sasha gets two minutes and Darnell gets seven the first half, and we didn’t have to play out of kilter because he was so good ... He may have won the game for us as much as anybody because he bought us so many great minutes.”

Bill Self on answering UNC’s run: “When I was at Tulsa, in my first NCAA Tournament game, we had College of Charleston down 52-26, and they missed a three to take the lead with a minute left, then we end up winning by nine ... We knew they were gonna make a run. We hoped they wouldn’t have got to four, but we went braindead for awhile. We kept clipping off shots when shots weren’t going down, and then their best offense was our offense because we just threw it to them to start the second half and they went and made layups ... The thing I was most proud of, on the biggest stage, they were in the attack mode for 40 minutes.”

Bill Self on where motivation came from Saturday: “All we talked about was Carolina (their players, not going against Roy Williams). Our players care about guarding Lawson, Ellington and Hansbrough. They were on the circuits together. Ty was the best point guard, Sherron was the second-best point guard coming out. That’s what everybody said. Mario wanted to go against Ellington. That’s what our motivation was.”

Bill Self on what is now guaranteed to be KU’s last game of the season: “I think it’s great, because we can all hibernate and get some rest in a little bit. Coaches are like this: They never want the season to end, but when they do, they’re really glad. I know Cal and I are both gonna be really happy that the season’s over - of course one of us is gonna be ecstatic and one of us will struggle for awhile. But I told our guys before, I’m really looking forward to practice tomorrow. And I am. When you get to this point, everything is the last ... And we’re ready for it to end. We just didn’t want it to end until Monday.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Final Four Preview

We have the Final Four that many people wanted to see. For the first time since the seedings began in 1979, all four #1 seeds have made it through. North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Memphis were clearly the best four teams in the country all year long. The lowest any of these teams was ranked at any time was 8th (Kansas). Their eight combined losses is the least amount combined for any Final Four in history. You’ve got three first-team All-Americans (UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough, UCLA’s Kevin Love, Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts), two of the three best Freshman in the country (Love, Memphis’s Derrick Rose), and the best defensive backcourt in the nation (Kansas’ Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers). The casual fan wants to be watching Cinderella this weekend, but the hardcore fan, like me, is salivating at these two matchups. Any one of these four teams could easily win it all. Let’s break it down:

UCLA (35-3) vs. Memphis (37-1)

Toughest Game Getting Here

UCLA – 2nd Round vs. Texas A&M 51-49 – If not for a blown non-call (sound familiar UCLA fans?) against A&M’s Donald Sloan on the final possession, who knows if the Bruins would still be playing today.

Memphis – 2nd Round vs. Mississippi State 77-74 – The infamous poor free-throw shooting Tigers allowed Mississippi State back into the game with a chance to tie on the last shot.
The Starters

PG Darren Collison (UCLA) vs. Derrick Rose (Memphis) – Talk about a Rolls Royce vs. a Bentley. Collison is the heart and soul of the Bruins and does everything. He handles, he is their go to scorer when they need a bucket late, and he is their lock down defender on the perimeter. Rose, on the other hand, is one of the most talented players in the country, a lock top three NBA pick who is a pass first point guard who can score if need be. He doesn’t play like a Freshman. You can’t go wrong with either guy. Advantage: Push – This is a copout, by while Rose probably is the better overall talent, Collison’s a veteran of three Final Four’s and one of the toughest and smartest players in the country.

SG Russell Westbrook (UCLA) vs. Antonio Anderson (Memphis) – Westbrook is another lottery pick waiting to happen. This kid has superior athletic ability, loves to play defense, and has greatly improved his offense game in his Sophomore season. Of all of the UCLA studs, Westbrook is most loved by NBA scouts. Anderson is a spot up, catch and shoot guy who is very streaky. The Tigers are at their best when he is hot. Advantage: Westbrook – Bottom line, he is more valuable to his team and does more than Anderson.

SF Josh Shipp (UCLA) vs. Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis) – Shipp is the guy who stepped into the scoring role vacated by Arron Afflalo. Unfortunately for him, he picked the worst time to be mired in a shooting slump. That said, if he gets going, it opens everything up inside for Kevin Love. Douglas-Roberts is an absolute scoring machine who gets to the hole or nails you with a superb mid-range game. He may have been a first team All-American, but he is probably the most underrated player in college basketball. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts – It’s really no contest. CDR could drop 30 on anyone. UCLA included.

PF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) vs. Robert Dozier (Memphis) – This is a battle of role players who are of the utmost importance to their teams. Mbah a Moute has been battling an ankle injury, but has been gutting it out. He is the ultimate garbage man; a mini-Dennis Rodman type who does the little things. Dozier is a skinny four man who can get you 12 and eight or completely disappear. Advantage: Mbah a Moute – A very close edge thanks to his intangibles and smarts on the court.

C Kevin Love (UCLA) vs. Joey Dorsey (Memphis) – This matchup may be the one that decides the game. Can Dorsey, the smack-talking defensive and rebounding tough guy stay out of foul trouble why trying to stop the man the UCLA offense runs through, Love? Dorsey can dunk with the best of them and is only counted on for garbage points in the paint. Love on the other hand can do it all; shoot from three, hit fade-aways, and show an array of post moves. Not to mention, he is the best passing Center you will find anywhere. Advantage: Love – He’s the best true post man in the nation west of Tyler Hansbrough and hasn’t been stopped all year.

The Bench

Alfred Aboya, James Keefe, Lorenzo Mata-Real (UCLA)


Shawn Taggert, Doneal Mack, Willie Kemp, Jeff Robinson (Memphis)

Advantage: Memphis - Really, this isn’t a contest. UCLA literally gets nothing from there bench other than fouls and rebounding. Forget James Keefe’s double double in the Sweet 16, it was his career game and before that he rarely played. Meanwhile, the Tigers bench includes a solid backup PG in Kemp, their best three point shooter in Mack, and a savvy veteran PF in Taggert. They will be without Andre Allen who was suspended for violating team rules earlier this week.

The Pick: UCLA 65-64 – We desperately want to drink the Memphis Kool-Aid, we do. But there is a sneaking suspicion that Dorsey won’t be able to keep his hands off of Love and will be in foul trouble all night long. UCLA hedges better on high screens than any team you will see. Rose and Collison will cancel each other out and Westbrook will lock up CDR. Love’s massive offensive skills will be the difference.

North Carolina (36-2) vs. Kansas (35-3)

Toughest Game Getting Here

North Carolina – Elite Eight – Louisville 83-73 –
This had the making of another classic Roy Williams choke-job as the Cardinals came all the way back from a 13 point deficit to tie it, but than Tyler Hansbrough took over down the stretch.

Kansas – Elite Eight – Davidson 59-57 – KU shot the ball poorly early and let Stephen Curry and company hang around long enough to scare the heck out of them. Sasha Kaun saved the day in the second half with his post play and Bill Self’s decision to go to the box and one on Curry was genius.

The Starters

PG Ty Lawson (UNC) vs. Russell Robinson (Kansas) – Lawson is lightning quick with the ball and the perfect point man for Roy Williams offense. He gets up and down the floor after a made basket in a blur. Since returning from his ankle injury, UNC hasn’t lost a game and has dominated their competition. As fro Robinson, his forte is defense and play-making. He is definitely the fifth option on offense, but has been known to knock down a big three when open. It’s his Senior season and he has played like one, saving his best for last; he has been brilliant in the tournament. Advantage: Lawson – Really it’s no contest. Not one coach would take Robinson over Lawson. He is superior offensively in every way, but don’t discount what Robinson means to KU.

SG Wayne Ellington (UNC) vs. Mario Chalmers (Kansas) – When Ellington is knocking down his deep jumpers, UNC is extremely tough to beat. His problem is consistency. He is as capable of scoring 28 as he is eight. He is a classic catch and shoot two-guard who has improved his driving game. Chalmers is the guy who wants the ball at the end of the game for the Jayhawks. He is a superior three point shooter, loves to drive to the hole for a floater, and is the best off the ball defender in the nation. Advantage: Push – We wanted to give this to Chalmers, but in reality, Ellington is a better offensive player, Chalmers the better defender, but Chalmers isn’t that far off offensively.

SF Marcus Ginyard (UNC) vs. Brandon Rush (Kansas) –
Ginyard is UNC’s version of Russell Robinson. He is counted on for defense and can knock down the occasional three if he is open. Williams has said he reminds him of former KU Guard and current UNC assistant Jerod Haase. Rush is the enigma. He has the talent to be the best player on the floor anytime he is out there, but too often fades in and out, camping out at the three point line, where he is KU’s best shooter. His defense also cannot be discounted. Advantage: Rush – If he plays up to the level he should, this is a mismatch. You can bet Rush will be guarding Ellington at times as well. He is KU’s best on-ball defender.

PF Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) vs. Darnell Jackson (Kansas) – Should we join the parade of people who stroke Hansbrough? Nah. Lets just state the obvious and move on. He’s the best player in college basketball and is a lock for at least 25 and 12. He is truly an unstoppable force. As for Jackson, he improved dramatically this season, becoming a reliable offensive threat, while continuing his work on the glass and the defensive end. The last month, however, he has struggled. He’ll have his hands full with Hansbrough. Advantage: Hansbrough – Did you think we’d really say Jackson?

PF Deon Thompson (UNC) vs. Darrell Arthur (Kansas) – Thompson and Arthur worked out together for the team USA U-19 team this past summer and know each other’s games well. Thompson has a solid mid-range jumper and can be counted on in the post for board work. Arthur, like Rush, is a head-scratcher at times. This kid has all the makings of a star. His fade-away jumper is money and he is a beast on the glass, but too often he commits silly fouls on defense and can’t stay on the floor for long stretches. Advantage: Arthur – Arthur has the ability to take over the game if he can get his mid-range game going. He is the superior of the two players, but if Kansas is going to win, they will need the active “Shady” to show up.

The Bench

Alex Stepheson, Danny Green, Quinton Thomas, Will Graves (UNC)


Sherron Collins, Sasha Kaun, Cole Aldrich, Jeremy Case (Kansas)

Advantage: Kansas –
This game features two of the best sixth men in the country in Green and Collins. Both are the X-factor for their respective team. Thomas has improved greatly with his extended PT when Lawson was injured. Stepheson is a solid third big man who really isn’t that different of a player than starter Thompson. If you get the 100% healthy Collins, Kansas is a completely different team. Sources say he has ditched the knee brace in practice in the last two days and looks great. Kaun may be the most important player in this game. He will be the one spending most of the time on Hansbrough. He’s KU’s best defensive big man and against Davidson, the best offensive one as well. Aldrich will be used to throw his body at Hansbrough as well. The Jayhawks will miss Senior G Rodrick Stewart who broke his kneecap in practice Friday.

The Pick: Kansas 85-80 – Everyone’s been talking about Roy Williams vs. his old team all week long. Roy insists it’s not about him, it’s about the players. No Roy, you are wrong. This is about you. Want to know why? Because he is so personally invested on both sides, we truly believe this will cloud his judgment. Reality is both teams love to get up and down and Kansas matches up very well with North Carolina. They have four big bodies to throw at Hansbrough and have three lockdown defenders at the guard spots. If they can hold down Ellington and Green in check, KU could roll. We think that is exactly what happens with Chalmers and Rush having big nights.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Eat it, Mr. I

While the Tribe bats are asleep (down 1-0 in the 4th as we type this), we have to get a little bash-sesssion going on those $137 million Motor City Kitties. This can't be what Massah Illitch was picturing when he unloaded the farm system and opened his checkbook every wider this offseason.

Today's 8-5 loss at home to Chicago makes the Tigers 0-4. The good news for Detroit fans is they scored five runs today. The bad news? They were held scoreless the final six innings. More bad news - the much maligned bullpen continued to be laughably bad. Today is was journeyman Jason Grilli's turn to be the gas can. Not like starter Nate Robertson was any good (5.0 IP, 7 Hits, 5 ER), but the Tigers tied the game at 5-5 when Grilli entered the fray in the seventh. Here is what ensued:

J. Grilli relieved Z. Miner
- P. Konerko doubled to deep center
- J. Dye singled to right, P. Konerko to third
- A.J. Pierzynski homered to deep right, J. Dye and P. Konerko scored
- C. Quentin singled to center
- J. Crede singled to center, C. Quentin to second

Just like that, it was 8-5 White Sox and the game was over. Tribe fans like myself LOVE it. Jim Leyland? Not so much: “We’ve just got bad combinations going. We got pretty good pitching the first three games. Today we swung the bat better, but we didn’t add runs and didn’t pitch quite as well."

"When you’re in this business, you have to understand that’s part of it, and if you don’t, you’re in the wrong business,” Leyland said. “I don’t blame people for being antsy and impatient. They’ve waited the whole winter, and we haven’t given them much to be excited about.”

Now they move to the #5 man in the rotation, Dontrelle Willis. The same guy who couldn't find the strike zone all Spring long. Leyland's pen arms aren't much to talk about either. Without the great Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, guys like Zach Miner, Grilli, and Denny Bautista are playing key roles. They give new meaning to the nickname "The Nasty Boys."

It's imperitive that the Indians take advantage of the Tigers struggles early. Every game counts, whether it's in April or September. Plus, the Tigers are without Gary Sheffield (torn tendon in his finger) and Miguel Cabrera is battling through quad soreness. Regardless, we love watching the Tigers play like garbage.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Not A Chance

I know this story is now two days old. but I must comment on it. Sean Sutton "resigned" as coach of the Oklahoma State Basketball team. Don't be fooled, he was fired. We've been hearing since late January that Sutton would be on his way out and Billionaire Booster Boone Pickens would throw $4-5 million at Bill Self to get him to come home and save his alma mater.

If you think that's happening, you are on crack. First off, you don't go from a Mount Rushmore program to a second tier one, regardless of whether or not it is your alma mater. It's not like Self is going to go into the poor house if he passes on the Oklahoma State job either. You can bet Kansas A.D. Lew Perkins will be sweetning Self's current deal to keep him happy and in Lawrence, especially since he has made it to the Final Four this season.

“Bill and I have been talking about a lot of things including his future. We’ve been doing that for quite a while,” Perkins said. “It’s premature to talk about it publicly. We’ll definitely talk about adding resources for him."

“We talk about a lot of scenarios. The bottom line is we have a good relationship,” Self said of him and Perkins. “We’ve said all along when the season is over we’ll evaluate what’s going on. I don’t anticipate just because this happens at this time that we change our game plan. Our game plan is that when the season is over, Lew and I get together and make sure this is a great fit for everybody. I certainly anticipate that being the case.”

Look at the pressure Self would be under if indeed he did take that gig. People would call him nuts for leaving a place like Kansas for a much lesser job. The scrutiny and pressure for him to bring a winner back to his alma mater would be greater than what he is going through at KU. What if he failed to land the top talent there? It's an absolute no-brainer to stay.

Meanwhile in other coaching news, MTAC is a big fan of the Tom Crean hire at Indiana. Give them credit - they hit a jackpot by being able to score one of the most well-respected young coaches in the game. In Crean, they are getting a master motivator and recruiter and a guy who is squeeky clean and highly regarded by his peers. How they landed him in the face of NCAA sanctions, losing pretty much their entire starting lineup as well as recruits who have asked out of their letters of intent, is a testament to the Indiana name.

The Ground Ball Machine

Looks like Fausto Carmona picked up where he left off last year. This kid is a stud. Seemingly everytime he put a guy on base, his best friend, the double play ball, would make an appearance. He got three in the first four innings to help the Tribe move to 2-0 with a 7-2 win. Fausto went seven, allowing just one run on four hits. "Fausto threw a strong game for us," said manager Eric Wedge. "He was in control throughout." It is so nice to be able to send out a sinker-balling witch like Fausto every fifth day right after the reigning Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia.

Offensively, the top of the order was all the Indians needed. Memo to Wedge: Put Asdrubal Cabrera in the two hole and leave him there. He was there last night after hitting 7th on opening day against lefty Mark Buehrle. The kid responded with three hits and two clutch RBI. There is no reason to be fooling around with Jason Michaels or David Dellucci there. AC knows how to handle the bat.

How about Grady? We smell a big season coming from #24. He was the pace-setter and the difference maker last night, going 3-5 with three RBI, all three coming with two out. "Grady had a big night," said Wedge. "He got us started with that hit with the bases loaded."

It was freezing down at the Jake (sorry, we won't call it the Prog) last night, but the Tribe bats stayed warm. We will say this: If the Indians put up offense the way they have in the first two games against two quality starting pitchers (Buehrle and Javier Vazquez), with their pitching, there is no telling how great they can be this season.

On the downside, David Dellucci. Can we end this already? he is the new Casey Blake. Last night he was 0-2 with two walks. Not so bad, right? What about when he swung at the first pitch and weakly grounded out to second with the bases loaded, two out, and the previous hitter, Franklin Gutierrez walked. Lame. Just like the rest of his game.

Good to see Masa Kobayashi's debut. We love the crazy windup. We didn't love his spotty control, but it was cold and his first major league game, so he gets a pass. Jorge Julio came in to close things out and gave up two hits and a run in the ninth.

We will be down at the Jake today for more Tribe action.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lute Olson is a Bitch

For the second time in a week, Arizona's old man coach Lute Olson held a press conference to talk about returning from his year long leave of absence. Remember, he told everyone it was not for health reasons, then said he had a health scare, and then claimed it was no big deal. Yes, he was getting divorced and you feel bad for him for that, but that doesn't give him the right to be a bitter old man.

Now interim/assistant coach Kevin O'Neill, who said last week he planned on being back next season, won't be returning. Olson clearly didn't like the defense first style O'Neill ran all year and the two clearly clashed. Check out these quotes from yesterday's presser:

"Frankly, even though I realize I'm a public figure, I don't think I need to go into every nuance of my private life. There were things going on in my life that did create some health issues that I needed time to address. But it was not a health scare."

"I hope you can see that I feel great. This issue, though, has raised my blood pressure all the way up to 113 over 65, and my resting heart rate has gone from 60 to 62. So I'm concerned about my health."

When asked if he had to provide a guarantee on his health to the A.D., he angrily replied "Do I look like I have a condition to you?"

Here he is throwing O'Neill under the bus again: "When he said he's coming back, or that he's going to fulfill the terms of his contract, he won't be on the staff. I apologize for what they had to go through this year in terms of the change. They came here to play a wide-open game, and they didn't. That's no one's fault, because that's not coach O'Neill's belief on the offensive end. It was his team once I left. But I said we're going to play Arizona basketball and we're going to have fun doing it."

Finally: "You know what, maybe the fans needed to realize that this program doesn't just operate -- we don't go into the gas station and fill the kids up with fuel and turn the key on."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Game Won

A beautiful day in Cleveland for the home opener (for a change) ended with a Tribe W. One down, 161 to go. We are not going to break down the minutia of every single game, but since this was the opener, it deserves the attention. Again, it's only one game and there is no reason for concern on anything...except for Victor's hamstring.

They are telling us that it's "day to day," but the Tribe brass is very quiet. One of my Tribe insiders told me yesterday that the night before the season, Mark Shapiro said only two things keep him up at night, one of them is Victor Martinez getting hurt. Luckily for the Indians, Backup Catcher Kelly Shoppach is the best in the business. Seriously, you find us a better backup catcher in baseball. Shop has a cannon for an arm and has pop at the plate. He was stuck in the cleanup spot after Martinez left with the injury. He started the three run rally with a single off of Octavio Dotel in the 8th, which ended with Casey Blake's bases loaded, two out double that won the game for the Tribe 10-8.

Back to Victor. If he is out for a long period of time, it could be big trouble. He is the most indispensible player on the team, regardless of Shoppach's value. He is the best hitting catcher in the league and the Tribe's most clutch hitter. With the shaky head of Travis Hafner, it's of the utmost importance that Victor is not seriously injured.

How about Franky G! Seriously, we said it yesterday and Terry Pluto agreed in today's PD, this kid is going to have a breakout year. He was 3-3 yesterday with a walk and a three run Pizza. You knew Dotel wasn't going to give him anything to hit with Blake on deck in the 8th and the lead run at second. Who knew Casey would make the Sox pay? Certainly not this guy. I yelled "come on Casey, get lucky" as he stepped to the plate. He got down 1-2 in the count and laced a BB off the left field wall clearing the bases. I'm off his case for this week at least.

No Need to Worry, but the bullpen was very shaky yesterday. Jenson Lewis did a great job striking out two to bail out C.C. Sabathia (and Blake for booting a DP grounder) in the sixth, but got into trouble in the seventh, giving up two hits. Rafael Perez was brought in to face Jim Thome and he ripped one to the wall, where Jason Michaels saved Raffy Left with a great running catch against the wall. Perez wasn't so lucky with Paul Konerko who doubled home two to tie the game. Rafael Betancourt didn't look himself yesterday either, but somehow managed to get out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam unscathed. JoBo did his usual in the ninth. He gave up a HR to Jermaine Dye and walked Joe Crede to bring the tying run to the plate. Luckily, he got the final out for the 10-8 win. Again, nothing to worry about, it was only one game.

C.C. looked like the C.C. of the playoffs. He had some control issues, and couldn't spot his breaking pitches. Jim Thome, who cam in 0-11 with seven K's against Sabathia, homered in his first two at bats. He looked gassed in the sixth and probably shouldn't have started the inning. When you walk Alexi Ramirez, its not a good sign.

We finally saw the replays of the controversial plays, well, two of them at least. The play at the plate with Crede in the 8th looked like a phantom tag to us, but we will take it. Thome's double play ball was definitely interefernce by Orlando Cabrera, who reached out and grabbed Jhonny Peralta in attempts to break up the DP. Even Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen agreed: "I went down in the clubhouse tunnel and watched the replay, he grabbed Peralta."

One last thing about Jim Thome, anyone who booes him, yes - I am talking to the majority of the crowd yesterday - is an idiot. The guy gave this city everything he had. He has so much love for the city and the fans and continues to take the high road in the press. Like you wouldn't take a guaranteed extra $16 million dollars and play for a winner, rather than sit here through a rebuilding phase? Not to mention, had the Indians signed him to that big contract, it would have only been a matter of time before that contract would have hamstrung the organization and he would have been dealt. He is a great player, a great guy, and booing him is just plain dumb. Good for him for going deep twice yesterday.