Blue Jays manager John Gibbons joined the Mad Dog Unleashed program this week. The Blue Jays have been white hot, recently winning nine straight, including sweeps of the Red Sox, A’s, and Rays. The Toronto skipper talked about why things have been going so well the first two months of the season.

I love Gibbons. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him a couple of times when we do our spring training tours and he is genuinely one of the great guys in baseball. The players like him and respect him, and he’s the type of manager a player is really going to play hard for. Last year’s disastrous season for the Blue Jays was probably due to the massive amount of personnel change they had on the field. With a year to mesh, and if they can continue to pitch, as Gibbons mentioned, they are going to be a force in the American League all season long.

Steve Phillips joins Mad Dog Unleashed every Wednesday at 5 pm ET to discuss all the happenings in the world of baseball. This week, Phillips and Russo got into a particularly interesting exchange discussing the Mets firing of their hitting coach, Dave Hudgens. Take a listen.

First of all, Steve’s insight from his own experience, when he needed to fire a coach on Bobby Valentine’s staff, is tremendous. You aren’t getting that type of a unique look anywhere but Mad Dog Sports Radio.

Second, I’m not sure where Dog’s argument is coming from. His stance that the general manager shouldn’t be able to fire the coach doesn’t make sense to me. In all businesses, there is a chain of command, just as Phillips referenced. The coaches report to Bobby V, but Bobby V reports to Phillips. Steve was the boss of the entire staff, so if Steve feels that a coach needs to be removed, he absolutely has the right to do so. This isn’t two separate entities coexisting; it’s one organization, and there is a pecking order.

Phillips 1, Dog 0.

Did LeBron ‘Bosh’ the final play?

Closing out a rough performance in Game 5 on Wednesday night, LeBron James still had a chance to tie the Pacers with less than 10 seconds to go. But after driving to the lane, instead of taking the shot, he passed to Chris Bosh in the corner who missed a three-pointer. the Pacers went on to win 93-90, closing the series gap to 3-2.

Some criticized LeBron for passing on the moment and deferring to a teammate. Mad Dog says they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.

I thought Dog was totally off during his argument with Steve Phillips, but I think Chris is right on the money here with his stance on the last play of Game 5 between the Pacers and Heat.

James is slowly shedding his reputation as a soft player who’s afraid of the big spot. He’ll always have his performance in the 2011 NBA Finals that puts a stain on his career, and when his career is over and the argument continues about the greatest player of all-time, Jordan or LeBron, the Jordan camp will always have that performance as a trump card. But his performance in Game 5, which was poor, makes no impact on his legacy.

First, his team was up 3-1, so it wasn’t exactly a pressure situation. Second, two or three of the foul calls that got him in foul trouble were terrible calls. Third, despite his poor performance, he still hit a huge three-pointer in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and had a huge block on George Hill which opened the door for a potential comeback. Finally, some have criticized LeBron for not taking the final shot; I have no problem with how that play developed. LeBron drove hard to the basket. His mentality seemed to be either to take his man one-on-one and score, or if he drew help, to find the open man for a clean look. That’s exactly what he did. Roy Hibbert came over to help, leaving Bosh open in the corner; LeBron found Bosh and he simply missed.

No one criticized Jordan for passing to John Paxson in 1993 or Steve Kerr in 1997. Sometimes, finding an open look for a teammate is a perfectly reasonable play – especially when the weight of the entire series isn’t on the shot. LeBron handled that situation properly. He’s deserved criticism at times during his career, but any criticism he receives for that play is totally unfounded.

Lance A Lot

We have been hearing a LOT about Lance Stephenson these days, and for good reason. The Pacers’ guard has been all over the news with his bizarre antics and his constant quotations.

I would argue that Stephenson, right now, is the most compelling player in the NBA. (Not just for his behavior, but that plays into this as well.) Stephenson is 23 years old, he plays shooting guard, and has a unique set of skills that also make him an excellent playmaker. Pacers point guard George Hill is below average at best, which opens the door for Stephenson to make plays for a team desperate for someone to run the offense. Stephenson improved tremendously this past season, and at only 23, the potential is there for Stephenson to develop into a legitimate star.

What I failed to mention to this point is that Stephenson is an unrestricted free agent. We have heard the reports that James might opt out of his contract, we know that Carmelo Anthony will look to test the free agent market, and the Kevin Love trade rumors are revving up. Stephenson’s pending free agency hasn’t gotten any publicity, but he is going to demand a large contract this offseason, leaving the Pacers in a difficult situation. Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West all have large salaries and are each under control for multiple years. Committing to Stephenson would be very difficult for the Pacers to do, but at the same time, they are in no position to lose him unless the greatly upgrade their point guard position. This puts the Pacers, clearly the second best team in the Eastern Conference, at a crossroads as they try and piece together a team that can beat the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

If they decide to let Stephenson walk, he is an interesting case for teams in free agency.  He won’t receive a max contract, but he isn’t going to come cheap, and for a team to commit to a guy who Hibbert has stated is selfish, who is constantly causing distractions, and whose value is derived partially from his “potential” is a scary proposition. However, a team that takes a risk and signs Lance Stephenson could potentially reap massive rewards.

Stephenson is fascinating to watch on the court, and it will be even more fascinating to watch what happens with him this offseason.

Stream of Consciousness

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best playoffs in all of sports; it’s too bad more people don’t realize that. … The Chicago Cubs might control who wins the AL East depending on to whom they trade Jeff Samardzija. … Godzilla is entertaining; far better than the 1998 Mathew Broderick version. … Amazing that Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are now at the bottom of the Giants rotation. … The Royals were swept at home by the Houston Astros. So by rule (my rule), they are eliminated from postseason contention. … Does John Calipari get credit for graduating Steve Masiello from Kentucky? …  Is it the NFL season yet? … Piece of my Heart, by Janis Joplin. … I didn’t realize Stephenson had a crush on LeBron. … Have you ever seen an NBA series were home court played as big of a role as it has in Spurs-Thunder? … The New York Rangers definitely have the feel of a team of destiny, but I don’t know if destiny will get them four more wins. … How can anyone take 50 Cent’s “tough guy” persona seriously after that first pitch? … Joel Quenneville said that the overtime period between the Blackhawks and Kings in Game 5 was the greatest overtime period in the history of the NHL, and I think he’s right.

Tweet of the Week

Good or bad, positive or negative, we provide you with the best tweet sent to @MadDogUnleashed

Well, I suppose not everyone is a fan.

Revoke his Credentials

Congratulations to this misinformed reporter for congratulating French tennis player Nicolas Mahut on his victory after he lost his match at the French Open. Mahut was none too pleased.

Next week on MDU

Next week, we will finally reach the Finals in both the NBA Playoffs and Stanley Cup Playoffs. We will preview the NBA Finals with Jeff Van Gundy and the Stanley Cup Finals with Barry Melrose. New York Rangers head coach Alain Vignuealt and star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist are scheduled to joins us as well. Plus, the Belmont will be coming up as California Chrome goes for the Triple Crown; we will get you set with Tom Hammond and Joe Drape.

A busy week to say the least on Mad Dog Unleashed!

You can follow Bill ZimmermanMad Dog Unleashed and Mad Dog Sports Radio on twitter, or follow along on Facebook.

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