Thursday, January 31, 2008

For the love of all that's sane...

Ryan's not going to discuss the Johan Santana trade. I'm certainly not here to discuss who "won" the trade, or who "lost" the trade. Let me bring up two facts:
1. You're not going to trade a super-star for two super-stars. While this is the only possible trade that would pacify most Minnesota fans, it wasn't going to happen.
2. It's way too soon to decide all that stuff.

As a Twins fan, I’m sad Santana is no longer with the team. On the other hand, the writing was on the wall, probably starting back in late July/early August when the Twins traded Luis Castillo. There was so much gossip, so many rumors, and so much drama, that it’s almost a relief that it’s over--provided the trade goes through. (And it will. There’s no way that the Mets spend so much time and energy to not work out a contract, unless Santana and his agent go insane and ask for $40 million per year for 60 years…) I really have little opinion of the trade. I don’t know enough about the kids involved to know, and it seems no one is quite decided, although most seem to think the Mets got a pretty good deal. I thought about doing an analysis of the players involved, but I need to see them in the Twins system before I can say anything. I’ll get back to you in August. I still won’t analyze the trade, most likely, but I’ll have a better idea of who these kids are.

Ryan also said he wasn’t going to talk about the Super Bowl. I stand by my assessment from last week. Undefeated is pretty awesome, and I’d love to see it. Two factors keep me from rooting for the Patriots: I’m a big fan of the underdog, and Boston fans are insufferable. On the other hand, New York fans are insufferable, too. Pretty much no matter what happens, there will be insufferable east coast fans, and an amazing end to a season for one team. I’m not expected to pick a winner, am I? Oh, fine. Patriots. Final score: 27-14. (I really hope someone uses my completely random prediction to make a bet. Because I completely made them up based on zero analysis of the teams, their seasons, and whatever else one analyzes to predict football scores.)

In other news, I watched the NHL All-Star game Sunday. It was a fun game. With a different goalie in the first period, the West would’ve had a nicer chance at the game. It was 5-1 East winning, after the first period, but ended up being a very intense end of the game, for a final of 7-6. It makes one wonder if a different goalie in the first for the West could’ve changed the game, although my untrained eye saw the West feeling each other out as a team in the first, and the East jumping right in with teamwork. Hey, kids, teamwork counts!

Really, Ryan. Kirk Cameron? :shakes head: How ‘bout this absolutely hilarious picture from the NHL All-Star weekend?

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There is NOTHING going on.

I'm trying not to drive the whole Santana thing into the ground, or the whole Super Bowl thing into the ground either. I've been looking around the internet for something, ANYTHING worth writing about. I've got nothing. Instead, let's enjoy that picture of Kirk Cameron.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Feeling pretty mellow about the Santana trade

Sorry for not posting yesterday, I had a lot of stuff going on and ended up staying up for 22 straight hours as it was. But as a Minnesota blogger, I feel that I should mention that I'm not really apoplectic about the whole Santana deal. It is what it is.
The Twins offered Santana the largest contract they have ever offered anyone. They made a good faith effort to keep him. I think this move had something more to do with Santana than it did with the Twins penny pinching. Santana just wanted to move on, sick of a heretofore glacially paced front office staff, no defense, and not being able to hit.
I think all along Santana wanted to go to the Mets, and the Twins preferred moving him to the National League as well. The whole time, I suspect, they were playing the Yankees and Red Sox not against each other but against the Mets. If they really wanted the best deal on the table, they no doubt would have sent Santana to the Yankees. If it wasn't the Yankees, I would have made that trade too.
But no, the Twins wanted Santana on the Mets, as Santana wanted that as well. He seems to have a boyish enthusiasm for life and the game. I've never heard this in regard to a pitcher before, but apparently it was a big deal that he was able to hit. That's pretty awesome, and I actually have a lot of respect for him for making it that important for this deal.
As for the return, it was less than anyone expected, of course, but I think we were expecting too much. And besides, compared to other offers, it isn't substantially worse. Melky Cabrera isn't likely to get substantially better and Jacoby Ellsbury was highly overrated because of a few games down the stretch with the Red Sox, so Carlos Gomez, a speedy center fielder who is still 21 still has the potential to be better fit than both players, particularly if he can get his average up and take over the lead off role. If not, I think CF is Jason Pridie's to lose.
As for the pitchers, I don't think the Red Sox were offering anything special. John Lester battled cancer as recently as a year ago, and hasn't pitched much in the past couple of years. Who knows if he will ever return to form? The Yankees had offered the best prospect of any of the three deals in Ian Kennedy, who I think could be better than Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. But the Mets offered up three prospects, in Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. The Twins are essentially taking a flyer on Humber, a former first round draft pick who is on his last chance to prove himself and may do so in the Twin Cities. Kevin Mulvey isn't a dynamic, power pitcher, but the Twins don't seem to mind those (see: Radke, Silva) and is the most likely to break camp with the major league squad this year. Deolis Guerra, the last minute add-in could be the real prize. He's only 18, but is already drawing comparisons to Felix Hernandez who, if you haven't heard, is a pretty decent pitcher.
I think, having signed a couple of guys long term, and with the attention given to the offense this year, that the Twins aren't done. They need to resolve the Joe Nathan situation, either finally trading him (it's too late now, if you ask me. He was at peak value last year and now the Twins have shown they are willing to bend.) or try to resign him. And then trade him. They should get some more decent prospects out of that arrangement.
Next, there are two serviceable center field prospects still out there in Corey Patterson and Kenny Lofton. Putting either guys, both excellent with the glove, would be beneficial for a young pitcher learning to trust his defense. Lofton is a veteran who hasn't slowed down yet and would be ideal for the lead off role. Patterson seems to be cut from a similar cloth as Torii Hunter, good for about 15 homeruns, a .270 batting average and some plays in center field. The best part is that he will be 28, about when Hunter started to really turn it around and start hitting a lot better.
And now, the Twins have a preponderance of prospects, and likely more if Nathan is moved. There is nothing stopping them from making another move to patch another hole down the road. All told, I'm sad to see Santana go, but I'll move on.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Let me get this straight.

In case you haven't noticed, the Purdue Boilermakers are having themselves quite the basketball season. They are 6-1 in the Big Ten, winning Saturday against #11 Wisconsin. That one loss was by 3 on the road in East Lansing against at the time #6 Michigan State, a game in which they lost by 3. They've also beat #20 (at the time) Louisville.
They do, of course, have a stretch where they lost to Wofford (what the hell is a Wofford?) and Iowa State. But do a couple bad losses supercede more good wins and a 6-1 record in a major conference? Well, 4-3 Marquette and 4-3 Pittsburgh are ranked 16 and 21 respectively. 6-1 Georgetown is #6. So, 6-1 should certainly be a good enough record to get a spot in the top 25.
But what do I know. Purdue's victim, Wisconsin, moved up 6 spots in the polls, while Purdue still had 8 teams between them and #25 in the rankings, including Louisville, who they beat. I don't understand.I don't have the energy to elaborate, but Boiled Sports does. Go there. Now.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Super Bowl preview, with Cooper Manning

Hi everyone, I'm Cooper Manning, filling in for Ryan, Steve and Beth. They asked me to do a Super Bowl preview, and I leaped at the opportunity. You see, its the second year in a row that I've had a brother in the Super Bowl, Peyton last year, Eli this year. I like that when the staff here invited me to write this post, they didn't ask me the question everyone seems to be asking. How does it feel to be the only Manning that didn't play pro football?
Well, you know what, it's fine. I was dealt what some might see as a bad hand. I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and had to quit football. I was selected to the all-state team before the diagnosis though, so I'm no slouch. It made college more fun too, there at Ole Miss. I was able to simply study and go out and I wouldn't have to go to, like, South Carolina on weekends like Eli or Peyton. I met my wife there, and have two great sons. Eli and Peyton can't say that.
What are they gonna do? Peyton works in Indianapolis. It's not like the selection there is Peyton Manning quality, if you know what I mean. Sure, he could go up to Chicago, but, I'm sure you guessed that he's not much of a welcome figure there. Then, when he comes home, anyone over the age of 19 is already married, and Peyton, God bless him, is too good to cruise the high school for single girls. That, and good Lord is he ugly.
As for Eli, he wouldn't know what to do with a woman if she came with instructions.
So, yeah. I'm the only one who is married and has kids. I've provided grand children for dad and mom, so they're pretty proud of that, too. Also, I'm the oldest and most responsible. So, yeah.
Speaking of mom, she never played pro football either. Why doesn't anyone mention that?
Oh right. The Super Bowl. The Patriots are going to win.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

You know how kids growing up have stupid little grievances with their siblings? When my brother and I were younger, I had the advantage of being older and bigger (he's 3 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier now. I regret everything) but things that would always drive me nuts were when he would sit behind the driver on family car trips, when he would always, ALWAYS eat 2 bowls of cereal than leave the milk out. I'm sure there was other stuff too that I've blocked out. But there was one thing that always bugged me, that I was always jealous about.
One year, I had a page a day calendar with little sports facts on them, and it was always exciting. Also, on those page a day things, it had a list of athletes born on that day. I got one of those things again this year, and all those feelings of animosity were brought back to the forefront. My brother shares his birthday with Wayne Gretzky, so great they call him the Great One. Best hockey player ever. Also, he shares it with Vince Carter, one of the most exciting basketball players ever. And he shares it with both of them.
Me? Ike Hilliard.
Anyways, happy birthday, bro. Jerk.


Friday, January 25, 2008

This post was going to be about Tennis.

No. Really. I was going to talk about how Roger Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in one of the greatest tennis upsets in years, and that will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open, and that a Maria Sharapova-Ana Ivanovic final on the women's side will be perhaps the best looking tennis match ever. But no. I have breaking news. And you come to me for breaking news, I'm sure.
The Twins have signed Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer to long term deals. This, in addition with the trading for Delmon Young earlier in the season gives credence to the idea that the Twins may actually be looking to compete in the future. Additionally, this will ruffle a few feathers in the Santana competition. It could either mean that the Twins are serious about competing, driving up the price for Santana, OR it instigates a trade sooner rather than later, because of the cost of keeping all three players. Exciting news for all Twins fans, indeed.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Because you haven't heard enough...

It's true. You haven't heard enough about Johan Santana and that he might be traded by the Minnesota Twins. It’s probably been at least 30 seconds since the last headline about the situation. Frankly, that’s just too long, so I’m going to add to the fray.

The big problem now is that with the relatively recent decision by some small-market teams to use their farm systems to create winning teams, young prospects have been valued all through professional baseball. Even the large-market teams that can afford the superstars are realizing the value of their prospects. This is making the Santana trade very difficult, because his value is hard to judge. How many prospects is a superstar worth? It's not an equal comparison. You might as well ask how many oranges is an electric pencil sharpener worth.

I’ve heard this argument from fans of teams to whom Santana may be traded: "Wait until Santana hits free agency next year! Then we can get him without giving up any prospects!" I think those fans are slightly deluded. For sake of argument, let's pretend that it's the Kansas City Royals going up against the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay "Devil" Rays. Let's say the Twins worked out a deal to get four of the Royals prospects/rookies for Santana. Now it's up to the Royals to give Santana a contract he likes (say six years for $140 million), he'll accept the trade (what with the no-trade clause), and the deal is done.

Let's say they wait until November, when Santana becomes a free agent. Now the Royals offer Santana the contract the would've offered him now. But then the Marlins come by and say, "We'll give you six years for $150 million." The Rays pipe up and offer seven years for $160 million." The Royals now have to decide whether it's the years or the money that are interesting Santana. Will six years for $170 do it, or seven years for $170? What is it he wants?” In the end, they could end up paying more for Santana next year than they would've paid those prospects for the years of his contract. (Monetarily, anyway.) And with a strong starting pitcher, they might have a World Series ring or two--while he wouldn’t be solely responsible for it, he could be the final push to get it.

What factors are involved in the decision-making of prospects versus a veteran? First, prospects/rookies aren't that expensive (if Santana were traded, it's likely the entire Twins rotation could cost the Twins approximately $2 million, at $400,000 each for Baker, Bonser, Slowey, Perkins, and Blackburn (or whoever is picked up in the trade)). The earliest they can become expensive is when they reach arbitration, which is after three years (or certain cases, two years). The earliest they can file for free agency is after six years. So years 3-6 (or 4-6), can be more expensive, but since they're not in the midst of a bidding war, the prices are still often relatively cheap. Thus, for the six years of Santana's proposed contract, the prospects and rookies would be relatively cheap--and if the prospects are young enough who don’t make the majors immediately, they could well be cheap after Santana's contract is over. Finally, there are no guarantees with prospects. A trade could be 5-for-1, and if all 5 fizzle, it could be a bust trade for the team getting more players. That's why superstars generally command multiple prospects: usually one or two of the prospects will pan out well enough to equal the value of the loss of the superstar.

Those that say the Twins are asking too much for Santana may be right. Those that are saying that they can get Santana cheaper next year, well, they could be right, too. But are they certain? And are they willing to risk it? It’s a gamble.

I’m not a football fan, but I’m torn in regards to the Super Bowl. On one hand, seeing a team go undefeated is pretty amazing, and it would be fun to watch. On the other hand, I’m wired to root for the underdog in most cases, and it would be awesome to see the Giants pull out an amazing victory. How insufferable would Boston fans be if they won? I dread it very much.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's the deal with the Royals?

The other day, Steve and I were chatting about the current state of the AL Central (he has Octavio Dotel fever). The Tigers seem to be scary, adding Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. They don't seem to have any obvious holes, except maybe in the outfield, and now have a young 300 pound superstar. Sure, they mortgaged their future, but when the Tigers suck in 4-5 years again, at least they will have some good playoff runs to look back on.
The Indians haven't really done anything, and why should they have? They have a solid young core that won the division last year (only a year later than I anticipated) and are only getting better.. They may be the best team in baseball that nobody talks about.
The White Sox, the team giving Steve the fever, have quietly been stockpiling some young talent as well, to go along with some of their veterans. They added Orlando Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin to the team and will likely be scoring 8 runs a game, which is good, because they will give up about as many. How long until the pitching squad is addressed on the South Side?
Then there are the Twins who have made a few interesting acquisitions, namely the Matt Garza for Delmon Young swap. Who saw that coming? It addresses a primary concern for the Twins. They can't hit. They also signed a third baseman and a slick fielding shortstop to replace Jason Bartlett in Mike Lamb and Adam Everett. It's nice to see a GM who addresses issues instead of hordes prospects. There still is the big gorilla in the room, Johan Santana, who will probably be traded before Spring Training. That could change everything.
But what about the Royals? I've heard their name brought up in rumors regarding anyone from Torii Hunter to Bartolo Colon. Interesting. I didn't think the Royals were just one player away, or that a couple of veterans would suddenly catapult Kansas City into contention. Are they? After closer inspection of the Royals roster, I have discovered that, in fact, no, they are nowhere near contention. Even with Jose Guillen. Their pitching staff is anemic. They have Gil Meche and Brett Tomko as veterans, and Brian Bannister and Zach Greinke as up and coming starters, but are totally devoid of a bullpen. Besides. Brett Tomko? Seriously? On the offensive side, they have all manner of vaunted prospects, like Alex Gordon, Mike Teahen and John Buck, but they never seem to work out. The Royals have innumerable holes.
So why are they working so hard to patch them? In my opinion, it would make more sense to develop and KEEP young talent, rather than trade it for younger talent. It makes more sense that they should try to show that it's ok to stay in Kansas City. Don't be offering up David Dejesus. Try to keep him.
But what do I know? Dayton Moore is apparently a good GM, and to convince David Glass that they should be spending money is certainly a feat in itself, but I wonder if he's not doing so a little recklessly.

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Strange but true

So, I actually had some free time to watch some hockey the other day, but the game I caught was the Rangers-Bruins contest on NBC. Every once in a while, while watching some sporting event, I hear some information that totally blows my mind. This time, it was that Bruin Marc Savard has the third most assists in the NHL since the lockout ended. No. Really. This guy:

Now, There are plenty of goofy looking guys in the NHL who can do some pretty magical things on the ice, and frankly, this is the worst picture of Savard out there, so I'm not going to hold it against him. What I really don't understand, however, is exactly who he's passing to in order to get these assists. The Bruins suck. The strange thing is, Joe Thornton was successful dishing out the puck while he was there too (Thornton is second on that list, with Sidney Crosby second). I took to the internet to try to figure out who on the Bruins roster is benefiting from all those assists.

Chuck Kobasew: Kobasew was acquired in a massive, Ference related trade last year and currently leads the B's in goals scored with 17. Thats not even half of the assists in Savard's stat column this year (he has 43). And let me tell you something, if Kobasew is your go to scorer, I think you may be in trouble as a team. The same goes for having Marco Sturm as your second leading scorer. Even if Savard got the assists for all of their goals, he would only have 33.

Zdeno Chara: Chara, the 9 foot tall defenseman is probably the closest to a star the Bruins have. I sincerely doubt they give assists to Savard every time Chara hip checks Petr Prucha into next Wednesday.

Andrew Alberts: Is the guy I went to high school benefiting from Savard's gifts? No. He couldn't score in high school, and that trait is translating well into the pros.

Andrew Ference: Whenever I write a hockey post, for some reason I feel like I always have to mention one of the Ferences. But he's not scoring. And he'll probably end up on the Blackhawks by the end of the week.

Manny Fernandez: If it were possible to give Fernandez a goal every time he lets in a wobbly wrister from Mathieu Dandenault, then I say what the hell, give Savard an assist too.

Marc Savard: I think the only logical explanation is that Savard is getting credited with a helper every time he puts the puck in the net himself. Sometimes, ik you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Power Ranks: Going to the Pink Taco

Before I begin, I fixed the standings format in "Blowing up College Football (Part 3)". Enjoy.

For the first time in a very long time, I personally predicted the winners of both conference title games correctly, even though my power ranks did not. It wasn't much of a surprise that New England polished off San Diego, but just about everyone (including the power ranks) were putting the Patriots against Green Bay at the Pink Taco (ok, ok University of Phoenix Stadium). Unfortunately, the power ranks don't take into account the Brett Favre "let's throw a few passes up for grabs" factor that I saw coming. So now it's New York and Boston in the Super Bowl, and I'm glad I won't have time to watch a whole lot of TV over the next 2 weeks...

The NFL has the chance to have the most hyped Super Bowl ever next year, if all goes according to plan, and it can all begin with Eli Manning leading the Giants to a shocking Super Bowl win this year. 2008 will mark the 50th anniversary of the "Greatest Game Ever Played" that put the NFL on the map. That game was played between the Giants and Colts which could potentially be the 2 most recent Super Bowl champions heading into the 2008 season. Imagine if they were to have a rematch of that game 50 years later next year? Not only would it be the 2 most recent champs and the same matchup, but it would be Brother vs. Brother! They would have to have the paramedics stationed in Bristol 24/7 to try to prevent all of the heads exploding from the hype. I think if that were to happen, the NFL would actually move the game a week back just so there could be 3 weeks of hype.

Now we head into the ranks. The Packers loss foiled the power ranks' attempt to spit out the #1 and #2 team for the Super Bowl, because the Giants win only had them climb to #5, but it is kind of surprising when you think about it. Since the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978, only 3 teams with less than 11 wins (in a non-strike year) made the Super Bowl. They were the 1979 Rams, who were 9-7 and made it in a VERY down year in the NFC, the 1988 49ers, who were 10-6 and won the Super Bowl, but they had a bunch of injuries early in the season, started 6-5, then turned it on from there, and now the 2007 Giants. If the Giants win the Super Bowl, they probably won't jump to the #1 spot, but they would jump up to #2 or #3. The Patriots pretty much have a lock on the top spot, which makes sense even if they lose the Super Bowl because they are the better team, but would have been the victims of the biggest upset ever. On to the ranks...

1. Patriots - 85.18 - E
2. Colts - 73.01 - +1
3. Packers - 66.29 - -1
4. Jaguars - 64.80 - +1
5. Giants - 64.39 - +1
6. Chargers - 63.62 - -2
7. Titans - 62.11 - E
8. Eagles - 61.48 - E
9. Cowboys - 60.73 - +1
10. Redskins - 60.60 - -1
11. Browns - 59.24 - E
12. Texans - 58.92 - E
13. Seahawks - 54.89 - E
14. Vikings - 52.95 - E
15. Steelers - 52.91 - +1
16. Bengals - 52.30 - -1
17. Bears - 49.02 - E
18. Cardinals - 48.95 - +1
19. Buccaneers - 47.64 - -1
20. Panthers - 44.62 - E
21. Saints - 42.95 - E
22. Broncos - 41.51 - E
23. Lions - 39.12 - E
24. Bills - 37.21 - E
25. 49ers - 36.34 - E
26. Ravens - 34.30 -E
27. Jets - 31.71 - E
28. Falcons - 26.72 - E
29. Raiders - 25.65 - E
30. Chiefs - 24.60 - E
31. Dolphins - 23.62 - E
32. Rams - 21.27 - E

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weather: The anti homefield

Oh good. It's New York and Boston at the forefront of sports in America. That never happens. Ugh.

I think the interesting thing about the game was the weather. Yes, I am a meteorologist, why d you ask?
Anyways, the purported home field advantage put forth by the inclement weather in Foxboro and Green Bay seemed to work against both teams. New England's aerial assault was severely limited due to the gusty winds at the stadium today. Had the Chargers been playing Ladanian Tomlinson, things may have swung in the Chargers favor. In fact, I would venture to say a healthy LT would have made the Chargers the favorites in that game, given the conditions, as a strong running game would have turned the tables.
In Green Bay, you have to wonder, seriously, if the bitterly cold weather didn't cause Brett Favre to tighten up just a bit, maybe make him less than his best. Nobody was moving quickly out there, and it came down to field position and mistakes. Favre made them, and Eli Manning did not.
The bad news about the Super Bowl, other than the fact that it's New York and New England and omigod they'll never shut up, is that it's being played in Phoenix. There will be no redeeming weather to interest me either. Well, at least the Colts won last year. In the rain.

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Audience Participation: Worst trip ever?

Not saying that Monroe or Montgomery are necessarily going to be bad trips, but surely, they wouldn't be trips a normal person would want to take. Everyone has taken a bad trip. My bad trips always involve Wisconsin. Whether its a blown tire or a dropped muffler or a failing engine, something always goes wrong. Not only car trouble, but I've driven through ice storms, blizzards and even a stray tornado warning. Nothing ever goes right in Wisconsin.
And hey, if you want to make this sports related, the Giants are in for a pretty crappy weekend in Wisconsin as well. Screw you Wisconsin.

Anyways, what was your worst trip ever? What was the worst trip you think a sports team has made? Let me know in the comments.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yes, I'm still going to Louisiana

In honor of Beth's recent post on something I don't know anything about, I'm going to post something on a topic I think pretty much only I care about. That's right, its time for an update on the Denver Pioneers and the Louisiana North Dakotas... I mean Warhawks. My travel plans are indeed set. I will indeed be going to this game, scheduled for February 16th in beautiful Monroe, Louisiana. (I'll be gone for like 5 days. Expect guests.)
By the way, I do mean that just my travel plans are set. ULM is pretty much impossible to get a hold of, so if you know how to get a hold of anyone down there, please let me know.
So, about those teams. Denver sits towards the top of the Sun Belt conference at this juncture, with a 4-2 conference record. They are 8-9 overall, and, here's the kicker, winless on the road. Thats going to be a fly in the ointment as they take on the inferior Warhawks in Monroe. Last I checked a map, Denver was not, in fact, in Louisiana.
As I said, the Pioneers, led by the streaky Kyle Lewis and the gritty David Kummer are the more talented squad and won the first game in Denver, 66-50. Lewis had 19 points for the Pioneers in that one. The problem for Denver is their lack of bench depth. In their initioal meeting, the Pioneers only had three players off the bench, including the magnificently named Xander McNally who played 30 minutes. Kummer is clearly the best player on the team, and they would sorely miss his 35+ minutes were he knocked out.
In that game on January 2nd, Jordan Payne led the Warhawks with 19 points, while Jonas Brown had 15. This belies what s a morebalanced team, for better or worse. They run a lot more players than Denver, perhaps because the season is essentially already lost, as the Warhawks are 0-6 in conference. They do, however, boast a strong non-conference win at Iowa, and continue to play well in games they shouldn't such as against Arkansas-Little Rock, a game which they lost only by two to the top team in their division. Kept relatively quiet, point guard and leading scorer Tony Hooper will look to step up for the Warhawks in their game next month. The winner in the name department, by the way, for the Warhawks is Dominican forward Dalky Melendez. All told, I predict that Warhawks will win this in what should be a hotly contested game,
Be sure to stay tuned for one more update juuuuust before I leave for Louisiana.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008


The Minnesota Swarm lacrosse team played their 2008 Home Opener last Saturday night. It was a lovely way for fans to see their first game of the season, with an 11-4 win over the Toronto Rock--which is not actually a rock, but rather a rival lacrosse team. The previous night the team played in Toronto--and flew on the same plane to Minnesota, which must have been interesting. Friday night’s game was apparently a 17-16 overtime win for the Swarm. Nice, really.

There was a little bit of concern going to the game. The Swarm no longer have last year’s favorite players of Becky, Dawn and me (Stewart, Boyle and Kilby are no longer with the Swarm). Sullivan almost wears tall socks, so he will be watched by Dawn and I. There were a few other scrappy players attracting our attention, as well. The next home game isn’t until mid-February, so you’ll have to wait for then for an update on the situation.

The game started out strongly. A lacrosse rule is that a player cannot be in the crease area around the goal when a goal is scored--err, if he’s on the scoring team. I’d imagine the defenseman could be there, and, of course, the goalie can be there. Andy Secore managed to get around that rule by scoring as he jumped over the crease and stuffed the ball into the net for the Swarm’s second goal.

The most memorable moment of the game, however, was when the officials took Swarm goaltender Nick Patterson out of the arena to give him some privacy while he undressed. The Rock decided that since Patterson was stopping nearly everything, and their two goaltenders were stopping significantly less (the Rock pulled their first goaltender mid-game. Obviously, the second one didn’t do much better), that Patterson was cheating using pads that were too big. (It was a reminder of a game last year when multiple Swarm players were accused of having non-regulation equipment. Ref examination found that not to be the case.) Patterson’s pads were found to be regulation size. The Rock took the penalty for delay of game for the incident. (This gave PA Announcer Rusty Kath fodder for later in the game, when the Swarm scored one of their later goals, that perhaps the Rock goalie might have wanted to get bigger pads.)

The Swarm Performance Team also made an appearance, but were outshone by the half-time gymnasts, who were clearly more talented. Although I’m sure most of the males don’t mind, the Swarm Performance Team is unable to afford full uniforms and are woefully underdressed. A clothing drive will be held to help cover them.

And, of course, the best news of the last week, only marginally related to the Swarm*, is that Mikko Koivu is back playing! YAY!

*The Wild and Swarm are owned by the same people.

I’m with the rest of you, still waiting on news of Santana--no matter what happens, I’ll be here to discuss it: new contract? Trade? Nothing? There’s pros and cons to everything. It’s a little bit concerning that the Twins had to head off on their Winter Caravan with two promotional videos: one featuring Santana, and one not, just in case he’s traded while the guys are on the road caravanning.

Also, I did not know that caravanning was a real word. I learn something new every day!

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Blowing up College Football (Part 3)

So, we've established a tournament and reorganized all of the conferences. What's next? Well, we had to figure out who would win, of course, so we went to whatifsports' NCAA matchup simulator and proceeded to barrel through the entire season. Between Steve and I, we simulated 540 regular season games, splitting the conferences between us. we set the schedule like this, using the first team and conference as an example. In New England, we had listed Boston College first, we played all their games first, by playing the next team on the list (UCONN) as a road game. The next game was a home team, then away and so on until we were done. Then we went to UCONN and did the same thing until the schedule was complete. Since we just came up with these conferences with no idea how it would work itself out in the end, and really having no idea that we were ever going to freaking simulate 540 games, there was no intent to give any teams in particular an advantage. So heres how the conferences all worked themselves out. (Steve's edit: Check out the new format)
Before I move on to the next batch of conferences, let me make a couple of comments on these. In New England, I was surprised by two things. First, how well Buffalo did, and second how poorly Penn State did. I really thought they would compete. BC beat Rutgers (and lost to Maryland) head to head to get the top spot.
The three way tie in the Appalachian was settled via real life overall records, since all three teams beat each other. West Virginia and Virginia Tech tied again, but Virginia Tech won their matchup in Morgantown to give them the conference title.
In the Great Lakes, I found it terrible amusing that Michigan only got third, even in a simulation, and Western Michigan snared second place.
And if anything alleges SEC bias in Tennessee's 6-3 record, they should know that the Vols dropped all three games at home, so there was no scheduling bias there. Just a tough break.
One last thing I should mention that I left out of the last post (if you can believe I left anything out). Wouldn't it be fun if placement in your conference also dictated some of your non-conference games for the next year as well? For example, what if all of the 2nd place teams of a 4 conference "pod" played each other, much like they do in the NFL. Since berths in the tournament are based exclusively on conference play, these non-conference games would simply be good match ups, and would, down the road, help with seeding and rankings. Lets keep this pod idea in mind with these 4 conference sets I'm putting up and look at potential match ups for next year. Of this "pod" the fourth place set seems the most intriguing, featuring Penn State, Pitt, Michigan State and North Carolina State. But it's time for more rankings.

Let me start by saying that again, there was no rigging of these standings. Whatif legitimately had Purdue winning the Midwest conference. I think it's funny that Notre Dame was the worst school in Indiana. Additionally, that 5 team tie for second was a blast trying to sort out.
Somehow in the Florida conference, Tulane and Southern Miss got the second and third spots. For all the big bad teams in Florida, the Gators sure had an easy time of it. I was surprised.
The Great Plains was a fierce battle at top, but Oklahoma made things easy by running the table. I was fairly surprised that Arkansas didn't dent the top 5.
The most SEC rich conference, Dixie, was won by Auburn (note that Georgia and Alabama got 4th and 5th), and two ACC teams nabbed second and third. A Sun Belt conference team finished ahead of three SEC teams! Very interesting indeed.
The most interesting set out of this pod is by far the 6th place set. Illinois, Florida State, Arkansas and poor Louisiana Monroe. Can you imagine any of those teams making the trip to Monroe? Kansas-Clemson would be pretty good as well. Notre Dame and Nebraska, down at the bottom of their conferences, would play each other, and other similarly talented schools like Troy and Ole Miss. Wonderful.

The best part about this is that it takes into account that LSU isn't very good away from Louisiana. They lost at Texas to a mediocre Texas team and gave up a chance in the tournament. The rest of the conference was atrocious, with TCU being the only team to really pur up much of a fight. Texas' loss came to Louisiana Tech, of all schools.
The Mountain West. Wyoming. Yep. Also amusing, Baylor's continued ineptitude in another, significantly less talented conference.
In the Great Basin, we had another surprise, as Oregon State pulled off the conference championship. The Beavers weren't as bad as I had thought though, according to RPI. Additionally, Boise State could turn into the next Nebraska in this conference, a big time program in the middle of nowhere.
In the California conference, Steve and I were really hoping for a big USC victory, especially after the previous two. Well, going into the last game simmed, Hawaii looked to be in control, haven won in LA against the Trojans. They were playing at home against Arizona, and incredibly dropped the gam, giving them their second loss. This could definitely be a fun conference pretty much every year.
The best set for the next season from this pod would be the second place set. Texas Tech against Hawaii could net about 200 points. Per half.

Ok, so we have all the conferences sorted out. Then we set to creating the tournament. First we had to seed, which we did first by record, then by final BCS ranking. The seeds sorted out like this : 1 Ohio State 2 Oklahoma 3 Auburn 4 Wake Forest 5 Virginia Tech 6 USC 7 Florida 8 Boston College 9 Texas 10 Oregon State 11 Purdue 12 Wyoming. Without further ado, here are the results of the simulated games.
In the first round, Boston College defeated Texas 23-13, thanks in large part to the hands of Justin Jarvis. Virginia Tech demolished Wyoming, 34-3, surprising nobody. USC and Purdue had a better game than I would have thought, with the Trojans winning 29-10. Florida was the first upset victim thanks to Yvenson Bernard and Oregon State, 17-10.
The second round, surprisingly, saw more blowouts. Ohio State dismantled Boston College 47-3. Virginia tech and Branden Ore nipped Wake Forest 26-12, giving the Deacs their first and only loss of the season. USC shut out Auburn 27-0. The SEC, by the way, went 0-2 in the tournament. Oklahoma trounced Oregon State as Allen Patrick ran for nearly 200 yards. The score was 42-17.
The final four saw Ohio State winning easily over Virginia Tech, 31-13. Beanie Wells scored a couple touchdowns. John David Booty led the Trojans to the championship game over Oklahoma, 41-34.
So there you have it. The two teams, on paper, that should have been in the title game. Ohio State and USC. It was a pretty good game. It turns out Ohio State is a much better team when not playing the national title in their opponent's home state. They won the Victoria Times national championship 27-13 over Southern Cal. Jim Tressel couldn't be happier.

If you read through all of this, you get a healthy pat on the back. I suspect reading it all is as much work as writing everything up. We'll be back with shorter posts starting tomorrow. Let me know what you thought of all of this in the comments!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blowing up College Football (Part 2)

So yesterday, we ended after deciding that the best idea for a tournament is one that features the 11 conference champions. The rub against this plan is that some conferences, like, for example, the MAC or the Sun Belt well perennially be weak. Of course, this may not always be the case. Just look at what Gonzaga has done for the West Coast Conference in basketball. The whole conference, suddenly, is more respected. It would eventually happen that Western Michigan or Troy or someone would step up and become a prime time team from once of these conferences.
But do you know what the best thing would be? What if we completely redrew conference lines? What if we reassigned all the teams out there to completely new conferences, based entirely on geography? That would, in theory, make everything fair, right? So, after hammering out that tournament plan, Steve and I set to creating twelve ten team conferences to span the country. We started in the Northeast and worked our way to the west. Steve created a map of the conference areas. Below, I'll have the list of teams in each conference, and a little note on all of them.

First, in gray is what we called the New England conference. It features Boston College, UCONN, Army, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rutgers, Penn State, Maryland, Navy and Temple. It seems to be a fairly competitive conference that would likely oscillate between Penn State and Boston College, with Maryland or Rutgers maybe popping in there every once in a while as a champion. Additionally, the Army-Navy game would be played yearly as part of the conference schedule.
In red is a conference dubbed "Appalachian". In it are Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Pitt, Ohio, Marshall, Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Miami (Ohio) There was really no way to do this without slicing up some states. Chunks of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky were thrown into the mix here. West Virginia versus Virginia Tech would have been a juicy conference game this year.
The Great Lakes conference is in green and contains Ohio State, Kent, Akron, Bowling Green, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan Of any conference, this contains the highest percentage of teams from the same existing conference, namely, the MAC. Ohio State and Michigan would likely have field days with this conference. Of course, it goes to demonstrate why OSU and Michigan have such paltry non conference schedules. There are a LOT of crappy schools nearby.
The next conference, the Tobacco Road conference (yellow), is heavy on the ACC, because there are so many of their schools in North Carolina, but all of the Tennessee schools are here as well. This means the schools are Eastern Carolina, NC State, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, Vandy, Western Kentucky, and Memphis. If the SEC is as splendid as I'm told, Tennessee should have no problems here.
The fifth conference, the Midwest, in cyan features Notre Dame, Ball State, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. This conference is probably the most thoroughly challenge, despite it not having an elite team when Notre Dame is in a down year. Wisconsin should have their way with most of the conference year in and year out.
The next conference, in seafoam green (I worked in a paint department for 3 years. Give me a break) is the Florida Conference. As it's name would suggest, it features all the teams of Florida and three from other states. The included schools are Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Miami, South Florida, Central Florida, Florida, Florida State, Tulane, Troy, and Southern Miss. This could be a brutal conference, especially when all the Florida teams are running on all cylinders. the thought of the Gators annually finishing third amuses me.
The Great Plains is in pink. Thats not an assessment of the talent there, however, as this is a particularly tough draw, featuring many Big 12 powerhouses. The teams are Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Arkansas St, Arkansas, Tulsa, Oklahoma St, and Oklahoma. Arkansas State appears to be the most overmatched team in any conference. Splitting the Red River rivals Oklahoma and texas was the toughest decision we made of them all.
The Dixie (Blue) conference may be the most self assured of all conferences out there, and be fully of the opinion that they are the best. In it are several SEC teams. Overall, the conference includes South Carolina, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, UAB, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi St. Auburn, and Louisiana-Monroe. Most of these teams are fairly evenly matched, although I would suspect Georgia and Auburn to consistently be near the top.
The Gulf Coast in orange conference was tough to sort out, but this is what we came up with: Louisiana Tech, LSU, Louisiana Lafayette, North Texas, SMU, TCU, Texas, Rice, Texas A&M, andHouston There are 8 teams in eastern Texas to choose from, but there were still three left in Louisiana that needed a conference. This led to a logjam for that conference, and we needed to figure what school to leave out. We kept the schools in Dallas and the schools in Houston all together, which left Baylor and Texas as the two outliers. I pushed for Texas to be left out, because they were the most isolated, but eventually we decided on Baylor, because otherwise LSU would be mostly uncontested in this conference.
The cleverly named Mountain West conference is in goldenrod and features Baylor, Texas Tech, UTEP, New Mexico State, New Mexico, Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, Wyoming, and BYU. With the schools so few and far between, this was a rather difficult conference to sort out, especially upon looking for that 10th team. It came down to a Utah school or Arizona. We decided against putting Arizona in this conference, even though Tuscon is closer to Las Cruces than Los Angeles, BYU is the furthest south school in Utah so they were elected to join this conference. It's not a huge stretch, since they are already in the same conference as Air Force. This is by far the weakest of the 12 conferences.
The next conference, the Great Basin conference because it includes two teams from Nevada, is in the periwinkle (my brother's architecture professor one time said "What is periwinkle? Maybe it's something I smoked one time when I was in school, but it's not a color"). It features Washington, Washington State, Idaho, Oregon State, Oregon, Boise State, Utah State, Utah, Nevada, and UNLV. This could be a wild conference, with Boise State and their perpetually talented offense, Utah and it's twice a decade resurgence and Nevada with the pistol offense. Not to mention, Washington and Oregon tend to put forth strong squads frequently. Definitely an entertaining group of schools.
The last conference, the California conference (brown), features a lot of sun soaked schools in the southwest, with members including California, Stanford, San Jose St. Fresno St. UCLA, USC, San Diego State, Arizona St, Arizona, and Hawaii. Imagine the embarassment Hawaii could have saved if they had just played Arizona State, USC and California in the regular season. The schools of southern California will likely cycle between championships, but this will certainly be a power conference, as it has six members of the Pac 10.

So Steve and I sorted out these conferences and had a lot of fun trying to figure out who would have won each conference this past season. Who do you think would have won? We'll continue this tomorrow.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blowing up College Football (Part 1)

I told you a couple of days ago that you were in for a three part post this week. This is part one. old on tight.

I don't know if you noticed, but there is some furor over the way the college football season ends. Some people get pretty worked up about it. The clamor for a tournament is reaching a crescendo, and I find it interesting that both sides are pessimistic. Those in favor of a tournament seem to think that the Pac-10, Big Ten and Big East will never cave. I, in the let's not get too far ahead of our selves, camp, believe that we are already on the slippery slope to a playoff system. Frankly, I thought it was time for a couple of people on the opposite ends of the debate, namely Steve and I, to make some concessions and work out a tournament. So we did that the other night, and after I proposed the idea, it's turned into an almost continuous conversation. We're literally giddy about this. Believe it or not, Steve is getting married in May. Somewhat more believable, I'm single.
It's my understanding that most people in favor of a tournament are that way because they want see the national title earned on the field. I can live with that. For the most part, I think the problem is the fixation on the national title. These are kids playing 4 years in college and, as the commercials tell us, most will be going professional in something other than sports. I think, for the several mediocre to good teams out there, a bowl game is a fitting reward, and a fitting finale to a life of organized sports. Thats the main reason I vote to keep the bowls.
But we can have bowls and a tournament. My major gripe with a tournament is the same as many have with the BCS. It seems rather arbitrary. How would you pick 4 teams to be in a tournament? Are you telling me, for example, that, say, 2 loss Georgia deserved to be considered for a shot at the title, despite not winning their conference? Preposterous. If the complaint is that the title is not won on the field, then we should ensure that it will be won on the field. That leads us to the tournament.
There are 11 conferences in college football right now. The only fair way to have a tournament is to award seeded spots in the tournament to all 11 conference champions. This goes to eliminate almost every complaint in the bowl selection process, in my eyes. Ohio State and the SEC had weak non conference schedules? Well, they'll prove which team is superior at the end of the year. On the field. The Big Ten and Pac 10 get to preserve the sanctity of their conference. Teams are still playing for their conference title first and foremost. It's the only way they can win the National Title. And if they win the conference before the season is over? Well, there is still seeding to play for. And we can force seed the Pac 10 and Big Ten into the 4-5 seeds and have them play in the Rose Bowl every year, if that makes them happy.
The Big Ten will have the biggest problem, of course, with their awkward number of teams. Some year, as Steve pointed out, we could see Purdue and Michigan, for example, be the elite teams of the Big Ten, and Purdue beats Michigan to go undefeated. Then, you have Minnesota, uncommonly strong this year, also go undefeated, while having Purdue and Michigan be the two teams left off the schedule. By Big Ten tiebreaking rules, Minnesota, the team with the longest Big Ten championship drought, would win the conference. A scenario like this would likely lead to one inevitable conclusion, particularly in conjunction with Notre Dame getting left out by not being a member of a conference. Notre Dame would likely join the Big Ten, giving the Big Ten twelve teams and a championship game.
Or, the Big Ten would stick with tradition. that's their prerogative.
Steve also worried about the potential for early blowouts. What's the big deal? In the basketball tournament, we have automatic bids as well, and it's not Florida's fault that Jackson State and the SWAC are miserable. The advantage to the football tournament is that there are 5 teams with a first round bye, if we seed it like the Big Ten basketball tournament, meaning the three first round games will be more evenly matched, any blowout will be lessened, and 8 of the best teams in the country will be playing.
I don't have it all logistically worked out, but I imagine the first three games would be played at BCS bowl sites in New Orleans, Phoenix and Miami, with the winner moving on to a New Years Day game, being in one of those cities. The next two rounds are murky, but for fairness, I think the the host city for the championship should rotate between the conferences.
The BCS rankings would still be used, of course, for seeding. Using those rankings, followed by other poll rankings, then by overall record, here are the pairings for the tournament Steve and I whipped up.
First round

#8 BYU
#9 Central Florida

#6 West Virginia
#11 Central Michigan

#7 Hawaii
#10 Florida Atlantic

After watching Hawaii and Georgia, I think it would alert the world that, in fact, Hawaii was no good after FAU dismantled the warriors.

Round 2 (remember the forced seeding

#1 LSU
BYU/UCF winner

#4 Ohio State
#5 USC

#3 Oklahoma
West Virginia/Central Michigan winner

#2 Virginia Tech
Hawaii/Florida Atlantic winner

That sets up for some pretty good matchups, if you ask me. The ACC can't win in the BCS. Maybe if they were offered a layup like Hawaii, Virginia Tech could change their fortunes. In the end, though, we would get what we wanted. The best teams playing on the national stage. What would be wrong with that? I dare say nothing.
The only gripe, of course, would continue to be that Central Michigan, for example, is given a shot at the title, whereas a team like Missouri is not. That's just the way the conferences are laid out. There are, admittedly, weaker conferences out there, and over time powerhouses would likely emerge from said conferences. Even so, it's a hard sell. If only there was a quicker fix.... (to be continued)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Divisional Playoff Power Ranks

The Divisional Playoffs are all wrapped up, and with the rankings predicting both winners correctly yesterday (and improving to 5-1 overall), it was 0/2 today and now 5-3 overall. With the AFC South looking so strong all season, the 3 playoff teams' collapse in the playoffs was something the rankings couldn't predict. So now we head into the conference championship games. The AFC Championship is the #4 Chargers at the #1 Patriots. The Chargers jumped another spot this week by knocking off the Colts and passed the Jaguars, but still sit behind the Colts in the ranks (oops). The Patriots have the biggest hold on the #1 spot that any team has all season, and it shows. The NFC title game is the #6 Giants at the #2 Packers. The Giants pulled off the power rank upset this week, but maybe the rankings sort of saw it coming with the #1 seeded Cowboys only being ranked #6 heading into this week. The rankings can't totally reflect the Giants heroic near win against New England and the loss hurt them, but now their 2 impressive playoff wins jumped them up 6 spots all the way up to #6 after this week. The Packers have been the top NFC team for the past couple of weeks and the Colts loss helped them move into the#2 overall spot this week. Here are the complete ranks...

1. Patriots - 84.28 - E - vs. SD
2. Packers - 73.61 - +1 - vs. NYG
3. Colts - 73.01 - -1
4. Chargers - 71.05 - +1 - at NE
5. Jaguars - 64.80 - -1
6. Giants - 63.52 - +6 - at GB
7. Titans - 61.78 - E
8. Eagles - 61.38 - E
9. Redskins - 60.49 - E
10. Cowboys - 60.30 - -4
11. Browns - 58.92 - E
12. Texans - 58.92 - -2
13. Seahawks - 54.57 - E
14. Vikings - 53.16 - E
15. Bengals - 52.30 - E
16. Steelers - 52.27 - E
17. Bears - 49.23 - E
18. Buccaneers - 47.96 - +1
19. Cardinals - 47.62 - -1
20. Panthers - 44.62 - E
21. Saints - 42.95 - E
22. Broncos - 41.65 - E
23. Lions - 39.33 - E
24. Bills - 37.01 - E
25. 49ers - 36.34 - E
26. Ravens - 34.30 - E
27. Jets - 31.50 - E
28. Falcons - 26.72 - E
29. Raiders - 25.79 - E
30. Chiefs - 24.73 - E
31. Dolphins - 23.41 - E
32. Rams - 21.27 - E

Audience Participation: Who is your favorite analyst?

This past week, a tornado rumbled through ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortenson, I got to thinking about analysts, both studio and booth. A sentimental favorite of mine is Bert Blyleven, given his being the color guy for my favorite team, the Twins. In all honesty though? Darren Pang. It's gotta be the Panger, becasue he does such a good job pandering to both knowledgeable fans and those new to the game. Naturally, he's a hockey analyst so not enough people have heard of him and his brilliance. I think he's great. What about you kids?


Saturday, January 12, 2008

A warning post.

This post is mostly a warning. Next week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we will be having a three part college football post that's going to be positively epic. EPIC. So, I figured I should probably throw up a post regarding another sport or two that you might like to read about. The problem is, however, that I've been working too many 2-10 shifts and have been missing everything. I'm completely out of the loop. So, instead, I will send you to some places with good, solid, important information.

For Hockey, there is the esteemed Barry Melrose Rocks, getting ready for the trading deadline, with some rumor pointers.

Speaking of rumors... heard any good Johan Santana rumors lately? Oh, the Mets now? I like that idea. I would make a trade with the Mets while demanding less than I would from the Red Sox or Yankees or any other AL team. But that's just me.

Goose Gossage was voted into the Hall of Fame. I really don't care who is in and who is out. I do care about Fire Joe Morgan and their take on everything.

There are several other sports that I didn't get around to linking to a good blog for. Hopefully you will find them on your own. (By the way, your winners this weekend are going to be the Jags, Colts, Cowboys and Packers)

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

I got nothin’

I’ve got nothing today. Really, I thought about this long and hard, but…nothing.

Here are the only things on my mind right now:

  • The biggest influence on my life as a sports’ fan, and quite possibly as a writer, turns 54 today. Happy Birthday, Dad!
  • Mikko Koivu might return to play today. He thinks he’s ready, and coach Jacque Lemaire thinks he’s ready. But, as of yet, there’s no room on the roster. I want to say Mikko Koivu randomly!

  • Marian Gaborik and Lemaire aren't getting along. My take is that it's a personality conflict. As I would like both to stay in Minnesota, they need to learn to get along.
  • The Twins have done nothing about Santana yet. No trades, no contract signing. In fact, other than the Mets being readdressed, there’s not much changed since November. (Speaking of: Mr. Smith, I’d like to mention the second worst possible time to announce a trade would be the day before TwinsFest. The worst time would be during TwinsFest. The best move would be to sign him to a new contract just before or early in TwinsFest. Please keep this in mind.)
  • The Swarm start their season on Saturday night against the Toronto Rock. I hope that’s their team name, and not actually a rock that’s being sent from Canada. As Michael Kilby has been traded to another team, I think Nick Inch might be my new favorite player. Stay tuned for updates. Also, the Swarm did not do pirouettes across the field during the Swarm Open House/Practice last Friday. Rachel and I were disappointed.
  • I had seven--SEVEN!--orange Sweet Tarts in the fun size packet I ate this morning.
  • Congrats to Ryan on winning the Victoria Times Bowl contest. I couldn’t compete based on the fact of not being able to name more than two bowl games (the Rose Bowl and the... um...Super Bowl? Oh, the Orange Bowl!), and having no idea what teams were playing in any bowl game.

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Crowning the Victoria Times Bowl Pick 'em Champion

Now, I know you have all been wondering who actually pulled out the big win in the Victoria Times Bowl Pick 'Em Challenge. Now, it's time to reveal the winner. There were two entries that picked 7/8 games correctly, and one of those entries picked nearly exactly the correct score in the Penn State - Texas A&M game, which ended up being 21-17 (he picked 21-16). Before I congratulate the winner, let me first thank all the participants, and second congratulate Mondesi's House on their close second. The winner in all of this? Me! I win!


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Kiss my ass Georgia

With the end of the season upon us, there is still some sort of "controversy" over who should be number one. If people said that USC should be number one, I would say OK. But that's not the case. All the controversy surrounds the Georgia Bulldogs. Yes, they absolutely destroyed Hawaii. However, USC did the same to a major conference opponent and had one fewer loss. And Georgia didn't even win their division in their own conference.
The SEC has many faults, most of it stemming from their arrogance and refusal to play a challenging non-conference schedule, but they do get points for having such regimented organization. They have a solid method for choosing a conference champion (picking the two teams (one from each division) that had the best records and having them play head to head in a title game), that is the simplest, most rudimentary tournament out there. Yet people still can't accept that Georgia didn't belong in the national title picture even though they didn't belong in their conference title game. This completely proves and at the same time refutes my complaint that a tournament is completely arbitrary. How could you POSSIBLY argue that Georgia belonged in a tournament any smaller than 32 teams when they were at best third in their own conference? But since people seem to want to crown Georgia, it's clear that people want a tournament for the sake of a tournament rather than for fairness' sake.
I'll still listen to arguments, but anyone who promotes tournaments and Georgia as a national champion has lost all privileges. I'm looking at you, Dan Shanoff. (Way to essentially call Deadspin commenters retarded, too. Ass.)

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Monday, January 07, 2008

NFL! College! No Pants!

Well, Steve gave us the mathematical review of the Playoff weekend, how about a little recap from my end? Isn't that what got you through the weekend? Thinking of me recapping some hot, hot NFL action? I thought so.

The first game was a game that was a lot closer going into the 4th quarter than it should have been. Seattle impressed me, which is quite a turnaround, given how boring I usually find the Seahawks. Too bad they have to go on the road next week, where they seem to be pretty incapably of doing anything right. On the other side of the ball, the Redskins -- Wait. Did you hear that? Yep. That's the sound of Joe Gibbs' retirement party getting ready to start.
(Nothing official of course, but after a season like this, how can you possibly come back next year? I couldn't.)

My deepest wish is still a possibility to reach fulfillment. The Jaguars can still head up to New England and beat the Patriots after their thrilling win against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Saturday. It took them a little too long to put the Steelers away, however, which is frightening for Jags fans. But the Jags have one of the best defensive lines in the league, which means they could theoretically take care of a couple of Patriots offensive linemen at a time, leaving their linebackers free for blitzes. Even if the Jags don't win in Boston, I think it's entirely likely that Brady sustains a few good hits, which is what we all want anyways, right?

Saturday night, I wrote the Audience Participation post, and while looking for images of soy sauce, I came across this:

Kikkoman Warrior! Fish head! No pants! (I went with a picture of ranch instead.)

Sunday rolled around, and we had a little NFC action to deal with again, with the Giants playing the Bucs. Everyone and their cousin picked the Bucs to win the game, forgetting, momentarily that the NFC South might be the new worst conference in football, and the Bucs only got in by default. Eli Manning did pretty good away from Giants Stadium, as he always seems to do. This sets up the first time the Giants and Cowboys have ever met in the playoffs. Crazy, right?

The late game featured the Chargers and Titans. The Titans really shouldn't have been there. If the Colts had tried at all last week, we'd be seeing the Browns leaving San Diego with a loss instead of the Titans. The Chargers were the superior talent in this one, and the thing that kept it close was the fact that Norv Turner was on their sidelines.

In the meantime, Purdue could be eying a new coach and the BCS title game is at least competetive thus far. It pains me to say this, but "Go Buckeyes!"

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Wild Card Playoff Ranks

The Wild Card round of the playoffs are in the books, with the ranks predicting 3 of the 4 playoff matchups correctly. The only one it missed was Seattle, but it can be explained. First, home field advantage can't be taken into account with the power ranking formula, and Seattle's 12th man is pretty tough. Second, Washington ended the season red hot while Seattle tanked the last game against Atlanta. As I mentioned last week, that's another challenge with a computerized ranking for the NFL that the BCS doesn't have to deal with. Looking ahead to the Divisional Playoffs, the ranks predict that this week the #1 Patriots will beat the #4 Jaguars, the #2 Colts will beat the #5 Chargers, the #3 Packers will beat the #13 Seahawks, and the #6 Cowboys will beat the #12 Giants. Here are the ranks...

1. Patriots - 83.88 - E - vs JAX
2. Colts - 79.65 -E - vs SD
3. Packers - 72.13 - E - vs SEA
4. Jaguars - 71.11 - E - at NE
5. Chargers - 70.68 - E - at IND
6. Cowboys - 67.66 - E - vs NYG
7. Titans - 61.97 - +1
8. Eagles - 61.05 - +1
9. Redskins - 60.49 - -2
10. Texans - 59.42 - E
11. Browns - 58.60 - E
12. Giants - 57.90 - E - at DAL
13. Seahawks - 56.76 - E - at GB
14. Vikings - 53.00 - +1
15. Bengals - 52.30 - +1
16. Steelers - 51.95 - -2
17. Bears - 49.07 - E
18. Cardinals - 48.08 - +1
19. Buccaneers - 47.32 - -1
20. Panthers - 44.62 - E
21. Saints - 42.95 - E
22. Broncos - 41.42 - E
23. Lions - 39.18 - E
24. Bills - 36.79 - E
25. 49ers - 36.47 - E
26. Ravens - 34.40 - E
27. Jets - 31.28 - E
28. Falcons - 26.72 - E
29. Raiders - 25.56 - E
30. Chiefs - 24.51 - E
31. Dolphins - 23.19 - E
32. Rams - 21.40 - E

Audience Participation: What's your favorite condiment?

The other day, I was enjoying some chop suey and it occurred to me that soy sauce might be one of my favorite condiments, and how come nobody ever brings it up in condiment related discussions (they happen more than you think)? Well, the question bugged me all week, to the point that I wanted to pose it to the world, even in the midst of the NFL playoffs. What, America, is your favorite condiment?
For the record, shortly after thinking about why soy sauce is so often misrepresented in the world of condiment debate, I remembered another condiment that I absolutely love. Ranch dressing. I put that on anything. Sandwiches, pizza crusts, potato wedges, and it will probably end up on my autopsy (cause of death? delicious, delicious Hidden Valley Ranch). That's probably why soy sauce doesn't get noticed as much. It's really a one trick pony. It goes on rice based dishes almost exclusively (although have you tried it on boiled carrots? To die for.) whereas others, like my ranch, are more versatile. For what it's worth, though I wouldn't put ranch on rice.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Breaking: Local News Editor Keeps Anthrax in Basement.

If you thought that the Friday before the NFL playoffs started, I would be previewing the matchups, perhaps making some picks, you are grossly mistaken. Ok, not grossly. Redskins, Jaguars, Chargers, and Bucs, all winners. No promises, but Sunday may see some frequent posting that some could refer to as a "live blog" but I won't because I doubt it will be very live, and since I'm entertaining, I don't think I would be a very good host with running to the computer frequently. So, no promises. A recap, perhaps.
But I digress. There is a newspaper to investigate. Let's go ahead and glean some information, shall we?
I have to admit, that the first story, the recap of 2007 in Victoria was a good one. It was both informative and introspective, fr th most part, highlighting all the things that make Victoria Victoria. I enjoyed it. Until the last little bit. "There were no car bombs in Victoria, no suicide terrorists, no mass graves, no torture chambers, and no reports of chemical weapons of mass destruction". Three things. First, thank you for reminding me that Victoria is better than Baghdad. I often forget. Second, I wasn't sure if there had been any car bombs. I thought there was one back in July, but I guess I was mistaken. Maybe it was just heartburn. Third, you say there were no chemical weapons found. Is there a stash of biological weapons floating around somewhere that I don't know about? Do you have anthrax in your basement, Ms. Dion?
In her letters to the editor section, Ms. Dion notes that she appreciates people sending her little news stories and tidbits, because she can't cover them all. That's right. She directly addressed one of my biggest gripes with this particular paper with a reasonable and thought out response? What?! Is it the end of the world? Well, no, unless she releases the anthrax.
Much of the rest of the paper regarded the progress seen in Victoria. They hired a new director for the Fieldhouse and plan to expand it, and they now have plans for expanding the downtown area. All this is inline with city planning projections of the population reaching 30000 by 2030. That's 22 years away. Thats more than 1000 people moving to Victoria a year. I wonder if they would move in if they knew about the anthrax.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

2008 New Year’s Resolutions

Through some intrepid reporting skills, some phone-tapping, and some straight out stalking, we here at the Victoria Times are pleased to offer you some New Year's Resolutions for Minnesota Teams for 2008.


Justin Morneau: Try not to do something that makes me get text messages from all my hockey friends about being a wimp. Also, learn to run into a catcher in a way that doesn't cause a bruised lung.

Nick Punto: No flirting with Medoza. Try for Ted Williams.


Ron Gardenhire: Try to learn the names of the entire team by All-Star Break.

Team: We want small things. Like, a ring.


Marian Gaborik: Go for the six-goal game. Also, play awesomely all games so Jacque Lemaire doesn't threaten to bench me.

Mikko Koivu: Get back on the ice again. Beth misses me--or, rather, my name.

Martin Skoula: Make the fans like me.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard: Try to keep my sweater untucked during a whole game like the big kids.


Team: Minnesota has a shortage of extra-large drinking vessels named after Lords. Perhaps we could get Stanley’s?


Troy Williamson: Consider getting a Taurus, because Focus is too easily lost.

Adrian Peterson: Look up records not broken. Break them.

Team: Give Minnesotans hope for the playoffs, but change things up by not crushing those same hopes.


Randy Foye: Get well and stay on the team, so Beth can name one Timberwolves player.

Team: Double win percentage to 26.6%.


Rusty Kath: Make the fans laugh.

Team: Give Rusty material to work with.

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The SEC is a little too full of themselves

I have a buddy, Marcus, who is originally from Atlanta and is consequently a huge Georgia fan. We got into a little argument in which he loudly argued that the SEC is much, much better than the Big Ten. Every time I would offer a counter argument, like last year the Big Ten won two out of the three Bowl games the teams played in or the fact that the Big Ten has now won the past 4 Capital One Bowls, Marcus would have a loud if poorly laid out excuse, like Auburn really didn't want to play in the Capital One Bowl after going undefeated the previous year. And when I would mention how Georgia didn't deserve a shot at the national title because they lost to Tennessee, who in turn lost to LSU, his response was "But it's Tennessee" like that's supposed to mean something. And then there was this exhortation from an Alabama fan on Loser With Socks. Frankly, I'm sick of everyone telling us how dominant the SEC is every year. It's just not true. I'll prove it here in a second, but just know, SEC fans, if you are reading this, I understand that you think logical arguments are an affront to your sensibilities, but I'm not trying to do that. I'm just trying to reassure my fellow non-SEC fans that our conferences can share a football field with yours. I'm not going to win you over, I'm sure, so feel free to stop reading here and enjoy that new fangled indoor toilet of yours, or whatever it is you do for fun down there.
First, lets make one thing very clear. We're looking at the quality of the overall conference, not the individual teams. Clearly, last year at the top, Florida was better than Ohio State. That doesn't reflect upon the rest of the conference. Let's look more recently, at the BCS. Of the 4 major conferences (The ACC and Big East are too fluid to accurately use them in this little study) the SEC has the highest winning percentage. That's great for them, but again doesn't reflect their strength of conference top to bottom which is key. What is more indicative is that of those 4 conferences, the SEC has had the fewest number of individual teams play in BCS games, with 6, meaning half of their conference hasn't played in one of these all important games. The Pac 10, Big 10 and Big 12 have all seen 7 teams. Notable, of course, is the fact that only the Big 12 is as large as the SEC, meaning all three other conferences have had more than half of their teams make a BCS bowl game. While, yes, the best teams in the SEC are arguably the best in the country, the lack of any other teams elevating their game suggests a lack of competitiveness found in other conferences.
Enough about all that, however. The SEC fans like to talk about the tradition in their conference. Basically, they enjoy living in the past. The Alabama fan linked to above mentioned the Tide's 12 National Titles (of which 2 were not actually awarded to Alabama) which means they go all the way back to 1925 to count their Championships. I did so too, even though it's hard to leave out those dynamic turn of the century Michigan teams and compared the 4 major conferences. The end result? The SEC has had 17 national champions crowned. Not bad. They beat the Pac 10, who has only seen 14 champions. They did not, however, nose out the Big 12 (18) or the Big 10 (21). In fact, of the teams that did not make a BCS game from the Big 10, 2 had previously won national championships (Minnesota and Michigan State).
My point is this, without even going into Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, or talking about the conference's incredibly awful non-conference schedule, the SEC is vastly overrated. The Big Ten (as well as the Pac 10 and Big 12) are at the VERY LEAST on par with the SEC, if not better, top to bottom. Again, the SEC continues to put forth the very best teams, but the rest of the conference is crap. The Big Ten has more schools, top to bottom, that are higher quality programs, more greatly steeped in tradition.

And for the record, in the past 20 years, Colorado has been far more relevant than Alabama.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

When a Record is Not Much of a Record + Power Ranks

Happy New Year! With Ryan's feverish posting, I'm surprised I'm doing the first post of 2008, but here it is. Before I get into things, watching the BCS Bowls reminded me of how this whole thing got started, when we decided to make a website where we would post our IM conversations. We're only 4 days away from the 3-year anniversary of the formation of the original Is It Sports? site. If what we talked about on January 5, 2005 holds up, the "Tim Tebow is a future NFL Hall of Famer" supporters should take caution.

There were a lot of new NFL records this season, with Adrian Peterson (the one that wears purple, not the one battling for carries with Garrett Wolfe) breaking the single game rushing record, Brett Favre breaking a number of Marino's career marks, and the Patriots setting all kinds of records, including being the first 16-0 regular season team and breaking the scoring record. The Patriots also set some individual marks. When Tom Brady connected to Randy Moss for the go-ahead touchdown against the Giants, it was Brady's 50th TD pass of the season and Moss's 23rd TD catch, both new single season records....or were they? Brady deserves all of the credit in the world for getting to 50 TDs, a record that looked like it would never be broken when Peyton Manning shattered Dan Marino's record in 2004, but the prestige of Moss's record is a little murky....

The previous single season touchdown record holder was (not surprisingly) Jerry Rice, who had 22 TDs in 1987. Well, unlike some of the previously asterisked MLB records over number of games on the schedule, the NFL began its 16 game schedule in 1978, so its a no brainer that Moss deserves all of the credit right? Not so fast. If you remember back (and I was 4, so I really can't) there was a players strike that year and 1 game was completely canceled, but another somewhat forgotten fact is that the NFL then played the first 3 games of the season with replacement players until the strike was settled and the regular players returned for the 4th game in Week 5. That means that Rice got his 22 TDs in only 12 games, or only in 75% of the number of games that it took Moss to get 23. Now, I've never been a huge fan of the asterisk, but I think it's needed here. Something comparable to this was when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's HR record in 1961. Ruth had 60 HR in 154 games and Maris had 61 in 162. In this situation, I don't feel there should have been an asterisk because Maris only played in 5% more games and Ruth's projected 162-game HR total would have been 63, but with later season dryer and cooler weather, and with an average of just under .4 HR a game, there's no telling Ruth would have hit any more homers if he would have had 8 more games. Maris did only have 59 HR through 154 games, but I still feel its debatable who would have had more after 162 games, especially if Maris knew the record was 61 or 62 instead of 60, had Ruth played in 162 games.

The receiving TD situation is really not debatable, though. Rice averaged 1.83 TDs per game for a 13-2 (11-1 with regular starters) 49ers team that mowed down opponents in similar fashion to this year's Patriots. Rice scored a TD in every game that season, and did not even get to benefit from more favorable for passing September weather, so he would have definitely scored 1 or 2 TDs in each of the games he missed. His projected total for that year is 29.3 TD's, or 27.5% more than Moss. Moss only had 17 TD's through 12 games this season, 5 short of the record that Rice set in as many games. At that point of the season, Moss was projected to finish with 22.6 (23) TDs so the projection held true. I think the records should show Moss with the record at 23, especially since 1987 had such unusual circumstances, but Rice should also be listed with an asterisk for himself, indicating he accomplished his feat in only 12 games due to a strike. I think this should be the policy in any sport if a record is set in a strike shortened season and later broken, but not if someone's projected total in a strike shortened season would have broken a record that already stands (like how Matt Williams was on pace for 63 HR in 1994) because you just don't know what would have happened.


On to the NFL Ranks. Something interesting that happened this week was a lot of teams mailed it in and benched a bunch of starters to rest up for the playoffs. The ranks, of course, do not take this into account. For a BCS style system in college, this isn't an issue because college teams can't afford to take a week off. So, some teams took a hit this week, but I still think these can be looked at heading into the playoffs (I'll continue the ranks through the Super Bowl). The biggest gainers this week were 3 non-playoff teams that finished the regular season relatively strong and have something to build on for next year: Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Houston. The biggest losers were teams that had nothing to play for: New York Giants, Seattle, and Tampa. I am a little confused though as to why Tampa and Pittsburgh took the week off, playoff implications aside, because both teams have been playing like crap lately and could likely be done in the first round this weekend. So if you make picks based on the ranks for this weekend, it looks like #4 Jacksonville over #14 Pittsburgh, #5 San Diego over #8 Tennessee, #7 Washington over #13 Seattle, and #12 Giants over #18 Tampa. I guess we'll see how it turns out, and how much the teams didn't try this week blurred the ranks...

1. Patriots - 83.25 - +1 - AFC #1
2. Colts - 79.82 - -1 - AFC #2
3. Packers - 72.45- +3 - NFC #2
4. Jaguars - 71.03 - Even - AFC #5
5. Chargers - 68.92 - Even - AFC #3
6. Cowboys - 67.48 - -3 - NFC #1
7. Redskins - 67.34 - +3 - NFC #6
8. Titans - 62.76 - +1 - AFC #6
9. Eagles - 61.20 - +5
10. Texans - 59.60 - +5
11. Browns - 59.10 - +5
12. Giants - 56.93 - -5 - NFC #5
13. Seahawks - 54.96 - -5 - NFC #3
14. Steelers - 54.21 - -3 - AFC #4
15. Vikings - 52.68 - -3
16. Bengals - 52.48 - +2
17. Bears - 49.40 - +4
18. Buccaneers - 49.11 - -5 - NFC #4
19. Cardinals - 47.52 - Even
20. Panthers - 45.08 - +2
21. Saints - 43.08 - -4
22. Broncos - 41.18 - +3
23. Lions - 39.18 - Even
24. Bills - 36.79 - -4
25. 49ers - 36.23 - -1
26. Ravens - 34.48 - +3
27. Jets - 31.28 - Even
28. Falcons - 26.86 - +4
29. Raiders - 25.32 - -3
30. Chiefs - 24.47 - Even
31. Dolphins - 23.19 - Even
32. Rams - 21.16 - -4