Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Transactions....


Have to say, the team that benefits most (aside from the Mets) by the Johan Santana trade, is the Yankees. They don't have to give up one of their pitching prospects. They don't have to try and outbid the Red Sox, either in prospects or in salary. Basically, all they had to do was push away from the table and see one of the best pitchers head to the National League.

One more Santana thing; did the Twins really give him up for that package? I think they got hoodwinked. Baseball America agrees. They consider the package as potential high reward, but very high risk. And not only are all the prospects risky, not one of them is ready to help now (Humber included). You don't trade the best pitcher in baseball for a bunch of risky kids, not one of them being a sure thing. They at least should have stood their ground for Reyes.

Despite what he did at Nebraska, I am happy that Bill Callahan has been brought in to fix the Jets offensive line. When he coached the offensive line at Wisconsin, Callahan was praised by former Wisconsin Head Coach, Barry Alvarez, as one of the reasons Wisconsin was able to win 3 Rose Bowls during the 90s. As offensive coordinator of the Raiders, his offenses were always dynamic and up high in the stat charts. And let's face it, the Jets O-Line was a sieve last year; he can't possibly do worse.

Lost in the New York City tabloid-hoopla of the Giants Super Bowl run and all the Johan to Shea talk is the fact that the Yankees did something very good and very quietly. Namely, they locked Robbie Cano to a multi-year deal. Years ago, Cano would have been traded away for an aging right fielder or some such. But Cashman has wisely fought off any attempts to trade him, and now, Robbie will be staying right where he belongs.

Pro Football Weekly had an interesting article about the San Diego-New England game, in which they raised the question of why didn't the Patriots swarm Phil Rivers when they knew he was immobile. In my prediction of the game, I guessed that Belichek would send the cavalry. He didn't and Pro Football Weekly's Tom Danyluk wrote this:

"I expected waves of New England rushers to come after Rivers, all day … five, six, seven of them, crashing down on the pocket and trying to get the kid moving and off-balance and down on the turf. Especially with his All-Pro TE Antonio Gates at 50 percent, a bum toe, and football’s biggest draw-play threat, LaDainian Tomlinson, stuck on the sideline with knee problems of his own."

Totally agree. Can't see what Belichek's not rushing Rivers plan afforded them. One thing though, I have a serious inkling Eli is going to see rushers in his face all day Sunday.

Read somewhere that the Devil Rays are thinking of not signing Scott Kazmir to a long contract. Seriously, I have to ask this...are the Devil Rays, in fact, retarded? The lefty was first in the AL in strikeouts last year. He was 9th in the AL ERA with 3.48. He's a bona fide ace who logged over 200 innings last year and he turned 23 a week ago. Aces don't come that frequently, guys. Ask the Yanks. When you have a young one, and a lefty to boot, and you're having a problem winning games and drawing fans...the answer is not to let him go. It's to tie the sunuvagun up, keep in your franchise and surround him with other players.

To finish off, here's a couple of stats about the Super Bowl. L. Maroney has had 4 100-yard days in the past 5 games. The one time he didn't make it? Against the Giants—only 46 yards that day.

Another stat: the Giants have had only 3 sacks in the playoffs, and only one by the defensive line.

Don't know what they both mean, but they are interesting.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Mock Castles Down"

Sorry about the quote above. It's just the literary nerd in me. It's from Shakespeare's Henry V, which, by the way, is one of the manliest plays ever. It's where "Band of Brothers" gets its name from—from the speech Henry V gives to his men before a battle where they are outnumbered 10-1. It's a speech so testosterone-filled and crazed, I think he might have written it in Klingon.

Anyway, this entry is my first mock draft of the year. Now that the Senior Bowl is played and the draft order mostly set, I figure now is a good time to do a first draft guess. Anyway, here goes.


1. Miami Dolphins: Matt Ryan QB — Boston College
Parcells probably wants to trade down, as there is no sure-fire, number 1 consensus player. And Lord knows, Miami needs help everywhere and could use the extra picks. A lot of people feel since Parcells is a defense guy, he's take Dorsey. But Dorsey doesn't fit a Parcells 3-4 role, and don't forget, Bill did take Drew Bledsoe no 1 during his time with the Pats. Ryan can make every throw, and more importantly, has "It", the "Winner" factor, which makes him a Parcells guy.

2. St. Louis: Glenn Dorsey DT — LSU
St. Louis was G-O-D awful this year, on both sides of the ball. They lok at Jake Long, but with Alex Barron and Orlando Pace—hopefully—healthy next year, the Rams follow the Jacksonville plan and take two DTs two years in a row and sure up their interior line for years.

3. Atlanta: Jake Long OT — Michigan
As of this writing, the Falcons starting tackles are Quinn Ojinnaka and Tyson Clabo. The Falcons, if they have any wish to keep whatever QB they have next year, alive, take the Wolverine OT to protect the left side.

4. Oakland: Darren McFadden RB — Arkansas
As evidenced by the shenanigans this week out in Oakland, this is a franchise run by a crazy old coot. By that coot is definitely the man in charge, and he loves speed. McFadden is the consensus no 1. back in the draft, and being so, Davis will take him in hopes he will be the next Adrian Peterson and add speed and excitement to one sorry Raider franchise.

5. Kansas City: Sedrick Ellis DT — USC
Ellis had a coming-out party week at the Senior Bowl, where he was unblockable and disruptive. The Chiefs haven't had a dominant DT since Len Dawson was throwing passes at Arrowhead. They take him in hopes he can combine with Allen and Hali to give them a tough D-line.

6. New York Jets: Chris Long DE — Virginia
The Jets sing out "Caloo Calay!" as the man they wanted all along falls into their laps. Chris Long is perfect as a bookend for the 3-4, and is versatile enough to move around when Mangini decides to play the 4-3. A hard worker with a great attitude and intangibles, Long will fit right in as a Mangini guy.

7. New England: Vernon Gholston OLB — Ohio State
I can't see the Patriots staying here and guess they will trade down to acquire more picks. Also, the prospects for their main needs, CB and ILB, aren't worthy of a no. 7 pick. So, if New England actually did stay here, they take this year's "Freak," Gholston, a fast, strong and athletic pass rusher who would fit right in at the rush 3-4 position.

8. Baltimore: Brian Brohm QB — Louisville
The Ravens look longingly at Ryan Clady, but in the end, the first year coach, picks a QB he can groom and grow with. Lord knows Boller and Smith aren't the answers, and Brohm has the edge over Woodson and Flacco. Brohm is the pick.

9. Cincinnati: Keith Rivers OLB — USC
The Bengals had been praying for Ellis or Gholston to fall since the D-Line is where they truly need help. That didn't happen so they take help in other place of need, their linebacking corp, where no one there keeps opposing coaches up at night.

10. New Orleans: Mike Jenkins CB — South Florida
It seems the Saints have needed a shutdown corner, since, well forever. Jenkins is no midget and and has the fluidity and change-of-direction to stick to a receiver in the NFL. Not a polished talent, he will need some time and coaching, but could be a quality CB soon.

11. Buffalo: Malcolm Kelly WR — Oklahoma
The Bills have a tough time with this pick. Both of their biggest needs, CB and WR have no one worthy of their selection. However, Kelly has the size (6'4") and the over-the-middle-fearlessness needed to match well with Lee Evans in the Bill offense. So Buffalo reaches a little and takes Kelly.

12. Denver: Ryan Clady OT — Boise State
At first glace, it would appear that the Broncos would take a D-lineman, as they have been using castoffs and journeymen (usually from Cleveland) to patch up their line for years. However, Matt Lepsis' sudden retirement has changed all that. The Broncos take the surprisingly nimble Clady to fit into their zone-blocking scheme.

13. Carolina: Sam Baker OT — USC
Both the Panther's offensive tackles coming into free agency, and it would be odd for the Panthers to be able to retain both of them. Also, Carolina has no one able to step up for them. Baker had a nice week at the Senior Bowl and solidified himself in round one. Phillips and Campbell are other possibilities here.

14. Chicago: Kenny Phillips S — Miami
For a team one year removed from the Super Bowl, the Bears are a team with a myriad of problems. Expect the Bears to be aggressive in free agency, getting some help for their O-line and RB (Cedric Benson has been a galactic-sized bust). That done, they take the best safety in the draft.

15. Detroit: Aqib Talib CB — Kansas
Detroit would line to take a line guy here; offensive or defensive, either as the Lions need major help on both sides, but no one at this spot is worthy. So they take a guy who can help in another area of major need. The Lions were 31st in the league in passing yards and could use help in shutting anyone down.

16. Arizona: Calais Campbell DE/OLB — Miami
The Cards could use big help on their offensive line and get it with Alan Faneca coming to his old coach's team via free agency. With some measure of help there, the Cardinals focus on defense where they need help with their fledgling 3-4. Campbell is an athletic wonder, who needs some coaching to help him become the player he could be.

17. Minnesota: Derrick Harvey DE/OLB — Florida
WR is a concern for this team, and the Vikings could get Tavaris Jackson some help. But DE has been a bigger concern. Despite spending two 1st round picks in recent years, the team has nothing to show for it as Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze have been less-than-helpful in rushing the passer. Harvey is a pure pass rusher who fires off the snap and can get to the QB.

18. Houston Texans: Jonathan Stewart RB — Oregon
I thought about Felix Jones here, but Stewart is the stronger and the better blocker, something underrated, but that coaches love in their running backs. Stewart is big, quick and can catch the ball out of the backfield, relieving Houston of the Ron Dayne experiment.

19. Philadelphia: DeSean Jackson WR — California
As wide receivers go, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown are fine no. 2s. And with Donovan McNabb nearing the end, he would like some weapons for his final hurrah. Jackson has explosiveness you can't teach. He lasted a bit longer than some project because of his size, but fits in well in the Eagle's offense with his after-the-catch ability. Dan Conner is another option here.

20. Tampa Bay: Limas Tweed WR — Texas
The Bucs would have loved for Jackson to fall to them (and in fact, may trade up to get him), but are happy to take Tweed instead. In any case, it is obvious that the Bucs need help at WR, with Galloway defying the laws of aging and Hillard no spring chicken himself. Tweed is big, strong and can help Garcia (another oldster) move the ball down the field.

21. Washington: Kentwan Balmer DT — North Carolina
Whomever coaches the Redskins next year has improving the defensive line as priority one. With no end on the board worth the pick, the Skins take the best available tackle. Balmer has been climbing up some boards (Kiper has him at 14 as of this writing) and could be a late first round pick as DTs are always in short supply. Conner is another possibility here.

22. Dallas: Leodis McKelvin CB — Troy
With two number one picks, you know Dallas is going to go CB and WR. The only question is, in which order. After the mini-run of WRs a couple of picks earlier, Dallas takes the best possible CB in the draft to help the multiple wide sets more teams are running. Jacque Reeves is a better dime back, and McKelvin could come in and play the nickel and help in the return game. Cason is also an option here.

23. Pittsburgh: Gosder Cherilus OT — Boston College
The Steelers have both Max Starks and Faneca in free agency years with Faneca almost assured to go to Arizona. Also, Marvel Smith has battled injuries. Cherilus had a nice week at the Senior Bowl showing some toughness and fire the Steelers like. Bypassing local lineman Jeff Otah and backer Dan Connor, the Steelers take the born-ready right tackle, Cherilus.

24. Tennessee: Fred Davis TE — USC
Can anyone name a Titan receiver? Troupe and Scaife have been less-than-quality outlets for Vince Young. Davis had a excellent senior year and showed at the Senior Bowl week he was the top TE in the draft. He would help Young almost immediately. Manningham is also possible with this pick.

25. Seattle: Rashard Mendenhall RB — Illinois
Anyone who watched the Seahawks in the playoffs saw that Mike Holmgren completely gave up on the run game. If Holmgren truly only has one more year to make it to the Super Bowl in Seattle, he is going to need a running back tout suite. Mendenhall is a big, breaking tackles kind of back that can help this year.

26. Jacksonville: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB — Tennessee State
Jacksonville ranked 27th in pass defense this season and got hosed by Tom Brady to the tune of 26 for 28 for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns with no picks. While Mathis has been above average on one side, Brian Williams has been subpar. A replacement is needed and Cromartie opened some eyes with stellar play at the Senior Bowl. At 6'2", he can match up with bigger receivers. Manningham and OT Chris Williams are possible as well.

27. San Diego: Chris Williams OT — Vanderbilt
The Chargers would like a DT to start to replace the aging Jamal Williams, but unless somebody rises up the charts, they will look at NT later. Felix Jones is a possibility as Michael Turner is leaving via free agency and LT isn't getting younger, fresher legs. The Chargers will end up taking the best player available. Shane Olivea slipped this year in his play and Williams can push him at RT. Also, with a lack of depth here, this pick makes sense.

28. Dallas: Mario Manningham WR — Michigan
With Dallas having taken a CB earlier, now they turn to their WR problems. Namely, they are really old there. Mario plays bigger than his 6'0" size and can give Dallas some big play ability.

29. San Francisco: Early Doucet WR — LSU
It's plain and simple: The Niners need serious help at WR. So they reach a little for Doucet, who didn't have a great year, but has talent. Within seconds, Early places Arnaz Battle on the bench. Somewhere, Alex Smith cheers this pick very loudly.

30. Green Bay: Reggie Smith CB/S — Oklahoma
Green Bay's secondary is starting to get old, and Smith comes in with the versatility to play any secondary position. The Packers are happy, that Dallas, after flirting with Smith passed on him. Connor from Penn State and Highsmith, from LSU gets a look here, as well as CB Cason from Arizona, but Green Bay opts for the versatile secondary help it needs.

31. New York Giants: Dan Connor — Penn State
Another shout of "Caloo Calay!" comes from New York fans, this time, though it's the Giants who are happy, as the player they coveted falls into their laps. With Kawika Mitchell heading into free agency, the Giants aren't expected to resign him as his play, while OK, wasn't anything to write home about. Connor, though he had a nice senior year and a excellent week at the Senior Bowl wins this year's Slippery Slider award and falls all the way to the Giants. He should come in and contribute immediately. The Giants need help at corner and could look at Cason, Thomas or Tribble. (They seem to go for Boston College guys.)

Pick 32 to the Patriots is forfeited because they are cheaters.


That's the mock, guys. Expect changes as we get closer to the draft. As always, please comment with any thoughts or disagreements.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Transactions...


First thing: Just went through the Mets spring training roster, and it's clear. They need to get Johan Santana. More than the Yankees or Red Sox, they need to go out and make this happen. First off, they have an aging Pedro, who ain't getting any better, and anyway, can he last the season without tiring or breaking down? Then they have Orlando Hernandez, who, in Cuban Defector Years, is somewhere around 42 years old. Youngster Mike Pelfrey didn't set Shea Stadium ablaze with his 5.57 ERA in a pitcher's stadium. Is John Maine a no. 1? Oliver Perez is nice, but whom can the Mets rely on? No, the Mets, who stupidly traded Lastings Milledge for a fungo, need to go out and get Johan in Queens. "We don't feel like we have to deal for a pitcher," says GM Omar Minaya. Sorry, but I disagree.

Just want to thank the MLB schedule-makers for not forcing the Yankees to travel to the west coast a whole bunch of different times like the did last year. (For god's sakes, package trips to Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim together!) Though they do force the Yanks to play a night game in KC on a Thursday right before they have to fly to Boston to play a big weekend series. Why not a nice day game, guys?

Wow, Mark Tauscher really played well against Michael, "Alfred E. Newman-teeth" Strahan. I mean, Strahan only had 2 tackles and no sacks, and most of that was with Tauscher blocking him one-on-one.

You gotta give credit to Charlie "Son of Tuna" Weis. After literally, the worst year in Irish football history, he is hauling in a sick recruiting class. He got the second best-rated passer in the land, the best tight end, and about a jillion other blue chip prospects. As of this writing, (and subject to last-minute changes before Signing Day on Feb 6th), Notre Dame has the second best recruiting class in the land—ahead of champions LSU, and the usual diploma factories, Florida State, Texas and USC, though USC usually does pull in a bunch of kids late.

I have to say, I kinda dislike Serena Williams. So talented, so gifted, and she goes out and lays and egg in straight sets this week at the Australian Open. So what does she say? "I didn't move the way I traditionally want to move, and I wasn't feeling 100 percent."

It's always something with her. This injury, that injury. She has athletic gifts most of us would kill for. But mostly, it looks like half the time she doesn't want to play. "Sluggish," "lethargic," were some of the words used to describe her play against an inferior opponent, who, by the way, had a bunch of her own injuries. As two-time Grand Slam champion Tracy Austin said, "She was a mess. Her body language was down the whole day."

I wouldn't be saying this if I didn't think Serena could be one of, if not, the best of all time. Serena. Stop with the fashion lines and photo shoots. Focus on the game God meant you to play.

Dana Stubblefield this week admitted to using steroids. And by "admitting," I mean he got busted cold in the BALCO investigation. And to that I say, good riddance and go away forever, Dana.

And lastly and for the last time, the Jets will not be taking Darren McFadden in next spring's draft. That's a guarantee. Right now, at my computer desk, I am doing the Joe Namath guarantee finger point. So enough of that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's in a name?

My wife, bless her soul, likes the NFL Draft.

Well, not really. But since she's forced to watch it, what she really likes is the crazy suits—the more pimptastic, the better—and the names. Each year, as I sit down to watch 14 hours of the edge-of-your-seat action of the NFL Draft, she asks me what are the best names in the draft. Some of her favorites from the past have been Tye Gunn, Colt McCoy and C.J. Ah You.

Sports has had its more than fair share of amazing names. Let's take a look at some of the best names of sports.

Rusty Kuntz — When I was a kid, my older brother took the baseball card from me, and pinned it above his desk. I had no idea why.

Plaxico Burress — Sounds like his mother got his name off a kitchen cleaning product.

Majestic Mapp — The only thing better than this name, is his brother, Scientific Mapp. I'm not making this up.

Peerless Price — Not exactly the most appropriate name.

Knowshon Moreno — My spellcheck hates this guy

Earthwind Moreland — Mother named him after the band Earth, Wind and Fire. That's just mean.

Willie Dingle — Really. What were his parents thinking?

Anfernee Hardaway — "A-N-F-E-R-N-E-E? Can't you spell?"

Coco Crisp — Actually, his name is Covelli Loyce Crisp. Not like that's better.

Wonderful Monds — Actually, the correct name is Wonderful Terrific Monds. The Third.

I.M. Hipp — Just wow.

SirValiant Brown — His brother's name is Cody SirLancelot. Again, not making this up.

Chief Kickingstallionsims — Couldn't even imagine how his parents got to this name.

Lawyer Milloy — My wife loved it when Priest Holmes was tackled by Lawyer Milloy.

God Shamgod — So which is it? God, or shamgod?

Lucious Pusey — "Lucious! The porn industry is calling!"

Milton Bradley — His brother is named Hasbro.

Stubby Clapp — God, I wish this guy had made the big leagues so we could always here..."Now batting, Stubby Clapp!"

Ben Gay — Now, all we need is a guy named Prep H.

De' Cody Fagg — Best name in this year's draft.

And since, this is a equal opportunity blog, let us not forgot the women:

Ivana Mandic — James Bond's author could never write one this well.

That's all. As always, if anyone has a name I missed, please write it in.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Championship Weekend

It's time for the hoopla. We are down to football's final four. The Rushmore of the NFL—the 4 teams who stacked up.

So far, ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER has been 6-2 picking the playoff games. If I had actually bet these games, I'da been rich, but whatever. Let's take a look at the games.

Chargers at Patriots
I've been shocked more than anyone else at the Chargers beating of the Colts last week. Not only down LT and Rivers, but with a gimpy Gates....all the Chargers did was go out and paste one on a rested and revitalized Colts team. Now, San Diego has the insurmountable juggernaut known as the Patriots. No can win, right? Not so fast.

I admit. I've been sold on the Chargers. I thought they were beating up patsies (no pun intended) out in the AFC West. But a closer look revels something about how the Chargers beat Manning, Clark, Wayne and the Colts.

Namely, The Chargers have the best, most opportunistic pass defense in the NFL. With a unbelievable 30 interceptions during the regular season (8 more than the second place team), and a solid run defense, the Chargers are gonna make the Patriots work. Antonio Cromartie has shown the size and ability to be able to shut down an opponents big play wide receiver—something that will come in handy with Randy Moss, especially in the red zone. And nothing upsets the dashing Tom Brady more than a good pass rush, something that Mssrs. Merriman and Phillips can do.

The problem for the Chargers comes on offense. The Patriots are gonna tee off on Rivers, if he starts. Rivers was a revelation last week, going 14 for 19 and 264 yds. But with two gimpy knees, the Patriots are probably salivating as the go over different blitz schemes. San Diego has a very good run offense, and the Patriots have been deficient in that area (giving up a whopping 4.37 yds per carry), especially in the second half of the season, so expect the Chargers to try to establish that early. With L.T. gimpy himself, we might see Michael Turner used more than usual—his big, bruising running style can wear down an older team, like the Pats.

But over the long haul of the game, the Chargers are going to have to keep the Patriots honest. They must pass—they can't be one-dimensional and just run. (To that end, it is telling that the Chargers are 10-2 since they acquired Chris Chambers.) And in doing that they must, repeat, must, be mistake-free. The Patriots cannot be given turnovers deep in Charger territory. Anyway, in the pass game, my guess is the Chargers are going to try to use Vincent Jackson, all 6-5 of him, and create mismatches. Good luck, guys.

Another wild card are the special team of San Diego. Darren Sproles is a mighty mite of a kick/punt returner, and can be used as a weapon in the game plan as evidenced by his 56-yd TD reception last week against the Colts. Also, a big weapon is punter Mike Scifres, who single-handedly helped save the Charger season with an absolutely sick punt late in the game against the Colts which drove them back into their own territory. (He averaged 59 yards a punt against the Colts. Averaged).

On the whole, I'm not a brave enough man to predict the biggest upset since the Spanish Armada started taking on water. But I will say, I have a feeling it might not be the 14+ spread Las Vegas has the game at right now. If the Chargers remain mistake-free, get some big plays from their special teams, can put some pressure on Brady and can run the ball regularly, they have a shot. Lotsa luck guys; my pick is the Patriots.


Giants at Green Bay
All the headlines talk about -28F predicted for Lambeau at game time. If I were Eli, I'd be more worried about Aaron Kampman coming by to try to warm me up in a ferocious sack. Kareem McKenzie, after having a good year, only giving up four sacks, hasn't played well in the postseason. He needs to shape it up, because Eli needs time. What's more, the Packers good pass rush comes with them not blitzing often—only 3 other teams blitzed less than Green Bay. So the Giants can't afford to keep a TE or RB back just to protect Eli.

It's a dream game for old-time football fans. Both teams stuff the run brilliantly, and with Mr. Coldmeiser having his way on Sunday, both teams are gonna run the ball, early and often. As good as the Giants have been in this department during the playoffs, neither Bradshaw or Jacobs has dictated a game. Rian Grant has. He took a stout Seattle defense and lit them up for 201 yards and 3 TDs. Advantage Packers.

The Giants are hurting too, on defense. Aaron Ross, arguably the Giant no. 1 corner, left the Cowboy game in the 3rd quarter, though he claims to be fine. Their other corner Sam Madison missed the Cowboy game and is questionable for the Packers. Add to that, the Giants don't have much in the way of corner depth (Kevin Dockery?). If Green Bay gives Farve the green light, watch out. The Giants were 17th in the league defending the pass (7.01 ypa), and most of that number came from their good pass rush. On top of that, the Giants were abysmal in the red zone. Not good when facing Farve and Ryan "Don't wake me" Grant.

The Giants have surprised in these playoffs, mostly because of Manning's composure. But now he's facing a insanely cold day and Charles Woodson and Al Harris, both of who have playoff experience and can tie up Plaxico and Amani. (What better names WR names are their in football?) Which would leave Eli to check down. Can Kevin Boss beat the Packers? Can the Giant RBs win the game from the flat? I think Eli's going to have a tough day Sunday. Pick: Packers.

It's a sequel, folks. Super Bowl XXXI, which had the Packers beat the Pats 35-21. Well, that didn't settle it. Because on Feb 3rd, they are gonna meet up and settle it once and for all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Transactions...


So, T.O. What the F?

Nothing against crying in sports in general. I thought Adam Morrison crying after Gonzaga lost to UCLA was cool. (Which, btw, leaves me in the serious minority. Go Google "Adam Morrison crying" and you get a million people REALLY unnaturally angry that a college kid cried after losing in the NCAAs), but T.O. was crying defending his teammate who really didn't need any defending. It was just weird, dude.

Ok, enough of that. Let me just say, Marion Barber. Is a man. He was the best player on the field in the Dallas-New York game. How many guys trying to tackle him, did he just completely blow up?

I meant to blog this last week, but in that Oakland-White Sox trade last week...did Oakland hold a gun to Chicago's head? The White Sox get a lifetime .251 hitter who had 22 jacks last year. Big whoop. And what do they give up? Only the best two prospects in their farm system. Here's BaseballAmerica's take on the prospects.

Gio Gonzalez, 22, is one of the game's better lefthanded pitching prospects, and he led the minors with 185 strikeouts in 150 innings at Double-A Birmingham in 2007. He went 9-7, 3.18 in 27 starts for the Barons, limiting opponents to a .216 average and 10 homers. Gonzalez' best pitch is his curveball, and he also has a low-90s fastball that can reach 96 mph. He...isn't far from reaching the major leagues.

Fautino de los Santos, 21...went 10-5, 2.65 in 26 games (20 starts) between low Class A Kannapolis and high Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 153-43 K-BB ratio in 122 innings, while opponents batted just .163 with eight homers against him. He has better pure stuff but not as much polish or savvy as Gonzalez, as well as a similar ceiling. De los Santos will need more time to develop.

What the hell are the Sox doing? Just two years from the series, they look to be near the bottom of the AL Central.


So far, I'm 6-2 in picking the playoffs. Just want to toot my own horn here for a second. I said last week, "Look for Wes Welker to catch pass after pass for 8 yards or so in the flat." The box score after the game read Wes Welker, 9 catches for 54 yards (an average of 6 yds).

Watched Ryan Diem closely last week, and I feel, if the Jets can't get Alan Faneca as a free agent, he may be a passable option 2 for their left guard problem.

Get this: Julius Peppers had a "Hey, remember him?" year, where he posted a ferocious 2.5 sacks and 30-some-odd tackles. What's more, he was regularly handled one-on-one by average right tackles. On one play late in the season, Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew stood up Peppers despite giving up eight inches and 70 pounds. Still, his agent feels that's more than worthy of what Dwight Freeney got; meaning 7 years at a little less than 11 million per. All I can say to this, Julius, if you get 2.5 sacks in 2008, get used to the words, "waiver wire."

And lastly, just wanna give a big, big round of applause to Adam Jones, better known as "PacMan." After being suspended from the NFL (a hard thing to accomplish, mind you), for being arrested a whopping 6 times since being drafted by the Titans in 2005, and after thoroughly proving he didn't deserve leniency from NFL Commissioner Goodell, what does PacMan do? Well, of course go to the ubiquitous strip club and punch a girl in the face. What else would you do?

One of the promises Pacman told the Commissioner was that he would stay out of clubs (strip clubs seem to be like catnip-idiot juice to athletes, don't they?) and to avoid situations in which he might be compromised.

Compromised. Well, Pacman, you may as well stay in the boobie bar, because you ain't gonna be in the NFL any time soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scud Rocket


Well, before we begin, I just would like to say to all the people who defended Barry Bonds....I guess this whole steroids hoopla wasn't about race.

So Roger Clemens is in trouble. His picture is on every newspaper across America with the words "steroid" over it. His name is smeared and he's in danger of going before Congress. He claims he didn't do it. He's gone on 60 Minutes to say that and held a press conference to reiterate it. His ex-trainer says he did. So, whom do we believe?

To begin, let me just admit that, yes, it is true, there is no smoking gun proof against Roger Clemens. There are no receipts, no tapes, no pictures or blood tests. That said, the circumstantial proof against him is so demonstrably damning, so overwhelming, it makes this blog unhappily obliged to feel that yes, Clemens did take HGH and steroids.

I've written before about Roger's stats before and after his "injection" dates (the dates his former trainer McNamee injected him with steroids). His stats before the dates McNamee were good. The stats after the injections were off the chart. To read the stats of Clemens before and after the injections, go here: http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2007/12/get-it-right.html)

Then there's this; what McNamee had to say about Roger's taking of steroids. Something, by the way, I feel has the stench of truth: "And Roger was in no way an abuser of steroids. He never took them through our tough winter workouts. And he never took them in spring training, when the days are longest. He took them in late July, August, and never for more than four to six weeks max ... it wasn't that frequent."

I believe this not only because the stats belie and back up McNamee, but because its the nature of the game. When pitchers get older, its not that they immediately lose life off their fastball, its that they can't sustain it for the entire season. They work out in the winter, start strong, but they begin to tire, break down and get injured. They can't dominate over the baseball season like they did when they were 25. So, for Roger, a pitcher in his late 30s, come August, he would need a pick-me-up, something to give him strength for the late season. So I believe McNamee's account when he says Roger didn't take it year-round. It makes sense.

Then there's the matter of the bizarre press conference, where Roger angrily defended himself last week, by first playing a secret recorded tape of him talking to McNamee, then afterwards, losing his mind and yelling about he doesn't care about the Hall of Fame. (Word has it that after the rant where Roger flipped out on a reporter who asked him a question about the Hall of Fame, Roger's lawyer passed a note that said 'Lighten Up")

The press conference, to this blog, seemed to have the opposite effect than intended. Clemens seemed not to be righteously angry, but desperate. He came off as pathetically batty. And not just a little over-the-top pathetic. Think a beefed up Fredo Corleone from the Godfather II.

First, there's the tape itself. Instead of proving Roger's innocence as a man upset by false accusations, it showed Roger as evasive, shifty in his questions. Instead of asking the obvious questions of a man falsely accused, like, gee, I don't know..."Hey Brian, why did you lie?" (which Roger never does) he asked scripted, calculating questions.

For instance, Roger asks McNamee "Why did you tell guys that I used steroids?"—a slippery question. He never once asks McNamee "Why did you lie?" because he knows what McNamee would say next. "I didn't, Roger, and you know it." He also never asks McNamee to change what he told Mitchell and clear his name, which you would suppose a man falsely accused would do.

Then there's the question of McNamee. As Peter Gammons said on ESPN, "We don't know why Brian McNamee would lie and open himself up to all this." Exactly. What does McNamee gain from testifying falsely to Mitchell. Every skeleton in his closet gets pulled out. His family wouldn't know peace for years as his name is raked over by Clemens' lawyers. Infamy, scandal, and then ultimately, if his lie is revealed, jail. So why do it?

Especially for a guy McNamee loved. In that tape that Roger taped and then played for the media, McNamee says "I'll go to jail, I'll do whatever you want." But he never once says that Roger was clean. He never once apologizes to Roger for lying.

This is McNamee on the tape. "I don't have any money. I have nothing. I'm not doing a book deal. I got offered seven figures to go on TV. I didn't do it. I didn't take it. I didn't do anything. All I did was what I thought was right - and I never thought it was right, but I thought that I had no other choice, put it that way."

So McNamee didn't reveal Roger's name for money (which he needs—his 10-year-old son is very sick). He obviously didn't do it to see his name in the scandal sheets. In fact, Brian McNamee sounds pained that he had to admit the truth about Roger.

Lastly, there are Roger's own words. Clemens, in his initial denials of the allegations in the Mitchell report, said nothing about getting shots. Then he belatedly remembered that he had received shots of the painkiller lidocaine and vitamin B12. It's also damning that he invoked B12, for two reasons: That was what Rafael Palmeiro said Miguel Tejada gave him in 2005, suggesting that a tainted B12 sample led to his positive test for steroids. Also, more importantly, players traveling between the United States and Latin America are said to label their containers of steroids and human growth hormone as B12 to get them through customs.

Also, as the New York Times on January 9th wrote: "No interviewer, not Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” or any of the reporters who attended the Clemens news conference Monday, asked him if he had prescriptions for lidocaine and injectable B12. If he didn’t, he used them illegally. If he did have a prescription, why didn’t he have the doctor who prescribed them give him the shots? If not the doctor, why not the team trainer? Why his personal trainer?"

There there's the question of what he said on 60 Minutes. First he said he didn't shoot steroids. "Where would I get the needles?" Then he says McNamee shot him with B12 and lidocaine. With needles. So he could easily get needles if he needed. And again, why didn't his his doctor inject him; why his trainer?

And now, as this is being written, it's come out today that Roger Clemens' attorney— who has maintained that Roger would answer any question Congress wants to ask about steroid allegations—now is hedging over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's request to depose Clemens under oath.

This is a bad move. Roger. Go to Washington and tell the truth. Pettite did, and America has promptly forgiven and forgotten. If I am correct and you did what McNamee says, go and tell congress. If you come clean and confess with honor, America will eventually forgive. If you didn't do what we all suspect, go to congress and prove your innocence. In any case, you must go to Washington. Because if you avoid congress and get subpoenaed and plead the fifth, well, that America won't forgive. (Just see Mark McGwire.) And if you lie....we'll, let me read some names to you:

Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart.

They are all in jail or facing serious federal charges, not for drugs. But for lying under oath.

In the end, there is only one way this ends. The same way it ended with Pete Rose, Jose Canseco, Marion Jones and all the other guys who claimed they did nothing wrong: the truth gets admitted. It's inevitable. And it pleases this blog in no way to say, we have a feeling what that truth is.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Best Weekend of the Year

I love this weekend. 4 games. Great opponents, winter football. It's the best. Even better than the Super Bowl. There are more games and it lasts the entire weekend.

Last weekend, I went 4-0 on my picks. I know, I know, I didn't blog it so I can't prove it, so I guess I'll just have to go 4-0 this weekend to prove it. So, here goes.


Let's start with Seattle at Green Bay. Everything in my gut tells me Seattle should win this, but the stats don't. Green Bay has better yards per play, better third down ratings and better yards per pass play. Also, Green Bay has only given up 19 sacks this year, while Seattle has given up 36 (which I'm sure Aaron Kampman likes to hear). Also Ryan Grant has picked up the running game for Green Bay in the second half of the season.

The forecast for Green Bay is 24 degrees with a chance of snow. That would likely effect Hasselbeck's sore wrist and the Seattle passing game. Can Seattle catch the ball—they had a lot of drops last week. And lastly, Green Bay is rested, at home and with a running game, playing against a team who can't run, while only giving up 3.8 yds per carry. All this adds up to Matt H. having to do it himself, which I don't think he can. Green Bay wins.


Jacksonville at New England
A couple of months ago, I said that if anyone could beat the Patriots, it was Jacksonville. I don't believe anyone can do it, but I still think Jacksonville is going to be tough. The Jags had an astonishing 4.58 yds per carry and held that up last week against the Steelers by running for 135 yards. They need to keep doing that this week, by running effectively and keeping the ball out of Tom Brady's hands. What's more, the last five weeks, the Patriots are giving up 4.89 yds per carry.

That said, the Patriots are going to come off the bus passing. If they can get up a couple of touchdowns and force Jacksonville to start passing, they are going to tee off on David Garrard. Look for Wes Welker to catch pass after pass for 8 yards or so in the flat. All in all, a lot is going to depend on John Henderson. If he plays and he is effective, the Jaguars can handle the Patriots spreading them out a little better. But if he's unable to play, the Pats can spread out the Jags as well as run effectively to keep them off-balance. All in all, the Pats win.


San Diego at Indianapolis
Frankly, this is all Peyton Manning. If he is given time and his receivers run the routes he tells them, they win. If he gets pressured and/or Harrison can't play effectively, they lose.

A lot of people were more impressed with the Chargers the second half of the season. In my opinion, they beat nobody. The Lions? Chiefs? Raiders? And now, they face the AFC top passer, at home, with his weapons all back (Clark and Harrison were out in their earlier meeting) and rested. Also, with Antonio Gates out, the Colts can focus more on Tomlinson, which Norv Turner is sure to lean on heavily. Which is not good. Also, Indy is getting back Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock back on the defensive line. uh oh. For all the bad press Indy's rush defense gets, they were 6th in the league only giving up 3.77 yds per carry. Overall, I think Indy wins in a walk.


New York at Dallas
A great many people see this game as the potential upset of the week. No doubt, T.O.'s gimpy ankle the reason for that, I just don't see it. What I see is Eli being harassed all day by Ware, Ellis and Co. and throwing a few ill-timed interceptions. With Shockey sidelined and Boss dinged up, New York will try to run the ball—except, Dallas had the 6th best run defense this year. Yes, New York ran for over 100 yds both times this year, but they lost both games. I also see the fact, that New York has the lowest passing yds per attempt out of all the playoff teams (and just behind Chicago...ouch!) a measly 5.51 yds per pass play. The Giants were also 1-5 against quality opponents this year.
In short, Dallas can weather the Giant's rushing attack, because they feel Eli can't beat them. New York will try to grind the clock on the ground and keep Eli to short timed passes, thus eliminating mistakes.
But it won't be enough. Dallas will use Witten and Marion Barber to keep the Giant front 4 on their toes and wait for the big play that Eli is bound to give them. Dallas wins.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Transactions...


To start, I would like to ask everyone, was there anything more pathetic than Roger Clemens sitting at a podium listening to a tape he made, secretly, of a phone call, with him saying obviously prepared statements to his trainer and his trainer repeating, over and over, "Tell me what you want me to do? I'll go to jail. I'll do whatever you want." Because to me, the whole thing just exhuded the pathetic in its purest form.

Roger made a phone call to a man who's son is dying and during the call tried to coerce the guy to admit something so Roger could save his own ass. Just a class move full of integrity and sound moral judgment, Roger.

I might have more to say on this later, but right now, the only two words that stick out, are pathetic and sad.

Hey, want a stat? Kellen Clemens led the Jets to only nine touchdowns in 87 drives as a starter. Not making me feel confident for 2008.

I was worried for a while about the inability of the Yankees to produce a lefty starter since Andy Pettite (Sean Henn, Brady Halsey, etc), till I thought about this: Going Back to 2004, the winners of the World Series have only had 2 lefties in all their starts. Jon Lester from last year, and Mark Buerhle for the White Soxin 2005. So, the moral is: it's really not so much about which side the pitcher pitches from, it's just that he has to be good.

Last Saturday was the 82nd birthday of Luigi (Lou) Carnesecca, legendary former coach of St. John's basketball. At the time of his retirement in 1992, he left St. John's with a record of 526 and 200; the second winningest program in NCAA basketball history. Not anymore. Since leaving, the Red Storm have been fallen into a college basketball afterthought, where the best anyone could hope for is mediocrity. So far, this year, with their record at 7-6 (a good year) they've already lost to lost to Niagara, Ohio University. And with the hard part of their schedule coming up, the best anyone could hope for is a .500 finish. Where have you gone, Lou? Please come back.

And now, the final ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER Man of the Week Awards of the football season. As much as I hate to say it, the award has to go to Bill Belichek. What he has done with the Patriots, not just this season, but his whole New England career is nothing short of miraculous. In the era of free agency, where players flee winning teams for better contracts elsewhere, how he's managed not only to win with interchangeable players, but seemingly thrive, is stunning. He's a brief snapshot of the first team Bill brought to the Super Bowl: His starting RB was Antoine Smith, his receivers were David Patten and Troy Brown and TE Jermaine Wiggins, his cornerbacks were Ty Law and Otis Smith, his safeties were Lawyer Milloy and Tebucky Jones and his linemen consisted of Anthony Pleasant, Brandon Mitchell and Bobby Hamilton. Oh, and his kicker was Adam Vinatieri. Notice something? Not one of those guys is with the team still. In short, the man is a frickin' genius. And now, he is the ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER Man of the Year winner.

And lastly, for the Super Bowl, I for one an hoping for a 5 minute preview commercial of the new Batman movie. Cause wow, the teaser trailer I saw was Bat-tastic!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sports Cliches Are What They Are

For those who haven't read my profile, which pretty much is everybody, it says that I have a degree in writing. And that means I read a lot of sportswriting and watch a lot of sports TV—most of it lazy and cliche-ridden. I mean really bad.

So today I decided to list some of the worst things people write and say out of laziness, slow thinking or complete indifference.


IT IS WHAT IT IS.
OK, so I am guilty of having said this (usually to my wife). Because of all the non-sayings, this is the king. I mean, when a guy in a locker room shrugs and say "Yeah, our record is 4-11. It is what it is," it basically means, "Yeah, it's bad. I don't care. You can't make me care. Shut up."

HE'S A CONTACT HITTER.
As opposed to a non-contact hitter? "I prefer to hit without using contact. I'm a non-violent hitter."

HE HAS A GREAT FEEL FOR THE GAME.
This is a sportscaster's way of saying, "He's white. Not that athletic. We have no idea how he's keeping up with all the black athletes." Interchangeable with "He's a scrappy player." As in, "That Wayne Chrebet (or Steve Nash, Rocco Baldelli, Eric Weddle, etc). He's got such a great feel for the game." Cause, you know. White people aren't athletic. Silly.

SMASHMOUTH FOOTBALL.
I should have a seperate section just for John Madden-isms. This one is an all-time Maddenism. He uses it pretty much every week for every game. A classic.

THROWN UNDER THE BUS.
I first heard this from the Girl-man and the Meatball (Mike and Mike in the Morning). Since then, every guy who's talked sports in the past six months—from the ubiquitous hyeanas laughing on the Sunday pregame shows to your cube neighbor at work—has had to say something along the lines of "Tiki shouldn't have thrown Eli under the bus." as some sort of initiation rite into the sports club. As if to say, "See? I know something sports guys say (even if I don't understand it)."

HE'S A WARRIOR.
No, he's not. He's an athlete. He's paid a jillion dollars to play a game. Unless his dessiccated brain is rotting on the ground next to his corpse, he should go out and play. And unless his name is Pat Tillman, he didn't sign up to defend his country, live in a foreign land, sleep outside and eat rations while getting shot at, all for a couple thousand a month. Which means he's not a warrior.

ANEMIC/TENACIOUS.
This is bascially a word package problem. And these words are always combined with push rush and defense. As in, "the Jets pass rush is anemic." Or "the Jaguars' have a tenacious defense." It's never the running game is anemic or the Giants have a tenacious offense. Well, they don't. But, sportswriters, I'm calling out to you. Mix up the word packages a little. Try different uses. Such as: "His fastball is anemic." Or: "That beer is tenacious." Try this: "Chad's arm is anemic." Or: "That thong is tenacious."

THEY"VE GOT MOMENTUM or THEY ARE ON A ROLL.
This comment is popular when sportswriters have no idea how a team is winning its sports games. Especially in football. I mean, truly, what the hell does this really mean? Just because someone did something yesterday, or last week, doesn't mean anything today. Point in fact, yesterday, every newspaper writer, every tele-sportjournalist chowderhead who was trying to predict the Washington-Seattle game, said of Washington, "Oh, they're playing for Sean Taylor. They've got momentum." Completely ignoring the fact that Seattle was a playoff-tested team, playing at home, against a 36-year-old backup quarterback. Simply put, they were a much better team, ready to annihilate Washington. Which they did. Momentum counted for jack once Patrick Kearney put his helmet into Todd Collins' ribs. Now that's momentum.

WE'RE TAKING IT ONE GAME AT A TIME.
Really, I thought you were playing three games at the same time. To save energy. You know, the environment. Conservation. The planet.

A LUNCHPAIL-TYPE PLAYER.
I don't even know what a lunchpail is. And I don't think anyone has used a pail since, like, the 30s.

THE GOD FINGERPOINT.
Man, I hate this. This is when, say, Big Papi, hits a fat pitch for a home run, then before he heads towards first, he points his finger towards God in a thank-you gesture. Scuse, me. Mister Papi. Hate to tell you this. God doesn't give a crap.
God has Rwanda, AIDS, the ozone layer, the rapid rise of oil prices, the rapid rise on cable bills, typhoons, terrorism, the strip mall-ization of America, Britney, Lindsay, Paris, that crying indian on those TV commercials, mad cow disease and reality TV shows to worry about. He doesn't give a crap that you hit a ball 435 feet.
And one other thing. It's not about you thanking God. It's about you thanking God in front of 45 thousand people to show how religous you are. When you are shoving a five down a stripper's g-string, do you point two fingers to heaven? When you're buying that big, gold chain that will look so cool as you throw a two-seam fastball, do you give the Big Guy a "You The Man!" finger? Stop it.

TRICKERATION.
OK, this was funny once. A made-up word by the out-of-work stand-up comedians at ESPN, it was, again, funny, the first time. Now, it's the "Where's The Beef" comment for every lummox watching sports TV.

HE HAS THE HEART OF A CHAMPION.
Cue Bette Midler: "Did you ever know that you're my hero..."

THERE'S NO I IN TEAM.
I imagine some coach of a college team, screaming at his guys to pass the ball, trying to get the message across. Then he thinks of this soon-to-be-cliche. "There's no I in TEAM!" he screams. And every coach, commentator, sportswriter heard. And this coach immediately regrets it. Wishes he could take it back. Wishes no one would ever, ever say this trite thing again.

HE'S A FRESHMAN PHENOM.
Apparently, there are no such things as veteran phenoms. Or sophomore phenoms. So if you're not a phenom when you're a freshman, forget it.

GO HARD OR GO HOME.
Just stop it.

THEY NEED TO EXECUTE.
One of the all-time non-sayings. It's like saying, "He needs to put on his uniform and walk out on to the field. Then he needs to pick up his bat. He needs to breathe in, and THEN out."

And now, my all-time favorite...a Maddenism. You've heard it, you've cringed...

THAT EMMITT SMITH. HE'S A GREAT RUNNER. HE SEES THE HOLE, THEN RUNS THROUGH IT.
Just a brilliant observation by big John. Madden has indeed said this. On more than one occasion. About numerous running backs. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

And there are so many more. Please guys, write in with your most hated cliches. Cause you're a warrior and it is what it is.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Transactions...


I have to start with this story I read in the Philadelphia Enquirer:

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith picked up some furniture at Raymour & Flanigan (2100 Route 38) in Cherry Hill earlier today and referred to himself in the third person while shopping, says a nearby customer. "Stephen would like the sofa that Stephen was just sitting in," our source quotes Smith.

Jesus, just when I couldn't imagine this guy being a bigger toolbox, he outdoes himself. Or, should I say, Stephen outdoes Stephen.

OK, on to business. I'm beginning to wonder if the draft couldn't be a bevy of 1st round quarterbacks. With Alex Smith, Brodie Croyle, Kellen Clemens, the carousel of Atlanta quarterbacks and the eternal mediocrity that is Kyle Boller, we could be looking at a number of QBs taken in the first round. Also, with the Eagles placing the bidding for McNabb at a 1st and 3rd, we could get a whole new generation of QBs taken often and early.

Gotta say, with USC up 49 to 17 over a completely overmatched Illini team, why did Pete Carroll keep running plays as time wound down? Why not tell his players to take a knee? Instead he kept running plays getting to the Illinois 4 yard line when time ran out. Not sure why, but it seemed unnecessary to me.

Listening to Randy Moss this week, it reminds me of what my father used to say; "Once a jerk, always a jerk."

I might write more on this later, but the fact that Randy said what he said: "I don't think me breaking Jerry Rice's record is special. I think shutting you guys up is what made it special, all the negativity, all my critics." makes me angry that this piece of crap has all this talent, but absolutely no love for the game, or respect for who played it before him.

Looking at their roster and their managerial moves this off-season, I think the K.C. Royals might improve more than a little this season. Not that they are gonna compete with Boston or anything, but they might be a damn sight better than they have been the past couple of seasons.

Just read the November's Men Journal article on Steve Nash (I am a painfully slow reader sometimes) and it reminded me that if I still watched basketball as religiously as I used to, he would be the guy I idolized. For everything he does on the court, and off.

Of all the bowl games, I might have had the most fun watching the Air Force-Cal game. High-scoring, spirited and fun. And the Air Force Falcons have a bitchin' helmet.

And finally, only 113 days until the Jets get to draft, which is about half as long as this hellacious season felt like.