Friday, April 22, 2016

Shootyhoops Basketmakers: Some Fuckin' Mooks

Twenty NBA All-Stars That Are NBA All-Stars
Possibly all 20 of the names listed below are in this picture.
A lot of people have been NBA All-Stars over the years.  The game has had ever-expanding rosters, made all the worse by injury replacements.  All sorts of great players have been named All-Stars in years in which they didn’t truly deserve it, but at least they had their reputation to lean on.  Zaza Pachulia nearly made an All-Star team in what would have been beautiful insanity.  There have been scores of players with just one or two All-Star appearances dotting their careers that may have made it due to some odd circumstances.  Some players have very short peaks, due to injury or being hunted for sport or team fit.  It’s hard to be an All-Star. 
Yes, the NBA All-Star Game has been overflowing with honorees for years, but DID YOU KNOW that these twenty NBA All-Stars were NBA All-Stars?  Can your brain comprehend the shear enormity of this revelation?  How will you live with yourself after learning what has come before?  What point is their for life in a world in which these things happened?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

2016 Seattle Mariners Preview

Another Mariner's baseball season is upon us. With it comes another chance for the team to captivate us for the summer and provide a community wide talking about. It will also bring another chance to leave local fans disillusioned and uncaring. Which will it be? Only time will tell but we can take a look at the team's makeup and make a guess.

Unlike the last two seasons are no new big name free agent signings (i.e. Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano) to talk about. Instead the major change this offseason was in management. Gone are Jack Zduriencik and Lloyd McLendon. In are Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais. Dipoto is the fifth General Manager since the club last made the playoffs in 2001, and Servais is the tenth Field Manager. The new guys didn't waste any time making their mark on the Seattle roster.

Catcher, first base, center field, and left field will all have players new to the Mariners starting the position on opening day. And three of the four bench spots are filled by players not on the team last year. Additionally, two of the five starting pitchers are new to the team. Although none of the guys are flashy they all appear to provide upgrades over the guys they are replacing. There are a lot of new names and faces to learn at Safeco Field.

For the Mariners to compete they are going to need their offense to consist of more than Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager for the first three months. Last year the slow start of Cano and the complete black hole that was Mike Zunino coupled together to kill the team's chances out of the gate.  The Mariners were essentially irrelevant by mid-May. In all honesty there is a risk that this year's team could suffer the same slow season killing start. The biggest risks are catcher, shortstop and center field. Sadly these position have been problems for the Mariners for years.

New catcher Chris Iannetta hit .188/.293/.335 last year, which was better than Mike Zunino's line of .174/.230/.300, but still terrible. The hope here is Iannetta, who is 32, will bounce back to his career averages of .231/.351/.405. These aren't great numbers but they are light years better than what the M's got last year from the catcher position.

At shortstop the Mariners will be starting the season with Ketel Marte, who is a 22 year old second year player. In 2015, Marte put together a solid 57 games run to end the season. His production was good enough to convince management that he has what it takes to stick in the big leagues. They backed up this confidence by trading Brad Miller to the Rays and sending Chris Taylor back to AAA. Personally I think the young man has a lot of potential, I hope he turns into an everyday big league talent, but I am holding back until I see it a little more. There have been too many promising young Mariners shortstops that have flamed out.

During the offseason Leonys Martin came over to the Mariners via a trade with the Rangers. Martin will open the year as the starting centerfielder. Leonys is the kind of player that passes the eye test, but has just never really gotten it all together. He is fast and a great defender, but he can't really hit. His offensive ineptitude cost him his job in Texas. I don’t expect him to get better has he now has to play half his games at Safeco Field. Here is to hoping I am wrong.

On the pitching side of the team things look fine in the rotation. The Mariner's starters should give them a chance to win most games. Felix, Kuma and Walker are all back. With a whole major league season under his belt, I think Walker could have a huge year. An All-star appearance may not be out of the realm of possibility. The two new guys in the rotation, Karns and Miley, should be fine and if they aren't James Paxton is waiting in Tacoma. The pitching concern comes with the bullpen.

Last season the bullpen was an unmitigated disaster. New GM Dipoto decide to try ad fix this by leaning house and essentially starting over. All the bad players from last year are gone, but so are some of the few good ones (i.e. Carson Smith). There is a lot of risk with the guys brought in to hold down the later innings. Most of them are either old or injury prone. If things bounce the M's way they should be fine. But how often do things  bounce the M's way?

Overall I think the 2016 Mariners team should be better than last year's mess. On paper they improved or stayed the same at all the positions. Catcher and center field are the biggest positions of concern, but it is nice to only have two places to worry about instead of five or six. The starting pitchers should be among the league's best yet again. However, the bullpen could be their Achilles Heel. I find myself more interested than I have been in years. This team has enough interesting players that every game shouldn't be a snoozefest. However, I still don’t think the Mariners will beat out the Sounders for my summer sports fix.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The One and Done Crisis is Unamerican

Like many of you, I have been watching a lot of college basketball over the last week and a half. The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament is one of the most exciting events in sports. The single elimination format creates an atmosphere that is thrilling and creates games as teams do everything they can to win. The opening weekend is one of my favorite things in the whole sports world.

Over the last few years the tournament has been filled with super talented freshmen who jump to the NBA as soon as their college team loses. You can't help but hear about these one and doners. The phenomena has become so wide spread that it is driving many commenters to call it a crisis and decry the degrading character of our nation's youth. This is an overreaction rooted in selfishness. In a free and capitalist society, like ours, adults should be allowed to seek employment in their chosen profession as soon as they are eligible.

The phenomena of young talent basketball players hanging out at a university for a year before bolting to the NBA was  created by the NBA's adoption of an age restriction on entering the NBA draft in 2006. This rule was created in part to protect NBA teams from themselves and their habit of drafting high school players with high potential who turned bust in the pros. It was also created to help funnel talent into the NCAA and keep college basketball alive. There was a fear back at the beginning of the millennium that so many high school players were jumping straight to the NBA that fans would stop watching the college game because it lacked the stars it used to have.

The NBA age restriction did force NBA teams to stop drafting unready high school seniors. Although it didn't stop NBA teams from drafting unready college freshmen. Although it failed to change the flow of the best prospects skipping out on college basketball and heading to the NBA. Instead it deferred the problem by a year and created the current one and done situation. The NBA and NCAA traded having the best players skip college altogether to instead having them spend four months playing for some team. College basketball still loses their brightest stars before they reach their potential, but now they lack the consistency and familiarity that teams and fans get with three and four year players.

The United States is supposed to be a cultural and economic system based on capitalism, the free market, and the ability of anyone to get ahead with hard work. We can argue a different time if this really happens or if it has ever happened, but it is the supposed dream. The NBA and NCAA system of forcing players to wait a year after they graduate from high school before they are allowed to play professionally at the highest level is a stark violation of those principles. Instead of letting the best rise to the top we suppress them for the benefit of the rich and powerful, in this case the NCAA. If an NBA team wants to pay them to play basketball these young men should be allowed accept the offer. There is no legitimate reason to limit their eligibility.

Some say that a solution to the supposed one and done problem is to adopt a system similar to NCAA baseball and MLB. In this system players are allowed to turn pro right out of high school. However, if they decide to play collegiately they have to play for three years before they can turn pro. The system provide young talented athletes with a way to get paid to play right out of high school. It also allows people who aren't interested in or aren't able to pursue academic studies to skip college and enter into their chosen profession. At the same time it protects college teams by guaranteeing them at least three years of a players service thereby allowing the team to develop and maintain chemistry.

At first glance the baseball system seems like a good one. It seems to be a fair compromise. The players, colleges, and MLB all appear to get what they want. But, upon further review and thought it become clear this system is still flawed. Players who break out during their freshman or sophomore years are forced to wait before they can offer their talent on the market. They are forced to accept the risk of injury all because of a decision they made when they were 18 years old.  The baseball system still denies this young mean their economic right to pursue employment in their chosen profession.

Fans often bemoan their favorite team's best players leaving after one year. They talk about how the players would be better off staying and developing. How they would make a name for themselves and develop a legacy at the institution. These arguments are rooted in selfishness. I doubt very these fans, if they were truly honest with themselves, would turn down millions of dollars tomorrow just so they are remembered ore fondly at a school they barely attended. The fans make these arguments to try and justify their valuing of their team's athletic success over a young man's economic future. They are truly caring about themselves and not the athlete.

The NBA age restriction is an unfair and unneeded rule that hampers the free market and suppresses individuals rights. The one and done crisis is not a problem with the young men of American basketball. The common arguments against one and done have their foundations in the self-interest of the fans, not the players. The real problem is players being forced into a charade of picking a school and pretending to care about academics while missing out on a year of their prime earning potential. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Shootyhoops Basketmakers: Jerry West

Ten Players Who Are Not Jerry West
Is this Jerry West? Why doesn't he have a face?
Despite a career that included All-Star berths in all 14 of his seasons, 13 20+ PPG years, 47% shooting as a point guard in the NBA’s “don’t take good shots” era, and career averages of 27/6/7, Jerry West is best remembered as the silhouette featured in the NBA logo.  Jerry West has had an extremely lucrative post-playing career as a silhouette, also being used for the WNBA’s logo, the former MLS logo, and even renting out his 12th century Teutonic shield for the NFL’s logo.  All that silhouetting has come at a price, sadly: few really know all that much about Jerry West as a basketball player and fewer still could recognize him if a gun was put to their head[1].
West did all sorts of noteworthy things in his playing career, even if much of it has been lost to the sands of time.  He is the only player to have been named NBA Finals MVP despite playing on the losing team: in 1969[2], West averaged 38 PPG and hit the 40-point mark four times as the Lakers lost to the Celtics in seven games.  He has two of the 27 50-point playoff games in history, one of only four players with more than one.  That wasn’t even his most impressive playoff performance, as West averaged 41/6/5 in the 1965 playoffs.
West also put up over 30 PPG in four separate NBA seasons.  While steals were only recorded for his final NBA season as an official stat, West was a known ball hawk, averaging somewhere between one and 700 every year in his career, probably.  He put up the biggest games in the biggest moments of his career, only to have his teammates routinely take the day off.  He once made a 63-foot shot in an NBA Finals game, unsure if he had used his dribble or not and unwilling to pass it to John Fucking Tresvant.
However, even more noteworthy than West’s many achievements are some of the things he was not: particularly, other NBA players.  As most people only know West as a faceless outline from the 1960s, it’s easy to confuse him with other players that also achieved great things.  Maybe even some that didn’t achieve great things.  A lot of players look like Jerry West’s outline, is what I’m saying.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Big Changes Coming into the Sounder's 2016 Season

The Seattle Sounders regular season opener is fast approaching. The first game is March 6th against Sporting Kansas City. When the game finally kicks off there will be one very notable absence from the Sounders starting 11 and another exciting addition. The departure is star forward Obafemi Martins who has left town and headed for a big payday with the Shanghai Greenland Shenua. The addition is young and talented Jordan Morris who chose to play in the MLS rather than head to Germany.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Shootyhoops Basketmakers: The Clippers

The Storied Greats of the Los Angeles Clippers
Nothing to see here.
The franchise now known as the Los Angeles Clippers has had one of the greatest histories in the history of histories.  History.  Originally formed as the Buffalo Braves in 1970, the Clippers have gone on to post 11 winning seasons total.  That includes two stretches of 12 years without a winning record, as well as a 15-year stretch without making the playoffs.  No one is quite sure what the Clippers did to receive such horrible basketballatory comeuppance, but receive it they did.
The Clippers stand alone in this, reigning supreme as one of the most fascinating franchises in all of pro sports.  No matter the coach, no matter the city, the Clippers have always been bad, proving that there will always be someone worse than you at something.  It is a beautiful comfort to all other basketball teams, allowing men like Adam Morrison to truly believe that they aren’t the worst thing ever.
Even with all this failure in their history, the Clippers have had a handful of notable players[1].  Many all-time greats have worn the Clippers uniform with pride, usually on accident or as some sort of demented joke.  Even so, this is a franchise to be celebrated, for they truly are unique in their history.  No one will ever match what the Clippers have done unintentionally, and for that we love them.  These players, listed in no particular order, have all been a part of this decades-long art piece.  Never forget them nor the sacrifice they have made so that others can feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Shootyhoops Basketmakers: 1970-80

The Awkward Teenage Years
 The strangest portion of the NBA’s history came during the 1970s, a time when America widely agreed that they just didn’t give a fuck anymore.  It was a period of transition for the NBA, with the Celtics fading to the background and new styles and players being incorporated from the ABA slowly but surely.  It was also a time when all sorts of weird teams won championships, resulting in crazy tidbits like the Seattle SuperSonics having a title despite not existing anymore, or the Washington Bullets being considered a franchise that WASN’T to be laughed at openly.  Players with names like Campy Russell or Elmore Smith abounded.  Every good player was no longer guaranteed to be a center: in fact, some teams were beginning to be built around GUARDS, of all things.  Little, tiny guards, no bigger than the biggest person you've ever met in the real world.