Meadville Tribune

Opinion

April 16, 2013

WALK TALK: A plunking will happen if you crowd the plate

1 The count is 3-2 on San Diego’s Carlos Quentin. A runner is on first during a 2-1 game in the sixth inning and Dodgers starter Zach Greinke is on the mound. Next thing we know, Greinke is checking to see if his collarbone is in its original place after accidentally hitting Quentin, who charged the mound seconds later. I cannot be any more on the side of Greinke and L.A. manager Don Mattingly, who said that Quentin should be suspended for as long as Greinke is injured. Quentin will be back in the lineup after eight days. It may be eight weeks until Greinke returns.

2 The thing I’ll never understand is why so many hitters who crowd the plate complain about being hit by a pitch. You’re asking for it when you’re sitting on top of the plate. It comes as no surprise that Quentin has been hit by 95 pitches since 2008. He led the league in 2011 and 2012. He supposedly charged the mound because of the “history” between he and Greinke. Quentin went on to say he mostly reacted to what Greinke said after the beaming. Quentin did, however, refrain from admitting what Greinke said. After being hit 94 times in five-plus seasons, Quentin has the audacity to accuse the league’s pitchers of placing a hit job on him? He needs to look in the mirror, first.

3 A lot of press surrounded the “controversy” that was Tiger Woods’ illegal drop during the second day of the Masters. Even ABC World News Tonight covered the incident on Saturday night, featuring it as the fourth story of the 30-minute long broadcast. Slow news night, I suppose. The funny part about the story is that Tiger, PGA officials and the announcers didn’t even know the drop was illegal. It took a viewer to call in and call out Woods and the PGA. At the end of the weekend, it was a lot of talk over nothing. Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty by Joe Schmo watching the links from his couch. Losing by four strokes, Woods didn’t even factor in the top 3.

4 It appears the Lakers will crawl into the postseason as the West’s No. 8 seed after what was expected to be a dominant regular season. Instead, the Lakers scratched and clawed their way into playoff contention and lost Kobe Bryant to injury in the process. But this isn’t the last we’ll see of The Black Mamba. Bryant will be 35 by the time he returns from a torn achilles tendon, but he’s not the kind of player to take lightly when it comes to a big return. Don’t be surprised if Kobe is near his best when he does return next year.

5 Bryant’s injury left little doubt about who’s team the Lakers are right now. All the pressure is firmly on the shoulders of Dwight Howard, who many believed was the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal when he was traded from Orlando to L.A. Howard no longer has any excuses. If he wants to prove he’s “the man” that a franchise can be built around, Los Angeles has to upset the Spurs in the first round. Its unlikely, but that’s why you play the games. Playing defense, led by Howard, is the Lakers’ only chance of beating San Antonio.

6 The NBA regular season ends on Wednesday and the playoffs start on Saturday, so let’s take a look at what to expect, starting with the Eastern Conference. One thing is for sure: As long as the Heat stay healthy, they’ll return to the NBA finals. It’s just a matter of who Miami will beat in the conference finals. No team outside of the Heat has been hotter than the Knicks during the second half of the season, but even scoring champion Carmelo Anthony won’t be enough for New York to beat Miami four games out of seven.

7 The top two teams in the West entering the playoffs are once again the Spurs and Thunder. It would come as no surprise to see those two teams meet in the conference finals once again. James Harden continues to be a major loss for Oklahoma City, but San Antonio has lost a great amount of effectiveness whenever Tony Parker isn’t 100 percent healthy. Kevin Martin is now OKC’s top scorer off the bench — and third-best scorer overall. The West will come down to Martin’s ability as Harden’s replacement or Parker’s health. I’m sticking with the Thunder.

8 A lot transpired during The Ultimate Fighter finale on Saturday, but a big thing that stood out for me was a disappointing performance by Uriah Hall. The guy has all the ability in the world, but he provided a flat performance. Hall just wasn’t in the fight mentally. For a fighter as talented as he is, the only thing that’s holding him back are the six inches between his ears. He won’t live up to the hype until he gets his head straight.

9 The greatest month ever for a UFC fan continues next week with UFC on Fox, led by a Benson Henderson versus Gilbert Melendez battle for the lightweight title. The card is UFC’s third of the month and it’s a week before the UFC 159, a pay-per view headlined by Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. If you’re a fan of the sport this month, you’d be an April fool if you’re not enjoying this four-week run of exciting fights.

10 Henderson and Melendez is sure to be a thrilling bout between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Henderson has proven he’s the best lightweight over the past few years, while some argue Melendez, the last Strikeforce champion, would rule the weight class once he made the move to the UFC. Henderson has two huge things in his favor that will lead to a title defense: better cardio and the fact that Melendez hasn’t fought in 11 months. It may be a tight decision, but Henderson is the better man.

The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at dwalk@meadvilletribune.com.

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