Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 AL West Predictions

We're continuing our MLB preview. Today, we're doing the AL West.

AL WEST:
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels' John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar are both on the DL already. But skipper Mike Scoscia isn't worried.

That's because the Angles are pitching-rich. Pitching-drunk, really.

Even with, arguably, their best two pitchers out, they still have young gun, Jered Weaver, who pitched well last year and has had an awesome spring. They also have Jon Garland, a reliable innings-eater and lefty Joe Saunders. They also have a solid pen, with Scott Shields, F-Rod and Justin Spiers, all studs.

Also, the Angels have one of the most talented outfields in the league. Garret Anderson is pushed to left, as seven-time Gold Glovers Torri Hunter mans centerfield and makes Angels pitchers happy. And huge thumper, Vladimir Guerrero finally has a lineup that can protect him and is ready to do damage.

The rest of the lineup is solid—the Angels scored 822 runs last year, good enough for 4th in the AL. That should only get better with Hunter in the lineup. Look for the Angels to weather this injury bug in their rotation and win 90 games.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: 2nd baseman Howie Kendrick walked just 9 times in 338 at bats last season.


Seattle Mariners
The Mariners really couldn't have asked for a better off-season. After expressing a desire to test free agency, Ichiro decided to stay in the Pacific Northwest. Then, when it looked like the Mariners wouldn't get any more help for their rotation (aside from Carlos Silva, who is nice, but not the stud they needed) who pitched a combined 5.16 ERA, the Mariners get a true hoss, lefty Eric Bedard, from the Orioles.

Suddenly their biggest weakness could be a strength this year. With Bedard's and Silva's arrival, Miguel Batista's steady hold on the no. 3 spot in the rotation and King Felix Hernandez's development (he'll be 22 in April), the Mariners have a rotation that can stand up to most in the AL.

All this must make Seattle fans happy. Improving their record the last three seasons in a row, they can feel the playoffs within their grasp. They know already, what they can expect from Ichiro—a MVP contending type season—and from Adrian Beltre—25 HRs, 100 RBI, a Gold Glove on third. And they know all about J.J. Putz—1.38 ERA, 40 saves, .138 BA against—it's the rest of the team they are unsure about.

Is Richie Sexton the Paul Buynon guy who can club 45 jacks and bat .275. Or is he the guy who batted .205 last year and hit only 21 HRs? Is Jose Lopez the guy who made the 2006 All-Star team? Or the guy who batted .213 the second half of last year? is Raul Ibanez the guy who stunk it up for most of the season? Or the guy who batted .357 in August an September?

The Mariners are on the upswing. They can pitch with anybody in the AL and their lineup is solid. Should a few breaks fall their way, they could have their first division title since 2001.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Seattle's middle infielders, SS Yuniesky Betancourt and 2B Jose Lopez drew just 35 walks in 1060 ABs last season. And 3 of those were intentional.


Oakland Athletics
Like the Twins, the A's had a fire sale this off-season. And what a fire sale it was. First they traded ace, Dan Haren, along with Connor Robertson to Arizona for prospects. Then they traded outfielder Nick Swisher to the White Sox for prospects. Then they traded centerfielder Mark Kotsay to the Braves for a prospect. All this is after last year, where they traded MIlton Bradley and Jason Kendall...for prospects.

Following the trend here?

And they might not be done. A bunch of teams, including the Yankees, have been scouting Joe Blanton and Rich Harden closely. 3B Eric Chavez, currently on the disabled list, has been quoted as saying, "If I was healthy, I'm sure I'd have been traded as well." SS Bobby Crosby and reliever Huston Street are options to be traded as well.

Still, I'm picking them to surprise and not finish last in the AL west. While that may say something about the Rangers, I think the A's are prospect rich and that some of these kids are going to compete sooner rather than later. Already Daric Barton has nailed down 1B with a nice call-up last September. Travis Buck had a nice 1st season in the bigs last season and can be counted on in right field. Carlos Gonzalez, the prize of the Diamondback trade, and no. 22 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list should be up by mid-summer at the latest. Pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, no. 26 on that same list and part of the White Sox trade, had 185 strikeouts
in 150 innings in the minors last year and could be ready to contribute this year. Another lefty, Brett Anderson, brought in from the Diamondback trade (36 on BA's list) probably won't contribute a lot this year, but could be ready for a September call-up.

And while all of this is moot, because half the club could be traded by July, the A's are stocked with young talent and can surprise a few clubs this year.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: The A's used the disabled list 22 times last year, tying a Athletics club record.


Texas Rangers
The Rangers need help. In a lot of places.

And Lord knows they've tried.

In 2006, they brought in Kevin Millwood to anchor the staff and youngster Brandon McCarthy as a future star. But Millwood has gone 26-26 since then and had a 5.16 ERA last year. And McCarthy had a 5-10 record last year with a 4.87 ERA and two trips to the DL. (McCarthy is already on the DL this spring.) Last season, the Rangers signed Vicente Padilla to a 3-year 33 million dollar contract to help Millwood and McCarthy in the rotation. Padilla went 6-10 with a 5.76 ERA. None of them had a complete game last year.

To try and bolster a starting rotation that pitched the least innings of any staff in the league, the Rangers signed Jason Jennings to be their no. 3 starter. Jennings was 2-9 with a 6.45 ERA.

Last season they traded Mark Teixeira for blue-chip prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia to be their catcher of the future. However he was beat out this spring by Gerald Laird, who batted all of .224 last year. Texiera, meanwhile batted .317 for the Braves and hit 17 HRs in 54 games.

But there's some good news. Josh Hamilton, who they traded for from Cincinnati, is having an electric spring and should solidify centerfield. Hank Blalock should be ready to play 3rd base again full-time after surgery last season. C.J. Wilson, the closer has an electric arm, and can get out anybody, when he's not walking them (33BB in 68 innings). SS Michael Young joins Wade Boggs and Ichiro as the only three players since 1940 to have 5 consecutive 200-hit season. And Milton Bradley is here too, taking over in right field and providing a reliable bat.

But that's about it. There are holes everywhere, especially in the rotation. New club president Nolan Ryan has made a commitment to the farm system, which hasn't provided enough help for the big club, again especially in the rotation. (Scouts joke, the best arm the Rangers have in their entire system is Nolan Ryan.) It looks to be a little while longer until the Rangers are back in contention for the postseason.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: The Rangers projected rotation combined to win only 25 games last year.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 AL Central Predictions

Today we're continuing our 2008 predictions with the AL Central. Now, in order of how they're finish, we begin with the Indians.

AL CENTRAL:

Cleveland Indians
Yeah, I know Detroit traded for the entire Florida Marlin team and spent a jillion dollars signing Miquel Cabrera. But I still think Cleveland is the better-made team. Starting from behind the plate, Victor Martinez is a solid catcher and can hit for .300 and 25-30 HRs. Their starting five goes from dominant (Sabathia, Carmona) to solid (Westbrook, Byrd, Lee). The bullpen, too, is solid, with a combined 3.75 ERA last season, 4th best in the league. At times, though, it was scary, with Joe Borowski—he of the 5.07 ERA—though he did lead the AL with 45 saves last season. But, no 8th inning guy was as rock-solid as Rafael Betancourt and his 1.47 ERA in 79 innings pitched.

Travis Hafner should bounce back to his usual .305 BA and 35 HRs. Ryan Garko hit 7 HRs last September. And new sparkplug Asdrubal Cabrera, all of 21, is already a starter, and should be given the green light more on the bases.

The Indians were 1 game from the World Series. With C.C. Sabathia potentially leaving to get paid after this season, the time is now for the Tribe.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Travis Hafner's nickname, "Pronk" comes from a former teammate calling him "part project, part donkey."


Detroit Tigers
Thomas Magnum P.I. would be proud of this club. It's built to win, and it's built to win now. Then why am I saying they don't?

It's a number of things. Age being one of them. Gary Sheffield, who turns 40 this season, is coming off post-season arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder. Pudge turns 37 this season, which in catcher years, is something like 418. Another reason is I think their pitching is overrated. Their starters had a 4.68 ERA last season, which won't win games come playoff time. And they are counting on Kenny Rogers who turns 44 and had a terrible second half last season, and Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman, both of whom had plus 5.00 ERAs last season. Also, Willis gave up 87 walks last season, 3rd highest in the NL—and now he's in the AL. Compare these guys to the Indians staff, and there's no comparison.

And then there's the bullpen. Both Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney are down, bringing middle-relief into serious question. Can the starters, who as a whole pitched terribly in the second half, pitch well enough to get to Todd Jones. And how long can the Tigers expect Todd Jones, who turns 40 this April, to close games?

Still, they are gonna rock the ball. Cabrera, Granderson, Ordonez and crew are gonna give pitchers fits. Last year, they were 2nd in BA, total bases, slugging and RBI. Add Cabrera and Edgar Rentaria to that, and you have the makings of a fun time in Detroit.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Jeremy Bonderman had an 11.37 ERA in the first innings of games he pitched.


Kansas City Royals
Amazing. After 100 loss seasons from 2004 to 2006, and last year's 93-loss season, we're picking the Royals to be third in the AL Central. How?

Well, mostly it's because are young, talented and improving. Alex Gordon, who got off to a miserable start last year made huge improvements, both at third and at the plate. Gordon ending up hitting .275 after his awful spring. According to scouts, DH/1B Billy Butler is the second coming of Greg Luzinski in that he's a natural-born hitter with ball-powdering power. Brain Bannister won 12 games as a rookie. Zack Greinke had a 1.85 ERA in his final 7 starts. And reliever, Joakim Soria, who seemingly came from nowhere, saved 17 of the 21 games he was in and held opponents to a .187 BA. These youngsters, mixed in with the veterans Gil Meche and Jose Guillen add up to a team on the rise.

Now, the downside. The Royals last year had a pauper's year at the plate. How bad? Well, they had the fewest homers (102), the fewest total bases (2,145) and the worst slugging percentage (.388) in the AL. Need more? The club ranked next to last in total runs (706), walks and on-base percentage. To remedy this, the Royals brought in the aforementioned Guillen, who's 23 HRs last year match the TOTAL of the Royals outfield HR production from last year. Also, the rotation, if you subtract Meche and Bannister, had a 5.50 ERA.

However, this is still a team on the rise. Luke Hochevar, the no. 1 pick from 2006 is down in AAA and is developing. And Gordon, Bannister, Butler and the youngsters should only get better. They won't compete for a playoff spot this year, but next year....

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Shortstop Tony Pena's father once coached the Royals from 2002 to 2005.


Minnesota Twins
You have to feel a little bad for the Twins. Like the Athletics, they could practically field an All-Star team with the guys they trade away or let go in free agency, because the cost of keeping them would be prohibitive. Just this year, they had to get rid of the best pitcher in baseball (Johan Santana), an All-Star centerfielder (Torri Hunter), a 25-year old pitcher with a 3.69 ERA, (Matt Garza), and an innings-eating horse of a pitcher with a 4.1 ERA (Carlos Silva).

Still, the Twins aren't devoid of talent. They still have Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and AL Rookie of the Year runner up, 22-year old Delmon Young. Young batted .288 and had 93 RBIs last year, only 14 fewer than the departed Torii Hunter. New center fielder, Carols Gomez, taken from the Mets in the Santana trade, had 17 steals in 36 games at AAA. Michael Cuddyer is solid in right field and at the plate, and Joe Nathan is a stud in the bullpen.

The problem might be in losing all that pitching. Francisco Liriano, who is mega-talented, is coming off Tommy John surgery, is starting the season at AAA, and will need time to get back to speed. Boof Bonser had a 5.10 ERA last season. Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn are unproven. In fact take out free agent signee, Livan Hernandez and none of these guys has started 50 big league games.

The Twins have a bunch of youngsters both in Minnesota and on the farm. But it's going to take a little time before this team gels together. In the improved AL Central, that's not good enough to compete.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Michael Cuddyer had 19 assists from right field, the most in baseball.


Chicago White Sox
I'm not really sure what the White Sox are doing. Only two years removed from a World Series and they seem hell-bent on dismantling any chance at continued success. They traded their top three prospects for Nick Swisher, who hit .262 and 22 HRs last season. Also, after a season in which starting pitching was, at best, unreliable, they trade Jon Garland, a 200-innings plus anchor. True, they did get Orlando Cabrera back. But why trade for a shortstop when you also signed Cuban defector, 27-year old shortstop, Alexei Rameriz?

They still haven't solved the 3rd base problem. Do you try and trade Joe Crede, who's coming off back surgery? If you don't, you relegate Josh Fields to the outfield, where he's an error waiting to happen. Also, your middle lineup all had down years and got older and you didn't do anything about it. Are Jim Thome (37), Paul Konerko (32) and Jermaine Dye (34), who all battled below their career averages really bounce back?

The staff ERA was third worst last season and has 2 unproven and as-yet-to-show why they were 1st round draft picks in their rotation. Also, Jose Contreras, at 37 (which we all know is like 45 in Cuban Defector years) had his worst year in the bigs and only got worse as the year went on.

All in all, it's going to be a rough year for the South Siders. The Cubs look to make a serious run at the playoffs. The Sox will be home by then.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Last year, Jim Thome had a .750 slugging percentage with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Tomorrow we head west for the 2008 AL West predictions.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

2008 AL East Predictions

In keeping with little cool poll-gizmo we added to the side of this blog, andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com is going to preview major league baseball. Today starts a 6 part look at each division of major league baseball. First we'll start with the American League. And since we have a total east coast bias going on around here, we're gonna start with the AL East.

AL EAST:
Boston Red Sox:
No, I'm not stupid enough to pick the Yankees, who have three kids playing major roles on their pitching staff. And let's face it: The Sox are well made. And things might only get better. Ortiz should be healthy this year and Manny is not going to have a down year like he did last year. And the rich get luckier. J.D. is looking to build on a good second half last year, Ellsbury and Pedroia should feel more comfortable after great rookie seasons and Matsuzaka should be more comfortable picking one of his wide variety of pitches the second time around the AL.

But it's not all sunshine and roses. The Red Sox were relatively injury-free last season (the top 5 starters missed only 22 games last season). They can't count on that again. And if someone vital, say, Varitek goes down for a while, there could be significant problems. Over half their lineup is 32 and over. Can Lowell have the season of a lifetime again this year?

On paper, the Bosox are the most balanced, ready-to-win team right now. They have a good mix of youth and veterans. They have a dominant closer, good fielding and a big-game must-win pitcher. They might not go all the way...but they should go far into October.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Jonathon Papelbon is the first Red Sox pitcher with at least 28 saves in consecutive seasons.


New York Yankees:
The general consensus is that the Yankees are nothing this year. Washed up, an afterthought, ready to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Not so fast.

The Yanks scored 968 runs last season, the most by the club since 1937, so you know that their unpredictable rotation is going to get the help it needs. And their middle relief, while not ironclad dominant, is certainly taking the more is better belief. New manager Girardi's biggest question leaving camp is who, out of the 45 guys he haa, is he taking up to New York as a middle reliever.

While Joba got most of the headlines, Hughes is the one to watch out of the rookies. A nice delivery, a tight curveball, and a sneaky-fast Ted Lilly-type fastball make him a good bet for a solid starter.

And more rookies on the way soon—Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata are two kids who are almost, but not quite ready to roam Death Valley. (And not a moment too soon—Hideki is an old 33, Jason Zombie is a positively ancient 37 and Jeter's turning 34 in June), the Yankees are poised to make another run into the playoffs.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Jorge Posada, who got paid this offseason, was the first Yankees catcher to finish in the top 10 in the league in batting since the Captain, Thurman Munson in 1978.


Toronto Blue Jays:

This offseason, I kept saying if Toronto could stay healthy, they can sneak up on one of the two AL East Big Boys.

Ooops.

Already, B.J. Ryan, Casey Janssen, Scott Rolen, Greg Zaun and A.J. Burnett have either been put on the D.L. or haven't worked out in spring training due to injuries. And that's a shame, cause this team can compete. A really good young staff, that ranked 2nd in the A.L. in E.R.A. and in opposing batting averages, complete with a stud in Roy Halladay, can definitely toss a few past people. And Jeremy Accardo and B.J. Ryan form one of the best 8-9th inning tandem around. When they are healthy.

And the same goes for the field. Is Vernon Wells healthy? Greg Zaun? Scott Rolen. Frank Thomas? Lyle Overbay? If they all are, the city of Toronto has something to cheer about, as those guys, along with Alex Rios—43 doubles last year—can drive the ball. (And Alex Rios, along with Placido Polanco, might be the most underrated player in the AL.)If not...gonna be a long season.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Greg Zaun threw out a pathetic 13 of 73 of base stealers last season. That's 17.8% for you English majors.


Tamps Bay Rays
Not the Devil Rays anymore. Just the Rays. And who could blame them. If you had their history, wouldn't you want to disassociate yourself from your past as well?

But that could actually be changing this year. A solid front three in their rotation—Ace Scott Kazmir, improving Jamie Shields and a new solid pitcher from the Twins, Matt Garza— (those front three are arguably better than the Yankees first three), a up-and-coming young ball club—with Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, and a couple of key veterans (Cliff Floyd, Troy Percival) to show the kids how to do it right—all signs that The Rays might scratch the .500 mark.

Here's a stat. Whenever Kazmir or Shields pitched last year, the Rays were 35-30. Whenever anyone started, 31-66. Still think trading second place AL rookie of the year Delmon Young for Matt Garza and his 3.69 E.R.A was a dumb idea? And besides, offense wasn't the problem for the Rays last year. They had a .433 slugging percentage (4th in the AL) and were 3rd in HRs and stolen bases. It was pitching. They were dead last in the AL in ERA, wins, saves and opp. BA. And with 2007 1st round pick, David Price considered not far away from helping the big club, the Rays might not be the punching bag of the AL much longer.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Shields was the youngest starter in 40 years to record five times as many strikeouts as walks.


Baltimore Orioles
And here's someone who can replace the Rays as punching bags of the AL!!!

Let's be honest. The kiddie Orioles—Adam Jones, Radhames Liz, Garret Olsen—are just trying to get experience, while the vets—Melvin Mora, Brian Roberts, Jay Payton—just want to get traded. Anywhere, it doesn't matter.

This team is in fire sale mode. Which is great, except it's about 3 (or 8) seasons two late. There's not much to dissect here. Just hang on. Cause it's gonna get ugly before it starts getting pretty.

Sound Smart To Your Friends: Baltimore pitchers walked the most batters in the majors last year.

Tomorrow: The Al Central

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Worst Injustice in All of Sports, or Why I am an Excellent Driver


I admit it. I can be a little "Rain Man" at times. I need things to be a certain way, for things to have balance and to make sense.

Which I why I can't understand why the American League has 14 teams and the National League has 16.

It just doesn't make sense. And what's worse, with all this "balanced scheduling" the MLB has been pushing, it makes even less sense.

Look, the NL Central has six teams. The AL West has 4. How is that balanced? If the AL West is weak one year, and say the Mariners are the only decent team, that would mean they get something like 57 games, or a third of its schedule, to pad its record against weaker opponents and get to the playoffs. A fifth team would mean more competition and more balance. The opposite is the case in 6 division NL, who constantly beat up on each other. It just isn't fair.

I understand, nothing is ever going to be completely fair and balanced, but at least MLB can try to make sense. It's been this way for a decade now, (since Tampa joined the AL East and moved Detroit to the Central) and—this is the part that drives me nuts—it wouldn't be that hard to fix.

Admittedly, a couple of teams would have to move and reforge rivalries, but on the whole, my plan to give the leagues balance is fair and not very traumatic to the teams involved.

The first part of the plan would be to take Arizona and move them to the AL West. Somebody from the National League has to move to the American League, and they make the most sense. They are in the west, close to Anaheim and all the West coast teams. They don't have the history of St. Louis or the Cubs, so moving them won't disrupt traditions. And you sure as heck can't move the Rockies to the AL. With Big Papi or Frank Thomas and all the other DHs, the games would take 7 hours and end up looking like Nuggets scores.

The second and final part of the plan is to move the Houston Astros to the NL West. Again, The Astros don't have a huge rivalry with the Reds or the Pirates, so moving them isn't like moving the Red Sox to the NL West.

I'd imagine some in the Astros organization wouldn't like the traveling the Astros would have to do, but really, their AL Texas counterparts have it worse than them. I mean, traveling to Colorado or LA isn't really all that different than traveling from Houston to Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. Check out this map I got from sportsline.com. The Astros really would be doing the same traveling they already do. And unlike the Rangers, the Astros wouldn't have to travel to Seattle. Really, Denver isn't as bad as that.

And there it is. We have balance. It makes geographical sense, it maintains rivalries. All is well.

And since it makes sense, or course it'll never happen. Not that it really matters all that much. But, if you'll excuse me, I gotta go. Three minutes to Wapner.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Transactions...


So...is your bracket ruined, too?

Oh, yeah. That sound you just heard....the big thud? Yeah, that's me giving up on Eric Chavez forever.

He's played one full season since 2004 and now he's being "shut down." http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=21&entry_id=25134
Stick the Pavano in him, Oakland A's fans, he's done.

Can anyone explain to me why Donnie Walsh would want to come to the New York Knicks? In all seriousness, they have got to be the worst franchise in all of professional sports. Up until recently, they had the highest team salary in the NBA, despite having one of the worst records in the NBA. They've been in the playoffs once since 2001, again despite regularly having the highest payroll in the league. They get brought up on sexual harassment charges...by their own employees...and I'm not talking about players getting charged, I'm talking about upper management. And the situation Isiah is handing Walsh is a disaster one not likely to get out of any time soon. The team is a morass of overpaid, un-tradeable miscreants, neverwas's and malcontents—the kind that drives Larry Brown, a legend of basketball to get himself fired after one year. The owner, James Dolan, has got to classified as either completely incompetent, or a total Cretan. The kind of owner that gives Allan Houston a 6-year, 100 million-dollar deal when no one else was bidding. The kind that hires Larry Brown to a 5-year, 50-million dollar deal, fires him after one season, agreeing to pay Brown 18 million just to walk away. Who is still paying Don Chaney and Lenny Wilkens, after both tried to, and failed, to coach the New York Knicks. The kind that makes mid-1980s Steinbrenner look smooth and thoughtful.

So, why would Donnie Walsh want to come here, into this zoo, when he's esteemed for doing a great job at a respected organization? Nothing in the Pacer organization could bad enough to want to come here.

In case any of you follow this kind of stuff...the University of Texas has 16 football commitments signed up...for NEXT Year's class. 16 kids, ready to sign for the 2009 class! And 7 of them are serious blue-chippers, with one of the being a five-star QB. That's 7 flavors of preposterous; to have that many kids this early.

I said it before but...IF the Blue Jays could stay healthy, they could be a big problem for the powers in the AL East. And then last week we hear about Casey Janssen going down for the season. Uh oh. Now we hear that Greg Zaun is on the DL, that B.J. Ryan is "hoping" for a mid-April return, Scott Rolen is also "hoping" to be back shortly after opening day, and A.J. Burnett, who finally pitched with his full repertoire for the first time all spring training, got shelled for 7 runs in five innings. Wooof, that's a bad smell coming out of Toronto right now.

And lastly, today is the birthday of one, Howard William Cohen, A.K.A. Howard Cosell. For those of you old enough to remember Cosell, he is, like him or hate him, a singular figure, and probably the most unique commentator in the history of sports. From coining the name of ESPN's recent mini-series "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is burning." to his famous announcement during a Monday Night Football game of John Lennon's death to his brilliant work in hosting "Battle of the Network Stars," Cosell was a true journalist. But perhaps I'll best remember him as Woody Allen remembered him...fast forward to 2.40 to see what I mean. Actually, watch the whole clip, it's pretty funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3pvCwC2rsg

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mock Redux

It's been almost 2 months since I did my first mock draft. And a lot has happened. A lot of Senior Days, a lot of free agency signings. So it's about time to do the next version. Here we go:


1. Miami - Jake Long OT - Michigan
Bill Parcells is a "Hog" guy. He believes in enforcing your will at the line of scrimmage. And with Miami cutting tackles Shelton, Toledo and Alabi and only one signing of significance on the offensive line (guard Justin Smiley), Miami is in for some draft help. Matt Ryan is a possibility, but the buzz is that Parcells likes Chad Henne in the second round. That said, I think Parcells takes Henne's Wolverine teammate, Long.

2. St. Louis - Chris Long DE - Virginia
The Rams need help everywhere. And with Parcells taking one of their options off the board and the signing of Jacob Bell to help the offensive line, the Rams turn to the other side of the ball, namely defensive end. Little is 34 on one side, and Victor Adeyanju doesn't have a sack to his name on the other. Long has rocked his off-season workouts and will make the Rams happy he was there at 2.

3. Atlanta - Matt Ryan QB - Boston College
The Falcons are another team with needs all over the place. Their O-Line is a shambles; QB is a disaster, though they did get Michael Turner. That means Darren McFadden is not the pick here, so they turn to the nation's best signal caller, Ryan, and allow him to learn from the bench as Chris Redman and Joey Harrington get their butts kicked behind a terrible offensive line.

4. Oakland - Vernon Gholston DE/OLB - Ohio State
You really never know with "Weird" Al Davis. He marches to his own bagpipes. The moves he's made off-season—namely signing Tommy Kelly to a fat contract, trading for DeAngelo Hall, signing Gibril Wilson—seem to point to Al's displeasure with the defensive side of the ball. Also, he resigned Justin "Huggy Bear, Jr." Fargas and has a couple million in Dominic Rhodes to back him up. Combine that with the fact that Weird Al loves athletes and speed, make Gholston, this year's "Freak," the Raiders pick.

5. Kansas City - Jeff Otah OT - Pittsburgh
Buzz on the street is that ole' Herm loves this kid. And with KC's D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E need for offensive line help and their complete lack of interest they showed Ryan Clady's pro day, it seems Otah is the pick here. In all sincerity, I think the Chiefs try to trade down—Otah should be available still, around pick 9 or so, so see the Bengals actually taking this pick.

6. New York Jets - Darren McFadden RB - Arkansas
Again, I think this pick is a trade, especially with Dorsey still on the board. However, if the Jets stay here and the draft roles this way, they have to take McFadden. As much as I would hate that. Thomas Jones is still a solid back (last year's problems are the offensive line's fault, not his) and Washington provides the explosion and versatility the Jets need. Everyone compares McFadden to A. Peterson, though I don't see it. McFadden doesn't possess the breaking power that Peterson has. In any event, should the draft play out this way, McFadden has got to be the pick.

7. New England - Glenn Dorsey DT - LSU
I know, I know. Every mock on the planet has the Pats taking a CB. But New England has signed Fernando Bryant, Jason Webster and Lewis Sanders. And frankly, the draft doesn't truly have any of the CBs available worth this pick. Dorsey, on the other hand, is definitely worth this pick, and would be a gift to Belichek. Dorsey can used in a variety of ways (inside on a 3-4 or outside, or in a 4-3), makes others better, and is a force in whatever role (three-technique, over the ball) you play him.

8. Baltimore - Mike Jenkins CB - South Florida
Baltimore has been pretty quiet this off-season. And with needs to fill, cornerback being the most pressing (the Ravens will wait till later to grab a QB prospect), they grab talented Jenkins, a solid cover corner. The Ravens prefer taller corners (both Rolle and McAlister are over 6 feet), and with Jenkins fitting the bill as tall, the Ravens grab him.

9. Cincinnati - Sedrick Ellis DT - USC
As I said before, I believe KC and Cincinnati will swap picks. But either way, Ellis is the pick for the Bengals. With a truly dire need for help up the middle (the Bengals gave up over 120 yds per game on the ground last year), Ellis would be just what the Queen City prayed for.

10. New Orleans - Leodis McKelvin CB - Troy
New Orleans has done a heck of a lot of work on their defense this off-season. And that's good cause they needed to. But more still needs to be done. It seems like the Saints have been looking for an answer at corner for forever. Jason David was a bust, Usama Young didn't impress and Randall Gay is bust suited to a 3rd option. McKelvin helps them right away and can return kicks as well. Also, look for a trade up to the Jet's spot to grab Dorsey.

11. Buffalo - Malcolm Kelly WR - Oklahoma
An easy one here. The Bills pulled a great trade with their nabbing of Marcus Stroud. Shoring up their middle defense should help with their pass rush, and signing Kawika Mitchell and the return of Paul Posluzny should help with their run defense and LB corp. On the offensive side of the ball, the Bills have cut Sam Aiken and Peerless Price, leaving them with the cast of the "Lollipop Kids" as their receivers are all 5'10" or under. Kelly, at 6'4" gives new QB Edwards a nice target.

12. Denver - Ryan Clady OT - Boise State
Another pick that writes itself. With Lepsis's retirement, the Broncos need a LT who can step in and play their zone-blocking scheme. Last year's 3rd Round pick didn't play much and is no sure thing. Clady has the feet to fit in perfectly.

13. Carolina - Chris Williams OT - Vanderbilt
This pick is very much up in the air, as their are rumors about a possible Viking-Panther trade involving Julius Peppers and Gross going to Minnesota and Bryant McKinnie heading to Carolina. Also, the Panthers are shifting Travelle Wharton inside to guard, so they need some offensive line help in any case. They grab Williams to help out.

14. Chicago - Gosder Cherilus OT - Boston College
This is a little higher than most predicted the huge BC guy to go, but word is that Chicago is very interested in the BC lineman and has scouted him very closely. And let's face it, Chicago needs the help. A natural right tackle, Cherilus has impressed in the off-season workouts and would fit in nicely here.

15. Detroit - Rashard Mendenhall RB - Illinois
The Lions could go a number of ways here. Harvey, the pass rusher from Florida could help Rod Marinelli's defense, which could use help. Dan Connor would look nice, too in this defense. However, with Kevin Jones getting cut and Duckett heading to Seattle and Tatum Bell on a short leash with a one-year deal, the Lions grab a big, quick back to help out their offense.

16. Arizona - Aqib Talib CB - Kansas
The Cardinals get a little teary when they see Williams and Clady go off the board before them...it means they are likely to have to live with Mike Gandy at LT for another season. Talib has been a ballhawk his entire career, and has the right disposition for corner. At his Senior Day, he reportedly did well at the positional drills. Also, look for Rodgers-Cromartie here, but I think Kalib gets the nod.

17. Minnesota - Derrick Harvey DE - Florida
It seems like the Vikings have been drafting defensive ends in the first round a lot lately, with Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James. And now with Udeze going for Leukemia treatment and James buried in the depth chart, Minnesota needs someone who could hound the passer. Harvey, a clone of former teammate Jarvis Moss, fits the bill.

18. Houston Texans - Jonathan Stewart RB - Oregon
The Texans dropped a chunk of change on Jacque Reeves to help out with their awful secondary. And they might not be done. With Dunta Robinson out till mid-season, the Texans might need more help. This pick could easily be spent on more secondary help, where the Texans were pretty abysmal. However, with Stewart sitting there, the Texans must ask themselves, is Ahman Green or Darius Walker the answer? Stewart is too good to pass up.

19. Philadelphia - Desean Jackson WR - California
For a team that passes the ball 70% of the time, the Eagles don't really have the most impressive WR corp. And if this is really Reid and McNabb's swan song (as is whispered), they need to get a playmaker tout suite. Jackson's speed is off the chart and can give the Eagles a Devin Hester-type threat every time he touches the ball.

20. Tampa Bay - Limas Sweed WR - Oklahoma
4th pick in a row that I didn't change from my January mock. Tweed fits exactly what Tampa needs—a big receiver that can play Little Chucky's offense.

21. Washington - Devin Thomas WR - Michigan State
The Redskins have been completely quiet this off-season. Not because they don't have needs; the O-line is old and thing on backups, they need help all across the defensive line and they have no wide receivers that scare anybody. That said, Devin Thomas has had a great off-season, including posting a 4.4 40 and 33 inches on his vertical leap. Head coach Zorn has publicly stated the Skins need help at WR; consider Thomas that request answered.

22. Dallas - Felix Jones RB - Arkansas
The Cowboys have been the subject of seemingly a jillion trade rumors this off-season; moving up to get McFadden, getting Ocho Cinco to help out at WR, and getting Pac-Man Jones to come in once the NFL says he can. All things being as they are now, I think Jerry Jones takes his namesake from his alma mater. I think Rodgers-Cromartie makes more sense, but I think Jerry gets his way.

23. Pittsburgh - Brandon Albert G - Virginia
The rumor mill has it that the Steelers have been scouting Quentin Groves hard. However, having spent their first two picks on linebackers last draft and with James Harrison having a breakout season with 8.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl berth, I can't see the Steelers grabbing another OLB with their first round pick. Also, Rothlisberger was sacked 47 times last season and having just signed him to a contract with a lot of zeroes on it, they probably want to keep him alive. The pick is Albert who steps in for the departed Faneca.

24. Tennessee - Kentwan Balmer DT - North Carolina
The Titans seem to be going back to the future this off-season, signing former Titans, Jevon Kearse and Justin McCareins. Other than that, and the Jake Scott signing, it's been relatively quiet. They passed on the wide receiver class of free agents, including Bryant Johnson, who many already had penciled in Nashville. Tenn lost a bunch of players off their defensive line, including Randy Starks, Antwan Odam and Travis Laboy. Their recent signing of Kearse and DE Philip Merling's recent hernia scares the Titans off and they take Balmer to help stop the bleeding on their defensive line.

25. Seattle - Sam Baker OT - USC
This might be a little high for Baker, but this is a need position. As this is Holmgren's last year, he needs someone to come in and play now. That leaves out any of the skill positions as it take a few years for those guys to get comfortable in his complex offense. Baker can come in with free agent guard Mark Wahle and solidify the line for Holmgren's last year.

26. Jacksonville: Phillip Merling DE - Clemson
Jacksonville only mustered up 37 sacks all last season and with Bobby McCray having fled to N.O., the Jaguars need for a pass-rushing end is even more dire. Merling isn’t a classic pass-rushing end, and falls a bit due to injury issues. The slide stops here as the Jaguars can pencil him close to right away as he is all-around solid and may be the most ready to start end in the draft. Kenny Phillips and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are other options.

27. San Diego: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB - Tennessee State
The Chargers are in a position to take the best player available. They take a gander at Dan Connor and Keith Rivers, but with Drayton Florence leaving for Jacksonville, they join cousins, Antonio and Dominique in their secondary. Coming off a lower level of competition, Rodgers-Cromartie can start slow behind Quentin Jammer and his cousin until he catches up to NFL speed.

28. Dallas: Antoine Cason CB - Arizona
In all honesty, if Rodgers-Cromartie slides past 22, I think Dallas trades up to get him. Or, they can stay here at 28 and take Antoine Cason, who may not have the athleticism and upside of Rodgers-Cromartie, but can help sooner. Reggie Smith is a possibility as well.

29. San Francisco - Keith Rivers LB - USC
The Niners must feel happier than an old uncle on Viagra in a whorehouse. Rivers slide (which has more to do with other teams' pressing needs rather than any lack of his ability) lands him right into the laps of the Niners who love his versatility and can use him in any number of ways. With the Niners having taken care of their passing woes with Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson and Mike Martz coming into town, they laugh as Willis and Rivers make for an excellent LB corp for years to come.

30. Green Bay - Brandon Flowers CB - Virginia Tech
Green Bay likes to play rough, in-you-face man-to-man. Enter Brandon Flowers. Although smallish, Flowers is a hard hitter and might be the best stick-to-your-hip cover corner this draft. And anyone watching the Green Bay-New York playoff game knows that the Packers need some new blood in their secondary. Reggie Smith is also a possibility, but I think that Flowers is better suited to what the Packers run and can come in an be the nickel corner right away.

31. New England - The Pats forfeited this pick due to their illegal spying.

32. New York Giants - Dan Connor LB - Penn State
The second after Green Bay selects Brandon Flowers, you can hear the New York crowd in the draft room start chanting Connor's name. There might be some chants of "Kenny Phillips" or "Reggie Smith," as Giants fans know their safety situation is pretty grim. However, Connor's just too talented to pass up and can slide in at Giant OLB right away.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The All-Bust Bowl

With the national holiday known as the NFL draft coming and every team spending jillions trying to figure out which player is the best fit, I got all nostalgic thinking of drafts pasts. And since I am a Jet fan, drafts pasts means drafts picks wasted and gigantic, humungous busts. Which got me thinking: What if we could alter time, and have the worst, all-time busts play each other? Call it the Super-Bust Bowl (sponsored by Wonder bra of course). On one side we could have Team Ryan Leaf, on the other, Team Akili Smith. All right, let's get to the Rosters:

Quarterbacks:
Team Ryan Leaf
Art Schlicter - Ohio State - Baltimore - 1982
A lot of people would put Heath Schuler here, but Schlicter was picked ahead of Marcus Allen and Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak. Massive gambling problems limited him to 6 career starts and a 45% completion rating. An All-Time Buster.

Team Akili Smith
Todd Blackledge - Penn State - Kansas City - 1983
Picked ahead of Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. 28 TD passes and 39 ints. Awesome.

Running Backs:
Team Ryan Leaf
Blair Thomas - Penn State - New York Jets - 1990
The Jets should have their own wing in the Hall of Busts. Picked ahead of Emmit Smith and Rodney Hampton, as well as Junior Seau. A Colossus of Busts.

Team Akili Smith
Lawrence Phillips - Nebraska - St. Louis Rams - 1996
A mega talent. A major jerk. So talented coaches kept bringing him back. Such a jerk he wiped out not only in the NFL, but the CFL too.

Wide Receivers:
Team Ryan Leaf
Charles Rogers - Michigan State - Detroit Lions - 2003
Taken by his home state Lions ahead of Andre Johnson. Got suspended a few times for violating the NFL drug policy and out of the league.

David Terrell - Michigan - Chicago Bears - 2001
Former teammate, Dashing Tom Brady tried to help him out when he was cut by the Bears and gave him a shot in New England. Didn't take.

Team Akili Smith
Rae Carruth - Colorado - Carolina Panthers - 2001
In the library of the All-Time busts, murder has a very special place.

Johnny "Lam" Jones - Texas - New York Jets - 1980
Another brilliant Jet pick. A no. 2 pick in the draft, the guy could run like the wind. Too bad he also caught passes like the wind. Oh, and Anthony Munoz was the next pick.

Tight Ends:
Team Ryan Leaf
David Lafleur - LSU - Dallas Cowboys - 1997
Really wasn't as bad as Cowboy fans remember. Still, Lafleur holds a special place in their hearts as they traded 2 no. 1 picks to move to get him.

Team Akili Smith
Johnny Mitchell - Nebraska - New York Jets - 1992
I still get anger spasms from this pick. Also could haven selected Derek Brown, taken in the same draft one spot before him. Brown had an illustrious 11 catches in 3 seasons.

Offensive Tackles:
Team Ryan Leaf
Tony Mandarich - Michigan State - Green Bay Packers - 1989
The definition of Bust. The second pick in that year's draft, he was selected ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

Antone Davis - Tennessee - Philadelphia Eagles - 1991
8th pick in the draft, two ahead of 3-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champ, Jim Lachey.

Team Akili Smith
Kevin Allen - Indiana - Philadelphia - 1985
Another Eagle pick, taken from the college football hotbed of Indiana U. One year in the league was all he lasted. Also a sex offender, which is nice.

Mike Williams - Texas - Buffalo Bills - 2002
A 330-lb. Bust. Couldn't play tackle or guard.

Guards:
Team Ryan Leaf
Eugene Chung - Virginia Tech - New England Patriots - 1992
Noted for being the first Asian American taken in the first round. That's about it.

John Rienstra - Temple - Pittsburgh Steelers - 1986
You take a guy from Temple? With the 9th pick in the draft?

Team Akili Smith
Andre Hines - Stanford - Seattle Seahawks - 1980
Get this. The Seattle coaches wanted to pick a guy named Brian Holloway, but wrote down the wrong jersey number and ended up picking Hines by accident. Overweight, soft (Seahawk coaches said that you could ... "walk around the field and beat him by three minutes"), his career lasted 9 games.

John Charles Hicks Jr. - Ohio State - New York Giants - 1974
Awesome collegiate career (they still sing songs about him at Ohio State). Taken an amazing 3rd in the draft. Out of the league in three years.

Center:
Team Ryan Leaf
Steve Everitt - Michigan - Cleveland Browns - 1993
If you take a center with the 14th pick in the draft, he'd better be better than bouncing around the league for 6 years.

Team Akili Smith
Robert Shaw - Tennessee - Dallas Cowboys - 1979
You just have to love the name. Injuries kept to 3 years and out.

Defensive Tackles:
Team Ryan Leaf
Steve Emtman - Washington - Indianapolis Colts - 1992
1st pick in the draft, the guy was an animal when healthy. He just was never healthy. Poster boy for anti-Astroturf protestors.

Gabriel Rivera - Texas Tech - Pittsburgh Steelers - 1983
A drug addict, he became paralyzed in a drunk driving accident his rookie season. Notable because Pittsburgh fans are upset the Steelers passed on hometown favorite Dan Marino.

Team Akili Smith
Jonathan Sullivan - Georgia - New Orleans Saints - 2003
Not only a big, fat, mega-bust, but cost the Saints two no. 1 picks to move up to take him. Lasted 3 years.

Ryan Sims - North Carolina - Kansas City Chiefs - 2002
Drafted 6th in the draft ahead of Dwight Freeney, John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth, he has a career total of 6 sacks.

Defensive Ends:
Team Ryan Leaf
Reggie Rogers, DE, Detroit Lions - 1987
Even surpassing the Jets, the Lions picks over the years are astonishing in their cluelessness. The 7th overall pick, he is remembered more for his off-the-field behavior. On the field, he had a career total of two sacks. Off the field he was imprisoned for vehicular manslaughter.

Jamal Reynolds, DE, Green Bay Packers - 2001
I remember being so happy that Green Bay took this guy, because I was afraid the Jets might take him a few picks later. Total washout.

Team Akili Smith
Cedric Jones - Oklahoma - New York Giants - 1996
Blind in one eye, which the Giants didn't know, he totaled 15 sacks before he was bounced from the league.

John Copeland - Alabama - Cincinnati - 1993
Copeland, who had 24 career sacks, went 35 picks before Michael Strahan, who has 142.

Linebackers:
Team Ryan Leaf
Mike Junkin - Duke - Cleveland Browns - 1987
Whatever Schottenheimer saw in this kid, no one else did. Projected to a mid-round pick, Mad Marty moved up 19 spots in the first round to the no 5 spot to take him.
The result. No tackles, no sacks. Ever.

Tom Cousineau - Ohio State - Buffalo Bills - 1979
The 1st Pick Overall, he never played a down for them. Why? Because he thought they were rude. He went the CFL for two seasons, then came to Cleveland. Not a bad player, but still worthy of the Super-Bust list. If you draft a player and he never touches the home turf, that's a bust.

Team Akili Smith
Keith McCants - Alabama - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 1990
Tampa Bay, who picked McCants as the 4th Pick Overall were shocked, yes, shocked to find out McCants was completely incapable of playing linebacker in the NFL, mostly because they had no idea he had sustained a serious knee injury. They tried to convert him to defensive end this second season in the league, where he got fat and looked lost. He was cut by 1993. The next pick after McCants. Junior Seau.

Rick Middleton - Ohio State - New Orleans Saints - 1974
Had to use the Way-Back Machine for this one. The Aints used the 13th pick in the 74 draft to take Middleton, one slot ahead of his teammate, future Pro Bowler and "the heart and soul of the original Orange Crush defense," Randy Gradishar. Middleton was traded after two seasons and was out of the league in 5. Never recorded a sack.

Cornerbacks:
Team Ryan Leaf
Bruce Pickens - Nebraska - Atlanta Falcons - 1991
"Easy" Pickens was exactly that for quarterbacks. The 3rd pick in the 91 draft, he had a total of 2 interceptions before being bounced out of the league in 1995. Also, gets the distinction of being the only draft pick to even threaten to sue the team that drafted him, before he ever played a game for them. He now supposedly runs a doomsday cult in California.

Michael Booker - Nebraska - Atlanta Falcons - 1997
Atlanta did so well with cornerbacks from Nebraska with Pickens, they decided to try again 6 seasons later with Booker. Taken directly ahead of Warrick Dunn and Tony Gonzalez, 33 picks ahead of Sam Madison and 55 picks before Ronde Barber, Booker left the league by 2001. He is quoted as saying he didn't like playing in the NFL as much as he did in college.

Team Akili Smith
Tom Knight - Iowa - 1997 - Arizona Cardinals
1997 seems to be a banner year for El Busto cornerbacks. If you are taken 9th in the draft and your interception total for your career is 3...then you are guaranteed a cushy soft chair at the table. The mega-Bust table.

Russell Carter - Southern Methodist University - New York Jets - 1984
Ahhh, good old reliable Jets. Always up for a huge miss in the draft. Taken with the 10th pick in the 84 draft, one spot ahead of Wilbur Marshall, Carter was traded a few seasons later to the Raiders for a 6th round pick. Classic Jets.

Safeties:
Team Ryan Leaf
Leonard Coleman - Vanderbilt - Indianapolis Colts - 1984
Two picks ahead of Russell Carter, Coleman with taken by the Colts with the 8th pick. However, they couldn't agree with Coleman, so he spent the '84 season playing in the USFL. When they did sign, he did a whole lot of nothing. Traded to the Chargers and out of the league shortly after.


Rashard Anderson - Jackson State University - Carolina Panthers - 2000
A cornerback, who Carolina immediately realized couldn't play there and tried to convert to safety. Carolina continually bounced him between safety and corner, but one thing was constant. He couldn't play. After his second season, he was suspended twice for violating NFL drug policy, and never played again.


Team Akili Smith
Patrick Bates - Texas A&M - Los Angeles Raiders - 1993
Such a bust, no remembers him ever being in the NFL. Practically no info on this guy.

Derrick Gibson - Florida State - Oakland Raiders - 2001
Go to the Oakland Raiders bulletin board and see what the fans think of Derrick Gibson. Here's a sample. "Seriously, does this guy ever make the smart decision on a play? He blows routine tackles, is always 2 steps late reacting to the ball, and just looks lost in the zone scheme. Gibson has sucked his entire 4 years in the NFL. Derrick must be a favorite of Al's for him to be starting and still be on our team."

Kickers:
Team Ryan Leaf
Russell Erxleben - Texas - New Orleans Saints - 1979
Drafted a ridiculous 11th in the draft after a very nice collegiate career, his first NFL game "was a portent of his pro career." A punter as well, the snap in an overtime game, went over his head. When Erxleben went to go get it, he turned around and threw a strike to Falcon, James Mayberry who walked into the end zone for a TD. Next season, during the very first game, he blew a game-tying field goal. After his pro career, he got busted for securities fraud and served time in jail.

Team Akili Smith
Steven Little - Arkansas - St. Louis Cardinals - 1978
Drafted 15th in the 1978 draft after kicking an NCAA record-tying 67-yard field goal in 1977, Little flamed out in the NFL as both a punter and a kicker. 2 years later, on the day he was released from the Cardinals, Little was in a car crash leaving him a quadriplegic.

Not enough punters to warrant a Bust.

I realize we left a whole mess of Busts on the table; Willie Middlebrooks, Ken Macafee, Curtis Enis, Ki-Jana Carter, Percy Snow, Sammie Smith, etc, etc. But we have to play the game now. And after one quarter where they really play well, Akili Smith team flames out for the next three. While Team Ryan Leaf just freaks out, tries to hit officials, fans, refs and the occasional teammate. Final score: -10 to -10. A tie. What other way would you end the Bust Bowl?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Transactions...

So the Rockets, huh? 22 straight wins. I've thought about this, and the only way they are able to do this, is that they casted the 3rd level Sorcerer spell, "Feeblemind" on their opponents. That's the only logical way this team wins 22 games. In fact, I'm positive.

I've been saying all winter that if the Blue Jays can keep it together and stay relatively healthy, they have a decent shot to upset the Red Sox or Yankees. So, what happens? Casey Janssen, he of the 2.35 ERA already is out for the season with a shoulder issue. A.J. Burnett, seemingly always rehabbing, hasn't thrown a curveball all spring due to a fingernail issue. Not the start you want when you're trying to catch the big boys.

Speaking of not the start you want...the Yankees starters ERAs are as follows: Wang, 8.44, Petitte, 5.63, Mussina 4.66, Hughes 4.70. And that doesn't include potential starters, Chamberlain, 6.14 and Karstens and Rasner, both with ERAs north of 8.4. I know its only spring training, but blee-arg.

Just watching some college basketball this weekend and it makes wish even more that college football had a damn tournament system. We proposed one back in November here: http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2007/11/bowl-blackmail.html
But the truth is, I doubt it'll ever happen. Which is a shame. Because when you see how much excitement college basketball is generating right now, and you think how exponential that excitement would be if it were applied to football, you realize how much the fans lose out on this.

Another proposal. Shorten the baseball season. No, I'm not saying cut games from 162 a season. I'm saying more doubleheaders (because god forbid the owners took a little less in gate money for the betterment of the game). Look, even if you just had, one doubleheader a month, you could shorten the season a week. A doubleheader (even a day-night, again, so the owners wouldn't cry about losing money) every two weeks would cut the season by two weeks. Which we truly need. Right now, with the baseball season about to start in less than two weeks, in New York, it's 30-someodd degrees at night. Never mind Minneapolis where it's dipping into the mid 20's at night. Last year, my wife and I went to an early April game and had to buy huge sweatshirts and cocoa, and still froze our buns off watching the game. And every fall you see people in the stands of playoff games of Boston, New York and Detroit, trying to cheer their team with parkas and scarves on. So, come on MLB, shorten the season a little. At least time-wise.

And lastly, Mediaweek has announced that the YES Network has pulled the plug on it's truly unwatchable reality-sports show Ultimate Road Trip. For those of you outside the New York area, the show broadcasts on the Yankee Network. In it, 6 Yankee Fans live and travel together—for 7 freakin' months—and go on tours or compete in contests where apparently, the one who most reduces themselves to a state of complete idiocy wins...I don't know...a pimped out van. Or something. Truly craptastic and nails-on-blackboard annoying, the show is blissfully cancelled this season and will be replaced with "Webster" reruns. Or I don't know, something actually sports related.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Praise Be To Farve!

In case you haven't heard, Brett Favre retired. No, no, I'm serious. He did! Really!

Seriously, with ESPN having turned into The Favre Channel for about a week or so, and sports radio bringing in endless guests to give praise to the Favre Above, the truth about Brett Favre got lost. This blog has before written about the over praising of Favre. http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2007/11/young-love.html
And maybe we've overstated it a bit. The truth is Favre was a heck of a quarterback. However, with comments like these, "I believe Favre was the greatest player I’ve ever seen and arguably the greatest to ever play the game...We have been truly blessed by his presence..." it is hard not to overreact. So let's take an honest look at Brett Favre and see where his legacy truly stands.

Statistically speaking, it isn't even close. Favre isn't the best of all time. He's not even the best Packer QB of all time. Heck, by the statistics, Favre isn't even the best quarterback playing right now—Peyton Manning owns Favre in almost every single significant QB statistic. Don't believe me? OK, Manning has a 64.2 percent completion rating to Favre's 61.4%. Manning has 306 TD, 153 INT and a 94.7 passer rating. Favre has 442 TD, 288 INT and a 85.7 passer rating. As you can see, Favre has a much higher interception to touchdown rating than Manning: 65 percent to Manning's 50%.

Let's take the stats a bit further. If Favre was compared to Steve Young—in my opinion, the most criminally overlooked passer—Favre would turn into dust in Young's presence. For example, Young led the league in passer ratings six times. Six!!! And in all 6 times, Young had a passer rating of over 100%. And many of those years overlapped Favre's glory days. Oh, and how many times did Favre top the 100% passer ratings. Ummm, that would be none. OK, so how many times did Favre lead the league in QB rating? Ummm, again, that would be none.

Sal Paolantonio, one of the only ESPN guys not to crawl in the presence of his Favreship, takes to task the legend of Favre's postseason "magic": "After beating the San Francisco 49ers in the 1997 NFC Championship Game, Favre won just three of his last 10 playoff games. Favre's passer rating in his last 12 postseason games was a pedestrian 77.8. In his last five wild-card games, he went 2-3 with more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (seven). In his last three divisional playoff games, he went 1-2 with seven TDs and seven interceptions. That's a 3-5 record with 14 touchdown passes and 16 picks."

Sal Pal goes on, commenting on the one statistic that seemingly everybody ignores. For 81 years, the Packers never lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field. However, since 2002, under Favre's leadership, they are 2-3 at Lambeau in playoff games. Ewwww.

The main reason Green Bay didn't lose in home playoff games in the past was because for a while they had a great QB (and better than Favre) named Bart Starr. And when you compare Starr's stats to Favre's, well it's not even close.

Let's start with the stats that matter; the postseason. And frankly, Starr's postseason’s stats are ridiculous. Starr had a 104.8 playoff passer rating, a 1.41 percent interception rate and a 9-1 record. Favre, who played in the easier wild-card playoff system, had a 12-10 record and a 85.2 rating and a 6.39 interception rate. Also, Starr had a career 7.85 YPA, Favre had a 7.0 YPA. The stats could go on.

Again, this is not to bury Favre. Favre had a wonderful Hall of Fame career. His durability—253 consecutive regular-season starts, 275 if you count the playoffs—is truly once-in-lifetime-amazing. It's that amazing durability that has let him top almost every significant quarterback record: Passing Yards, Completed Passes, Passing TDs as well as Interceptions to name a few. And for a three-year period in the mid 90s, he was truly remarkable. 38, 39 and 35 TDs, adding up to 112 TD passes to 42 INT, a mid 90's QB rating, and averaging a 7.5 YDA.

It's just that Favre wasn't as good as ESPN, John Madden, sports radio or Pro Football Weekly would have you believe. Yes, he was fun to watch, a "gunslinger," a "kid on the field having fun." But let's not confuse fun with being the best. Yes, Favre deserves his place in the Hall of Fame and a nice cushy commentator spot on Fox or ESPN. But let's not place him as the best. Because he isn't.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Transactions...


This one is going out to Gil Lebreton of the Star-Telegram down in Dallas, and his article entitled Whatever it takes, trade for McFadden . Ummmm, no. First off, as I stated previously, the Cowboys have other problems. Their wideouts are old and broken, T.O. is 34 and coming off nagging injures, Terry Glenn will be 34 in July and didn't catch a pass due to serious knee problems till the Giants playoff game. In short, Dallas needs some young blood at the wideout spot. Also, the CB spot needs serious attention. Terrence Newman played very well for the 11 games he could play—he had a torn plantar fascia in his right heel . On the other spot, Anthony Henry is fine, but is better suited for a safety spot. Oh, and third corner, Jacque Reeves left to go to Houston, leaving a cast of "Who Dat?" players to back up. And on the RB front, Lebreton says that in the 1990 draft, drafting Emmitt completed the package for the Cowboys and led to those Super Bowls. True, Lebreton, but did the Cowboys trade up to get him? No, Dallas got him with the 17th pick, resisting the chance to trade up and get Blair Thomas, the consensus no. 1 back in the draft. Also, where did Dallas get Marion Barber, the perfectly good no. 1 back they have right now, who just made the Pro Bowl? In the 4th round. In short, Gil, I feel your love for McFadden, whom you are certain will be in 10 Pro Bowls, but the Cowboys have other issues to take care of they want to get into the Super Bowl.

For those guys following the Braves....wow, that Jair Jurrjens is looking good. Atlanta got a good one from Detroit last season.

Here's a question for some people. A lot of folks on talk radio and in the blogosphere have a problem with Joba Chamberlain starting the season as a reliever and ending as a starter (which is the plan right now). But heck, a ton of pitchers have done that. In fact, that's usually the way it works...you ease in a youngster, get him some innings, and when you feel he's ready to handle it, you shift him to the starter role. Don't believe it? Here's a quick list off the top of my head. Ron Guidry, Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez. So everyone....relax.

And now, for the ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER's Jerk of the week award, I give you, Kyle Farnsworth. Seems that Mr. Farnsworth is blaming Joe Torre for his problems the past two years. Hmmmm, I can't see how Joe Torre is responsible for old Kyle giving up 17 gopherballs in 126 innings. Or 55 walks in the same innings. Or shirking duty and making Mariano pitch two innings because of a "balky back." in one week last April, Farnsworth gave up a 2-0 lead by serving up a 2-run HR to Nick Swisher. Two days earlier, he walked Luis Castillo on 4 pitches, then gave up 4 one-out hits in a row, leading to 4 runs against Minnesota. But hey, it's all Torre's fault.

And lastly, a silver award winner for the jerk award, Mitch Williams. you remember him mostly for Joe Carter's walk-off dinger against him in the 1993 World Series. And now you can remember him for cursing refs at fifth-grade basketball games. Female refs. Female fifth-graders. "What I saw happening was completely unfair," Williams said in defense of himself. Right. Since Joe Carter's homer, Williams has bounced around the majors, and independent leagues, ending up managing the Atlantic City Surf for a couple of years until the fired him. Why? "...people skills were not shown to be strengths..." Really. Never would have guessed it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Race and Sports

When I was a kid, watching the Yankees on WPIX in New York, my Dad's favorite player was a guy named Steve Balboni. A lumbering, chunky 1st baseman, Steve averaged .229 BA and around 30 HRs a year. If he didn't strike out, which was often, he'd hit it into the bleachers. And he wasn't exactly Steve Garvey around the bag at first base either. He led the league in strikeouts in 1985.

Still my Dad loved him. "I tell ya, that Balboni...if he gets hold of one...he'll put it on the moon! You gotta watch out for him!" Even at 12, I knew Balboni was a lummox. And even at 12, I knew that the only reason my father loved him was because Balboni's name ended in a vowel. Just like my Dad's.

Another memory. I'm sitting in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium 6 years ago. Jeff Weaver is pitching batting practice to the Red Sox on a sauna-like July Sunday. I'm sitting next to a young Hispanic girl, who's covered in Yankee paraphernalia; a cute Yankee t-shirt, a pink Yankee hat, and pinstriped Yankee bootie socks she wears under her hi-tops. But, the weird thing I notice is, every time Manny Ramirez comes to the plate, she freaks out. "Manny! Wooooo, Manny!" Finally, I gotta ask. "Aincha a Yankee fan?" I say pointing to her shirt, her cap. "Why are you cheering Manny?" She barely glances at me. "He's a Dominican." The "you idiot" is implied.

Now, I'm not gonna get on my soapbox (as I often do). This article isn't how wrong it is to root by race (especially with the Olympics coming soon and the entire world acting as if rooting by nation is the most dignified thing to do to sports). No, I'm writing this article because I'm trying to figure out what it is that makes people do this. And truly...almost everyone does it. Just a few off-the-top-of-my-head memories. A white Irish mom who knew next to nothing about basketball, but prayed for the Celtics as if her soul depended on it. A bald black guy telling me with a straight face, that Mark McGuire corked Sammy Sosa's bat because he doesn't want Sammy competing with him no more. Hordes of petite Asian girls in Yankee Stadium, quiet and demure, except when Chien-Ming Wang's name is mentioned; then squeals and claps. Drunken NYC firemen in Notre Dame t-shirts at a bar, even though they didn't go to Notre Dame and barely watch the game. A black kid in 2003 telling me Josh Beckett sucks and is overrated, Dontrelle Willis is the whole Florida Marlin pitching staff. An Asian co-worker saying, "I don't know why. I just like Michael Chang."

I'm a mutt. My mother is British, my Pop is from Sicily. I have no feelings for David Beckham or Andrea Bargnani. As a little kid, my favorite player was Mickey Rivers. "Mick the Quick" was the Yankees centerfielder during their World Series years in 1977 and 1978. He was a good spray hitter, tough to strike out as he was good at poking the bat in at the last second and fouling off pitches. A speedy centerfielder who covered a ton of ground in the then-spacious left-centerfield (430 in Death Valley in those days), my favorite thing about Mick was how he led off first base. Mick always put on a look that he was exhausted, could barely keep himself up. He'd limp a little, hang his shoulders, take his lead painful and slow off first base. Then he'd take off for second like a rocket with its pants on fire. I loved it. The day I bought a pack of baseball cards, opened it and saw Mick's card inside was the best day of my young life.

It never occurred to me until years later that my favorite player was black. By that time, Don Mattingly was my personal god and savior (and still is to some degree). Anyway, someone jokingly referred to Mattingly as the Yankee's "Great White Hope." I'd never really noticed his skin color before, but it made me, for the first real time, think of it. And of Mickey's color.

Again, this is not to sound pious, but it's simply a statement of fact. I don't care about anyone's nationality, skin color, religion or where they came from. I subscribe more to Billy Martin's view of sports and heritage. When Martin was managing the Yankees, a reporter once asked him if race played a factor in his choosing his lineup. "Hell, I'd play Adolph Hitler if he could hit a curve ball."

And to that I hold. When I sit down in front of a college basketball game, or a Jets-Pats game, or a Tuesday night Yankee-Royal game, race is the farthest thing from my mind. A 94-mile an hour cutter didn't come from a Panamanian hand, it came from the greatest closer I've ever seen. That guy forcing Roberto Duran to say "No mas" wasn't a black dude, he was a great boxer with lightning-fast hands and a nice left hook. That kid from Gonzaga crying in the middle of the hardwood isn't a white guy, just a kid showing how much the game of basketball means to him.

I apologize if I sounds me a little self-satisfied, but checking the box score to see if Mike Pagliarulo hit a home run just wouldn't enter my mind. And I'm not criticizing anyone who does root ethnically (even though I know it sounds like it). I guess what I'm saying is I don't see why.

Some might say it's natural, rooting for someone from your area, from the same place you're from. But heck, I'm from Brooklyn, and there are more palooka jerks per square inch here than anywhere in the world, so I can't see myself cheering some guy from Brooklyn just because he's from Brooklyn.

Others might say it's normal to root for someone with the same color of skin as you, the same race. Maybe so. But then why watch a ballgame—to hope if you're race wins? And if Manny hits a home run off Jeff Weaver (which he did), do you really get something more out of that? Does your being Dominican have more worth now? And should the white guy who just served up the homer feel like he let down his race?

To risk sounding redundant, I am in no way assailing ethnic pride. People should be proud of their heritage and history and the achievements of their tribe and race. But when it comes to sports, it just seems odd to me. To neglect the point of the game, rooting for your favorite team in favor of trumpeting your ethnicity...I never understood why. Or what people get out of it.

What does someone like my Pop, or the black guy rooting for Dontrelle Willis, or the Irish mom rooting for Kevin McHale get out of it? Do African-American people get something out of the fact that Sugar Ray Leonard beat a Panamanian?

I don't know the answer to that. But if so, I'd bet it's something different from what I get out of rooting for Mickey Rivers. And I kinda prefer what I get.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Transactions...


Said it before, and now I'm saying it again...with both Barry and Roger caught in lies about steroids this week—and both out of work despite neither having officially retired—I'd like to thank ESPN's Jemele Hill, the Reverend Al Sharpton and everyone else who said the steroid investigation was all about race. If there is a silver lining to this horrible chapter in baseball, it's that people who were trying to use the steriod scandal for their own purposes and foment idiocy are being revealed for the talentless fakes they are.

OK, on to actual sports. Firstly, Jeff Weaver...do whatever you can to get back to St. Louis and pitching coach Dave Duncan. I'm speaking from the heart here, Jeff. Since the catastrophic trade to the Yankees and the meltdown thereafter, Jeff, the only time you've looked confident on the mound has been in the postseason in the Cards uniform. So Jeff, do whatever you have to, but get back to that pitching coach, the one that gave you peace of mind on the mound.

Does anyone else really believe this whole Randy Moss free agency circus? For god's sake, both sides already, agree to a deal. You both know you will eventually. Randy, you won't play well anywhere else. And Patriots, Tom Brady will kill you guys if you let Randy go anywhere else. So stop being stupid and get this done.

Despite what some reporters believe (I'm looking at you Cnnsi.com), Pro Football Weekly says most scouts feel this is a one-QB draft. "There’s not much there after Matt Ryan." And with next year's draft shaping up to be one of the worst in draft history, some QB starved teams might get desperate and trade up to get BC's Ryan.

You gotta love the Raiders. They pinch pennies for their no 1. draft pick last year, so he misses the preseason and part of the regular season, and they go toe-to-toe with every coach they hire, but they drop 50.5 million on a DT who tore an ACL last year. And before he got injured, he had one sack last year in 7 games. That's right, one. Nice, Raiders. That's the way to run a NFL organization.

Hey, wait a minute. What the heck is Jacksonville doing trading Marcus Stroud to Buffalo? And for practically nothing—third and fifth rounders? What the heck? Stroud was the better half of an awesome defensive line tandem with John Henderson. Together, Jacksonville had a young, dominant DT tandem. And since good DTs are so hard to find, why would you trade them. And really, Stroud is a beast. A massive 6-6, 310-lb.run-stuffer, he is going to free up uber-sack artist Aaron Strobel to do what he does. And what's even weirder about this, is that no one seems to be talking about it. Personally, I think the Stroud trade is one of the better moves this off-season. Bravo, Buffalo.

Saw some baseball this weekend, and boy was it great to watch. All except one thing. Kei Igawa. Wow, did he look like he caught a case of the "CantPitchNoMores". While the rest of the Yankee pitching staff relaxed and pitched well against the university of South Florida, only giving up one hit between them, Igawa walked two, hit another, then served up a grand slam. Yikes. Any way we could trade him back to Japan for...anything? A box of Krispy Kreme? Without sprinkles? Hello? Japan?