Friday, January 30, 2009

The Prediction

Two weeks ago, I thought this game was a lock. Steelers would easily win. The Steelers were the Steelers and the Cardinals were a fluke. I mean, really, a 9-7 team in the Super Bowl? Why don't we just put the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. Oh, wait a minute.

Then one week ago, I thought, well, maybe the Cardinals will be able to keep it close. They've got a pretty good offense, they're hot, maybe they won't get blown out.

Two days ago, the thought actually entered my mind that the Cardinals might even win this thing. All of the pundits said that the Steelers would win easily. When everyone starts going one way, I start to think about going the other way. I'm finally sold on Kurt Warner (thanks a lot, Chris), I'm buying into the Cardinal's defense. I thought the Cardinals would win.

This morning when I woke up, reality slapped me in the face and I came to my senses. The Steelers proved during the regular season that they were a better team. And the regular season isn't an aberration. They went 12-4, played a tough schedule in a tough division. They've been through the fire, they're battle-tested. I try to imagine a scenario where the Steelers defense can't contain the Cardinals--can't do it. I try to imagine a scenario where the Steelers offense can't move the ball against the Cardinals defense--can't do it.

Now, with that being said, I do think this will be closer than I originally thought. The line has Steelers favored (-7). The Cardinals offense will be able to score some points. The Steelers aren't going to light up the scoreboard. So I think this is going to be a pretty tight game. When it's all over, the Steelers will win, but can't cover. Take the Cardinals.

* Cardinals 23
Steelers 27

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Degenerates Rejoice!

For unto you Super Bowl prop odds are given. If you are one of those people that like football...because it gives you something to bet on, proposition bets are for you. Now most people will probably put five, ten bucks on the game. But not the degenerate gamblers. It isn't enough for them to bet on the winner or loser, let alone simply watch the game. Degenerate gambler needs action--s/he needs to have something riding. S/he will be betting on some of the following:

(please keep in mind that these aren't made up. these are real bets you can make, if you are so inclined to, and odds are courtesy of an online gambling site. have fun and please, gamble responsibly)

Player to score the first TD in the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) 9/1
Hines Ward (PIT) 3/1
Santonio Holmes (PIT) 15/4
Nate Washington (PIT) 6/1
Heath Miller (PIT) 9/2
Limas Sweed (PIT) 15/2
Willie Parker (PIT) 5/2
Mewelde Moore (PIT) 6/1
Gary Russell (PIT) 6/1
Troy Polamalu (PIT) 10/1
Field (Any Other Player) 5/2
Team does not score a TD in the game 20/1

Hines Ward and Fast Willie Parker are the favorites, but I have a hunch that Santonio Holmes will get the first score--he's a receiver and a punt returner. Take Holmes.

Total Passing Yards - Kurt Warner

Over/Under 265 1/2

Considering that the pass is the only way that the Cardinals can move the football, it sure as hell better be over if they want to win. Take the over.

Super Bowl XLIII - Which Super Bowl commercial will have a higher rating on USA Today's annual Ad Meter?

Anheuser-Busch / Budweiser 5/6
Go 17/2
Pepsi 13/4
Coca-Cola 21/4
McDonald's 29/4
Doritos 7/2
Other 9/4

Doesn't Budweiser always win this? I mean, hell, they buy at least two dozen ads for the Super Bowl. Take Budweiser.

Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first?

God 4/5
Family 4/1
Teammates 2/1
Coach 9/1
Does not Thank Anyone 5/1

The Almighty always wins this one. And what would happen if you bet against God? He might smite you and you don't want that. Take God.

What Song will Bruce Springsteen sing to begin his Halftime Show at the Super Bowl?

The Rising 6/1
Born in the USA 21/20
Radio Nowhere 9/1
The Wrestler 13/2
I'm on Fire 14/1
Born to Run 9/4
Glory Days 11/4

This one is interesting because I actually think Springsteen's newest single, "Working On A Dream" will be the first song. But since that's not an option, I'm going to say that the Boss will start the show with "Born to Run" and finish with "Born in the USA". Tramps like us....Take Born to Run.

How long will it take Jennifer Hudson to sing the National Anthem?

Over 2 minutes and 1 second -155
Under 2 minutes and 1 second +125

I suspect that Ms. Hudson is the "diva" type, which means she'll be holding those notes exxxtttrraaa long. Take the oooovvvvveeeeerrrrr.

How many times will Al Michaels and John Madden reference Ben Roethlisberger as Big Ben during the Game.

Over/Under 5 (+160)o/(-220)u

Now, this is a tough one. The wild card here is Madden. He's really a loose canon and you never know what he'll do/say. But since "Big Ben" is now pretty much a veteran player, I think they'll be able to control themselves. And by now, Madden has surly learned how to pronounce Roethlisberger. Right? Take the under.

How many food items will John Madden mention during the game?

Over/Under 1 1/2 (-280)0/(+220)u

This one's pretty easy. The only thing Madden likes more than football is Bret Farve. The only thing he likes more than football and Favre is food. And since Super Bowl Sunday is probably only second to Thanksgiving in food consumed by Americans, you know where his mind will be. Take the over.

Which NBC Show will get the most Promo’s during the game?

The Office 5/8
Heroes 13/5
30 Rock 17/4
Chuck 6/1
Friday Night Lights 12/1
Jay Leno 18/1
Conan O'Brian 20/1

Another tricky bet. The way I see it, everyone already knows about The Office, 30 Rock, Heroes, Leno, and O'Brian. That leaves Chuck and Friday Night Lights. Now, you might suspect that they'd go with Friday Night Lights and try to lure in the football crowd. But I think they pimp the hell out of Chuck, you know that show that you always see ads for, but never watch. Take Chuck.

What Color will the Gatorade be that is dumped on the Head Coach of the Winning Super Bowl Team?

Lime Green 5/1
Yellow 5/2
Orange 6/1
Red 17/4
Blue 9/1
Clear/Water 10/11

Just a hunch. Take Lime Green.

Now, don't comment and tell me on Monday how many I got wrong...I'll tell you how many I got right.

The Golden Boy That Wasn't

He won the Trojans a share of the National title in 2003. He won the Trojans the BCS title in 2004 and in the same year he won the Heisman Trophy. He was pretty much a consensus number 1 pick after that season. He was only a junior and still had another year of eligibility at USC. While most scouts felt he was ready to make the leap to the NFL, Matt Leinart surprised everyone and decided that he liked the college life and wanted to play his last year of college ball. He had Hollywood friends, hung out with stars, and only needing one more class to graduate, Leinart enrolled in a ballroom dancing class--really.

In the 2006 NFL Draft Leinart fell from possibly the first overall pick to the tenth pick, selected by the Arizona Cardinals. He was supposed to be the franchise, the face of the Cardinals. He was supposed to be the one who led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl. Instead his job was ripped by an aging veteran, Kurt Warner. And Warner has now led what was supposed to be Leinart's team to the Super Bowl while Leinart can only stand on the sideline with the clipboard, watching.

What happened to the Golden Boy? His decision to stay in school is now pretty telling. Being a quarterback in the NFL requires dedication, drive, confidence, and all of the physical skills. While it's clear that Leinart had the physical tools, he didn't exhibit the drive necessary to succeed at the professional level. Instead of going into the NFL and getting into training camp (Leinart actually held out during a contract dispute) and learning the pro game, Leinart chose to lounge around USC and be the Big Man On Campus for another season. He didn't really want to be in the NFL. He never really showed the comittment to being a pro. He didn't want to grind, didn't want to put in the work, and it now shows.

Now Leinart will watch Warner play in the biggest game of the year. While he's still young, you have to wonder, Will he ever be a starting quarterback in the NFL? Perhaps the real question is, Does he want to be one?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Great Mystery Solved

So for today's post, I thought I would do something about the Pittsburgh Steelers. I could talk about the Steelers defense (it's good), or about Ben Roethlisberger (he's pretty good). I could talk about the Steelers 5 Super Bowl wins (that's good). But there was one thing that I needed to learn about the Steelers, one thing that has always baffled and perplexed me about one of the greatest franchises in NFL history: why the hell do they have their logo on only one side of their helmets?

They're the only team that doesn't have the logo on both sides (unless you count the Cleveland Browns who don't technically have a logo, and who, despite the name, wear orange helmets). So what gives?

The logo itself is a re-creation of the Steelmark logo originally created by U.S. Steel Corp. In 1962, the Steelers decided to take the players' numbers off the helmet and put the logo on. Back then, the Steelers rocked gold helmets. They weren't sure how the logo would look on the gold helmets, so the equipment manager was instructed to put the logo on only one side of the helmet (the right side). I don't quite understand how only putting the logo on one side would have been better than having it on both sides if they didn't like the look-what they would have saved fifty something stickers?-but I suppose that's neither here nor there.

The Steelers then finished that season with their best record. Then they made it to the playoffs (playoffs?!). Of course, this sudden winning streak was due to the logo. And in the true spirit of superstition, the Steelers kept the one-sided logo look. They did change the color of the helmet to black, but refused to put that second decal on it.

So if you're like me, and have wondered-What's the deal with the Steelers helmet?-but were never inclined to spend about three minutes of research on the internet to find out, there's your answer. Mystery solved.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting To Know...The Arizona Cardinals

Okay kids, it's Super Bowl week. All week I'll post something related to the game in some way. If you weren't aware, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Arizona Cardinals. You know plenty about the Steelers: 5 Super Bowl wins, the Steel Curtain, Terry Bradshaw, etc. But who the hell are the Arizona Cardinals? Here are a few things you might not know about the team that nobody expected to be playing in the Super Bowl...ever.

The Cardinals finished the regular season with a 9-7 record

The Cardinals were originally based in Chicago. They started as an amateur athletic club in 1898. In 1922, the Chicago Cardinals were formed. The team moved in 1960 and would call St. Louis home for 28 years (in which they only made the playoffs 3 times). In 1988 the team then moved to Arizona and continued to suck until this year when they were kind of good and somehow made it to the Super Bowl.

The Cardinals are owned by Bill Bidwell. I only mention this because he wears a bow tie. By the way, if you are jonesing to get some action, and the game itself isn't enough, you can bet on what color Bidwell's bow tie will be (red is the favorite). And don't worry, I'll give you some more prop bets later this week.

The Cardinals finished DFL (dead freaking last) in rushing this year with only 1,178 yards. Consider that 9 NFL players rushed for more individual yards than the entire Cardinals team.

The Cardinals drafted Joe Namath in 1965, who, in the same year, was also drafted by the New York Jets. The Cardinals were part of the NFL and the Jets were members of the AFL. They were two seperate entities and held seperate drafts. The Jets offered Namath a $400,000 contract and he signed with the Jets. Try to imagine Broadway Joe wearing Cardinal gear, hard to do isn't it.

The most famous Cardinal player ever, sadly, is probably Rod Tidwell (show me the moneeeyyyy!!!)

There you go. Everything you didn't care about knowing about the Arizona Cardinals. But now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Hall of Pretty Good

Yesterday Jeff Kent announced his retirement. And it seems that nowadays, anytime anyone retires or nears retirement, everyone wants to ask, Is this guy Hall of Fame worthy? And so it goes with, the now ex Dodger second baseman, Kent. ESPN's Peter Gammons, whom I have the utmost respect for, thinks that Kent is a first ballot Hall of Famer. That's his opinion and I respect it. If you asked me, "Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer?" I would say, "HELL NO!"

The argument for Kent is strictly numerical: 377 homeruns, 2461 hits, 1518 RBI, and a .290 career average. Not bad numbers. The people who argue Kent is a Hall of Famer will say that if you compare his offensive numbers to other second basemen, you can't keep him out. Look at recent Hall of Fame inductee Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs' second baseman: 282 homeruns, 2386 hits, 1061 RBI, and a .285 average. Kent's numbers are clearly better. But, to me Sandberg is a Hall of Fame player (inducted in 2005) and Kent isn't. So what's the difference?

First, I would argue that Kent's numbers are skewed. Everyone put up great numbers in the Steroid Era. Would Kent have these kind of numbers if he played in the seventies or eighties? It's purely a hypothetical question, we'll never know. But if everyone had great numbers in the Steroid Era, Hall of Famers would need spectacular numbers.

Secondly, Kent wasn't a great defensive player. Hell, he wasn't really that good--zero Gold Gloves. Sandberg: 9 time Gold Glove winner. Second base, shortstop, catcher, and centerfield are the key defensive positions. At these four positions defense trumps offense. So if you're not a great defensive player, and you're a second baseman, you're not a great second baseman.

Finally, Kent has the reputation of being one of the biggest a-holes in baseball (how would you like to have been in the Giants clubhouse when Kent and Barry Bonds both played in San Francisco?--yikes). Now I'm not saying you have to be Mother Teresa, (see Ty Cobb). But there aren't going to be a lot of fans, players, writers who will miss Jeff Kent. Sandberg was a team leader, a fan favorite, and after his retirement the Chicago Cubs retired his number 23.

Recently, everyone has an argument for everyone to be in the Hall of Fame. This past election process, which saw Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice elected, also saw Bert Blyleven miss the 75% of votes needed for induction (he received 62.7 %). And some people are up in arms that he didn't make it (including Bert himself). Honestly, Bert Blyleven? He was a decent pitcher. But Hall of Fame?

If the Hall of Fame continues to induct mediocre, slightly above average players, they might as well re-name it the Hall of Pretty Good. That's what Kent was, a pretty good player. And there's nothing wrong with that. But the Hall needs to realize that it's okay to be picky--stop putting players in just to get players in. Look at some of the names that got votes this year: Harold Baines got 32 votes, Matt Williams got 7 votes, Jay Bell got 2 votes. Who the hell is Jay Bell? It's almost as if they are afraid of having a year where no player is inducted. This is a plea to the Baseball Writers of America association, if any of you are reading this (HA!), please, please, save the Hall of Fame, and elect only the elite players, the great ones, the legends.
P.S. I looked up Jay Bell: shortstop who played 18 years with 5 different teams. An interesting note, Bell averaged 13 homeruns per year in his first 9 full seasons. Then, in 1999, Bell hit a whopping 38 home runs! That's quite a jump, very odd, strange really. How in the world could a major league baseball player, in 1999, have such an increase, a surge, in power numbers? It's almost like he got really strong suddenly. Wonder how that happened.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2 Sport Stars

You've probably seen the new LeBron James commercial in which James dons a Cleveland Browns jersey and starts playing football (if not, here it is:

And another NBA superstar proclaimed, albeit jokingly, that he was ready to try another sport. Kobe Bryant on joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, "Put me in left field and I'd run it all down. I'm faster than Manny (Ramirez)." And he wants to bat third in the lineup. "I want the clutch situations. Put me in that pressure spot." Considering the Dodgers outfield situation, they might want to consider it.

This recent trend of sports stars looking for double duty got me thinking about recent two sport athletes. The best one in recent years was Bo Jackson, an absolute freak of nature. His best season with the Kansas City Royals (1989) Jackson hit 32 homeruns and drove in 105 RBI's. He was an All Star game MVP. He also played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders. After baseball season was complete, he would join the Raiders, who were halfway through their season. In 4 half seasons of football Jackson averaged 5.4 rushing yards per attempt. His career was ended too early by a hip injury. Had Jackson played football full-time, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have broken the rushing record and it would still be standing to this day.

So is LeBron or Kobe the next Bo Jackson? No way. There will never be another two sport athlete like Bo Jackson. These guys are too valuable. For example, do you think the Steinbrenners would let their $180 million dollar investment, Mark Texeira, play basketball for the Knicks or football for the Giants after the Yankees season was over?

Plus, it's REALLY hard to be good at two different sports. Think about the different skill sets needed to play football and baseball. Now think about how difficult it is to refine the skills to play football and baseball at the professionl level. Now think about honing these skills to the point of being an All Star at both games. Damn near impossible.

So don't expect to see another two sport star. Don't expect to see another Bo Jackson.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We All Make Mistakes But...

they rarely end up costing us this much. Unless, of course, you're the Wilpon family (owners of the New York Mets), who, according to some estimates, may have lost up to $700 million (!!!) in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, errr, investment program.

But one free agent who really goofed this year was Jason Varitek. The Red Sox captain became a free agent at the end of last season. He hasn't received much interest in the open market, though. When the Red Sox offered Varitek arbitration, he probably would have received a one year deal in the neighborhood of $10 million dollars. Not bad, huh? But Varitek and his agent Scott Boras (the devil, satan, Lucifer, whatever) declined thinking that they could get a multi year deal on the market.Big mistake.

Trouble is, there aren't a lot of teams looking for a 36 year old catcher who only hit .220 last year. Boras thought that Varitek would command Jorge Posasda money (4 years/$52 million). Of course, after Posasda signed that deal, he completely broke down and spent most of last year on the DL. Boras is now claiming that Varitek's true value lies in his defense, leadership, and ability to call a game--helping out the pitchers. And that's true, that is his value now. Just don't expect teams to pay $13 million a year for defense and leadership.

Another problem for Varitek is the fact that there is really only one team looking for a starting catcher, the Boston Red Sox. So Varitek has no leverage. With roughly a month before spring training starts, there aren't going to be other teams bidding for Varitek's services. Another problem for Varitek is that the Red Sox are actively trying to work a trade for Arizona Diamondback's catcher Miguel Montero--who comes a lot cheaper than Jason Varitek.

In the end, I suspect that the Red Sox will offer Varitek a 2 year deal for around $ 6 million per year. I hope they do, and I hope Varitek accepts it. I've always been a fan of the captain and admire his grit, hustle, and the leadership that he brings to the ball club. I also hope that the Red Sox are able to make a deal for a young catcher who will be ready to take over in a couple of years. But there is no doubt, Jason Varitek made a costly mistake by refusing the Red Sox's arbitration offer.

If you want to laugh at some rich people who lost a LOT of jack check out the link:

*disclaimer: one of the reasons I made this post was, not only that I'm a huge Red Sox fan, or that it's Hot Stove season in baseball, but so that I could add to my blog the COOLEST picture EVER!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations President Barack Obama!

I support you even though you are a White Sox fan.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Eating Crow...Or Is It Cardinal

I've doubted them for the entire playoffs. I didn't think they could beat the Falcons. And certainly not the Panthers. And I thought the Eagles were the better team. I thought that Kurt Warner was too old. They couldn't run the ball. Their defense was suspect. But I was wrong. Everything I thought about the Arizona Cardinals was wrong. These guys are good. They're not great (except Larry Fitzgerald), but they're good.

Kurt Warner was a very effecient 21/28 and threw 4 touchdown passes. Not bad for an old guy. And Larry Fitzgerald showed that he is impossible to cover and without doubt the best receiver in the NFL. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower split 27 carries and teamed up for 106 yards combined. Pretty good numbers for a team that was last in the NFL in rushing during the regular season. And don't forget they played a pretty good Philadelphia defense yesterday. Speaking of defense, the Cardinals, although they did allow 454 total yards, had 3 take-aways and safety Adrian Wilson, who had 7 tackles and 2 sacks, is proving to be one of the best defensive players in the league.

So there, I admit it, I've doubted these guys all playoffs, more like all year, actually my entire life. The Cardinals have never been good, until now. This is a good football team that deserves to go to the Super Bowl, they've earned it. And they'll lose to the Steelers.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good News...

Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 26 hours 12 minutes and 40 seconds!

Pick 'Ems

Here is the opportunity for you to reap the benefits of my hours and hours of wasted time, watching, reading, listening, and thinking about sports. Cash out your kids' college savings, beat down your bookie or licensed gaming institution, and instead of state college send your kids to private school. That's what I'm doing (just kidding, honey). Here are my picks....

lines provided by Caesars-Hilton current as of right now

Philadelphia -3 1/2

I'll admit, for a moment I was almost wrapped up in the Arizona hype--they're the new kids, flashy, the underdogs, and are coming off of two great performances against Atlanta and Carolina. They're a juggernaut, peakin at just the right time. It's destiny, right?


This one will be won by Philly's defense. They will shut down Arizona's run game (shouldn't be tough considering Arizona ranked DFL in the NFL: 73.6 yards per game). They should be able to put pressure on Kurt Warner. And I am assuming they are not, unlike Carolina last week, going to let the best wide receiver in football run all over the field, uncovered.

I expect Brian Westbrook to have a big game. Interesting stat: Arizona is known as the offense that likes to spread it out and throw the football, but Donovan McNabb (517) has more passing yards this postseason than Kurt Warner (491). As the great Chuck D said, "Don't believe the hype" Philly covers:

* Philadelphia 31
Arizona 24

Pittsburgh -6

This is the game that everyone is looking forward to. I've heard all the analogies: it's going to be a war, a heavyweight title bout, a smashmouth-defensive-Dick Butkus-type of game. With the hype surrounding these two defenses you might ask yourself: Will anybody score? Are we about to be witness the greatest defensive struggle ever? Will the energy created by these two unstoppable forces be so spectacular as to, upon impact on a football field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, acutally change the rotation and alter the orbital path of the earth?

As Lee Corso would say, Not so fast my friend.

Baltimore has a good defense. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bart Scott, and the vastly under-rated Haloti Ngata, are really, really good. But don't forget that in last week's game, Tennessee was able to move the ball pretty effectively, 391 total yards effectively. Tennessee's problem was turnovers: three times in Baltimore territory. You could make the argument that Baltimore had three take-aways. The point is, Baltimore's defense is not impenetrable. Pittsburgh's offense is good enough that they should be able to move the football and score as long as they can hold onto it. Difference maker will be Santonio Holmes and punt returns.

Baltimore's offense, on the other hand, is a little suspect. They only managed 211 total yard last week against Tennessee. Joe Flacco is still a rookie and no rookie has ever led his team to the championship game. And Baltimore has lost to Pittsburgh twice already in the regular season. Is the third time a charm? Nope...

Baltimore 10
* Pittsburgh 20

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Biggest Free Agent Bust...Ever?

As reported by Jon Heyman at, the Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to release outfielder Andruw Jones today after just one year of service. Last off season Jones signed a free agent contract with the Dodgers worth $36.2 million over 2 years with a $12.2 million signing bonus.

What did the Dodgers get for their money? Here are Jones' 2008 stats: .158 batting average, 3 HR, 14 RBI, and he struck out 76 times in 209 at-bats (that's a whopping 36% of the time!). As an Atlanta Brave, Jones was also known to be a stud in the outfield. He won an amazing 10 Gold Glove awards.

So what happened? He got FAT--signed the big free agent deal, stopped working, and was completely out of shape all season. He spent time on the DL with a knee injury--which may or may not have been due to his physical conditioning. He's so bad now that ESPN's Buster Olney argues that, at just 32 years old, Jones' career might be done. Some guys get that big deal, then they go out and work and grind and want to prove that they are worth it. Other guys think the big money deal is the reward for the work they've done. They get their money and just put it in cruise control. Jones, obviously the latter, couldn't even get it into cruise control--the engine fell out.

Jones was definately the biggest bust of the 08 season, but probably not the biggest of all time. The length of the contract (only 2 years) keeps him from being a truly epic bust such as Chan Ho Park (Rangers), Carl Pavano (Yankees), Mo Vaughn (Angels), Mike Hampton (Rockies), and Barry Zito (Giants).

After being stung by Jones, maybe this is the reason the Dodgers are so reluctant to shell out big bucks for Manny Ramirez, who they desperately need if they want to contend in 2009. Or maybe the Dodgers are just being cheap.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Florida Gators Win 2010 BCS National Championship

In the event that the Arizona Cardinals might possibly win the Super Bowl and I die from the utter shock of it, I am making this posting a little early (about 350 days early).

With Tim Tebow's announcement that he will return for his senior season, the Florida Gators willl be, hands down, the preseason number 1 and will likely repeat as national champs. Look at the roster of returning starters. The fast, aggressive, physical defense will likely return all starters. Junior linebacker Brandon Spikes may leave for the NFL. That defense that you saw shut down the vaunted Oklahoma offense was mostly sophomores--not one senior.

The offense loses a few seniors, most notably wide receiver Louis Murphy. They will also likely lose speedster Percy Harvin, though he hasn't declared himself eligible for the NFL (who should go pro--sure fire first round pick). But Tebow is back, and the Gators will just plug in the next great running back/wide receiver who is waiting in the wings. The Gators are on par with USC now--they don't have to rebuild. They get the best talent and as soon as one kid graduates or leaves early for the NFL, they just put the next guy in without skipping a beat.

Also, look at their schedule. The non-conference schedule is pretty weak (Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International, Flordia St.). Their toughest game will be Oct. 10 at LSU. You can take a look at their full schedule here: The Gators should go undefeated, land in the BCS title game and defeat oh, let's say Texas.

There you have it. Next year's college football season wrapped up already. Now let's just hope the Cardinals don't win the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Can't Wait For The Induction Speech

The greatest was elected into baseball's Hall of Fame yesterday. Not the greatest base stealer, not the greatest lead-off man, and he is undoubtedly both of these, but the greatest quote ever--Rickey Henderson. His stats are incredible: 1,406 stolen bases, 297 HRs, 1,115 RBIs, and 2295 runs. He was, bar none, the best lead-off hitter EVER. So, what could be better than these career numbers and why am I so excited to hear his Hall of Fame induction ceremony speech? This is just a sample of what truly makes Rickey Henderson legendary:

On a team bus, a teammate told Henderson he could sit anywhere he wanted to, he had tenure. Henderson replied, "Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years."

After being told about a Sports Illustrated report that claimed 50 percent of ball players were on steroids, Henderson said, "I'm not one of them, so that's 49 percent right there."

After signing a contract, then wanting to renegotiate, Henderson said, "Rickey put his name on this contract, but I will not sign it."

Henderson called the San Diego Padres general manager looking for a spot on the roster and left this message, "This is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball."

A teammate, whose locker was right next to Henderson's, was sent down to the minor leagues. After the teammate returned to the club, six weeks later, Henderson saw him and said, "Hey man, where have you been? Haven't seen you in a while."

Being the victim of Nolan Ryan's 5,000th career strikeout, Henderson looked on the bright side, "It gave me no chance. He just blew it by me. But it's an honor. I'll have another paragraph in all the baseball books. I'm already in the books three or four times."

The reason for waiting to cash a check while a Yankee, "I'm just waiting for the money market rates to go up."

After being asked if he talked to himself, Henderson responded, "Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I'm trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?"

After seeing a large gathering of reporters in the clubhouse, Henderson asked a teammate what was going on. The teammate told Henderson that Tom Robson had just been fired. Henderson asked, "Who's he?" (He was the teams hitting coach)

After striking out, Henderson was returning to the dugout. The next batter walked past him and heard Henderson telling himself, "Don't worry, Rickey, you're still the best."

Yes, Rickey, yes you are.

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 NFL Playoffs: AFC

Chargers 24 Steelers 35

The Pittsburgh Steelers were in fine form Sunday, defeating the Chargers. Ben Roethlisberger showed no affects from a concussion suffered two weeks ago and Willie Parker ran wild going for 146 yards on 27 carries and had 2 touchdowns.

The Steelers defense, as usual, was impressive. They held the Chargers rushing attack to only 15 yards on 12 carries. Do the math, that's not a good average. The Steeler D turned the Chargers into a one dimensional offense. And everyone knows, if you can't run the football in the post-season, you can't win. Charger runningback Darren Sproles was a factor in the passing game and returning kicks, but couldn't get anything going on the ground. Would a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson have helped? Doubt it. The Steelers gameplan was to put a lockdown on the Chargers ground game, and it worked. Philip Rivers had a good game, but I can guarantee that if you only manage 15 yards of rushing offense in an NFL playoff game, you will lose.

Stat of the game: the Chargers third quarter time of possession was a meager 17 seconds. Really. I'm not an offensive coordinator, but I know that it's damn hard to score any points if you don't have the football.

Ravens 13 Titans 10

Did anyone really expect an offensive explosion in this game? This was a classic defensive showdown. As usual, games like this come down to one thing, turnovers. The Ravens held onto the ball and the Titans comitted 3 turnovers.

The Titans did get jobbed by the officials on the last drive of the game. There was a clear delay of game penalty that didn't get called. Bad play for the official that missed the call, but it wasn't the reason the Titans lost the game. Titan fan, don't blame the refs, blame the Ravens defense, blame Joe Flacco (this kid's a rookie?), and losing Chris Johnson in the first half didn't help.

Or do as Titan linebacker Keith Bulluck did, blame the offense, "You go out and play defense the way you did. At the end of the day, realistically you have two, three turnovers inside the 20, you're not supposed to win." And that's why you didn't.

2009 NFL Playoffs: NFC

Eagles 23 Giants 11

After last years stellar playoff performance and Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning remembered that he was, well, Eli Manning. The Giants QB went 15/29 for 169 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions as the number one seed in the NFC fell to the Eagles.

It was a windy day, the Eagles do play tough defense, but Mannings poor performance cost the Giants a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions. And it's easy to blame the quarterback whenever a team loses. But the Giants' business model is: play stout defense, run, run, run the ball, don't turn the ball over. Manning's two interceptions and the offense's inability to get the ball into the endzone cost the Giants.

And don't forget about the absence of Plaxico Burress. Out after shooting himself in the leg in a night club earlier in the season (which I wouldn't recommend), the lanky receiver was an impossible match up for most db's and sorely missed by the Giants offense which, after five trips to the red zone, failed to score a singel touchdown.

Cardinals 33 Panthers 13

News flash: HELL HAS FROZEN OVER! The Arizona Cardinals, yes those Arizona Cardinals, will host the NFC Championship game. Not only did the Cardinals beat the second seed Panthers in Carolina, they dominated. Think you had a bad day? Check out Panther QB Jake Delhomme's numbers: 17/34, 205 yards, 1 TD, and 5, yes, 5 interceptions.

Most analysts said Arizona's defense was too soft. They forced 6 turnovers, had 2 sacks, and held Carolina's vaunted rushing attack to 75 yards. If that's soft, what's hard?

Carolina was supposed to be the team with the dominating defense. Just a heads up to the coaching staff, the next time you play the Cardinals, try to cover Larry Fitzgerald--he's kind of good. The Carolina secondary was torched by Fitzgerald (8 receptions, 166 yards).

This is what Bizarro World must be like. Ask yourself, did you ever think you would hear the words, "The Cardinals are one win away from the Super Bowl?" I know, it's crazy, right? And they've got a real shot. If the game against the Eagles were in Philadelphia, I don't think they'd have a chance. But with the game at home.....I'll give you my pick later this week.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Case for Utah

College football incites passion in fans and everyone thinks their team is number one. This year is no different. The winner of Thursdays BCS National Championship game between Oklahoma and Florida is supposed to decide the best team in college football. But, USC's annual Rose Bowl beat down of the Big Ten has led some to speculate that perhaps USC is the best team in the country. And, of course, Texas with their one-loss season, victory earlier in the year over Oklahoma, and Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State, believes that they have the right to claim number one.

I've been watching college football for a long time. I like to think I'm a fairly reasonable, smart, informed fan of the game. And this may sound crazy, but I think that the University of Utah has every reason to chant, "We're number one!" and they're right.

First of all, Utah went undefeated. They won every game on their schedule. I don't care what conference you play in, an undefeated season is hard, damn hard. The main argument against Utah is their conference--the Mountain West is too weak. If Utah played in a big-time BCS conference they'd probably lose three or four games. Really? The Mountain West sent five teams to bowl games (all teams won their games except BYU), had three teams finish the season in the top 20 and will end up with two teams in the top 10 (Utah and TCU). The Big 10 might have one team finish in the top 10 (if Penn St. can hang on). The Big 10 sent seven teams to bowl games and the conference went 1-6. How about the Big East? The best team in the Big East was Cincinnati. They went 11-3 and lost to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. It's unlikely that a Big East team will finish the season in the top twenty. The ACC? They might finish with two teams in the top twenty (Virginia Tech and Florida St.). The highest ranked team in the ACC was Georgia Tech (14th) who got smoked by an un-ranked LSU team. So the argument against the Mountain West, and therefore against Utah, is no argument at all.

Next, they not only defeated, but thoroughly whipped, fourth-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Every pundit said that Utah didn't have the size, the speed, the athletes to compete with Alabama. Fox analyst Barry Switzer claimed that Utah didn't have a single player on their team that Alabama would recruit. Maybe they'll want to now. Because Utah was faster. Their defense was better (sacking John Parker Wilson eight times). And they "out-physicalled" Alabama's premier athletes. And don't forget that Alabama was ranked number 1 for a good part of the season.

Without a playoff system, the college football post-season is mostly subjective, nothing more than a beauty contest. Coaches and writers vote for the teams they think are the best. Everyone has their own criteria. Some favor win-loss record. Others factor in strength of schedule. And still others simply vote for the teams that have traditionally been powerhouses; they can't vote Utah as number one because they are, well, UTAH! And the Utes can't control that. But they did the one thing they could do. In the end, they proved it on the field.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 NFL Mock Draft

OK, the NFL regular season is over--and your team sucked. It was a long year for you, you suffered, you were miserable, maybe you drank (a lot). But hope springs eternal and you're looking forward to next year. You aren't looking forward to the playoffs, YOU are looking towards the 2009 draft. This is the chance for your team to get those guys that are going to turn your team around. Or they'll pick another guy that will bust and you'll be in the same situation next year. These are the worst teams in the league, the dirty dozen, and if your team is on this list, these are the guys you will want them to pick:

* this list includes underclassman who are expected to leave school early

1. Detroit Lions 0-16: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

I've always argued that in order to win football games, a team must control the line of scrimmage. The Lions were pushed around all year long. So they should take a stud tackle, right? Someone to solidify their line that will be a starter for the next twelve years, right? Wrong! That's the logical choice, unless your quarterback's name is Dan Orlovsky. The Lions really can't go wrong with this pick, unless they take a wide receiver; they need help at every position. Take the franchise quarterback. Some will say Georgia's Matthew Stafford is the better pro prospect. But I like Bradford here. Yes, he'll struggle next year. But this is a rebuilding project that is going to take years.

2. St. Louis Rams 2-14: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

The Rams have a lot of needs, especially on defense and on the offensive line. The Rams allowed 45 sacks this year. The best offensive lineman in this draft is Alabama's Andre Smith. The Rams need someone to protect Bulger and block for Steven Jackson. Orlando Pace is getting older and is injured too often. Expect the big tackle to go here, but don't be surprised if the Rams give up on Bulger and take Stafford.

3. Kansas City Chiefs 2-14: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

With a new general manager, likely a new coach, why not go for the hat trick and get yourself a new quarterback. While Kansas City's defense was terrible and a pressing need, I don't think they can pass on a quarterback like Stafford. They ended the season with Tyler Thigpen as their starting quarterback. And while he didn't play terribly, Stafford would be an upgrade. Improve your defense in rounds two and three.

4. Seattle Seahawks 4-12: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

Coach Mike Holmgren's final season was a disaster for the Seahawks. Injury to quarterback Matt Hasselback and the lack of any kind of receiving talent really crippled the offense. This pick is really a no-brainer. Their leading receiver was the tight end and the wide receivers are old. Crabtree is hands down the best receiver in the draft. Expect this pick to take about fifteen seconds.

5. Cleveland Browns 4-12: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

Cleveland's defense was in a word: pathetic. They were 26th in the league, allowing 357 yards per game and only had 17 sacks--as a team! The Cowboy's DeMarcus Ware and the Dolphin's Joey Porter had more sacks, as individuals. So the Browns could look at someone like DE Brian Orakpo. But Aaron Curry is probably the best line backer in the draft and makes a lot sense here. Expect the Browns to focus on defense.

6. Cincinnati Bengals 4-11-1: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

Where to start with the Bengals? How about on offensive line. The Bengals will need someone to protect an ailing Carson Palmer and to help an anemic rushing attack that averaged a measly 95 yards per game. And then try to find a running back (Javon Ringer or LeSean McCoy). And a defensive lineman.

7. Oakland Raiders 5-11: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

The Raiders would desperately love to see Michael Crabtree fall to this position. JaMarcus Russell needs a receiving weapon and Crabtree would be an ideal choice. Ain't gonna happen. So look at another glaring need: a pass rusher. That Raiders haven't had a dominant lineman since Howie Long (yes kids, that old guy on the Fox pre-game show used to be a football player--and a damn good one). Orakpo would provide a instant impact and is one of those freakish physical specimens that Al Davis loves. Another choice could be OT Eugene Monroe. Look for a receiver in the second (Darius Heyward-Bey) or third round (Mohamed Massaquoi).

8. Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

This was a disappointing season for the Jaguars. It seems they were out-physicalled in a lot of games, which is a surprise for a Jack Del Rio coached team. Solidify the line and get back to smash mouth, pound Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, push the other guy around football. Listed at 6'6" and 315 lbs, Monroe fits the bill.

9. Green Bay Packers 6-10: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech

With only 27 sacks this season, the Packers could use an outside pass rusher. Michael Johnson is a freaky athlete who can get to the quarterback. He may lack great bulk (listed at 260 lbs), and that may cause him to be a bit of a liability on run defense. But he's incredibly quick and a great pure pass rusher.

10. San Francisco 49ers 7-9: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio St.

Mike Singletary will return as the 49ers head coach and we all know (after his infamous rant following his first game as a head coach) that he wants winners, stand-up guys. He'll love Malcom Jenkins. The 49ers won't be able to pass on the best cornerback in the draft. They ranked 20th in the league allowing 219 passing yards per game. Pair Jenkins with Nate Clements and watch that number go down. An alternative is OT Jason Smith.

11. Buffalo Bills 7-9: Taylor Mays, S, USC

Mays is probably the best defensive player left on the board. The Bills only managed ten interceptions this season. With great size and speed, Mays will help solidify the Bills secondary.

12. Denver Broncos 8-8: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia

The Broncos have always had the ability to put just about anyone in at running back and make a thousand yard rusher out of them. Not this year. An inconsistant ground game made the Broncos one dimensional. I like Moreno over Chris Wells. Although Wells may have the combine numbers that make scouts drool, Moreno has heart. Another need for Denver is defense. The Broncos allowed 28 points per game. If they don't take Moreno, look at William Moore (S, Missouri), Everette Brown (DE, Florida St.), or Rey Maualuga (LB, USC).
There they are, the top twelve picks in the 2009 NFL draft. Or at least the way I see them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Loose Lips Sink Ships

There was an old World War II saying that went, "Loose lips sink ships." It meant: be careful with what you say because it could cost lives. On Sunday, the ship was the Dallas Cowboys and after a season of drama, in-house fighting, public criticism of teammates and coaches, it sunk like the Titanic.

After a 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, which cost the Cowboys a playoff spot, there was plenty of blame to spread around, and plenty of finger pointing.

Quarterback Tony Romo hinted that the Cowboy offense, engineered by coordinator Jason Garrett, was exposed by the Eagles defense. Wide receiver Terrell Owens did more than hint, blaming the Cowboy's offensive ineptitude squarely on Garrett, "Putting guys in position to win. It all starts with the guys who are calling the plays." Of course the guys ON the field PLAYING the game had nothing to do with it. Owens would have us believe that they are merely pawns on a chess board, being moved about by offensive and defensive coordinators.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who usually has plenty to say, will only say that head coach Wade Phillips will keep his job after this debacle of a season in which the Cowboys were practically the consensus pick to win the NFC. And Phillips, as usual, continues to say nothing.

Of course, Jones refuses to acknowledge his mistakes, signing Adam Jones, trading for Roy Williams, stubbornly keeping the coaching staff intact, publically questioning running back Marion Barber's toughness.

With all of the arguing, blame, and refusal of players to accept responsibility for their play on the field, it is obvious that this team lacks at least one thing: TEAM. They have no chemistry and no accountablity to one another. So what are they playing for? Simply paychecks.

For all of the mouthing and blaming being tossed around, cornerback Terence Newman said the most insightful thing after the game, "We aren't the team we thought we were." But it took the Cowboys sixteen games to figure this out. Maybe Romo, Owens, Garrett, Jones, Williams, and Jones will shut their mouths, listen to Newman, and all take their share of the blame.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

BCS for BSU?

The Boise State Broncos made their case for a BCS bid last night by drubbing rival Fresno St. 61-10 on the blue turf in Boise. The win sealed the Broncos' second perfect regular season in three years by running their record to 12-0. But is an undefeated season enough to get the Broncos a BCS invite?

Probably not. Well, not if you play in a non-BCS conference such as the WAC.

The Broncos are currently ranked 9th in the BCS poll. The problem for BSU is that the University of Utah is also undefeated, also plays in a non-BCS conference, and is ranked 6th in the BCS. What are the chances that the BCS would select two non-BCS teams for BCS bowl games?

Highly unlikely.

And BSU fans would certainly cry foul play if the Broncos are snubbed by the BCS. But if the Broncos want to know why they are left out of the BCS party, they need look no further than their schedule.
The WAC conference is weak. Hawaii is down, Fresno St. had a bad year, and Nevada was inconsistent. And the bottom feeders of the WAC, Utah St., New Mexico St., and Idaho, are among the worst teams in major college football. So voters are forced to look at BSU's non-conference schedule. This year the Broncos played Idaho St., Bowling Green, Oregon, and Southern Mississippi, with Oregon being the only ranked team the Broncos faced all year. While BSU has no control over their conference foes, they do have the ability to strengthen their non-confernce schedule. And if the Broncos want BCS consideration, year in and year out, they have to start playing a tougher non-conference schedule. Sure, by playing, and beating, other mid-major schools, BSU increases their likelihood of going undeafeted. But BSU is an excellent program. And they need to start playing tougher competition, even if it puts a perfect season at risk.
The Broncos may feel like they are being cheated out of a BCS bowl by the BCS poll, or the coaches poll, or the AP poll. But perhaps they are cheating themselves by not challenging themselves.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Major League?

Most people will agree that, in baseball, pitching is everything. Teams try to stock pile arms; starters, closers, doesn't matter. Want to trade for another teams player? The first thing they'll ask for is your young pitching. What's the value of a good arm? Just look at the deal the Yankees are reportedly offering this year's free agent darling, C.C. Sabathia. And every team is scouring the globe looking for the next potential Cy Young winner.

But the Pittsburgh Pirates have taken their search for good young pitching to another level. On Monday the Pirates signed Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel to free agent contracts. What's interesting about the signing is not that Singh and Patel are the first Indians to sign professional contracts. But Singh and Patel have never played organized baseball--at any level. The duo were part of an Indian reality television show called, "Million Dollar Arm." The goal of the show was to find athletes, in a country with a population topping one billion, who could throw Major League fastballs. Singh and Patel ended up as the top hurlers and came to the United States to audition for major league scouts. Singh's heat was clocked at 84 mph and Patel's at 90 mph. And while the Pirates acknowledge that the two pitchers are raw, they must see something in the two. Otherwise, this is a publicity stunt usually relegated to AA baseball clubs.

And this is why the whole thing reeks. The Pittsburgh Pirates are a Major League Baseball team, one with a rich history. They have won the World Series five times, the last one coming in 1979 and they were one out away from winning the NL pennant in 1992.

But their recent history has shown that this is not a good ball club. The 2008 campaign found the Pirates ending the season with a 67-95 record and 30.5 games back of the division winning Chicago Cubs. The last time the Pirates finished a season above .500 was in 1992. That's a lot of years with a lot of losing. And the future looks pretty bleak for Pittsburgh fans. The team traded their two best players last year (Jason Bay and Xavier Nady).

Now they are signing reality show contestants to contracts. I understand that smaller market teams are not going to be signing the top tier free agents. They will need to develop their talent in the farm system. But this signing is, at best, a terrible PR stunt. Is this what you are going to sell your fans who are sick and tired of losing? Is this the talent that their scouts are finding: two guys who throw (sort of) hard, although they've never played a game of baseball in their lives? Do you really expect fans to show up to your games?

While most of the Pirate players don't seem to be ready for the big leagues, Pirate management certainly has shown that they aren't either; sixteen straight losing years and countless more to come. Which leads me to question the validity of the Pittsburgh Pirates' major league status. Are they a major league ball club or simply a AAAA team?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

OU Romps!

College football's game of the week turned out to be the beat-down of the year as the Oklahoma Sooners absolutely destroyed the second ranked Red Raiders of Texas Tech on Saturday night in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners won the game 65-21.

Oklahoma dominated the game. QB Sam Bradford threw for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns and the Sooners ran for 299 yards. The Sooner defense held the vaunted Red Raider offense in check and forced three turnovers.

But was it good enough to put the Sooners into the national championship picture? It is premature conversation considering that the Sooners still have to play a tough Oklahoma St. team. But, where should the Sooners be in the BCS standings?

Obviously, Alabama will stay at the top spot. But the big question is who is number two? Three teams will lay claim to the spot, and all have a right to that claim. Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. Florida is a one-loss team in the tough SEC. Texas is a one-loss team in the tough Big 12, and perhaps hold the trump card with a victory over Oklahoma earlier in the year. Oklahoma is a one-loss team in the tough Big 12, but trounced the team that gave Texas their only loss.

So, who should get that second ranking?

Florida is probably the hottest team in the country. And Texas does have that defeat over Oklahoma. But the way the Sooners demolished Texas Tech last night (the previous number 2 team), I have to give it OU. Sam Bradford probably put himself at the top of the Heisman list. DeMarco Murray is a stud. And the defense showed it's mettle by shutting down Texas Tech. The way I see it: 1. Alabama 2. Oklahoma 3. Texas 4. Florida.


There is still a lot of football left to play this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pedroia Wins A.L. MVP

Dustin Pedroia added some more hardware to his collection of post-season awards today. The Boston Red Sox second baseman won the 2008 American League Most Valuable Player. The 2007 AL Rookie of the Year adds the '08 MVP to his 2008 Gold Glove award and Silver Slugger award. But the MVP award tops the list of what was a break-out season for Pedroia.

The diminutive (5'9" 180lb) slugger put up huge offensive numbers for the Red Sox. He ranked first in the American League in runs (118) and doubles (54) and was second in the league in batting average (.326). He also socked 17 home runs, drove in 83 runs, and had a .376 on base percentage. Pedroia also played stellar defense at second base.

With 16 first place votes and 317 points overall, Pedroia comfortably defeated Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau (257) and Boston's first baseman Kevin Youkilis (201). Pedroia is also the first second baseman to win the American League's MVP since the Chicago White Sox Nellie Fox won the award in 1959.

The award was well deserved for Pedroia. He's a hard-nosed, tough player who goes all out on every play. Have you ever seen the guy not run out a routine ground ball? He provides a spark at the top of the Red Sox lineup, batting in the second position. In fact, manager Terry Francona moved Pedroia all over the lineup, even batting him clean-up for a period of time while Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell were injured. He's a grinder at the plate, taking pitches, fouling off pitches--he never gives away an at-bat. And not only does he have the offensive statistics and solid glove in the middle of the infield to merit the award, but Pedroia, in only his second year, has emerged as one of the leaders of a veteran ball club. Pedroia's presence in the clubhouse, dugout, and on the field, was, in a word, invaluable. That makes Dustin Pedroia deserving of the MVP award.