Giving Thanks on Bay Area Sports, 2015 Holiday Period
Wow, just haven't been able to keep up with an annual pace. But the Warriors setting a record start to an NBA season by winning their first 16 games got me feeling thankful. Here are some thoughts, from a long time Bay Area sports fan, random, and probably missing some points, but here goes nothing. Again, not an expert, mainly a long-time fan, letting off some steam.
World Champion Warriors
Wow! Never thought I would ever say that again! Not that long ago I was joking that GSW stands for gun shot wound, which is what the Cohan ownership was doing the club.
It was very exciting to follow the Warriors setting an NBA record by winning their first 16 games, even more exciting to see them finally win the NBA Championship in the 2014-2015 season, first time in 40 years. Thank you to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the new owners, Bob Meyers, the GM (with no experience other than being an agent, so from the other side of the aisle) and Jerry West, special advisor and the Logo himself, who I think has probably had a greater hand in this than most think, he's been a mentor to Meyers, I presume, plus a great eye for talent, you can hear it anytime he is interviewed, and especially to Steve Kerr and the team (of course!). And a thanks to Mark Jackson for helping to set the team up for Kerr to take to greater heights.
Of course, the players we're especially thankful for. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were the lead guys, but Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes helped a lot, as their improvement in the season helped a lot, plus veteran presence of Andrew Bogut, and the leadership of David Lee (by giving up his starting spot without rancor when he returned off the DL, when the team had a special thing going) and Andre Igoudala (by giving up his starting spot and becoming the 6th man, at the start of the season, to allow Barnes to start).
I probably should have written on this when they won, but it didn't feel right since I was not that deeply into the team lately, and I missed a lot. But as one of the fans who watched (really, listened, because back then the NBA was not worthy of prime-time TV real estate and I often had to watch the playoffs after midnight) them miraculously win with Rick Barry and a bunch of nobodies (and I felt so bad because Nate Thurmond was just traded away and missed this; luckily, he's a part of the Warriors broadcasting team, so I think he gets a ring this time), I was excited enough to follow vicariously as they won and kept on winning, setting a franchise record for wins, beating out the 1975-76 team's 59 wins (as the 74-75 championship team raised their game, but unfortunately was unable to repeat) with 67 wins.
I was pretty amazed at all the naysaying about the Warriors during the playoffs given that they won 67 games. I get that it was a huge jump from the 51 games they won in the previous season, but there are only 5 teams in NBA history with more wins: 95-96 Bulls with 72, 96-97 Bulls with 69, 71-72 Lakers with 69 (and they are ahead of the Warriors in terms of consecutive wins in a season with 33, accounting for nearly half their wins that season; apparently the Warriors will be facing LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day for tying the record, which is historically nice, just like beating the Lakers to go 16-0 was historically nice too), 66-67 76ers with 68 and 72-73 Celtics with 68. Only 5 teams with more wins! This really reminded me of the 74-75 Championship team, only instead of Barry and the Warriors, it's Curry and the Warriors today, though I would think that eventually Thompson and Green will be considered pretty good players as well. Clearly, though, with the Warriors today, the sum is greater than the total of the individual parts.
So I wasn't surprised by how well the Warriors are doing this season, though clearly I didn't think 16-0 well, as there were a lot of naysaying about their chances nationally. Even in the Finals last season, they were viewed as the underdog against the LeBron Cavaliers, especially after how close the Cavs were to winning the title even after losing key players in Kylie Irving and Kevin Love. While I understand why regular fans would think that, after seeing how the Warriors won during the season, then turned things around in the Cavs series by starting Igoudala, I have no doubt that Kerr and gang would have figured out how to win the series even if both of those players were available and not injured.
Just noticed the progression of championships for the Warriors, roughly 10 years between first and second, 20 years between second and third, and 40 years between third and fourth. Luckily, I think that this group should have at least one more, if not multiple more, in the future. They should join the great teams in history with a dynastic run, as most of their core players are young and still getting better - for example Curry this season already - and their success should draw key additional players (like it did with Igoudala) who want that ring. I expect them to retain Barnes at whatever deal is offered.
World Champion Giants
I also missed noting the Giants winning their third Championship in five seasons in 2014. Bumgarner was the headliner in this one, rampaging through the playoffs with a 1.03 ERA in 7 starts. But people forgot that he can't do it all in the games he didn't pitch in, and he was the only starter to lose in the NLDS against the Nats. It was nice seeing Hudson appreciating the championship that he had been desiring, and he earned this by pitching well up until the World Series. It was also nice seeing Ishikawa playing a key role in getting the Giants to the championship, as he should have been the NLCS MVP, not Bumgarner, and probably would have been, had the vote been done after the game (and his game winning homer).
I thought that they could finally repeat in 2015, but injuries cost them the chance to repeat. But the idea that they could repeat is supported by the Giants 34-17 record when Pence was in the lineup, that would have been more than enough to get into the playoffs and perhaps repeat. Even with the injuries, they were still competing for a playoff spot until the end of August, and within spitting distance entering into the series against the Dodgers at the end of the season, going 12-8 into that series.
Everyone is clamoring for a bolt from the sky for the 2016 Giants to be competitive, demanding an ace or else. While I would love to get a co-ace to go with Bumgarner, I think the Giants can win the division if they can at least sign back Leake, who I think is good enough to co-ace with Bumgarner. His overall stats don't scream it, but his career 3.48 ERA on the road, 3.59 ERA in his last three seasons, and 3.30 ERA on the road in the last three seasons does. Any of that, plus Peavy (3.58 ERA in 2015) and Heston (he had a 3.51 ERA with two starts to go in 2015) would give us four good starters plus Cain, who is a wildcard.
And, as I've shown with my analysis on obsessivegiantscompulsive, the Giants were able to keep the opponents down from 2009 to 2012 having four good starters and a composite 5th starter. As well, for all the complaints about the starting pitching, the 2015 team was 11th in ERA in the MLB with 3.95, which is around what they did in 2014, 16th with 3.74 ERA, and in 2012, 6th with 3.73 ERA. And in 2014, the Giants starting pitching was 0.08 better than the average, whereas in the 2015 the Giants starting pitching was 0.15 better than average, so the 2015 starting pitching was better relative to the league in 2014. Yes, the 2015 pitching staff was roughly the same as the championship teams of 2012 and 2014, not that far away in rank relative to the league and ERA.
On top of that, the lineup is loaded: Posey, Belt, Panik, Duffy, Crawford, Pagan, and Pence, plus whoever they put in LF. They averaged 4.30 runs scored per game and the average in the NL was 4.11. That would get us from 81 wins to 84 wins, and that's without Pence (pitching also got us to 84 wins too, each adding 3 wins). When Pence was in the lineup, the team averaged 5.18 runs scored per game (which means that the team only averaged 3.90 runs scored in games that he did not start). If these are the extremes, the middle area would still be around 4.5-4.6 runs scored per game. That would contribute roughly 4 more wins.
So while I would not mind getting Leake and another good pitcher, as I do love gilding the lily on occasion, but, for me, getting just Leake and Aoki back, if that is the minimal that gets done this off-season (plus perhaps Lincecum too), would not be the end of the world for me either. We have a great young lineup, with Williamson and Arroyo probably ready to join the team sometime during the season (both had great AFL), and a good enough pitching staff, which will be that much better because young pitchers like Strickland and Osich will pitch the whole season with us, Heston should be better prepared to pitch a whole season and not peter out by August, plus Blackburn, Black, Law, and Okert should be ready to join the team, as well, during the season (not that they necessarily will join and contribute, just that all these young guys should be ready to join), I'm very optimistic about the 2016 season, as long as there is not injuries up and down the lineup and rotation, like what happened in 2015.
The Not Champions
Being an inherently positive person, I don't have a lot to say about the 49ers, Raiders, or Sharks (or the Earthquakes either). But here goes.
I can't believe that the 49ers fired Harbaugh. Not that he's the best coach around, or perfect, but the process that went about afterward, ending up hiring Tomsula showed me that this was just the owner asserting his authority. And that's like a canary in the mine shaft for me regarding franchises, I'm joining all those who don't think much of Jed's handling of the team. I was turned around when he hired Harbaugh, particularly with the linkage to Walsh through him, but I think he just shot himself in the foot firing Harbaugh in the manner that he did.
Too bad, given the new stadium, though I must say that it was great getting the opportunity to have my picture taken with all five Super Bowl trophies was pretty exciting, so I applaud them for doing that, in a tour leading up to the Super Bowl that they are hosting next year.
I've never been a Raiders fan, but growing up in the East Bay, can't help but read and hear about them. Reminds me of Connie Mack and how the A's went from regular playoff teams to long-time losers. I recently read about Al's son, and he seems to be a really nice normal guy, considering who his father was, but he's playing hardball again with Oakland, and I expected the team to leave once more, never to return, because I don't see how that could happen again. I see fans in TV interviews saying that if they leave this time, they are done.
With the NFL thinking of charging any team hundreds of millions of dollars if that team moves to LA, I'm now more hopeful (not that I really hope, but hopefully you get what I mean) that they will work things out in Oakland, particularly since they look like they will lose the Warriors to SF in a few years, plus, as much as the A's are "their" team, clearly the Raiders have been the favored son, getting the Coliseum configured to accommodate the Raiders, with the A's trampled in their efforts to please the Raiders.
Never understood the rules of the game of hockey, other than you need to hit the puck into the goal, but been a Sharks fan since the beginning. I thought for sure McClellan would bring a Stanley Cup to us, especially with the astute drafting that the team has done in the last decade, but it was always close but no cigar. Hopefully the new coach (haven't learned his name yet...) can deliver, though I was shocked to see that Marleau was on the trading block. Hopefully they can deliver one day, though at least they look closer to it than the 49ers or Raiders at the moment.
Oh, just realized that I left out the A's. Beane really shot himself in the foot this time, he got into a fight with Donaldson (I think one writer called it a "feud") and had to trade him away. Yes, he traded away the guy who became the MVP the very next season. He got nice players in return but they will never measure up to what Donaldson did this last season. He also traded away Addison Russell in order to try to win that season and he's going to be a long-term keeper for the Cubs. I don't really care for the A's, really don't care for their fans, but it looks like they will be around still in Oakland because they can't move down to SJ.
So the Warriors brought home the trophy that I thought a few years back that either the 49ers or Sharks would do, but that was exciting nonetheless, perhaps more so, not only given the 40 years but also the levels of ineptitude we fans have been subjected to during the Cohan. And I think the Giants and Warriors could win again in 2016, while I think it would take miracles for any of the other teams to get that trophy. I thought a golden era was going to be upon the Bay Area in recent years, covering all the majors pro sports, baseball, football, hockey, maybe basketball, as Jackson was getting us into the playoffs, but I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with multiple trophies from the Giants and Warriors, a "sacrifice" I'm willing to make. :^D