Blue Duck’s Athlete of the Week

May 27, 2009

Alyssa is Putting the Pavano Curse on Barry Now.  Whos next?

Alyssa has put the Pavano Curse on Barry Now. Who's next?

Barry Zito

Barry’s one of my favorite athletes of all time.  He is making a cool $18.5 million this year and continues to suck.  At this point he is one and five on the young season, and it actually has to be said that he is pitching better than his record would indicate.

So why is he the athlete of the week you ask?  I just like like to shed light on this guy once in a while because rarely does he get the credit he deserves.   If Zito was pitching in New York he would’ve been placed on the DL for no apparent reason (a la Chien Ming Wang) a long time ago.

At least Mo Vaughn was injured when he made his contract look like a complete waste.  Since signing the worst deal in baseball history, Zito is 22 and 35, and proves more and more everyday that a big loopy floppy curveball is only effective if you can still throw hard.  Apparently Bill Beane was the only person who realized Zito’s fastball is now big and floppy.

Runner up: Brandon Backe.

He was almost the athlete of the week solely for the headline:
“Backe Cleared in Galveston Wedding Fight.”

Its really not nearly as interesting as it sounds, but I still wish I was there for it.

Gotta love Rain Delays

May 25, 2009

Not much intro needed here.  Dance off between Uconn and USF.

The Blue Duck Heads to Fenway

May 21, 2009
Santana (5-2, 1.36 ERA) faces the Red Sox in Dice-K's return.

Santana (5-2, 1.36 ERA) faces the Red Sox in Dice-K's return.

The Blue Duck is headed to Fenway for the Sox opener of a three game series against the New York Mets.  Skipping out of work early to go sit in the bleachers for a Friday night game under the lights in Beantown is as perfect a night as one can ask for.  Getting to see the game’s best pitcher pitch against the hometown team is a bonus.

The Sox are on a roll, winning their last three and 6 of 10, and are getting Dice-K back from injury.

The Mets are on a slide, losing the last 4 games and 6 out of their last 10.

Should be a great one and we’ll try to get some pics up from the game this weekend.

The Blue Duck’s prediction on the game:

Santana – 7 IP, 3H, 1BB, 1ER, 9k (ND)

Dice-K – 6IP, 6H, 3BB, 2ER, 8k (ND)

Both offenses are great (although both are underperforming).  The Mets “improved” bullpen will fail Santana again and the Sox will take it, 6-4 in 10 innings.

The Sox will win the game in extra innings against the Mets improved bullpen.

The Sox will win the game in extra innings against the Mets "improved" bullpen.

Ben Gordon – Where Will Amazing Happen Next Year?

May 21, 2009
Ben Gordon carried the Chicago Bulls in an epic seven game series in the '09 NBA Playoff

Ben Gordon carried the Chicago Bulls in an epic seven game series in the '09 NBA Playoff

If there was one single player in the NBA playoffs this year who made himself more money than any other, it was Chicago’s Ben Gordon.  The impending unrestricted free agent had himself an official coming out party in the Bulls-Celtics epic seven game series.  Not to be confused with a journeyman, Gordon has been always been known as an electric scorer and an elite sixth man who has provided a spark off the Chicago bench (off and on) for the past five seasons.  So why is this important?

Because elite teams in the NBA have elite scorers, players who can take over a game at will, find his own shot, and sink the buzzer beater.  The Lakers have Kobe, the Cavs have LeBron, the Nuggets have ‘Melo, the Celtics have both Pierce and Allen.  There are other clutch players around the league, namely Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, and Dwayne Wade among others.  The common theme is that not only does each of these teams have an elite player, they are successful year in and year out.  There are other teams in the league that hang around each year, coasting through the year to make the playoffs, only to falter in the playoff.  Perhaps they advance a round or two into the playoffs, using smoke and mirrors or having an injured team stumble into a matchup against them.  Examples of these teams are the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, and the Orlando Magic.  The Orlando Magic?! More on that later.

What does any of this have to do with Ben Gordon?  Certainly this isn’t to compare Gordon to the greatest players in the league (Kobe, LeBron, et al) but to highlight what the second tier teams are lacking.  That’s a go-to scorer who takes over games and wins them for his team.  That’s what Gordon has done in numerous regular season games in the past.  But during the ’09 playoffs, on a national stage versus the defending champion Celtics, Ben Gordon willed his team to the most thrilling series of the postseason.  Take game 4 for example.  Gordon hit a game tying three-pointer to end the first overtime.  He ended the game playing 50 minutes on a strained hamstring, willing to the Bulls to victory on the back of his 22 point effort.  It’s not the volume of the points that mattered in this game, it was clutch timing of them.  But if volume is important to some, consider that he filled the bucket with lines of 20, 42, 15, 22, 26, 12, and 33 points in the instant classic series.

As an unrestricted free agent this summer, he’s among the leaders in a pretty weak class.  It is known that he cares about money above all (having turned down a huge extension from Chicago last offseason) and with other less than stellar options available, some team is going to make him a very rich (and very happy) man.  Consider these credentials: he is the 7th best active free throw shooter at 86% for his career, 4th in career 3-point percentage, and a former sixth man of the year award winner.  This kind of talent can be enough to put a second tier team into the elite.

Remember the mention of the Orlando Magic as a second tier team?  They fit the criteria of a team that hasn’t done enough long-term to be considered a yearly contender and don’t have an elite scorer.  They struggled against a poor Philadelphia team in the first round and couldn’t dominate a Boston team decimated by injuries.  Dwight Howard is an elite player, but not an elite scorer.  He can dominate a game from the opening tip, but in crunch time, he isn’t the player a team is counting on to win for them.  For all his wonderful talent, he still cannot create his own shot or consistently knock down free throws.  What they are missing is a go-to scorer, someone they can hand the ball to at the end of games and get out of his way.  Gordon has done that and will continue to.  If the Magic can afford him, they should sign him.  He is the type of player who can put them over the top by hitting the big shots Howard simply should not take.  So if the Magic can sign Ben Gordon, next year the answer to the NBA’s “Where will amazing happen?” just might be Orlando.

Blue Duck’s Athlete of the Week

May 21, 2009

Brett Gardner

Keep you hat on Brett, you got a misshaped head.

Keep your hat on Brett, "you got a misshaped head."

He has lost his starting job with the Yankees, he may be hitting .244, and he may only have 8 rbi’s in 82 ab’s, but Brett Gardner pulled some legendary miracle shit last Friday with an inside the park home run.  Gardner had only one career HR coming into the game (2 nights before), but was guaranteed a homer from a young girl he visited at the hospital.

The “miracle shit” stuff  is even more impressive when you consider that Gardner didn’t even start the game.  He came in after Johnny Damon was tossed following two strikeouts including one on an outside pitch in the right hand batter’s box.

Brett then came up in the 7th and hit a little flair down the 3rd base line.  The ball had so much spin on it that it evaded Denard Span and rolled to the left field corner.  Without a hat Gardner looks like an alien, by the way.  Despite his dome, he got around for the inside the parker.

Blue Duck Athlete of the Week getting duped by toolbag Joe Mauer

Blue Duck Athlete of the Week got duped by toolbag Joe Mauer

He would’ve been even more the Athlete of the Week if he scored on a mad dash to home against the Twins Sunday.  Apparently Gardner watched Major League on Saturday night, and thought Francsico Cervelli was Jake Taylor and he was Willie Mays Hayes.  It was pretty damn exciting, though, even though our athlete of the week was injured in the process by prettyboy Joe Mauer.

3 Months. Blue Duck

May 7, 2009

I don’t know if its been three months. I was bored.

Players Preview

May 7, 2009

Because my Masters preview article was dead on, I feel it necessary to write one for the next big tournament on the PGA tour.  So without further ado, here’s my Players Championship Preview.

This is a sick field, and should make for a good tourney. In the past few years the Players has been a ball strikers course, and winners have been near the top in GIR for the week.  Winners have also been accurate off the tee, but Sergio Garcia proved last year that you can win here even if you putt like a blind man getting a blowjob.

My Four Horsemen

Tiger Woods:
I can’t not pick him.  He can’t hit his driver and his long irons haven’t been working of late, but he is still better than everyone out there.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull a Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy and just bring a seven-iron this week.  He would still make the cut, and scare Phil’s ever shrinking tits on sunday.

Camilo Villegas:

Always seems to find a way to flex

Always seems to find a way to flex

My favorite Colombian since… well, he’s my favorite Colombian, and he draws the right kind of fans to the game.  Seriously though, he is a ball striker and leads the PGA in Greens in Regulation hit this season.  Driving accuracy has been an issue, but he’s getting it on the dance floor.

Sean O’Hair:
He is another ball striker, and coming off a win last week, no one is hitting the ball better.  They mentioned the fact that he didn’t hit a putt over 10ft about 45 times during the final hour of coverage last sunday, but he didn’t have to hit a putt over ten feet because he was pure.  He seems like a huge tool, and he choked hard at Bay Hill and blamed cool weather.  We could see a replay of the choking at 17 here if he’s in the hunt sunday.


Boo = Stud

Boo Weekley:
I just love Boo, and Boo is due.

My Longshot
DJ Trahan:
Second in the PGA in GIR, and hitting fairways 68% of the time.  14 top-10’s in his career and 2 wins.  If he doesn’t fold on the intimidating 17th he’s got a shot.

And watch out for Ryuji Imada.  Still got a good feeling about him.

Don’t be Surprised if:

Sergio does it again:
I would never pick him because I hate him, but Sergio’s game is built for this course, and in Sergio’s mind, he won a major last year here.  No one has ever repeated in the Players, and I hope to god this little prick isn’t the first, but we shall see.  There is one thing to be sure of, if he doesn’t win, it wasn’t his fault.

Kenny Perry repeats his Master’s performance:
I think Kenny is hoping for a nice tenth place finish.  He would get his nice paycheck without the last pairing pressure.  The thought of Perry on the 17th tee looking across the vast 120yds of water at that bullshit little green with a lead on Sunday makes the old man reach for his Flomax.  I love the guy, and would love to see him ace one there, but my Nostradamus-like instincts tell me otherwise.

We Witness The KJ Choi Show:
Yeah, that’s right.  I said it.

Who Won’t Make the Cut?:
Paddy’s been struggling of late, but I think he will stay in the mix.  I’m gonna go with Bubba Watson.  He has the game, but I just don’t think he can play well two weeks in a row.  He will probably win the tourney now.

Best Finish Scenario:
Tiger and Kenny tied going into 17 on Sunday.  Kenny sticks it close and Tiger aces it.  Kenny birdies 18, Tiger pars, and Tiger beats him in a playoff.  Everyone goes home happy, and we get a lot of video of Kenny’s daughter in the crowd.

Still got game, but does he have the balls?

Still got game, but does he have the balls?

In Closing, this is a tournament that favors great players.   Players have no choice but to feel the pressure.  The guys with Major Championship experience under their belt have a huge advantage.  The TPC at Sawgrass always makes for a great Sunday, though.  So grab a 6 pack, switch on CBS, and rot on the couch, you deserve it.

Can i possibly be wronger (is that a word?) than I was last time?  We shall see.