Monday, October 29, 2012

2012-2013 Washington Wizards Season Preview

The Eastern Seaboard is strapping in as Hurricane Sandy prepares to unleash a rage and a fury we haven’t seen since Teresa Giudice’s last period.  The rain is expected to come down sideways and the winds are expected to howl.  Even George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg think its best to stay inside for the next couple of days.  But despite all of this, let’s discuss something that will not blow…the 2012-2013 NBA Season!

There are more storylines to this basketball season than a season of LOST.  Can the Heat repeat? With the world’s weight off his shoulders, will Lebron go into “I Told You So Mode” and supremely dominate for the next 7-8 years? Can the front loaded Lakers win it all despite their bench being thinner than Nicole Richie?  Can the Thunder take the next step? Will the Nets wear scarves in the summer like most of their fellow Brooklyn residents? Is the Celtics-Heat rivalry about to become the most heated (pardon my pun) in the league – cut to Ray Allen nodding?

With all of these juicy undertones to the season, it’s time to discuss a topic that ESPN will ignorantly ignore; a topic that Ivan Carter will certainly not neglect…our Washington Wizards’ season outlook.

Before we start battering you with our overtly optimistic predictions, we have to get the bad news out of the way.  John Wall will be out until about January with a knee injury.  Our most exciting and most important player will miss the first two months and the Wall-Beal Backcourt (still working on a better nickname) will have to wait to unleash their speed and skill on the league. 

Randy Wittman is back as head coach after taking over for the biggest Windsor knot advocate Chocolate City had ever seen.  He has been hell bent on changing the culture of this locker room. Wittman’s no nonsense style was exactly what this young squad needed, and they actually finished last season on a six game winning streak. Break up the Zards!

Despite all the bad trades, and his infatuation with unathletic and unproven Eurotrashians, our ass clown of a General Manager had his option picked up by Teddy Owner’s Box.  This move left us all scratching our heads, but who better to clean up the rotten culture of a team that he is solely responsible for building? Getting rid of malignant morons like JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche were priority numero uno, and all three currently have new addresses.  So kudos to you Ernie, but then again you don’t have to get rid of knuckleheads, if you don’t draft em.

Big Ern had an eventful off-season starting with his trade of Rashard Lewis and his expiring contract to the New Orleans Hornets for Omeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.  This trade was met with mixed reviews because Rashard Lewis’s massive expiring contract was a very primo trade chip and many thought the Zards could have brought in a better haul. But, that’s neither here nor there because the Zards picked up two proven NBA players who will saddle up with NeNe and bring a little more passion and professionalism to this squad of young bucks.

Speaking of young bucks, we drafted Bradley Beal with the third overall pick in the draft.  Beal is a tad undersized, but the thought of him being Jimmy Wall’s running mate gets the Nation’s Capital more jacked up than this year’s presidential election’s two tandems.  Beal is a good shooter and will bring a new level of high character that is more foreign to this team than a sushi menu is to Jan Vesely.  We have insider knowledge from one of our closest friends who was on Florida’s basketball staff las season who told us that “Brad Beal is one of the best human beings I have ever been around. He works hard and wants to be great. He is the Anti-Blatche.” Get excited folks, Wall and Beal together is going to be special. 

Our frontcourt is going to bring a new level of defensive toughness.  Something Ernie Jordan always wanted, but never actually coached towards.  When healthy, NeNe can be a force, and Okafor can still block shots and grab boards.  Ariza can score a little bit, and he will be tasked with covering other team’s wing players – never easy.

Our bench is a rag tag group that can get it done, similar to the Nats’ “Goon Squad.” Don’t sleep on Kevin Seraphin! He is a big boy who really came on strong down the stretch last season, racking up double doubles like Andray Blatche at Mickey D’s drive thru……….

……As I’m writing this preview Tyler just texted me COMPLETELY out of the blue. He had no idea I was working on a preview, and here is what just transpired:


Tyler: Grunfeld needs to be fired. Here’s Why: Hold on to the pick in 09, take Steph Curry at 5.  Wall comes in 2010. Take Kwahi Leonard in 2011, not Vesely. Now you’re building around John Wall, Leonard, and Steph Curry. Fuck.

Ben: And yet he got an extension.

Tyler: Then he drafts some Czech PG when you already have Wall, Crawford, and Mack on your roster, and Draymond Green still on the draft board. He’s basically giving up on Mack. Double Fuck.

Tyler: This is goddamn lunacy!!! How is there not more outrage about Big Ern’s extension?!?!

Ben: Chocolate City needs to start caring about the Zards again!!!

Tyler: Yea, I mean this is like DUI bad.  I can’t believe it.  If Big Ern knew how to draft, we could easily be a 6 seed in the East.  Then you could sell FA’s into coming to DC.  Even though no one hits Free Agency anymore.

Ben: DC should be a bball destination for FA’s, instead it’s an after thought. WTF?!?!?

Tyler: ABSOLUTELY! Atleast with that plan you have young movable assets if you wanted to make a trade.  Fucking crazy.

Ben: I get that he was trying to change the culture from that slew of knuckleheads that HE DRAFTED, but the direction of the franchise is more misleading than a Garmin with low battery.

Tyler: HAHAHAHAHAHA. True on all counts.  It’s all garbage.  We remain victims.

Ben: In the Grand Jury Report that will come out in 6 years in the case of Ernie Grunfeld accused of crimes against a fan base, we will be labeled victims 1 and 2.

Ben: Too soon?

Tyler: Not at all. That sort of thing is well deserved.

Ben: Ernie Grunfeld is a son of a bitch.  *Drops The Mike*

Sorry for that textual sidebar.  Seeing as we have already racked up over a 1,000 words on the Zards we will wrap up the bench in a short and sweet manner.

F Martell Webster: Considered a veteran?
F/C Jan Vesely: Brutal
F Trevor Booker: Excited for his future.
G Jordan Crawford: Takes more shots than a sorority girl with daddy issues.
F Chris Singleton: Defense first, shoot second.
G A.J. Price: Backup point guard.
G Shelvin Mack: the backup point guard’s backup.
G Jannero Pargo: Sure
F Cartier Martin: Double sure.

Not a lot of household names, but they could all make an impact. The talent pool is not where many of us would like it to be, but we fully think this team could sneak up on the NBA. If they can stay a float with out Jimmy Wall, then hopefully he comes back from the DL with swagger and a jump shot.  There is no reason to think that this team couldn’t sneak into an 8 seed and start building towards a sustainable playoff team.

Prediction: 38-44, 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Birdland Bulletin: Reverse Jinx

REVERSE JINX (n): A prediction, which is the opposite of the outcome, desired by the person making it.  Phrase is mainly used in a sporting context.

I love when people use the reverse jinx and think it will have an impact.  I myself have never used it, but merely chuckled from a far. Then again the Orioles need some serious MOJO, and I’m fresh out of chickens to sacrifice, so maybe this is my only avenue.  I would rather find out that my parents are swingers and that I am actually adopted than write the words I have to write, but trust me when I say this folks, this is necessary.

Take everything I say here with a keg full of salt…

There is no chance the Orioles can bounce back after last night’s crushing defeat at the arthritic hands of aaRpaul Ibanez.  A loss like that busts your guts, breaks your heart, and crushes your soul.  Oh, and it broke the Orioles will to compete. They will come out flat tonight because they are simply so emotionally taxed from last night’s Brutality in the Bronx.

The pitching matchup is so ridiculous it hurts.  Phil Hughes is so consistent and will probably shove it up Birdland’s butts tonight with a dominating 8-inning performance.  We may eek out 2 seeing-eye-singles, but that will be all.  Phil Hughes is so lights out it’s not even funny, not to mention he is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his career in the ALDS.  And with the way our bats are going right now he will undoubtedly improve to 3-0. 

Joe Saunders is pitching for the Orioles? No way he pitches the way he did in Texas when he exercised some personal demons and locked down the Rangers.  His veteran experience will play no factor at all tonight at Yankee$ $tadium. 

As for the Yankee$ lineup, Joe Saunders is just OVERMATCHED! Derek Jeter has a  bone bruise? What bone bruise? We will all be fortunate enough to witness yet another gritty, gutsy, and clutch performance from the greatest captain in all of sports.

I doubt Ichiro gets out tonight.

A-Rod will break out of his slump with a casual 4-4 day including two home runs, one of which will be a grand slam. Nine RBI’s total.

For Cano, see Ichiro.

Teixeira is still a horse-faced retard. Somebody’s gotta get out so it may as well as be this hack.

Swisher, Granderson, Martin, and Ibanez will look more like Mantle, DiMaggio, Munson, and Ruth.
The Orioles batters are in a collectively ill-timed slump.  Hardy, Jones, Wieters, Thome, and Reynolds have fewer hits than the Baha Men, The Proclaimers, and Chumbawumba combined.  Expect that to continue.  There is no way these talented professional hitters will break out of their slumps, especially now that their backs are against the wall.

All of a sudden Jim Johnson has been leakier than underwear made of Lindsey Lohan’s alibis.  He bounced back from Game 1’s abortion, but last night was a crippling blow to the Orioles closer.  Even though he retired the next five batters after Raul’s shot heard round the sewer Bronx, JJ is clearly shuck to his core.  Luckily for him he will not be called upon tonight because the Yankee$ will probably be up 16-2 by the 6th inning.

Shame on us Orioles fans for thinking we could go toe to toe with the New York Yankee$ in a best of five series.  They have better players at literally every position.  Even their ticket ushers have exuded confidence and charisma.  There’s just something magical about those pinstripes that inspire greatness in everyone it touches. 

Thanks to all of the Yankee$ fans who have littered social media with their applause of the Orioles effort and how great it is for baseball to have the Baltimore Orioles back in the fold.  Your humility and candor is in a world by itself, much like the New York Yankee$ as a franchise.  You are not condescending at all; trust me when I say everyone in Birdland sincerely thanks your approval of our 2012 season.  Hopefully we can attempt to breath the same rarified air as you next season, because this year is all but over.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PSA: Proper Playoffs Etiquette

Today at 1:07 Eastern Standard Time, the Washington Nationals will host their first home playoff game in franchise history, and the first home playoff game in our nation’s capital since Betty White was 11 years old. 

If you are lucky enough to attend today’s game or any of the Nationals playoff games, it is your responsibility to conduct yourselves appropriately.  And by appropriately, we mean going absolutely berserk and losing yourself in the ballgame!

For whatever reason, our fan base has been hit with the label of not being the most educated, or most excitable.  These claims are probably being made by condescending New Yorkers and Bostonians, but in the slimmest glimmer of this being the tiniest bit true, we have decided to give you a few guidelines on what not to do at a playoff baseball game (or any baseball game for that matter), just to be safe.

First off, we’ve got to stop jumping out of our seats every time a Nationals batter lofts a fly ball into the outfield.  Just because it is a flyball, does not mean it has a chance to be a home run. Who are we, Dodgers fans? Seriously, some of you have worse reads on a flyball than Albert Belle.   A key things to look for to make sure you don't "clown out" everytime there is a flyball.
-Listen for the sound of the ball of the bat.  If it's a real firm whack, it's got a chance.
-Watch the batter's reaction and body language.  If he pimps it or starts strutting, he's probably gotten a good hold of it.
-Watch the overall trajectory of the ball. This is usually a good indicator whether or not the ball has the distance.

We love heckling the pitcher just as much as Henry Rowengartner, but booing said pitcher every time he throws a pick off over to 1st Base is not a good look.  You’re essentially saying, “BOOO! STOP PLAYING SMART BASEBALL!”  Pickoffs may seem like a stall tactic to some, and they may bore others, but pickoffs are part of the game.  How many times did you hear the Cardinals fans booing when a Nats picture picked over? Probably the same amount of times Jan Vesely hits 2 consecutive free throws.  Tell the pitcher his mother is a one-eyed whore, but for the love of God, no more booing on pickoffs.

If you are over the age of 12, 11 years old, DO NOT BRING A GLOVE TO THE GAME!  I don’t care if you are sitting a row behind the dugout and need it for protection; use your bare hands or your inner-Keanu and Matrix out of the way of the ball.  No grown man should have a glove at a baseball game, period. 

While Steve Bartman did not have a glove on his hand, he may as well have to go with those headphones and that turtleneck.  This guideline is directed towards the people lucky enough to be sitting down the left field or right field lines.  If a foul ball is hit down the line when the Nationals are in the field, DO NOT interfere with Big Mike Morse or Jayson Werth.  Allow them the best opportunity to make the play and get outs, cut to Moises Alou nodding his head.  If you are sitting in the front row you need to turn into the walk-on at the end of the bench during March Madness, and hold everybody back.

And finally, I think I speak for most red blooded Americans when I say STOP DOING THE WAVE. A baseball stadium is not the place for a wave, especially when your team is out in the field.  It is distracting and it makes it harder for the defense to read the ball off the bat when the crowd is ebbing and flowing all over each other.  If Terrance and the rest of the Natitude Crew are telling you to stand up at the count of 3, look him dead in the eye and tell him that his dance moves freak everyone out and it’s time for him to start looking for a new day job.  The Wave is a sign of boredom as well as a complete and utter lack of feel at a baseball game.  We can stop this notion that Nats fans are still new to this whole “baseball” thing, by simply eliminating the Wave.

When Edwin Jackson gets two strikes on a batter, get the hell out of your seats and start cheering and making noise.  There are few sports moments cooler than when a home team’s pitcher has two strikes on a batter (especially with two outs) and the whole stadium rises up as one.  It’ll give anyone goosebumps, in fact it even makes the hairs on the back of James Carville’s neck stand up.

Get loud, make noise, let the whole eastern seaboard here us today!  Wave those red towels until you feel like you’ve torn your rotator cuff.  And when that happens, wave some more.  Strasburg may have had an innings limit, but we sure as hell don’t! 

Natstown is full of passionate baseball fans who have been waiting for today.  Our savvy fan base has gotten a bad rap, probably from doing a few too many Waves.  But we all know what this fan base and this team are capable of.  Keep these friendly guidelines in mind today during our franchise’s BIGGEST GAME.

Go crazy, get wild, and leave your glove at home.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Birdland Bulletin: An Open Letter to Bobby V

Dear Bobby V,

I’m not going to piss in your face and tell you it’s raining.  I’m not going to give you a couple of compliments and then sneak in a dig, that’s never been my style.  Don’t consider this letter hate mail, just consider it a statement of facts; this season has left you completely and utterly exposed for what you are…an undeniable clown.

OK, I lied.  I’ve got one nicety to get out of the way.  But brace yourself because it’s more backhanded than Rihanna’s face.

Bobby, I would like to thank you for turning down the manager’s job with the Baltimore Orioles back in 2010.  Not only did you spare us with the experience of watching you mismanage our bullpen, alienate our stars, and from taking a fat dump all over our fan base; but you are the Anti-Buck.  Because of your bigger-than-the-Green-Monstah ego, you felt managing the Orioles was beneath you.  And if not for your self-entitlement, Buck Showalter would not be our skipper and leading us to the playoffs for the first time since English Patient won Best Picture.

Do you remember your reasons for turning down the job with the Birds? Don’t worry we haven’t forgotten:

"I did go down there and I did talk with the owner (Angelos) and the general manager (MacPhail) and they have a whole lot of problems and they seem like they're really putting their heads together to try to solve them somehow, some way, [but I'm] not sure how."

One solution to solving the problem was certainly not hiring you.

"It's a big challenge. I like big challenges, but I like to have some reward too, and the reward is in the standings and their standings don't look like they're going to turn around very quickly."

I get it; you are an instant gratification kind of guy. You want the proof to be in the pudding from the get go.  And to your credit, you did make things in Boston happen pretty quickly.  You were able to lose your locker room early in the season when you called out Kevin Youkilis and alienated team leader and resident garden gnome, Dustin Pedroia.  But you were very wrong; those standings turn around awful quickly, don’t they? Especially when you take a team with 90 wins last year (even if they missed the playoffs) and turn them into a 90-loss team.  If you are looking for the Orioles we are the team near the top of the division saying, “we told you so.” 

You are a hack.  I do not care about the titles you won in the Japanese Professional leagues.  They mean nothing to us in the land of back-to-back World War Champions. Winning the Japanese World Series is like being the smartest person on Honey Boo Boo.

I get it, this has been the most frustrating season of your career, but that does not give you the excuse to just simply mail it in.  Seriously, you and your team have less backbone than someone with spina bifida. 

The final three games of the season mean the world to the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.  The A.L. Beast crown is still on the line and therefore the two teams who are playing the O’s and Yanks can take a lot of pride in impacting the outcomes of their division.  Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays got the memo, heck he’s got Evan Longoria whose playing on one leg in his lineup every night.  But you and your team have rolled over and taken what is coming to you like Jerry Sandusky is about to when he is unleashed into general population. 

The lineup that you wrote for game one against C.C. Sabathia was a gigantic middle finger to Buck Showalter and the Orioles.  I understand that guys you expected to rely on this season have gotten hurt or sold off for spare parts, but no Ellsbury (due to a left on left matchup, weak sauce) and no Pedroia (ouchie my finger hurts!) is an obvious white flag.  I thought you were Italian, but I guess you are pretty French.

If Game 1’s circus wasn’t enough you seemingly lost last night on purpose.  I mean that is my only rationale for the way you used your bullpen in the back end of the game last night. Left hander Craig Breslow only needed 13 pitches to get through the 8th inning last night and had plenty left in the tank to face LEFT handed hitting Curtis Granderson leading off the 9th, followed by the ballerina swinging right handed Eduardo Nunez, and LEFT handed hitting Ichiro Suzuki.  You felt that right handed throwing Andrew Bailey and his 6.00 ERA would be a better matchup against Granderson (who kills righties), Nunez who would obviously be pinch hit for with a left hand bat, like say Raul Ibanez, and then followed by ANOTHER left handed Ichiro Suzuki. 

I’m not a big league manager and overall baseball genius like yourself, but I am a student of the game and you botched this one.  When your closer has a tougher time getting outs than the ghost of Kevin Gregg, it may be time to strictly go matchup by matchup with your bullpen to grind out those final three outs and secure a 3-1 win. 

But, hey you’re Bobby V and you’ve got all the answers. Which is why I’m hoping you can answer these questions:

1) How do you seriously start a DH who is hitting .160?
2) How do you not use a single pinch hitter or pinch runner in a 12 inning game compared to Joe Girardi who used 3 catchers, two pinch hitters, and on pinch runner

On the game-winning play last night, I saw all I needed to see on how much your team respects you and how much you are motivating them to play hard.  Raul Ibanez sent a seeing-eye single bouncing between 3B Pedro Ciriaco and SS Jose Iglesias.  There was a runner (Francisco Cervelli) on 2B with 2 outs, and this is known as a “belly up” or “do or die” situation for infielders.  Meaning, if there is a groundball remotely close to them they are expected to sell out and dive for the ball in order to knock it down and keep that runner on 2B from scoring.  By holding the runner to 3B, the pitcher and his defense lives on to fight another day – the next batter.  The ball was close enough to either defender that even though neither would have had any chance of throwing Ibanez out at first, they still would have knocked the ball down and saved a run. Instead, neither guy laid out, the ball trickled into left field and Cervelli came around to score the game-winning run for the Yankees.  I guess the only thing going belly up in Boston is your job security, eh Bobby?

As of today, the Orioles need to win and we need you guys to beat the Yankees in order to tie for the Division lead and force a one game Division Championship to be played tomorrow at Camden.  But it appears you have already licked the stamp, sealed the envelope, and mailed it in because you are sending Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound. Domo arigato Mr. Bobby.

It’s time to take a page out of Buck Showalter’s playbook.  He was in the same position you were in last year (minus the whole everyone hates you and you’re going to get fired thing), and he motivated his players to go all out because even though they were not going to the playoffs they still had an opportunity to completely decide who did. All Birdland asks is that you and your trash squad BUCKle up and show some pride and compete tonight. 

And hey if you really like challenges you’re going to love your next one. It’s called cleaning out the gutters on a Sunday, cutting the grass, running back out to the store to pick up the low-fat vanilla Soy Milk, or any thing else on your honey-do list because you are staring unemployment and free time right in the eye. Don’t blink Bobby.