Monday, June 4, 2012

GAME 3: Royals 2, A’s 0

Nick Creegan

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals carried a woeful 6-18 record at home into their game Sunday against the struggling Oakland Athletics, but Royals fans were able to witness the kind of timely hitting and solid pitching they had longed to see at Kauffman Stadium this season.

Before the game, Eric Hosmer had cautioned fans not to worry. All the Royals had to do was get a couple of players hot, Hosmer said.

“Our best baseball is yet to come, and we’ll have a good chance to get this thing rolling,” he said. “Someone is due to get hot.”

The “someone” happened to be Eric Hosmer.

His solo homer in the bottom of the second inning was all the runs right-hander Vincent Mazzaro and three Royals relievers needed to pin a 2-0 loss on the A’s.

Hosmer’s homer was a laser shot to deep center, and it was one of his two hits on the day. His first was all the runs Mazzaro (2-0), a spot starter whom the Royals recalled May 25 from Triple-A Omaha, would need.

“Vinnie threw the ball extremely well, and he never gave in,” manager Ned Yost said. “I thought he looked great, and he did a nice job today keeping his name in the hat.”

But in the top of the first, Yost had to wonder if the spot start would be the last start for Mazzaro.

He loaded the bases with two outs. Facing Brandon Inge, who already had a pair of grand slams this season, Mazzaro appeared to be in deep trouble. He wiggled out of this mess, striking out Inge and stranding three base runners.

From there, Mazzaro was flawless; he held the A’s, a team he pitched for in 2009 and 2010, scoreless on four hits over the six innings he worked. 
The Royals didn’t just rely on Mazzaro’s arm and Hosmer’s big bat, however, in beating Oakland. They got some nice glove work along the way, picked up an insurance run in the fifth and saw three relievers produce shutout work down the stretch. 
With A’s runners on second and third in the top of the fifth, Josh Reddick lofted a foul fly to left field.
“When Reddick hit the ball, I thought it was going to be in the stands,” Yost said. “Alex Gordon didn’t give up on the play.”

Gordon raced toward the stands and made the catch. Adam Rosales, who was on third, then tried to test Gordon’s arm. Rosales lost.
Gordon’s throw easily retired Rosales at the plate to preserve Mazzaro’s 1-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the fifth, the lead grew.
Jarrard Dyson opened the inning with a single off A’s starter Tommy Milone (6-5), whose performance was a match for Mazzaro’s. Dyson then stole second. He scored on Johnny Giavotella’s RBI single to center. 
Two relievers turned over that 2-0 lead to closer Jonathan Broxton, who finished the shutout and picked up a save with a scoreless ninth. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New York Knicks: Dealing with disappointment

Nick Creegan

The New York Knicks, the second most valuable sports franchise ($780 million) in America, always seem to manage to disappoint their fans. This season is no exception, because Knicks are the sorriest team in the Eastern Conference.

Why do the Knicks earn that title and not the last-place Washington Wizards?

Well, the Knicks are the ones who are supposed to win. Did anyone see the Wizards in the playoffs? No. The Knicks, though, were projected as the fifth seed in the East before the season. Nobody expected them to bomb as they have, right?

Or maybe that’s just the oh-so hopeful yet always disappointed Knicks fan talking. 
I have memories of watching the Knicks in the ‘90s with my family, and I can still hear the cheer in their voices as the Knicks found ways to make the playoffs.

“Thank God for Ewing!” my grandfather would say.

And only a few more weeks into the early summer as the Knicks would take on either Alonzo Mourning and the Miami Heat or Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers, those shouts would be at higher decibels. The expletives seemed to take the place of “Thank God.” It was more along the lines of … well, you get the picture.

So where have the Knicks of the 2000s gone wrong? Why haven’t they been able to win a playoff game in more than 10 years? I’ve heard the “Curse of Ewing” excuse, but that’s all it is:  an excuse.
No curse exists -- not in sports. The Knicks have all the money a franchise could ask for; they comfortably traded half of their starting roster to the Denver Nuggets — they are now No. 2 in the West Conference, mind you — for Carmelo Anthony, the answer to all their problems. Yeah, right. But the Knicks lack defense, and they traded for a player in ‘Melo who has never had a record of playing defense. He has performed well on offense, but has his offense gotten the Knicks any farther than they were without him? No. Not if the goal is to win an NBA championship, which most teams dream of doing.

Lately, rumors have surfaced that the always-in-transition Knicks might trade Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to the Orlando Magic for toxic Dwight Howard. The Knicks must not have learned their lesson. A trade for Howard would be a good move from a basketball skills point of view, but he doesn’t help team chemistry. The Knicks could be setting themselves up for even more failure in making that move alone. But, hey, nothing else has worked, so why not?

Currently, the Knicks sit at No. 8 in the East with a 4-4 away record and an embarrassing 3-8 home record. Fans have to pay more money to see more losses. Time Warner Cable owners aren’t missing anything special. Some people are really buying the idea that last night’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats was going to create the necessary “surge” the Knicks need to start playing good basketball.
Um, not quite.

The Knicks were supposed to beat the Bobcats. Even though their star scored only one point, they were facing one of the worst teams in the NBA. Before facing the Knicks, the Bobcats had a record of 3-14. Of the 30 NBA teams, the Bobcats ranked 26th in offensive efficiency and 28th in defensive efficiency.

Why wouldn’t the Knicks be able to blow them out?

It’s not a bad thing that ‘Melo, Amare & Co. won. It’s a good start for the Knicks, but they have to keep the wins rolling and actually win games against teams they might see in the playoffs — if they go that far.

Maybe players just come to New York and get blinded by the bright lights on Broadway. They might well be saying to themselves: “I’m in New York City, and I’m living like a superstar. So what more do I need? A championship? Championships? Who the hell cares about championships when you have gullible fans and a gullible owner who pays you $100 mill?”

These overpaid “ballers” could be thinking this exact thought as they pop their Dom Perignon right before they "choke" — as Miller always said the Knicks would do.

To a New Yorker, the Knicks are an embarrassment. Fans can play the blame game and point the finger in many directions. Coach Mike D’Antoni could be blamed for not running the right offense and for putting no emphasis on defense. Landry Fields could be blamed for his inconsistency.  Some could blame Stoudemire, pointing out he’s lost his explosiveness. They can even blame ‘Melo himself for being a ball-hog.

No matter who you decide to blame, these Knicks need a makeover if they hope to turn Madison Square Garden into the high-spirited arena it was in the past.

If not, Spike Lee will need to find an orange-and-blue paper bag that fits.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kobe looks as if his run of NBA greatest is winding down

Nick Creegan

I only saw a few of Michael Jordan’s last games and triumphs, because at 20, I wasn’t around to watch Jordan rule a decade of basketball and kill opposing players’ hoop dreams.

I’m a basketball fan from another era, yet I still know that Jordan will go down as perhaps the greatest ever.
I saw the door close on Air Jordan’s career, but I also saw it open on Kobe Bryant’s.

Like Jordan, Kobe, 33,  is loved by many, hated by some but respected by all who defend him on the court. He doesn’t play for regular-season acclaim; Kobe plays to win championships. And for most of his career, he’s been able to do just that – win championships.

Under the guidance of coach Phil Jackson, Kobe and the L.A. Lakers won five titles. With and without Shaq O’Neal, Kobe proved he was a championship-caliber player.

Is Kobe still that same player?

The last time he won a NBA championship was in 2010. And the way things are looking this season, he won’t win one in 2012 – unless, of course, the Lakers can somehow acquire Dwight Howard. Kobe could take the route of, say, Kurt Thomas and be a role player aimlessly hoping his team can rally around his leadership and get him one step closer to being arguably on the same level as Jordan.

That’s unlikely.

Whether Lakers fans like it or not, they are witnessing the decline of a star. LeBron James will fully be able to claim his place as the game’s best – well, King James will as soon as he figures out a way to win a championship.

Granted, as of now, Kobe is the leading scorer in the NBA. He did drop 42 points two nights in a row, but how long do people expect for that kind of performance from Kobe? Not long.

For right after his 42-point game Jan. 14 against the L.A. Clippers, he went 7-22 from the field and scored 14 against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks -- the same Mavs that swept Kobe and the Lakers last season in the Western Conference Finals.

We’re only 15 games into a strike-shortened NBA season, which means more back-to-back games and more injuries. Kobe is currently nursing a wrist injury and had nagging knee problems. To lessen the risk of injury, he should be improving his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, right?

Well, he’s taking more shots from outside, but he’s missing more, too. Kobe is shooting 24 percent from beyond the arc, and his team isn’t benefiting from un-Kobe-like accuracy.

Now, I’m not saying Kobe Bryant won’t go down as one of the game’s greatest, because without a doubt he will. What am I saying is that his door is closing.He still has gas in his tank, but not much.

He is far from the player I used to see -- the player who shredded defenses and scored at will, even when triple-teamed; the player who put on that hideous game-face and who everyone knew wouldn’t miss a big shot; the player who proved to the world -- not once but twice -- that he could win rings without Shaq.

To me, it’s been a great run, Kobe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Manning, reborn 'Sack Exchange' make Giant statement in upsetting Packers

Nick Creegan

The Super Bowl picture is starting to get a lot clearer. And what is a surprise to many is that the Green Bay Packers will be watching it from home while Eli Manning and the surging New York Giants are a game away from going for their second ring this century.

It’s hard to determine if this 37 -20 win Sunday night was a wonderful performance by the Giants defense or a sorry performance by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.

So let’s sum it up: Both teams punted twice, had three penalties, an interception and virtually the same amount of possession time. What proved the major difference were the three unusual fumbles that the Packers committed -- and lost. They had only lost six fumbles all season, including the postseason, before Sunday's game, and Rodgers recorded his first lost fumble of the season. The Giants seem to be reinventing the New York Sack Exchange, sacking Rodgers four times.

All season long, the Packers looked like a well-tuned scoring machine behind Rodgers, their MVP-quality quarterback who led them to a 15-1 regular-season record. Sunday night, he wasn’t given much help from his receivers. The group, which proved clutch in the regular season, dropped four balls in the first half alone.

The last play of the half epitomized the game for both teams. Manning's Hail Mary brought back flashes of David Tyree's catch in the Super Bowl four years ago. Hakeem Nicks,  against triple coverage, had Manning's pass hit him in the facemark yet, as if with divine intervention, he held on.

Must be the gloves.

The miracle throw-and-catch sent the Giants into the locker room with a 10-point lead, which was first halftime deficit for Rodgers and the Packers this season.

Trailing 30-13 at one point, Rodgers tried to mount a comeback late in the game. He couldn't -- not in this game against Manning and the Giants.

The last time Manning and the Giants were a wildcard team and played Green Bay in the playoffs they went on to beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. A similar scenario might be in the making. The only difference is that the Giants faced Green Bay in the NFC Championship in 2008.

This year, they will be taking on coach Jim Harbaugh and his defensive-minded San Francisco 49ers.
In their history, the Giants are 4-0 in championship games. Hats off to The New York Giants. Tom Coughlin hasn’t smiled this much and cursed so little since 2008.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gun Slinger

Nick Creegan

Steelers fans cheered a week ago when they found out their team would be playing a freefalling Denver Broncos team that had lost three straight with an impotent passing game that Tim Tebow led.  

Why would the defending AFC champion Steelers have anything to worry about?

Who’s Tebow anyway? His magic ended four weeks ago.

If he couldn’t move his team against an 11th-ranked defense in the Kansas City Chiefs, how the hell would one of the most inaccurate QBs in the NFL have any success against coordinator Dick LeBeau’s No. 1 ranked defense?

Champ Bailey would have to run back a 99-yard interception for a TD with a few seconds left in the fourth quarter, right? Or maybe while Tebow was on bended knee, Matt Prater would kick a 65-yard FG and get another win in miraculous fashion.

Well, neither of those scenarios came to pass.

Some “Tebowing” was involved at the end of the game, though. It came right after Tebow threw for 316 yards -- an average of 31 yards per throw -- and connected with Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard, game-winning TD in overtime.

All right, wait a minute here. Time out!

Am I writing this correctly? Tebow threw for not one but two touchdowns? You mean he was actually the main X-factor for his team against the best defense in the NFL?

With a little Mile High magic and a whole lot of trigger-pulling, Tebow shredded the Steelers from the second quarter until the thrilling and odd-defying ending. He hit the best defense with three of the biggest pass pays it had allowed all season and has now brought his Broncos farther than anyone — besides Skip Bayless — could have imagined.

The key to Denver’s offensive success was its read-option threat. The Steelers were so concerned about stopping the runs of either Willis McGahee or Tebow, they left no deep coverage, which opened the field for Tebow to throw bombs and for his playmakers to come up big. He passed for 72 more yards than Ben Roethlisberger with half the attempts and half the completions.

Absurd, I know.

With some help from his defense and his playmaking wide receivers, Tebow ultimately defined this win. It appears now that Brady Quinn, the Broncos backup QB, is out of the postseason equation, and No. 15 has cemented his spot as the starter.

In the game Sunday, Tebow did even better than team vice president John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, by actually winning his first playoff game against the same team Elway lost to in his playoff debut.

For the Mile High City, this was its highest moment in more than 10 years. It appears this will remain the high point unless, of course, the magic continues Saturday in Foxboro, Mass., against an old friend: New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, the former Denver coach who drafted both Tebow and Thomas.

The Broncos are a 14-point underdog against the Patriots, the top seed in the AFC. But if you like keeping your money, don’t bet any of it against Tim Tebow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A View From a Bridge #FreeToTweet

This was a speech I delivered at the NAACP ACT-SO National Competition after winning the regional competition. This exemplifies my freedom of speech #FreeToTweet

I have just come back from a journey in the world of nearly five months. I have traveled 15,000 miles. I set foot on three continents. I have visited five countries, four African islands and five African colonies. I have sailed under five flags. I have seen a black president inaugurated. I have walked the African big bush and heard the night cry of leopards. I have traded in African markets, talked with African chiefs and been the guest of white governors. I have seen the Alhambra and the great mosque at Cordova and lunched with H.G. Wells; and I am full, very full with things that must be said. - Written by W. E. B Dubois on December 16, 1923.

I too stand before you today full of questions that beg to be answered. Why am I a 17 year old high school senior plagued with concern in a world of uncertainty? It is perpetuated for many reasons. Some of those reasons are the lack of adult leadership, the lack of economic security, and the lack of knowing our history. The tale goes if you do not know your history; you will be doomed to repeat it. I am committed to learning and practicing the steps that are necessary to doing my part in healing our country economically and culturally.
Is it fair
that a young 8 year old boy was turned away with his mother from a barber shop because of the texture of his hair? That young 8 year old boy was me and at the time I did not understand the concept of discrimination. As the product of a socially accepted inter-racial couple, I understand that America has come a long way from the bigotry of generations before mine. This is exemplified in recent events such as Senator John McCain delivering his concession speech. He sited, "A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States." This is proof that we are moving towards a more UNITED States of America.

When one thinks of anything that is beneficial
in times of crisis- we should not be thinking of the weapons of war or pointing the finger in order to place blame but instead think of the knowledge that is overflowing everywhere for the taking. The weapon of knowledge has saved the heart of America in economic crisis and War-time before and can do the same today. I hope the leaders of our beloved country take advantage of it. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the Vietnam War and his motto was saving the soul of America. I believe Dr. King was explaining that if our leaders did not use the necessary knowledge to end the war at the right time our country would be like an 18 wheeler truck going full speed without a driver. To end this present economic crisis and gain back our morality and economic security the U.S. must not be a blind pilot handing out bailouts left and right but instead look deep into the problem and see where the foundation started to deteriorate and start repairing the damage not patching it up.

Building goodwill and better friendships
among American citizens is the necessary first step to unifying our country. The overall enthusiasm in our recent electoral process shows proof that America is ready and willing to build a bridge over our differences to help restore our prosperity and to defend our security in a dangerous world. The Former Triboro bridge was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy bridge not too long ago and RFK Jr. believed this tribute to his father was appropriate because his father was "about bridging all the differences". I like many Americans preceding me, am a literal embodiment of what can happen when different worlds come together. A bridge; African American, Caucasian and West Indian cultures came together to create the young man standing before you today. I am the bridge between our history and the future. I am the bridge that can increase communication between young and old. I am the Bridge that can articulate why my generation's pants may sag lower than the Dow Jones stock market. I am the BRIDGE that must find a way to maintain, nurture, & restore a planet passed onto my generation in such dire state. I know that I am not alone on this interstate- 911 as you can see by the presence of my peers who are also here today. It is only by BRIDGING our gaps together that we can create a real bridge over troubled waters. We as a people must unite together and construct this bridge- Our nation, the present, and your future depend on it. Many of our former leaders built their legacy on these four points so that I could stand upon them and have a 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nick Creegan Interviews ESPN's Skip Bayless & Rob Parker

Part 1

Part 2

Nick Creegan

Skip Bayless and Rob Parker share their opinions about Blake Griffen's race along with their thoughts on other athletes.