U.S. Hockey Skates to Silver in Best Game Ever by kentsterling
February 28, 2010, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Purdue Basketball | Tags: , , ,

by Kent Sterling

What the hell was I supposed to watch today?  The gold medal game in a sport where I have only passing interest between the Americans and the Team Canada, or the Purdue vs. Michigan State tilt?  I wore out the previous channel button and watched both. 

Hockey can be incredibly exciting when the players appear to care deeply about the result.  That’s tough in the NHL.  Just as with the NBA, it’s tough to bring your “A” game night in and night out.  The olympics are different.  This is an NHL All-Star tournament where national pride is on the line.  For all good reasons, that brings the best out in these players.  They fought like hell at both ends, and the game went to overtime tied at 2-2 after an American goal in the last half-minute of regulation.

The NHL, run by hacks, will blow this temporary boost in popularity, but for this glorious day the game was back in the forefront of the American consciousness.  I loved watching hockey in the early-1970s.  The league was filled with stars that had names that rolled easily off the tongue.  Hull, Orr, Howe, Esposito (both Phil and Tony), Clarke, Richard, Beliveau, and Park were the best players in the world, and I knew the numbers of every Chicago Blackhawks player.  Watching on a 19-inch black-and-white TV was just as exciting as on a 46-inch HDTV.

Today was like that.  My Mom and Dad would get ribs at Little Red for all of the Hawks road games that were on TV, and it was a great family event when the Hawks played, except when the traveled to Los Angeles to play the Kings.  That meant a 9 p.m. start time, and the puck dropped just is a finished brushing my teeth. 

Meanwhile Purdue was fighting for a Big Ten Championship in Mackey Arena against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans.  Games like this aren’t pretty but they are exciting.  You can see all out effort in every possession.  Without Robbie Hummel there was no room for error, and Michigan State grinded and grinded with a few more weapons as the second half would down, building a multiple possession lead.

The Americans did all they could in the four-on-four to hang with Canada, but as had been the case through the entire game the Canadians were just a tad more aggressive than the US team.  Sid the Kid ended one of the most exciting games in history with a shot five-hole shot.

Purdue just couldn’t solve the Spartans defense as the Michigan State lead built toward the end.  E’Twaun Moore had a second half where the ball was all but through the net, but wouldn’t fall.  It happens to the best shooters in the world, and today was Moore’s turn in the barrel.

The Michigan State win turned the Big Ten into an enormous mess.  Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue all have four losses.  The Buckeyes have an extra win, and one home game left against Illinois.  Purdue has Indiana at Mackey and finish at Penn State.  The Spartans are home against Penn State and Michigan.  All that means that there will be a three-way tie at the top a week from today. 

What a fantastic Big Ten Tourney to look forward to.  Illinois and Wisconsin are also capable of winning the tourney and automatic berth in the NCAAs.  Minnesota looks to be rallying as well.  Michigan, Indiana, Penn State, and Iowa?  Maybe next year.

For hockey, it’s back to the shadows for America’s least favorite major league sport.  I’ll watch the Hawks when the play the Red Wings, but why would I have any interest at all in the Coyotes playing the Avalanche.  I couldn’t tell you anything about either team unless Joe Sakic is still in Colooooooooooooooooooooooooooorado.  Sorry, I nodded off with my finger on the o button.  I swear to you, no more hockey talk.

Not so fast with a prohibition of talk about the Boilers.  I love them, and root for them.  They play hard, smart, and move the ball like nobody’s counting shots.


Getting Set for Purdue-Michigan St. by jimjohnsonpbm
February 28, 2010, 4:14 pm
Filed under: Purdue Basketball | Tags: ,

by Jim Johnson

This game has been anticipated for awhile – especially now that it was announced Purdue forward Robbie Hummel will be out for the rest of the season.  Today’s game won’t only pretty much lock Purdue in for a No. 1 finish in the Big Ten, it will paint a picture for the rest of the world as to how the Boilermakers will adjust to life without Hummel.

Hummel isn’t completely gone though. After warm-ups, Hummel joined his team in the huddle and said a few words. We don’t know what those words are obviously since Hummel isn’t allowed to talk to the media. When I asked the SID today when he would be available for comment, he replied, “not int he foreseeable future.”

Hummel saw me walking up to him when he was coming through the tunnel, and he didn’t look at me. I shook is hand and said, “hang in there.” He replied, “Oh, I will.”

That’s the most any media member will be able to get out of him.

We’ll see what happens. It comes down to todays game.

Sports From the Couch–I Need to Thank Some People by jshowal2

By Jeff Showalter

I remember a time when February and March were filled with Basketball. I schedule my downtime around the Pacers and the Hoosiers, but now, there is no reason to pay as much attention. Both teams suck so bad, that 1)they are no fun to watch and 2) they are too painful to watch. Neither team’s performance is going to be the standard for a basketball study on excellence, and yet I have this need to thank them as my evenings and weekends are now filled with movies, trips to the gym, catching up with family and friends and writing a blog.  So why not go ahead and try to show my appreciation:

I want to thank Donnie Walsh. Donnie brought in Larry Bird and started a path to retirement. Donnie really built this franchise from the ground up, drafting Chuck Person, Reggie Miller and Rik Smits, but father time caught up to all of them. When he tried to replace them with Austin Croshere, Jonathon Bender and Al Harrington, it didn’t work out so well. After “The Brawl”, he decided he had to remake the team on the run but it didn’t work out so well. We really may never know why Donnie had to leave and keep Larry in charge but he got to go home to run the Knicks and may have LeBron James playing in the Garden next year. Not a bad retirement for Mr. Walsh.

I know I can thank Larry Bird. Larry has made some tremendous decisions. The Pacers President decided that becoming the whitest team since the George Mikan Minnesota Lakers was exactly what was needed to kick start the Pacers back to the playoffs.  Sarunus J., Dunleavy, Murphy, Foster, Deiner, Hansbrough and McRoberts have played in as many playoff games as I have in a Pacers uniform. Larry isn’t prejudice, he is a bad a judge of talent regardless of race. TJ Ford, Brandon Rush, James White, Earl Watson and Solomon Jones are just as bad.  I realized Larry hasn’t just saved me time, but Larry has saved me money. I haven’t been to a Pacers game since they played Minnesota and KEVIN GARNETT!  Thanks Larry!

I want to thank Tom Crean. I realized, four minutes into the Wisconsin game that Coach Crean’s problem is he can not TEACH the game. Twice in the four minute span, two illegal screens were called on the IU offense. The thing to remember about these fouls is they were both on the pick and roll. Both calls were because the dribbler (Rivers and Jones) took off before the screener could get set. Crean has had both guards for basically 2 years now and has yet to teach them one of the most fundamental aspects of offensive basketball.  There is no pick and roll without the pick. I went to bed knowing the game was over. I had no idea IU would drop the game by 30 plus, but a loss is a loss and I picked up an extra hour of sleep.  I’m a firm believer that Tom Crean will never take IU back to the glory of yesteryear but I thought I’d look at some of his DWade-less teams to confirm.  Remenber Dominic James? IU fans were pissed that Mike Davis didn’t go after him. I watched him a lot in high school and kind of thought he was overrated but was surprised he went to Marquette and not a different Big 10 school.  James best year at Marquette was his freshmen year. Here are his stats:

James’ Career Stats

Year        GP GS Min Avg FG-FGA Pct 3FG-FGA Pct FT-FTA Pct  Ast TO Stl Pts Avg

2005-06 31 31 1006 32.5 174-404 43.1 41-136 30.1    84-131  64.1   167 87  50 473  15.3

2006-07 34 34 1130 33.2 171-445 38.4 50-184 27.2 114-175 65.1  167 89 5 64 506 14.9

2007-08 35 34 1060 30.3 159-399 39.8 45-145 31.0 89-134 66.4 154 75  62 452 12.9

James shooting percentage and scoring went down all 3 years.  Basically James became a volume shooter. Never the top priority of a good point guard, but obviously ok with Coach Crean. In the last three years of Crean’s reign at Marquette, his teams were extremely guard oriented. James, Wes Matthews jr. and Jermel McNeal were the three main ball handlers and offensive weapons.  One would think that a team, whose best three players were guards would take good care of the ball. Well, guess again. MU’s turnover to assist ratio was 1.1, 1.0 and 1.1.   Compare that with Purdue, who’s biggest problem has been consistent point guard play, averaged 1.3, 1.3 and 1.0 over Painter’s last three years.  The point is, that Crean’s teams don’t improve. There is nothing in Crean’s coaching history that makes anyone believe his players get better. Crean is not a teacher and that spells disaster at IU.

Last, I want to thank Rick Greenspan and the people absolute morons on the IU board at the time. Anyone that thought Greenspan was worthy of a Big 10 job should not be decision makers.  All you have to do is google Rick Greenspan and John Feinstein together to understand how truly incompetent this guy was at Army.  Ah Hell, I’ll do it for you. Greenspan and Feinstein

Thanks guys. Time to go enjoy myself.

Harry on Sports – Saturday Spectacular, February 27, 2010 by kentsterling
February 27, 2010, 9:23 am
Filed under: Harry on Sports

Official 2010 Chicago Cubs Preview – Cubs Have Fallen Into Mediocrity by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

They never were an elite team despite their elite payroll, but today as the Cubs prepare for the 2010 season they are just good enough to not blow up.  Position by position, the Cubs are long in the tooth, short on health, and bereft of leadership.

If you grade the Cubs position players on a five-point scale on defensive range, arm strength, speed, power, and OBP, you would see a whole bunch of threes.  Nothing is so glaring that Jim Hendry thinks that he absolutely has to make a change, but given the totality of the mediocrity, there is no chance for this team to contend for a championship against a team like the Cardinals.  Writing that makes me physically ill, but how do you look at Theriot, Baker, Soto, Fukudome, and Soriano and think anything else.

Catcher – Geovany Soto, 27

Soto had a disastrous sophomore season after being the consensus National League Rookie of the Year in 2008.  He was overweight, tested positive during the worlds for pot, and looked lost without his mentor, Henry Blanco.  Now Soto has lost 40 pounds, and says he’s a new man.  Does that mean he’ll be better?  Who knows, but he can’t be worse.  Hitting .211 in 102 games isn’t too high a hurdle to clear.  Another year like that, and Soto joins Jerome Walton as colossal ROY busts.

First Base – Derrek Lee, 35 on September 6

Lee is one of the few Cubs to whom a five would be awarded.  He is one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball.  Unfortunately, Lee is getting older and the sore neck that seems to be a perpetual bother is not going to improve as Lee ages.  The Cubs can’t hope for better than what Lee gave last year – which was a substantial amount.  He hit .306 with 35 dingers, and 111 RBIs.  If he can go to the plate 608 times in 2010, those numbers are repeatable.  He slugged .579, and Jim Hendry will kneel down at the feet of the statue of Ernie Banks in front of the main entrance of Wrigley Field and thank the ghost of Frank “Wildfire” Schulte.

Second Base – Jeff Baker, 29 on June 21/Mike Fontenot, 30 on June 9

Neither are terribly adept defensive second basemen.  Fontenot was an offensive disaster last season swinging a bat as big as he is.  Coupling his .236 average with his weak arm and limited range, and you might question what he’s doing on the roster at all, much less battling for the starting job.  Baker is worth a look.  He’s a young kid with a quick bat.  He hit .305 with some gap power.  Like most of his teammates, projected over the course of a full season, he strikes out almost 25% of the time and rarely walks.

When I played in Little League baseball, there was a manager for another team who told his kids, “Swing at pitches you can reach.”  I thought that was curious advice.  Why not swing at strikes?  Or swing at what you can hit hard?  I thought that advice probably doomed him from coaching at a higher level.  Little did I know that Lou Piniella subscribed to that same school of thought.

Third Base – Aramis Ramirez, 32 on June 25

Ramirez is the other player for the Cubs who would rate a five at anything.  Ramirez has consistent and rare power.  He says that his shoulder is healed and that he is 100%.  The Cubs better hope that’s true, because if Ramirez goes down, it’s next man up.  The Cubs are likely to trim Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar before they break camp, so that mean Baker at third and Fontenot at second.  Yikes!  The Cubs are having Fontenot take ground balls at short, so maybe they are looking at keeping Millar and dumping Andres Blanco.  Playing 82 games, Ramirez hit .317 with 15 HRs and 65 RBIs.  He can hit, and he is a relatively adept third baseman.  If his back, shoulder, or knees flare up, it’s all over on the north side.

Shortstop – Ryan Theriot, 30

This is the place where the Cubs wave the white flag.  If Ryan Theriot is your starting shortstop, you cannot win a World Series.  Nothing against Theriot.  He’s going to take home a truckload of cash this season with physical attributes that should have had him playing hookey from a real job to sit in the bleachers for the home opener at Wrigley.  Good for him.  All of those niceties aside, his defensive skills are better hidden at second base.  Lou Piniella in his seemingly limitless lack of wisdom continues to beat the drum for Theriot to bat leadoff.  As a second baseman in the eight hole, Theriot is an asset.  At short, hitting one, he guarantees team mediocrity.  His OBP of .348 sucks, and his 93 Ks are worse – for a leadoff hitter.

Starlin Castro is the shortstop in waiting.  He reminds people of Hanley Ramirez, and that is a good thing.  He’ll turn 20 in March, and his ascendance reminds me of the wait for Shawon Dunston.  Larry Bowa was the shortstop as the rifle-armed Dunston rolled through the farm system.  The aging Bowa was not unlike Theriot.  He gave the Cubs not so much in every measurable.  You have to trust that somebody in the Cubs front office knows what they’re doing, so I’ll trust them to get it right.  You can bet though that the Cubs will break camp without Castro because they will want to start the clock on his arbitration eligibility.  That means he will come up in late May, if things go well in Iowa.

Theriot was plunked in the wrist during live BP this week by hard-throwing Rafael Dolis.  You hate to hope for lingering soreness, but…

Right Field – Kosuke Fukudome, 33 on April 26

Criminy, as Harry Carey would say.  One of the few moves by Jim Hendry of the past three years worthy of applause has resulted in a lot of jersey sales, but little else.  The other candidate for the leadoff spot struck out 112 times (not good), but works deep counts and drew 93 walks.  His OBP was .375.  In limited time in the leadoff spot, his OBP was higher.  Defensively, Fukudome is really good.  Great range.  Great angles to the ball.  And I’ve never seen him miss a cutoff man.  Hendry had good reason to expect better than .259, 11, and 54 with six steals and 10 times caught stealing.  Maybe the third hitting coach in the last year, Rudy Jamarillo, newly crowned successor to Charlie Lau as a genius, can get Fukudome to stop corkscrewing himself into the ground.

Center Field – Marlon Byrd, 33 on August 30

You have to excuse my skepticism regarding Byrd, but when a guy puts up career numbers after turning 30 while in his option year, I get curious.  In his career,Byrd has hit 60 home runs.  Twenty of them came last year.  He is reportedly a good clubhouse guy who is not prone to emotional peaks and valley like the last Texas Ranger Hendry brought in to bolster the lineup.  I don’t mention his name because he is an asshat.  This week, Byrd told reporters that the asshat is a good guy, and that everyone should go to dinner with him before they judge.  You know, Hitler was a hell of a dinner guest.  Not much with jokes, but a great listeners.  Very curious guy.  Genghis Khan?  Helluva nice guy to drink Mongolian ale with.  Everyone is a great guy at dinner.  How is he under pressure?  Bad enough that the Cubs paid him to stay home for the last couple of weeks of the season and traded him for a batting practice pitcher.  Hitler and Khan – not so good under pressure either.  He is said to be a middle of the pack center fielder.  Byrd had 98 K’s and an OBP of .329, so he fits the mold of the guys Hendry loves to target.  Again, if you can reach it, SWING!

Left Field – Alfonso Soriano, 34

Never has so much been paid for so little.  The seed chipper loves to swing the bat regardless of whether he can reach the pitch.  Hitting a good slider is supposed to be among the toughest feats in sports.  Hitting a bad slider three-feet outside the strike is impossible as Soriano proves a couple of times every game.  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result.  Soriano should be in Sector C of “Shutter Island” with the adult version of the kid who played Moocher in “Breaking Away”.  He swings a giraffe’s leg at the plate that he can’t stop once he starts his swing, and as an outfielder, he’s twice as nuts.  Soriano jumps as he catches routine flyballs.  He has a surprising accurate arm for a guy who throws sidearm.  Overpaid at one-third his price tag, the good news about Alfonso is that we only have five more years of committing so much money to Soriano that Hendry can’t play at the big boy free agent/trade table.

Bullpen – Here, we are okay.  I love Carlos Marmol, 27, and could not care less how many guys he walks because hitters are helpless against him.  He has to walk four before he gets three K’s to lose a one-run lead.  I’ll take my chances.  The set-up guys are okay, although I have to question why Piniella would say that he was counting on Angel Guzman, 29, to be the chief set-up guy.  Guzman has a glass shoulder.  Healthy, he’s really good, but he’s rarely pitched healthy for any stretch.  The guy I really like is Esmailin Caridad, 26, which I believe means, “send the package by next-day air”.  Caridad was one of the guys you wake up to in a meaningless September game.  You shake your head, watch a couple of pitches, and get excited.  “Julie, am I crazy, or can this guy really throw?”  Julie mumbles something from the kitchen I can’t hear, but know is derogatory.

Starting Rotation

Who even knows?  Carlos Zambrano is young in years, 29 on June 1, but looks to have an old arm.  He’s in better shape, but as with Soto, what does that mean.  Rick Reuschel and Mickey Lolich were fat guys, and they got everybody out for a long time.  Z is coming off a season where he only threw 169 innings, and that is not the load that Hendry is paying for.  He threw out his back and strained a hammy while hitting, so hopefully his pinch-hitting days are over.  Ryan Dempster, 33 on May 3, was okay at 11-9, 3.65.  Randy Wells, 28 on August 28, was a huge surprise going 12-10, 3.05.  Ted Lilly, 34, is on the shelf still recovering from shoulder surgery.  Oh, he also tweaked a knee, and has the flu.  Great.  If Ted Lilly is your #3 guy, you have a hell of a staff.  If he is your ace, uh-oh.  Lilly will open the season on the shelf, so that leaves Larry Rothschild busy conducting an open casting call.  Carlos Silva, 31 on April 23, is a train wreck, and if the Cubs had committed to building Jeff Samardzija, 25, into a quality starter instead of shuttling him between Chicago and Des Moines again and again, he might be ready.  He might be ready anyway.

Management – Either Lou Piniella pretends he is a doddering old wingnut exceptionally well, or he is a doddering old wingnut.  He talks about allowing the players to make decisions as to where they will hit and when they will play.  He is not a fan of hitting and running, but that might be because his players can’t do it.  When he does sacrifice bunt, it doesn’t go well.  Has anyone seen a successful sac bunt by the Cubs with runner at first and second?  You may as well hand your opponent an out and keep the runners at first and second.  The Cubs are free swingers to a fault, so they beat the hell out of bad pitching, but can’t create runs against quality starters.  That’s a great recipe for a nine-game losing streak in the postseason.  The Cubs made a huge mistake in not hiring Joe Girardi when they had the chance.  Lou needs to wake-up, learn his players names, and put the damn notebook down.

The Cubs will finish third in the NL Central behind the Cardinals and the Reds with a record of 84-78.  I bounce around a little in my mind with a potential win total anywhere between 78 and 85.  Because I am an eternal optimist, I grabbed one of the

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Carmel High School Bullying Recap by kentsterling
February 26, 2010, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Carmel Bullying | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

A friend from Chicago called tonight, and asked what the hell is going on at Carmel?  He’s been reading here about the story, but for the sake of brevity I have recapped the story for every post.  Here is the recap

On January 22, on the way back to Carmel from a game against Terre Haute South, it is alleged that three seniors assaulted two freshman in the back of the school bus.  The report is that the two freshmen were subjected to the insertion of fingers into their rear ends.  The seniors were suspended for five days, and then returned to school.  There was another suspension this week because of a report of a similar assault in the boys locker room at Carmel High School.

There has been a conspiratorial silence from the Carmel High School administrators who cite a student privacy law as their justification.  The Carmel chief of police is investigating the incidents “thoroughly” and with turn over the results to the Hamilton County prosecutor.

This story really grew legs this week, and keeps rolling as the lead story of every newscast.  There is a reporter for Fox-59, Kim King, who has staked a claim on this story and is being contacted by hundreds of Carmel students and parents with similar stories of assaults disguised as initiations and hazing.

If the number of assaults equals the number of emails Kim holds up for the camera during every stand-up, the Hamilton County prosecutor will be very busy for the next five years.

My friend also thought it might be worthwhile to open this up for your participation.  What are your thoughts?  If you go to Carmel or any school where this kind of thing has taken place, take a minute to tell us what you think of the media coverage, the acts themselves, and the response or lack thereof by the administration at Carmel.  No names necessary.  Please be honest and respectful.

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Carmel Senior Night Mostly Without Drama by kentsterling
February 26, 2010, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Carmel Bullying | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

Not much really happened, which is not what I thought would be the case.  When I was in high school, if this kind of thing ever happened to a school we were playing, I would have made sure we chanted some entirely inappropriate things.  Brebeuf, Carmel’s opponent for tonight’s senior night game, is a school filled with clever kids.  I thought they might be as immature and classless as I was.  No such luck.

The nicest moment of the night was the ovation Alex Payne got when the remaining senior was introduced as part of Carmel’s starting lineup.  I like that.  I am assuming that there won’t be anything in coming days to sully this kid, and it occurred to me that it must have been very hard for him tonight.  I assume that he grew up playing with the four seniors who’ve been dismissed from the team, and that their senior year would be a time of celebration and tests to see how good they had become.  With all that out the window and him the lone representative of his class, he must have felt a little alone.

The other part of the scenario, and I’m taking some liberty in drawing these lines and coloring inside them to suit me need for a narrative, is that as the other seniors were allegedly abusing freshman, Alex refused to participate.  His refusal, I hope, is because he saw what was going on as wrong and wanted no part of it.  Saying no to friends who try to prod you into a bad act is not easy, and Alex might have done just that. 

Saying no to friends can sequester a kid into a very isolated place.  Most 18-year-olds don’t know that it’s better to be alone and right than popular and an idiot.  That kind of maturity isn’t always grasped by 40-year-olds.  If Alex did that, good for him.  He’s on his way to being a quality adult, who might lead some kids one day toward making a similarly smart decision.  He’s also a pretty damn good ballplayer.  When I left the game, he had ten-points and showed a lot of ability to get to the rim.

The only borderline moment was when Fox-59’s Kim King walked into the gym.  I didn’t see her until she was in front of the scorer’s table.  You have to love this woman, unless you’re a Carmel student as you’ll read in a minute.  She is aggressively pursuing a story that is not going to lead to a pretty end for the high school in whose gym she is walking, but she doesn’t slip in the back door.  Nope, Kim walks right down to the floor during halftime and crosses in front of the scorer’s table and then the Carmel bench.  She stands in the corner with a person I’m guessing is her producer, and the crowd became a little quiet and started pointing.  Then there was a bit of huddling, followed by the chant “Go home, Kim!  Go home, Kim!”  Some of the parents laughed, which I thought was absurd because it was neither clever nor funny.  If Carmel is a school filled with as many smart kids as they claim, they should have come up with something witty.

The other issue is that Kim is actually busting her ass to force some accountability into this situation.  In the end, that will help the kids enjoy a high school experience where they don’t have to worry about finger buggering.

The night should have been to celebrate high school basketball and the work of a senior class that had worked hard for years to be Carmel Greyhounds.  It wasn’t, but that didn’t keep those who went to the game from enjoying Alex Payne as a kid and player.

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