Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Swinging for the Fences

There was a whole lot of that going on in last night's opening game of interleague play, and the Phillies dropped a 14-11 decision to the White Sox, wasting two 3-run homer shots by Jim Thome, in the 1st and 9th innings. Todd Zolecki has the game story. His notebook says closer Billy Wagner is ready to go. It's too bad he didn't have a prayer of getting in the game last night. Paul Hagen has Thome saying "the ball was carrying well to all fields. You see the ball real, real well here. I don't know if it's the lighting or the background, but you can pick up the ball well." Hagen also notes Jimmy Rollins' improved confidence at the plate. Hitting coach Greg Gross says, "it's pretty obvious. His whole body language is completely different." Bill Conlin says the radio hosts that are daily calling for Larry Bowa's resignation can stop wasting their breath.

Mark Eckel says disgruntled Green Bay Packer Mike McKenzie isn't even on the Eagles' radar in terms of some kind of deal. Bob Grotz worries that this could be a mistake, as "the last thing the Eagles need is to finish only a corner away from the big game." Meanwhile, Bob Brookover highlights Terrell Owens' appearance on the cover of Sporting News. Owens continues to make an issue of Andy Reid's dress code, which requires players to wear shorts. In what must have been a humorous scene, Owens spent the first couple of days of voluntary camps walking by Reid and, probably muttering under his breath, saying "these shorts suck," which elicited a chuckle out of Big Red. Owens complained further, "If I just have my tights on, I feel smooth, fluid, Spider-Man-like, I have given up a lot; for me to wear tights wouldn't be much. At least give me a leash. I understand having structure, and I guess that is him making a statement. I don't have any problem with that, but it's a big adjustment." What's the over/under for the week number of Owens' first mid-season tirade?

Bob Ford says that, according to ABC, the ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals revealed a somewhat surprising fact: "the ratings for the Philadelphia market were fourth-highest in the country on Monday night. Only Tampa, Orlando, and Detroit paid more attention to the broadcast than Philadelphia." Ford added:
That means, if you choose to look at it this way, Philadelphia was the top-rated market in the United States for those cities that had no particular stake in the outcome or reason to feel boosterish about the game.
OK, I admit it, the appeal of watching the mighty Lakers go down 0-2 in this supposed coronation of a Finals got to me. I should have known better. Read these quotes from Phil Jasner on the Lakers' 99-91 OT win:
You know, we're crushed. I mean, shoot, that was...we had a winnable game. And everybody in that locker room is down...We came here, should have won two games, [given] ourselves a hell of a chance.
You can't tell whether that was said last night, or from 3 years ago when the Sixers also blew an opportunity to take a shocking 2-0 lead on the Lakers, can you? And can the media stop acting so surprised that a team from the eastern conference is competing in the Finals? Case in point, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald (and what's up with his headline writer: "Kobe, Lakers stun Pistons"--I thought the Lakers were the favorite?) So far, Detroit has done nothing more than the Pacers in 2000 (actually, the Pacers fell into an 0-2 hole) or the Sixers in 2001. What these so-called experts seem to forget is that even though the Sixers eventually lost the series 4-1, every game in that series was competitive, and had the Sixers either had home court advantage (something that Brown completely blew a chance at by giving away the last game of the regular season) or had they won Game 2, the series would have taken on a whole different look. At least they didn't choke away a 6-point lead with 48 seconds left in regulation (including a mindless foul when Shaq dunked a Bryant miss with just over 30 seconds to play, like Detroit did last night.

I am now fully on board with the Peter Vecsey philosophy: why, oh why, didn't the Lakers foul Kobe Bryant instead of allowing him to take a "miracle" 3-pointer that nearly everybody watching the game just knew he would make? Peter May says Larry Brown's excuse was that he would have fouled if the ball had gone inside to Shaq, but since it went to Bryant, he feared a 4-point play. Actually, Marc Berman of the NY Post says Brown "didn't think they were going to throw it to him." Huh? Yes, what a huge surprise, Kobe Bryant getting the ball in that situation. Who would have thought? ESPN.com's Marc Stein says that even Kobe Bryant "was waiting for them to foul." One more Finals note, Peter May followed up with the Brown-Hamilton exchange mentioned yesterday, in which Hamilton said that Detroit was "a different team" and that Brown "wasn't in Philly anymore," implying that they wouldn't lose 4 straight to the Lakers like the Sixers did 3 years ago. Brown's reply to Hamilton? "Yeah, but you've got the same coach." To the delight of Lakers fans across the nation today.

OK, enough ranting for today. You can catch Phillies-White Sox at 8:05 on CSN.

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