Manny, JD, Papi, Lester and the NBA Finals.
Manny hits 500, wow. 500 of anything means you’re good. Be it walks, hits, runs, anything, but 500 home runs, while it can be argued is not the milestone it once was, is still an incredible feat. The thing about Manny is this. Those 500 homers come with other even more impressive numbers that make his 1st ballot HOF selection a lock. His consistency year in and year out are astounding and in some cases unprecedented. I’ve said before, when you do something in a game that is more than a century old, for the first time, or only time, you’ve truly done something. Congrats to Manny and here’s to him hitting 600 here at Fenway.
Papi goes down and JD steps up. Nothing good comes from being in a hard cast. David having to be that way for a few weeks could be a season ruining event were we not as deep as we are, and were it not for guys like JD stepping up. No world championship team in any sport is ever built around 1 player and certainly not this one. Don’t mistake that for a devalue of what he means to this team, not at all. But this team and this game is always about depth and consistency. We lose 1 of the 2 best bats in the game and now we need others to step up. We don’t need one player to hit 15 homers and drive in 45 in his place. We need starters to pitch a bit better, the bullpen to pitch a bit better, someone in the lineup to do something a bit better, on each night. Each night will see one or two guys in the lineup that might not be, need to do one or two things right, or better, to makeup that difference. The main change, the bigger impact, is David’s lineup presence. No one on this team is as affected by David’s absence as Manny. The reason that’s perfect for us is that Manny NEVER allows things like that to change his approach. He’s done what he’s done, the way he’s done it, for that very reason. Manny hits and Manny approaches his AB’s in his way, every day.
Who isn’t blown away at the Jon Lester story? I know I am. I won’t belittle the off the field events, they are Hollywood in and of themselves. They are the reasons the world took notice a few weeks ago. Our advantage as his teammates was in already knowing what you all got to see. His character, his integrity, his Faith and his spirit are born of his parents and on display with him daily. From day one he was a kid that gets it. Total respect for the game, and his teammates, and a burning desire to be perfect. Having a ring side seat to the professional maturation part of this has been incredibly rewarding for me. I am by no means his mentor or anything like that, though I am comfortable in saying we have a fantastic relationship and I’d like to think I’ve helped him a bit. This has been all about Jon Lester and John Ferrel. He’s done so many things since coming to the big leagues, right and wrong, but at every turn there’s a hint of recognition on his part, that he’s learning, that his drive only increases with each bad day or game. I just think you can’t go through what he went through and not be able to put the game, your career goals and everything else into a nice little box and in better perspective, and benefit from it.
Manny vs. Youk, round 1. Trust me, this was a TOTAL non-issue and an event that happens far far more than you ever see or hear about. Many times, most times, events like this play out in clubhouses and no one outside the team ever knows about it. Bottom line is that 99 times out of 100 these are never personal, just like this one. The analogy I used was this. Most teams, most non-world championship caliber teams, have things like this crop up later in the year. For pretenders it happens in August, September, the “Dog Days”. It does so because there is an awareness or belief that games, ABs, innings are somehow more important now, and the intensity ratchets up. That’s not what happens here. Due to an organization wide commitment to winning the world series every year, and a fan base that will accept nothing less, we open the season, be it in Japan or Anaheim, and play 162 games with that approach, that intensity. Things happen when you have that level of intensity and our level of talent on a daily basis. It happens, punches might get thrown, and it ends, and we move on.
Ok, so I get some ridiculously good tickets for Game 2 of the NBA Finals last night. This was the 2nd chance to see the Celts up close. A few observations.
I had ZERO idea that the NBA game was that physical. Damn. The big boys are getting after it on every play.
Kevin Garnett, and not that this needs to be stated, but I’ll say it anyway, is as focused and locked in as any athlete in any sport I’ve been around. From pre-game shoot around to last seconds on the clock, this kid is legit. The intensity and reputation are there, wow. His eyes are on the floor, or the ball, all game. What an incredible pleasure it is to watch and be a fan of. I am blown away in that he came out of high school, something that can be a huge disadvantage, and has ALWAYS maintained who he was purported to be.
The first game I saw from these seats the Coach for Washington was basically taunting KG when he was at the line, saying a bunch of things, KG was ignoring him for the most part until he said something that must have been a bit too much, KG pauses, looks over and basically tells him to go piss up a rope.
Last night KG goes to the line, Lamar Odom (who I became a fan of last night) is saying “Hey KG why don’t you help on the ball down here?” Pointing to the paint, and I am guessing he’s referencing the fact that KG wasn’t down in the paint mixing it up. He says it again, loudly, KG doesn’t even acknowledge him, and sinks both. Impressive, total focus.
One thing I did learn was that in addition to not having one ounce of athletic ability, being white, and having no vertical, and only being able to dribble right handed, I couldn’t play in the NBA because about 43 times last night I heard things being said that would have made me swing at someone. These guys talk MAJOR trash on the floor, and the great part is that most of the times I’ve seen it the guy on the receiving end usually doesn’t respond much, if at all, and just plays the game, schooling the guy who feels like he needs to talk to make his game better.
Paul Pierce is friggin good. What a game. Who on the Lakers can defend him?
I always wondered about the bitching and moaning of NBA coaches and players with regards to officiating and last night I was literally on the floor to see and hear it first hand. Things I heard and saw.
1) KGs first quarter Technical. I heard EVERY word of his exchange with the ref. It’s nice to know that they share the same problems some players do with MLB umpires. He was giving a technical because he said the F word, period. He did NOT call the ref a name, he was bitching about a non-call and said “C’mon, what the F am I supposed to do” and got the T. Now I watch both Pierce, and I think Allen, talking to this ref and he shoots back to Paul this little tidbit. “I can’t let him talk to me that way.”
What? Dude, your an NBA official, not the stinking Pope. Not one person in the arena paid 1 cent of their ticket to see you, ref the game and shut your pie hole. These guys are playing for a world championship, they are as amped up as you expect the best players in the world to be, they are grown men, there’s going to be some PG-13 language, and you are giving a T to a guy for dropping an F bomb? Stupid.
2) Every SINGLE play up and down the floor has MULTIPLE fouls being committed by multiple players. These guys are in close, every play. They are beating the crap out of each other, and the refs see it. That makes me think that the game is called and paced exactly how the refs want it to be. I wondered aloud, a few times, how in the hell calls weren’t being made against the Celts on a ton of plays in the paint where there was some serious pugilism being committed. There were a ton of ‘non-calls’ in my incredibly amateur opinion.
3) Phil Jackson knew it. Early in the game, Farmar comes to the bench during Celts free throws and asks about the next series, Jackson says “One thing I do know is we’ve got to stop !@#$&@#%$#&*()@ fouling these guys” Farmar asks what he says and he repeats the line.
4) I don’t know much about the NBA beyond some of the star players and the famous teams. I heard that the Lakers got Gasol in a horrible steal of a deal and that the league should have investigated the trade for some sort of punishable crime :) I saw a 7 footer last night who grabbed like 4 rebounds and spent the entire game whining about getting fouled.
5) Kobe. This one stunned me a little bit. Who doesn’t know Kobe Bryant right? I only know what I have heard, starting awhile back with the entire Shaq debacle. I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other on or about him other than to know that people feel he might be one of the 4-5 greatest players to ever lace it up. What I do know is what I got to see up close and hear, was unexpected. From the first tip until about 4 minutes left in the game I saw and heard this guy bitch at his teammates. Every TO he came to the bench pissed, and a few of them he went to other guys and yelled about something they weren’t doing, or something they did wrong. No dialog about “hey let’s go, let’s get after it” or whatever. He spent the better part of 3.5 quarters pissed off and ranting at the non-execution or lack of, of his team. Then when they made what almost was a historic run in the 4th, during a TO, he got down on the floor and basically said ‘Let’s f’ing go, right now, right here” or something to that affect. I am not making this observation in a good or bad way, I have no idea how the guys in the NBA play or do things like this, but I thought it was a fascinating bit of insight for me to watch someone in another sport who is in the position of a team leader and how he interacted with his team and teammates. Watching the other 11 guys, every time out it was high fives and “Hey nice work, let’s get after it” or something to that affect. He walked off the floor, obligatory skin contact on the high five, and sat on the bench stone faced or pissed off, the whole game. Just weird to see another sport and how it all works. I would assume that’s his style and how he plays and what works for him because when I saw the leader board for scoring in the post season his name sat up top at 31+ a game, can’t argue with that. But as a fan I was watching the whole thing, Kobe, his teammates and then the after effects of conversations. He’d yell at someone, make a point, or send a message, turn and walk away, and more than once the person on the other end would roll eyes or give a ‘whatever dude’ look.
Let me reiterate that this is from a complete basketball newbie, so for all I know this could be exactly how these guys play this game and interact with each other.
The contrast though, for me anyway, was watching KG and Allen, Pierce, as the game went on. I was literally ON the Laker bench so I could only watch the celts on the floor, and it was just different. it was all about who has whom, who goes where, what’s up next. That could have been a direct result of the officiating and flow of the game though, more than anything.
It was just amazing to watch a game where the Lakers came out, completely set the tempo in the first few minutes and TOTALLY dominated the final four minutes, and in between the Celtics completely dominated them.
Anyway, what a rush and a total enjoyment to be a part of. Celtic fans were damn impressive. Oh and one more thing. I think it’s fantastic that there seems to be this mutual support thing going on here in NE. You fans are being treated to your third World Championship appearance since last October and that’s awesome. But at each one there seems to be a crossover, Celts and Sox at the Super Bowl, Pats, Bruins and Celts at the World Series, and last night Sox and Pats all over the place. Cool stuff.