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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kramers talks MLB, NBA, Gucci Mane and height

Let me begin this column with a dedication to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first person to ever venture into outer space 50 years ago. Gagarin’s sojourn into the cosmos on April 12, 1961 was, all things considered, one of the more kickass events in human history. Yuri is like the Soviet John Glenn, except he was first in space and was literally as tall as my mom (a formidable 5’ 2”). Gucci Mane was obviously in outer space as well when he ruined his otherwise wholesome image by throwing a woman out of a moving car for refusing to go have sex with him in a hotel for $150. She was obviously not a Gucci fan, and thus she did not allow him to take her to Gucci land. Gucci’s cold actions have got his fans, myself included, saying “Burr!” So in this emotionally vulnerable state, with my heart heavy for Gucci’s sturm und drang but swelling with pride remembering the pinnacles of human achievement represented by tiny Yuri, it’s only right to examine a sport which, for me, reflects this inner tumult.

To me, the most frustrating sport to watch is baseball. Baseball can be epically boring for huge scoreless stretches and sometimes features all of a team’s scoring within the span of give minutes. But baseball remains America’s second favorite sport after professional football. “America’s pastime” garnered the primary support of 17 percent of sports fans polled by Sports Business Daily in January. Pro football received 31 percent while college football got 12 percent of fans. Men’s soccer clocks in with four percent, but that’s relatively strong compared to the NBA’s meager six. Surely with only the MLS actually possible to see live in the US, the National Basketball Association should be the favorite of more than six percent of sports fans. So to please the people who love these sports and probably tire of the endless football and basketball that appears under my byline, this one is for you. This week I turn again to Major League Baseball hoping for the best and expecting the worst from my long suffering Kansas City Royals, then the more pleasurable pursuit of the NBA playoffs. My goal: a cathartic exercise of sports demons, à la Anthony Hopkins in The Rite, via greater understanding, and also crucifixes.

After writing my baseball and golf column last year I decided to at least pay a modicum of attention to each in the next few years so that I could expand my repertoire of sports topics for columns like these. I pretty much failed—as Dean Pelton said on Community, “TV’s gotten crazy good lately.” But I did follow the Royals during the off-season as they traded Zach Grienke to the Milwaukee Brewers in another of their long saga of cost-dumping moves which have seen them part ways with the likes of Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and David Cone. But the Royals are off to a surprisingly strong start this season, currently sitting at second in the AL Central with a record of 7-4 behind the red-hot Cleveland Indians. The Royals billed the Grienke trade as a move to secure the future of the franchise with more cheap potential stars in the minor leagues, yet their record indicates that we may not have to wait too long to see these Royals achieve the mediocrity we crave so deeply after years of last-place. The Royals’ young pitching staff, though underwhelming on paper, has been surprisingly solid this season with a combined ERA of 4.24. Reliever Joakim Soria is one of the best in the MLB with an ERA of 1.78 last season. The Royals have also been productive on offense, ranking eighth in the league with 62 runs scored. KC’s attack has been led by shortstop Mike Avilés.

Several other beleaguered fan bases have been given an unexpected gift this season from their oft terrible teams. The Baltimore Orioles are surprisingly off to a 6-4 start, which is currently good enough to tie for the lead in the AL East with the perennial division winners, the New York Yankees. Only time will tell if the Orioles are a legitimate contender in the division of if the Yanks are just off to a slower start than usual. There certainly ought to be some doubters in Baltimore with the Orioles ranking 25th in runs, 28th in batting percentage, and 28th in on-base percentage. They will have to improve their hitting beyond the solid efforts of veteran 2B Brian Roberts if they want to compete with the Yankees.

The other story in the AL East is Terry Francona’s slumping Boston Red Sox, who currently sit in the division cellar at 2-9. Daisuke Matzusaka has been struggling and the offense has struggled to produce runs. David Ortiz is too old to be the main slugger for the Sox, so unless they can turn it around quickly it may be time to make some changes in Boston. It’s not time to push the proverbial panic button in Boston, but it’s close.

The last pleasant surprise of the nascent MLB season has been the Cleveland Indians. Perhaps spurred by the “resurgence” of Charlie Sheen’s fame, the team that was the butt of man jokes in Major League is currently leading my Royals by a game in the AL Central with an impressive 8-4 record. Pitcher Justin Masterson has an excellent 1.35 ERA while Asdrubal Cabrera already has 4 homers and 10 RBI.

Finally, because I love the NBA playoffs like Ben Tape loves corgis, I can’t let this timely column go by without some brain droppings on the subject. The most intriguing matchup of the first round pits the three seed from the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, against the six seed, the New York Knicks. The Celtics have looked worn down lately, and I don’t think their depleted front line of Kevin Garnett’s corpse, Shaq’s corpse, Jeff Green, and Nenad Kristic can stop the double-pronged, Yuri Gagarin-esque Amare and Carmelo Show. My pick is the Knicks in six. My NBA Finals prediction is that the Oklahoma City Thunder will be too strong for the Lakers and emerge from the Western Conference Finals to face the Bulls, who will defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I can’t wait for this matchup–Kevin Durant’s unparalleled scoring ability, Derrick Rose against Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins against Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. I think the Bulls simply have too much firepower, inside and out, and will take the series in seven games thanks to home court advantage in the final contest. Derrick Rose is like the Yuri Gagarin of his generation, except not the first player to win a championship, not Russian, and not 5’ 2”.

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