Ray Ratto

Posey takes the fun out of NL MVP race

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Posey takes the fun out of NL MVP race

Buster Posey has never been one to give in willingly to his whimsical side. Well, publicly, anyway. Privately, he could be incredibly madcapzanywacky, but thats the problem its private.Thus, his winning the National League Most Valuable Player award is in keeping with his general persona. All the fun-filled arguing, finger-pointing, recriminations and irrational threats happened in the other league. Mike Trout, Defender Of The Logarithm, vs. Miguel Cabrera, Unwilling Proponent Of The Old School why, you can just feel the judgmental hate.Posey, on the other hand, won in something of a walk. He received 27 of 32 first place votes and was in the top three of all 32 ballots.BAGGARLY: Buster Posey honored with NL MVP AwardHe had all the math on his side, all the logic on his side, all the valuable on his side. To not vote for him to win the award required a localized stubbornness or a refusal to reconsider ones ballot after August 1.And whats the fun in that?Posey is already well on his way to being a Carlton FiskThurman Munson type of catcher. True, its early to extend his career and get there, although through age 25 Fisk and Posey are similar players. But personality-wise, he is an amalgam of the two flinty catching stars of the 70s and 80s. In short, he knows what he wants, he states fairly clearly what he wants, and he gets what he wants.And he says it, though in a way that makes you work to understand the meaning. To our knowledge, he still has yet to fully bygone the bygones with Scott Cousins, and he didnt mince a single syllable in discussing Melky Cabrera either. You want Posey, you get Posey, unalloyed.RELATED: Baggs' NL MVP ballotIn exchange for the freedom to have a personality when prudence suggests the mute button, he delivers everything the Giants want. Offense, pitcher wrangling, nucleus-of-the-franchise stuff. He is the teams gravitational center after only 3 12 years, and his total earned salary of 1.657 million is roughly one tenth of what he could legitimately ask for in his next contract discussion.And thats including the fact that he broke an ankle last year.But the lack of debate over his worthiness for the award due entirely to the fact that he had demonstrably the best year of all the candidates is so very Posey. None of his doing, we grant you, but entirely his idiom.It would have been more amusing had there been a more compelling reason to vote for Ryan Braun, or Yadier Molina, or Joey Votto. All had worthy years, but in rarefied air like an MVP vote, the worthiest get defined by a different standard. And at the risk of failing to bore you to tears with all the mathematical and metaphysical reasons why Posey was the best choice, just take our word for it. Posey won because he was that much more comprehensively better.Put another way, Posey deserved the AL Cy Young vote that was cast for Fernando Rodney. Thats how good a year he actually had.Put yet another way, he would have had a hell of a hypothetical case for AL MVP against either Trout or Cabrera.But he screwed up. He ended up in the wrong league, and is on the cusp of becoming the highest paid catcher not named Joe Mauer. Molina signed a five-year, 75M deal that kicks in next year, but Poseys next contract ought to shame that, at least a bit.And when he signs it, he will handle it in that understated yet subtly edgy way of his, as though he were too polite to say, Well, what did you expect to happen?In that way, he is so Fiskian, with hints of Munsonality. And he neither sees reason nor impulse to change. Who he is, is plenty good enough now, to the point where debate for debates sake is essentially pointless.Somewhere, Carlton Fisk doubtlessly nods with approval. And trust us, he doesnt nod easily.

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

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Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.

HOUSTON

The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.

SAN ANTONIO

The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.

OKLAHOMA CITY

The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.

PORTLAND

Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.

BOSTON

The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.

THE REST OF THE EAST

Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:

SACRAMENTO

Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.

How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

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How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

On a day and night when 21 technical fouls were called and five players ejected over 11 National Basketball Association games, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers received none of either in a game that should have created enough tension to warm the Yukon. This clearly makes no sense . . .

. . . unless of course the Warriors, having set a new trend early in the season for agonized dissent, have moved on to whatever the next thing is.

While a simmering uncivil war has bubbled between officials (and the management types who started this whole thing by telling officials to cut down on conversations and calm interactions with players and coaches), the Warriors have been on as close to their best behavior as they can manage.

Since the new year turned, the Warriors have played eight games and amassed only three technicals, one to Steve Kerr and two to players (Zaza Pachulia and, yes, you guessed it, Draymond Green). Oh, they still lead the league with 29 spaced over eight players and Kerr, plus seven ejections led by Kevin Durant’s three, but their seemingly insurmountable lead has been reduced to three over Oklahoma City and Phoenix (Phoenix?) and four over Houston and Charlotte (Charlotte?).

Indeed, you’d think that they could have mustered up at least one Monday night in Cleveland given the hype for this seemingly dying rivalry. I mean, the league even offered up one of its best and most strident officials in Scott Foster, whom Warrior fans are convinced is deliberately mean to the Warriors.

But here, too, is an outdated trope. The Warriors are 14-1 in their last 15 regular season games with Foster, and their postseason record of 7-5 with him is more a measure of him getting the maximum number of Finals games, where the Warriors have seven of their 16 postseason defeats. That doesn’t prove bias as much as it does frequency of use.

But we wander into the woods here. The point is, as the new discussion point is the much-advertised summit meeting between officials and players union officials at the All-Star break, the Warriors have been borderline zen. Why? Who knows? Maybe player performance maven Chelsea Lane is putting tranquilizers into their athletic drinks. Maybe they’ve taken up chanting. Maybe they can turn their ire on and off as they do the rest of their game. Or maybe these are the dog days for mouthing off at The Man.

Except that everyone else in the league seems to be taking up the cause of the revolution, so that last one can't be it.

Now we are willing to accept the possibility that so many day games Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday put the players off their typical routine, although the biggest incident of the evening happened in the night game between Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

It may simply be, then, that the Warriors either have nothing more to complain about, have taken to heart the lectures about their lectures, or they really have moved on to the next thing that separates them from the field.

Maybe never losing a road game ever again. Although, tediously enough, that is a record already held by . . . yes, them.