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Thank Goodness! Astros Sent Home and World Series Gets Two Winners

October 18th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Two embarrassing realities confronted Major League Baseball as the 2020 playoffs reached the League Championship Series.

–One was the lingering stench of scandal that never was resolved — the Houston Astros’ schemes for stealing signs in the 2017 and 2018 World Series.

–The other was the Astros having reached the ALCS despite having put up a losing record in baseball’s new, expanded, pandemic tournament.

If they were going to get away with high crimes and misdemeanors (sports division), isn’t there some way we could get them out of the playoffs after that 29-31 “regular” season?

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Julio Urias to the Rescue?

October 14th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

If ever the Dodgers needed a good result from Julio Urias, tonight is the night.

The hard-throwing left-hander has long been on the periphery of joining the ranks of “key Dodgers”. He matters, but not many of us get all depressed if he doesn’t come through.

That is different tonight.

If the Dodgers are to make a comeback in the National League Championship Series, they need five or six innings of his best stuff in Game 3, with the Atlanta Braves holding a 2-0 games lead over the Dodgers.

Is he up to it? Did the Dodgers pick the right guy, when they drafted him out of Mexico in 2012 … and first gave him the ball with the big club in 2016?

This is when we find out.

He did a nice job, back in the divisional series, when he turned in five innings of shutout relief.

But that was against the San Diego Padres, who are not to be confused with the Atlanta Braves.

What the Dodgers need is for Urias to go through the Braves lineup twice, which means facing Ronald Acuna and Freddy Freeman, the bashers at the top of a dangerous Atlanta lineup.

That ought to give the Dodgers’ hitters some time to give their pitchers a lead, and change the complexion of this series.

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Happy to Be Laughably, Absurdly Wrong

October 12th, 2020 · No Comments · Lakers, NBA

I posted an item late and in a hurry last night; I wanted to make sure my lightning-bolt of insight — that the Miami Heat was a better team than the Los Angeles Lakers — could be seen before Game 6 of the NBA Finals tipped off.

It was close, but there it was: the Heat was ready to win the final two games and become NBA champions.

Ha! Not my worst idea, but somewhere in the bottom quartile of ridiculous predictions.

But I can say this still holds: I said I would be happy to be proved wrong, if the Lakers won. Which they did in overwhelming fashion, 106-93.

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Uh-Oh; Heat Is Better Than Lakers

October 11th, 2020 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

Ahead of Game 1 in the NBA finals, 17 of 25 ESPN basketball reporters — described as “experts” by the website — predicted the Lakers would emerge victorious.

Of course, that was before observers realized that the Heat is just plain better than the Lakers.

That was hammered home the other night when the Heat held off the Lakers despite a 40-point game by LeBron James.

The Lakers’ lead in the series is now 3-2. Later tonight it will be tied, with a fraught Game 7 on Tuesday that Miami should win given that it has better players, overall.

I blame LeBron for NBA fans being surprised at any of this.

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Up All Night with ‘My’ Teams

October 9th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Basketball, Dodgers, Football, France, Lakers, Los Angeles Rams, NBA, NFL, Rams, Sports, Sports Journalism

I need the Lakers to close out the NBA Finals tonight.

Because I have money on them? Because I have become a fan of LeBron James? Because I can’t stand to see them lose?

Nope.

I need them to win so I can get a little sleep.

A downside for an American living in France?

Following our favorite sports teams in real time … is a real test of a body clock.

During the 50 years or so when I lived in Southern California, the team commitment test was being allowed to stay up “late” and watch the Lakers or Rams or Dodgers (the few times a year the latter were on television).

Seeing my teams play (and UCLA basketball was in there, too) … was about having homework done when games east of the Pacific Time Zone were already playing.

Over here, in Europe, we can get nearly everything on TV, even in American sports, if we are willing to pay for it.

The problem is being awake when the games are being played in Los Angeles — nine hours behind most of Europe.

Much of the time, I just let my sleep center decide if I can remain awake long enough to see games start in the Pacific time zone … or whether I can wake up in the wee small hours and catch up on games that are in progress when Europe is asleep.

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Butler and the King

October 6th, 2020 · No Comments · Lakers, NBA

Here is the secret to the NBA’s success:

It is so personal.

In no other major team sport are the competitors so clearly revealed to the audience, or to each other. Physically, mentally, emotionally.

These are giants who compete in teams of five, in their underwear, on a crowded stage, where some of their soaring leaps bring to mind Nureyev and others the down-force violence of a ton of bricks.

They play a game that calls for subtle tactics and but also for sheer athleticism and foot speed that always seems set at fortissimo.

It is a personal game because the distances are so small. The court is 94 feet from end to end, 50 feet across. NBA players can go from one end to the other in a matter of a few strides. During a game, they do lots of bumping and pushing. Lots of sweat flies around.

Most of the best players know each other. That leads to rivalries often deep and certainly real, with players jostling for position in the game’s hierarchy, for reasons of glory, ego, money.

Which brings us to Game 4 of the NBA Finals game tonight between LeBron James and the Lakers versus Jimmy “Buckets” Butler and the Miami Heat.

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Championships at Stake This Month for L.A.’s Two Favorite Teams

October 1st, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Chargers, Clippers, Dodgers, Kobe, Lakers, NBA, NFL, Rams

Well, here we are. A city, a metropolitan center that had to be content (in terms of the Big Four professional sports leagues) with a couple of Stanley Cup championships over the previous decade. Now, L.A. finds out if its favorite two clubs can win titles in the same month.

Los Angeles is overrun by sports teams. If we count Orange County as part of greater Los Angeles, and we should, it is a market with two NFL teams, two NBA teams, two Major League Baseball teams and two National Hockey League teams and, well, that is no fewer than eight “top-drawer” clubs in a single market.

Lots to like. But we like the Lakers and the Dodgers best. Our favorites. Each starved for trophies that used to come their way with regularity.

For the Lakers, it has been a decade since NBA title No. 16 was secured. For the Dodgers, it has been 31 years since World Series No. 6 was achieved, back in 1988.

Now, “thanks” to the lethal Covid-19 pandemic, and the doggedness with which the NBA and Major League Baseball fought to save enough of their seasons to make it feel like the real deal, we shall see, in 29 days or less, whether the Dodgers and Lakers can bring some joy to their fans.

Each has a legitimate shot at winning. If both win, it would mean (or would have, in pre-pandemic days) downtown parades barely two weeks apart.

Who has the better chance of winning it all?

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Legacies in Play for Lakers, LeBron

September 18th, 2020 · No Comments · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

Hey, no pressure, but …

–The Lakers are one championship behind the Boston Celtics for the most NBA titles, 17. They could catch their green arch-rivals by winning The Bubble Finals in Florida.

LeBron James already has passed Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in career scoring, has only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in front of him, and is perhaps a fourth NBA title away from greatest-of-all-time discussion.

Of course, this all depends on the Lakers defeating the Denver Nuggets in the conference finals, beginning tonight, and then the Eastern Conference winners, Miami or those guys, the Celtics.

Some significant legacies are at stake.

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About That Lakers-Clippers Playoffs Showdown

September 16th, 2020 · No Comments · Clippers, Lakers, NBA

It must be tough being a Clippers fan. Well, heck, yeah, it is.

The franchise has been around for a half-century now and has never played in an NBA Finals, let alone won one.

The odometer rolled over to 50 seasons of failure last night when the Denver Nuggets completed a comeback from 3-1 down to breeze past the discombobulated Clips 104-89 in Game 7 of the conference semifinals.

And the answer to a question posed in August is, “No, you cannot have a Lakers-Clippers showdown in the conference finals.”

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Dodgers Fans: Don’t Assume

September 8th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

Potentially making an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

In March of 2012, the Guggenheim Group announced it was buying the Los Angeles Dodgers from the unpopular Frank McCourt for more than $2 billion — making it, at the time, the most expensive change of ownership in professional sports history. Any time, anywhere.

If you had asked me, back in 2012, if by 2019 this incoming, deep-pockets crew would win a World Series … I would have said, “Oh, yeah. Eight chances at getting it done? They will do it at least once.”

But here we are, with World Series chance No. 9 of the Guggenheim era coming up, and the Dodgers remain in pursuit of a first World Series victory since 1988. Which is not “just the other day”.

About two-thirds of the way through the strange, truncated and Covid-fraught 2020 season, the Dodgers appear to be the best team in the Major Leagues. They are 30-12 at this writing and lead the National League West by five games with 18 to play and are considered a sure thing to appear in the expanded playoffs.

But … they have been similarly well-regarded, going back to 2012, and I am concerned they are making some of the same mistakes they tend to make just before and during the playoffs.

To wit:

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