The Final Four

What a tremendous weekend of games, capped, of course, by Georgetown’s stunning turnaround against North Carolina. Can’t say I was shocked. I’ve seen Roy Williams outcoached numerous times over the years, and being a Syracuse fan, I can only say that when coach Jim Boeheim beats you in a big game (see the 2003 NCAA title game), it’s pretty telling, and not in a good way. As for my bracket, it was in shambles a week ago. So with that background, I’m picking Florida to repeat. They just appear to be heads and shoulders above everybody else when they appear interested, and a second straight trip to the Final Four will have their attention.

Our A’s-Giants bracket has moved onto the Final Four as well. Here were the weekend results.

(1) Willie Mays d. (2) Rickey Henderson:
A tremendous contest. Decided at the wire. Mays, of course, brought his speed, his swing, his arm, his fielding ability and his smarts. Henderson the same things, and an equal amount of swagger. Henderson led baseball’s all-time charts in runs, walks and steals. Mays didn’t lead the all-time charts in any major category, but all observers insist that if he hadn’t play most of his career in Candlestick Park, he’d have hit more than 800 home runs. Lon Simmons, the great announcer, broadcast both Mays and Henderson in their primes, and once said he never saw somebody affect a game the way Mays did. So in a one-point win (think Lorenzo Charles of NC State), Mays advances.

(5) Dennis Eckersley d. (7) Dave Stewart
Very tough to choose between the two anchors of the pitching staff during the A’s dynasty in the late 1980’s. Stewart pitched only every fifth day, but he won 20 games four straight seasons, and very rarely stunk in a big game. Eckersley, though, was the man who was nailing down games in the 9th, often making one-run leads look like 10. Both guys also came back from considerable personal embarrasment to turn into stars. Without either one, that A’s dynasty is considerably weaker. But Eckersley gets the nod, because he has an MVP, Cy Young Award and Hall of Fame plaque on his resume.

(3) Billy Beane d. (1) Connie Mack
Hard to argue that anybody has created a new way to evaluate baseball business more than Beane has done in the past decade. Beane essentially has taken a team with a revenue that places it near the bottom of the league and, in the era of free agency, made it a winner for a decade. Compare that with Mack, who said the most ideal scenario when he owned/managed the Philadelphia A’s was for the team to finish fourth. That way he wouldn’t have to give out large raises. Never mind that his was the era of the reserve clause. This one isn’t close.

(2) 4 World Series titles d. (1) AT&T Park

Make no mistake, the home of the Giants might be the most beautiful in all of baseball (Pittsburgh’s PNC Park gives it a run). There’s nothing like seeing the bay in all it’s glory on a sunny afternoon. The outfield, with it’s non-symetrical dimensions and big wall in right field, give the playing grounds a unique feel. And the neighborhood surrounding it offer great restaurants and bars. All of that said, you can’t view a World Series trophy from anywhere near the premises, and considering the Giants have had more than a half-century to acquire one, that’s a fact you just can’t ignore. The A’s might not be able to offer much from their outdated yard, but they can offer four such trophies. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but substance triumphs looks any day of the week.