Saturday, September 30, 2006

Two Nights in Teflon

The past two nights, I've spent going to baseball ganes, checking out the Twins before they begin their hopefully lengthy postseason run. Mostly, I think of this as a demonstration of my elite journalism skills, and dedication to this blog. Let's take a look at the two games.
9/28 Minnesota 2, Kansas City 1
Luke Hudson, Kansas City's pitcher, shut the Twins down for 8 innings, but thankfully for the Twins, Brad Radke and the Twins 'pen shut down a Royals squad playing the junior varsity (which is really saying something). For as much as this game should bother me, what with the Twins flailing again versus mediocre pitching, it really doesn't. Even in a pressure situation with quite a bit on the line, Joe Mauer still pulled through in the clutch, hitting a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, and Jason Bartlett (whom we acquired for Brian Buchanan, the second or third best trade of Terry Ryan's career) pulled through to drive in the game winner in the tenth. This team feeds off it's own momentum, and Joe Mauer is skilled enough to create his own mo'.
Also, I hope to God Brad Radke doesn't pitch in the playoffs. His shoulder is about to catch fire. Another point. Alexi Casilla, the stripper/infielder we acquired for J.C. Romero is a much more clutch lefty. Another show of genius by Terry Ryan.
9/29 Chicago White Sox 4, Minnesota 3
I'll say it. This game was a lot more fun than the Royals game, despite the loss. I don't have a problem facing the Yankees in the first round, so I don't mind that the Twins are going to end up with the Wild Card (The Tigers are home against the Royals this weekend). If the Twins are going to the World Series, then they will have to go through the Bombers, because the Tigers sure wouldn't beat them in the ALDS, so why not get them out of the way to take on the slumping Tigers or manageable A's afterwards? We're in the post season and playing better ball than anyone outside of Houston.
I went with some friends and got there a little late and ended up 8 rows from where the Teflon meets the bleachers. It's amazing how loud that stadium gets when it's sold out. The vibrating, deafening crowd definitely helps a buzz of six dollar beer.
Anyways, it was another flaccid attempt at offense on the part of the Twins, something I hope doesn't continue. I doubt it will, because the Twins only seem to suck against mediocre pitching, and fortunately, they teams in the postseason have pretty good staffs. They made another run at a comeback in this one, suggesting that maybe the Twins are just toying with me.
This was one of those games where you were so far away from the action, that the fans were more entertaining than the game. There was, of course, the band of twenty or thirty high school sophomores who showed up late. We wondered if they all remembered their permission slips. We sat behind a fifteen year old kid on a date. His mom had to drive them and stuck around for the game. How mortifying. And last but not least, a group of guys still in their pressed shirts showed up after a trip to the bar and were already clearly overserved. "What was that place we went to with the avocado stuff?" "[mumbles uninteligably]" "Oh, that's right." The only thing we needed was puke down our backs to make the night better. They left after the 7th.
On our way out, we ran into play by play guy Dick Bremer, who looked completely flustered. Of course, it's clear why what with all the drunks yelling at him. I can't repeat what they said, but I'm sure you can imagine. It's too bad, because the people that were cordial, he was nice too as well, but you could tell he wanted to get out of there.
My folks, also at the game, sat in front of Senor Smoke, Juan Berenguer. Clearly, my parents had better seats. They talked to him quite abit, apparently, and everyone got autographs. My dad invited him to join his softball team and actually got his cell phone number. They looked at his World Series rings, and generally got a new Panamanian best friend.
Now, all we need, is another ring for the Twins - Ryan

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Week 3 Rants

For better or worse, I had a full docket of games this weekend, and even better (or worse) I had cable the whole weekend. That meant i got to watch five games, and was reassured that I have no idea what's going on in the NFL. Let's look at the games.

I was given a treat with the televising of my home teams' game. Well, not so much a treat as a three hour waste of an early afternoon. It was the only game on early, and while it was competetive, it wasn't exactly entertaining. There was a lot of running for half a yard per carry (my marathon training regimen, by the way) and prancing around by guys like Brian Urlacher and Pat Williams, which is generally not pretty. Two points about the Vikings after watching this game. First, they have a good defense. At first I was skeptical, since they only beat the Redskins and an impotent Panthers squad (whereas Steve Smith makes Carolina, well, not impotent), and I remain so, but they held an offense that has scored a lot of points (albeit against the Lions and Packers) to nineteen, which was thanks in large part to one late drive with one big play to finish off the drive. The Vikings won't really get a test next week either. Secondly, has anyone seen the Vikings offense? Anyone? Ryan Longwell and Rex Grossman have thrown as many touchdowns for the Vikings as Brad Johnson. And I'm tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns. I suspect the Vikes may find some offense in Buffalo.

I was surprised at how entertaining the Ravens-Browns game was, especially since fewer points were scored than in the Vikings game, and you know, the Browns were involved. It just goes to show you how exciting a game can be when you have a raucous crowd and one team is totally hated by the crowd. You have to give it a hand to Cleveland for being so devoted to such a crummy team. But they do have some talent. I was impressed by Corporal Kellen Winslow Jr. and Charlie Frye, if nothing else, is not in Tim Couch territory, and bordering on Bernie Kosar popularity. But really, everyone and their mother knew the Ravens were going to pull this game off. I don't know what to think about either of these teams, but maybe Cleveland is better than I give them credit for. Or the Ravens suck.

The Giants were just... ugh. While Eli Manning may have more physical talent than his older brother, he reads defenses like he's dyslexic. I don't feel bad for him though, because seriously, who turns down a life in San Diego to live in New York in the winter? Hell, Peyton is happy in Indianapolis, and let me tell you, Indy is no San Diego. Anyways, with Eli, Amani, Tiki and Plaxico, I think they are one more goofy name ending in a vowel away from competing. Jerricho Cotchery, anyone?

So, funny story about Sunday night. The Patriots were good enough to make Jake Plummer adequate. See, the Patriots could actually penetrate and make him move around, and lo and behold, Plummer could complete passes and not do something stupid. That's what happens when you go to Arizona State. Any thinking is counterproductive. In any case, when he's just trying to get the ball off, he's much more effective. And Tom Brady is human! Take that, Boston! See, he's pouting because Deion Branch is gone, and he loses some of his swagger when he's not surrounded by incredibly talented mates. The defense isn't as good, and the offense features a rookie tailback and Reche Caldwell. So there you have it, Tom Brady isn't immortal.
Two other things that bugged me. First, why does the field have a razor, not even like, a Mach 3, with lightning bolts on it? It looks ridiculous, but nobody says anything about it. Is it like, say, the Fleet Center with it's Parquet floors? After a while, people just say, it's a goofy way to do it, but what the hell. By now it's tradition! Way to give Boston a bigger head, America. The second thing that bugged me was Patrick "up" Chukwarah's little onfield 'incident'. It's not so much that he puked and then blitzed the quarterback, that's just downright hardcore. The thing that bugged me was that they showed a slow motion replay of him yakking. Must See TV indeed.

Last night's game was inspirational. It's almost unfair for the Falcons to have to go in there and know that the Saints were going to play the most intense games of their lives. You really can't analyze this game logically. Most of the time, players are playing for themselves, for money, but this time, the Saints were actually playing for their city. I have no snide remarks, and I'll just say kudos to the Saints and best of luck to New Orleans. - Ryan

Monday, September 25, 2006

Would You Sign My Melon?

It's been a busy week here at the Times. I've watched so much football this weekend, that I can't even think in distances other than yards. I have Peyton Manning commercials rattling around in my brain. Check it to pancakes! Anyways, here's a recap of the week that was.

ITEM ONE: The Twins finished a 4-2 week since last we spoke, winningtwo of three on the road against Boston and Baltimore. It's tough, this part of the season, because even though a 4-2 record is good, especially on the road, you can't help but linger over the two losses. The Twins are in the playoffs (practically)! They've been playing great ball! I guess the only thing that worries me is that our two veteran pitchers are the ones that took the losses. I guess history has taught me not to trust a good hitting team to do much damage in the playoffs. Just ask the Rangers. In any case, we need Santana to remain a minor deity and Carlos Silva to not suck.

ITEM TWO: On the same note, Ron Gardenhire has gone on record saying that Nick Punto is going to be the third baseman next season, without question. Normally, I would be vehemently against this idea, because really, the third base side should be a bastion for power hitters. The Twins did something kind of crazy, however, and went with a hard hitting centerfielder in Torii Hunter. Centerfield is usually the speed outfielder, and with the Twins, this is the case as well, but Hunter may end up with thirty homers, more than making up for lacking third base power production. And really, Punto provides what the Twins need at the top of the order; a slap hitter who can get on base. He's like Ichiro, if Ichiro were prone to striking out four times a game every now and then.

ITEM THREE: The Wild have thus far avoided the injury bug, which is good I suppose, but if I know Minnesota sports, Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston will go down in the first week of the regular season, meaning they will miss much more of the year than if they got hurt now.

ITEM FOUR: I love all the hype Notre Dame is getting this year. I bet now that they fell behind by 17 points to the seventh best team in the Big Ten, they're assured to get a healthy dose of National Champ publicity.

ITEM FIVE: As I've mentioned, I've taken on the Blackburn Rovers as my Premiership team. As you may be able to tell from my links, I read the funnies. Well, quite frankly, reading stories recounting the Rovers' games of the weekend is reminiscent of the recent strips in Get Fuzzy. I can't understand a damn thing but the score. In any case, the Rovers are playing a lot better, thanks in large part to Morten Garnst Pedersen and Nonda, from the Congo. I think. I don't know, I had to read between the lines a little bit.

Even though I've started a new job, working for the man, I intend to keep up my posting. In fact, I absolutely promise you a post tomorrow. - Ryan

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Now that that's out of the way, I'll tell you why, and extend a special welcome to anyone who actually clicked that link. Deadspin has something called the Hugh Johnson project, which basically entails readers submitting their witty comments on the day in college football. Two comments I submitted made it on the site, and here I am, rambling about it. The comments involved Pam Ward and the Indiana-UCONN game. The jokes practically write themselves.
So anyways, thanks for stopping by. A little introduction to any new readers. I'm from Minnesota, and am therefore a hardcore Twins and Wild fan. I went to Purdue, so I follow the Colts and Boilermakers as well. My degree is in meteorology, but right now, I mostly sit on my ass. The site is mostly sports, although every once in a while, I mercilessly lay into my local newspaper. Naturally, I'm prone to talking about my favorite TV shows once in a while too. It's my blog, and I'll write what I want to. And that was clearly the coolest thing I could have said.
In any case, I really wanted to talk about the Gophers-Boilermakers game, because I might be the only person in the country to have a vested interest in both teams. It was my first chance to have a look at the Boilermakers, and after seeing scores that alleged close ball games with powerhouses like Miami (OH) and Indiana St., I was skeptical of their chances. After watching this game, and despite the fact that they won, I'm not impressed by Purdue. They played an extremely tight game with a team with no defense and an offense that wasn't executing, and they still just nosed past the Gophers. And what's going on with that "blackout" they kept talking about? Purdue went from trying the all gold uniforms (which looked awful) which didn't intimidate anybody and left an entire campus looking ridiculous in their student section apparel to this. Apparently Purdue hired some marketing people and now they are wearing the black uniforms and letting their student section look intimidating instead of like pixies.
In any case, pixies could have beat the Gophers. Bryan Cupito did an excellent job finding the wide open 20 yard line a few times, but inaccuracy wasn't the only problem. Ernie Wheelright had a hell of a time bringing in passes, and led directly to a key Purdue interception. It was almost as if Minnesota threw the game. However, if Minnesota can get their run blocking in order and their receivers start catching and their defense to defend, they may be able to beat Michigan at home next week. And if Notre Dame lays down like the Gophers did, and Purdue can force 4+ turnovers, Purdue can beat the Irish.
And if I concentrate really hard, I can fly just by waving my arms. - Ryan

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday Night is Almost TOO Good.

I promised you all a preview of the new TV lineup this fall, but really, is there a day more important than Thursday? Absolutely not. The three best shows (aside form Criminal Minds on Wednesday... love that show) are on Thursday, being My Name is Earl, The Office, and the original CSI. Additionally, the cruel network executives scheduled my guilty pleasure Survivor for the same date, and this may be the most socially significant season yet. Fortunately, I'm not a fan of the OC (is that still around?) or Grey's Anatomy, so I don't have a gaggle of shows to flip to, but I am a fan of the Twins. They are playing the Red Sox in a game that could catipult Minnesota into first place in the AL Central. Now, just out of the goodness of my heart (and the full confidence that Johan Santana will shut down the Sox, despite David Ortiz's early homer) I will keep a running diary of the two hours of TV I watch tonight, so you won't feel like you're missing out on anything. There will, however, be spoilers. Be forewarned if you have these shows on tape.
Ugh, and before 7, Santana has already let in four runs, including two errors on the same play. (Wait, isn't that how the Vikings beat the Panthers?) Also, I'm a little worried by his wild dives off the mound after balls. Diving doesn't protect you, you are not a quarterback. Stay on your feet Johan. If the game is going to keep going like this I'm glad that I've devoted this evening to broadcast television.
7:00 Survivor, My Name is Earl:

My Name is Earl is dealing with one of the more fundamental parts of comedy. Irony. Earl is helping assure us that it is the most well written show on TV. And it's about rednecks, which is ironic in it's own right. See, Joy stole a truck, and Earl's item that he is working on from the list, circuitously as always, is that he never took Joy's side. Now she stole a truck from a retailer that would return a big piece of furniture she saw on Chaotic (Britney Spears' show, the redneck show without irony or good writing) and he is helping to sell it for 3,000 bucks.
My first flip to Survivor revealed that *gasp* people weren't getting along. The Hispanics were getting things done, but they were bickering, the white people were pissed off with each other, and the Asians were quietly plugging along, even though there was one person (Cao Boi) who nobody liked. So basically, it fell into every major stereotype there is.
Flipping back, I find that Earl turned into a slapstick marathon, when they realized there was somebody in the back of the truck. After they ran out of gas, the man stole the truck when they were refueling. In order to help her out, he decides to slow down the El Camino. She was still arrested from kidnapping. That's why you ALWAYS run from the police.
7:30 Survivor continues, The Office
The big answer to the years' cliffhanger, what happened to Jim and Pam? Jim transferred! Will that mean two episodes of the Office? Probably not, but there might be two casts. One with disfunctional (original) office and the lame, boring (Stamford) office. The other half of that little dynamic, Pam, broke it off with Roy. He looks distraught. I almost feel bad for him. Actually, I kinda do. Jim's a bastard. Oh, and the big plot thread is that Oscar was outed. "You don't call retarded people retards!," Says Michael.
The Hispanics, I find flipping over to Survivor, have thrown the match to get rid of the fat guy. Saturday Night Live is doing the same thing, getting rid of the Hispanic fat guy.
OK, I can't do the Office justice. The little quirks that you should know are that Ryan has Jim's desk, and Michael dealt with Oscar's homsexuality just as well as you should expect. I almost wet myself.
8:00 CSI
Thank goodness they moved the Office and MNIE to the earlier time slot. I find it much more forgiveable to miss large sections of Survivor. I've long felt that the biggest lure of the original CSI was that the crimes were so realistic. In essence, the show is a lot darker and less sensational than the other two, and that is much easier to stomach. Our two victims were killed at a show surrounding the demolition of an old casino, it appears.
Aha, Sara Sidle and Warrick are investigating someone who appears to have shot himself. But, neither think he did. Unbelievable! A twist! And Jim Brass is along for the ride. He really recvered quickly from a bullet in the chest. The second scene features Gil Grissom, Nick Stokes and Katherine Willows investigating the death of a Cirque performer. Pretty plodding, almost like Gil was involved. Our performer was killed by being crushed by a stage that rose and fell. Ouch.
The early line is coming in, and the favorite is a jealous coperformer and a jilted business partner as the killers. We'll see.
It looks as though our two subplots will be that Jim Brass is getting a commendation for getting shot, and the assistant coroner keeps screwing up. He almost shot himself, and he forgot to prevent the dead guy from the implosion from bleeding all over the place. Also, it turns out I have also screwed up a couple times, now that I've realized that the Cirque performer was not a performer. And it turns out she was dead before being crushed. I'm guessing it wasn't a jealous performer who did that girl in.
We find also, that our Cirque victim is from Wisconsin after Stokes spent way too much time trying to find her purse. Curioiusly, she was in dancing shape, which is interesting. She was the first non-stereotype of the night. Shouldn't she have been drunk and overweight? And the next element in the implosion murder is the introduction of sunflower seeds. They are everywhere! My new theory is that he was killed in a dugout. By a jilted business partner.
And very suddenly, we discover that implosion guy did implode his own brain. But now, it appears, we need to find out why. And then, investigating the Cirque death apparently involves Stokes and Willows going to a John Mayer concert. For the love of Pete, original, don't fall into the Miami trap. Unless, of course this turns into a a montage of "what are they doing now." Which it appears in is, after they learned that Cirque girl's death was apparentl an accident. We did learn, however, that Willows for being a former pro dancer, was really bad at it, and that John Mayer looks retarded. Also, Brass is covered in tattoos.
But then *twist* Willows got drugged! There is also an attractive look at her naked back, and finally, creepy mirror image from a diorama and the murder scene it lies in. Wow, one crime is leading to another episode. Perplexing.
So there you have it, we're looking at Willows, who just gave herself a vaginal (sorry, Mom) swab, and the investigation of that rape while Grissom investigates the weird diorama murder. That's next week. We'll find out what Stokes has to say for letting Willows out of his sight at the Mayer concert, and finally find out why the hell Sarah took her pants off for Gil.
But that's for y'all to watch. This was too much work and poorly written. Watch it yourself next time. - Ryan

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A good look at at least 5 bad teams.

Back into the normal swing of things in the football season, so, mercifully for all my readers (whom I suspect don't give two Pete Rose signed baseballs about football) this little summary will be shorter than last weeks. Assisting the length, or lack thereof, is the fact that my cable was out for Monday night's game, which according to everything I've heard, is probably best for me.

The Vikings continue to fail to impress me. I'm not sure that local sports fans should even look at the Vikes yet, and continue to focus on a good thing in the Twins. Hey! They're going to make the playoffs! That's fun! When the Twins' season is over, the Vikings will be 3-5 behind an average of 5 points a game out of the offense. This is good that the fans will start showing up at this point so the letdown won't be so severe. Right now, Ryan Longwell has thrown as many touchdowns as Brad Johnson. Thats the only statistic you need.

The Broncos beat the Chiefs by a in a battle of field goals (in case you are counting, of the games shown locally, two of them combined had 8 field goals and no touchdowns). Of course, one would expect a shoddy offensive performance from Damon Huard, and he didn't do that bad, but the Broncos proved, once again, that they aren't very good. They beat a beat down Chiefs team at home behind the strength of three field goals. They have won once, based solely on luck. When Trent Green comes back and checks off of plays Herm Edwards the Chiefs are going to be much better than the woeful Broncos.

I mentioned last week that the Cowboys looked a little shaky. Well, even though they won by 17 points, they definitely lacked something. When the Redskins kept floundering and giving the Cowboys chances, they failed to put the 'skins away, making mistakes of their own. If Bill Parcells were alive today, there is no way he would stand for that. In any case, I'm willing to forgive the Redskins, who were playing without star running back Clinton Portis, but the Cowboys were ugly.

So that's it. As Steve said the other day, we know who's bad, but we don't really know who's good yet. That's why they play the games. - Ryan

I'll be your friend, Branko.

I'm intending to write a new weekly review of all the sports and news that comes up on a more daily basis every Monday. I hope to be able to keep tabs on the more subtle story trends in the sports world as well as in other realms of interest to me. It's my blog after all.
Comcast had some problems establishing a working cable connection yesterday, which explains why this little update is creeping up on us on Tuesday. Later tonight I will give you my recap of the week in the NFL.

ITEM ONE: The Twins had a good week, going 5-2 in a pair of series with the A's and Indians. The series against the A's is something of a mystery to me, as I was in a hotel somewhere in the south when the games were played. All I know is I watched the ESPN Bottom Line and yelped in excitement when I saw the scores. I can say with what little authority I possess that the True Twins were seen in their series against the Indians. Minnesota demonstrated a good grasp of the fundamentals, but when things went wrong, as in their loss on the 15th, it was because the fundamentals broke down. Sloppy, lazy defense was what killed the Twins, and even then, they only lost in extra frames. But most nights, the Twinks get it done the Right Way.
Naturally, the thing that has people the most worried, i.e. a pitching staff who's cumulative age is less than Julio Franco's, has done well. The only pitcher who really struggled this week was Johan Santana, Local Deity. And yes, that is his new name.

ITEM TWO: Much has been made about Marian Gaborik becoming more comfortable in Minneapolis, and it having something to do with the addition of Pavol Demitra and Branko Radivojevic in the offseason. Demitra and Radivojevic are also Slovakian, which implies that Marian was uncomfortable without his countrymen and not that Minneapolis is a total change from Trencin, Slovakia.
Besides that, I don't see how Branko can go unnoticed thus far in the local media. His name is BRANKO for heaven's sake! Maybe it's because he's only the second person with that name to grace the Minnesota sports scene. But truth be told, reading this article, especially looking at the pictures, Radivojevic looks rather on the outs with his new pals Demitra and Gaborik. Poor guy. If it wasn't for the fact that I would need to jerseys to fit your name on it, I would totally get a Radivojevic.

ITEM THREE: The Gophers are a mystery to me. Are they any good? They win 44-0 over a bad team, lose convincingly to a very good team and then beat Temple by 62. Just how mediocre are they? Do they have a bowl in them? If so how good? I think next week will be the judge.

ITEM FOUR: And Purdue is just the team to let us know. Their offense has looked good (albeit against MAC teams) and their defense has looked really bad (like I said; against MAC teams! Ouch). So the only possible result is a shootout. Either Minnesota can slow down Purdue's defense a little bit (Lord knows it won't be the other way around) or both teams score at least 35. One thing is for sure, the Purdue faithful will be extremely intoxicated.

ITEM FIVE: During the Amazing Race premiere Sunday, there were only two teams that didn't immediately make me want to punch the TV, namely the "Beards" (A pair of Cleveland Muslims) and "Team Karma" (An Indian-American couple (the wife was gorgeous (Mostly I just want to see the triple parenthesees when I'm done here))). Naturally, both were eliminated when they got to Beijing. Now I'm rooting for the mothers from Alabama (surely the next pair out) or the Korean brothers. One day, I'll learn their names.

ITEM SIX: I've made a promise. Don't talk politics. Well, in the spirit of that, I'll keep my comments to a minimum. Read this article than send a letter to Senator Mark Dayton to tell him that he's a ^%ing idiot.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

How I spend Saturday Evenings

Earlier today, I fretted over what I was going to post on. I was exhausted after running around all day playing softball and volleyball and other activities. I planned to write a post on the upcoming TV season, and I still might. I'll wait, however, until I've seen a few of these shows. Instead tonight, old Mom Nature told me to get outside and I took a couple movies of some of the lighting. I apologize for the quality and not being able to load them properly here at the Times. Here are the YouTube links. If anyone knows how to add these so they are actually on the site, that would be awesome.

EDIT: Unfortunately, these storms proved to be fatal for a 10 year old girl in Rogers, Minnesota. you can read about that here.
EDIT: Thank you Rachel for the help.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Playoffs are Near

So, now that I'm unemployed I have way too much free time. I realized, just now, that there are far too many enjoyable sporting events. Now that I have discovered them, it's entirely possible that I won't be able to pry myself away from a television for the next couple of months. I'm at a loss for what I should write about night in and night out, and at the same time, I don't want to keep writing solely about sports.
Look at the schedule! Hockey starts in less than a month and the Wild are exciting and full of promise, the NFL just got started and that is yet to dissappoint in 41 years. Of course, I have also gotten into European soccer, and constantly check the internet for updates on Brann and Blackburn. Most important, currently, however, is that the baseball season is winding down, and the Twins, in case you haven't heard, are in the thick of the hunt.
At the same time, for whatever reason, my fellow Twins fans seem to be in the throes of panic, and I am an island of mental stability. I don't have any idea how this happened. In any case, here is some advice for my cohorts in fandom from one perennial pessimist to a few short term pessimists. It will help you through the end of the season.
1. Don't worry about our pitching staff: Ok, so Radke and Liriano are hurt, but do you know what? The Twins have been doing all right trotting out a bunch of young guys like Matt Garza, Boof Bonser and Scott Baker. The Twins have been spoiled with excellent pitching the past few years, so when they trot out merely servicable guys, it's easy to worry, but this season, the Twins have an offense. And don't forget that the Twins bullpen is the premier crew in the league, so all you need out of Garza or Baker is 5 innings, and you're set. So don't worry about the pitching staff. Besides, these starts, holding them to the flame like this will help the maturation of this staff. Watch out for them down the road. I don't want to oversell them, but the rotation could be as good as the Braves of the mid 90's in a few years.
2. Embrace Torii Hunter and Rondell White:I know that Hunter and White have been lamented by many fans, but listen up. These guys are our most veteran everyday players and therefore the most reliable in the postseason. Sure, the potential is greater from guys like Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer, but in their first postseason as marquee players on the team, who knows what could happen?
3. Don't fall in love with utility players: Jason Tyner, Luis Rodriguez, and guys of their ilk. Those are the guys I'm talking about. They did their job during the regular season, spelling the starters and getting key hits here and there, but don't be miffed if they don't play much in the post season. As I mentioned, this is the time for the veterans to step up, so expect to see Phil Nevin pinch hitting more often than you may be comfortable with. But don't worry. It's all part of the plan. Jason Kubel may make some appearances as well.
So there you go. The Twins are doing WELL. Don't worry about them so much - Ryan

Preliminary Thoughts on the NFL Season.

This past week, I saw the Dolphins/Steelers game from Greeley, Colorado, the Sunday games from Albuquerque and the Monday night games from Lubbock. So really, my opinions that you will see will be from about four states. So clearly, that gives them more value.

First, and of more local concern, is the Vikings. If you operate under the misguided assumption that the Redskins are a good team (despite the fact that their defense lost skill players and only added Adam Archuleta and their receiving corps consists of long ball threats when their quarterback is lucky if he can get it past 15 yards consistently), then the Vikings were impressive. I don't operate under that assumption, and I think that the Vikings looked pretty bad, actually. Given the money spent on the offensive line, the running game was dissapointing and the faith put in Troy Williamson is already scary. The scariest part is that there is nobody behind him. If Tavaris Jackson is worth anything and the Vikings can add a real receiver though, they look to have a window around 2008-2010 to get some things accomplished.

So let me get this straight. Ben Roethlisberger motorcycles into a sedan. Then, thinking he's set to go, he gets appendacitis. But still, Bill Cowher keeps saying that Big Ben will be coming back. Don't you understand Pittsburgh? God clearly wants Charlie Batch to play quarterback! And he performed with his three touchdown passes. Also, I think that the Steelers may be a little better than I thought.

The most important game that I watched, for my own well being anyways was the Denver/St. Louis game. It revealed much of what was already expected. Jake Plummer is still just as bad as he has always been and last year was a fluke. Gary Kubiak was propping up the running game, and neither Bell, Tatum nor Mike, can keep hope alive. Assuming Ladanian Tomlinson doesn't get hurt and the Chiefs figure out a strategy (GIVE IT TO LARRY!), the Broncos look to be cruising for a bruising.

As I already mentioned, the Chargers desperately need LT to be a superhero in San Diego. But at least they get another game against what may be the 0-16 Raiders. Troy Smith will look good in Silver and Black.

The Manning Bowl was about what I expected. BORING. Eli and Peyton are boring. Peyton is too good, and Eli is just vapid an uninteresting. No match for Dane Cook's special on HBO. What do you say when an atheist sneezes if they are offended by "God bless you"?

So I mentioned Gary Kubiak. He's now coaching the Texans, and he is an offensive genius. Now I fully realize why the Texans didn't go after Reggie Bush. Kubiak can build a 1000 yard rusher with anyone, so why waste a pick on Bush to play a position I would be able to succeed in with Kubiak's offense? No, you go after positions where, with Kubiak, you need some skill, and while Mario Williams is still raw, second round pick Demeco Ryans was impressive. Besides, Dominick Davis wasn't supposed to get hurt. Next year look for the Texans to draft an OG or OT.

Lastly, because I feel I'm obliged to mention all the games I saw this past weekend, the Jaguard offense doesn't look so healthy. Lo and behold, they have Mike Tice on the sideline! Curious. I wonder if he's blown away by the fact that no, Byron Leftwich doesn't want to go rent a boat and find some hookers with him. But really, Drew Bledsoe is going to be up and down this year (like always) Terrell Owens will go ballistic and the Cowboys will stumble in at 8-8, with their defense keeping them in most games. The Jaguars might also make some noise.

Much to your collective chagrin, I hope to do weekly recaps on Tuesdays. This will be in addition to more general recaps on Mondays and other posts sneaking in here and there at other days in the week. I have a lot of time on my hands. - Ryan

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Football season is almost here, and I couldn't be happier. I would say I'm even happier than Brooks Bollinger. Or Phil Nevin, both new additions to the Minnesota sports scene. And I will be enjoying the first week from New Mexico, so I wanted to throw a couple thoughts out there before I leave for the week.

First, since I picked Blackburn as my Premiership team, the league hasn't played at all, instead pausing while Euro Cup qualifying was ongoing. They'll play next week. So now, the reason for their being my team. They have my favorite player, Norwegian Morten Garnst Pedersen, whom I discovered on an EA sports game. So that's somewhat embarrassing, but I don't care. The other reason? They aren't from London.

Really quickly, I want to say that the Twins are in a lot better shape than people think, which is a scary statement to make about the Wild Card Leader. They have the best starter and the best bullpen in the league, as well as a good middle of the lineup, which can be a murderers row when certain people (Torii Hunter) get hot. I like their chances. But I sholuldn't say that, because pessimism and cynicism should reign supreme here.

Now, while I'm gone, The Maverick from The Whirlwind of Doom will be making a guest appearance here. In the meantime, please keep checking with Is It Sports? and have a safe and happy week. - Ryan

ESPN Owns My Life (Further Evidence)

So it's Tuesday night, a night renowned for being a broadcast TV wasteland (until, at least, the Amazing Race comes back. That is, if it was to stay on Tuesday) and I always started to flip over to ESPN. Now, Tuesday isn't much for sports either, so they filled it in with their own special programming. ESPN Original Entertainment, if you will.
They've done an excellent job in some respects, with the World Series of Poker, which fostered a revolution in the country. Everyone plays poker now. And much like all the things on ESPN, there are millions of people who could do the same job as those seen on screen (I'm looking at you, Salisbury). But then, we sit there affixed to the screen watching people stupid enough to throw ten grand at this tournament. And we think, "Why couldn't that be me?"
Well, it's because we aren't dumb enough to blow that money, or we're not as good as we thought and couldn't win the entry fee. Either way, here we sit on Tuesday night watching Daniel Negreanu chat up an insurance salesman from Reno. It hardly seems fair.
So ESPN was off and running, trying to find something else to add onTuesday to fill in between their ESPN Mobile ads. They tried some movies which I've heard are good but I can't watch for more than five minutes of. They had a really bad idea with the World Series of Darts. Then after it was cancelled on NBC, ESPN added a winner.
The Contender, produced by, of all people, Sylvester Stallone, has piqued my interest in another sport I wouldn't otherwise care about. Yesterday, I found myself watching hours of a show about boxing. I'm eagerly awaiting tonight's episode. What's so darn fascinating about this show?
Well, for one thing, it's absolutely fascinating to hear about the characters found in this show, the backgrounds, the family life. It's amazing, listening to what these guys have been through and where they are now. Unintentional comedy is the lisp all these guys talk with, due to the head trauma. You try not to laugh, but you can't stop yourself. But I feel bad, because these are genuinely interesting, dynamic personalities.
I think that's what has drawn me into the Contender. The peronality and the classiness of the guys on the show. They aren't the animals I would have expected a boxer to be. Of course, it is stil fun to see these nice guys let loose and beat the crap out of each other. - Ryan

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Stress, Thy Name is Fantasy Baseball

All season, I've been monitoring my team, the Gassner All Stars, as they wallowed in 13th place, week in and week out. I just wanted to get bumped up that last spot so I could have some post-season action. Finally, this last week, I skyrocketed to eleventh. But this was supposed to be my good team! I wasn't supposed to be in fighting for a spot in the consolation playoffs! What happened?
Well, you only need to look at my catcher. Or first baseman. Or outfielders. Or pitchers. My two highest ranked players at (fantasy) seasons end were Miguel Cabrera and Roy Halladay at 23rd and 28th. That isn't very good. And my catcher was the 600th ranked player, but I kept him in because he didn't split time. And Phil Nevin, my first baseman is working on his third team of the season. The SEASON! Not cool. In fact, the only player on the All-Stars to exceed ecpectations by any sizeable amount was midseason addition Takashi Saito. But now, I think the GAS are catching their rhythm, and the league better watch out. Or, the consolation bracket better watch out. I have Scott Olson.
The team named after this very blog, on the other hand, has met with better fortune. I am 22.5 ahead of the second place team, and I didn't even set my roster against the 2nd place team this week. The last place team is 30.5 games behind the second place team. So, it's safe to say that I've got a deathgrip on the league.
I did a much better job in the draft than I thought, because I went after guys like Joe Mauer, who I figured would be much better than any other catcher (he was) while outfielders were a dime a dozen. I snatched up Mark Teixeira (a little better than Phil Nevin) and he has recently started playing like Mark Teixeira. I waited until the 5th and 6th rounds to get pitchers and still ended up with Dontrelle Willis and John Smoltz. My other pitchers were gambles. I grabbed Chien Ming Wang, figuring he was good for at least wins, and he has been. And in the last round, I picked little known Francisco Liriano. He's worked out just fine.
That was the theme of my draft and my season with the Victoria Times. I found excellent sleepers like Prince Fielder and after seeing him once at the Dome, Nick Swisher. Before Swisher bottomed out, I dealt him for Francisco Rodriguez, patching my hole in the bullpen, when Joe Nathan was getting few saves. Last but not least, Chone Figgins is a fantasy godsend.
So that's that. I predicted the season horribly, but I'm pretty happy I was so dominant in one league. Of course, you may not want to read any 9 part previews anymore. - Ryan

NFL Preview, Part 9: The postseason

So, I wrote out my playoff predictions after the division predictions and then I got my edition of ESPN the Magazine. Much to my chagrin, I have the same Super Bowl as them. So much for being creative, I guess. Anyways, here are my seedings and predictions for the playoffs, with a little prediction on both leagues.

Kansas City
New England

Wild Card: Cincinnati over Kansas City and Miami over New England
Divisional Round: Cincinnati over Indianapolis and Miami over Baltimore
AFC Championship: Miami over Cincinnati

I think both the Bengals and Dolphins are going to be dogged early by injuries and jail time, but by the end of the season, they will both be catching their rhythm. Even though they aren't going to be seeded the highest, I fully expect them to be the hottest teams come the post season. I also think that the Dolphins possess the better defense, which will sneak them into the Super Bowl.

New York

Wild Card: New York over Arizona and Chicago over Atlanta
Divisional round: Seattle over Chicago and Carolina over New York
Championship: Carolina over Seattle

Unlike the AFC, there are only a couple good teams in the NFC. There are two eminently superior teams, the Seahawks and Panthers, who will reach the championship game. I think this is the year that the Panthers sneak back to the big game.

Super Bowl
Carolina over Miami

No matter how good Miami is playing, they are still quarterbacked by Daunte Culpepper.

So that's it, that's the NFL season for you. I'll have a non football related post or two before I leave on Wednesday, but that's it for football. You may start commenting again. - Ryan

NFL Preview, Part 8: NFC East

As I can tell from the comments (or lack thereof) you are all pretty sick of these. But I need to flesh this all out for my own personal well being. This is the last diision to look at, and it's the wildly overrated NFC East. That whole "East Coast Bias" thing is in full effect, as Redskin fans will realize when they go 7-9 after being labeled a playoff team in some circles.

New York Giants - The Giants are flawed, just like all the other teams in the East, but they have more balance on either side of the ball. Tiki Barber is a scary back, but he is about due for a massive knee injury. Eli Manning is extremely talented, but he hasn't demonstrated that fully yet. And there are three receivers on the Giants whom I'm sure you've heard of (Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burres and rookie Sinorice Moss), but that might be because they play in New York. All three are vaguely mediocre. The Giants do have a couple of dominant defensive ends in Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. The linebacker corps is anchored by Lavarr Arrington but the secondary is spotty. Also, I hate Terrell Owens AND Bill Parcells, so I have the Cowboys missing the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys - Like I said, I hate Owens and I hate Parcells. I think they are both bad for the team, and it will bring down an otherwise unimpressive team. Drew Bledsoe only has a couple servicable years left, and the Cowboys defense isn't that talented. The biggest positive on the team is their backfield, assuming Marion Barber and Julius Jones can put up the same type of numbers they have been. It doesn't seem likely.
Washington Redskins - What's the knock against the Redskins been lately? That they don't have a quarterback, right? Well, what did they do this offseason? They went out and picked up a couple wide receivers for Mark Brunell to throw at (as long as they don't go further than 10 yards downfield). Of course, Antwaan Randle El can throw a little bit too, I guess. I'm really dismayed by their defense as well. On the plus side, Clinton Portis is primed for a career year.
Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles patched part of a huge hole by picking up Donte Stallworth. Of course, the huge hole is their entire offense. They need another 5 players on O to be competetive.

So that's it. Those are the division breakdowns. I'll be back with a postseason prediction later today, maybe tomorrow.

Friday, September 01, 2006

NFL Preview, Part 7: NFC South

The NFC South is definitely the best division in the NFC, top to bottom. I would even warrant to say that it is unrivaled in football. The only bad team in the division will see it's record plummet do to a difficult in conference schedule, but will actually be better than most people will expect. Teams listed yadda yadda....

Carolina Panthers - I understand why the hype surrounds this team, but I'm not totally sold on the Panthers. First, my friend Eric is a huge Panthers fan, and generally speaking, things sports related don't tend to go his way. Secondly, the glaring holes on this team are at linebacker and their shaky quarterback. Now, on a team like the Cardinals, the shaky QB doesn't seem to be a concern because the expectations are lower, but in Charlotte, the buzz is that this is a Super Bowl team. I don't see that happening, despite all the talent around. Third, the Falcons are going to push Carolina a lot harder than people expect.
Atlanta Falcons - I like the Falcons, but I usually do. I think it's because I'm a fan of the 3-4 defense, and the Falcons have it perfected. With quick end John Abraham added to the mix, the defense will only get better, especially against the run. Of course, this won't help against the Panthers, but the Falcons frantic offense should keep them in games when facing Carolina. Michael Vick now has Ashley Lelie to throw to if the situation warrants, and I just have a good feeling that this squad will win a lot of low scoring games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - While the Bucs' passing attach has never been good, and will continue to remain awful, they have added Cadillac Williams last season, and despite my first inklings, he seems to be working out. He should add enough offense to keep the Bucs in games, and the defense, still a big play defense after all these years, will win them games. This is an 8-8 team if I've ever seen one.
New Orleans Saints - I like New Orleans because they added Drew Brees at quarterback, although I wish they would have added more talent by dealing their pick for Reggie Bush or letting Deuce McCallister go. There is no need for a split back system, especially when the backs are as talented as they are. Suffice to say that the offensive component they sent to Philadelphia (Donte Stallworth) was the wrong one. For both teams, really. Inj any case, the Saints have the potential for a potent offense, though it may be a year out, and their defense is still no good.

There is your second wild card team, the Falcons. Although a key injury in this division would really scramble things up. The only team that could survive, I think is the Panthers, who have one of the deepest teams in the league.