Sporcle of the Week: Active Hit Leaders By Team

It’s nice to see spring training back in gear. I can finally sense a shade of optimism scattered through the depressing 40 degree, cloudy days New Jersey Februarys are so well known for.

At this point I’m almost excited for allergy season.

I came across a great Sporcle. Challenging but fun – Name every MLB team’s active hits leader. The Easter egg in this is you can name any active player in the team’s top 150 (I think) all time and it’ll give you credit for it.

I got 16 out of 30. The average score is 22-25.

Welcome back to baseball!!

SPORCLE OF THE WEEK: ACTIVE HIT LEADERS BY TEAM

Why Granderson’s Injury May Be a Positive For the Yankees

It took less than an inning. Picking up right where the Yankees left off in last year’s ALDS, a broken forearm will sideline all-star outfielder Curtis Granderson until May. The knee-jerk reaction is “here we go again,” “that sucks,” and other one-liners emanating negativity and pessimism.

But nothing against Granderson, and I don’t wish injury upon anybody, but it wouldn’t bother me if he was out for the year.

Since the Yankees’ scrappy dynasty of the late 90’s, the Steinbrenner wallet has headed the forefront of the New York Yankees product – cashmere-quality athletes who, on paper, should give the Yankees a World Series every two or three years.

About 12 years have gone by since the subjective start of this philosophy and the trend has been anything but what the Evil Empire expected – while borderline unfair, one championship in 12 years isn’t acceptable in the Bronx.

Personally, I want to see young guns get a chance to showcase their skills for the team who’s scouts handpicked them. There’s something different about cheering for a Robinson Cano vs. Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner vs. Mark Teixeira.

I’m not hating on A-Rod nor Teixeira, but the majesty of, for instance,  the ’98 Yankees came partially due to the homegrown talent that together created the perfect jigsaw puzzle: Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, David Cone, Mariano Rivera.

As a die-hard Yankee fan it seems my team today is kind of…. artificial.

It’s why I don’t mind watching Cashman wiggle his way out of paying a cent in luxury tax. Give your homegrown talent a chance to shine. The big bully free agency strategy is nice in theory, but has not shown the results we’ve come to expect out of the Bronx Bombers.

Remember Tony Womack? In 2005 the Yankees signed the veteran second baseman to a deal, only to forfeit that position to a young Robinson Cano that May due to Womack’s inability to do anything.

I don’t expect a home run like this to come from Granderson’s strike of bad luck, but there are Jeremy Lins out there waiting for their time.

Take as much time as you need Curtis. We want you healthy… but hopefully more good will come out of this than bad, and I hope a 22-year old Joe Schmo will have the chance to cash in.

Sporcle of the Week: Top 5 NBA Scorers by Draft

I’m a sucker for 90s basketball, and this Sporcle delivers. Since 1992 and until 2011, name the top five NBA scorers from their respective draft class.

Make sure you have 15 minutes to kill. I got 55 of 105 but know I could’ve gotten more. One of those “Oh c’mon I knew that” quizzes.

Happy Sporcling!

SPORCLE OF THE WEEK: TOP 5 SCORERS BY DRAFT CLASS

If healthy, RGIII will be the best quarterback in the league by 2015

It started with Michael Vick. A revolutionary quarterback who forced defenses to sacrifice a defender for a spy. A quarterback who can turn a broken play into a 20 yard run.

Sounds enticing, but Vick never was a great quarterback, just one that makes magic with his feet. Vick didn’t throw to a 60% completion percentage until his eighth year in the league and probably won’t win a Super Bowl. And we all know about his turnover rate.

But imagine Peyton Manning with Vick’s legs. Picture Aaron Rodgers en route to a game-winning 78-yard touchdown run after his third and fourth options were covered.

In his rookie season, the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III averaged fewer interceptions per pass than every other starting quarterback (five int. in 258 attempts; 1.3%) and threw to a 65.6% completion rate. For their careers, Manning sits at 65.2% and Rodgers at 65.7%.

Griffin’s numbers
Vick’s numbers
Peyton’s numbers
Rodgers’ numbers

In his seven full seasons as a starter, Vick eclipsed RGIII’s 2012 total of 3200 passing yards only once (2011) and only twice rushed for more yards than Griffin’s 2012 tally of 815.

But it was Griffin’s 4.41 dash in the ’12 combine that foreshadowed his dazzling ground work during the regular season. Like Vick, Griffin can break out for 13 fantasy points on one play (below). Unlike Vick, it seems Griffin can protect the football and throw accurately.

If Griffin can somehow extract enough passing potential to work up to Manning or Rodgers’ level, then his edge in the footrace department would put him at a separate level of any quarterback in NFL history.

Before we get gung-ho, we must acknowledge health when evaluating RGIII’s style of play. If he wants to remain in the league, he needs to become a pass-first quarterback who can dive into the arsenal if needed, not the other way around.

Picture this scenario – it happened week 13 against the New York Giants.

Redskins up a point with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Redskins have the ball and the Giants have two timeouts.

In this situation most offenses run the ball to eat up clock. The defense knows, so late-game situations such as these usually result in a three-and-out and a punt with two minutes or so left.

But with RGIII you don’t hand the ball off, you run the option. The defense now has to worry about a separate threat with a proportion of attention on each. What is usually a gimme three-and-out is now a mind game between Griffin and the defense.

In that game, the Giants couldn’t stop the combination of Griffin and rookie running back Alfred Morris, the Redskins ran out the clock, and took a must-win away from the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Griffin’s unique late-game threat will lead to more wins such as these.

Take this likeable fella and evaluate his numbers. In four years compare his passing numbers the elite ones and his running numbers to Vick’s. If he keeps pace with those guys like he did this season, you could be watching the greatest quarterback of all time.

But let’s get that knee back in order first.

Half-Court Shots Should Not Count as Field Goals

David Stern, NBA Commissioner

During yesterday’s Knicks game, Jason Kidd threw up a wild shot from 3/4 court to end the third quarter. The shot landed nowhere near the hoop, but it was a nice effort.

Kidd is shooting a career-high 45% from three-point range this year, but the aforementioned miss counts against that percentage despite the 2% chance the shot connects.

In today’s stat-driven age, a few percentage points could be the difference between thousands of contract dollars. Logically, a vast majority of players hold the ball in the final seconds of a quarter despite zero risk to your team by chucking one up from 70 feet.

If players are collectively more worried about hurting their stats than helping their team (in this instance), then Commissioner David Stern and the NBA should cater to it.

Treat shots behind half court like shots after a foul – if it goes in, it counts as a three pointer made. If not, then it doesn’t count as a shot attempt.

“Dude Perfect” hits a shot from the top of Texas A&M’s football field. VIDEO

The most exciting part of a basketball game is the buzzer beater. The cherry on top is a buzzer beater from far, far away. (Here’s a compilation of them). By giving players the freedom to hoist one up without personal risk, you’ll see more end of the quarter excitement. In turn, more fans will tune in to end a quarter and potentially add more advertising demand on the commercials following.

From the time I was little and until today, I’ll watch any basketball game if there’s under a minute to go in the quarter/half, just in case I see a fun buzzer beater connect.

Without proof, I know I am not the only basketball fan who does this.

In its current state, basketball is not in its truest form. Imagine this scenario: the Houston Rockets are up by 15 to the Cleveland Cavaliers with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. As the clock winds down, the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving drives to the basket and misses a layup. With three seconds left, James Harden grabs the rebound and holds it – Rockets up 15 to end the third quarter. However, the Cavaliers make a great fourth-quarter push and eventually win by a point.

Now this: without worrying a half-court shot could potentially hurt him down the road financially, Harden takes one dribble, spins around a defender, and throws up a wild, off-balance 60-footer. Swish.

Down by 18, the Cavaliers walk back to the bench with new-found dejection, possibly with the added emotion “maybe this just isn’t our night.” Maybe Harden’s three is the difference in the game. Maybe it’s not, but maybe it is. Maybe the Rockets make the playoffs by a game.

In this instance, basketball punishes the team player.

Take Player A, a great shooter in his contract year. He won’t risk taking a wild shot at the buzzer because every miss means less money in his next deal. It’s not that he’s a bad person, just a human being. He doesn’t take any shots behind half court and ends the year 80-200 (40%) from three-point range.

Now Player B, an equally great shooter, but a team player. He doesn’t care about stats. If he has the ball in the backcourt with a second to go in the first quarter, he’ll throw up a prayer because maybe it’ll help his team. He took five half-court shots this year and missed all to make him 80-205 (39%) from three-point range.

At season’s end, the Clippers need a three-point specialist. According to stats, Player A is the better choice, even though their only difference was Player B’s stronger will to help his team.

Mr. Stern, don’t count shots beyond half-court as field goals. Add excitement to the game. Bring back its purity. If I’m tuning in to watch the end of the quarter, so are others, and that means more money in your pocket.

Because who doesn’t want to see more of this:

Why the Knicks are Serious Title Contenders This Season

After a tough loss Monday, the Knicks played what I thought was their best game all season Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets (box score). They made the extra pass, rotated with energy on defense, hustled, and conveyed to me they were not going to lose.

They committed seven turnovers, none in the third quarter.

Five superstars do not make winning basketball. You need a special concoction of pieces that flow together to make the tastiest mix drink. Assuming health, this 2012 Knicks team has all the ingredients:

The Star – Carmelo Anthony

With Carmelo, you always have a backup plan. If you’re out of sync, he can single-handedly bail you out. He leads the team offensively and will close out games in the fourth quarter.

The President – Jason Kidd

See my post that argues Jason Kidd is the most important player on the Knicks. Kidd’s veteran presence keeps the team in check and keeps Carmelo focused but grounded. He directs the offense and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re doing something wrong.

The Enforcer – Tyson Chandler

A perennial leader in technical fouls, Chandler’s breadth, intimidation, and blue-collar play polish New York’s interior game. Chandler’s defense and size is the one clear-cut advantage over the Miami Heat, and unselfishness on the boards (slapping the ball out to the perimeter to reset the shot clock instead of trying to pad stats) keeps the Knicks in every game.

The Shooter – Steve Novak

Even when he’s off, he still spaces the floor for Carmelo & Co. Like my dog, you have to give last year’s three-point percentage leader perpetual attention. If you don’t, you’ll get a Wisconsinly cheesy Discount Double Check.

The Defenders/Dirty Workers – Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert

Both have the potential to knock down shots, but their job is to defend, hustle, and rebound. Brewer doesn’t get the credit he should, and Shumpert’s great on-ball defense will both frustrate opponents and keep them out of rhythm.

The Sixth Man/Wild Card – J.R. Smith

He’s the Robin to Carmelo’s Batman. The first one off the bench, Smith keeps the fire burning with his unquestioned offensive ability. His biggest weakness has always been his intangibles (he did not attended practice when he played for China during the lockout last year), but this season evoked a new J.R., one that plays hard defense, hustles, and keeps his dribbling and shooting under control.

The Veteran Cast – Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace (and Jason Kidd)

While these guys can’t give you big minutes, their presence at practice and during the game is unquestioned. Their wisdom gives the Knicks a mental advantage over every other team in the league and will be the unsung heroes should the Knicks make a big playoff push.

Mike Woodson – Head Coach

The players respect Mike Woodson. I see the way they play defense for him compared to Mike D’Antoni. Woodson is relateable, smart, honest, experienced, and likeable, a succeeding mix in the eyes of New Yorkers.

Last year with D’Antoni as head coach, New York was second-to-last in turnovers with over 16 per game. With Woodson, this year they lead the league with their record-setting pace of 10.7 per.

The scary thing is the 19-6 Knicks are competing without two indelible pieces – Amar’e Stoudemire (to return within the week) and Iman Shumpert (January).

Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert

I’m more excited to get Shumpert back – a great defender who won’t complain if he isn’t shooting. Shumpert is a team player who adds charisma, character, and a beastly high fade to the Garden. His skills and role will cohesively complement New York’s abundance of shooting talent.

Stoudemire will play limited minutes and will undoubtedly make the Knicks a better team. This assumes he doesn’t retard the Knicks chemistry, potentially a serious problem. But with now Woodson as the Knicks head coach, I believe STAT will put his ego aside and concentrate on defense, rebounding, and his elbow jump shot.

The Knicks are playing team basketball. The players’ knows their role and it seems individual goals take a back seat to winning, refreshing for a franchise trying to end a decade of embarrassment.

With a bench stronger than nearly every team in the league (Clippers), this Knicks team feels like one with the “it” factor. If they can stay healthy and Amar’e understands his new role, that Heat-Knicks rivalry we saw in the 90s could make a comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.