Pro Sports May 1

May Day May Day

May 1 is always a good day to take stock how the hockey playoffs are going and what’s up in Major League Baseball.

No, it’s not a good time to comment on basketball; thanks to the TV contract with CBS the NBA (Numbingly Boring Association) season won’t end until two days before next season opens. The NBA is a bad product these days—horrible officiating and players who shoot handguns better than jumpers. If officials actually called traveling violations, its hyped “stars” (read LeBron James) would average 2.3 ppg. My only prediction goes out to fellow New Englanders: there’s no way the Celtics make it past Cleveland in round two.


I was way off about several predictions for the first round. I’m still stunned that New Jersey went out so quietly. Looks like Ilya Kovalchuk is as soft as critics claim. There’s a better chance you’ll see sweet corn growing in downtown Newark than Kovalchuk’s return to the Garden State. I also blew the Bruins/Sabers and Canadiens/Capitals. I really thought the Caps might make a run for the Cup; it turns out they were running for the golf course. The Bruins upset of Buffalo was less stunning given how banged up the Sabers are. I was right that the Penguins would find Ottawa pesky—a break here and there and the Pens might have gone home too. I went 4-4 in the West and pretty much called each one on the nose except I thought the Wings would dispatch Phoenix more easily.

So how about Round Two? Boston and Philly is a toss-up, but I’ll go with the latter in seven simply because the Flyers have more depth. If Tuka Rask keeps the hot hand, though, the Bruins could prevail. Montreal has given the Penguins fits all year, but the Pens should prevail on talent, unless Malkin is anxious to get back to Russia. I’ll take Pittsburgh in six.

Speaking of toss-ups, Vancouver and Chicago should be hockey at its best. It’s a shame they’re meeting in round two as they may be the best two teams in the NHL at this juncture. Just because I want to see a Canadian team move on I’ll take Vancouver in seven but the only thing that would surprise me is if the series was boring. The Red Wings looked old at times against the youthful Coyotes, but here’s betting that San Jose continues its record of losing big games: Wings in six.


It happens every April—teams not expected to do well get off to a hot start and casual fans jump on the false hopes bandwagon. The other thing that’s as predictable as an arrogant Goldman Sachs representative is that Red Sox Nation will declare the season lost after ten games (and regain their fanaticism on June 1).

Let’s start with the surprise teams and whether they will continue to startle. Toronto opened well but the wheels are already coming off. I picked them for last in the AL East. They may escape the basement, but they’re headed south. Ditto Oakland, even though it plays in the AL’s softest division. The Mets and Nationals are running 1-2 in the NL East right now. Hope they enjoy it because by June 1 they-suck-reality will have struck. And that’s truly the case for the NL West-leading Padres, who will nonetheless finish as one of the worst teams in MLB. On a more positive note, Tampa has been sizzling and though I’m not 100% sold, I may have badly underestimated the Rays. I’ll get back to you when I see what happens when Tampa gets bloodied in a Fenway or Yankee Stadium series—an inevitability in a long season. The other team that may fare better than I predicted is the Angels—not because they are particularly good, but because Texas and Seattle might not be any better.

The latter two teams are teetering on the Red Alert list. It’s only April and Texas pitching is already suspect. If Feldman, Harrison, and Harden don’t pick it up, it will be a very long summer. It may be time to trade one of their catchers for a proven arm; if the Red Sox dangle Buchholz, jump! Seattle has injuries galore, but there’s a bad vibe pall hanging over the Mariners. A .244 team batting average isn’t good enough to win. Another surprising Red Alert team is the Braves, my pick for the NL Wild Card. They’ve not pitched or fielded well, and only one starter (Prado) is hitting over .300—not good! And then there are the Reds, with a team ERA of nearly six, no starter hitting over .280, and a drug scandal hanging over a top pitcher (Volquez). If these patterns continue into June it might be time to blow up this team. For sheer incompetence, the Orioles take the cake. April was simply brutal for the O’s. We knew that their young pitchers might not be ready, but this team has too much talent to be this bad. Look for Dave Trembley to be among the first managers fired. I suppose one could also call the Cubs and Astros disappointments, though I never expected much from either. I’ve also been on the money that the Dodgers have less than meets the eye. Then there are the Royals and Pirates. Both have less talent than Taylor Swift, which is to say none. It’s criminal that either franchise is allowed to use an MLB logo.

The Giants and Twins have been pretty much as good as I thought, though I predict both will get better. Barry Zito is 3-0 and the Giants’ team ERA is under three; if this team hits moderately well it will win the NL West. And look for the Twins to begin their annual surge around mid-June. The Phillies have been uneven, but this is a glitch; this team is way too good and will catch fire when the air heats up. So will Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and that’s just scary as the dude is already playing like what he is: the best that MLB has to offer.

Okay East Coast fans, the moment you’ve been waiting for: Yankees and Red Sox updates. The skinny is that both will be fine. The Red Sox pitching is simply too good for this team to have long slumps and the Yankees will club their way up the ladder, particularly when Teixeira and A-Rod warm up. The open question is which team’s weaknesses might allow Tampa to get to the postseason.

Steal should be taken literally in the Red Sox’s case. Let’s not mince words—their catching couldn’t throw out a one-legged dog. They may need to eat PED-boy Ortiz’s contract, move Victor Martinez to DH, and get a catcher. They also need another bat; they’re deluded if they think Beltre, Scutaro, and Varitek will continue their pace (or Pedroia for that matter). The rest are what they are—average to mediocre, except for Youkilis. I’d bet the farm that he’s over .300 by season’s end.

The Yankees need Granderson to be more consistent, but that may not be in his makeup. And I don’t like any of the other offseason moves. Guess what? Nick Johnson has health issues! Who could have predicted that? Is it too early to say that Javier Vasquez II isn’t much better than the first time around? If there’s an opportunity to send him back to the NL, take it—Sergio Mirtre can give as many innings as Javy. That said, with guys slumping the Yanks are still leading the league in on-base percentage and are among the leaders in slugging and team average. Robbie Cano is the best second baseman in baseball, Andy Pettite has been awesome, Jeter continues to dazzle, Posada is playing like he’s 25, and there’s always Mariano. Be afraid… be very afraid.

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