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Bruno Mars

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The GraySportsGuy wants to take a break from the whole ‘sports’ thing and dabble in concert critique! I understand if you (Mr/Mrs. Reader) don’t really care about my concert review. But I recently went to my first big-time concert and felt the need to share my thoughts and opinions with cyber space. So, if you are looking for banter about the MLB Pennant Races, Johnny Manziel, A-Rod, Ryan Braun, or any other sports topic please look elsewhere. Tonight the theme is music!

Bruno Mars is a 27 year old Hawaiian recording artist who specializes in pop, funk, reggae, soul, and R&B music.  He debuted in 2010 with hit single ‘Nothin’ On You’ featuring B.O.B. Ever since then Mars has delivered six top 10 singles, sold 12 million albums, and has over 1 billion youtube views on his music videos. He has also accrued a net worth around the $15 million range.

I am a pretty big fan of Bruno’s, so when my buddy Keegan had the idea that me and him could go to a concert this summer it was a no-brainer. $250 got us 10 rows back from the stage and that is where the fun began.

Mars was dazzling live. His pure vocal talent is through the roof. I would argue that his strong, fluid bravado is more impressive live than it is on the radio. Considering the auto-tuned nature of today’s music this is particularly impressive. He rocked a red jump suit with a little bit of chest revealed… just for the ladies. He brought along his funky band of musical hooligans who joined in the fun and genuinely complimented his act. I loved how the performance wasn’t geared around fireworks, jumbo-trons, and choreographed dance moves. The show was a tribute to Mars’ talents as a vocalist first and foremost and that aspect was truly satisfying. Even when Bruno was just chatting with his audience of over 15,000 at the TD Garden in Boston, the crowd applauded after every sentence. He could have cursed everyone in the crowd with some sort of gyspsy spell and the teenage girls would have loved it. Bruno was every bit as awesome as I expected him to be. He even took a turn on the guitar and the drums. The ticket was worth every penny.

Grade: 98/100

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Miggy Mash

miguel_cabrera-167According to this month’s Sports Illustrated, which did a feature story on the art of the baseball swing, a 90 mph fastball will reach the catchers mitt in 400 milliseconds. The human brain needs 200 milliseconds to conceptualize the pitch and send signals for the body to swing, the actual act of swinging a baseball through the zone takes 150 milliseconds. This leaves 50 milliseconds for the batter to recognize the pitch, the location, to decide whether or not to swing, and what path to swing upon. So yeah, these Major League hitters are good.

But Miguel Cabrera is in an entirely different league. Right now the Tigers right-handed third baseman is batting.356 with 41 home runs and 126 RBIs. For your information, that’s good for 1st, 2nd, and 1st place respectively in the American League amongst qualifying players. For those of you who prefer Moneyball stats, Cabrera has posted a 1.128 OPS, has a sizzling .447 on-base percentage, and has nearly WAR of nearly 7.

This brings up the conversation of the  best right handed hitters of all time. Pujols? A-Rod? Hank Aaron? Willie Mays? Miggy has batted over .300 in 8 of the past nine seasons, led the league in on-base percentage three times,  hasn’t posted fewer than 106 RBIs in a season since his rookie year with Florida, and has been intentionally walked 177 times in his short career.

If he continues this pace and plays another 5-10 years, it’s safe to say that 3,500 hits, 700 home runs, and 700 doubles are definitely in play. Barry Bonds had 688 intentional walks in his career, but the next highest is Hank Aaron with 298. So, Cabrera could become one of the top two most feared hitters in the history of baseball barring a major falloff.

Not only is he this years MVP runaway, he was last year’s Triple Crown winner and is flirting with it again this year. Nobody had won it since Carl Yaztremski in 1967.. and Cabrera may win it in consecutive years.

Taking a break from the numbers and the accolades for a second, hasn’t it been a pleasure watching Cabrera hit for the last ten years? How often do you get to see a historically great athlete compete in his prime? I say the only experiences like it today are Adrian Peterson running a football, Michael Phelps swimming the 150 freestyle, LeBron James on the basketball court, Usain Bolt running the 100 meter dash, and Miguel Cabrera hitting a baseball. That’s the list. When Tiger Woods was dominating golf in the early 2000’s, it was the same kind of feeling. He wasn’t just head and shoulders better than the competition. He was an entire torso and waistline ahead of the runner up. Same with Cabrera. Sure, Mike Trout and Chris Davis are having good years. But .356, 41, 126? Those numbers are ridiculous. All sports fans should take a moment to watch a Miguel Cabrera at-bat, because it’s a special thing that only rolls around every so often.

He’s Just a Kidd

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Good evening, blogosphere! GraySportsGuy is happy to be back in the blogging world and, frankly,  itching to get back into a regular blog routine.

Todays topic is Jason Kidd and his new gig as Head Coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Kidd, a 19 year veteren and ten time NBA all star, agreed to a four-year contract worth $10.5 million last week.

That’s a lot of cheddar to give out to a man who has literally never sat on the sidelines during an NBA game without his sneakers on. I mean, no disrespect to Kidd’s game. He ranks second all time in NBA history in assists and steals and was an All-Star ten times. The Kidd can flat out play (see what I did there?).

However, coaching an NBA basketball team is a completely different ballgame altogether. People say Kidd will make a seamless transition because he was “a coach on the floor” and had tremendous “court vision”. This is, of course, a ridiculous assumption for multiple reasons. Marshawn Lynch has very strong vision as a running back – being able to slip through offensive lineman and burst through seams effortlessly – but would he, as a coach, be able to manage the wide receivers’ routes and pass protection schemes? No. Of course not! Also, an NBA coach is a psychiatrist more than anything. The position is more than X’s and O’s, more than just when to call timeouts, and handling substitutions. A coach must be able to infuse a sense of pride in the locker room and establish the team chemistry. He must be able to balance egos, make sure players are well-rested, and create a defensive strategy to stop LeBron James. None of which are easy tasks.

Also, how do you expect Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to take Kidd seriously?  About 8 months ago, Garnett was swatting Kidd’s floaters into the second row of the TD Banknorth Garden.  Coach Kidd has hired former Pistons and Nets head coach Lawrence Frank as his assistant and apparently, during Kidd’s Summer League debut, Frank was drawing up the plays and doing most of the actual coaching. Uhm, what?!

I think the Nets are going to be very good this year, but I don’t think Jason Kidd will make a smooth transition into the NBA coaching ranks. He inherited an All Star starting five (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brooke Lopez). Who could not succeed with a group like that?

This hire was a slap in the face to the legitimate, qualified candidates who deserve to become NBA coaches. They were denied the opportunity to advance their careers because Mikhail Prokorov knew hiring J-Kidd would make a splash on the internet. Not because Kidd was the best potential coach.

Time will only tell.

What Should He Do?

Hello, bloggers and bloggettes! Today, we are going to play a game! Here are the numbers for four hall of fame centers and Dwight Howard, all from the ages 22-26. Ready, go!

Player A: 23.0 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 52% field goals

Player B: 27.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 57% field goals

Player C: 20.6 points, 13.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 59% field goals

Player D: 21.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 53% field goals

Player E: 24.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, 54% field goals

Player A is Hakeem Olajuwon, Player B is Shaquille O’Neal, Player C is Dwight Howard, Player D is Patrick Ewing, and Player E is David Robinson.

In my opinion, those are the best five centers since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Dwight Howard is certainly in the same conversation with these men at this point. Howard tops the group in rebounds per game and field goal percentage, and blocks more shots than Shaq. Although Dwight is at the bottom of the list in points per game, none of these players peaked in scoring until they were all between the ages of 27-31. That’s right, Dwight Howard should, if history is indicative of future performance, be entering his prime as a basketball player.

Scary, right? How valuable would Dwight Howard be if he averaged 25-14-4 while doubling as the leagues top defensive player?

Rumor has it that Dwight Howard wants to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets. I understand this thinking. The threesome of Deron Williams, newly-acquired Joe Johnson, and Howard would prove to be a formidable tandem. Who wouldn’t want to play in Brooklyn’s new $1 billion dollar arena? There’s no doubt that Dwight Howard could go on and have a hall of fame career there.

But that’s not the right move.

The right move is to pack up his bags and head to Los Angeles. In purple and gold, Howard could follow in the footsteps of Shaquille O’Neal and become Hollywoods new #1 star. He could play with Kobe Bryant (imagine the pick and rolls… and rebound opportunities). He has a chance to expand upon his legacy by bringing a couple titles to the storied Laker franchise. For the Lakers, his career would be certified. No more dunk contest – spectacle wearing – big teddy bear – blue and silver pinstripes. No, that Dwight Howard is gone. The new Dwight Howard catches lobs at the rim and high-fives Jack Nicholson sitting courtside. Why wouldn’t Howard want to be apart of that tradition?

And what if the Lakers make a run at Steve Nash?! Kobe, Nash, and Howard would have to be considered in the same ballpark as Wade-James-Bosh, right? They may, actually, be a more conventional fit as a threesome. Point guard, scoring guard, big guy. Nobody would step on anyone else’s toes. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. Or maybe it’s a championship formula.

Come on, big guy. Fly up to L.A. and feel the California love!

Eye of the Tiger

He’s back.

Tiger Woods won the AT&T National at Congressional this past weekend. He shot 8 under 276 for the tournament, and fought off a furious charge by runner-up Bo Van Pelt on the final day to claim his third PGA tour victory of the season.

“I think he’s the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?” Bo Van Pelt said following Sunday’s round. “On three different golf courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”

You can say that again.

Tiger Woods has won three of the seven events he has played in this year. That number is staggering. Do you know how many Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson have combined? Zero.

Golf needs Tiger Woods. Professional golf is a sport unlike basketball, football, and baseball. Golf doesn’t have the luxury of marketable superstars. There are no Kobe Bryant’s, Derrick Rose’s, Dwyane Wade’s, or Dwight Howard’s. No Tom Brady’s, Adrian Peterson’s, or Tim Tebow’s. Golf is a game played by mostly middle-aged men dressed in polo shirts and long pants. It’s a gentleman’s sport in an ungentlemanly time in America. Would the average viewer rather watch Russell Westbrook throw down a viscous tomahawk jam, Sidney Crosby skate around two defenders and sneak a wrister past a flailing goalie,  or a 38 year old white guy sink a 12 foot birdie putt? Come on.

Casual fans of golf want to watch Tiger Woods. Sure, it’s great when Jason Dufner does something good. But Tiger Woods is professional golf. If Woods is still in the hunt on Sunday afternoon, all television sets turn to watch him play. He’s the only one on Earth who exacts such a reaction from people. If Woods is down four strokes at the beginning today, what do we assume? We predict that he is going to birdie six of the next nine holes and get himself back in the game. It’s what we’re accustomed to. He is the only golfer capable of things that we’ve never seen before. When he was at the peak of his playing career, he won the US Open by fifteen strokes. That’s right, he beat the best players in the world by fifteen strokes.

Even if he is not at that level of dominance yet, he’s still a rockstar. ESPN covers him like CNN covers Obama. When Woods is playing well, he’s the eye of the sporting world. He’s Michael Jordan. The unequivocal, unarguable best player in his sport. It’s exciting for us because, frankly, sports fans are front runners. We forgave him for cheating on his wife with multiple prostitutes because he swings a hefty four iron. That’s our society. Michael Vick counted his stacks of cash while puppies ripped each other apart. The dude spends 20 months in prison and all of a sudden Michael Vick is the #1 player drafted in Fantasy Football. When Tiger wins his first major since 2008 (and don’t kid yourself, it’s going to happen), sports writers will be drooling over the story line.

As for Tiger, all he needs to do is to keep playing golf the way he knows how to play it. Nobody is better than he is. Let’s be honest- if you were at gunpoint, and had to pick one player to win the British Open later this month, you’d pick Woods. Not only that, you’d feel pretty good about your pick.

Yup, he’s back.

The Russell Westbrook Conundrum

Bottled Lightning.

Russell Westbrook is doing a better Kobe Bryant impersonation (in his role as super sidekick) than even Bryant himself. In this years finals, Westbrook is posting 27 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds per game. He has played 84 out of a possible 96 minutes during the series. He has harassed Dwyane Wade up and down the court on defense, frustrating the superstar into shooting 43% from the floor. He has dazzled crowds with his breathtaking athleticism, turbo charged speed, and acrobatic assaults on the rim.

So why is Westbrook public enemy #1?

You see, Russell Westbrook shares a locker room with one of the three or four greatest wing scorers of all time. The list of people in the conversation? Jordan, Iverson, Kobe, Jerry West… the group is exclusive. If you have ever seen Durant play, you know that he glides around the court, effortlessly finding his spots and elevating for that buttery-smooth jumper. Nobody can stop him from getting his shot off- he has good lift and stands a gargantuan 6’10. He is the only superstar who can score 35 points and have announcers shrug it off as ‘a quiet 35’. Durant was made to score points like Martin Luther King Jr. was meant to lead.

And so when Russell Westbrook barrels down the floor at 100 mph, throws his body into the heart of the defense, and misses a difficult layup as Durant stands by idly, it is hard not to become frustrated. If Steve Nash were at the helm, wouldn’t Durant be averaging 40 points by now?

The problem is, Russell Westbrook is very good at basketball. Very, very good. He’s an NBA all star. He’s an Olympian. He’s a Youtube hall of famer. The Thunder need him. He’s arguably the best second-best player in the NBA. As Bill Simmons put it:

Westbrook is like a crazy relative you’d invite to your Thanksgiving dinner. He brings the Thanksgiving Turkey, the buttery rolls, the sweet potatoes, and a homemade cranberry sauce. But, he goes home with the gravy and the stuffing. Without him, theres no turkey. But with him, you don’t have the luxury of enjoying two key elements of a thanksgiving feast.

Doesn’t that make sense? Westbrook brings unparalleled athletic ability, pestering defense, and about 20-25 points to the table. He takes away about 5-7 open looks for Durant each game, though. Durant has the ability to go off for 45 each night, but that’s not when the Thunder are at their best. Westbrook could do his thing, and shoot the rock 25 times, but that isn’t it either. The Thunder must find a way in which both of their superstars can remain aggressive and not step on each other’s toes. Unfortunately for Westbrook, he must be the one to adapt. If Thunder management is made to choose between the two, Durant is going to win, and Russell will be packing his bags. He must adjust carefully. Less pull up jumpers, more penetration. If he wants more shots, he should push the ball up the floor. If the Thunder are in a half court set, he needs to be content playing off the ball and letting the offense run through Durant. #35 eats first.

If the Thunder can figure out their alpha dog issues, they could potentially be a dynasty in the making.

As for the rest of us? We can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the performance. I don’t know about you, but now I’m craving a thanksgiving turkey.

The Death of the Knuckle-ball

When Tim Wakefield retired this past week, he took the knuckle ball with him.

Yeah, Tim Wakefield wasn’t very good in his final seasons with the Red Sox as evidenced by his 11-18 record, 5.23 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, and 44 home runs allowed since 2010. He’d be a plug-in starter every 2-3 weeks, giving Beckett or Lester an extra day of rest. Nobody bought a Red Sox ticket and thought:

“Sweet! Wakefield’s on the mound!”

He couldn’t sneak his 77 mph fastball past a high school JV player, he was fairly predictable, he never showed emotion, he happens to be a part of one of the most dreadful moments in Red Sox history (Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run), and you could never watch a Wakefield at-bat without thinking ‘Golly, if A-Rod connects on that ball it’s never coming back.’

All of these things are true. It was time for Timmy to go. But Red Sox Nation will never forget Wakefield.

We were with him after he lost Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS. We watched his knuckle-ball get belted over so many fences. We watched Doug Mirabelli scamper after countless passed balls because he, like everyone else, had no idea where the knuckle-ball was going to land. We watched him flounder for seven starts without recording that elusive 200th victory. He got it, and we were there. We were loyal to Wakefield because he was loyal to us.

And the knuckle-ball. Today, pitchers are evaluated in high school. If they can blow fastballs past 17 year olds – who are more worried about handing in chemistry homework than that particular at-bat –  they have ‘potential’. They later develop a change up, a curveball, and probably another off speed pitch. Tim Wakefield did things the other way. He lulled you to sleep with his soft, fluttery, dead-spin pitch. He didn’t rely on sheer power and speed off his pitch, he relied on ground balls, fly outs, his defense, and the occasional swing-and-a-miss strikeout in which the batter can’t believe how he whiffed at such a meatball.

Tim Wakefield isn’t a hall of famer. Hell, many people outside of New England probably don’t know much about him. He’s that guy who throws the knuckle, right? To Red Sox fans, Wakefield was more than that. We loved him. Him retiring signals the end of a chapter in Sox history.

And the death of the knuckle ball.