Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Game Seven Preview

     I was going to make this next column about the dead man revival that is Jackie Bradley Jr.'s career, but then the Cavaliers stormed back in the NBA finals, blowing out he Warriors in Cleveland and potentially changing the landscape of NBA history, so there are more important things going on. With game seven tonight, let's jump into a preview, starting by looking at who has the most at stake going into the final game.
LeBron James
A win for the Cavs here, which doesn't happen without a killer LeBron performance, launches him into god status in Cleveland. As a side note, LeBron's been the most fun thing about these finals, both because he's fun to watch in general and because of his put-the-team-on-my-back mentality he played with the last two games. That was most evident after he barked at Curry after blocking is shot Thursday night. You may want to debate how effective trash talking is when the guy who's shot you blocked is six inches shorter than you, but the message was clear: The Cavs weren't losing, and LeBron was making sure of that.
Stephen Curry
If the Warriors lose this, then Curry will have been the best player on the greatest regular season team of all time, followed by a stunning finals loss, coming off of a championship the year before in which Curry didn't play as great as he usually does. It will be unfair, but it Dubs lose people will blame Curry.
Harrison Barnes
Outside of Curry, Barnes will shoulder the most blame if he keeps missing shots. I don't know why we would expect anyone else to receive more blame, considering Barnes has been getting blamed for things since he was at North Carolina.
Kevin Love
Tonight is Love's last chance to keep his time in Cleveland from being a total disaster. As much as I want to hate him for leaving the Timberwolves, I can't and not just because that trade worked out so well. Watching the finals, it's hard not to feel bad for him. He's been phased out of the offense and is now being used as a basic stretch 4. I would say Cleveland needs to utilize him more, but the way LeBron's playing it would be silly to do anything else at this point.
Those are the big ones, now let's run through some guys with some, but not quite as much at stake tonight.
Steve Kerr
Has the chance to become the first coach to win the finals in both of his first two years.
David Blatt
A Cavs win would validate his firing last winter, as bizarre as it was at the time.
Andre Iguodala
Looking for one more championship while hobbled, could end up as a great story.
The LeBron and the Cavs have looked great, but teams in the NBA don't lose game sevens at home, and the Warriors don't lose in Oakland.
Warriors 107, Cavs 98

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Machado vs. Harper vs. Trout

Manny Machado has unofficially joined the ranks of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for top players in baseball. It's one of a lot of things that have happened so far in the season. So with that, I'm diving back in to break down who the best to build a team around is.
Trout's the oldest of these guys, at 24. Harper and Machado are both 23, with the latter being about four months older than the former.
Edge: Harper
Big league resume
Harper and Machado both enjoyed mega-breakout seasons last year, launching them from pretty good players to superstars. However, Trout broke out in 2012 with maybe the greatest rookie season of all time, hitting .326/.399/.564 with 49 stolen bases, a campaign so great he nearly beat out the triple crown winning Miguel Cabrera for MVP. Trout may be a year older than Harper and Machado, but his body of work at still such a young age.
Edge: Trout
This is the toughest category to decide. Harper had the highest batting average last year at .330, but he's still more of a brute power guy. After his first two years, Trout's been sticking around the .290-.310 range, right there with Machado. That said, Machado's swing couldn't be smoother, and unlike Harper's, which is a clearly that of a power hitter, his is one that has a good chance of winning a batting title some day.
Edge: Machado
This one's easy. Harper's on the same level as Dave Kingman for power.
Edge: Harper
We haven't seen anyone like Machado since A-Rod was in his prime, someone that tall and athletic who can play both third and short. Trout's been pretty good, saving five runs last year with his glove, according to fangraphs, but Machado is on a different planet, both in range and versatility.  
Edge: Machado
One of the saddest developments in baseball over the last few years has been the erosion of Trout's speed on the basepaths. His rookie year he stole 49 bases, which, paired with his 30 homers made him look like an obvious candidate to join the 40-40 club eventually. Instead, his homers have increased each year, but his stolen bases have dropped, from 49 to 33 to 16 to 11. What was a big part of his game has been diminished, leaving him with one less dimension than he had before. That said, he has nine already this year, so it could be making a comback. Harper and Machado both steal a little bit but never have at the volume of Trout, even if it was a few years ago.
Edge: Trout
This is so close, I'd love to name it a three-way tie, but that would be a cop-out. Trout's the safest choice, since he has the largest body of work, but I'll give it to Harper because out of those three guys, he appears to have the most room for improvement, even though he had the best season of those three in 2015.
Edge: Harper