Month: May 2015

X’s Three Stars of the Week (5/24/15 – 5/30/15)

Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – according to X Marks the Sport.

1.  LeBron James (SF – Cleveland Cavaliers)

Over the last half decade, the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs has officially turned into the LeBron James invitational. Most people thought the Cavaliers-Bulls series would essentially serve as the “real” Conference Finals series, and a sweep of the Hawks justified those opinions. Of course, after James missed his first 10 field goal attempts in Game 3, it certainly didn’t look like he would be on this list. But he bounced back in incredible fashion and posted a monstrous stat line of 37 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists, and 3 steals. His 8 offensive rebounds were more than the Hawks’ whole team had. James had a driving lay-up near the end of overtime to help put the game away. He followed up that performance by posting game highs of 23 points and 7 assists in the clinching Game 4, despite playing under 30 minutes for the first time all postseason. These efforts are why James will be headlining the NBA Finals for a 5th straight year.

2. Lionel Messi (FW – FC Barcelona)

Messi was his usual prodigious self in the 2015 Copa del Rey Final, scoring the first goal of the match and later on adding a second to help put the match out of reach. Messi led Barcelona to its third Copa del Rey title since 2009, and his goals on Saturday were his 33rd and 34th career goals in the tournament. The first goal he scored was a memorable one on which he showed off a lot of his brilliance, and listing him among this week’s “Three Stars” was an excuse to post think link to a video of him shredding the defense of Athletic Bilbao.

3. Josh Donaldson (3B – Toronto Blue Jays)

Donaldson put together an impressive 4-game home run streak this week, and his overall numbers over the last seven days have been a .385 batting average with 5 home runs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs scored. The highlight of the week came when Donaldson hit a walk off 3-run HR with his team down by 2 to the White Sox – his 2nd home run of the contest. Donaldson struck out 4 times in a tough game at the plate on Sunday, but did not strike out at all the rest of the week. The 10 RBI he collected between Monday and Friday represent 26% of his RBI total for the season…A quick shout out to Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, who had 4 HRs this week along with 4 games with multiple hits and multiple RBI.

Honorable Mention: Chance Shepard (C/OF – North Carolina State Wolfpack)

When the alma mater scores a dramatic come-from-behind win in a big game, they’ve got to get a virtual high-five here. Serving as the Wolfpack’s final hope, Shepard hit a clutch go ahead 2-run home run off of one of the premier closers in the nation, TCU’s Riley Ferrell, to advance NC State to the Regional Finals on Sunday. Thank you Chance Shepard!!!


X’s Three Stars of the Week (5/17/15 – 5/23/15)

Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – a new tradition for X Marks the Sport.

1. Stephen Curry (PG – Golden State Warriors)

Curry has simply destroyed the Rockets in Golden State’s three consecutive wins in this series. He has averaged 35.7 points (scoring no less than 33 in any game) on 61.2% shooting from the field (absurd for a guard) and has connected on 18 three-pointers. During this stretch, he has broken Reggie Miller’s record for most made three-pointers in a postseason (in nine fewer games than Miller played when he established the record over a decade ago) and become the first player to makes at least 5 three-pointers in five straight postseason games. Curry has also chipped in with averages of 6.0 assists, 4.7 rebounds (including a memorable offensive rebound in front of Dwight Howard in Game 3) and 1.7 steals. So he hasn’t just been a shooter, and he is putting an exclamation point on his MVP campaign with the way he is playing.

2. Ryan Braun (OF – Milwaukee Brewers)

Braun’s season didn’t get off to a great start, but he has looked really good lately. Over his last seven games he has batted .375 with 3 HR and 12 RBI while also drawing 5 walks. Braun has knocked in at least one run in each of his last five games. The Brewers as a team have struggled this year to say the least, to the point where their manager coming into the season Ron Roenicke has already been fired. So to see this kind of production from a player who isn’t on a good team and isn’t getting a lot of help makes Braun’s hot streak that much more impressive. Over the last week, Braun’s batting average has jumped 20 points (.252 to .272) and his OPS has jumped a whopping 93 points (.785 to .878) – large spikes in yearly averages for this time of the season.

3. Tyler Johnson (C – Tampa Bay Lightning)

Heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Henrik Lunqvist was riding a four-game winning streak and had limited his opponents to just one goal in three of those four wins. That didn’t stop Tyler Johnson from putting a hat trick on Lunqvist and the Rangers in a pivotal Game 2 win for the Lightning. In the two wins for Tampa Bay in this series, Johnson has 4 goals and an assist to go along with a plus/minus rating of +3. If not for his performances in Game 2 and 3, who knows where Tampa Bay would be. As an unexpected little bonus, Johnson has won 22 of 35 faceoffs (.629 FO pct) over his last two games which exceeds the .486 FO pct he has put up over the last two seasons.

X’s Three Stars of the Week (5/10/15 – 5/16/15)

Here is a look at this week’s “three stars” – a new tradition for X Marks the Sport.

1. Corey Kluber (SP – Cleveland Indians)

If a guy is going to have one of the greatest individual performances of all-time, that’s a sure way to make the cut for “Three Stars”. On May 13th, Kluber threw eight shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up just one mere single. He didn’t walk anyone while accumulating 18 strikeouts, the most in a MLB game in over a decade. He could have had a shot at the all-time single game strikeout record (20 Ks) but was pulled after the 8th inning due to pitch count (bad move for the fans, but a prudent managerial decision). Two things made this masterful performance even more impressive. One was that Kluber was facing a great lineup. The Cardinals are 3rd in the National League in team batting average (as of 5/17/15) with four players in the lineup batting over .300. This wasn’t a lineup full of pushovers Kluber mowed down. Secondly, Kluber was struggling mightily going into this game. In his previous four starts, he had been 0-4 with a 7.43 ERA and a 1.96 WHIP – atrocious numbers for any pitcher let alone the reigning American League Cy Young award winner. To bounce back from such a terrible stretch a responded with the performance of a lifetime shows Kluber’s mental fortitude and earns him the top spot in this week’s “Three Stars”.

2. Henrik Lundqvist (G – New York Rangers)

Predictably, “King Henrik” was at his best when his team needed him the most. Down 3-1 in the conference semifinals to the Washington Capitals, Lundqvist was brilliant and did just enough to outperform and outlast another very good goaltender in the Capitals’ Braden Holtby. Lundqvist was great in the Rangers’ Game 7 win over Washington, remaining undefeated in overtime this postseason (4-0) in the process. He carried that momentum right into the conference finals, stopping 23 of 24 shots to help the Rangers take a 1-0 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the week, Lundqvist was 3-0 ( including two wins in elimination games) with a 1.57 GAA and 0.952 save percentage. Just another week at the office for him.

3. Gennady Golovkin and Román González (boxing)

Many casual spectators wanted to prematurely declare boxing dead a couple of weeks ago because they didn’t understand and/or appreciate Floyd Mayweather’s brilliant performance over Manny Pacquiao. Those people would have a different mindset had they watched the performances put on last night by these two. Golovkin dealt with more resistance than analysts expected in his match against Willie Monroe Jr., but ultimately Triple G’s constantly stalking approach and precision power punching proved to be too much for another opponent and Monroe was finished off in the 6th round. The knockout was the 30th of Golovkin’s career (in just 33 career bouts) and his 20th consecutive stoppage. The relatively unknown boxer from Nicaragua, Román González was equally as impressive in his match last night. Edgar Sosa is a well-respected veteran in the sport and former world champion in his own right, but “Chocolatito” González just flat out steamrolled him, needing only two rounds to dispose of the tough Mexican Sosa. Both Triple G and Chocolatito had the full support and unanimous approval of the lively southern California crowd. In their careers, Gennady Golovkin has knocked out 91% of his opponents while the rising star Román González has a 86% knockout rate. If you only like to watch boxing when it’s an “action” fight, watch these two the next time their on television before jumping to any misguided conclusions about the sport’s demise.

The Curious Case of Mayweather Hate

Floyd Mayweather Jr. pushed his professional record to 48-0 with a convincing and masterful victory over the consensus #2 pound-for-pound contender Manny Pacquiao. Predictably, this victory has been met with the same rhetoric as always. Mayweather is boring; Mayweather ran; Mayweather didn’t fight (despite landing 67 more punches than Pacquiao), and every other standard, unoriginal, amateurish criticism of Mayweather there is. There is no question that Floyd Mayweather Jr. receives unconditional hate from the general public (to go along with the unapologetic adulation he gets from a distinct minority). The question is why exactly does Mayweather receive such extreme hate. Let’s explore the possible reasons.

The first reason people will use to justify their hate is Mayweather’s history with domestic violence. On the surface, this would be a logical reason to hate someone. However, when you dig a little deeper this claim starts to fall apart. Dallas Cowboys fans are more than happy to have Greg Hardy on their team, even with a suspension looming and a long absence last year stemming from domestic violence issues. All will be forgiven if he can help Dallas’ ineffective pass rush. Kurt Busch had a domestic violence incident and although not convicted he did enough to draw a suspension (as opposed to administrative leave), yet NASCAR fans have stood firmly in his corner. I don’t even want to get into how quickly the Hope Solo and Brittney Griner/Glory Johnson domestic violence cases were swept under the rug and had no impact on those athletes’ public perceptions. Moving outside of the sports realm, R&B singer Chris Brown and actor Terrence Howard have seen their careers continue to flourish despite well-documented histories with domestic abuse. What we see here is that most (not all but most) people are willing to forgive domestic violence from athletes and celebrities as long as they perform. Mayweather has continued to perform at a nearly flawless level, yet the hate continues to find him. It has to be for another reason based on the examples I just discussed.

Perhaps people hate Floyd Mayweather Jr. because he is successful. Well no, that doesn’t make either. Michael Jordan dominated the NBA in the 1990s, highlighted by his six championships. Yet for that winning he was as close to universally loved as any athlete of my lifetime. During the early to mid 2000s, people marveled every time Tiger Woods took the golf course and wanted to see him outdistance the field off of the tee and outperform the field throughout each tournament he participated in. NASCAR fans were excited to watch Jimmie Johnson establish his recent dynasty in the sport with five consecutive championships. Even in horse racing, spectators hope for a Triple Crown every year and those who monitor the sport will all be pulling for American Pharaoh to win the Preakness in a couple of weeks. Normally dominance in a given sport causes fans to gravitate towards sports figures in admiration and support. Yet this isn’t the case for Mayweather despite nearly two decades of indisputable dominance.

Is the hate for Floyd Mayweaher Jr. because he acts like a jerk sometimes? Hard to say that – Tom Brady and Bill Belichick often act like jerks and they are praised for winning. Is it because Mayweather is so rich? That doesn’t seem to bother people when it comes to guys like LeBron James or David Beckham. And we don’t even need to discuss how other beloved celebrities like Beyonce and Jay-Z are constantly flashing their considerable wealth. So what is it? Why in a country that prides itself on forgiveness and second chances, a country where drug addicts (Josh Hamilton), animal abusers (Michael Vick), cheaters (Andy Pettitte), DUI manslaughter offenders (Donte Stallworth), domestic abusers, and other “terrible people” can receive cheers from a crowd as long as they perform, does Mayweather receive so much hate? There can only be one reason – groupthink.

Simply put, people dislike or hate Floyd Mayweather Jr. because they are told to. Being call his fighting style boring because they heard someone else say the same and it sounds like a good reason to justify their irrational disdain for the man. Most people who refer to Mayweather’s fighting style as boring would be hard pressed to name ten boxers they’ve watched fight within the last three years. They’re not fans. They’re conformists. They allow their feelings to be dictated by whoever they believe the majority is. Any reason they provide you for why they don’t like Mayweather, I can guarantee you they admire someone who that reason for hating Mayweather would also apply to. Being rational would be asking too much of these people. I have racked my brain trying to figure out how to explain this to the Mayweather haters, and it took until now for me to realize that because of the groupthink phenomenon there is no way to explain it that they will accept. So for the handful of Mayweather supporters out there, I commend you for being willing to step outside the box and formulate and individual opinion of the boxer. Is the man perfect? Far from it. But being a flawed individual is no reason to be hated or disrespected. He should be given his due, and I for one am willing to give it to him just like we do for all the other flawed individuals out there we all love. The bottom line is this: Whether everyone likes it or not Mayweather is the best pound for pound boxer of this generation and if it wasn’t for groupthink that is all that would matter. And for the Mayweather supporters, just remember the haters aren’t ever going to be able to give you a reason for their hate without contradicting themselves somehow – and that’s due to them being irrational. You won’t ever change their minds, but you can at least have a better understanding of why neither you or Floyd will ever change their minds.