Will Stephen Curry have the Golden Touch?

If someone had told me during the NBA’s heyday in the 1980’s that Cleveland and Golden State would be meeting in the NBA Finals at any time ever I would have had a good chuckle.

In 1985, Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll (AKA Joe Barely Cares) were anchoring a 33-49 Golden State team that had just drafted Chris Mullin. Meanwhile, John Bagley, Roy Hinson and Mel Turpin were leading the way for the 34-48 Cavaliers.

Golden State can close out one of the all-time great seasons by winning the championship. The Warriors are trying to end the jinx of what turned out to be trading the draft pick that ended up being Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for Barry Carroll. Incidentally, in another franchise-altering move a few years later, the Warriors also couldn’t afford to keep Bernard King so they had to trade him to the Knicks.

The City of Cleveland looks to their savior LeBron James to end the 51 year drought and all the frustration Clevelanders have endured including “The Shot”, “The Decision”, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack …the list goes on.

I predict Golden State will capture their first title in 40 years. The Warriors are an excellent defensive team which many casual followers don’t realize. While Cleveland’s number one ranking in team defense is well -publicized, Golden State ranks fourth but has superior offensive firepower to Cleveland. LeBron has been amazing in the playoffs but the Cavs road to the championship has been laughable. The Celtics were easy fodder and shouldn’t have made the playoffs. Chicago put up a good fight but is a dysfunctional team and Atlanta was the worst #1 seed in either conference at least in the last 30 years.

With the many storylines in this NBA Finals, the one to me that is most interesting is for the people who thought LeBron James should have had the MVP over Stephen Curry. Let the real MVP step forward in this series. 

By the way, if the Cavaliers lose, James will be 2-4 in the Finals compared to Jordan’s 6-0. Kind of like Brady’s four Superbowls to Peyton Manning’s one.

By the way, kudos to the New York Knicks who are represented by David Lee (GS) as well as Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith (Cleve) in the Finals.

Recently, there was an article published on ESPN rating the best NBA teams/dynasties of all time with the premise that it is more impressive to be the best team in a 30-team league than a 10-team league. This logic has so many holes I don’t know where to begin. In a 30 team league, the talent is so watered down that you drown in mediocrity. This season, nine teams finished 15 games or more below .500 and seven more finished .500 or worse. More than half the league sucks. You could lop off haldf the players in this league and no one would miss them. The article ranks the current Spurs dynasty over the Celtics dynasty in the 1960’s when they won nine championships.

In the 60’s when there was a nine-team league that eventually grew to 14 by the end of the decade. You were playing each opponent 8-10 times per year. So the Celtics were playing 25% of their road games in CA against the Lakers and SF Warriors as opposed to 7.5% now. They were playing half of their games against Philly (Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Wilt Chamberlain), Cincy (Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson), Lakers (Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and eventually Chamberlain) and the Knicks (Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere. That is half your season against multiple Hall of Famers on a nightly basis. Four games in five nights was commonplace.

Give me any team from the Celtics dynasty in the 60’s or the ’85-’86 Celtics team that featured Jerry Sichting beating up Ralph Sampson and those teams would beat any of the five championship Spurs teams.

Well the NHL was spared the indignity of having an Anaheim Ducks – Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup Finals. Outside of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on Anaheim and Steven Stamkos on Tampa Bay, most casual hockey fans haven’t heard of anybody else on those teams. At least the Blackhawks bring Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith.

Nevertheless, warm weather hockey has been a great success in the NHL and with the LA Kings winning last year, the future is bright in the land of palm trees. I predict Tampa Bay in six maybe seven games.

Looking forward to seeing Mike Babcock be the fourth coach to try and get Phil Kessel to care about defense.

As for the Boston Bruins, if you are a fan and watched these final four teams it has to be painfully obvious that the Bruins are not even close to competing with this group. They also aren’t close to competing with semifinalist Montreal either. These teams all have superior speed and skills that the Bruins sorely lack. Quick name the Bruins snipers and skill players. Okay, keep reading now.

The hiring of Don Sweeney was business as usual for Cam Neely’s team. The Bruins have won a grand total of one Stanley Cup in the last 42 years based on their big bad Bruin strategy and playing heavy. They have had tremendous difficulty sustaining success, they have drafted poorly and have yet to beef up international scouting on par with several other NHL franchises. In the old days, it was easy to blame Jeremy Jacobs because he wouldn’t spend the money. That excuse doesn’t fly and as of now, this Original Six franchise is heading in the wrong direction, with the wrong philosophy and with no money under the Salary Cap.

Lastly, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau became the first coach in NHL history to lose six Game 7’s and to lose three straight at home. In two of the last three Game 7’s his teams have lost, they have been completely blown out. Perhaps he can summon Doc Rivers (see last blog) who leads the NBA in Game 7 failure and is just a short ride down the freeway.


“Angels in the Outfield”

Just reading an article on ESPN about the Pittsburgh Pirates potentially having the best outfield in baseball this season with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. The Pirates outfield trio seems to have some pretty good ancestry in the names of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke or Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Matty Alou.

As we are now only a few weeks away from opening day, this got me thinking of some of the best all time outfield combinations in the history of baseball.

Leave a comment and rank your top 3 outfields of all time (these are randomly listed):

1994-96 Cleveland – (here is what they all averaged: Albert Belle: .328 – 45 HR’s and 125 RBI. Kenny Lofton – .326 – 108 runs and 63 SB’s. Manny Ramirez (’94 rookie season) .290 – 27 HR’s and 101 RBI’s.

1915 – Detroit – The outfield consisted of Bobby Veach in left, Ty Cobb in center, and Sam Crawford in right. The league batting average was only .248 that year, but Cobb hit .369 with 99 RBIs and 144 runs, Crawford hit .313 and drove in 112 runs, and Veach hit .299 with 112 RBIs. The three Detroit outfielders ranked #1, #2, and #3 in total bases and RBIs. The outfield has been ranked the greatest outfield of all time by baseball historian Bill James.

1894 – Phillies – Sam Thompson .407, 141 RBI, 177 OPS, Billy Hamilton .404, 192 Runs, 158 OPS, Ed Delahanty .407, 131 RBI, 159 OPS and 4th OF Tuck Turner hit .416 in 339AB

1927 – Yankees – Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, Bob Meusel: had a total bWAR of 23.5, the best of any starting outfield in history, as far as I can tell. Their average OPS(1.028) and average OPS+ (167) were also the best of any starting outfield. Ruth was 32, Combs 28, and Meusel 30.

1961 – Yankees – Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra: This trio had 137 HR’s, best of any starting OF. We all know about Mantle & Maris, but Berra had a pretty good year for a 36 year old converted catcher. 

1979- Red Sox – Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans: Rice was 26, and Lynn and Evans both 27. It sounds like all three players were in their prime, but Evans was the rare played who reached his peak later in his career (he really broke through at age 29) or else this group would rank higher, if Evans had a normal career arc. Average OPS+ was 148. 

1927 – Washington – Tris Speaker- Sam Rice- Goose Goslin one of two Hall of Fame outfield of regulars in modern era

1923-24 – Detroit – Ty Cobb- Harry Heilmann- Heinie Manush one of two Hall of Fame outfield of regulars in modern era

Fun groups to remember but not the best ever:

70’s Giants – Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson

1980 Oakland A’s – Rickey Henderson, Dwayne Murphy and Tony Armas

2003 – Atlanta – Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield

1968 – Detroit – Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, Jim Northrup and Al Kaline

1991- Oakland – Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson and Jose Canseco

1966 – Pittsburgh – Roberto Clemente, Matty Alou, Willie Stargell

1990 – Pittsburgh – Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke

Canada rules:

Toronto – George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield

Montreal – Tim Raines, Warren Cromartie and Andre Dawson

Honorable Mention to the 2014 Boston Red Sox:

Jackie Bradley, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes – seriously might be one of the worst ever! 

My pick for the top 3 are as follows:

3. The 1994-96 Indians. Albert Belle (headaches and baggage) was one of the most feared and all-around dominant hitters during that stretch. Kenny Lofton is no worse than one of the top 10 leadoff hitters of all time and Manny Ramirez is one of the best pure all-around hitters ever to combine batting average, on-base percentage and power.

2. The 1915 Tigers  simply because the performance of that outfield was so far and above the league average that season and that to me is one of the single most important criteria in evaluating baseball performance.

1. The 1894 Phillies. I mean all four outfielders hit over .400 and the 4th outfielder had 339 AB’s. This will never happen again and is simply beyond reality.

Let me know if I failed to recognize any outfields.

And don’t forget to leave your top 3 in comments.