Saturday, January 14, 2006

Kings 1; Sabres 10

Sometimes, you just get the ever-living crap kicked out of you.

Washington 69; UCLA 65

Get used to this. I fear that this is pretty much what we're going to see for the rest of the season. A tremendous effort, but in the end, the Bruins simply don't have enough bodies to compete with the best teams in the conference. And it only gets worse, as Alfred Aboya was forced to leave the game with an injury.

The Bruins came out on fire, with tremendous shooting by Mike Roll and Aaron Afflalo as they built a big first half lead. Washington cut into a bit, but the Bruins executed their offense as well as they have all season, and they were able to push it back over double digits at the half. In the second half, the Huskies picked up the defense and the rebounding, the Bruins began to wear out, and with a few minutes to go, Washington took it's first lead, which it wouldn't relinquish, due in part to mistakes made by the young Bruins, including failing to rebound a missed front end of a one+one. In the end, it was a poor decision by Jordan Farmar with under five seconds to play trailing by two that did the Bruins in. He drove the lane and tried to dish to LRMAM running at full speed, who in my opinion was fouled before he travelled, but the refs (pathetic yet again, just ask Darren Collison) only saw the travel.

That makes two straight games in which the Bruins have opened big leads and let their opponents back into the game. This is completely opposite of they did last season. But this isn't a problem with nerves. It's a problem with depth. They simply have too many guys out, and if Aboya is forced to miss significant time, than this team is a wounded animal, bleeding, and other teams can smell that blood. The Oregon trip goes from possible to sweep, to probable split, to "oh God, I hope we can manage a split". The series with u$c? I'd take a split right now. At this point you just hope they finish .500 or better in conference, win a game in the conference tournament, and hope that the tournament committee shows them some love.

I usually write these posts right after the game, so the negativity is still flowing pretty strong, but honestly, I think the injuries are going to end up being too much to overcome. You can't have three of your top six out of the lineup for a significant period of time and hope to compete. No team can do that. And let's not forget, of the guys not out, there's Jordan Farmar playing on one leg. This team's window is next year, and all of this experience is going to prove very useful, so maybe there's a silver lining.

Man, I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

UCLA 63: Wazzu 61

Well, that was a little scary. I'm starting to get the feeling that this team is cursed. You're best off staying far, far away. I almost went to a home game while I was in LA at Christmas, and now I'm thanking my lucky stars that I didn't, as I likely would have left with a broken leg and a collapsed lung. Lorenzo Mata went down with what looked like a hyperextended knee with just under four minutes to play and the Bruins still leading handily (I was at a bar watching with no sound, so I don't know if they gave an injury update), but at that point, you could see the electricity go out. It followed a missed layup, and it was a springboard to a WSU run, as they came back from a 17 point deficit in the second half.

The first half was a little ragged. The Bruins were excellent defensively, but when the game opened, it looked like everyone was trying to make up for the lack of Josh Shipp, as there were numerous ill-advised drives to the hoop. But the first half ended with the Bruins up 14. They led by 17 with just over 7 minutes to play when Wazzu became unconscious, making everything they put in the air. They led by 9 with 3:47 to go, when Mata went down, and everything went south. Josh Akognon just went nuts, and the Bruins couldn't find an answer on the offensive end. The last two minutes were nuts, as Aaron Afflalo tipped in his own missed layup for a four point lead, after which Akognon was fouled at the other end shooting a three, and made all three free throws. The Cougars either forgot to play defense at the other end, or decided their best bet was to give up a basket and take it the other way, because Darren Collison went the hoop uncontested to make it a three point lead with under 30 seconds to play. That was when the officials decided to make their mark. Aaron Afflalo tipped the ball away from Akognon, then was held going for the loose ball. Inexplicable (or rather, explained only by the utter incompetence of Pac 10 officials this season) Afflalo was whistled for the foul. Akognon made both free throws, cutting the lead back to one. At the other end, Afflalo hit one of two, after which Kyle Weaver choked on an easy layup that would have sent the game into OT. Clock ran out, Bruins won, some dude bought me a beer.

By the way, I just watched end of the Lakers game, and does Marv Albert have the world's worst hair piece or what?

Anyway, the Bruins' season basically rides on Lo Mata's health right now. Mike Roll, in my opinion, was excellent in the unexpected start, not trying to do more than he was capable of. LRMAM led the team in rebounding again, and in my opinion, the Bruins overcame some really poor officiating to hang on. But the fact is, they're running out of bodies. They need to start getting some guys healthy, and yes, that includes FeLlins, much as I hate to admit it. But a win is a win, and with Arizona's loss at OSU tonight (and boy aren't they starting to step up on their home court), the Bruins lead the conference by a half game. Tomorrow's injury report should be very interesting.

Kings 6: Bruins 0

I'll admit, I completely ignored the game the other night against the Sucks. I watched it, of course, but I refused to write about, or even ever discuss again, save for the beginning of this post where I'm talking about not talking about it. But anyway. Fantastic effort tonight for the 2+ periods that I saw (early start meant that I missed a little of this one).

I got home in time to see Corvo's goal, and really, he did what a lot of people have been wanting for a long time. He put the puck on net. Not fancy, he didn't pick a corner, he just floated it towards the net hoping that something would happen. And sure enough, it did. Two Bruins skated in front of Andrew Raycroft, who never saw the puck flutter over his left shoulder.

More good work on power play in the second period as the Kings kept the puck moving toward the net, and Michael Cammalleri was able to bang home a rebound for a two goal lead. That led to some momentum, and the Kings ended up dominating the shot chart in the second period, if not the scoreboard. The Bruins had their chances, but Mathieu Garon really rebounded from whatever happened in that game that I'm ignoring and made some excellent saves to maintain the advantage.

That's when the floodgates opened. A deflection by Frolov, who hadn't scored in a decade. A rocket wrist shot by Dustin Brown. A penalty shot goal by Frolov yet again. Then the hat trick for A-Fro on a breakaway (a little cheap to be cherry picking with a 5-0 lead, but who am I to complain).

The good news was that a) the Kings were able to put their two game losing streak behind them, and b) they took such a big lead that they were able to rest some regulars and keep the guns out of harm's way over the last ten minutes or so. That was great because the fans who had driven over from Manchester got to root for all of the Monarchs on the ice in Kings jerseys.

Big two points tonight, and a great way to start the East Coast trip. Even better, they netted another power play goal, and didn't allow any on the PK. Now let's get through the Buffalo game unbruised and go on a little run.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


*Update* - Good piece in the National Review on the same subject. And that's the last time I'll ever use the phrase "good piece" to describe an NRO column.

Via this post over at Planetsocks, I just got some horrible news. Bryan Harvey (not that Bryan Harvey), former lead singer of the Richmond rock band House of Freaks and his family were found murdered in Richmond on New Year's Eve.
Harvey, 49, and his family were discovered after Johnny Hott, formerly the drummer for the defunct band, arrived to attend a New Year's Day party and discovered the house was on fire. Firefighters called to the scene discovered the bodies. Local news outlets reported that the victims' throats had been cut and their bodies bound.
Suspects have been taken into custody. Two 28 year old guys who are also suspected of murdering three more people about a week later. The motive, as I initially suspected is robbery. Just random chance.

House of Freaks was Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott. That's it. Those two guys. They were signed after playing a gig somwhere, and I vaguely remember reading the story (I think it was in the LA Times) where the A&R guy said he couldn't believe the sound was coming from two guys with no bass.

They released four full lengths and an EP over the course of their career, and later formed Gutterball, a college radio supergroup which also featured Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate and Stephen McCarthy of the Long Ryders.

They've always been sort of special to me because I first heard them when my brother would play their albums around the time I was in the sixth or seventh grade. My freshman year in high school I had a cassette with a recording of Camper Van Beethoven performing on the late Dierdre O'Donahue's show on KCRW. At one point in their set, Dierdre played "Cactusland" from Monkey on Chain Gang, and the more I listened to it, the more I liked it, and eventually recorded my brother's record. Sophomore year in high school I bought Tantilla the day it came out. I had to ride my bike down Rosemead Blvd. to Moby Disc on Colorado to get it. A couple years later, the released their EP "All My Friends", which was soon followed by the full length Cakewalk. After they'd kind of faded off of even my radar, they released Invisible Jewel, which I finally picked up on ebay not even a year ago. "White Folks Blood" off of Tantilla even holds the distinction of having a spot on the first mix tape that my buddy and I made to listen to on our way to San Diego to play in hockey tournaments, which still stands as maybe the best one we ever did (all told, we have probably 14 hours or so of those tapes). If you go to Amazon, you can buy Tantilla with the six tracks from All My Friends as extra tracks.

They weren't anything groundbreaking. They played pretty strightforward rock music. But they had really smart lyrics, with all sorts of symbolic references that were really cool for a high schooler just starting to learn enough to pick up on those sorts of things. Lyrically, a lot their stuff tied back to their Richmond roots, with songs like White Folks Blood, Family Tree, and Big Houses all revolving around the Civil War and Antebellum South. It seems hard to believe that "40 years" from Monkey on a Chain Gang, which was written in rememberance of the 40 year anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb was written 20 years ago. Dark'N'Light in New Mexico was another song from that album that touched on the same subject.

Anyway, this is really bumming me out, and I'm probably going to be listening to these guys non-stop for the rest of the week.

When I lay down my head
Bound for heaven or hell
After all said and done
Please remember me well

You can dance on my grave
You can ring out the bells
You can drink to my health
But remember me well

Sing a soldier's lament
Hear the stories he tells
If you all shed a teaer
Please remember me well

When my ship's going down
And the band plays its knell
And the mast dissappears
Please remember me well

In a hundred years hence
With the worms I will dwell
When I'm gone from this world
Please remember me well

You can dance on my grave
You can ring out the bells
After all's said and done
Just remember me well

May Bryan and his family rest in peace.


That's "mainstream baseball media". Sometimes they say things that aren't very bright. Take today for example. Although most of the recent news about the Angels lately has dealt with the now underway trial to determine exactly what the Angels will call themselves next season and beyond, Steve Bisheff of the OC Registers actually wrote about some on the field issues. Good reporting, actually, as Bisheff writes that despite their failure to acquire a bat for first base, the Angels are still planning on starting Spring Training with Erstad in center field. This is good news for most of the in the halosphere who have been hoping that the team would go in this direction. He adds the following:
If Erstad is in center, leadoff hitter Chone Figgins becomes the third baseman, and where does that leave Dallas McPherson, the kid who was the power hope of the future as recently as a year ago?

Probably on the bench, at least until Scioscia and his coaches are convinced he's 100 percent healthy after that serious hip injury kept him out for most of 2005.

"McPherson could DH for us," Scioscia said, "and if Erstad got hurt and Figgy had to play center, Dallas could play third."
That's certainly one direction, although personally I'd be in favor of D-Mac playing third with Figgins moving around the field giving occasional days off while keeping his bat, and more importantly his legs, in the lineup. But then Bisheff starts to get a little weird:
All things considered, the Angels would prefer to keep the team's intense, unofficial captain at first base, but at this point they need any semblance of offensive help they can find.

Especially since Stoneman has spent most of the past three months either dozing off in his office or heeding the orders of a boss who is no longer Anaheim's happiest businessman.

You would be tempted to say Moreno has put a lock on the team's payroll vault, except that it wasn't so many weeks ago that Paul Konerko almost accepted a reported $60million offer to hit his home runs in Angel Stadium.

But once the postseason MVP opted to stay with the White Sox, who purportedly matched those dollars, it was as if the Angels shrugged and decided to take off the rest of the winter.

As shrewd strategies go, that one ranks right there with USC wasting its last timeout on a Texas two-point conversion with less than 20 seconds to play in the Rose Bowl.

Or have Stoneman and his cronies somehow forgotten how absolutely anemic Scioscia's offense looked in the postseason?
Has Bisheff forgotten that the post-season is a small sample size? By his logic, the Angels ought to trade Vlad while they're at it. No one is suggesting that, of course, but Bisheff disregards the fact that the Angels offense, especially bad in the playoffs, was fairly average in the regular season, finishing seventh in the AL in runs despite missing Vlad for a month, giving far too many at bats to Steve Finley, and getting virtually nothing out of the DH spot. Moving Erstad to center, which frees up first base for Kotchman and his 124 OPS+, already improves the offense. So does the return of Dallas McPherson, assuming he's healthy, which is a pretty safe assumption at this point. One place the Angels could have made a big improvement offensively was left field, but as long as Garret Anderson is around, he's the starter, even with is 99 ERA+, which is horrid for a left fielder.

So with one move, Angels have improved their offense at two positions (CF and 1B), and they have the power bat that they lacked in 2005 returning from injury. This team is already better offensively than the 2005 team, and that's with no acquisitions. Then Bisheff gets really loopy. In one paragraph he really destroys his credibility. He sets it up by slagging Juan Rivera:
If the manager were to write out a lineup card today, the No.5 hitter in his order probably would be Juan Rivera, the incumbent DH. Sorry, but that's just not going to cut it, especially in an AL West where everyone else seems to have improved in the offseason.
Got that? Juan Rivera = wrong answer for DH. That's cool. Reasonable people can disagree. He's entitled to his opinion. So tell us, Steve, who would you prefer at the DH spot?
Seattle has taken Jarrod Washburn off the Angels' hands, signed Carl Everett, precisely the type of DH Scioscia needs, then paid big dollars to lure Konji Johjima, Japan's best catcher, to the Northwest.
Huzzahwa?!?! Carl Everett? THE Carl Everett? Did I read that correctly?
Carl Everett, precisely the type of DH Scioscia needs
Yup. That's what it says. Un-freaking-believable. Let's do a little comparison, shall we?

Everett: 35
Rivera: 28

OPS+ the last two years (in comparable plate appearances)
Everett: 85 and 94
Rivera: 118 and 106

ABs per strikeout last year:
Everett: 1 strikout every 5.4 at bats
Rivera: 1 strikout ever 8.9 at bats

So Rivera is younger, cheaper, better, fits in better with the Angels offensive philosophy, and presumably believes in dinosaurs, but he's not going to cut it in the improve AL West, while Carl Everett is just the type of guy the Angels need? Steve, I had high hopes after the first few paragraphs of that column, but that, I That's awful. That's the frontrunner for dumbest baseball related comment of 2006.

Monday, January 09, 2006

College Hoops poll

A friend of mine noticed that a lot of top 25 teams had lost this week and asked me to predict this week's poll (he didn't specify, but I'll go with the AP). 15 of the top 25 teams in the country lost this week, with Michigan State losing twice, while Kentucky got pounded at Kansas, and Washington lost their second straight conference home game. Unfortunately, ESPN has streamlined their site and now puts all of the polls on the same page, and no longer has the quick reference that shows how everyone did the previous week, so I'm kind of winging it and trying to spend as little time on research as possible. Here goes:

1) Duke
2) Florida
3) UConn
4) Villanova
5) Gonzaga
6) Memphis
7) Illinois
8) Louisville
9) Texas
10) Indiana
11) UCLA
12) Boston College
13) Oklahoma
14) NC State
15) Maryland
16) George Washington
17) Ohio State
18) Washington
19) Wisconsin
20) West Virginia
21) Pittsburgh
22) Michigan State
23) North Carolina
24) Syracuse
25) Arizona

Big jumps for Texas, Indiana, and UCLA, who all went undefeated (UCLA winning twice on the road). Big drops for Michigan State and Kentucky. Everyone else was pretty much saved by the losses that all of the other teams in the top 25 suffered.