Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Transactions....

OK, my bad. I was on the Tampa Rays bandwagon for the entire year. I wrote that they were real back in July, I picked them to win the American League. So far, so good. Then I picked them to win the Fall Classic and suddenly the Phils starting pitching turns into the staff for the 1995 Atlanta Braves. I mean, the Phils are pitching a full run lower on the collective ERA in the World Series than they did all season. They are making the heart of the Rays order, which has been pounding the ball this postseason, look foolish. Hats off to the Phils—if they take the series, they deserve it.


Another mea culpa. I totally ripped the Titans for taking Chris Johnson in the first round (though I still think they could have gotten him later in the draft), instead of a wide receiver to help Vince Young. But after watching Chris Johnson light up defenses all year, including running on the Colts despite 9 guys in the box at times, to help the Titans go 7-0 to start the season, I gotta say, "My Bad." Jeff Fisher, you do whatever you want.


I'm starting to really think that Buffalo found a keeper in Trent Edwards. I like this kid a lot and think he can be a really solid NFL QB for a while.


Gotta love ESPN not reporting the "Farve told Packer Secrets to Detroit Lions" story for two days after it broke, then focused on how it wasn't a big deal. Reminds me of how when everyone in the Western World outside of San Francisco was vilifying Barry Bonds for being an obvious steroid user, cheater and liar, ESPN creates a "reality" show for him. Way to not cozy up to big name athletes, ESPN.


Speaking of stupid ESPN, why do they move their best show, NFL Matchup—which is actually about the game of football and strategy, and not a glorified celebrity athlete sensationalistic show—to 7:30 on Sunday? The show, which is what NFL Countdown should be, used to be on at 8:30 on Sunday, but that was too plum a spot for ESPN to give a no-nonsense, no-frills football show. So they moved it to the ungodly hour of 7:30. What, ESPN, 3:30 on Tuesday night was taken?


Let's give it to Jason Campbell, who's doing his best David Garrard, circa 2007 impersonation, with 0 interceptions through 8 games. That's 0 interceptions, or basically half a quarter for Brett Farve.


One interesting stat: Last year the New England Patriots were sacked 21 times. This season, through 7 games, the Patriots are sacked 28 times. Hmmmm, an even more interesting stat would be, "How many of those sacks can be blamed on Matt Cassel, and how many on the starting-to-age O-Line?"


Conversely, Eli Manning, who took 27 sacks last year (and 25 and 28 the previous two years), has only 6 sacks through 7 games this year. Think he's more decisive this year and playing with more confidence without a certain tight end?


And so a bunch of deserving players to give the Andaplayertobenamedlater's Man of the Week award to, including Brian Westbrook who came back to run all over Atlanta on Sunday, but I have to hand it to Mathias Kiwanuka. Against a tough Steeler team, Mathias got three sacks, five tackles and a fumble recovery to help the Giants go into Pittsburgh and pull out a win. Congrats Mathias, you look like you're finally fully recovered from an early injury.


One last thing about Eli Manning. Dude, buy a comb. After each game, at the post-game press conference, the guy is decked out in a sharp suit. Totally tailored and fitted, and looking all dapper. But his hair is like a 7-year old boy after a day at the schoolyard. Seriously, buy a 89-cent comb and run it through the mop once or twice.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What To Do With Jeter?

As far back as 2004, when Baseball Prospectus wrote an article about Derek Jeter's declining defense at shortstop (and the fact that Alex Rodriguez, by all rights, should remain at short and Jeter should shift to third base), Yankee fans, in a black, back corner of their minds wondered: what do we do with Derek Jeter when he's finally too old to handle everyday duties at shortstop?

This is not an article to either attack or defend Jeter's defense at shortstop—there are countless rants on the web as to whether Jeter is terrible or brilliant at the 6 spot. No, this article is more about what do the Yankees do when he truly starts to age?

With Alex now firmly entrenched at third for the next decade or so, where do the Yanks put Jeter? Let’s go through the possibilities. Outfield? Jeter has a pretty good arm, but is it right-field-in-Yankee-Stadium good? Is it as good as Winfield's, Barfield's, O'Neill's, or Sheffield's when they manned right field? Frankly, that remains to be seen. Over in left field, there's the question, could Jeter cover Death Valley in Yankee Stadium? He has good instincts, yes, but as a 38-year-old, could he cover the wide swath of outfield in left? He's not getting faster, as evidenced by a career-low 11 steals this year. And never mind the fact that Jeter doesn't have the power that traditionally comes with playing left or right field.

OK, how about first base? Jeter's tall enough, yes, and has the means to be good with the glove there. Buster Olney, ESPN analyst, agrees—"Personally, I think he would be better suited at first base than in the outfield, whenever he makes a move off shortstop, and could become an excellent first baseman." The problem comes in the other half of the inning. First base is traditionally a spot for sluggers—Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Carlos Delgado, and Lance Berkman—and Jeter at his best was never a home-run threat. And it's even more true now---Jeter hit 11 home runs last year and his power numbers have been in free fall since the early 2000s.

Which leaves second base. There has been some talk around the baseball world (and New York City in particular) about the Yankees using Cano as a trade chip. The Yankees would then pick up Orlando Hudson or Orlando Cabrera to fill in at 2nd base. And that would make sense for Jeter's move—Hudson or Cabrera could hold down 2nd base for a couple of years until Jeter is ready to make the switch to 2nd base.

Only problem is...Cano is hugely talented and batted .342 a couple of years ago. In 2007, his first full season, he drove in 97 runs...not bad for a second baseman who usually bats down in the order. The problem is that Cano is fresh off a down year, which means his value is lower than it would have been just a season ago. As a result, the Yankees would be selling low. And if Cano bounces back and becomes the double-machine he was a couple of years ago, the Yankees would have given him away for far less than he was worth.

Another problem is Jeter. While 2nd base isn't as important defensively as shortstop, Jeter's diminishing range would still be a problem, just now on the right side.

So it seems there is no ideal place for the Yankees to place Jeter, come 2010 or 2011 or so. Second base might be the spot, if the Yankees can get value for Cano—a frontline starter or an above average 1st baseman—and then sign Hudson or Cabrera for 2 years as a placeholder.

The best answer might be to shift Jeter to 1st base in 2011. Considering Jeter's failing lateral range and his diminishing speed, 1st base seems like the logical choice. Jeter's instincts and height suit him there, and the Yankees can find home-run production from A-Rod, the outfield, and elsewhere.

As for Jeter himself, he's stated he doesn't plan on switching any time soon—he plans to "be the everyday shortstop until his contract runs out in 2010," and would like to man the position afterwards as well. Well, that's all well and good—but considering Jeter is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he must know the day he isn't the Yankees starting shortstop is coming. And soon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why The Rays Will Win

I've been predicting the Rays throughout the season. I'm not gonna get off the bandwagon now.

That's why I think the Rays will win the World Series.

The same reasons they won all season will be the same reason they win now. Great pitching, super speed both on the bases and in defense. Tampa ran all over the Red Sox (like I said they would), stealing 10 bases to Boston's 2. I think that trend should continue. Tampa had a preposterous .508 slugging percentage (to Boston's 418, and incidentally Philly's .402).

But the main reason I'm picking the Rays is the starting pitching. Frankly, once you get past Cole Hamels, I don't think the Phils have enough. Blanton got rocked against the Rays in his career, giving up 57 hits in 41 innings for a plus 6 ERA. Jamie Moyer got shelled in the postseason—no surprise there, junkballers usually do come postseason. Brett Myers, he of the 4.55 ERA this season, gave up 5 runs in 5 innings in his only start against the Dodgers. (Also, possibly interesting tidbit, Myers hates domes and pitches terribly in them for his career—keep an eye out for this in game 2.)

On the other hand, Tamp has a sterling starting 4, where their ace lefty, Scott Kazmir, pitched the "worst" of the 4. Kazmir has a 4.35 ERA in the series against Boston, and gave up 8 hits in 10.3 innings with 9 SO. All together, Tampa held Boston's lineup—which had batted .280 for the season—to a .234 BA in those 7 games. Their starting had an ERA of just under 3.1.

And yes, the Phillies have a awesome bullpen. But that won't be enough. If Hamels can give the Phillies game 1, then the Phillies will be in the Series for the long haul. However, if the Rays take game 1, this Series might be shorter rather than longer.

Prediction: Rays in 6

Monday, October 20, 2008

Transactions....

So which prognosticator picked the Rays in 7? Tim Kurjian? Steve Phillips? Tom Verducci? No. Me, baby. Just me.


Hey T.O. I know you badmouthed Bill Parcells and said everyone was a lot happier and looser now that Wade Phillips was in charge. So, let me ask you: How's "looser' working out for the Cowboys?


What the heck is wrong with the BCS? How do you rank Florida State—who's beaten exactly nobody—at 25 and leave Boston College off, even though they just upset no. 17 Virginia Tech. Oh that's right, because of the huge Southern Bias (or should I say, and anti-Northeast bias) in college football, and the fact that "Shoot, Florida State is supposed to be good." Collegefootballnews.com gets it right—ranking BC at 17 and not ranking Florida State at all—why can't the real polls?


Brett Farve looks old. Real old.


This comes just a few days after I nominated him for the Biggest Jerk in Sports, and this puts him in the lead for now, but Jeremey Shockey is already mouthing off against his new team. Shockey is saying the team botched the diagnosis of his sports hernia. Keep reading for the loud and stupid:

“I’m worried that this thing could have been taken care of in camp, like it should have been,” Shockey said after Sunday’s 30-7 loss to the Panthers. “If it wasn’t misdiagnosed in camp like it was there’d have been no problems. . . . Next time I know. When I get hurt I’ll get three or four opinions besides just the team’s.”
Well played Mr. Shockey. Well played.


Yup, there it is. The Fire Wade Phillips Watch started.


This week's Man of the Week Award goes to Trent Edwards of the Buffalo Bills. Coming off a concussion, Edwards played a super game, going 25 for 30 for 261 yards, one TD and no interceptions against a tough Charger defense. He also wasn't sacked at all and spread the ball around to 7 different receivers. Good job up there in northern New York, Trent.


And finally, in complete Tool news of the Week, Jose Canseco says he's sorry.

"...Jose Canseco...now says that book about steroids in baseball was his "biggest mistake." Canseco, charged last week with a misdemeanor after U.S. immigration officials said he returned from Mexico with a drug that is illegal without a prescription, says in Monday night's A&E Network's The Last Shot special that he shouldn't have written the book and "regrets mentioning players (as steroid users). I never realized this was going to blow up and hurt so many people."
He didn't realize it was going to hurt people. Get the heck out of here, Jose. You knew it was going to hurt people, hyped it as such, and fed off the proceeds. now that the money's all goone, you're sorry. Take the lies elsewhere, Jose and go away. Forever.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Uh Oh

In April of this year, the New York Yankees ordered that part of their new stadium floor be ripped up because a construction worker put a Red Sox jersey in the concrete. Seems the construction worker was a Red Sox fan and by putting the shirt underneath the Stadium, he was hoping to “jinx" the new Stadium. Silly.

The Yankees ordered the construction company to jackhammer the foundation of their new stadium. It took five hours, but eventually the workers found the shirt, shredded now by jackhammers, and removed it from the foundation of the new Stadium. Even more silly, no?

The mainstream sports media seemed to think so. Commentators such as Mike Greenberg called it "silly" and that he "couldn’t understand" why the Yankees would do something so ridiculous. It's just a shirt, yes?

No. It's not.

The Yankees did the right thing in removing the shirt because in removing it, it removes all of the unnecessary potential thought-processes from starting. Why leave it there? To have some sportswriter bring it up every time the Yanks lose a series to Boston? To let the "jinx" grow and fester and foment in the Yankees' minds? To make it actually become a jinx in real life? The Yankee Shirt Jinx.

In short, if the Yankees thought there was even a remote possibility there was a jinx on their new Stadium—like the Curse of the Bambino was on the Red Sox for 80 years—then there was. The mind could make it so.

Curses are dangerous. Not because anyone thinks they are real in the cold light of day. But they are very real in the fragile mind of a player. Player's minds can turn one opposing team into an unbeatable juggernaut. They can jinx a franchise and can turn a totally winnable playoff series into one catastrophic, inevitable failure. It's serious stuff. If a jinx gets into a team's head, they don't lose games to other teams; they beat themselves.

Which brings me to the Tampa Rays. The Red Sox are in their head now. Manager Joe Maddon can say whatever he likes, but the fact that the Red Sox have not only come back from a 3-1 deficit, but did in such indomitable fashion—down 7-0 with 7 outs to go in game 5—has put them firmly and intractably inside the Ray fragile heads.

Athletes are fragile, and nowhere more so than in baseball. A slight "yip" can enter the brain and can destroy a player's psyche. Rick Ankiel struck out almost 10 batters a game at the age of 20, and then suddenly he couldn't get it anywhere near the catcher's glove. A solid catcher named Mackey Sasser, seemingly overnight, couldn't throw a baseball back to the pitcher. Once a solid 2nd baseman, by 1999, Chuck Knoblauch would throw a few throws a game from 2nd base towards row 4 of Yankee Stadium rather than towards first base.

That's the fragility of a baseball players', or a baseball teams' psyche. And when that happens on a team level—when one team "owns" another team, it can be tough to break. The Rays don't want to blow being up 3-1 on the Red Sox and have Boston win the series. The repercussions could be long lasting.

The Rays can still win it, a few lucky breaks, Boston not capitalizing on mistakes. But from what I've seen, the Rays are already thinking. And over thinking. And that leads to meltdowns. They are already starting to beat themselves—shortstop Jason Bartlett's errant throw to first last night which resulted in two runs—these are the signs of a team playing tight.

I picked the Rays to win in 7. And to that I hold firmly. I think the Rays are the better team. But I'm pretty sure that when Boston came back from the dead and scored 8 runs and won game 5, I wasn't the only one who said—I'm pretty sure, a dark place in each Ray team member's mind said it with me—"Uh oh."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Biggest Jerk In Sports

In life, if you're lucky, you meet some truly great people—selfless, dignified and hard-working. On the other hand, all too often you also meet some total pieces of excrement who screw you out of money and could care less if they have no honor.

Sports is no different than the rest of life. There are truly decent, charitable and humble guys who play whichever game they have a love for with grace and respect. This blog entry is not about those guys.

This is about the jerks. The callous, the losers. Here is a all too brief list of a few of them. After you read it, please write in with some of your choices.

Barry Bonds:
An embarrassment, even before the BALCO scandal and the perjury charges. Racist. Beater of women. A braggart who never gave a kinds word to another player. Slipped his girlfriend an envelope of $10,000 and ordered her to get breast implants. Refused to sign a ball to be auctioned off for Children's Hospital. Would throw wet towels on the floor of Pirates locker room and laugh and point to it, so attendant would have to pick it up in front of everybody. 12-year-old nephew of Pirates pitcher Danny Darwin once handed Bonds a baseball card to sign. Bonds ripped it in half. Made $100,000 to appear with Alex Rodriguez at an event in New York City this winter and kept the money when Rodriguez, gave his money to charity. Pleaded for a job all season to only say last week he doesn't miss the game and is enjoying retirement.

Ron Artest:
A true knucklehead. Despite massive attempts to polish his image, still doesn't get it. Once, as a Indiana Pacer asked for a couple of months off from playing, because he was tired from promoting his rap album. Destroyed a camera during a basketball game. Wife-beater. Didn't feed his dog, causing Animal Services in California to seize his dogs. Oh and started the biggest stadium-wide brawl in sports. Then appeared on the Today Show the following Monday to promote his rap CD. Never apologized—says he doesn't regret the Auburn Hills Palace brawl because he "overcame things."When he heard that Yao Ming said "Hopefully, he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands," Artest replied "I'm still ghetto...Ron Artest never changed."

Jeremy Shockey
So self-centered, thinks the planets revolve around him. Class act, and by "class act," I mean "white trash." Regular tries to humiliate his quarterback when the pass doesn't go to him. Don't believe me—check out Eli Manning's stats before and after Shockey. Also calls out his coaches after losses. Took a long time to decide whether to go to the Super Bowl with his team, though he RSVP'd to Terrell Owens Super Bowl pre-party weeks ahead. Told New York magazine he enjoys going to "t!tty bars." Called Bill Parcells a "homo." Pouted and refused to practice when rumors swirled that the Giants were thinking of trading him. Repeatedly implicates Amani Toomer for his injury that caused him to miss the Super Bowl—brings it up in every inteview he gets. ("That's where a really smart teammate of mine fell into my leg.")


Todd Sauerbraun
Drunk. Steroid user. Fat boy as well. Also a jerk. As a Panther, when starting placekicker John Kasay got injured, and the Panthers asked Sauerbrun to replace Kasay, he refused to kick unless he was reimbursed for fines he incurred when he was overweight. Got cut from the Broncos twice, once for using steroids. Another time for punching a cabbie. So, a drunk, violent fat, cheater who didn't want to help his team. A former teammate once said, that everyone who met him didn't like him. Jerk.


Manny Ramierez
A savant-level talent with a Rain Man brain. A me-first guy who couldn't care less about his teammates. Pushed a traveling secretary down because the man can't get him the 16 tickets he wanted, only 4. Claimed to have pharyngitis, missing an important series against the Yankees, then was seen at a hotel bar with Yankee Enrique Wilson. In his first game ever, Ramirez hit a ground rule double, but thought he hit a home run until the third base umpire stopped him and told him to go back to second. He is shortly thereafter picked off. Often doesn't leave batter's box after hitting a ground ball. Refused to enter a game when manager Grady Little sends him in to pinch hit. Takes a self-appointed day off even though outfielder Trot Nixon is injured and the Red Sox have a short bench.


Stephon Marbury
Former teammate, Kevin Garnett called him a F-ed-up dude. Has played his way out of every city he's been in—despite talent. Singlehandely caused Hall of Fame coach to retire. Defended Michael Vick's right to dogfight and execute them afterwards. Bragged about taking an intern to his his van for sex—while being a married father. Also admitted in during the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual-harassment lawsuit, admitted calling Sanders a "F-ing bitch” for not getting him more season passes, ("I said a lot of different things... I said she doesn't run s--- -.... I may have said f--- her.") and then left the courthouse singing a rap song to reporters.

And there are the nominees! Unbelievable, because there are so many jerks I haven't gotten to; Plaxico Burress, Ray Lewis, Ozzie Guillien, Mike Vanderjagt, Scottie Pippen, and one of my favorites, Gary Sheffield....ahhh! So many jerks. So little time.

So, please vote on who you think the biggest jerk in sports is, and don't be limited to this list. Nominate your own.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Transactions....

I said this before—stop it Jets—with those nasty, nasty "throw-up," I mean, "throw-back" uniforms.


Speaking of the Jets, it should go without saying that Mangini and his team, know defensive talent when they see it. Picking Dwight Lowery in the 4th round, David Harris in the second last year, trading up to pick Darelle Revis in the 1st round last year, knowing that Kris Jenkins would fit well in the nose position of the 3-4. It seems with Kellen Clemens' development stalling, the inability to get a consistent running game and the non-factor of former draftee Brad Smith, that they aren't as can't-miss on the offensive side of the ball.


I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I think I actually agree with Tim McCarver. That is to say, I agree with his criticism of Manny. Read this from McCarver:

"It's extraordinary - the dichotomy between what he was in Boston and what he is in Los Angeles. I mean, talk about wearing out your welcome in a town, and it was a long welcome with the Red Sox. But some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable - like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on. And now it's washed, it's gone."
Tiny Tim is right. Not running out ground balls, faking injuries when you're getting paid like he was is despicable. It's ridiculous. And I've heard some defend him, and frankly I don't get it. If I was a teammate of Manny, and he didn't play his hardest—or at all—then the heck with Manny.


Interesting to see how the Giants handle the rest of the season when Plaxico Burress comes back. As one scout has said. "They're playing like they didn't win the Super Bowl....with an edge." And that's a testament to Tom Coughlin never letting these guys get comfy. And take a look at how the players are responding—siding with Coughlin over Plaxico. And more and more the Tiki Barber's of the world, complaining that Mean Old Tom was just a mean coach who was mean all the time......are looking like the crybabies they are.


I said it last week and I'll repeat it now—something's wrong with Tony Romo. I know, I know. His stats, 24 for 39 with 321 yards and 3 TD passes look great. And they are great. I'm not saying he stinks. What I am saying, is that his demeanor...something's wrong. Just look at the two passes he threw in overtime to Owens. They weren't good passes, and resulted in a 3 and out. I'm not sure if he's trying to hard to include everybody (and by everybody I mean Owens) or he's being hit more the last couple of games and he's playing scared. I don't know. But I get the feeling he's not himself right now.


If Tommy Bowden could have coached even a little, he'd still have a job. Because, dang, the man CAN recruit. Before he was fired, he was bringing 7 4-star recruits to the southern Carolina, and that was after he brought 12 4-star recruits and 1 5-star last year and two 5-star recruits a few years back. And it's been like that for year after year, with Bowden getting kids to go to a school that hasn't won jack and doesn't get huge national exposure. It really is a pity the man just couldn't get that talent to work as a team and win some ballgames.


There were a few candidates for Man of the Week—Former Boston College QB Matt Ryan's outstanding late drive to set up the winning field goal against Chicago; Drew Brees making a 26 for 30 day and 320 yards look easy. But the winner has to be Viking DT Kevin Williams who had 8 tackles and 4 SACKS!! against the Lions and helped hold the Lions to 100 yards on the ground total. 4 sacks and 8 tackles—the man was in the Lion backfield so much he could have gotten his mail there. Congrats Kevin on the award.


And finally, our hearts go out to Laker Luke Walton, who's stalker, Stacy Elizabeth Beshear, aged 34, was finally arrested. And from looking at her picture, we'll send Luke our best wishes and sympathies, too. Here's what Luke had to say about being stalked:

It's bananas. I'll be going to sleep at night and just randomly look out the window. Just to check. Just because. She has been out there at 12:30, 1:30 in the morning. She would park outside my house for hours and hours.

I would drive out, and I would see her peeking through. It would suck, because I know I'm leaving my home, and I know she's still there. What am I supposed to do? Is she planning on breaking in? Am I going to come home one day and she's sleeping in my bed? Is she going to steal my dog?

We hear you, Luke. And we sympathize, but mostly we hope you stop using words like "bananas." Actually, we take that back. If you just turn out to never sound like your father, that'd be enough for us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

College Football Is Awesome

When I was a kid I hated New Year's Day. All day long, there was nothing on but stupid college football with those stupid marching bands they all love so damn much. And teams I never heard of from states I didn't care about. Purdue, where the heck was that? What's a Tulane? Why can't they put on some real football with Jets, Colts and Vikings?

Then I grew up.

What could be better than the games we had on yesterday? To start we had Colt McCoy (by the way, best name in sports right now) and Sam Bradford combined for 664 yards passing in what was probably was one of the most fun games on at noon in a long time.

Then we had Oklahoma State, which had gotten a 5-0 record by beating absolutely nobody and was primed to get spanked by the 3rd ranked Tigers, went into Missouri's house and stopped the sick Tiger offense—which had been averaging 53 points a game—and pulled out a 28-23 win.

Then last night, we had Florida, which was upset at home a few weeks ago by 2-2 Ole Miss, just beat the holy crap out of no. 4 ranked LSU. Just made them look foolish for a 51-21 win.

Which means that 3 out of the top 5 ranked teams in the country got upset this weekend. And that's with one of those top-ranked teams, Alabama, off this weekend.

How sick is that? That's like having 3 crazy upsets—like when the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl—just this weekend alone.

And that doesn't include Vanderbilt getting upset by 1-4 SEC cellar dweller Mississippi State. Or the wild, last-second fumble recovery by the Tar Heels to beat Notre Dame and to remain ranked.

Not that I'm hating on pro football—as I'm writing this, I'm waiting for my Jets to lay a pasting on the horrible Bengals so Cincinnati can finally, and mercifully, fire Marvin Lewis and put him out of his misery. I loves me some pro football—there's nothing like seeing Peyton or Adrian on a Sunday afternoon. But the college game....there's something truly unique about it. There's really no doubt that any weekend, anything can happen. Just ask Appalachian State.

Now, if they could only get a playoff system......

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2008 MLB Predictions Reviewed

Back when the season started I made predictions of who'd win what, and what I think would happen. let's see how well I did.

AL EAST:
I Said:
For the AL East I said the Red Sox would win, with the Yankees picking up the Wild Card. I felt Toronto would be good and the Rays would be improved. Baltimore would be terrible.

Turns Out:
The Rays improved all right, all the way to the division title. The Red Sox were better than the Yankees, like I felt, and took the Wild Card. Toronto was good (86 wins) and the Orioles stunk.

AL CENTRAL:
I Said:
I thought the Indians pitching staff would lead to to the title and that the White Sox would stink. Ooops. I also thought that Detroit was overrated.

Turns Out:
Chicago and the Twins tied for division lead, while Detroit brought up the rear. Cleveland played .500 ball.

AL WEST:
I Said:
That the Angels would run away with division, that the Rangers would stink, that the A's would play gamely but not compete and that the Mariners were on the upswing.

Turns Out:
3 out of 4. Angels did run away with it, but the Mariners stunk up the joint.

NL EAST:
I Said:
The Mets would take the division, that the Braves would be second, the Phils third, and the Marlins and nationals a distant 4th and 5th.

Turns Out:
The Mets were in first, but like in 2007, blew the lead down the stretch to the Phillies. Florida played better than expected and the Braves much worse. The Nationals were terrible.

NL CENTRAL:
I Said:
Chicago would take it and the Brewers would be right behind them. Houston, the Reds and the Cards would battle for middle of the pack. The Pirates would, as always, bring up the rear.

Turns Out:
Exactly like I predicted. Cubs, Brewers up front, Pirates in the rear. Only difference was the Brewers grabbed the Wild Card and not the disappointing Braves.

NL WEST:
I Said:
Arizona would take the division, Rockies next, the Dodgers would trail them, then the Padres and Giants.

Turns Out:
The Dodgers edged out the D-Backs. No one else in the West offered any resistance to those two.

Back in early April, I predicted this:

AL East — Red Sox
AL Central — Indians
AL West — Angels
AL Wild Card —Yankees
AL Pennant — Angels

Turns Out, it was this:
AL East — Rays
AL Central — White Sox
AL West — Angels
AL Wild Card — Red Sox
AL Pennant — ??????

And for the NL, I said this:

NL East — Mets
NL Central — Cubs
NL West — Diamondbacks
NLWild Card —Braves
NL Pennant — Cubs

When it turned out, it was this:

NL East — Phillies
NL Central — Cubs
NL West — Dodgers
NL Wild Card — Brewers
NL Pennant — ?????

Overall, a surprising season. Who could have predicted the Rays to earn a better record than the Red Sox or Yankees? That the Mets would collapse again. That the Indians, even with Cliff Lee's incredible season, couldn't get over the .500 hump? That Kansas City or Oakland would have a better record than Detroit? Amazing, unpredictible. But we still do. Let's watch the playoffs and see what else happens.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Future Of The Yankees, Part Deux

Almost one year ago, I started this blog with the first posting, The Future Of The Yankees. Once again, going into the offseason, this blog will tackle the offseason issues with the Yankees. And, even more so than last year, it's imperative the Yankees make the right decisions to some tough questions, because even more so than in the past, the results if the don't could be dire.

First off, I'd like to tip the hat to New York Post writer, Joel Sherman for his defense of Brian Cashman. He points out that while Cashman has made mistakes, his sticking to his guns of not trading Wang, and Cano when the whole world was screaming for him to do just that has worked out. Sherman's adds that while Cashman's further "not-trading" of Kennedy and Hughes may not have worked out in 2008, it still might bear fruit in the future. While the whole planet has given up of Kennedy and Hughes, Sherman rightly points out that the Rays and White Sox got into the playoffs on the strengths of young arms that struggled at first. And he's right—these things take time and patience, something New York doesn't have buckets of. One example; probable AL Cy Young, Cliff Lee, had a above-6.00 ERA last year and was sent to the minors.

Let's look now at next year's Yankees.

Catcher:
The job is Posada's, though there are health issues. Can he throw? And even if Posada is fully recovered, there's still the question of Posada's age; he will be 37 next year. The Yankees must use him judiciously and throw him some more DH days. Molina is fine as a back-up but don't consider him a starter.

The long-term is another issue. It's possible Posada heads to first base sooner rather than later, which makes signing Texiera a non-go. If the Yankees decide to put Posada on first-base, signing Rod Barajas or Greg Zaun is a possibility to platoon with Jose Molina until Francisco Cervelli or Jesus Montero is ready.

1st Base:
Giambi is gone. Gone. Gone. And as such, the Yanks could go after Mark Texiera (Posada's move to 1b notwithstanding), but as Cashman has said, "Just because you put certain players on the top of your list doesn't mean you're going to be on the top of their list." One possible inexpensive option if Texiera falls through could be Raul Ibanez, who admittedly is not Keith Hernandez at 1st base, so his defense is a serious consideration. However, Ibanez can fill in there, with some other days going to Posada, Shelley Duncan or even Nady. Ibanez is also a lefty, which we may need more of after losing Giambi and maybe Abreu. Another option is to see how September call-up Juan Miranda does in the spring—although he had a good year in Scranton, that option seems like a lot of prayer would be involved.

2nd Base:
I don't think the Yankees should necessarily go into the offseason with the idea of trading Robinson Cano, but you'd have to consider him as an asset if there are options out there for making your team better. Cano is young, relatively cheap and still has a bright future. He's much like Delmon Young was when the Rays traded him for Matt Garza. If you trade him—for Matt Cain, for instance, or Jake Peavy in a package deal—signing Rafael Furcal (who could take over leadoff duties should Damon be traded) or Orlando Hudson are options.

Shortstop:
Duh.

3rd Base:
Duh Redux

Left Field:
Xavier Nady acquitted himself well after coming over from the Pirates, though he did tail off late in the year. He should get more comfortable with a full year in pinstripes. Should Abreu leave, Nady might be more comfortable in right field, where he played in Pittsburgh (and had 10 assists before coming to the Yankees).

Center Field:
Last season, I championed trading Johnny Damon, and I do it again this year. Not that he's terrible. He's a good guy who had a nice year—when he was healthy. It's just that his being healthy is not a common occurrence. He's older, and has been plagued with nagging injuries throughout the past two years and it shows in his slower reflexes. His runs are down as are his extra-base hits and his Ks are up. More importantly, he's a defensive liability; Florence Henderson could run on Damon's arm, much less Rickey Henderson. Anyone watching Carlos Gomez or any of the Rays outfielders knows that defense is key to making the playoffs and a centerfielder that can cover ground saves runs. (According to stat experts, the Yankees lost 6 games more than they won due to their defense.) Brett Gardner is a sterling defender, who, even in his brief time in the Bronx showed he can cover the deep of Yankee Stadium's outfield. He's also a pitcher's nightmare when on base (13 stolen bases with 1 caught stealing in 127 AB), and after an admittedly terrible start, batted .294 in August and September. See what he can do in spring training. Also see if Melky Cabrera can get out of his funk and throw him into the spring training mix. As uber Blue Chip prospect Austin Jackson will likely start in AAA and is likely not far away from the Bronx, trading for a big-name player for centerfield is unlikely.

Right Field:
Abreu is an option here, but not for the three years he wants. Nady is a possibility here as well, with Damon or Matsui over in left. Melky could fill in here as well. There are dreams for Matt Holliday in a trade...maybe. But I don't see it.

DH:
Most likely, this is Matsui's domain for 2009.

Starting Pitching:
Joe Girardi, on the last day of the season, gave this nugget: The Yankees staff had a better ERA in 2008 than they did in 2007 (4.29 to 4.49). And that was with Wang, Hughes, Petitte and Chamberlain injured for parts of the season—a testament to pitching coach Dave Eiland. Girardi also said the no. 1 priority this offseason is starting pitching. Contradiction? Not when you consider these facts: Mike Mussina is considering retirement, Andy Petitte is not the Andy Petitte of 1997. Rotation spots 3 through 5 are a grab-bag. So assuming Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, Carl Pavano and the other misfit fill-ins are history, here are the contenders for the 2009 Yankee rotation:

Chien Ming Wang (coming off injury)
Mike Mussina (very strongly considering retirement)
Andy Petitte (37 and aging poorly)
Joba Chamberlain (23 and never pitched more than 100 innings)
Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves (talented, but who knows?)

So what do the Yankees do? Sportswriter Peter Abraham wrote this: "The average fan wants them to open the vault for Sabathia. But having a healthy Chien-Ming Wang atop the rotation with Chamberlain as the No. 2 would allow the Yankees to invest their money more judiciously in a pitcher such as Dodgers free agent Derek Lowe."

Ummmm, no.

First off, Derek Lowe will be 36 next season. So you get rid of Andy Petitte and maybe Mike Mussina to replace them with a 36 year old? And back when Lowe was a Red Sox, his last two seasons there, he had a ERA of 4.47 and 5.42. His ERA at Yankee Stadium those years? 5.11 and 9.75 respectively. So, no to Lowe. Just stop it.

Cashman has to go after Sabathia hard. Ridiculously hard. Kidnap his wife if you have to, Cashman, but make sure you get him. You need a unqualified stud and you need a lefty. So get him.

After Sabathia, there's a drop off, as all the other possibilities have some heavy baggage with their good points. Ben Sheets is a superstud when healthy; unfortunately, he's very often hurt. Same might be said for A.J. Burnett, though he was healthy this year, and he pitches well at Yankee Stadium and led the AL with 231 Ks.

The trade market is interesting, but could be expensive. Jake Peavy is a stud, but would cost half the farm system. Oliver Perez is a thought—a strikeout lefty, who however, gives up a boatload of walks. Zack Grienke is an option as is Matt Cain, who is inexplicably on the Giants trading block. Would Cano, Kennedy and maybe a throw-in, like Chris Britton or Wilson Betemit get it done for one of these guys?

Cashman...explore. The Yankees have a ton of young talent at home. However, we shouldn't rely on them; have some quality starters and let the youngsters fight it out and earn a spot for themselves.

Relievers:
Not really a problem here as these guys performed well above what was expected. Rivera was god-like as usual (how bad is the shock going to be to Yankee fans when he's not there anymore?). Brian Bruney, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, Dave Robertson, Dan Giese and rookie Phil Coke pitched superbly. Damaso Marte could come back and be the first lefty out of the pen. Jonathan Albaladejo should be back from injury as well com spring training.


As I've written repeatedly, 2008 was a "correction year," which is basically just a nice way of saying it was a down year, because a lot of older players' were in the last year of their contracts, playing injured and old. Giambi, Farnsworth, Petitte, Pavano. Now, in 2009, the Yankees have a chance to set a new course. They can start to build a foundation for the future by giving talented young players (Hughes, Gardner, Kennedy, Coke, maybe Austin Jackson) time to grow, and supporting these players with judicious free agents; i.e., not Jason Giambi, but Paul O'Neill; not Gary Sheffield, but Scott Brosius. The Yankees need to get younger, healthier, faster, play better defense and smarter baseball. To that end, this offseason is truly the most important in recent memory. Let's hope the Yankees choose the right course rather than the easy one.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Transactions....

Giants receiver, Plaxico (no, that's not a dish detergent, that's my name) Burress was suspended for one week for violating team rules.
So what, you might say. A wide receiver taking special treatment for himself is not news in the National Football League. However, this is.
For those of you who are link-clicking impaired, what the story says is that teammates of Burress' don't deny his talent, they are a little tired of his selfishness.

"This wasn't the first time he broke the rules," one of his teammates said this week. "We all knew something had to be done."
Teammates hardly ever side against each other in the media in this sort of story. Makes you wonder how much other stuff Plaxico did behind the scenes to get his teammates off his side in a coach-player disciplinary matter. Then again, with the way the Giants receivers punished Seattle on Sunday, maybe it opened their eyes to the fact that, they might just be fine without him. Just like Shockey.


Former no. 1 pick, defensive end Jamaal Anderson has zero sacks. Not for this year, for his career. 20 games, zero sacks. That number again, is zero.


The World's Most Dangerous Newspaper, the New York Post wrote an actually-well-thought-out article this weekend about the Yankees. Instead of screaming to sign anybody/everybody, prophesying doom or some other overly-loud piece, Joel Sherman actually spoke of patience and didn't guarantee anything if the Yankees listened to him. Sherman wrote of the White Sox and Rays and how youngsters—who pitched through bad starts and growing pains—are now pitching there team into the playoffs. Sherman doesn't guarantee that Hughes and Kennedy and Chamberlain will be superb next year; he just states that there is sometimes something to be gained by patience. A rare thoughtful article by a New York paper.


Nice to see that the world is right again. Seeing UConn in the AP top 25 last week just seemed weird. Seeing them get spanked by a NC team that has looked OK at best has set the world back on track for me.


Mario Williams: 4 sacks in 4 games. One forced fumble. 3 stuffs.
Reggie Bush: 3.5 yards a carry. 1 TD.
Just saying.


Something's wrong with Tony Romo. Not that he stinks or anything, but he is severely underthrowing a ton of open receivers—so either they are incomplete or the receiver is stopped after catching it and can't advance because they had to circle back to catch it. Just something to keep an eye on.


Andaplayertobenamedlater.com's Man of the Week doesn't go to Patrick Willis even though he tackled everything yesterday or Brandon Jacobs who ran over the Seattle defense at will, even though they both could have gotten it. Instead I'll give it to Reggie Wayne. Why? Well not that he had a bad day—7 catches for 97 yards. It is because he was there when the Colts needed him at the end of the game. 4 of his catches were in the fourth quarter; 3 for first downs and the fourth—a ridiculous one-handed catch with a defended draped on him—for a TD. Congrats, Reggie, you earned it.


And lastly, no reason to post this pic, other than I love it. I wish other sports besides college football did this kind of crazy stuff. So stupid, you have to love it.