Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday's Starting Five

1. Joe Torre. The former Yankees skipper (which is how most people think of him in spite of the fact that he is currently managing the Los Angeles Dodgers) apparently collaborated with Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci on a book about the rise and fall of the recent pinstriped dynasty. It's been reported that Torre is candid about his distaste for A-Rod, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, and the personnel decisions that submarined the ethos and comraderie of the '96-'00 teams that Torre helmed. I say, god for Joe. The guy was the epitome of class (even if he was less than stellar at managing a bullpen) and brought four world titles to an organization that had been marked more by apathy than ambition when he arrived. And, then he was more-or-less forced out without having ever actually missed the postseason during his tenure. Not surprisingly, some are up in arms about Torre's "betrayal," which just blows my mind. Only would Yankees fans do this. As if the club is some sort of all-important monolith that is more important than the flesh-and-blood folks who fill the uniforms.

2. Danny Granger. He's the best player you're not watching in the NBA right now. Provided that you've actually been paying attention to what Dwyane Wade's been doing in Miami rather than focusing just on Lebron and Kobe. The third-year small forward out of New Mexico is averaging over 26 points per game (4th behind Wade, LBJ and Kobe) and has Indiana contending for mediocrity in the month of January (7-6). Last night he netted 27 points, including 8 in the fourth as the Pacers held of the Charlotte Bobcats at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers and Granger worked out a 5-year contract extension just hours before some contractual window (that I don't quite understand) would have closed on Oct. 31 2008. I would imagine that the club has to be pretty psyched that they were able to get this deal done before Granger went out and made a hard charge at the scoring title.

3. Pat White. Every time this guy has a big game (which he does 60% of the time, every time) it is documented as a some sort of message that he is sending. Each yard gained is a pronoun. Each pass a verb. Each time he reverses the field he adds a transition to whatever "statement" he is making to the assorted naysayers who doubt his viability as a professional prospect. At what point does White simply become a good quarterback? Because actually quarterbacking West Virginia superbly for four seasons and to four bowl victories didn't seem to do the trick. Perhaps the two touchdown drives (for the victorious South) that he orchestrated in the Senior Bowl will do it. Maybe the 39-yard TD pass to Mississippi's Mike Wallace was worded correctly. Probably not. But maybe.

4. Al Jefferson. Last season I began calling AJ the "Rain Ticket" after he landed in Minnesota in the deal for Kevin Garnett deal. It seemed like at least twice a week Jefferson was throwing up one of the best statistical games in the NBA. He was a beast. And, he is a beast, who dominated the Bulls last night. With 39 points and 9 boards, Jefferson led T-Wolves to their 9th win in 11 tries, which is pretty darn good for a team that went 2-14 in December.

5. The Arizona Cardinals. Who knows what will happen next week? Not me. Not you. Definitely not the (seriously) smart guys at Football Outsiders, whose Jan. 13 DVOA rankings had Arizona as the 18th best team in the NFL. And, as long as nobody knows then people will be talking themselves into the Cards. The week before the Super Bowl is the week that underdog-lovers everywhere can fine tune their own logic for rooting for (and betting on) Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald to topple the Steelers. Those who haven't bet on them yet feel like they're missing out and those who have won some money by tapping them over Philly and Carolina don't want to walk away just yet.

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