Bench Talk 06/03/2017

In The News

 Josh Donaldson leads AL 3B in All Star Ballot despite only playing 15 games. Should fans be able to vote/should we care that fans are able to vote?

Cameron Burgess (CB): Not at all. All Stars should be determined by their play and by stats, not a popularity contest. Sure, Donaldson has been one of the best 3B in the MLB in recent years, but 14 games is not enough to be considered for an All Star appearance in my opinion. Somebody who has been playing all season long deserves this spot more.

Whether we should care or not, I think we still should. If the point of the All Star Game in any sport is to honour and highlight some of the best players in the game, then why are we letting fans vote John Scott into the game? He had 1 assist in 11 games the year he was voted in! Not only was he not producing in the NHL, but he was barely playing. This guy had 11 points in his career, there’s no way he should be representing his division at an All Star Game. Yet it happened, because fans voted and turned it into a joke. So no, fans shouldn’t be able to vote and we should care that they still can.

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Thomas Waind (TW): At its core the All Star isn’t for the players anymore. The bonuses attached to the All Star games were a huge incentive in Gordie Howe’s days, now salaries are so high that it’s just a drop in the bucket. Nowadays, Crosby skips the All Star game every year and you usually have to drag the players kicking and screaming just to get them there.

If the fans want to see an “all Kansas City Royals” starting lineup who’s going to stand in the way? The biggest argument to get rid of fan voting is that number All Star teams are usually into account in Hall of Fame voting, which is another subjective “honour” in of itself. If the fans want “JD No Whisky” at the All Star game, then let Josh play some third.

Brendan Ballantyne (BB): Although the entire idea behind an All-Star game is to please fans, I don’t think they should be entitled to a vote to determine who plays. If the best players are selected, that should be entertaining enough. What’s annoying about this whole topic is that All-Star games, alongside championships and other individual awards, are always used as resume builders in evaluating and debating players. If the All-Star game is becoming a popularity contest, it really tarnishes the history of what it was intended to be and makes the recognition less special. All-Star games kind of suck anyways, so if taking away fan voting is a “loss” to some people, there wasn’t much to lose to begin with.

No football players in the top 20, no baseball or hockey players at all. Is ESPN’s “top 100 most famous athletes on the planet” list bogus?

Link to original article: http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/page/worldfame100/espn-world-fame-100-top-ranking-athletes

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CB: I’m not shocked at all that there are no hockey players since this is ESPN, but no baseball players seems surprising to me. I understand that the list is international, and since soccer is the most popular sport in the world it makes sense that this list is dominated by soccer players. But seriously, how does an athlete like Sidney Crosby not make this list? He’s been one of the most dominant athletes in his sport for the last 12 years, has been a part of many historic moments (most memorable has to be the Golden Goal in 2010), and has been in commercials since he entered the NHL.

In terms of baseball, I can almost understand how no players made the list. Despite worldwide popularity, a lot of baseballs biggest stars over the last decade have retired. Names such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz have all left the image of the MLB in the hands of young stars. The problem with this is that many of the young stars, such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, haven’t spent enough time in the league to grow their image into what is needed to crack the Top 100. Despite this, I think it’s crazy that two of the four major sports leagues in North America are not represented on this list.

TW: This list is perplexing for a couple of reasons. Seeing as its international it makes sense that games like soccer, basketball, tennis, and cricket are well represented. Also the football seems about right because football is purely American, but given the States is the third biggest nation in the world it probably averages out to a sub 20 ranking for the NFL’s best.

What I don’t understand is how legends of both Japanese and American baseball such as Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka don’t make the list. I don’t understand the lack of Alexander Ovechkin who is somewhat prominent in the States, recognizable by most Canadians and an absolute rock star in Russia. I also don’t understand Phil Mickelson at #5 and as the top golfer. I don’t care if he’s fallen off a cliff, Tiger is still the world’s most recognizable golfer and it isn’t even close.

BB: First and foremost, I don’t think this list should be taken very seriously at all. It makes sense that there’s a wide representation of internationally popular sports like soccer, tennis and golf, but we have to remember the main factors in this rankings process includes Instagram, Facebook and Twitter followers. This would suggest to me that this list is more about athletes as personalities and celebrity figures as opposed to being recognized based on their athletic accomplishments and contributions.

For example, the only Canadian on this list is Eugenie Bouchard. Obviously there are many other Canadian athletes that would come to mind as more successful than Bouchard, but because of Bouchard’s social media presence, in large part due to off the court influences, she received a rating on this list. Because of the measuring methods that would lead to cases like this, I’d consider this list to be bogus.

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It doesn’t surprise me too much that there is a lack of hockey players here because the sport’s popularity doesn’t span the globe like others do, but I am quite shocked there are no baseball players. Young MLB stars like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper seem like they would be the kind of athletes to crack this list, maybe they will next time.

After losing to Windsor in the Memorial Cup Final, Dylan Strome took a shot at the format of the tournament. How much of an advantage does the host team actually have in the tournament?

CB: I can see the argument that Strome is making. Windsor was eliminated in Round 1 of the OHL playoffs, but as the host were guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup. Windsor had 6 weeks between their last playoff game and their opening game of the tournament. That means more time to rest, more time to recover from any injuries, more time to prepare. But at the same time, if you’re in the Memorial Cup an OHL, WHL, or QMJHL champion, you should be able to beat the host city.

TW: I’m of the opinion that the CHL should just scrap the whole “home team gets a bye into the Memorial Cup” rule. If this really is supposed to be junior hockey’s showcase, surely they don’t need to completely rely on a hometown rooting interest for attendance and viewership.

The fourth tournament team could be decided by a three team Wild Card tournament between the WHL, OHL and QMJHL runner-ups during the week leading up to the Memorial Cup. This would be problematic for scheduling and travel, but it could be an exciting wrinkle that ensure the Memorial Cup features junior hockey’s four best teams.

Or the fourth tournament team could be the NCAA’s Frozen Four champ. That’d be pretty cool too.

*BB: I really like that Frozen Four idea, but that’ll probably never happen unfortunately as the NCAA and CHL are competitors when it comes to recruiting talent. Maybe something with the Canadian U-Sports champion is something more realistic because of the partnership the CHL already has with them.

BB: It’s obviously an advantage knowing going into the season your team has a spot guaranteed in the place all of the other teams are battling for. But I don’t think there’s a way to avoid that reality without risking the success of the tournament. Junior hockey markets are small enough as it is, and asking one to support a tournament without a home rooting interest could be a tall task.

I’d like to see an expansion of the format to go towards a bracket style similar to the NCAA men’s basketball March Madness. I think the buzz created around the “one and done” element, alongside the already high-octane offense style of play, could really catch on more across the country.

Tiger Woods fall has been in the media for all of the wrong reasons in recent years. Dealing with injuries, poor play, and personal issues, is this the biggest fall from grace we have seen an athlete struggle through?

TW: Tiger stock has certainly dropped. But his decline, both personally and professionally, has be a steady decline since 2009 when he was caught cheating on his wife and subsequent car crash the night after the news hit the media. He has finally seemed to hit rock bottom (at least I hope for his sake this is rock-bottom).

The fastest and biggest fall from grace would have to be OJ Simpson. He was one of the best running backs of all-time and beloved in the media as a colour commentator and actor. The rest has been played out to death. The alleged murder, the live broadcasted cop chase in the White Bronco, the famous trial, the acquittal, the civil case and the armed robbery that eventually landed him in prison. Apparently OJ is due for parole within the next half year and could finally be out of prison. That’s a wild concept to wrap your head around.

BB: I’m going to have to agree with Thomas here, it’s gotta be O.J. Simpson. He was at the top of his sport and then killed someone. Whatever bad things Tiger may have done, none of them all combined are equal to the awful act Simpson committed. Before Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest this past week he had never even done anything illegal (that we know of). So although he was involved in a variety of controversies, his “transgressions” were not murder. It’s unfortunate how far Woods has fallen from the peak he used to dominate at, but his fall from grace is certainly not the only one.

Another Major for Tiger?

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CB: I think the thing for me that makes Tiger stick out in my mind is how he has kept trying to come back after battling injuries, and despite new hope every time, we see the same disappointing results. It’s almost hard to watch this guy keep trying to fight his way back to being a legit competitor, but I agree that OJ is another great example of this. Even Aaron Hernandez. Even though he might not have been the best at his position, he was still dominant, and to go from being a bright young star in the NFL to serving a life sentence for murder has to be something that would give him a spot on this list.

Half Time

The NBA Finals are here.

Three Stars

TW: Bryce Harper/Hunter Strickland

Fighting in baseball has been pretty lame for a while now. Guys yell, benches clear and nothing ever comes of it. I’m done with these “hold me back” fights where no punches are thrown (unless you’re Roughned Odor throwing a right hook before a guy has a chance to put his hands up (yeah I’m still salty). It had gotten to the point where I didn’t even react when benches cleared anymore. Baseball had even found a way to make fighting boring in a way that I thought only Floyd Mayweather could. Then this happened:

I’m all in baby! Give me some of that Nolan Ryan action! Show me Canada vs. Mexico! Anyone that calls Bryce Harper a weenie for throwing his helmet (which is a real opinion people have) wouldn’t last more than 2 seconds in the ring with the former NL MVP. I don’t care if Strickland’s reason for throwing at him was petty. I don’t care if people label Harper as a “bonehead” or “hardo”. This was just two pissed off dudes squaring up and throwing fists. Sign me up.

*CB: I agree, in terms of baseball fights this was better than most. But for the most part they are usually boring with no real fight. Give me hockey fights or lacrosse fights over baseball any day.

TW: Yeah because that Subban-Malkin fight the other night was so electric. Hockey fights have even gotten boring. Gone are the Colton Orr’s and Frazer McLaren’s which now leaves the stars to clutch and grab at eachother. It’s almost a surprise now to get a heavy-hitting hockey fight.

BB: Jake Guentzel

It’s incredible how clutch this guy has been. It seems that at every point when Pittsburgh needs a goal, he comes through. Guentzel has been a consistent contributor throughout this entire postseason and the 22 year old finds himself 4th in playoff scoring with 19 points, only trailing star teammates Malkin, Crosby and Kessel.

CB: Kevin Durant

This hurts because I really don’t want to see this guy win, but he looked nearly unstoppable in game 1 of the NBA Finals. KD dropped 38 points, along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists in Game 1 and helped extend Golden State’s playoff win streak to 13.

Dog House

TW: Cleveland Cavaliers

It’s only one game, but the Warriors absolutely worked over the Cavaliers last night. I don’t care how Rihanna feels, Cleveland got punked and they’re in trouble. KD was easily the best player on the court and dominated right from the opening tip. The scary part is Golden State didn’t even show Cleveland their best game. Sure KD and Curry combined for 66 points. But Thompson only had 6, Green only scored 8 and Curry didn’t even get to the free throw line. Yet the Warriors still won by 22 points.

Also don’t tell me Lebron is the GOAT and then tell me Cleveland is the “underdog”. You’re the best player in the world with two top 20 players for teammates and one of the deepest benches in the league. I know the Warriors are good but Jordan also had to vanquish some Hall of Fame calibre teams. Jordan never lost in the Finals and he was certainly never an “underdog”. Lebron’s seven straight Finals are impressive, but you’ve got to think that three of his Finals losses would’ve happened in the second or third round if you moved his teams to the West, rendering this “cool fact” kind of useless.

It was just one road loss and Cleveland can definitely compete if they make the adjustments (slow the game down, use the clock and pick up the GD ball handler on transition defense). Bottom line, I just want the Cavs to make this entertaining.

CB: Pekka Rinne

Yep, after giving him so much praise in my last article, it’s time to through Rinne in the dog house. An ugly Game 1 performance gave Pittsburgh the early edge in the series, despite them going 37 minutes without a shot. But after a game like that, he certainly couldn’t do it again, right? Wrong. The Predators and Penguins were tied at 1 when the first period started. 3 minutes later it’s 4-1 and the Preds are were on their way to going down 2-0 in the series.

BB: Catfish Guy

If you hadn’t heard yet, there was a catfish thrown on the ice in game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. This is somewhat of a playoff “tradition” for preds fans (not enough experience for them to have good tradition), so some guy decided to make a trip to Pittsburgh and pull off this stunt. I will admit this is kind of funny, but it was revealed in an interview the processes he took to smuggle the fish into the arena…so not worth it. It says he had to create a “catfish underwear sandwich” in order to conceal it, enough said. On top of that, he was ejected from the game and charged with disorderly conduct, possessing instruments of crime and disrupting meetings or processions. Sounds like Pittsburgh police are taking this a little too seriously, definitely a bad bounce for catfish guy.

In Defense

“If Nashville is going to pull off another upset Rinne will need to steal a game or two for the Preds, and based on his numbers he is more than capable of doing so. Rinne has to be the favourite to win the Conn Smythe if Nashville wins the Cup, and for a goalie who has been one of the best in the league since he became a starter in 2008-2009, the 34 year old will likely be more than deserving of the award.” Cameron Burgess picks Rinne as his Conn Smythe in Stanley Cup Finals Preview and Prediction (May 29, 2017)

 

Alright so after a solid three rounds in the playoffs, I was feeling pretty confident about this prediction. But now, two games into the Stanley Cup Final, Rinne has been getting lit up and I look like an idiot. I always like watching other goalies shut a team down and steal games for their team, and Rinne was playing like he could do that in the playoffs. Then the Cup Final starts and he looks like a completely different goalie. I don’t what happened, but if Nashville has any shot of winning the Cup, then Rinne bette figure out his game quick. However, I’m not backing down from my prediction. I’m still predicting Rinne to bounce back in a big way, starting with Game 3. Hopefully I’m not back defending this prediction again next week.

*TW: My problem with Rinne is that he’s been on a steady decline for the past few seasons and just because he’s had a hot 2-3 months people forgot that. I’ve been waiting for that bubble to burst and it looks like it might’ve. When all is said and done Juuse Saros might be their best hope at a Cup.

*BB: I’ll admit a few of these goals Rinne has been allowing have been a bit fluky, but he needs to make some saves here. His team has been doing a great job for the majority of the first two games (especially game 1) of keeping Pittsburgh’s shot total low and it’s crippling when a soft one finds its way in. I respect you sticking with your prediction, but there seems to be little confidence in Rinne across the board. Head coach Peter Laviolette wouldn’t even officially announce his starter the day after game two, and since Rinne has always been his go to guy no matter what, that demonstrates how much he’s crumbled.

Power Rankings

Thomas Ranks Top 5 Baseball Fights

5. Pedro Martinez vs. Don Zimmer, 2003

This one pops up in all of the SC top 10’s. Pushing over an old man is kind of a bad visual on Pedro’s part, but it’s an iconic piece of baseball aggression all the same.

4. Cubs v. White Sox, 2006

 

The battle of Chicago. Two fights for the price of one. The animosity is real.

3. Chan Ho Park’s Kick, 1999

 

This is unreal. There are clips of kicking in baseball but the are usually of the “blindside the unsuspecting target” variety. Chan Ho Park takes a couple of shots, looks the pitcher straight in the eye and delivers the kick. It’s one thing to play hours of UFC on Xbox, hit pause to walk to the convenience store, then see endless amounts of roundhouse kick opportunities on unsuspecting pedestrians. It’s just a ballsy effort to act on that compulsion and land a straight up kick in a fight. Too bad he almost immediately got the crap kicked out of him afterwards.

2. WBC Canada v. Mexico, 2013

 

(Start video at 1:45) I remember watching this on TV vividly. Leave it to Canadians to bring a little hockey culture between the white chalk lines. Just drop the gloves and go.

1. Nolan Ryan v. Robin Ventura, 1993

Rule number 1: don’t rush Nolan Ryan’s mound.

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