Even though everyone realized that talk of Duncan's demise had been greatly exaggerated, once the rumor had spread that he had the flu during his game 1 and 2 stinkers (a 23-11 for the two games combined), the Spurs' storylines for the next 5 games were still primarily Parker and Ginobli. Meanwhile Duncan averaged 17 and 16 over those last 5. And that was against Chandler who's no slouch on the defensive end.
Expect Duncan's scoring and rebounding to go up, or for Lamar Odom to spend much of his time on defense helping on double teams, or maybe both. Timmy will set the tone tonight, like he can do when healthy.
An interesting tidbit for those of us wondering why Senator Arlen Specter doesn't have anything better to do than go after the New England Patriots. Specter apparently has "close ties" to Philly-based Comcast, who's in the middle of a dispute with the NFL over the terms of its broadcasting of the NFL Network. Of course having to deal with an independent investigation would make life more difficult for the NFL. Weird to think of a strategist like Bill Belichick, of all people, being a pawn in a fight between the NFL and Comcast, but that's what the connection suggests.
Another good summary of the Comcast/Specter/NFL story.
The Marlins have baseballs best record at 23-14. They've won 7 straight, but more importantly, over the weekend, they just locked up Hanley Ramirez long term. While their current success might be fleeting, the Hanley deal should be a sign of perennial success, or at least a commitment to that success, for years to come.
For those Marlins fans that are still dubious, being once burned by the Delgado signing and Lo Duca extension of 2004, only to see them shipped off within a year, they should recall that those moves were motivated by an anticipated stadium deal, one that never came to fruition. This time, however, the Hanley signing comes on the heels of an actual finalizedstadium deal, and should be regarded as the authentic sign of change that it is.
A couple of discoveries while perusing baseball-reference:
1. Will Greg Maddux sit third on the all time wins list before it's all said and done? He needs 15 more wins to tie for fifth and 24 to tie for third. He's averaged 14 wins/year over the last three. Can he pitch until 44, and maintain those averages? Even now, Clemens and Spahn are his only contemporary company. After those two, there's Pete Alexander who finished pitching in 1930. And as far as "the greatest pitcher of our generation conversation," it'll be the complementary exclamation point to go with the question mark raised by the Clemens-steroids links.
2. Ricky Henderson is maybe the most unique baseball player ever. Sure maybe we already knew that, but its startling to look at the similarity scores and names that baseball-reference generates. Whereas the number one spot is usually occupied with a score in 800s, Biggio is most similar at 721. The rest of the list is in the 600s. But what's even more telling is the variety of players on the list. From Biggio to the classic lead-off man Brock to lightly hitting DH Molitor to Joe Morgan and Al Kaline, two guys who were regarded as power hitters.
This past week Bill Simmons described the Phoenix Suns of the past few years as a "critically acclaimed" team - teams that didn't win a championship but are remembered fondly outside of their own fan base for their particular style of play or other achievements.
Some teams we'd put in that category:
1998 Minnesota Vikings
This team rode one of the most explosive offenses ever - featuring Randy Moss as a rookie and a rejuvenated Randall Cunningham - to a 15-1 record and 556 points scored. An overtime loss to Atlanta in a great NFC title game prevented a dream Super Bowl matchup between them and the best Broncos team of the Terrell Davis era.
2000-03 Oakland A's
The original Moneyball organization probably had more of an influence on how baseball teams are run than any other in recent memory; they made the playoffs on a shoestring budget four years in a row but never got past the first round.
Had the best record in baseball when the strike hit, and the franchise never recovered. Their lineup featured an outfield of Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou; their rotation included Pedro Martinez, Jeff Fassero (2.99 ERA that year), Ken Hill, and Kirk Reuter. Future World Series MVP John Wetteland and future 40+ saves guy Jeff Shaw in the bullpen.