Congrats Celts, More Firings & DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Happy Friday to you all. It's a damned near perfect weather day here in Minnesota. Hope you're experiencing much of the same.

I neglected to mention the Celtics' victory of the Lakers in the NBA Finals on Wednesday, so I'll touch on that for a moment today. Then there are more firings - and a head-scratching hiring - to tell you about from the world of baseball. Then it's my own personal mini-Armageddon as the teams from the DFTU collide this weekend!

"I cant just fire people for making some mistakes. What kind of person would that make me? What if I fired him and made you manager, then I fired you and maybe hired him back? That's NO WAY to run a business!"

- George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Owner, in an SNL Sketch from 2004

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First off, we here at The Sports Take would like to offer our congratulations to the Boston Celtics (whom I don't necessarily hate) on their NBA Championship. Folks who know me know I couldn't be less interested in professional basketball. I'm not the NBA's target audience and for good reason. I like college basketball. I get just as into the NCAA men's basketball tournament as the next guy. But the pro game has just moved beyond anything that I'm interested in.

That being said, I watched more of this year's Finals than in the last 10 years combined. Why? Simple. It was Celtics vs. Lakers. Yes, I got sucked into the Boston/L.A. nostalgia like millions of other Americans. And this time, much like the Celtics/Lakers feuds of my youth, I sided with the Celtics. Mostly because I can't stand Kobe Bryant. I respect his talent, but I don't like his attitude. Especially towards his teammates. And to be honest, I've been sour on him ever since he forced me to listen to a summer's-worth of "Colorado-gate" stories on ESPN.

So I was happy when the Celtics won the series. Especially with the way they forced the Lakers to roll over and play dead in the championship-clinching Game 6. But I'm not one of the people who are saying they're happy because, "KG deserved to win a title". Say what? How exactly does Kevin Garnett "deserve" that victory?

Yes, he's a great player. Probably a Hall of Famer. But plenty of HoF'ers haven't won championships. Yes, he nearly single-handedly breathed life into a moribund Timberwolves franchise. But he was paid more money than any player in NBA history for his efforts. I think that takes care of anything he might have "deserved".

The point is, I'm happy for Kevin. But I'm just as happy for Ray Allen. And I'm probably even happier for Paul Pierce since he was the only one of the three with the team who originally drafted him. But enough of this "deserved" stuff folks. That's just a bit over the top, don't you think?

In the world of baseball, there are a few folks who won't be winning a championship any time soon. You'll recall on Wednesday when I detailed the start of "pink-slip season". Well the axe has continued to fall.

Three days after Seattle Mariner ownership fired G.M. Bill Bavasi, they furthered their house-cleaning by firing field manager John McLaren. I could only speculate as to why both of those firings didn't come at the same time. Perhaps they needed longer to work out the buy-out of McLaren's contract. It's hard to say.

What's not hard to say is that a change had to be made. The Mariners (admittedly my pick to win the AL West) are 25-47, 17.5 games behind the L.A. Angels. They're on pace to become the first team in MLB history with a $100+ million dollar payroll to lose 100 games. That's just amazing. It reiterates the point I made earlier this year in reference to the Florida Marlins: money doesn't buy championships in baseball.

While McLaren's firing was expected, the Toronto Blue Jays made a move that was definitely not expected. The 35-39 Blue Jays relieved John Gibbons of his managerial duties today. And much like the Mets did on Monday, they blew out several coaches along with their manager.

The Jays are 10.5 games behind the Red Sox (whom I hate) and in last place in the AL East. And after losing 12 of their last 15, perhaps it wasn't a complete shock that management decided to fire Gibbons. The shocker to me was that they brought in Cito Gaston to replace him. Yes, the Jays decided to go back to the 90's and bring in the manager who won them back-to-back World Series in 1992-93.

Really? That's your solution Toronto? You blew this guy out in 1997 because you didn't think he meshed with the "new athlete of today". And now you're going to bring him in to turn around this mess? Wow. Good luck with that fellas!

Finally today, it's the "Frazier/Ali-Celtics/Lakers-Cowboys/Redskins-Yankees/Red Sox" version of everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 37-36 (back over .500, woo!), in 2nd place in the AL Central, 4.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 39-34, in 1st place in the NL West, 4.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

I'm combining the rest of the DFTU today because my two favorite teams in baseball are colliding in a three-game series here in Minnesota.

First off, here are your pitching match-ups for the 3 games:

Friday: Randy Johnson (4-4, 4.76) vs. Scott Baker (2-2, 3.71)

Saturday: Micha Owings (6-5, 5.18) vs. Nick Blackburn (5-4, 3.87)
Sunday: Brandon Webb (11-3, 3.27) vs. Livan Hernandez (7-4, 5.51)

First off, let me state for the record that I'm rooting for the Twins in this series. My apologies to my fellow Arizona fans, but I grew up with the Twins. I celebrated in '87 and '91 and I suffered through the doldrums that were the rest of the 90's. I have a history with the Twins that simply supercedes any allegiance to a team I've adopted. No worries though, I'll be right back there rooting with you on Monday.

Secondly, let me say that I have no freaking clue how this series is going to go. My impression is that the Twins are on a bit more of a roll than the D'backs coming into this series. But when you look at the numbers the Twins are 6-4 in their last 10, while the Snakes are 5-5. Not a significant difference.

The Twins are coming off of a 3-game sweep of the Washington Nationals. A sweep's a sweep is a sweep. But the Nationals are 29-45. That's the second worst record in baseball. (Yes, the Mariners whom I picked to win the AL West have the worst record at 25-47.) I think that takes only a *small* bit of shine off the Twins sweep, however it does make it more difficult to assess how well the team's actually playing.

The D'backs just took 2 of 3 from the 39-33 Oakland A's. I think it can be argued that it was a more impressive feat than the Twins sweep considering the competition. However, I will note that Arizona lost the first game of the series 15-1 with their ace Brandon Webb on the mound. That's a concern on several levels. If your Cy Young candidate is suddenly coming down with a case of a "dead arm" while your hitting still hasn't picked up the pace, you could be in for all sorts of trouble!

Home field favors the Twins who are 22-16 in the friendly confines of Metrodome, while the D'backs are 15-19 on the road. And with the "dirty-tarp" dome over the field in Minnesota, road teams have an even greater disadvantage, especially those who don't make regular trips to the Twin Cities. Look for at least 3 routine fly balls/pop-ups to be misplayed by the D'backs over the series. And I think I'm being conservative there.

My prediction? The Twins take 2 out of 3. I'm going to do my best to be in attendance for at least one of those, so if you're in town and want to go, let me know!

That's all for today. Have a fantastic weekend and I'll be back on Monday with more ST wonderment for you!

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