Sports Fodder: Bay area experiencing a sports renaissance
April 18, 2013
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
The college football season is still four months away. There is no reason for panic. But the Nevada Wolf Pack's famous pistol offense is shooting blanks so far this spring. We wouldn't worry at this point in the season under normal circumstances. But this is not a normal off-season for the Pack. Pistol guru Chris Ault is gone.. Running back Stefphon Jefferson is gone. Offensive linemen Chris Barker and Jeff Nady are gone. Tight end Zach Sudfeld is gone. That is a lot of pistol production and experience that is no longer walking around the Nevada campus. Again, don't panic. Enjoy the rest of your spring and summer. But it would be nice to see some signs of pistol life in the final scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. Aug. 31 at UCLA, after all, is just 134 days away.
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The Oakland A's are in first place. The Golden State Warriors are in the NBA playoffs. The San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series and just four months later the San Francisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl. The Stanford football team won the Pac-12 championship last fall and then won the Rose Bowl. San Jose State even went 11-2 and won a bowl game. The Bay area is in the middle of a sports renaissance. Somebody should tell the Oakland Raiders.
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The A's, however, are doing it with a few mirrors right now. Six of their first 12 victories were against the Houston Astros, a team that wouldn't win a Nevada high school state title. And Eric Sogard, John Jaso, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Derek Norris and Seth Smith, a group that will never be confused for Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, are all hitting .293 or higher. Smith is at .477. Sorry, but that's not going to last likely until Monday. But the A's are legitimate American League West title contenders. The secret to the A's success is a no-name bullpen that keeps the team in every game. But can you get to and win a World Series with a bullpen?
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Don't be surprised if the Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round. Yes, the Warriors are in just the franchise's second playoff series since 1994. And, yes, the Nuggets are the better team in this series. But they are banged up with Danilo Gallinari out and Kenneth Faried hobbling on a bum ankle. The Warriors also have the best player in the series in Stephen Curry, who just set the NBA record for 3-pointers in a season (272). And David Lee and Klay Thompson are two of the more underrated players in the league. Warriors in seven.
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This might be the best, most competitive first round of playoffs in NBA history. It also might be just the second season (2003 is the other) since 1986 that might not give us a series sweep in the first round. We like Miami, New York, Indiana and Brooklyn to get out of the first round in the East and Oklahoma City, Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers to get out of the west. Yes, the Lakers, without Kobe Bryant, in an upset over the San Antonio Spurs. But it wouldn't be shocking to see any of those series (other than Miami-Milwaukee, that is) go the other way.
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The Atlanta Braves were 12-2 going into Thursday's games. How are they doing it despite Jason Heyward hitting .128, Dan Uggla hitting .163 and B.J. Upton hitting .140? Well, Justin Upton (eight homers, 12 RBI, .333) has turned into Willie Mays, for one thing. But the main reason is that Paul Maholm, Mike Minor and Kris Medlen have turned into Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The 3M starting staff of Maholm, Medlen and Minor are a combined 6-1 with an earned run average of 0.78 over nine starts and 58.1 innings combined. April major league baseball is like April spring footbal, though. Don't believe what you see.
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Sitting at Aces Ballpark in April you sort of get an insight into what a side of beef feels like hanging in a meat locker. Yes, unlike a side of beef, you can drink beer, eat nachos and leave early if you want to escape the frigid temperatures. But that side of beef also didn't spend $16-$31 to sit between first and third base and endure those 30-degree temperatures. It's time the Aces understand where they are located and start filling the April schedule with day games. The Monday-Thursday games don't draw large crowds anymore anyway and the majority of Aces' season ticket holders are either retired or rich enough to take an afternoon off to watch a ballgame.