There's no question Ian Kennedy has it coming. He'll get handed a massive suspension for his role in Tuesday night's melee and he's clearly earned it.
I don't think he meant to hit Yasiel Puig period, but he did. I don't think he meant to hit Zack Greinke in the head but that's clearly where that pitch was screaming towards. What he meant to do is irrelevant, what he did is at hand and throwing at Greinke's head in that circumstance after everything had happened is worthy of the a lengthy punishment.
What I'm trying to come to terms with -- and frankly I don't know the answer to the question yet -- is what this says about Kennedy. He led the National League in hit batters last year and leads that category this year. Does that make him the ultimate teammate? Dirty? Or both? Or neither; maybe that stat is just indicative of a lack of control.
Perhaps he's the baseball equivalent of what Danny Ainge used to be; the guy you love when he's on your side and the one you hate when he's anywhere else.
To speak with Kennedy personally you'd never believe he's "that" guy. Given the fact this is now three straight seasons where Kennedy has been involved in extra-curricular activity with the Dodgers makes you wonder. Is it reality or reputation?
The other issue stemming from Tuesday night is the role of the coach. Whether it's Mark McGwire or Don Mattingly. Alan Trammell, Matt Williams or Kirk Gibson, the role of the coach here is to take a situation that is a DEFCON 3 and scale it back to a 4, not amplify it to a 2.
Kennedy deserves to have the hammer fall but so do McGwire, and to a lesser extent Mattingly, for taking a bad situation and making it worse.
Truth is, I think the Suns roster has a few guys that might appeal to teams who are fringe playoff teams. It's a roster filled with good role players, which clearly makes for a poor basketball team when that's all you have. But one of those players, added to a roster that already has better, established talent and now you're talking.
It's not that I hate Gortat. He's fine, but not for the money he'll want in a year. It's not that I love Zeller. He's a guy with skills that I'm not sure translates in the NBA. But it's time for a reboot and to give the new GM some toys to play with.
I want to see what Ryan McDonough can do with a late lottery pick. That's where he seems to work his magic; finding the guys who can actually equate to value in this league.
Can you teach aggressiveness? Can you learn it the way you would learn a jump shot? Or how to properly box out? If the Suns believe they can, with a sprinkle of luck, maybe they get the steal of the draft.
The last couple of days, US Airways Center was the hub for college basketball's elite.
Wednesday it was Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Shabazz Muhammad and Rudy Gobert. Thursday it was Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and CJ McCollum. Maybe it ends up being Bennett or Porter, but I have to think the player the Suns will take at #5 is somewhere in that group.
McLemore's name pops off the page. In a draft filled with anything but sure-things, I'm not going to try to convince you that the Kansas shooting guard is any different. But unlike most of the other players, whose concerns seem to be focused on the physical, with McLemore it's about the mental. It's about whether he is aggressive enough -- alpha dog enough -- to thrive in the NBA.
In a mock draft write up from a couple of weeks ago, ESPN's Chad Ford had this to say about McLemore:
"Concerns arose among NBA teams during his interviews. Although everyone attests to McLemore's humility and thinks he's a great young man, his lack of aggressiveness shined through even in the interviews. "The key question is: Do you love to win, or do you hate to lose?" one GM said. "The good ones love to win. The great ones hate to lose. McLemore's a love-to-win type of prospect. Oladipo's a hate-to-lose type."
That was a mock draft two weeks ago. In his latest mock, Ford has McLemore dropping one spot. To the Suns.
The concerns over his aggressiveness surfaced during the season when it was widely known that Bill Self was encouraging him to be more aggressive and stop deferring to the seniors. It was enough to prompt McLemore to address them on Wednesday.
"I could've done those things at Kansas but that's just how the Kansas system is. I was just playing Kansas basketball. Now, I have an opportunity to play free and play my own game.
"I know deep down inside I can take over games. I know I have that dog in me to take over games."
Is it possible those concerns allow McLemore to slip to the Suns? I sure hope so. Ryan McDonough said Wednesday he was a "beautiful shooter." Some have compared him to Ray Allen.
At first, I was doubtful a player could be taught something as innate as aggressiveness. But then I remembered on many of Mike D'Antoni's teams some of the players new to the system had to be taught encouraged to be aggressive. Mike would get angry when they didn't shoot the shot they were supposed to. It took time, but eventually many of players played his style with no fear of retribution.
People do change. All the time.
Chances are the Suns won't get the opportunity. It's difficult to see a player with such upside making it to five, but should it happen, the Suns shouldn't hesitate.
There are certain things in this world that I just don't do, and rooting for the Spurs is certainly in my top five.
Some in this world (lookin' at you Gambo) believe that a hatred for the Miami Heat and their ambitious goal of global domination through talent consolidation is more vile-worthy than the Spurs.
Sounds to me like someone has lost their way.
So for this edition of The Five, here are the five reasons why I could never root for the Spurs:
1. My own weakness - I should be over the past disappointments; be the bigger man kinda thing. And it's true, the Horry hip check, the suspensions, all the playoff losses do feel like they're a from another time and place. In a perfect world none of it should matter anymore. It's not a perfect world. I'm actually encouraged that I still hate the Spurs. It means that somewhere way deep inside, I still love the Suns. Yeah, I know, I'm sick, right?
2. Gregg Popovich is a cyborg - Normal, human coaches would have long since fallen victim to a sub-.500 season or a lottery pick here or there. Instead there's that stat Gambo had the other day: since the Spurs made their last appearance in the NBA Finals, no team has won more games than...the Spurs. That feat, in a league that punishes you for getting old, with no high draft picks or big money free agents is proof that Pop is half man, half machine. And maybe the best coach in the history of the league.
3. The Big Shaq-tus/Terry Porter Era - Put another notch in the "get over it" column. In their desperate attempt to solve the Spurs, the Suns put their fans through a year they'll never get back.
4. Leonard, Green, Splitter, etc, etc. - Scares me to death that this team isn't going anywhere even if/when Tim Duncan decides to call it quits and along those lines...
5. Retirement - If you could promise me ("Do you know what a blood oath is Mr. Ness?") that Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Popovich would all call it quits if they won the NBA Finals, then maybe...maybe. Nope. I hate ‘em.
Gambo and I didn't win the Powerball. The Suns didn't win the lottery.
Life goes on.
In the end, the result is something you can certainly live with. Gambo and I couldn't retire, but we still have a pretty cool gig. And the Suns have the fifth pick in the draft. While it's always preferable to improve your lot in life, Ryan McDonough will have plenty of decent options to sift through:
It would be wrong to assume there are no impact players in this year's draft. Just ask Golden State. A combined 22 players went off the board before they selected Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. They're out there and now it's up to McDonough to take his reputation for a test spin and find them. Maybe it's one of those players. Maybe it's Trey Burke, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum or Shabazz Muhammad.
On an unrelated note, if you're a conspiracy theorist (I'm looking right at you, Doug Franz), it's pretty easy to decipher why the top pick landed in Cleveland. Clearly David Stern knows LeBron is going back to the Cavs in a year, so he's doing his best to make sure LBJ has a talent crew around him.
I've found that the best source of movie reviews is the kid working behind the popcorn counter. They've seen everything that's out; you won't get any movie-critic-artsy-fartsy nonsense -- just a good, common-people review of what's at the multiplex.
Wednesday night, I'm waiting to see Star Trek, and the popcorn kid tells me that what I should be seeing is Mud with Mathew McConaughey, which is funny because he's now the third person to share this with me. In a summer movie season filled with blockbusters like Iron Man, Star Trek and the upcoming Hangover 3 and Man of Steel, it's Mathew freakin' McConaughey claiming scoreboard with his 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The author's premise, in this case NFL writer Chris Burke, is to praise the Cardinals for their work this offseason while acknowledging reality; they play in the NFC West. The 49ers are loaded. The Seahawks are loaded. They are not only the two best teams in the division but perhaps the conference, heck maybe in the NFL. Oh yeah, and St. Louis kinda killed it in the draft and look to be trending upwards.
Burke suggests that the Cardinals could be vastly improved in 2013 with nary an extra win to show for it. I agree with the premise but with one caveat I'll get to in a second.
I agree the Cardinals have had a good great offseason. There are question marks that can't be glossed over -- Daryl Washington's dicey status and the selection of Tyrann Mathieu in particular -- but between the draft, free agency and the acquisition of Carson Palmer, I think Keim and company nailed it.
I agree with the notion that it might not matter in this division. Box office is all that matters in Hollywood and I'm pretty sure Mud ain't gettin' any.
What if something happens to Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson? What if NFL defensive coordinators, with a year's worth of tape as reference, figure out a way to slow their attacks? What if one of those teams is besieged by injuries? It's the NFL, it happens.
I understand the "what if" argument isn't the most sound one, but all you have to do is go back and look at preseason predictions from any year to understand that very little in this league goes according to script. You have to be prepared when they don't and I believe the Cardinals are prepared.
The 49ers are Iron Man. The Seahawks are Star Trek. The Cardinals are Mud, and I mean that in the nicest way.
It's been eight years since the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Justin Upton; he spent six seasons in a D-backs uniform, was traded four months ago and will play against his former team for the first time Monday night.
And I still haven't figured him out.
When Upton steps onto that field Monday, is he the hero or the villain?
I was hoping by now for clarity regarding one of the most enigmatic athletes to ever play in Arizona, but as I sit to write this, I realize I have more questions about Upton than I ever did when he was here.
Why were the Diamondbacks so intent on trading him? Or, more to the point, why did they actively put themselves in a position where they had no choice but to trade him?
Will he ever reach this much talked about ceiling or is this who he is? And by "this" I mean a wildly talented player who routinely fluctuates between greatness and just so-so-ness. Some like to point out that he's only 25. I like to counter that he has amassed nearly 2,800 at bats in his major league career.
I don't want to see him fail but I sure as hell don't want to see him kill it either. Why is that?
More than anything though -- this was something Nick Piecoro touched upon in his Upton story this weekend -- how different would this all have turned out if Upton had gone on the DL for his thumb injury a year ago? If he sits and heals and has a second half as dominant as his 2011 season, I can't imagine the Diamondbacks would have moved him. And why didn't he go on the DL? He said he wanted to play through it. Fine. Wasn't it then incumbent on the D-backs to be the grown-ups here and make him get healthy? Guys play through injuries all the time, I get it, but if he can't even grip a bat properly, it sure seems counter-productive to run him out there every day.
The answers aren't likely to come over these next three games. If Upton has a great series but the D-backs win two of three, who won? Who lost?
Just because something starts the same way doesn't mean, by rule, it has to end the same way.
You and I can go to the same restaurant and have completely different experiences. Between the waiters, the chef, the food, the hostess and the valet attendant (I don't usually valet the car but I needed one more example), it's all a series of twists and turns that potentially yields uncommon results. Bear that in mind when I make the following comparison:
Ryan McDonough reminds me of Josh Byrnes.
Not the man, mind you, the situation. I write this having not met him yet -- that moment comes Thursday when Gambo and I host the show from US Airways Center.
Young, bright, super innovative, a blend of the new world analytics and the old school, eyeballs-on-the-target scouting, a pedigree of working with some of the best in the industry. A highly-praised selection from the moment it was announced.
Now, we all know Byrnes' tenure with the Diamondbacks did not end well, be it the Eric Byrnes contract or letting A.J. Hinch ride shotgun from the manager's seat.
But at the beginning, there was hope. Hope that the D-backs made a wise choice. Hope that Byrnes would stabilize a ship that was floundering from bad signings (Russ Ortiz), bad decisions (Wally Backman) and bad PR (Jerry Colangelo shown the door).
He ushered in what was presumed to be an era of believability. For a long while it was just that.
The hope is that McDonough can do the same. I have yet to read one credible NBA observer who doesn't think the Suns absolutely killed it with this hire. When Lon Babby was on our show Tuesday, even he joked that it's been a long time since he's heard widely praised and his name in the same sentence.
McDonough has a mess to cleanup himself: Michael Beasley, mediocre draft picks, a plethora of future picks, and a coaching carousel that made us all nauseous.
I am as hopeful today about McDonough as I was that day about Byrnes.
I am even more hopeful that just because their tales start the same way, doesn't mean it has to end so.
Watching Steph Curry in these playoffs has been a whole lot of bitter and just a little bit of sweet for Suns fans.
The Warriors guard has emerged as one of the best players during these playoffs. A tier-one NBA star? No, but certainly one of the top players in the second tier and a guy Suns fans will forever recognize as the one who got away.
That's what makes his emergence this spring as bitter as a piece of dark chocolate served with an IPA. The night of the 2009 NBA Draft, it was the whoop heard round the world, the one that burst from the Suns draft room thinking they had just acquired Curry.
Steve Kerr told Gambo and I months ago that, yes, they thought they nabbed him that night. And Bob Young of azcentral did a nice job playing the what-if card regarding Curry and the Suns.
The Suns could have had him. The good news is that they could again. Well, kinda/sorta.
Sometime this week (that's a guess, but I think a good one) the Suns will hire a GM. On May 21, we'll watch the lottery to see what pick that new talent evaluator will have at his disposal. On June 27, that man gets the chance to put his stamp on this franchise using a premium pick -- something that hasn't happened in decades.
This is the part where you have to remind yourself that Curry wasn't a top pick. He wasn't a top-five pick. He was the seventh pick, a guy who came into the league with a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of question marks. Sound familiar? Sure sounds to me like, oh I don't know, just about every player in this year's draft.
The point is, that franchise-changer is out there. Somewhere in this draft is a guy who can alter your fortunes. And it's up to Ryan McDonough or Jeff Weltman or whomever to find him.
Maybe, just maybe, he'll be good enough to allow you to forget the night the Suns found, and lost, their franchise-changer.
The first month of the Arizona Diamondbacks season is over and it's provided enough talking points to fill a whole season. Here are my top five.
1. The bullpen
The D-backs have blown 10 saves. The Major League average through the first month of the season is three. The problem is that it's not just one guy; just about everybody (Putz, Bell, Hernandez, Sipp) is fighting it right now. So there aren't a ton of decisions to be made. No one to promote or demote, and in that regard it's somewhat liberating. You don't have a choice; the guys in the pen just need to do better unless you plan on making Matt Reynolds your closer -- which you most certainly will not do. One note of irony; the D-backs won six of the 10 games in which they blew a save. Go figure.
2. Ian Kennedy is not an ace
A return to his 2011 form was part of the blueprint for the 2013 D-backs but it just hasn't happened yet. In fact, Kennedy continues to look more like last year's model. Ace of this staff? The guy I would want starting in game one of a playoff series? A good guy? Good teammate? Good competitor? Yes on all counts. A Major League "ace"? I fear Ian has been miscast in that role.
3. The Upton thing
Here is a tweet from the PR arm of Major League Baseball:
Justin Upton of @braves named NL Player of the Month for April. 12 HR & .734 SLG were tops in @mlb.
Aaron Hill. Adam Eaton. Jason Kubel. Didi Gregorius. Willie Bloomquist. At some point they'll get these key cogs back, and when they do they'll be a different looking team. But until then, you must...
5. Continue to survive
Which they have done a fine job of up until this point. Between the injuries, blown saves, the Upton thing, the slow starts of Miguel Montero and Martin Prado and the inconsistent starting pitching, the D-backs have been able to stay close. More than that, they were in first place before the nightmare series against the Giants. Paul Goldschmidt, Gerardo Parra, Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley all have had a lot to do with that.