Monday, March 31, 2008

IU searches for a coach



As someone who has hated the Indiana Hoosiers for their entire life, I have to say I'm enjoying their current plight. The University of Minnesota was mired in its own academic scandal that cropped up thanks to players like the owner of the worst mustache in history, Miles Tarver (who would have thought that someone this low functioning could bring down a program?). (Note that I just used three, now four straight punctuation marks, and did so correctly.) In that sense, I'm glad to see Indiana soon to be on the losing end of a recruiting scandal. Finally, IU will be below the Gophers, where they ought to be.
On the other hand, I want Indiana to be a little good. You know, just so much that they are competitive every year and see hope. Then I want Purdue to kick them in the soul, and see Minnesota spit on their will to compete. It's no fun rooting against a miserable team. If it was, I might give two craps about the IU football team. That means that they need to get a decent head coach. Someone who can guide their ship out of the murky waters that Kelvin Sampson led them into. Someone squeaky clean, poised and knowledgeable.
Pretty much anyone but Isiah Thomas. But it's cute to think that he could be considered.
My favorite parts of this article were when he said the 4-7 Dan Dakich had done a good job this season after Sampson left. Well, thats a better winning percentage than the Knicks. The other was when he said that his unhappy players should say they were unhappy to the media. It would certainly be challenging to against the Hoosiers if Thomas joined the team, because I don't like to cheer against someone who should probably be in the special Olympics. (Which is why I'm still a Gophers fan, despite Miles Tarver)

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Canucks and Wild don't like each other

The Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks have a long, hate filled history, mostly because of Matt Cooke, who is a no-good visor-wearing hoser. Well, Cooke is gone and the animosity still remains. With a little less than 10 minutes to go in the third period, Alexander Burrows of the Canucks took it upon himself to spear the prematurely balding Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Sounds cruel. Bouchard was ready when Burrows circled back to cross check Bouchard, and in the end, this lead to a 5-5 all line fight. 9 penalties were assessed all told, which, frankly, is a lot.
The first question that popped up into my mind is why this hasn't received more publicity. Well, two reasons. First, the goalies didn't get involved. Second, the NCAA basketball tournament superseded any news of this rumble. The second question asked, if the Wild were able to continue, would Brent Burns have maimed Nathan McIver? Last but not least, where does this fight rank?
I say just ahead of Jaguar vs Anaconda

But after Grizzly vs Grizzly. Look at the bead do the slew foot and then get the takedown! Technical savvy! See it here, because embedding is disabled. Also, this video answers a long asked question. In fact, the bear poops in a muddy field in the midst of battle, not the woods, as had been rumored.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

The original sports blog

I was looking for a little bit of inspiration today, maybe get an idea for a post or something. Most people would go poking around Deadspin or The Big Lead or the Fanhouse. Perhaps they would check out a blog for their favorites sports or teams or something. Not me. I wanted to check out what has to be the first blog ever dedicated to sports.
Naturally, it's titled "sports.blogspot.com." I was underwhelmed. The author, the mysterious brannonb appears to be a youth, or, at the very least, unfamiliar with the English language. At least, however, he is writing about the subject matter he is familiar with.

You should play baseball it is the funiest sport!I know cause i played it before i played short-stop! I made 1 home run that was my favorite time!I one time i got hit by a baseball on my arm that really hert!Well thats all i got to say

See? He made (hit?) one homerun! And he played short-stop! And anyone who has been involved in a baseball game knows, it can really... hert... to get hit with a baseball. Hold on. Played shortstop, one home run, doesn't really speak the language... Cristian? Cristian Guzman, is that you? That would explain why you misspelled your own name in the salutation.
The real fun comes in the comments though. There is a lot of love for brannonb, apparently because its quite an accomplishment to set up a site as exhilarating as sports.blogspot.com. There was one naysayer though.
Who the [explative] would go to a [homosexual] [butt] blogger site to read about sports. You losers are like 10 year olds who don't know anything about sports and watch like one game a week. [website redacted] acctually has experienced writers who know [expletive] and it has interviews with real athletes like Mike Utley who played with Barry Sanders on the Lions and and Larry Csonka interview is scheduled for January.
A) Steve played gym class basketball with Dwyane Wade when they were in high school together. This must mean Steve is a real athlete. (Having seen him played, you could have fooled me).
B) I think Larry Csonka talks to anyone that will listen.
C) Who WOULD come to a [homosexual] [butt] blogger site to read about sports? Wait. Awwww. I guess I'm just going to go weep softly in the corner then.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rookie of the Year

I’d love to discuss the Minnesota Twins starting rotation, but really…I’m not quite sure who’s on it. I’m in good company, because beyond Livan Hernandez, Boof Bonser, and Kevin Slowey, even Gardy has no idea who’s starting. Matt Tolbert was a happy surprise for me for making the team, as was Carlos “Zippy” Gomez.

Anyway, Rookie of the Year. This has been something that’s been on my mind for a long time. MLB players have come from other countries--most notably Japan, but Cuba and Korea have sent a few--and are considered rookies by Major League Baseball’s rules. They’ve never played in the major leagues, so therefore they count as rookies. Even if they’ve been champions in their home countries for years. It seems a little unfair that a 20-year-old who’s only been in pro ball for two years is competing for a rookie award against a 26-year-old who’s been the top dog in his home country for a couple of years.

The problem is, I’m not sure where the line is drawn. How can you decide if someone should be considered a rookie or not? I can’t consider age. The 31-year-old who toiled in the minors his entire career gets called up and has a stunning year? He should be considered a rookie. The 26-year-old who dominated his home country for a couple of years but finally comes to the US/Canada to play ball should not be considered a rookie. (And, of course, if you did it straight by age, and not by baseball experience, you’d end up with guys winning rookie of the year in multiple years, so let’s keep the current standards for rookie in place, but add to them.)

I thought about considering time spent playing professional baseball, but that didn’t really work either. The 31-year-old rookie mentioned previously probably was drafted when he was between 17-21 years old, giving him at least ten years in professional baseball--not at the major league levels, but in professional baseball nonetheless. If you did that, the 23-year-old who was drafted out of high school and has five years of professional experience In my opinion, he is just as much a rookie as the 25-year-old who was drafted out of college and spent two years in professional baseball.

I don’t know how it can be solved, but I’ve always felt it silly that guys who are coming to the US and Canada for professional baseball in the prime of their careers, after dominating professional baseball in their home countries, are considered rookies. It fits the technical definition of rookie, but it doesn’t seem to fit the spirit of the competition--an award for a new guy whom has shown he is better than all the other new guys.

The Timberwolves are 18-52, and are no longer last in the division--in fact, the Seattle Sonics, also in the Northwest division, have a 17-55 record and in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies are 18-55! The competitions between the Timberwolves and the 13-58 Miami Heat is all but gone, sadly for those of us amused by the situation.

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I'll never understand love

So, let's see. Alex Rodriguez has signed the top contract in baseball, or, for that matter, professional sports. If he wants a little strange, he doesn't have to look far, because he's wealthy and apparently good looking. So where does he look to dabble? Jose Canseco's wife? Seriously?
Well, let's see. She does fall under the "athletically built" category, I suppose. And she would be used to a largely Hispanic man. And after dealing with Canseco's roided up... situation, she would undoubtedly have low expectations. A-Rod thrives on low expectations!
But then, does anyone believe that A-Rod would knowingly go for Canseco's wife? Even before Juiced, we all knew Canseco was on something. A-Rod had to know that as well. Would you really want to be with someone who was previously with a guy who built their career by shoving many needles in his ass?
I really don't know what to think about this situation, but I want to ask what I think is the most important question. When did baseball turn into a really bad soap opera?

(Pictured above: Jessica Conseco and Alex Rodriguez)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Steve's MLB Preview: Postseason and Awards

First off, I think individual awards are overrated, unless a player needs them to get into the Hall of Fame after he retires. It's a big debate that comes up near the end of the season, and then by the time we hit about week 11 of the NFL season, no one can remember who won them. Who was the AL MVP last year? I have no idea. Was it A-Rod? Yes it was, but I only know because I just looked it up. Jimmy Rollins won the NL MVP? I used AL MVP as my example because I thought I knew that the NL MVP was Matt Holliday. Shows me. So to humor everyone, here are my award winning predictions. By the way, the last time I picked a pre-season manager of the year, it was 2005 and he actually got fired half way through the season, so watch out.

AL MVP - David Ortiz, Red Sox. Big Papi has never won MVP, so why not this year? Even though A-Rod will probably deserve it for personally keeping the Yankees in the wild card race, Boston's new found dominance of the AL East will push it over the edge for Ortiz. Not like anyone in the AL Central was going to win it. Besides Frank Thomas in strike shortened 1994 (and the year the Central was created) Justin Morneau is the only player to win it from the division.

NL MVP - Mark Teixeira, Braves. Like any good AL power hitter that goes to the NL, Tex will most likely dominate the NL, especially since I think the Braves will be in the playoff hunt. If you project his numbers with the Braves last year over a full season he would have hit .317 with 51 HR and 168 RBI.

AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander, Tigers. Verlander has put up Cy Young worthy numbers the past few years, but hasn't gotten it. With the Tigers getting the wild card, he'll get it this year.

NL Cy Young - Johan Santana, Mets.
Who else?

AL Rookie of the Year - Alexei Ramirez, White Sox. Juan Uribe may have won the starting job at 2B, but it won't be long before the surprising Cuban refugee becomes the every day starter. Like a lot of the Japanese players that have won in recent years, Ramirez, at 26, brings tested experience with him. He also won a gold medal with Cuba at the 2004 Olympics.

NL Rookie of the Year - Jay Bruce, Reds.
I have no idea who he is, just that he might win it.

AL Manager of the Year - John McLaren, Mariners.
I have the M's winning the AL West this year, so this looks like the right choice.

NL Manager of the Year - Ned Yost, Brewers.
He probably would have won it last year if the AL West teams weren't so surprising. I think with the Brewers winning the Central, he gets it this year.

Postseason Predictions

AL Playoff Teams: 1. Red Sox (East) 2. Indians (Central) 3. Mariners (West) 4. Tigers (WC)
NL Playoff Teams: 1. Mets (East) 2. Diamondbacks (West) 3. Brewers (Central) 4. Padres (WC)

Division Series
Tigers over Red Sox: The Sawhx age begins to show as the Tigers pull off the shocker
Indians over Mariners: Seattle, winners of a down division, are no match for the talented Indians
Mets over Padres: The Mets pitching will shut down the Padres horrible hitting
Diamondbacks over Brewers: The Brewers pitching is shaky at best. Sweeeeep!

Championship Series
Tigers over Indians: The tradition of the wild card going to the World Series continues as the Tigers take the Indians in 7 games. Why did I pick the Indians to win the division, then? I think the more experienced Tigers will not bring their "A" game every day in the regular season.
Mets over Diamondbacks: I think the Mets shake off the demons of last year and get to the World Series, and the young Diamondbacks will have to wait until 2009.

World Series
Tigers over Mets: Yep, I'm picking the Tigers too. I'm factoring in the AL advantage and the fact that the Mets are still a bunch of chokers here. Also, I'm sick of Boston teams winning championships. Who would have thought that bringing in 2 Marlins with World Series experience could help push the Tigers over the top? Kwame Kilpatrick will probably take full credit for the championship, but at least the rioting will finally lead to Detroit burning to the ground once and for all, thus putting it out of its misery.

Ryan's MLB Preview, Postseason and awards

Let's get those awards out of the way first. We'll start with the MVPs, in which I suspect they will go to the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, not because he will be the most valuable player, but he will be the only player New York and Boston reporters will have heard of on the team with the best record in the AL.
In the NL, I think the writers will do something a little unconventional and go with a pitcher, Johan Santana, for MVP. With as much hype as Santana has received heading over to the National League, any success he reaches will be magnified, and any performance in the postseason will be viewed as epic.
The AL Cy Young will probably get pinned somewhere in the AL East, not because there are any particularly deserving arms out there, but there won't be in the Central or West either. Given even a mediocre, injury free year, I think the award is Daisuke's to lose.
In the race for Rookie of the Year, in the AL, I don't see how Jacoby Ellsbury will lose it, unless he doesn't play enough games. I think, however, that Adam Jones and maybe even Carlos Gomez and definitely Evan Longoria will be better this year.
The National League will be fraught with talented youngsters, but be overwhelmed by Japanese sensation Koisuke Fukudome. Without Fukudome in the picture, the award could go to teammate Geovany Soto or any number of blue vhippers on the Reds, if Dusty Baker decides to play them.
The AL Manager of the Year will be Joe Maddon for finally managing a team worth something in Tampa (and oh yeah, having talent for the first time down there). Mostly, he gets points for his glasses.
The NL Manager of the year, despite himself, will be Dusty Baker. He is being given a good situation on a platter, and even if he'd rather see Scott Hatteberg at first than Joey Votto, well, i guess they have enough to overcome this. Ken Tremendous will likely explode.

THE NL playoffs will feature a tough pitching matchup, and I think the Diamondbacks have a deeper rotation than their first round opponent, the Mets. The D-Backs will split the first two games of the series, then roll through to the NLCS. The Reds will quickly remember that they are in the playoffs and wonder what the heck they are doing there. This will set up a Dodgers-Diamondback NLCS, and although I like the Dodgers in a long season, I think the D-Backs have a much better team for a short series.
In the American League Playoffs, I have the Tigers defeating the Angels and the Red Sox over the Indians. This year is the Tigers year, I think, so Boston will have to wait until football season to get that championship ring they haven't got in about 4 months.
The traditional rivals, the Diamondbacks and the Tigers, and I think this will potentially be one of the better Series in a while. I'm putting my money on the Tigers, however, because their pitchers can't keep it up through the entire playoffs. Right?

So there you have it. Detroit Tigers, World Champs.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Steve's MLB Preview: AL East

Time for the Yankees, Red Sox, and everyone else division. The Red Sox actually won the division for the first time since 1995 last year, and I think it cemented the changing of the guard in this division, as the Yankees have way too much money buried in old pieces of crap to continue to think they will be competitive in the tough AL. On to my picks...

1. Boston Red Sox - Like I said, this is the Red Sox division now. They have won 2 of the last 4 World Series and finally took control of the division last season. They also have a very good mix of veterans that are still producing well like David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell with good young players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. If I can try to poke holes in their lineup, I might point a finger at Jason Varitek, who seems washed up, the often injured JD Drew, and the just generally crappy Julio Lugo, but that's nothing that a bunch of money can't fix, which the Red Sox have. Manny Ramirez's drop in production last year is probably also a concern, as he is starting to get old. The pitching can also be a concern for the Sawhx, who have ridiculously old Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield, banged up Josh Beckett, and and unproven Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester. Luckily for the Sox, these pitchers and this lineup are more than capable of leading them back to the World Series.

2. New York Yankees - The Yankees are old, very old, and not in a good way. This decade, they have let the Red Sox blow by them as the dominant team in the AL and I think this will be the first time in years that they don't make the playoffs. Sure, they have A-Rod and Jeter, but do they really trust themselves going into this season with Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Mike Mussina, Andy Petitte, and Mariano Rivera? That sounds like a great team 10 years ago, but now they just have a bunch of guys on the tail end of their careers. I still think they are better than the other 3 teams in the division though.

3. Toronto Blue Jays - I think the Blue Jays are a bit underrated, but they probably won't be much better than .500. Alex Rios is a legit young talent, and he is surrounded by a bunch of older guys that have a history of being pretty consistent hitters in Vernon Wells, Matt Stairs, and Frank Thomas. This team is set up to have an atrocious batting average though, unless someone like Aaron Hill can turn into a better for-average hitter or if Frank Thomas could get his 1990's swagger back. The Jays are going to have to rely on some young pitching, especially if Halladay and Burnett can't stay healthy, which they probably won't. Now that I've written this, I think I might pick them last in most of the other divisions.

4. Tampa Bay Rays - The exorcism business is booming in Tampa, as the Devil Rays have dropped the devil from their name, and they are hoping their tortured past with it. I still think they are in for a rough year though, as they lack some legit star power and got rid of 2 of their young stars, Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes (even though less pictures of guns will be texted from the clubhouse now). They are heading in the right direction though with Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton along with Carlos Pena (and his surprising numbers last year) and Akinori Iwamura. At pitcher, they have a banged up Scott Kazmir and James Shields along with a couple other young guys. One thing kind of amusing about their new look is that their logo now looks like a sign outside a retirement community...a little too peaceful for a playoff team.

5. Baltimore Orioles - Wow, this team has some issues. They probably have the worst pitching staff in the entire major leagues and a lot of their hitters that once looked promising are now fizzling out. Maybe it has something to do with them getting rid of Miguel Tejada and his "vitamin B-12." The only promise this team shows is in young stars Nick Markakis and Adam "Pac-man" Jones (a nickname I gave him). Hopefully there aren't too many places to "make it rain" in Baltimore.

Steve's MLB Preview: AL Central

The is by far the most talked about division on this site, so let's talk about it some more, shall we? Last year, the Indians finally lived up to their potential and took the division after being down for a few years while the White Sox and Twins took a step back. This year, I think it will be more of the same..

1. Cleveland Indians - Team Upside finally broke through in 2007, winning the division title away from defending AL Champs, the Tigers (even though everyone forgets the Twins won the division in 2006). This year's Indians team is largely unchanged from the team that won 96 games last year, and I think they have enough youthful goodness to hold off Detroit again and win the Central, but don't be completely surprised if this year's team is more like 2006, where they had a losing record, since really no one on their team has proven to be a consistent performer.

2. Detroit Tigers - 5 years ago, the Tigers almost broke the record for worst most losses ever in a season. After 2 more dismal years, they turned in around in 2006 and won the pennant and nearly made a return trip to the playoffs again last year. I think they will make it back this year, again snatching up the Wild Card. A lot has been made about the acquisition of basically the only talent left on the Florida Marlins in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, but I'm not sold on them. Cabrera is a good young talent, but is slowly eating himself out of the major leagues (just check out the picture of him from the old Is It Sports? Site from 2005!!), and we'll see how he handles American League pitching. Willis has been pretty inconsistent his whole career, and I don't expect him to have an easy time with American League hitters. I think the Tigers look a lot better than the Indians on paper, but they are more open to having some of their old players breaking down. Oh, and this just in....Curtis Granderson broke his hand, so now their starting CF could be Brandon Inge. Watch out! Oh, and definitely don't chop firewood around him.

3. Minnesota Twins - Unlike Ryan, I don't think this is a 4 team race. It's a 2 team race. I think both the Twins and White Sox are a step below the teams above, but the Twins are going to be a little better than the Sox this year, and from looking at his picks, we're being very polite to each other this year. The Twinkies decided to fill holes with former Devil Rays and Astros, picking up Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, Mike Lamb, and Adam Everett. As usual for the Twins to me, that registers pretty high on the "meh" scale. I think the pitching situation could be a mess, relying on Livan Hernandez and a supposedly healthy Liriano. I'm sure the Twins also have some slap hitters in their system that are good at hitting ground balls past confused White Sox infielders that will roll on their plastic grass to their baggy, so that's why the edge goes to the Twins.

4. Chicago White Sox - Don't be fooled, the White Sox are going to suck. They could even finish in last place this year. Injuries hurt this team a lot last year, and not only did it ruin the season for them, it ruined their future because it proved that most of their "prospects" are horrendous and untradable. Apparently, they are planning to start Jerry Owens in CF and Nick Swisher in LF instead of Swisher in CF and Josh Fields (who is capable of hitting 40 HR, but got sent down) in LF and Jerry Owens in CF for the Birmingham Barons. Hitting 2nd will be Orlando Cabrera, which is another scary thought. Like I said in my Angels preview, something better be seriously wrong with Garland. Second base looked like it could have been filled by an actually impressive young star, Cuban Alexei Ramirez (a comrade of Vladimir Guerrero?), but of course, he could be sent to the minors as well. The pitching staff is lead by aging stars Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, and Jose Contreras, and they will be relying on BOTH John Danks and Gavin Floyd to fill the other spots. Now, Danks is still relatively young, but Floyd is only a week younger than me (I'm 25) but still seen as a "prospect" even though he has shown nothing. I know as a engineer, if I haven't shown anything by now, I'd probably be fired. Hello Charlotte? who else do you have down there? Without going into too much elaboration, I think the Sox bullpen could be alright and they will definitely be needed a lot this season.

5. Kansas City Royals - Does a team that has had 1 winning season since 1995 deserve an in-depth analysis? No, they do not.

A brief taunt realted interlocution

Yes. I said interlocution. It's a word. Look it up.

But I just wanted to note that in the fantasy hockey league I am in, sponsored by Barry Melrose Rocks (I believe they are like Pet Rocks, but with mullets) I am in the championship week facing BMR pilot Kevin, whom you've met before. Sure, he's beat me twice already this season, but I just went out and picked up Ryan Malone and Wade Redden, so I'm pretty sure he has no chance now. Don't worry, I'll be sure to distribute the cash prize to Steve, Beth and various loyal commenters, but only after I get some 22's for my '97 Honda Accord.

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Ryan's MLB Preview, AL East

What with it being Easter and all, I've been terribly busy, and now, alas, I am behind. But hey, it's time to carry on with the AL East(er)! Oy, this is going to be brutal.
Boston Red Sox:
Mark it down, if you have some sort of chronicle of
lame internet related instances, but this is the first time in the history of ever that I have picked someone other than the Yankees to win the AL East. yes, the Red Sox have pitching, hitting, passable fielding and young talent if they need to patch holes. Oh, and a raving lunatic fan base that wiil likely commit homicide if you speak ill of Mike Greenwell. I think this is an advantage.

Tampa Rays: No, this is most definitely not a manifestation of my being up until 315AM writing a post about the AL East! (Ok, maybe a little. (Ok, maybe a lottle)). The Rays dropped their bad vibes when they traded away Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young and dropped the word Devil from their name (it was scaring the old people). Now, they have a good core of young bats, particularly in the infield, have one of the better young pitching staffs (staves?) in the game. Most importantly, the team is not stocked with over the hill, dead weight contracts that make me depressed for them. Well, except for one.

Toronto Blue Jays - The Jays are going to be surprisingly good, even if nobody notices because what the hell suddenly the Rays are good? (Sorry for the grammar Mr. Lapadat) Dustin McGowan and Jeremey Accardo are going to be fine arms on the backside of the rotation, and they have placed all their old people in positions where being old isn't much of a concern, like with Frank Thomas and Matt Stairs. The infield could be tweaked, but hey, they wouldn't catch the Sox anyways, so who really cares? Also, is there a sale at Burlington? The best part is that Buck Coats is that guys "proper name" according to ESPN. Up there with Boof Bonser.

New York Yankees - HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yankees, you're old and you suck! Here me?
You SUCK! Sure, you have A-Rod, and Derek Jeter and some good bats. But here's the problem(s): Your pitching is a detriment to the team, and if one of your guys goes down, as they have shown a propensity for doing, the best guy on your bench is crotch-kickin' Shelley Duncan. The Yankees are going to be a trainwreck this year! And everyone will unjustifiably blame Rodriguez! Then, pissed they didn't get Santana and watching Mike Mussina decay on the mound, Hank Steinbrenner will rashly call the Twins and offer up Joba for the most veteran starter we have! good luck with Livan Yankees! HAHAHAHAHA

Baltimore Orioles - Absolutely awful.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ryan's MLB Preview, AL Central

Steve is doing a little celebrating of Easter, which means, unfortunately, that we don't get his AL Central or AL East previews until after Easter. Essentially, he gets the whole thing to himself on Monday. The show-off. Anyways, I'll try to get through my favorite division with both basketball on CBS and a viewing of the Ten Commandments on ABC (but mostly basketball).

Detroit Tigers -
I had another fantasy draft tonight, this time in the league Steve and I have been in forever. Somehow, I ended up with 4 Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield. I consider myself a decent fantasy player, but I can't help but be worried about the makeup of my team. Cabrera and Granderson will be solid, but Guillen and Sheffield could suddenly implode and sink my teams season. Such is the way of the Tigers this year. A lot of good young talent, and a lot of old guys that, if they don't contribute as they have, the team will be in a lot of trouble. They look like the safe bet right now, but I can see a lot going wrong for the Tigers this year too. They are from Detroit, after all.

Cleveland Indians - Last year, the questions for the Indians were in their pitching rotation. Well, Fausto Carmona answered two of those questions. The first, can the Indians add another big game arm to pair with C.C. Sabathia? The second, will that pitcher continue the Indians' tradition of fantastic names? The answer was a yes. Now, those questions are in the outfield and middle infield. In the middle infield, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta are answering the second question with a resounding yes (the first question doesn't make sense in this instance). In the outfield, they need a better contribution in the corners. Like Detroit, they have a lot of talent, but also have a lot of potential for problems.

Chicago White Sox: At the beginning of the free agency period, I thought that the White Sox would be in a lot of trouble this year. Then, they went ahead and didn't sign any free agents, and I was really worried. But THEN Ken Williams woke up and made trades for Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Quentin and Nick Swisher. Sure, Orlando Cabrera is probably on the tail end of his career, but Quentin and Swisher are certainly up and coming. Can Ozzie Guillen be patient with them? Probably not, since they aren't terribly gifted bunters, but when the next manager comes into Chicago, they will be in good shape. The biggest problem I have with the team is their ancient pitching staff and their idiot manager. The biggest problem I have with the organization is that they can't ever seem to develop talent from within.

Minnesota Twins - Don't worry. Even though I have the Twins 4th in the division, I think this will be a four team race. I've written extensively about the Twins already, so I won't rehash anything, but I do want to talk about the Twins resigning Joe Nathan. What the hell. Not necessarily set in stone yet, but frankly, I'm going to be disappointed if this goes through though. The closer is the most overvalued role on a baseball team, especially with good, nasty arms already filling the bullpen. Why not trade him at his discounted rate to a team that "needs" a closer? Instead, we let an ace pitcher get traded when we could have at least postured at trying to sign him to glean a little bit more out of our trade partners. Why not sign a centerfielder with that money? Why not use the money for something the Twins actually @%&&ing need, instead of blowing it on a closer that could have been traded for something useful. I'm angry. (The Sports Frog agrees with me).

Kansas City Royals -
The Royals have nothing going for them. They don't have anyone who has broken out to be the stud they hoped when they drafted or traded for him. Their best players will likely be traded son. They don't even have a good running gag so I can make a joke about them. How do you make a joke about a Royal anyways? Poor Royals.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Ryan's MLB Preview, AL West

The first two days of the NCAA Tournament are probably the best two days of sports out there. That being said, the baseball season is the best season out there, so while I'm watching Tim Brando meltdown today, I can only wait until we see Tim McCarver meltdown during the baseball season. Now It's time for my transition to the American League to see what will happen out west.

Angels: I give up on writing their full name. Perhaps they could have used the money they spent on Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter on a marketing department. But they did spend money on Hunter and Matthews Jr. and I don't that it was necessarily money well spent. I said last year that the Twins would lose Torii Hunter after the 2007 because the Gary Matthews contract set the market for him, since Hunter was essentially a better version of the same player. Well, I have to say I never expected the Angels to be the one to buy him. They have a pretty solid lineup and a pretty solid rotation, neither as excellent as I'm sure they would wish, but they have an excellent bullpen. I think them to be the best team in the division, which, I guess, is a pretty good reason to have them winning it.

Oakland Athletics: I realize that the A's have traded away their best pitcher and one of their top outfielders. I realize this. They did get a lot of young prospects and Billy Beane tends to find some of the best prospects that nobody else does (someone should write a book about him) and this team is chock full of young guys. Most importantly, even without Dan Haren, the A's still feature three solid pitchers at the top of the rotation a good bullpen and a top tier closer. The question marks in the line up will be too numerous to overcome, since not everyone can pan out. Also, is it just me or does "Kurt Suzuki"sound like a made up name for a bad Americanized ninja movie or an actor on a late night Cinemax movie? I hope the young catcher makes it for that reason. Seeing the picture at right (from the AP) I can't tell which makes more sense.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners seem like a pretty decent squad this year. Their problems are that they have Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro all hitting at the heart of the order. And that they traded most of their bullpen for Eric Bedard. And that they think that Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista will do well at the back end of their rotation. So, in conclusion, the Mariners seem like a pretty bad squad this year.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers don't have a single Hispanic player in their starting 9. Seriously. Check it out. The Rangers seemed to be at the forefront of bringing big hitting Hispanics into the league now have a lineup dominated by white guys and one crazy-ass black guy. And Marlon Byrd. But the thing I really noticed was that they don't seem to have that big bat in the middle of the lineup that they always had, even in their worst seasons. They hope Josh Hamilton will fill those shoes, but right now, they don't seem like a power team. Fortunately, the most recognizable trait of this team, the craptacular pitching, remains. Also, not really on topic, but I think the Rangers were the big winners in this whole Mitchell Report thing. Nobody seemed to note that, hey, there were a lot of old Rangers in that thing. Hmm..

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Steve's MLB Preview: AL West

Now its time to cover the Major Leagues, oops I mean the American League. The AL West doesn't get a whole lot of attention in this Yankees-Red Sox world. Hell, even the AL Central is gets some attention with the Tigers and Indians making some noise. One common thread between all 4 of these AL West teams is that they have pretty good pitching, and each team is better than most of the NL teams I've covered. On to the picks

1. Seattle Mariners - I think the Mariners proved last year that they can compete in this division, and they are far, far away from being a "small market" team. The Mariners were the 7th highest paid team in baseball in 2007, only spending $3 million less than the Angels. The Mariners lineup is solid from top to bottom, though I'm not sold on them using Jose Vidro as a DH. I'm surprised they didn't try to get another big bat to fill that spot. I'm only marginally impressed with the addition of Erik Bedard, but he joins an already solid pitching staff and could make a few wins difference. Yes, I mentioned solid twice, and solid is good enough to win this division.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - The Angels are going with a half youth movement for this season, with a very young infield and veterans Garrett Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero, and new addition Torii Hunter in the outfield. On paper, the pitching staff looks to be pretty good, but Jared Weaver can be very inconsistent and I don't like the trade for Jon Garland. I'm trying to think of a pitcher that Kenny Williams has traded away that didn't have some sort of severe injury the following year, or completely sucked. Remember Mike Sirotka? No? He was the ace of the 2000 playoff team, they traded him to Toronto for David Wells and he found out he was injured and never played again. Freddy Garcia is suddenly washed up too. Look for Garland to blow something out around May.


3. Texas Rangers - The Rangers have the look and feel of a 3rd place team. They will be hopelessly mediocre/below average as they have been pretty much the entire decade. Do you realize that this franchise started as the 2nd Washington Senators in 1961, so they've been around 47 years without winning a title? If you count never winning as a "drought," they are 4th behind the Cubs (1908), Indians (1948), and Giants (1954). Oh, and they have the completely insane Milton Bradley, but I understand his rage. Imagine if you had a twin brother, and your last name was Parker, and you went through school being called the Parker Brothers and always asked if you were following a Trivial Pursuit when studying for a test. Wouldn't that eventually lead to you going postal? And in that situation, you would at least have your brother to relate to, Milton is in this by himself. I think I've spent too much time on this....

4. Oakland Athletics - Is Billy Beane playing some money ball with us again with this year's team, or do they just suck? I'm leaning towards the latter. Who would have thought about 6 years ago when the Giants, A's, Raiders, and 49ers were all playoff teams that by 2007, they would all be bottom feeders and their only sports hopes would lie with the Golden State Warriors? It looks like the Sharks are doing pretty well too, but I live in a city whose minor league hockey team plays at the state fairgrounds, so its kind of hard to follow the NHL.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Exciting players

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Really, I promise that we’ll get back to my review of the divisions of baseball, but Ryan and Steve are doing such a stellar job of reviewing the best sport ever, that I’m going to review the second best sport ever: hockey. (Lacrosse, obviously, is third.)

I attended the Wild versus the Avalanche hockey game Monday night, and Wild forward Derek “I like double vowels” Boogaard played in his first game since January 22, 2008. Now, I like Derek. I’ve heard that while on the ice he’s tough and rough, off the ice he’s a big teddy bear. One of his teammates described him as such, and when a hockey player calls you a teddy bear, I think that’s the final word on you. I digress.

Boogaard is not the best hockey player. He’s not a great defensive forward. He’s not a great offensive forward. He plays well, but so far shows himself as a fourth-line guy: limit his playing time, and put him on the ice at appropriate times. The team likes him, of course, but he’s not the guy they look to for the important plays. I think he gives a little inspiration in his willingness to be tough, to fight, and rile up the other team. I considered on Monday, however, that he might indirectly inspire the team in ways he--and they--might not realize.

Hockey players are only human. I’m pretty sure it’s more fun for them to play in front of good fans--fans that are into the game, that are watching, and paying attention. Fans love Derek Boogaard. When he took the ice, there was a cheer of approval from the crowd. When later in the game, it showed Boogaard and an opposing player, on their respective benches, leaning over around the barrier to verbally jar with each other, the crowd was there to cheer Boogaard on. The rest of the Wild would’ve heard the crowd get into the game in this way, and it may have inspired them to play just a little bit harder. And things like that are invaluable.

I’m not saying Boogaard was solely responsible for the team’s win on Monday. There were plenty of moments when the fans showed their approval on great saves by Niklas Backstrom. There were many roars of excitement when Marian Gaborik (often with Pavol Demitra) would take off down the ice. There was gasps of amazement when Pierre-Marc Bouchard would make some of his fancy moves on his feet.

What I am saying is that sometimes there needs to be guys on the team that aren’t necessarily the best players, but can fill a role (Boogaard on the ice adds a toughness to the shift) and are beloved by the fans. Todd Fedoruk and Chris Simon are both pretty tough, competitive guys, too, but the fans aren’t quite as much into them. Aaron Voros loves him a good fight, and the fans love him, but he’s simply not as adept at the fighting (and thus he’s not as threatening to the other team).

In other hockey news, Rob Davison will have a story to tell about his first goal as a member of the New York Islanders--he didn’t really shoot it at the goal, per se, and the goalie should’ve had an easy save. However, a misplay by a goalie--playing the puck like a shortstop rather than a catcher--and a weird bounce of the puck shocked nearly everyone. I’m a little disappointed that the Islanders lost the game, however, that first period goal stood as the sole goal in the game until some time in the third period. (I was watching the game for the privilege of seeing former Gopher Kyle Okposo play his first NHL game. He played quite well, and even got penalty kill time!)

Here’s the clip of the Davison’s goal:


The Timberwolves are 17-50, and are no longer last in the division--in fact, the Seattle Sonics, also in the Northwest division, have a 16-52 record and in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies are 16-51! The competitions between the Timberwolves and the 12-55 Miami Heat. In lacrosse, the Swarm won last weekend, because I was there, so they have a 7-3 record. So far, they’re undefeated at home, for whatever that’s worth. Scott Baker was originally scheduled to make a minor league start today, but having the flu earlier this week set him back even further, so maybe, so his bullpen session was pushed back to yesterday. This weekend he might start a minor-league game. The official period of mourning will continue until further notice, but may be cancelled soon.

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Ryan's MLB Preview, NL East

Yeah, this is way too late (or early) for logical reasoning on this topic. But, hey, when has that ever stopped me before? Beth will have something up soon to supersede this post, and after that, everyone will be watching basketball anyways. So, after that segue, here we go into the preview.

New York Mets: On paper, the Mets look like the top team in the East. But they also have a pitching staff that could be described as brittle. Or fragile. It depends on what kind of vocabulary you want to use. The fact is, after Johan Santana, there aren't any sure things in the rotation. And on offense, they are relying on Carlos Delgado and Endy Chavez to be regular contributors. They look like the best bet now, but the division could very easily slip away from them.

Philadelphia Phillies: I definitely like the Phillies infield better than the Mets' save for the third base situation, but the Phils are going with a fairly unproven (save for Jamie Moyer) rotation who could have some troubles, and the outfield looks to be very streaky. But even in the bad times, at least Philadelphia fans are known for being patient and supportive, so it shouldn't be a huge issue.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves have pretty much the same pitching staff as they did in the mid 90's with Glavine and Smoltz in there and they replaced Greg Maddux with Tim Hudson and added some guy named Jair Jurrjens, who I believe was an extra on Star Wars. They didn't add anything to a sometimes woeful offense, and Mark Teixeira can't drive in additional runs if there isn't anyone on base. Fun fact: I dated a girl with the exact same name as someone on the Braves roster. That's right. My exes name is Yunel Escobar.

Florida Marlins: As it turns out, I make more than half the people on the Marlins roster. The advantage they have is a couple of young pitchers and the modestly talented Josh Willingham, Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez. The rest of the team is crap. Even you Luis Gonzalez. This all means that, of course, the Marlins will probably win the World Series this year.

Washington Nationals: The good: Nice uniforms! The bad: The only pitchers I recognize on the roster are the closer Chad Cordero and relievers Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala. The ugly: Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes and Dmitri Young in the dugout! What could go wrong? Well, lets end this on a high note... They have one of the best back up shortstops in the league in Felipe Lopez. So there's that. Just look at him bunt!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Steve's MLB Preview: NL East

Back to a somewhat competitive division, the NL East. Last year, the Mets had an utter collapse that led to them completely falling out of the playoffs. This year, I think things will be different...

1. New York Mets - The Mets look like the class of the NL. They have proven young talent mixed in with veteran sluggers like Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran. The acquisition of Johan Santana will push them over the top, especially if Pedro Martinez has anything left in the tank. Yes, the road to the World Series will go through crappy Shea.

2. Atlanta Braves - The Braves seemed poised to get back into the division picture this year, especially with the defending champ Phillies seemingly losing a step. Like most American League hitters that go to the National League, I expect Mark Teixeira to tear up the league and be a nice compliment to Chipper Jones (if he plays as well as last year), Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson, and Brian McCann in pretty decent lineup that is still a notch below the Phillies. The pitching situation is going to be completely unpredictable. John Smoltz and Tom Glavine are blasts from the past that are clearly at the end of their careers, while Mike Hampton is more known for hitting homers than his pitching. They also have Tim Hudson, who has seen better days in Oakland. But you know what? These 4 guys have all been GREAT at different points in their careers, so they do have the potential to put something magical together. Oh, and bonus points to Hudson for the shaved head and wrist tattoos...which make him look like some sort of insane ex-con....adds to the intimidation factor.

3. Philadelphia Phillies - The Phillies probably aren't going back to the playoffs, and it seems like a lot of it has to do with bad trades with the White Sox that seemed good at the time. Freddy Garcia has been an absolute bust, Tad Iguchi left for the Padres after playing stand in for an injured Chase Utley, and Aaron Rowand inexplicably left to go to San Francisco of all places after trading away Jim Thome to get him. I was never a huge Rowand fan when he was with the Sox, because I think his overaggressive play caused him to do stupid things instead of being helpful, but he really seemed to be the glue of last year's Phillies team and is supposedly a good clubhouse guy. I think that will be missed in Philly and is badly needed in San Fran. Oh, and their pitching is pretty suspect.

4. Washington Nationals - This could be one of the weirdest rosters I've seen in a while. It almost looks like a fantasy team of someone that loves sleepers and had a whole bunch of injuries to his stars that he had to hastily fill with what was left of the free agent scrap pile. Look at this team...Dmitri Young, Paul Lo Duca, Cristian Guzman, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, and Austin Kearns. Oh well, I still love the fact they went with the old Washington Senators curly W, now they just need to change their name back to the Senators....
5. Florida Marlins - Hanley Ramirez and uh...uh... Dan Uggla? will uh..uh.. Do they play in Vegas yet? But somehow, the only teams to win multiple World Series since the strike are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Marlins.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ryan's MLB Preview, NL Central

It's going to be hard jumping into the NL Central after watching the play-in game of the NCAA tournament. Yep, it sure is going to be difficult, segueing from a competition involving the worst teams of an exciting and talented field. Yep. How am I going to ever find a way to talk about the NL Central after watching the worst teams in a group in action. I think I'll soldier through.

Cincinnati Reds: I was looking at the Reds and the Brewers and the Cubs, in my opinion the best three teams in this crapfest of a league, and after looking at the three of them, I though "wow, those teams aren't that good." The Reds have two things going for them though. First, they have a general manager who recognizes the holes in the team. Wayne Krivsky has been trying to assemble a bullpen ever since he took over for the Reds, and now he has four of the top prospects in baseball in pitchers Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez as well as first baseman Joey Votto. Clearly, the Reds have some holes, like catcher, third base, and shortstop. The good news is, the Reds have what it takes to patch those holes.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs seemed to be the team with the up and coming talent just last year. But then, it seems, that Matt Murton isn't as good as they hoped. Felix Pie? Twisted jubs, not as good as he was supposed to be. Ronny Cedeno? Almost bad. The only pleasant surprise to come out of the Cubs system has been Ryan Theriot, and Ryan Theriot sucks. The surprise is pleasant because people didn't expect anything out of him. Go back further and see what disasters Mark Prior and Kerry Wood turned into. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, highly touted rookie catcher Geovany Soto, watch your back.

Milwaukee Brewers: Let me explain the Brewers in terms of beer. That seems to make the most since, given my knowledge of the Milwaukee area. The lineup is like a nice cold mug of Miller High Life. It doesn't stand out, but you know it's good. Exactly what you want from a beer with no frills. The pitching staff is like a flat can of Milwaukee's Best that's been left in the sun for a week and a half. If Yovani Gallardo doesn't recover quickly, or Ben Sheets gets hurt, imagine that same Milwaukee's Best if drank through a strainer made entirely of Danny Devito chest hair.

Houston Astros: So, the Astros traded for Miguel Tejada. Also, they gave up way too much for Jose Valverde while getting way too little for Billy Wagner. Tejada is, I think, stepping over the hill this year, and he could be taking Carlos Lee with him. Lance Berkman is at the tail end of his prime as well, and Mark Loretta voted for Eisenhower. If the team doesn't play old, but rather as a team at the end of their prime, that could give Hunter Pence and Michael Bourne some time to develop. Even if things go right with their batting, the bullpen is still atrocious.

St. Louis Cardinals: Let's review the Cardinals (I know, putting them in bold, then saying we;ll review them. We're moving slowly): Their best player could blow out his elbow at any time. The infield contains the likes of Cesar Izturis and Adam Kennedy, while they traded to make a downgrade at third, from Scott Rolen to Troy Glaus. In the outfield, they have a former pitcher, a lightly regarded third year player, and a fellow named Skip. In the rotation, they have Braden Looper, Joel Pineiro, and Kyle Lohse. One of those guys in a rotation is bad, but that's just awful. Oh, and the bullpen is even worse than that seen in Houston. They're just lucky the Pirates are around to occupy the cellar.

Pittsburgh Pirates: So, Steve talked through the Pirates like a pirate. And he didn't once mention Davy Jones' Locker. For shame. I will say this: the Pirates have, at this time, the best rotation 9and maybe pitching staff) in the NL Central. Let's see if they can score some runs with Nate McLouth, Ronny Paulino and Jose Bautista.

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Steve's MLB Preview: NL Central

Ugh...The NL Central. As a White Sox fan, I've grown to dislike just about all of these teams. First, they have the Cubs, and the other 5 teams are so pitiful that it actually led to the Cubs making the playoffs 3 of the past 10 years. Right off the bat, the Reds and Pirates have no chance...there's always 2009....but probably not. That makes it a 4 team division, and from looking at the other 2 NL divisions, the winner of this division this year will probably be the 7th or 8th best team in the NL, so I'm predicting a first round sweep for whoever wins it. The logical choice is the Cubs, but since I'm not picking the White Sox to win the AL Central, I'm allowed to play favorites once, right?

1. Milwaukee Brewers - I'm going to give this division to the Brewers, though I wouldn't be surprised if they only win about 72 games (which could still put them in the race). The True Blue Brew Crew would have been the most shocking team in a shocking NL last year if the D-Backs and Rockies hadn't done what they did. The bring back promising young stars Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, JJ Hardy, and Corey Hart, and Jason Kendall and Mike Cameron were pretty decent veteran pickups to compliment them. The pitching is a little shaky, but could be decent if Ben Sheets avoids a bought with vertigo, Chris Capuano forgets the atrocities of 2007, and everyone else pitches well enough to win games against the Reds and Pirates.

2. Chicago Cubs - Like I said above, probably going to win the division, but I can't bring myself to taking them. Plus, they are the Cubs. They've mastered the art of losing for 100 years now. They can find a way to screw this up. I think the Cubs are involved in 2 burning "what ifs?" First, if Harry Caray was still alive, what would happen to him after the first time he tries to pronounce Kosuke Fukudome's name? Would they actually fire him? Second, if Felix Pie had married Gwyneth Paltrow instead of that "rock star" from Coldplay, would she have still insisted on having a daughter named Apple?

3. Houston Astros - You know when you aren't going to have a good season? You pick up a guy the day before his name shows up in the Mitchell Report. Oops. The 'Stros aren't what they've been in their recent past, but they still have a dangerous lineup with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Mark Loretta, Ty Wigginton, and youngster Hunter Pence. The pitching is again a little shaky, but they do have Mr. No Run Support Roy Oswalt and possible future star Wandy Rodriguez at the front of the rotation. Just ignore the 41 year old in the 4th slot, and they could get even older because I think this is the only team desperate enough to sign Roger Clemens for one more year.

4. St. Louis Cardinals - They won a World Series by only winning 83 games, so how good have they really been these past few years? Albert Pujols is apparently playing with a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament, and I can speak from experience here on what he is going through. I tore my UCL when I was in high school. I had a bruise about a foot long stretching from the inside of my upper arm to half-way down my forearm. Not fun. I did have it fully rehabbed in about 3 months though, so I'm surprised he didn't just rest it up and join the team in June. They will probably be the 4th place team either way.

5. Cincinnati Reds - For this division, they have a pretty decent lineup featuring sluggers like Griffey and Dunn surrounded by a bunch of other solid hitters. I never heard of their young 4th and 5th starters from the Dominican, so in this day and age that probably means they'll use about 32 different starting pitchers (like a certain team in gray and black that I know of) or they'll win the division.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates - ARRRRGGGGHHH!!! It be 16 years since our last winning season, and we'll walk the plank if we don't make it 17. Those landlubbers Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, and Zach Duke may be getting us about 3 score and 7 wins this year. ARRRGH!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ryan's MLB preview, NL West

See, its going to work out great. We'll knock the NL out of the way by Wednesday, then we'll go ahead and do the NL over the weekend, give you some postseason predictions, then holy crap the season starts. The best part? Steve is doing these things too! Thats a whole lot of posts between now and then! Then baseball! And you still get a Beth post on Thursday! I haven't used a period since 7 sentences ago! So, anyways, the NL West.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers are the perfect blend of young talent and a quality manager. In many divisions, that wouldn't be enough to win the division, but while feasting on some inferior opponents and with the right bit of Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw breaking out, as well as a touch of Andruw Jones returning to form and Joe Torre figuring this team out quickly, I definitely think this could be the team to beat in the NL West. In the mean time, can someone hold Joe Torre up? He seems about ready to fall over.

Arizona Diamondbacks: In my opinion, if you set the four NL playoff teams at each other last year over the course of a full season, the Arizona Diamondbacks would have come out on top. This year, they did an excellent job in improving their pitching staff, adding Dan Haren to the rotation and acquiring some good young players in exchange for Jose Valverde, their former closer. I don't like the D-backs' young talent quite as much as I like the Dodgers, and the D-backs have some offensive holes that the Dodgers don't. 2nd place for them.

Colorado Rockies: I have been touting the Rocks to break out for the past couple of years. They finally did last year, but at the worst possible time for the team. There are three other teams with young talent that are going to be around for a while in their division, and frankly, over the course of a 162 game season, I think the Rockies are the third best, if only because offensively they will be the equals of everyone at home, and on the road, while their still quality offense shines, their still bad pitching will suffer. There will always be 2007.

San Diego Padres: The Padres are lucky to have such a brilliant pitching staff, because I would be worried about them offensively. They lost Mike Cameron and are starting Josh Bard and Michael Barret at catcher. Their big offensive acquisition was Tadahito Freaking Iguchi. On the plus side, they can build around Chase Headley and have a fellow named Callix Crabbe slotted to be their 5th outfielder. Wasn't that the villain in Hitchikers Guide to the Universe?

San Francisco Giants: Let's see if I can put this in language that the average San Francisco Giant can understand. OMAR! OMAR CAN YOU HEAR ME? IT'S ME, RYAN. I WRITE A BLOG. NO. NOT A FROG MR. VIZQUEL. BLOG. IT'S.... NO, BLOG. NO. NO. NOT SNOG. I'M NOT SURE WHAT THAT EVEN MEANS, BUT I WILL NOT DO THAT WITH YOU. I WRITE A BL-- YOU KNOW WHAT, SCREW IT. OMAR, I'M HERE TO REMIND YOU THAT YOU ARE VERY OLD AND PLAY FOR A VERY BAD BASEBALL TEAM. Barry Bonds actually left because his old teammates didn't take kindly to having that whippersnapper in the dugout.

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Steve's MLB Preview: NL West

Whoa, there. We're kicking off the 2008 baseball preview with 2007's and likely 2008's most competitive division. The NL West features a lot of young talent and good pitching, and all of the teams are located in cities that are a lot of fun to visit to catch a game (I've been to games in Colorado, Arizona, San Diego, and Los Angeles). Last year, the shockingly young D-Backs, with their great new color scheme, battled it out with Padres, until the Rockies came flying out of nowhere to eliminate the Padres from the division race with Arizona and then stealing the wild card from them in a one game playoff. The Rockies and D-Backs (especially with their annihilation of the Cubs) made last year's playoffs a lot of fun to watch...well at least until the Rockies got a giant AL reality check in the World Series. On to the picks....

1. Arizona Diamondbacks - As I said above, the D-Backs surprised a lot of people last year and if you look at their depth chart, it makes sense they did. The only household name on their roster is Randy Johnson, who barely played last year. 6 out of their starting 8 position players were born in the 1980s, and I personally am older than 4 of them, but these are not your average prospects. Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, etc. are only going to get better, and they are backed by a strong pitching staff with Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Doug Davis with a bonus possibly healthy Randy Johnson. Like most NL teams, they won't be spectacular, but they will be good enough to win this division

2. San Diego Padres - This was a tough call with the Rockies, but I'm giving it to San Diego. The Padres are all about pitching with Jake Peavy and Chris Young anchoring their rotation, and they can be downright scary if Greg Maddux has anything left in the tank and Mark Prior doesn't try to "arm-wrestle Jesus" again. The question for them is where is the hitting? Adrian Gonzalez is their most dangerous hitter, and he's nothing more than a generic .280, 30, 100 guy. They are pretty strong defensively, especially with the addition of Tadahito Iguchi.

3. Colorado Rockies - The Rockies are a lot of fun because they promise one thing: Ridiculous offensive numbers and a fantasy player's dream. Who cares if t he humidor reduced the number of homers? They had to build that park with such huge dimensions to compensate for the altitude that it has become a haven for singles, doubles, and triples. I think the Rockies will have a winning record, but I think they really caught lightning in a bottle at the right time last year and their pitching won't be as lights out as it was in that stretch.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers - The big spenders of the division, the Dodgers have done a good job of stockpiling guys way past their prime. See: Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Brad Penny, Esteban Loaiza, and Derek Lowe. Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre are just not that impressive, unless you love stolen bases. There is hope though with Russell Martin, James Loney, and Matt Kemp, who have all looked impressive so far. I've heard that the Dodgers have some other good young players in their system, so if they push some geezers aside, they could make a run at the division.

5. San Francisco Giants - Forget the Royals, Nationals, or Tampa Bay Sun Rays, this could be the worst team in baseball this season. Wonder what ever happened to guys like Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel, Rich Aurilia, Dave Roberts, and Randy Winn? Long retired right? Nope, that's your starting lineup for the Giants, and they got much younger by not re-signing Barry Bonds. Barry Zito hasn't been himself in a long time and the rest of the staff is pretty bleh. It's going to be a long season in the bay.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

We're dancing


I say this is a preliminary look, even though I'm pretty sure it will be the only look (aside from some tortured Purdue related post when the inevitably lose to Baylor). So let's cut to the chase.

EAST

The Favorite: North Carolina. I really think Tennessee, overall, is the best team in this bracket, but how can you say no to a North Carolina team that gets to play all of its games, essentially, at home, until they reach the Final Four? Perhaps they were given a tough draw because of the home court thing. No reason to punish the Vols, however.

The Sleeper: St. Joe's. Let's everyone remember for a second that the Atlantic 10 absolutely dominated in the non-conference part of the schedule, and then remind ourselves of who, exactly, they are playing. The door seems open to a run to at least the Sweet 16.

The Upset: Speaking of our sleeper. How about St. Joe's nipping Louisville in the second round? Louisville seems to be everyone's favorite to be the one that knocks off Tennessee, but frankly, I don't see them getting the chance. St. Joe's is playing well right now, and the A-10 did well against their non-conference opponents, and, in fact, Dayton, an A-10 team beat Louisville early this season. St. Joe's can certainly compete.

MIDWEST

The Favorite: Wisconsin. Usually I worry about Wisconsin, but this year, they are healthy and have proven their mettle in tournament play. They don't really have the bad losses that they always seem to, and this year, as opposed to last year, they have Brian Butch and two completely operational elbows. A veteran team in a messed up bracket could make some noise.

The Sleeper: Villanova. As much as I hate doing it, I have two double digit seeded teams as sleepers. But Villanova is less sleepery than St. Joe's since they played on national TV in the Big East tournament. How exciting though for Philadelphia, putting two teams in the Sweet 16? (Not three, Temple isn't going to make it)

The Upset: I'm not going to wimp out and go with Villanova for this one. No, I'm going to say this will be Davidson winning over Gonzaga. Davidson has played a tough schedule this year and are primed for a tough opponent. Whenever Gonzaga is a favorite, they seem to consistently come out flat.

SOUTH

The Favorite: Well, for most, people would call my "favorite" a "sleeper", but I disagree. Pitt suffered through the middle of the season with some injuries to important players like Levance Fields, who is now back. They were the best team in the Big East tournament, and I suspect they will be the same in the South bracket as well. Besides, Bob Knight had them in the Final Four as well.

The Sleeper: Stanford. Because they are on the west coast, and their games are on Fox Sports Net, nobody seems to realize how good the Pac-10 is. Stanford is the most under the radar of all these teams and do it with size, as well as athleticism. Those elements will help the team make a run past some inferior opponents. I see them nipping Texas as well.

The Upset: Kentucky over Marquette. Marquette is streaky. Kentucky is streaky. Let's see if we can't line those streaks up and get Kentucky to top Marquette. I think it can be done.

WEST

The Favorite: Duke. A veteran Dule team that needs to make up for a bad loss last year. Yeah, I think this is a squad that will make a run. Nobody is going to be happy about a possibility of Duke and UNC in the Final Four, but it seems inevitable. And Duke just has such an easy path to the Final Four.

The Sleeper: Connecticut. I think UCONN is the only real test that Duke could see in the West, which is just a funny thing to say. UCONN is a solid team that was unfortunate to play Pitt in the Big East tournament. Additionally, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is ailing for UCLA, ad that could definitely help the Huskies in the Sweet 16.

The Upset: Baylor over Purdue. Purdue is very young. They have three more years. I'm going to keep telling myself as I watch them hit the wall.

FINAL FOUR

North Carolina plays the same kind of game as Wisconsin, but a lot better. Expect the Heels to win.
I'm pretty sure that Duke will lose after facing a team that has some athletecism, and Pitt has that.

So, I've got Pitt and North Carolina in the finals, and I can't help but give it to North Carolina. (In other news, Alabama State is in the NIT!)

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Previewing the Twins Part 2


Yesterday, we looked at the Twins on offense, but there are clearly more question marks in the pitching rotation. Right now, it looks like the Twins are going to go with a rotation like this.

1 Livan Hernandez
2 Francisco Liriano
3 Scott Baker
4 Boof Bonser
5 Kevin Slowey

It's a very young rotations with a big dose of Livan Hernandez. I don't think there is such thing as a small dose of Livan Hernandez. But I digress. Then, there is the exceptionally talented Francisco Liriano and his injury concerns. The strength of the rotation could eventually come from the back end, with three guys who have at least made the starts the past seasons and are young enough that they are improving. This could end up either very good or very bad.
Livan Hernandez has historically given up a lot of home runs but at the same time struck out a lot of dudes. In fact, that's the way Johan Santana operated while with the Twins. Of course, Hernandez gives up more home runs and strikes out fewer guys than Santana, but with a slick fielding outfield and a manager that won't let him get to 200 innings, we may see some of Livans stats improve. Or, he could continue regressing and make us all wonder if he was just signed to take the "token overweight Hispanic pitcher" mantle from Carlos Silva.
People always say that after teams get a good look at a pitcher, particularly one as filthy as Francisco Liriano, they start catching up, making him more human. But what happens when they ee him for half a season, then have him take a year off? What happens then? If Liriano truly is healthy and has his stuff back, I figure Liriano to be electric and bewildering, If Liriano isn't healthy and needs to spend time on the DL, the Twins may need to consider signing Jeff Weaver. Speaking of bewildering.
In his first real, full season with the Twins, the pride of Shreveport, Scott Baker seemed to have the stars align. He's not a power pitcher for Liriano, instead relying on control and his brain. Therefore, his true ceiling may not even be realized this year as maturity will be a great asset to him. I suspect he will only be better, with an ERA near 4. Not bad for a third starter.
Boof Bonser is not matched in skill at pitching by skill in being named like, as well as looking like a porn star. In his first full season with the big league roster, he demonstrated a bit of a loss in control, and as a result, his number suffered. Perhaps getting in shape will help out this season. I mean, it can't be good pitching to that first batter winded from the trot from the dugout.
I expect Kevin Slowey to regress a bit this year. He'll have that "opponents figuring him out" problem, but he, like Baker, will only improve with time. I expect an ERA near 5, but we all need to realize that that's OK and not be too hard on him. He's terribly young, and will be the 5th starter. It's going to be OK.
The Twins have the 4 spots in the bullpen with names pretty well handled. Long relief? Matt Guerrier = long relief. Pat Neshek = Set up man. Joe Nathan = Closer. Dennys Reyes = LOOGY. Other than that though, I'm not completely sold on the pen. Juan Rincon is getting progressively shaky. Jesse Crain had more issues than Liriano. Glenn Perkins has some lingering injury concerns. That being said, the best plan of action out of the bullpen is to TRADE JOE NATHAN. The closer role is so ridiculously exaggerated by traditionalists (which, sadly the Twins front office appears to be) that Nathan is sure to pull in more than he is worth, the opposite of a certain other pitcher we recently traded. Neshek can certainly move into the closers role. Everyone will be happy. Especially me, and I'm self centered.

Thats the rotation. Theres a bit of a basketball tournament forthcoming, and I want to get to talking about that tomorrow, but we'll look at the Twins place in the rest of the league, as well as the rest of the league itself starting Monday.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Previewing the Twins


Hey, so, it's time for baseball previews. It's 2 days before that whole tournament selection thing happens, so we're going to go ahead and do 2 posts on the Twins before hand. After that, we go to the division by division thing. Make sense? All right then.

As I see it, the Twins lineup should look like this for '08, if I'm the manager. I'm not, in case you haven't been paying attention. That's still Ron Gardenhire. I digress. The lineup will be as follows (if I have my way).

CF Carlos Gomez
C Joe Mauer
LF Delmon Young
1b Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
3b Mike Lamb
DH Jason Kubel
2b Brendan Harris
SS Adam Everett

I'm sure we'll see ample doses of Nick Punto playing the middle infield. An Everett to Punto double play tandem would be ferocious on defense, if atrocious on offense. At the very least, slapping Harris in there will give some semblance of an offensive threat playing in the middle infield.
I suspect, though, that even the offensively ignorant Ron Gardenhire will agree that this is a good defensive lineup, good enough that we can afford to plop Harris in at second, knowing that we're going to be solid everywhere else (who am I kidding. We're seeing Punto 130 games this year). And that was why I started with Punto and Harris, to assert that defense will not be the primary issue with this roster. It's very good.
Offensively, there are a few question marks, but at this point, nobody who is truly frustrating. The top if the lineup consists of three guys who aren't yet 25. Gomez, Mauer and Young are all pretty quick and will be able to move around the bases at every opportunity. If, that is, they can get aboard. Gomez is yet to prove himself above AA, and needs to learn a little plate patience, despite anything Ron Gardenhire tells him. When he's on base though, he's an absolute speed demon and will always be able to move up bases.
Last year, opposing pitchers seemed to figure Joe Mauer out, and his average and walk rate dropped. He's a smart, thoughtful player, however, and will likely bounce back this year and in the future. I anticipate he will once again be hitting above .300 this year.
Young is still, well, young. He is impulsive and still developing his skills. If he plays to his potential, he'll be a huge middle of the order bat, but I don't know that the Twins are the right system for developing power bats. Additionally, he had more at bats than any other player in the league last year, and I have to wonder if fatigue could be a concern.
The middle of the lineup, with Morneau, Cuddyer and Lamb will be the most consistent and reliable trio. The veteran presence will keep more explosive elements of the roster in check, and will keep the Twins boat from capsizing too early. Expect a fairly consistent 270-310 average across the board.
If the Twins expect to win this year, they need Justin Morneau to bounce back from a bit of a regression last year. Perhaps with his contract taken care of, he'll feel OK with playing like his MVP self.
Cuddyer has been the most consistent player on the roster for a couple of years now. Sure, he isn't garnering the attention of the greater baseball world, but Twins fans know that he is indispensable fir the Twins.
Mike Lamb, along with new shortstop Adam Everett were additions from the Astros. The Astros have been a solid squad for the past few years, and generally speaking, we know what to expect from both Lamb and Everett. As long as we aren't expecting either to be stars, but rather capable role players, we're going to be pleasantly surprised.
The last of the order is full of those role players. Kubel may be well served by splitting time with Craig Monroe, who certainly needs to figure out that whole "plate patience" thing in order to be as effective as he can be. Kubel needs to not be constantly hurt.

So, thats about it for the batting order. Tomorrow, we'll look at the pitchers.

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