It’s a great day to be a sports fan.  The NBA and NHL are both in the midst of their final series and we’re getting into some good mid-season baseball.  Tuesday was also the start of the MLB Draft which in recent years has really made a move in terms of importance.  It seems like all the majors sports are placing more of an emphasis on the draft.  I can understand it with the NBA and NFL since guys step in right away.  It also makes sense for the NHL because it gets them some buzz during their offseason.  I am however surprised at the MLB pushing the draft so much.  Is it just because of Strasburg or is it a part of their larger strategy that includes stuff like running their own blogging network, tweeting info via twitter.com and the expansion of MLB TV?  Either way, this is the first time in a long time that I know much about the MLB draft going into it.

It’s Draft-y In Here

I’ve been following the MLB draft hype, although about 90 percent of what is written is about Strasburg’s amazing ability (which I don’t doubt) and about Boras’ insane demands (which I also don’t doubt).  I can appreciate that this is the big money story here and Strasburg might well be a once in a generation prospect, but I’d like to see a little more digging into other guys that are likely to be good players coming out of the draft.  Maybe that’s just me though.  It was nice to see the draft being prominently displayed on a lot of big name sports websites.  I can’t remember the last time I saw this many mainstream mocks.

I’ll give my .02 on the Strasburg contract debate, for whatever it’s worth.  I think that he will end up signing with the Nationals and it’ll end up being closer to that 10 million dollar mark than 20.  It sure as heck won’t be the 50 million Scott Boras threw out there.  This is the same guy who counseled Varitek to pass on 10 million in arbitration only to have him sign for a fraction of that months later.  Whoops.  Strasburg will set a new record (I’d guess 14-15 million range) but he’s not going to shatter the draft structure.

It could use some shattering though.  Hopefully in the next CBA they find a way to limit this stuff so that the lowest drafting teams can draft based on needs and scouting rather than “signability”.  Nothing irritates me more than a guy manipulating the draft via contract talks.  It hurts the league.

The Karma Payback

After some pretty favorable officiating down the stretch in Game 2, the Lakers couldn’t convert on their opportunities tonight.  There were several points in the game that it seemed as though the Lakers were about to take over and put a hurting on Orlando, but they simply could not deliver the dagger.  The Magic got extremely hot early and even when they cooled down, Los Angeles didn’t get enough stops and of all people Kobe couldn’t hit his free throws.  If Kobe hits like usual at the line, LA wins.  That’s gotta hurt for a guy who can’t smile.  Did you know he hasn’t smiled in two months?  ESPN told me so.

To be fair to Kobe, the Lakers wouldn’t have been in this game at all without his phenomenal play in the first half.  He was making play after play and shot after shot, but at the end of the game he just could not get the freebies down.  You know that’s eating at him heading into Game 4.

I actually think that tonight’s game was bad news more than good news for Orlando.  They shot phenomenally (62.5% FG), Kobe missed half his free throws and they won by exactly four points.  At home.  With two of those being gimme free throws when the game was over.  Can they build on some things from this game?  Absolutely.  Whether they do or not remains to be seen.  I’d bet my last dollar that the Lakers will play hungry defense in Game 4 and win by double-digits.  I’d also expect an improved performance from one Lamar Odom, who while he didn’t play poorly was invisible for large stretches tonight, especially on the glass.

Orlando’s best bet for another win is continued hot shooting from downtown, and using Jameer Nelson to change the pace rather than dominate the ball.  Rashard Lewis will have to continue his coming out party if Orlando wants to pick up their franchises second ever NBA Finals victory.

Seventh Heaven On Friday Night

I’m sure Gary Bettman cried tears of joy when the Penguins pulled out a tough and impressive Game 6 victory against the Red Wings, assuring that we will see a Game 7 in Detroit on Friday night.  That is if he wasn’t too busy trying to prop up dying NHL franchises to notice.

It’s the dream scenario for the NHL and for broadcaster NBC.  The Red Wings have become the Yankees of the NHL in the last decade-plus.  They’re always good, they always seem to get the best talent and they’re much more fun to root against than for (unless you’re a Wings fan, of course).  They’re simply a powerhouse and matching them up with Sidney Crosby, Gino Malkin and the rest of the exciting Pittsburgh Penguins has resulted in exactly the kind of hockey the NHL wants to showcase… at least for a few games.  The first two games in Detroit were good but not great, and Game 5 in Detroit was a real stinker.  But the other three were absolute gems, and Game 7 has the potential to be epic.  Pavel Datsyuk is getting his sea legs back and the always doubted Chris Osgood has been stellar for the Wings in net.  Case in point would be last night’s game where he held Detroit in the game for two periods when the Penguins were clearly the aggressors.

The Stanley Cup is supposed to be the two best teams in hockey and I’d have to say that this series has definitely delivered on that.  We’ll get to see Zetterberg vs. Crosby for one more night, and that could either answer or raise a lot of questions about Sid the Kid.  He has been spectacular for the Penguins on many nights in these playoffs but he seems genuinely bothered by Zetterberg who has been doing his best vintage Sergei Fedorov impression with his two-way play.

Stay Tuned…

This week won’t slow down either.  The MLB Draft continues tomorrow (not to mention the schedule of games) with the NBA Finals resuming on Thursday and the NHL crowning their Stanley Cup Champions on Friday.

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