J.V. Club is Drew Toal’s roundup of recent games, controversies, triumphs, mishaps, and other amusements in the world of sports.
A wealth of knowledge
Brewers outfielder Carlos Gómez did all of us dirty proles proud when, according to last week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, he mentioned something about kiwi’s potassium levels vis-a-vis bananas to teammate Ryan Braun. Braun, sharing the anecdote with Sports Illustrated, allegedly asked Gómez how he came to know this particular nutritional tidbit. According to Braun, Gómez said he spends his downtime Googling “rich-people conversations” so he knows which rarified topics to broach with his now-fellow millionaires.
I don’t know if this story is true or not—heavens knows we can’t take Braun’s word for it—but, assuming for a minute that it is, one can hardly blame Gómez for trying to boost his affluence. We poors can only learn so much from Mitt Romney sound bites and rap lyrics about the kinds of things idly discussed at country clubs by people with names like Mortimer and Randolph. My advice to Gómez is to stick to the America’s Cup, “entitlement reform,” and onerous tax burdens. Those never go out of style.
Rich teams playing poorer teams this week
- The L.A. Dodgers—the first team in 15 seasons to have a higher payroll ($236 million) than the Yankees—open the week with the New York Mets. The 2014 Mets, owing mainly to some can’t-miss investment opportunities pursued by owner Fred Wilpon, clock in at a modest $85 million. The Dodgers finish the week with the Phillies, a team whose third-place finish in overall salary level dovetails poetically with its dead-last standing in the NL East.
- The New York Yankees roll through Chicago this week, first for an interleague series against the Cubs, and then playing a four-game set with the White Sox. New York’s payroll is more than the Cubs and White Sox combined. This discrepancy is reflected in the standings.
- The Boston Red Sox ($151 million) take on the Tampa Bay Rays, a scrappy, perennially underpaid team with a well-earned reputation for doing a lot with a little. The Red Sox’s three highest-paid players this year are Jake Peavy, Mike Napoli, and John Lackey, who together are raking in nearly $50 million for 2014. That seems like a questionable formula for success, but what do I know?
On Saturday, California Chrome secured the second leg of horse racing’s elusive Triple Crown when he crossed Pimlico’s finish line and won the Preakness Stakes at 1:54:84. If Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes on June 7, then he will be the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to manage the feat.
But we’ve seen this before. It feels like every other year that a horse wins the first two legs, only to be broken by the 1.5-mile gauntlet at Belmont. But as always, there’s hope that this one is different. And, in many ways, he is—California Chrome isn’t the product of some far-reaching eugenics program to make the perfect horse. Some commentators might hold that against him, but those very same doubters didn’t give Hidalgo a fighting chance, either.
Pimlico wasn’t the only place hosting a wire-to-wire contest. In San Francisco this past Sunday was Bay To Breakers—“the oldest consecutively run annual footrace in the world.” To call it a race might be giving the 12-kilometer event a little too much credit; after a small group of elite runners jump out ahead, tens of thousands of local inebriates wearing costumes (or nothing at all) stumble across the city. I ducked into Golden Gate Park to see some of the festivities, and I was greeted with something that looked like a refugee train straight out of Bikini Bottom. I also saw Chewbacca and some naked people. Is there a Triple Crown of public exposure?
Setting fire to sleeping giants
The Miami Heat have bounced the Indiana Pacers from the playoffs each of the past two seasons, and Indiana hasn’t taken it all that well. That these two rivals would meet again this year in the Eastern Conference Finals was accepted by most as a foregone conclusion, despite Indiana’s prolonged in-season meltdown and Roy Hibbert’s much-publicized selective basketball amnesia. But that’s what happens when you have teams like the Hawks and Bobcats making the playoffs. Foregone conclusions.
Most analysts with half a brain picked the Heat to win in anywhere from five to seven games. Indiana just doesn’t look like the same team who took the Heat to the limit last year, and LeBron James is still a guy who is built like a linebacker, passes like Joe Montana, and can dunk from half court. But the Pacers have two things going for them. The first is that these guys hate the Heat—hate them like Cersei Lannister hates Tyrion and his harem of paid trollops. The other is that the Pacers match up well against the Heat, especially when Miami goes super small. This is Roy Hibbert’s shot at redemption. Despite all its problems, Indiana is built to win this series.
ESPN brought Mark Jackson in to call the game with Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen. Jackson, most recently the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, was dismissed a few weeks ago after the Warriors lost to the Clippers, because apparently being a coach whose team improves every year under your stewardship is suitable grounds for dismissal. Van Gundy summed it up well: “Coaching is one of the most unfair professions there is.”
I would argue that guarding LeBron James is the most unfair profession there is, but coaching is right up there. (Just ask Mike Brown, who was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time in not so many years.)
The Pacers set the tone early in Game 1 of the series, scoring more points in the first quarter (30) than they had in any other opening period over the first two rounds of the 2014 playoffs. Indiana suddenly looked like a contender instead of a dysfunctional also-ran. The Heat, perhaps owing to its sleepwalking through the first month of the playoffs, never made a run. It has been so long since they’ve had to play a decent team that Chris Bosh was settling for lazy threes and his teammates were giving up lazier turnovers. That’s not going to get it done against Indiana, who all of a sudden went from a mediocre offensive team to, well, the Golden State Warriors, knocking down threes and making the Heat look old and slow with laser-like interior passing. (Maybe Frank Vogel rubbed Mark Jackson’s head for luck before the game?)
Whatever the reason for Indiana’s resurgence, it looks like the Heat will finally be tested, and for the first time in a long time, they might not have answers.
Next time on J.V. Club
We talk with Tie Domi about his new book, Hurting People The Tie Domi Way.