Friday, May 8, 2009

My thoughts on Manny

With the stunning news that Manny Ramirez had tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and was subsequently suspended for 50 games, it left me to wonder what exactly are these players thinking? I don't care if a doctor prescribed the drug or not I have no sympathy for Ramirez's failed test. It has to be Manny's responsibility to know what he's doing, his intentions are secondary to his responsibility to the game of baseball. Also it should be the doctor's responsibility as well, its not as though Manny is some unknown minor league player, the doctor should ask questions and be careful about what he's prescribing. 

Now I'm not going say Manny Ramirez is flat out lying and trying to cheat the game. Maybe he was legitimately prescribed the drug and there is no conspiracy here, but in the end the intention doesn't matter. This wouldn't be the first case of a player being suspended because of something a doctor prescribes or because of an over the counter. Manny can't claim ignorance that he didn't know that this could happen. Also its not like he didn't have the resources at his disposal, he could have gone to the team or the league and checked to see if the drug was banned or not. He could have probably even gone to Scott Boras and asked him to check out the drug. Or Manny could have just gone to a doctor approved by the team or the league that would know what could trigger a positive test. 

I also have to wonder what exactly Manny was thinking, he's been tested multiple times over the years, he has to know and understand the process by now. Ramirez will lose over $7 million so I will have to imagine that it will go down in history as one of the most expensive doctor bills of all time. He spent the entire winter holding out for a better contract and this is how he rewards the Dodgers? They had the best record in baseball going in to May 7th, and now every loss will be met with the first question being about a player who wasn't even in the park. The Dodgers will now have this issue chasing them throughout the season. I think the domino's could still be falling with this situation I wouldn't be surprised if L.A. feels the need to make a trade to add a bat to help replace the production of their best hitter. I also think this could open up the N.L. West for a team like the Diamondbacks or Giants to make a serious run. Unfortunately this will keep performance enhancers in the news and renew scrutiny of the games top sluggers. Finally, I think this allowed 29 other teams to breathe a collective sigh of relief that they didn't jump into the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes this off season.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

NHL Conference Semifinals Three Games In

We are now three games into each of the four Conference Semifinal series and there are more than a few surprises. Both the Penguins and Red Wings (last year's Finals teams) are down two games to one. The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, also face a 2-1 deficit. Now all three of these teams must win three out of their next four games or be eliminated. Lets take a look in on each of these series and see their chances for survival. 

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) Washington Capitals:

Pittsburgh is the only one of these bubble teams that isn't the higher seed so while they don't have the home ice advantage in the series they do for game four where they look to even it at 2-2. The Penguins do have to out last an extremely talented Washington team. All year we've known that the Capitals had a prolific offense, led by Alexander Ovechkin and helped by Semin, Backstrom, Green and company. Now though Washington has erected their own "Iron Curtain" in net, in rookie goalie sensation Simeon Varlamov. Varlamov has been terrific throughout the playoffs and played an amazing game last night in the overtime loss. He stopped 39 of 42 shots and stymied a number of high percentage chances by Pittsburgh. For the Penguins to have any shot of coming back in this series they must find a way to overcome Varlamov

Chance of advancing: 40%, The Pens have the home ice in their must win game four, but still need to contend with Ovechkin and Varlamov.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (1) Boston Bruins:

The Hurricanes have had their share of heroics this postseason. First by scoring two goals with less than a minute remaining against the Devils in game 7 of their first round match up and now last night's overtime 3-2 victory. The upstart Hurricanes seem to be in control of this series despite losing the regular season match up 3-1. Early on it looked like Boston was going to run away with the Eastern Conference. They swept the Canadians 4-0 in round one and won the first game against the Hurricanes 4-1. The Bruins had scored at least four goals in each of their first five playoff games but have only managed a total of two in the last two games. The Hurricanes' Eric Staal has been on fire this post season and paces the team with seven goals and ten points. Boston faces a must win on the road in game 4, as they don't want to go down 3-1 in the series.

Chances of advancing: 25%, I think Boston is in real trouble here. Carolina dominated the last two games and they have the momentum with them at home. 

(8) Anaheim Ducks vs. (2) Detroit Red Wings:

The stars seemed to be aligning for the Red Wings in the playoffs: They were the defending Stanley Cup Champs; they have the most experienced and talented group of skaters in the playoffs; they swept the Blue Jackets and outscored them 18-7 in the first round; the Ducks knocked off the (1) San Jose Sharks; and the Red Wings won the season match up with the Ducks 3-1. On paper it looked like the Red Wings would be defending their title in the Finals. On the ice though Anaheim has been the more dominate team and looks to upset another top seed in the playoffs. Though an (8) seed the Ducks are a dangerous team with plenty of talent and experience of their own. They won the Cup in 2007 and have out hustled and played the Red Wings so far. Detroit will need to win game 4 on the road and slow down Anaheim's momentum and tie the series up. 

Chances of advancing: 50%, These teams are very evenly matched so it would be no surprise to see Anaheim knock off the champs. I still say that the Red Wings have more star talent than the Ducks and that will be the key to the series.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quick thoughts on the Pens vs. the Caps

When the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals face off everyone knows that it will be an offensive battle and last nights game two lived up to that billing. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin are two of the best young players in the game and both recorded their first playoff hat trick in last nights match-up. Unfortunately for the Penguins the only other skater to put one in the net was Washington's David Steckel. Behind Ovechkin and Steckel the Capitals went up 2-0 in the series as it heads to Pittsburgh. Neither the opposing defensive men or goalies had an answer when Crosby or Ovechkin had the puck. Ovechkin scored on three of his 12 shots on goal and Crosby managed his three goals in five tries. 

Though much of the hype of the game will deservedly surround Ovechkin and Crosby, there is another player who had just as good of a performance. Simeon Varlamov, the Capitals 21-year old rookie backup goalie deserves much of credit for the Capitals win last night. Though he didn't have an answer for Crosby he was a perfect 31 for 31 in save opportunities against Pittsburgh's other skaters. In the first two periods there were multiple chances for the Pens to blow the game wide open and Varlamov held firm. He kept the Capitals in the game until Ovechkin could take over in the third period. Varlamov's performance in these playoffs has been nothing short of spectacular. Varlamov has now played in more games this postseason (8) than he did during the regular season (6).  During this post season run, which only started because the Capitals starter Jose Theodore was ineffective against the Rangers, Varlamov is 6-2 with a .945 Sav%. As much as Ovechkin is the Capitals star, Varlamov is the reason they are up 2-0 in the Conference Semifinals.

With last night's win the Capitals became the only team in the 2nd round to take advantage of their home ice and go up 2-0. Now the Capitals are firmly in the driver's seat of the series and the momentum is with them as they head to Pittsburgh. The Penguins will have to play flawlessly these next two games to have any hope of advancing to the Conference finals. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

NBA Conference Semifinal Predictions:

Western Conference:

Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers: 
Prediction: Lakers in 5

Houston has had a nice run but Kobe and the Lakers will be too much for them to handle. Though the Rockets have a good team from top to bottom, star players usually dominate playoff series and Houston can't match L.A.'s stars. The Lakers should run away with this series early. The Rockets will be lucky if they can win one of their home games.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Denver Nuggets:
Prediction: Denver in 6

Dallas had a very good opening series against the Spurs but probably won't be able to match up with the soaring Nuggets. Denver embarrassed a quality Hornets team in their opening round match-up and are playing their best basketball when it matters most. Chauncey Billups has been a huge addition to this team and brings with him a winning attitude. I think Billups and Anthony will be too much for the Mavericks' defense to contend with.

Eastern Conference:

Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:
Prediction: Cleveland in 5

Atlanta knocked off Dwayne Wade in the opening round but will now have to deal with another star from that 2003 draft class in Lebron James. James and the rest of the Cavs are unstoppable right now. Cleveland blew past the Pistons in the first round in 4 games and with the home court advantage shouldn't have much trouble in round two as well. The Hawks are a good team but this match-up doesn't favor them. Atlanta's only hope is to steal one of the first two games so the series is tied heading back home. Look for the Cavs to keep the pressure on in round two. They are a team on a mission right now and are clicking on all cylinders.

Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics:
Prediction: Orlando in 6

Boston had an epic 7 game first round series against the Chicago Bulls. Four of the games went into overtime including a triple overtime loss to the Bulls in game 6. The Celtics will need more than just luck to knock off the Magic in the second round. The extended series could come back to haunt the defending champs that are already without their big star Kevin Garnett. Without Garnett Boston lacks an inside presence to answer Orlando's star Dwight Howard. Though the Magic can't match-up on the perimeter with Boston's shooters they should own the inside with Howard leading the way.