Saturday, March 31, 2007

MLB Preview: AL West

Tomorrow night is the beginning of the baseball season, as the Cardinals begin their defense of their World Series title against the Mets. The game, for those wishing to watch it, will be on ESPN2, rather than the more popular ESPN, because they have to show women's college basketball. Nothing against women's college basketball, but I would have thought that it would be better business to put the more popular sport on the more popular channel. But I guess that's just me. In any case, on to my favorite division to preview. Favorite because there are only 4 teams.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels Angels of Anaheim are pretty clearly the best team in this division, especially if they can avoid the injury problems that plagued them last year. With Bartolo Colon, Ervin Santana, and John Lackey headlining their rotation, K-Rod in the bullpen and an offense that features Valdimir Guerrero, they should have this weakened division locked up by June. Of course, that's not how the Angels roll, so expect Chone Figgins to have another subpar year and Howie Kendrick to blow out both knees running out a grounder, just to make things interesting.

Oakland A's: The A's lost their ace pitcher and their 56 year old offensive spark in the offense, but far be it from me to doubt this team. They still have good pitchers and some emerging young hitters. They won't be nearly as good as they were last year, but they won't be a pushover either, and late in games, Huston Street will ensure victories.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers made a lot of unusual moves in the offseason, adding Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa to the outfield, and making Eric Gagne their closer. They did a lot of treading water, and losing Carlos Lee really hurts, but they have more talent than the A's. Unfortunately, Texas teams tend to break down late in the year after playing all those games in oppressive heat, and this year should be no different, especially with those old guys on the team.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners are the best worst team of a division there is. So that's nice. Their pitching staff is passable, although not really great, and their offense has a lot of power, which doesn't matter, since they can't get anyone on base. If a couple of things click, they could turn the division upside down.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

MLB Preview: NL East

The National League is well arranged, as the West has a lot of old players headlining teams, while the Central is highlighted by several young players. The East are at the advantage, as they have the most players in their prime this season.

New York Mets: The Mets caught an unlucky break last year as their entire pitching staff imploded. Then they were unable to sign Barry Zito, who they long coveted. Their rotation stands to be an absolute disaster, but they have a strong closer and a fearsome lineup that will only get better this season. ESPN is going to love these guys, because their games will be laden with highlights and double digit games. The Mets should have enough punch to get by the rest of the East, but it will be closer than last year.

Philadelphia Phillies: I really like the Phillies this year. They benefited, ironically, from the subtraction of Bobby Abreu last year, and started getting production from across their lineup. There are a few glaring holes, such as the lack of a third outfielder if Jayson Werth doesn't produce and a scary bullpen situation. No team is perfect, of course, and the Phillies strengths should guide them to a playoff berth.

Atlanta Braves: I feel a little dirty, picking the Braves to finish third. But they lost Marcus Giles in the offseason, and their pitching staff is getting old. They didn't improve any part of their offense via free agency, signing only Craig Wilson. I really don't see how they can compete in a tough East. There is certainly enough talent at all ages that they won't be an easy victim, but they aren't the Braves of years past.

Florida Marlins: Don't expect the Marlins to repeat last years surprise performance. They foolishly let manager Joe Girardi go, despite the fact that he led a batch of young no-names to a very good season. With out him, expect some disillusionment, and especially ome regression. New manager Fredi Gonzales will take some time to get through to these guys to play his way. Like the Braves, the Marlins will be tough, but matching last years output will be tough.

Washington Nationals: The good news is, offense is killed by RFK Stadium. Good, because the Nats don't have any offense to kill. The bad news is that RFK is a pitchers park. Bad because the Nats don't have any pitchers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MLB Preview: NL Central

The National League's Central division gave us the World Champions last year, much to everyone's surprise. What would be even more surprising is if they gave us this year's champion as well.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs famously sunk a lot of money into their franchise this year, starting with their new manager, Lou Piniella, moving on to Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, and their most underrated free agent acquisition Mark DeRosa, with Aramis Ramirez signing an extension. In another division, I would worry about an unsightly hodgepodge like this, but really, I don't see how they don't win the Central. They should have an overwhelming offense, and their mediocre pitching staff will provide just enough support for them to win 90 games or so.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards are something of an enigma for me. How did they win the division last year? How did they win a playoff series? How on earth did they win the World Series? The first question is easy. Last year, the NL Central sucked. The Cards didn't really do anything in the offseason, preferring to keep the roster pretty much the same as the one that got their rings last year. Fortunately for them, the Cubs were the only team that made a concerted effort to improve last year. They should still be above .500 and in second.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are a young, improving squad. They remind me a lot of the Twins of a few years ago. They haven't been good for a while, but have a good batch of youngsters in Rickie Weeks, Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy, and Prince Fielder coming up to join a veteran, quality pitcher in Ben Sheets who is supported by a good bullpen. They had a good run last year, but trading away Doug Davis and Carlos Lee seem like huge steps back. The Brewers will make the playoffs sometime in the next five years, so you can trust me on that.

Houston Astros: Last year, the Astros offense was abysmal, so they went out and picked up Cliff Lee. And traded away a speedster from the top of the lineup. Last year, the games the Astros won were thanks to strong performances from their pitching staff. They bolstered it by adding Jason Johnson, but lost Andy Pettite and will not be getting Roger Clemens back this season. I don't see how Houston can even contend this year.

Cincinnati Reds: The sucking sound you hear is coming from southern Ohio. Holy crap, did the Reds actually contend for a while last year? How? After perusing their roster, I felt the need to take a shower. I don't know how they expect to win games, but it better not be with their shaky pitching staff. Or their much weaker, strikeout prone offense. Maybe Ryan Freel and his defense will win them some games.

Pittsburgh Pirates: To summarize their offseason. Their huge deal was the acquisition of Adam Laroche was much ballyhooed as a sign things were looking up for the Bucs. Sure. Thanks for trying, Pittsburgh. Of course, with their young pitchers, they may eke past the Reds.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Good News!

It's been a pretty good week here at the Victoria Enterprise offices. Personally, I got a new job which will pay me more than this place does. (Don't worry, the Times will be kept up). I finalized the details for a trip to Chicago on April 6th and 7th in order to watch the Twins play the White Sox, which will assuredly be exciting. Then, thanks to my other site, (!) I amy have arranged a radio interview for myself. OK, so that one may not be such good news. For anyoe. But this past week, it's been nothing but good news in the sports world as well. Let's take a look.

ITEM ONE: I promised from the outset of this blog to cover sports and a little bit of the Victoria scene. Well, this weekend, we had the perfect confluence of the two items, as Holy Family Catholic High School of Victoria won the State 2A basketball tournament. The Fire were assuredly an underdog, as they were seeded #4 in their section so making the tournament, let alone winning it, was quite an accomplishment. Holy Family beat Maple River, a conglomerate school district centered in Mapleton. The game couldn't have been a better matchup. Both teams had lanky forwards dominating the team, but Holy Family did a good job of finding backdoor cutters to get around the stingy Eagle defense. The overtime thriller was eventually won on a great defensive play as Matt Quammen tipped a Maple River pass to Cameron Cain, who took it in for the game winning lay up. The exciting part for me was that they had a fire engine escort through town back to the school. Exciting because I like flashing lights and trucks. I should note that this may be the only coverage of the team you get from a Victoria news source, as our friend Celine doesn't typically like to cover actual news.

ITEM TWO: In related but not quite as joyous news, my high school, Benilde-St. Margaret's, lost in the 3A state championship game to St. Thomas Academy. It was Benilde's first ever state tournament since being allowed to play with the public schools.
The other two section champions were Ellsworth in 1A in one of the best basketball games I have ever seen, and Buffalo in 4A. Ellsworth and their opponents, Cass Lake-Bena hit almost everything from the floor, including a game winning three with no time left. Buffalo beat Robbinsdale Armstrong, a battle of teams that have never really been good at anything at any point in my memory, so congratulations to both of them.

ITEM THREE: OK, one more basketball related item. The tournament continued, whittling down to the Final 4, the same 4 I told you it would be, if you'll remember, not that I'm bragging or anything. I'm not in any cash pools, so it doesn't matter. Real quickly though, Florida looks beatable, and ugly as ever with Joakim Noah still on the team. UCLA has improved their defense since last season, but their offense isn't quite as good as last year. Georgetown, a defensive team all season, developed an offensive touch when it truly mattered yesterday, and I expect them to be dangerous now, and Ohio State can't keep falling behind and coming back. Good thing they wiped the floor with Memphis. Nonetheless, I like Florida to beat UCLA, just like last year, and Georgetown's big bodies to wear down Greg Oden and get him into foul trouble. Same against Florida.
One nice thing as well about the tournament being at this stage is that I can flip from the commercials without fear of missing a live look in. I know now that a pink haired lady can defeat a team of giant robots simply by quoting buying and printing, or so says her coach/pimp. Also, I long for the type of friendship Kevin Bacon and Michael Jordan clearly share.
Best line of the weekend, James Brown while describing Al Horford: "He has a great package down low." It's what I've been saying, really. You can't let studio guys do play by play.

ITEM FOUR: I haven't been neglecting hockey. Definitely not. It's just that when you have the premier basketball tournament of the year, you kind of want to focus on that. At least I do. In any case, the Wild are undefeated in their last nine, suggesting I should keep my prying eyes away from them. The only hockey I did see this weekend was at Buffalo Wild Wings when the Wild played the Coyotes. I was actually there with Coyote Keith Ballard's cousin, strangely enough. I did later catch some of the Michigan State - Notre Dame F game in the Frozen Four tournament, which is left with Boston College versus North Warhawks and Michigan State versus Maine. Should be good games.

ITEM FIVE: The last bit of good news comes from the Twins, where the pitchers have been getting lit up for the past week. The good news, of course, is that its still Spring Training. One more week!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

MLB Preview: NL West

I've put this off long enough. It's time, once again, to get into my baseball preview, the only longwinded preview I suspect anyone reads. I have my thought on the NL West all ready to go, but if anyone else has opinions, let me know in the comments! And here we go, for the next several weeks or so.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The NL West, essentially, was a division that expressed virtually no interest in improving their lot. Their only big loss was J.D. Drew, and their big addition was Jason Schmidt. They packed the roster full of guys like Juan Pierre (for five years!), Randy Wolf, Mike Lieberthal and Luis Gonzalez. They'll get the senior citizens discount at Embers, but I find it hard to believe that they have improved all that dramatically. If anything, they have shot themselves in the foot for the future, blocking off some good young talent with some waning, old stiffs. Of course, this year, they have a chance to take the NL West crown again, because the West is weak.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-Backs probably had the best strategy of any team out west, making few moves and hoping their young studs continue to develop. They cleared out some space, giving some spare parts to the Yankees for Randy Johnson, who will still be a good second or third starter behind Brandon Webb, last years NL Cy Young winner. With improving players like Chad Tracy in the lineup, a drastic turnaround is highly likely this season in Arizona.

San Francisco Giants: I generally don't like teams that fire their manager after a decent run to do well the following season. It suggests chaos and discord in the locker room. However, the Giants hired the recently dispatched Bruce Bochy, formerly of the Padres to right the ship. They went the same rout as the Dodgers this off season, looking forward to getting a lot older, something I didn't think was possible, adding Dave Roberts and Ryan Klesko from the Padres. The youngest addition offensively was Bengie Molina, something that should be both terrifying and amusing. They swapped out Jason Schmidt for Barry Zito, a clear downgrade, and one of a couple reasons I don't see the Giants fighting for the top spot in the West.

San Diego Padres: See the above comment on managers for why I don't see the Padres contending this year. The best thing they did in the offseason was acquire Kevin Kouzmanoff to play third, bringing life to the position. They sent off Josh Barfield, opening second base for the overrated Marcus Giles. That seems to be about one too many Giles' on this team for my taste.

Colorado Rockies: You know what I hate about the Rockies? That people abbreviate the team "Rox". It bugs me. However, I like the team in fantasy baseball because they have a roster full of no-name stat producing machines, like Garret Atkins, Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe. They acquired some good young pitchers and Willy Taveres for Jason Jennings, a steal from the Astros. The only down spot in their lineup is, ironically, the diminishing skill set of Todd Helton. The only holes in their pitching staff are their rotation and bullpen. This squad is still a couple years out, but getting much closer.

The West is very even, top to bottom. I would be very surprised if things ended up the way I predict here. - Ryan

Monday, March 19, 2007

Longwinded Recapping.

I have to tell you I've watched a LOT of basketball over the past week or so. If the recap seems a little basketball heavy, it's because it is. At least I'm not devoting a midweek post to it this wek, right? Silver lining?

ITEM ONE: The basketball we've seen thus far has been up and down. Thursday got a free pass because it was day one, but the games were mostly dreadful. Friday had some high points, but was still pretty lame, save for a couple good games, like the Illinois-Virginia Tech contest. Saturday, for those who didn't watch, was infused with enough action to give me a coronary. I'm lucky it didnt, frankly. Yesterday was a lot like Friday.
There are some teams and players I'm happy to still have around, like an exciting Oregon team who is an interesting addition to the sweet 16 this year. Additionally, I'm glad they are playing UNLV, but that's mostly because I picked the Runnin' Rebs to be in this game. I like Georgetown because they play a good, old school style of basketball, and Roy Hibbert looks like a lost Cosby kid. Additionally, I've become a huge Tyler Hansbrough fan, despite the fact that he plays in the ACC.
Of course, there are some teams and players out there that anger me at their continued existence. Joakim Noah. Aaron Gray and Pitt. Texas A&M. Ohio State. But there are plenty of teams out that I dislike that I can be happy about, like Notre Dame and Duke. Jered Dudley is no longer in the tournament, and that fills me with glee.
On the other hand Nick Fazekas and Nevada are no more, and my Purdue Boilermakers were dispatched by Joakim Noah and Florida. Also, my favorite name of the tournament, Ra'Sean Dickey and Georgia Tech were knocked off in the first round. The biggest loss for a lot of people was Texas and Kevin Durant.
What does this all lead to? Well, a vaguely bland sweet 16, but what should, at least, be high powered basketball.

ITEM TWO: Did the Wild play this week? They weren't on TV, so I'm not sure. Have they made the playoffs yet? Hmm... (One other hockey note, especially to ESPN. If you aren't going to cover hockey, you can go ahead and ignore the entire game without highlighting the one or two awful incidents a year. It makes it seem as though you are trying to paint the game as boorish and unwatchable, hoping the more civilized people will turn into the Strong Man competitions on your network instead of hockey, which wasn't really unpopular until you said it was. Oh. You ARE trying to make hockey unpopular so people will watch Strong Man instead? My fault! Don't let me tell you how to run your business then!)

ITEM THREE: One more time: Ra'Sean Dickey. I'm not sure what kills me about this name. It might be the silly, giggle inducing "Dickey". It could be the creative use of punctuation. I think its that they went with the Irish spelling of Sean in there. I don't think this name would have caught my attention if it was Ra'Shawn. Ok, maybe. That apostrophe is pretty funny.

ITEM FOUR: Not that I'm trying to make light of a an illness, especially one that claimed my grandfather last May, but David Wells has type 2 diabetes. Seriously, are we so out of shape in this country that our professional athletes, still playing the game even, are getting diabetes? Yeah, you read that right. David Wells is a professional athlete.

ITEM FIVE: A bit of sad news for the two or three people that may or may not have read my Valparaiso-UMKC recap from a couple months ago. One of the main characters in that game, Kansas City coach Rich Zvosec is now former coach Zvosec. And I never did learn to pronounce his name.

ITEM SIX: Let's cast another popular sport in a negative light, shall we? Newly Dolphined linebacker Joey Porter was arrested in Vegas after he came across Bengal Tackle Levi Jones at a blackjack table and the two had a scuffle. Well, as much scuffling as 500+ pounds of man can scuffle. There is a blight of professional football players getting arrested or mixed up with the wrong crowd. There was the awful shooting of Darrent Williams, there's Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, all those Bengals, Pacman Jones, and now, Joey Porter involved with yet another Bengal. Proponents of the sport say that, statistically, they aren't getting themselves arrested any faster than any other sector of society. Sure. When was the last time you heard of a hockey player beating up a stripper and getting into a shootout with the bouncer? Yes, the on ice stuff can be pretty awful, but these athletes aren't getting into trouble outside of the game, and, really, the game is a lot less violent than football anyways.

Ra'Sean Dickey. - Ryan

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Foot in the Crease

I've spent a lot of time discussing the local teams, delving into specific players and situations, but there is one team that I haven't dove too deep into, and that team is the Wild and their current situation in net is worth of spending a couple paragraphs on, at least.
A few weeks back, Manny Fernandez, who has been a member of the squad since the teams inception, and was given the reins at the beginning of the year, suffered a knee injury, and Niklas Backstrom was thrown into the mix. Backstrom played extremely well while Fernandez sat, and that's the crux of the debate. Does the Wild revert to the original starter from the beginning of the year, or do they stick with the hot goalie?
Let's look at the goalies for a second. Manny Fernandez has a couple of things going for him, of course, namely that he was the starter at the beginning of the year. The general unspoken rule in most sports is that players don't lose their starter's job just because of injury. They can come back and reclaim their role, unless it is proven through their play that the backup is a superior player. Second, Fernandez has been a netminder for the team for half a decade, and done a good job while sharing the duties in goal with Jamie McClennan and Dwayne Roloson. Using Fernandez in net for a full season hasn't been tried yet, and this was to be a good judgement of his quality as a true #1 goalie. Lastly, and this shouldn't be discounted, he is head coach Jacques Lemaire's nephew. There is nepotism everywhere in hockey. Just ask the Sutters.
Niklas Backstrom has an impressive resume himself, having won the Finnish goalie of the year, and Playoff MVP awards before immigrating to the NHL. He has a silver medal from the Olympics, suggesting he's one of the top Finn goalies in any league, second only, perhaps, to Mikka Kiprusoff. His unshakable personality as well as his big game history have helped him guide the squad in Fernandez' absence.
Now, the situation the team finds itself in at present is a good, to be sure. They are perched in a tough battle with Vancouver for the third seed in the Western Conference, and the title in the Northwest Division. The team is playing well right now, and so much of hockey relies on momentum, it's generally a bad idea to mess with a good thing. The Wild took this mentality at the trade deadline, adding only a checking line center in Dominic Moore. This, of course, is why Lemaire is making the logical decision and sticking with Backstrom. If the Wild weren't in such a tenous situation, I'm certain that he would have gone with Fernandez, and I wouldn't have been in any position to argue with him.
But what, then, for next season? Backstrom should almost certainly be resigned. It would be a shame to lose him for nothing. But then Fernandez is looking at the prospect of sharing the load in net once again, all the while keeping gifted prospect Josh Harding in Houston for another season. So, as a result, the glut of goaltending means that one should probably be sent off, hopefully for high draft picks, an offensive defensman, or more depth on the wing, and for my money, I think Fernandez should be that guy.
It's nothing against Manny, you see, its just that his time with the Wild has seemed starcrossed. Every time he seems poised to take over as the top goalie, someone unexpected slips in and wins the right for increased playing time, like, for example, the heretofore undesirable Dwayne Roloson. Fernandez is a good locker room presence and an undeniably gifted athlete, and he deserves a shot at leading a team. After Ed Belfour moves on, Florida would be a good fit. Boston needs a good veteran influence to help the gang focus. There are several more teams that would jump at the chance to acquire a front line stopper.
Let's just hope the situation in net doesn't rattle the team too much down the stretch.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Breaking down the NCAAs

Last year around tournament time, I gave a team by team tournament preview. It was just way too much to write and way too much to read. This year, I'm going to spice it up a little bit, definitely make the whole thing shorter. One post rather than 4. So thats good news. Without further ado, let's get into the post I've been itching to write since January.


The Favorite:
Florida. They won the championship last year and brought everyone back. Joakim Noah is the type of annoying ass that I expect to remain on my TV screen for the next month. There's always one person like that. In any case, the Gators play good team ball and are hot right now. Additionally, the Midwest is a very weak bracket, and there aren't any scary teams out there.
The Sleeper: UNLV. The Runnin' Rebels playd in a tough conference this year (the Mountain West) and already have experience with winning a tournament. Their draw, Georgia Tech in the first round and a likely matchup with Wisconsin in the second is highly beneficial. The Yellow Jackets have been slumping, and the Rebs play an outside game, which will be tough for the Badgers to handle, especially without Brian Butch inside to grab rebounds.
The Upset: Winthrop over Notre Dame. Winthrop has done well for themselves this year, scheduling tough opponents and playing well against them, losing only to the upper echelon teams across the country, and beating mid level teams like Missouri State. Notre Dame has been painfully non descript this year, and has recently allowed themselves to be pushed around. A quick Winthrop team will win this game. Other popular upset picks of Old Dominion over Butler and Davidson over Maryland don't seem as likely to me. Butler plays the same game as ODU and is simply better at it, and Davidson is terribly overhyped.


The Favorite:
UCLA. The Bruins return most of their starters, just as Florida did. They will have a tough matchup with Kansas, who is incredibly deep and plays a good team game. I have to give this region to UCLA, however, as they have too many good athletes and too much experience to lose before the Final Four.
The Sleeper: Illinois. There is always one team that sneaks in under the wire and plays like they belong. It was George Mason last year, Missouri a few years ago. For whatever reason, these teams always end up being a 12 seed, pulling of an upset and becoming the story of the tourament. The Illini have Big Ten and big game experience on their roster, and won't back down from a challenge. Virginia Tech and Southern Illinois have been timid in the face of adversity this season, so a Sweet 16 run isn't out of the question.
The Upset: Wright State over Pittsburgh. The Pitt Panthers have looked dreadful of late, and really only intimidate at home. Buffalo is not home. Wright State won the regular season and conference tournament championships in the Horizon, while the runner up, Butler, ended up with a 5 seed, leaving the Raiders with a dubious 14. Aaron Gray is the worst 7 footer I've ever seen, so I really expect the Panthers to drop this one.


The Favorite:
Georgetown. I've been really impressed with the the way they've been playing lately, especially on the defensive end. They have three good inside men, including Roy Hibbert who pretty much made Aaron Gray cry in the Big East tournament. Patrick Ewing Jr. brings experience to the table, and Jeff Green, the Big East player of the year does an excellent job of finding his teammates for open looks.
The Sleeper: Texas. As a four seed, they are the lowest seeded team I could argue will make a significant run. They seem like a team everyone is aware of, with two excellent freshmen running the ship in Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, they wear orange, and for whatever reason, they were given a low seed. Goodness, it seems like they are 2004 Syracuse, doesn't it? They will have the duty of knocking off North Carolina, who they match up well against, with Durant playing spoiler for Tyler Hansbrough. Durant is a more skilled player, and Hansbrough's best asset, his toughness, is ratcheted down a bit with his broken nose.
The Upset: George Washington over Vanderbilt. The A-10 is an underrated conference, and I don't exactly know why. I mean, it is an East Coast conference, so shouldn't they be on ESPN every day? After watching a couple A-10 games, like the Temple-St. Bonaventure contest last month, I'm aware that these teams are capable of shooting the lights out. Couple that with the Commodores' raging inconsistency, and you have a big first round win for GW.


The Favorite:
Ohio State. I'm not particularly in love with this team, as they have been lackluster all season, and don't seem concerned with playing hard. They haven't been able to knock of the elite teams, or really even play with them this season. Lucky for them, their region is dreadful, and they will have an easy path to the Final Four.
The Sleeper: Nevada. Things are just going to play out well for the Wolfpack. Nick Fazekas is getting his final chance to make a puch in the tournament, and they will be ready to play this year. They will get a first round test from Creighton, and then Memphis who hasn't played a real opponent in a year. After that, I see them playing Louisville, who lucked out and is playing 45 minutes from home in the first two rounds. Nevada can win that game and get themselves to the Elite Eight, no problem.
The Upset: This is a real mystery. All of the higher seeds are primed for an upset, but none of the low seeds really have the chops to do it. I wouldn't be surprised if there were 6 upsets in the first round. Conversely, I wouldn't be surprised if there were none. I hate this bracket.


As you may have established, I have a rematch of last years championship on one side, with UCLA playing Florida. No reason for that to go any differently. On the other side, I see Georgetown's three bigs to push around Greg Oden and Ohio State. In the final, I think Florida is too tenacious for Georgetown, and the Gators will win their second title.

Week in Review with a little umbrella.

In colleges and high schools across the nation, it's Spring Break for our country's future. Just think, that future dentist who will be pulling teeth is currently taking pulls of tequila in Cancun. A future guidance counselor is hooking up with some guy she met on Daytona Beach. It's really a great week to be alive, and probably a good reason for why there are malpractice suits out there. How many brain cells are being killed this week?

ITEM ONE: The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament dominated local television this week. Hockey is to Minnesota what basketball is to Indiana, and I really think that there is Hoosiers type movie in there somewhere. It's a particularly interesting scenario, because the big Twin Cities area schools aren't always the winners (in fact, one of the teams playing in the Championship game in either class was a metro area team), so its a nice story. Congratulations to Roseau and Hermantown on their great seasons.

ITEM TWO: They are putting Heroes on hiatus until April, Studio 60 got shelved for The Black Donnelleys, or, as I call it, Total Crap, and the monster show once again on Monday nights is CSI:Miami. If there was ever an evening for me to get out of the house and do something, it would be Monday night. There aren't even any sporting events worth watching. I might just go up to Brainerd for no real reason but the drive.

ITEM THREE: Remember last week when I mentioned that the Wild were doing good to get a point in every game of their road trip? Well, when they went to New England, they got two points for every game of their road trip. Outstanding! They picked up a win against Colorado yesterday afternoon, and despite a loss at home to San Jose, they still find themselves in second place in the Northwest and in a virtual dead heat for 5th in the Western Conference. A playoff berth seems unavoidable. Naturally, this week, the Wild will not be on TV, save for tomorrow.

ITEM FOUR: I watched the Detroit Red Wings -Boston Bruins game yesterday and was impressed by the youth of Boston. They are getting chippy and feisty, obviously dissappointed in their season. The attitude they have, though, suggests a turnaround can't be too far off. Now, if they can get a goalie, they'll be in great shape.

ITEM FIVE: I've been reading the ESPN Fantasy baseball guide this week, and it really has me excited for the season to start. One player that was left out that I really think could make an impression on the world of fantasy sports (maybe not a huge one, but an impression nonetheless) is Jason Bartlett. He's shown a little pop at the plate, and last year demonstrated he can hit in the clutch, and make good contact for average. At a thin position, I say Bartlett is worth a gander.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off for a mojito. - Ryan

Monday, March 05, 2007

I have to be leaving something out...

Is it just me, or was this past week interminable? I think it just seemed longer because we had a 4 day weekend in Victoria, what with the 19 feet of snow on Thursday. A lot happened, and I'm not sure I can remember it all. In any case, here's my best effort.

ITEM ONE: I can't just let the NHL trade deadline, which came and went on Tuesday, slide. There was a lot of activity, 25 trades in all. Let me review some of the more notable trades. Los Angeles traded Matthias Norstrom, a prospect and two picks to Dallas for Jaroslav Modry a prospect and three picks. As has been the case for a few days, the team giving up a star player (in this case, the Kings) has come up the winner. Modry is an above average blue-liner, and their high picks over the next couple years will certainly help. Now, they have some extra room under the cap for the off-season. Who doesn't want to go to LA?
Another big trade involved the Red Wings, who gave up two picks for Florida's Todd Bertuzzi. He has been injured most of the year, but if he can come back, his blue collar style will fit in nicely in Detroit, who is still trying to cope with the departure of Brendan Shanahan, another gritty but sure handed scorer.
A surely understated trade was the one between Washington and Buffalo, in which talented forward Dainius Zubrus (along with Thomas Helbing) was sent to the Sabres for Jiri Novotny and a pick. He will make up for any dropoff from Drury after the hit he took against Ottawa, and will provide a good veteran presence when the team is at full strength.
Buffalo also played a game of "acquire a cheaper goalie" by giving up Martin Biron to Philadelphia, but nabbing the cheaper Ty Conklin to play behind Ryan Miller. This savvy move will pay dividends in the offseason, when the Sabres will likely be after another defensman.
The Blues were at it again. If they could have traded away Doug Weight, they would have 15 first round picks next year, by my measure. Following the trade of Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta the day before, the Blues sent Bill Guerin to San Jose for Ville Nieminen, a prospect and a first round draft pick. Watch out for the Blues in 2011.
The Sabres were likely the most active team at the deadline, but the Pens weren't far behind. They grabbed a strong veteran in Gary Roberts, and a tough forward to protect their young assets in Georges Laraques. They made one other trade I'll touch on later.
The biggest trade of them all was the dealing of Edmonton superstar Ryan Smyth to the Islanders for a slew of prospects and picks. This is one of those trades that hurts really bad, but in a few years, I think it will end up working out well for the Oilers. It's too bad they fell on their face this year though.

ITEM TWO: The Twins have started playing Spring Training games, and I'm pleased with this. There was a scary moment a few days back, when former Twin and now Red Kyle Lohse plunked Torii Hunter in the head. Ron Gardenhire waved it off, saying it was all right. We all know it was unintentional. Like Lohse could hit someone in the head on purpose. I've watched him pitch. He can't hit a target that small. Especially when he's upset.

ITEM THREE: Remember that post about the UMKC-Valparaiso game that you didn't read? Well, the two teams met up in the Mid-Continent tournament yesterday, in a much more exciting game. Dee Ayuba had 31 points and the Kangaroos upset Valpo 84-76. They will now play Oakland (MI) in the semifinals of the conference tourney.

ITEM FOUR: OK, are you ready for that last Penguins trade that I alluded to earlier? Well, with all the forward lines full now, they had a scrappy center to give up, which they did to Minnesota. Domenic Moore was traded to the Wild for a draft pick. This deal gives Minnesota some depth and someone who can win a draw, something the team has sorely lacked. So that's nice.
Elsewhere (mostly Canaday) last week, the Wild got a win and two overtime losses against division rivals Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. While they weren't all wins, it's nice that they spent every game of their road trip picking up points. Hopefully this is a trend that continues.

I think that's enough out of me for now. Until we meet again.