Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Mailbag

Whatever happened to Major League Baseball's 'Opening Day'? - Ben K., Slidell, LA
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That's a great question. I feel like when we were kids you had Opening DAY and now it seems like we have Opening WEEK. And that doesn't even begin to take into account the Japan series between Seattle and Oakland in March. I guess the justification is that it prolongs the celebration of the start of a new season with your marquee Opening Night matchup and then two full days of season openers. I dunno, personally I'm not a huge fan. I had to wait all the way until Friday for the Astros to open their season. Although the upside of this was that the Astros were undefeated all the way up until Friday... If it was up to me I'd say go back to the way it was, but I think the current setup is here to stay for the time being. Ultimately I'm just happy that baseball is back.

What are your thoughts on the Celtic lineup when they have Rondo and Bradley on the floor at the same time? - Garrett M., Boston, MA
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Avery Bradley reminds me of a miniature version of Tony Allen, and if you'll recall, the Celtics won a ring with him back in 2008. Now granted, at 6'4" 213 lbs, Allen could do things on the defensive end that Bradley can't at 6'2" 180 lbs, but he's still highly effective. With Bradley on the floor with Rajon Rondo the Celtics can wreak havoc on the defensive end. Unfortunately, they become a much smaller lineup, and they're decidedly more limited on offense. Bradley has made just seven 3-pointers all season, and isn't going to remind anyone of Ray Allen any time soon. I think he's an ideal fit for Boston's second unit, but I feel like he'll kill your offense if used too much in a half-court set. But then again, the Celtics won a ring with Tony Allen on the floor and I swear I saw that guy have a layup rejected by the underside of the rim. So far Coach Doc Rivers has found spots to use Bradley and succeed without exposing his shortcomings, so expect the Celtics small-ball package of Rondo, Bradley, Allen, Pierce and Bass/Garnett to continue to see minutes down the stretch.

Man U looks to be in typical Man U late-season form picking up 3 points left and right. Now that Man City seems to be dropping points almost on a regular basis, are the Red Devils on their way to a 20th title? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Manchester City will need a miracle to get back into the race at this point. Already facing a difficult uphill climb heading into yesterday's match with Arsenal, they suffered a crippling 1-0 defeat that now puts them 8 points back with just 6 matches to go. City has no one but themselves to blame either. While United has taken care of their business winning 8 straight league matches, the last 5 of them via shutout, City has fallen on its face winning just once in its last 5 games. While nothing has been clinched yet and there are no sure things, I'd be pretty confident that United will bring home some more hardware. Here's a look at both teams' schedules the rest of the way:

Manchester City

4/11/12 vs West Bromwich Albion (13th)
4/14/12 @ Norwich City (9th)
4/22/12 @ Wolverhampton Wanderers (20th)
4/30/12 vs Manchester United (1st)
5/06/12 @ Newcastle United (5th)
5/13/12 vs Queens Park Rangers (17th)

Manchester United

4/11/12 @ Wigan Athletic (19th)
4/15/12 vs Aston Villa (15th)
4/22/12 vs Everton (7th)
4/30/12 @ Manchester City (2nd)
5/06/12 vs Swansea City (14th)
5/13/12 @ Sunderland (10th)

People are going ga-ga over the possibility of an all La Liga Champions League Final. However, as they say, it ain't over til it's over. While I don't see anybody stopping Barcelona from reaching the finals, what are the odds of Bayern Munich playing spoiler and locking out Real Madrid? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Bayern Munich isn't a team that should be taken lightly. They have the best goal differential in the Bundesliga scoring more goals (69) and giving up fewer goals (19) than anyone else in the league. In 15 league matches at home they've outscored their opponents 47-6, and they're undefeated at home in the Champions League. They boast an exceptional keeper in Manuel Neuer, the captain of the German National Team in Philipp Lahm manning the backline, and a number of gifted finishers in Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben and the Bundesliga's leading scorer Mario Gomez. Now are they good enough to stop an in-form Real Madrid squad? Maybe not. But Real Madrid has drawn 3 times in its last 5 league matches, and hasn't REALLY been tested in the Champions League thus far. I can say with certainty that Bayern Munich is a better side than APOEL Nicosia, so an all-Spanish Championship is far from a foregone conclusion.

After finally seeing how Herculez Gomez plays, could he be the answer to the USMNT's scoring woes? He seems to maybe be the clinical finisher that we need. - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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If you follow the blog at all, you know I'm a huge fan of what Herculez Gomez has been doing lately. And while I certainly think his performance is deserving of some attention for Jurgen Klinsmann, I've got another name for you to keep an eye on as we move forward: Kenny Cooper. The 27 year old Cooper is 6'3", and in 10 career national team appearances, he's scored 4 goals including one against Guatemala during 2010 World Cup Qualifying and 2 more at the 2009 Gold Cup. Since Cooper's insertion into the Red Bulls starting lineup 3 weeks ago, New York is 3-0 and has scored 13 goals with Cooper bagging 5 of them. I could see him serving as the central forward that we want Jozy Altidore to be. A big body, capable of holding the ball up front, and an adept finisher. We've always known Cooper to be a physical presence, and his recent scoring binge isn't a fluke. He also had 18 goals for FC Dallas back in 2008. With Juan Agudelo out injured, Edson Buddle and the Galaxy mired in a big-time slump, and Teal Bunbury's lackluster showing at Olympic Qualifying, I'd love to see both of these guys get a long look. But we'll see what Klinsmann has in mind.

When and where was the first indoor MLB game played? - Trucker D., Gold Canyon, AZ 
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 The first indoor game in Major League history was played 47 years ago today in 1965 when the Houston Astros took on the New York Yankees in an exhibition game at the brand new Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The first indoor regular season game was played there a few days later when the Astros hosted the Phillies on April 12th. Philadelphia won the game 2-0.

Special thanks as always to everyone who wrote in this week. And remember, as the great G$ Meyer says Reading is for Winners, especially when you read Smitty's Mailbag.

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