Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't Kill Whitey

The time has come to throw down another great theory. This one is a bit of a shoot off from my "having too many latino ballplayers" idea which never really went anywhere. After going through the record books and looking at stats from about the last 25 years, I have noticed a very interesting trend among the World Series champions each year. Almost every team had a white guy as their ace. Now say what you will about players of different races having less of an opportunity to play in the past, but this seems to be a pretty staggering find to me. Going forward, we can also use this to predict which teams will do well, and which not so well.

Since 1983, there have only been 3 non-white pitchers that could be defined as the "ace" of their team that ended up leading that team to a World Series title. In 1990 we saw Jose Rijo tear it up for the Reds, in 1989 Dave Stewart (though Mike Moore had a better ERA and only two less wins) anchored the A's title run, and in 1986 Doc Gooden propelled the Mets to a World Series. Other than those three, the list of white guys goes on and on and on and on.

2008: Cole Hamels
2007: Josh Beckett
2006: Chris Carpenter
2005:Mark Buehrle/ John Garland
2004: Curt Schilling
2003: Josh Beckett (by the playoffs at least)
2002: Jarrod Washburn
2001: Curt Schilling
2000: Andy Pettitte
1999: Roger Clemens
1998: David Wells
1997: Kevin Brown
1996: Andy Pettitte
1995: Tom Glavine/Greg Maddux/John Smoltz (take your pick)
1994: strike year
1993: Pat Hentgen
1992: Jack Morris
1991: Jack Morris/Scott Erickson
1988: Orel Hershiser
1987: Frank Viola
1985: Brett Saberhagen/ Charlie Leibrandt
1984: Jack Morris (dude was pretty good)
1983: Mike Boddicker

The list does not lie. Think about how many great non-white pitchers there have been out there in the past 25 years; Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, C.C. Sabathia, Hideo Nomo, Ramon Ortiz aka Mini Pedro, Francisco Liriano, Carlos Zambrano, Ramon Martinez, but they all have either failed or needed help to lead their team to a World Series title. Think about Pedro Martinez's amazing run in the late 90s, he was far and away the best pitcher in the game at that time. But it was not until Curt Schilling came along in 2004 that the Red Sox won the World Series. There are no doubt many more white pitchers in the major leagues, but these other guys are no slouches (many of them Cy Young winners) so it is interesting to see the whiteys dominate in the playoffs.

This trend does not bode well for teams like the New York Mets, the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners, who all have non-white guys as their undisputed staff aces. This theory may not be perfect, but it certainly can hold its own. I'd look for the World Series winner this year to have a big white dude as the anchor of the rotation, but who knows? Maybe we will have another Jose Rijo or Dave Stewart type break through the ranks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AFC Draft Grades

The AFC teams this year ran the gamut in grades. We had some teams that looked like real Martin Princes out there, but we also had some Nelson Muntz and Jimbo Jones types as well. In all I thought that Miami, Cincinnati and Denver each had great draft weekends, while Oakland, Indianapolis and San Diego did not impress me. Let's break it down team by team and separate the nerds from the bullies.


Buffalo Bills: B-
Gotta give Buffalo credit, they stuck with the program and shored up both lines with Aaron Maybin and Eric Wood in the first round. Would have liked to see a tackle with the second pick, but not bad. They overhauled their secondary with their later picks as well. Really not bad.

Miami Dolphins: B+
I liked Miami's draft. I really did. I thought Vontae Davis was a fine first round pick, and I love the picks of Pat White and Sean Smith in round 2. Pat White will make that offense even more unpredictable. I love it. I also like the later round WR picks and the pick of Clemons from Clemson. Do you think he thought about that before he decided to go to Clemson? I do. Nice job as the Dolphins continue the turn around.

New England Patriots: B
I was not as high on the Pats draft as others. I understand the strategy by Bill Belichick aka "Bill Billabill" to trade down to acquire more picks and to turn lower picks into higher picks the next year, but I think they could've gotten more value. I thought Rey Maualuga and Everette Brown would have made great picks in the early 2nd round for the Pats, but they went with Patrick "Connie" Chung and Ron "Lessgoeeegulls" Brace. Those two guys seem like reaches to me. They also inexplicably traded Ellis Hobbs for two late round picks. In their defense though, Bill Billabill always has a plan, and I did like the pick of Darius Butler in Round 2. I also bet that they get more value out of their later round picks than any other team. All things considered, the Pats skate out of the draft with a B. Also, Wendi Nix definitely got hotter.

New York Jets: C+
They gave up a lot to get Mark Sanchez, but I think it was a good move for New York. They needed a quarterback most and they got one of the best ones in the draft. Other than that, they got a rood replacement for Thomas Jones in Shonn Greene and an offensive lineman. Thought they might try to find a wide receiver to replace Leveranues Coles. Only three picks, but not a bad job by the Jets.

AFC NORTH (apparently it's called the North these days)
Pittsburgh Steelers: C
The Steelers had a very average draft. However, they don't really need anything. They got help on both lines in the first two rounds, always a good strategy, and then added a few pieces on offense and defense in the later rounds. Nothing special for the Steelers. I like A.Q. Shipley in round 7. Look for him to be the next Jeff Saturday.

Cincinnati Bengals: A-
The Bungals had one of the best drafts in my opinion. They were smart enough to take Rey Maualuga when he slipped into the second round, and also got a nice lottery pick in Andre Smith to protect Carson Palmer. When you think about it that way, the Bengals really had two first rounders in the draft. I also like Chase Coffman in the third round as another target and blocker for Palmer. The Bengals also added some bodies to both lines and took a flier on two running backs in the later rounds. Way to go.

Cleveland Browns: C-
The Browns have another puzzling draft. They trade down with the Jets and select "The Secret World of" Alex Mack. A center? Browns fans must be pissed. They then reach on two receivers in the second round, when there was much more available. In hindsight they probably should have gone after a receiver in the first round and a center in the second. The Mangenius doesn't look so smart in my book. When they could have had an impact player in the first round, the picks/players they got from the Jets don't seem that great to me.

Bodymore Ravens: C+
I like the addition of Michael Oher to protect Flacco and his stupid hair, but then three defenseman with their next 3 picks seemed a bit odd for a team with one of the best defenses in football. I would have liked to see a receiver in there as Derrick Mason is getting well old. Also, a running back in the 6th round didn't make much sense as they already have Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and LeRon McClain.

Tennessee Titans: B
Tennessee's draft was pretty decent. They added Kenny Britt to provide another offensive target, and will do what they can with Sen'Derrick Marks to replace Albert Haynesworth. I also like the additions of Jared Cook and Javon Ringer on offense. Javon Ringer just sounds like a football player name, I think that bodes well for him. I always thought Wes Helms would never make it in baseball because his name sucks.

Indianapolis Colts: D
I give the Colts a D because they had so many other needs besides running back. I love Donald Brown and I think he is going to be great, but the Colts already have Joseph Addai and Dominic (always pronounced Dominique on tv) Rhodes. Why draft another running back? I don't get it. The Colts lost Marvin Harrison at WR, and always need help on defense, yet they draft a running back. Mind bottling. They got the guy with the best name though in Austin Collie, and also got a good player in K Pat McAfee. Too bad they already have that Vinatieri guy though.

Houston Texans: B-
The Texans are on their way to the playoffs! (early prediction) They acquired a stout linebacker in Brian Cushing and will give Mario Williams some help in the trenches with Connor Barwin. I also like the addition of S Glover Quin, simply because he is from New Mexico. I remember another fella who used to be a safety at UNM. His name? Brian Urlacher. Soon we will hear, "Behold the sword of Quin!". Watch out for the Texans in '09.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B-
Jacksonville got two great offensive tackles this year. That should help David Garrard immensely next year. I thought their back to back third round picks of Terrance Knighton from temple and Derek Cox could have been better though. Speaking of Temple, how weird and off-putting was that interview with Bill and Quan Cosby during the second day of the draft? Was Bill Cosby drunk? I didn't understand it at all. Erin Andrews was the only reason I didn't turn the channel. Good picks in the later rounds by the Jags with Rashad Jennings and Zach Miller from the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. They get a B- overall for good early, bad middle, and good late picks.

San Diego Chargers: C-
The Chargers are lucky that they do not need much, otherwise this grade would have been lower. I thought that Larry English was a major reach in round one, and that a linebacker would have made more sense. They then added two guards and a defensive tackle after that, when I thought linebacking help, secondary help and possibly a WR or TE would have made more sense. Then a running back in the 4th round. Ugh. How much did they just spend on 2 running backs? Very bad draft by San Diego. They stockpiled linemen, but who will be there if Antonio Gates, Shawne Merriman, Antonio Cromartie or Quentin Jammer get injured? I dunno.

Kansas City Chiefs: C
The Chiefs overhauled their defensive line, even though Tyson Jackson was a reach at 3. This will give Glenn Dorsey some help next year and provide some run stoppage. I like CB Donald Washington in the 3rd round, but I also would have liked to see a few more offensive selections to help out Matt Cassel, especially with Tony Gonzalez now in Atlanta. Should be an interesting year for the Chefs.

Oakland Raiders: D-
Obviously the story of the Raiders draft was picking Derrius Heyward-Bey with the 7th overall pick. I don't hate this pick that much, I just hate it at 7. The Raiders could have traded down, or traded for another late first rounder if they wanted him so badly. He probably still would have been available around pick 20 or so. I thought O-line was also a need that went unaddressed for the Silver and Black. Maybe they could turn that 300 pound QB of theirs into a quality Offensive tackle. Their round two pick of Mike Mitchell was another big reach. I did like the pick of WR Louis Murphy in round 4, but that was about it. Al Davis needs to be put out of his misery.

Denver Broncos: A
Josh McDaniels probably feels a little bit better now after screwing up the Jay Cutler situation so badly. He had a great draft. Knowshon Moreno was an awesome pick for them in the first round and will give the ground game a huge boost, as well as take pressure off of UKO aka Ugly Kyle Orton. The next two picks of Robert Ayers and Alphonso Smith were just as good. They will certainly help improve a terrible Broncos D. They then added more help at safety and along the O line. With all these improvements, even Kyle Orton should have enough help to be successful. And if not, the Broncs also made a good move in adding QB Tom Brandstater. Spectacular weekend for the Broncos. Now they just need to go back to their old unis.

That's the AFC as I see it. I'm sure you guys have some thoughts. DBillz on the Raiders, Humper, Dill and Dorne on the Pats, Andrew Brown on the Dolphins. Let's hear 'em.

Monday, April 27, 2009

NFC Draft Grades

Six picks. Count 'em. I got six picks out of 32 correct in my mock draft. Although it does shoot up to 8 if you count that I picked Josh Freeman to go 17th and Jeremy Maclin to go 19th, just to different teams. Overall though, I must give myself the grade of n00b for my mock draft this year. Now that the hard part is over with, I have the much more enviable task of giving each team a grade based on their draft weekend. I will start with the NFC today. In my opinion, the Eagles, Giants and Detroit all did really well on draft weekend while the Cowboys, Bucs and Bears didn't do much to impress. Here are my draft grades for each team:

Washington Redskins: C+
The 'Skins got Brian Orakpo in the first round which I consider to be a steal at the 13th pick, but they didn't get much after that. However, they made a great signing in Missouri Qb Chase Daniel after the draft. The Redskins now have a dominant defensive line, but could suffer from the highest paid NFL team stigma next year.

New York Giants: B+
The Giants had some good picks this year considering their late round placement. Hakeem Nicks will provide some help replacing Plexiglass Burress, and OT William Beatty was a great pick at the end of the second round. I also love the selection of bad boy Rhett Bomar in the later rounds.

Dallas Cowboys: D-
Dallas pretty much wasted their draft in trading for WR Roy Williams during the regular season, and he looked awful in Big D so they lose major points for that. The one pick I did like by Dallas is Stephen McGee, the QB out of Texas A&M. Reminds me of a Paul Blake aka Scott Bakula in "Necessary Roughness" type.

Philadelphia Eagles: A
The Eagles got two steals in the draft when they were able to pick up Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy with their first two picks. They will both help right away in Philly. Cornelius Ingram was also a great pick and will more than make up for the departed L.J. Smith. The Eagles were also able to package a few picks to the Pats for CB Ellis Hobbs providing more immediate help in the secondary, especially if Sheldon Brown gets his wish of being shipped out of town. After years of being pissed off by so many bad draft picks in Philly (Antone Davis, Jon Harris, Mike Mamula, Freddie Mitchell, Jermane Mayberry, Shawn Bradley, Sharone Wright, Larry Hughes, J.D. Drew) I feel like the Eagles did us proud this year. They were also able to stockpile a few picks for next year as well. Bang up job Andy, go get some cheeseburgers.


Chicago Bears: C-
The Bears traded their first round pick this year and next year for Jay Cutler. Some say this was a huge plus for the Bears, I don't see it that way. Cutler has proven nothing over the past two years except that he has a strong arm and is a bitch. No playoffs, no leadership. This is worth two firsts and a third rounder? I don't think so. What's worse is that the Bears got no receiving help for him in this year's draft. Juaquin Iglesias sounds like more of a singer than a football player. They did get the guy who can jump out of a pool though.

Minnesota Vikings: B
The Vikings did quite a bit with only a few picks this year. Love the Percy Harvin pick (especially because I called it) and I think it could really make their offense dangerous. They then added help on the O-line and in the secondary. Pretty good job. Would have liked to see them take a chance on a QB late though.

Detroit Lions: B+
The Lions had three great picks in my opinion. Matt Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew and DerrickWilliams will overhaul an offense that was awful last year. If they had addressed their running back and O-line needs in the earlier rounds they would have gotten an even higher grade. Still, the Lions finally got a few things right though.

Green Bay Packers: B-
The Packers helped their defense immensely with B.J. "Lessgoeeeegullls" Raji and Clay Matthews. Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews will make for a stout linebacking corps, and Raji will help Aaron Kampman in the trenches. Looks for Green Bay to improve immensely on D next year.

Atlanta Falcons: C+
After acquiring Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons focus became drafting defensive players. They did ok, but I felt they could have gotten some more impact guys considering their draft positions. Ray Maualuga or Clay Matthews were still available in round 1, and a CB might have made more sense in round 2. Improvement nonetheless though.

Carolina Panthers: C-
Everette Brown was a good pick for Carolina at 43, but I didn't like any of their other picks to be honest. A running back and a fullback in the 4th round? What about Smash and Crash or whatever their names are? I thought Carolina would have been wise to go after a QB somewhere in the draft too. Boo-urns.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: D
Another QB? The Bucs QB stable is quickly becoming the Angels outfield of football. What's the solution? Add another one! The Bucs could have used a wide receiver on offense, but they got another QB. I bet Kellen Winslow is loving being traded to Tampa. He's the only guy they have to throw to.

New Orleans Saints: C
With only 4 picks, the Saints did what they could to try and improve their defense. Love the trade up to draft a punter as well. The Saints must have been shaking in their boots that he wouldn't fall down to them.

Arizona Cardinals: C+
Arizona had a decent draft picking up Beanie Wells late in Round 1 to replace the Edge. They also improved their defense in the later rounds with Cody Brown and Rashad Johnson. Nothing spectacular, but not bad at all. Now they just have to make Anquan Boldin happy somehow.

San Francisco 49ers: B
Michael Crabtree was a steal at pick number 10, but I thought they could have done better in the 3rd round than Glen Coffee. He is a good player, but the Niners already have Frank Gore and Michael Robinson. Surely they could have filled more of a need position here. I like Nate Davis in the 5th round though. His last two games in college really led to a drop in his draft position and the 49ers are buying low as a possible solution to their QB carousel.

Seattle Seahawks: B-
The Seahawks went by the "best available" strategy and may have gotten the best player in the draft in Aaron Curry. I thought Mark Sanchez might have been a better pick there, or they could have gotten a ton of picks in return from the Jets, but Curry is not a bad choice at all. They also got a good tackle in Max Unger and a great receiver in Deon Butler. I would have liked to see a cornerback picked somewhere in the draft though, especially since they picked up T.J. Houshmanzadeh in the offseason already.

St. Louis Rams: B-
The Rams got what they needed in Jason Smith to replace Orlando Pace, and James Lauranaitis was a good second round pick. Would have liked to see them grab a TE or WR a little earlier though. They do have a guy named Horace Gant on their roster though who could be a good target.

That's all for the NFC. Feel free to add your thoughts. AFC will be sliced and diced tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pretty Please

With less than 24 hours remaining before the draft, the news broke that the Cardinals have lowered their trade demands for disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin. As a believer in the theory that the Eagles never win because they don't have a good receiving corps, I think that the Eagles should do everything in their power to swing a trade for Boldin.

I don't know what more evidence the Eagles need that their offense needs an overhaul at receiver. Let's look at the facts: they have made the playoffs again and again with average wide receivers, but they made the Super Bowl in the one year that they had an elite wideout. I seem to recall the likes of Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston, Na Brown, Donte Stallworth (who killed a man), James Thrash etc. helping the Eagles get to the playoffs, but it was the one year that the Eagles had T.O., though he didn't play in the playoffs until the Super Bowl, that they made the Super Bowl.

It was in this year that the Eagles were really considered to be an elite team, going 8-0 before getting beaten by Pittsburgh and finally getting over the hump of the NFC Championship. If the Eagles were able to combine Boldin with Desean Jackson they would be extremely dangerous this year. Please, give Donovan McNabb his wish of more weapons on offense. How many more years does this team have to contend? Westbrook and McNabb have been the franchise offensive players for years now. I would think that the front offense, instead of trying to remain "competitive", would want to load up for another Super Bowl run before these guys get too old. The whole situation is almost too frustrating to write about.

Anyway, I implore the Eagles brass not to further their reputation in my book as the Oakland A's of football and do what they can to acquire Anquan Boldin. He is worth far more than any late first or second round pick (not quite sure what Arizona is asking for Boldin) and could help an aging team to get back to the Super Bowl and perhaps win it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Playoffs? You Kiddin' Me?

With some first round playoff series already at or near a close, I would be remiss if I did not throw in my two cents about both the NBA and NHL playoffs. Without any more dangling conversation, here is what I have noticed so far.

Penguins vs. Flyers (Pitt leads 3-1)
As much as I would like the Flyers to win, and as much as I think that they are capable of winning still, they will bow out in 5 to Pittsburgh. Why you ask? Because they are the highest paid team in hockey! Being the highest paid team really burned the Fly guys at the trade deadline as they had to release two guys just so that injured Danny Briere could return to the roster, and because they could not acquire a big time defenseman like Jay Bouwmeester to protect their weak goalies. Speaking of weak goalies, did anyone see the article a little while ago about the Flyers' problem over the years always being goaltending? Bravo to whomever wrote that. You beat me to the punch. If the Flyers are serious about winning a Stanley Cup, they need to address the goaltending problem first. They always have a starter who sucks and ends up getting replaced by the backup who gets hot toward the end of the season, then chokes in the playoffs. See: Roman Cechmanek, Brian Boucher, Robert Esche, Sean Burke.

Celtics vs. Bulls (Series tied 1-1)
Young versus old in this matchup. The Celtics should be very glad that they won the championship last year because I seriously doubt that they will win another one with this core of guys. The window is closing very fast on Garnett, Pierce and Allen. Last year was special for them in that they all won their first NBA title. But the honeymoon is over. With the injuries that the C's have racked up, I see the Bulls winning this one in six.

Nuggets vs. Hornets (Denver leads 2-0)
The Nuggets made the trade of the century this season when they got Chauncey Billups for mercurial guard Allen Iverson. Billups is a proven winner and can lead a team. AI, though I love him, is a selfish guy and needs an unselfish cast around him in order to succeed. The Nuggets are clearly reaping the benefits of that trade while the Pistons are on their way to being swept out of the playoffs by the Cavs. Very interesting how those two teams changed due to that trade. I like the Nuggets to make some serious noise and challenge the Lakers in the Western conference. Maybe we will see a pothead's dream of Nuggets vs. Blazers sometime in these playoffs as well.

Sixers vs. Magic (Series tied 1-1)
This has been a great series so far. The Sixers are exercising the Ewing Theory without Elton Brand this year and are poised to give Orlando a run for their money. A guy I wish the Sixers would play more is Donyell Marshall. He was huge in game 1's 18 point comeback win and can really add another dimension to the offense with his 3 point shooting. Put him in Tony! Look for this series to go either way in 7. Should be good to watch.

Capitals vs. Rangers (NY leads 3-1)
The Rangers could be the most dangerous team in the NHL Playoffs. With John Tortorella as their new head coach they've got a guy with championship experience, and Sean Avery has given them a real shot in the arm. Couple these two things with the fact that Henrik Lundqvuist is playing out of his mind and you've got trouble. Ovechkin has been shut down so far with only one goal in four games. Looks for New York to finish the job in game 5.

Sharks vs. Ducks (Ducks lead 2-1)
Substance over style in this one. The Sharks won the President's Trophy and pretty much coasted along all season. Now they are getting their asses handed to them by a team that has won a championship before and wants to do it again. The Sharks are in trouble here. Looks for this series to go 7 though, with the Ducks pulling it out in my opinion. Gordon Bombay could be the difference maker here.

Who says the NBA and NHL are boring? Who says that a 16 team playoffs is stupid? Well, a lot of people do. But in these series, we have seen some great games and some very interesting sub plots that have arisen. The conclusions should be very exciting and I look forward to watching them. If they are televised...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dude, check this out bro.

No post today. I just encourage you all to read this story:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NFL Draft Preview

Well folks, a couple months removed from my post about wanting the NFL Draft to be in February, it is finally Draft Week. With no clear cut favorite, or player that has already signed like Jake Long last year, this year's draft should be very interesting. Many of the lottery choices have no idea to which team they might go. I will try to make sense of it all here with my official first round mock draft. I might be biting off more than I can chew here trying to imitate Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, but here goes:

1. Detroit Lions - Jason Smith, OT Baylor U.
The Lions didn't follow my advice of hiring a black coach, so why should they follow it by drafting Matt Stafford? They will draft a nice bookend in Jason Smith, and it appears that they are giving a serious look to starting Dante Culpepper at QB again. I disagree with this move, but I suppose Detroit could make some better picks in the late first round.

2. St. Louis Rams- Eugene Munroe, OT UVA
For probably the first time ever, I have offensive tackles going 1 and 2. The Rams need a tackle to replace Orlando Pace (saw his first ever preseason game against Dallas a long time ago) and because Detroit is stupid, will get the 2nd best tackle in the draft.

3. KC Chiefs - Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest
The Chiefs will follow the Patriots draft guide and pick a solid linebacker to mix in with their old linebackers. Unfortunately they are no longer playing "to win the game" with Herm Edwards out as head coach.

4. Seattle Seahawks - Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia
The Seahawks have Stafford fall right into their lap here and take him because he is the best player available. Hasselbeck is still decent, and Seneca Wallace is a capable backup, but if Stafford is available the Seahawks don't pass him up. If he is not, look for them to take Michael Crabtree to form an elite receiving corps with T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

5. Cleveland Browns - Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech
It seems like the Browns might be losing all of their offensive weapons this offseason. Kellen Winslow was traded, Donte Stallworth killed a man, and Braylon Edwards has been rumored to be on the trade block. Therefore they take a chance on Crabtree who injured his ankle, but should be solid in the NFL.

6. Cincinnati Bengals - Brain Orakpo, DE Texas
This dude is a freak. The Bengals need everything, but this guy could be an amazing pick for them at #6.

7. Oakland Raiders - Michael Oher, OT Mississippi
The Raiders have some big time weapons in place, so here they add a tackle that can protect their quarterback. Even though he is big enough to protect himself. This is a very un-Al Davis pick so I could see it also being whatever big name guy is still available here.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Mark Sanchez, QB USC
The Jags get lucky here and grab Sanchez, who they were hoping would fall to them at 8.

9. Green Bay Packers - B.J. Raji, DT Boston College (LESSSGOEEEGULLLSSS)
Green Bay goes best available here even though he is a pothead. Team him with a defense featuring Aaron Kampman, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Ryan Pickett and Green Bay's D looks pretty stout.

10. San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith, OT Alabama
Losers in the Sanchez/Stafford derby the 9ers take the fourth Offensive Tackle in the top 10 picks. This is going to be a modern day record of some sort.

11. Buffalo Bills - Aaron Maybin, DE Penn St.
The Bills "upgraded" their offense with the addition of T.O., so here they add a pass rusher with Aaron Maybin. Look for them to go after a lower tier tackle in the late first round after trading Jason Peters to the Iggs.

12. Denver Broncos - Tyson Jackson, DE LSU
The new Broncos regime begins with Kyle Orton as the ugly face of the franchise. Tyson Jackson will step in as the rock in their 3-4 defense.

13. Washington Redskins - Ray Maualuga, LB USC
Dan Snyder will go with the sexy pick here. Maualuga will most likely become as hated as Troy Polamalu.

14. New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, CB Ohio St.
The Saints offense was awesome last year, but their defense was so bad. They draft a solid CB here to help shutdown the opposing teams passing attack.

15. Houston Texans - Brian Cushing, LB USC
The Texans love going 8-8, but this year the pieces might be in place for a playoff push. With a little help on defense, the Texans and Matt "Stump the" Schaub could finally make the playoffs.

16. San Diego Chargers - Everette Brown, DE Florida St.
The Chargers spent big bucks to keep both of their running backs in the offseason. With Brown they have another rusher and potential insurance for Shawne Merriman.

17. New York Jets - Josh Freeman, QB Kansas St.
The Jets need a QB after the whole Pennington/Favre/Mangenius mess. Josh Freeman is the best available. They might also go after Beanie Wells and trade Thomas Jones for some scrub QB.

18. Denver Broncos - Beanie Wells, RB Ohio St.
The Broncos make the most of the Cutler trade and pick up a solid running back to replace their revolving door of injured running backs last year.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jeremy Maclin, WR Mizzou
The Bucs don't get a QB, but get a solid replacement for Joey Gallaway and rejuvenate their wide receiving corps.

20. Detroit Lions - Brandon Pettigrew, TE Oklahoma St.
The Lions get more help blocking, but also a playmaking Tight End with their second first round pick. This will give whoever their quarterback is a checkdown option.

21. Philadelphia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia
With all the offensive lineman gone, the Eagles will finally have to draft a skilled player in the first round. With Westbrook reaching the magical age of 30 which scares the Eagles more than anything, they will go with Moreno here. I like it.

22. Minnesota Vikings - Percy Harvin, WR Florida
I seem to remember the Vikings gambling a late first round pick on another talented but loco wide receiver in the past. If it works out, Harvin and AP could make for a dangerous combo.

23. New England Patriotts - Vontae Davis, CB Illinois
The Pats offense is pretty stout, but their pass defense is pretty poor. I witnessed this first hand in the OT loss to the Jets last year. Look for them to go with a corner, or perhaps a linebacker to replace Mike Vrabel.

24. Atlanta Falcons - James Lauranaitis, LB Ohio St.
The Falcons need some help on defense and go with Lauranaitis, a solid pick.

25. Miami Dolphins - Darius Butler, CB UConn
The Dolphins still have a lot of work to do if they want to make the playoffs again. Darius Butler should be a good help to their secondary.

26. Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward Bey, WR Maryland
With Stupid Flacco Hair under center, the Ravens need a few more weapons on offense. They could go a with a number of different guys at wide receiver here.

27. Indianapolis Colts - Ziggy Hood, DT Mizzou
The Colts always need help on defense. They might also go with a secondary guy here to provide help for oft injured Bob Sanders.

28. Buffalo Bills - Eben Britton, OT Arizona
The Bills add a guy to both lines with their two first round picks. Britton will replace the departed Jason Peters.

29. New York Giants - Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers
In Kohut's wet dream, the Giants draft the local boy from Rutgers to replace Plaxico Burress. That is if they don't get Braylon Edwards first.

30. Tennessee Titans - Perria Jerry, DT Mississippi
The Titans draft another defensive tackle to try to replace Albert Haynesworth who signed with Washington for 100 trillion dollars.

31. Arizona Cardinals - Donald Brown, RB UConn
Brown was nasty last year. He could provide a great replacement for Edgerrin James. The Cardinals could also go WR here depending on what happens with Anquan Boldin.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Alphonso Smith, CB Wake Forest
The Steelers are pretty solid just about everywhere. That is why they won the Super Bowl. Smith could add some depth to the secondary. They take him over reaching for an offensive lineman.

That was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It will certainly be interesting to see how wrong I am come Saturday. The first three picks could drastically change the outcome of the entire draft. But anyway, let the debating begin.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Uncle Frank Is this a Joke?

Kevin McCallister was one of the great thinkers of his time. He was constantly questioning and re-questioning reality in his own mind. When Buzz told him about Old Man Marley turning zombies into mummies with his salt, Kevin whispered to himself "mummies?". When he couldn't find his family the morning that they left for Paris, Kevin asked aloud "Uncle Frank, is this a joke?". I find myself asking the same question these days, only not to Uncle Frank. I don't know him. When the Florida International Dean or Athletic Director introduced basketball legend Isaiah Thomas as Isaiah Thompson the other day I asked myself, "Is this a running joke amongst people of prominence?"

How many times do people rehearse their speeches before they give them? I don't know, I've never had to give a really big speech. But it seems to me that you would want to have all of your facts straight before you put yourself out there. Yet we still have these errors all the time. In the recent past, John Kerry has been the most prominent guy to screw up names beyond recognition. Who can forget when he praised the Boston Red Sox great slugger "Manny Ortez". What? How can a senator from Boston not know who Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are? Furthermore, how did he come up with that hybrid? Kerry also committed the atrocity of referring to Lambeau Field as "Lambert Field". This makes him a repeat offender. He is not alone in Boston though. Senator Kennedy once referred to home run champions Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as "Mike McGwire and Sammy Sooser". Close. Why would a politician go out of his way to mention an athlete, and then get his name wrong? It's gotta be a running joke.

These slips are not only made by politicians though. Who can forget when Jeff Gordon was booed mercilessly for calling Wrigley Field "Wrigley Stadium". It was music to my ears. Now we have the man from Florida International, with Isaiah sitting right behind him, with a place card with Thomas' full name on it in front of him. "I would like to introduce Isaiah Thompson". Oof. Considering all of these mistakes, and how painfully obvious the correct answers were, part of me thinks that this has to be a joke. But then I think of a university president like Alice P. Gast, or a stuffy politician and I say "no, this is not a joke". It certainly makes for some great comedy either way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time for Reflection

With the first week of baseball in the books, I thought it would be a good time to take an early look back to see how my predictions in each division are doing so far. I know that it is a long season, but I'm sure we can find some things that I was way wrong and way right about that will be important for the whole season. Let's go:

AL East- The O's and Jays are in first and second. WTF?

Things I was right about:
1. Wang struggles in return from injury

2. Sabathia has trouble early in return to AL

3. George Sherrill STILL an adventure at closer (much to the dismay of my fantasy team)

4. Don't count on much from Mikey Lowell.

5. Pat Burrell being a model human being.

Things I was wrong about:
1. The Sox pitching being awesome. With the exception of Brad Penny, they've been terrible. Hope still lingers for Jon Lester's Cy Young campaign though.

2. That watching Toronto play would be awful. I give myself half credit on this one. They are torching the ball and their lineup is way better than I thought, but it is still boring to watch them.

3. That the Rays lineup would come back to earth. Evan Longoria: 5 hrs already. damn.

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Ricky Romero, P Jays (possible former menudo member)

AL Central- The Indians are killing me.

Things I was right about:
1. Cliff Lee not as good as last year. Kobe!

2. Royals are a nice surprise. Definitely improved. Pitching well.

3. Twins lineup is weak

4. Shin Soo Choo (aka Tie my shoe) is doing well.

Things I was wrong about:
1. The Indians being good.

2. Carl Pavano doing well out of New York

3. Coco Liriano being the Ace of the Twins. Glen Perkins is that guy so far.

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Glen Perkins, P Twins

AL West- Good to have Griffey back. M's in first

Things I was right about:
1. Mariners rotation will be good. With the exception of a bad last outing by King Felix (fantasy team curse) they are all pitching well.

2. Oakland's lineup is stout once again. No name pitching staff is doing ok too.

3. Rangers are bopping the ball

4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is definitely a jersey sewers nightmare.

Things I was wrong about:
1. Kevin "Thrillwood" being a bad pitcher ( I still believe it though)

2. Wesley Mareo loving my prediction. He doesn't believe in the A's this year. Maybe a sweep at the hands of the Sawx will change his mind.

3. Russ Branyan being a void. He is only sub par player.

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Endy Chavez, OF Mariners

NL East- This is gonna be a dog fight.

Things I was right about:
1. The Mets rotation behind Santana not being great.

2. Josh Johnson will be good this year.

3. The Nats are bad: 0-7 so far.

4. Ibanez making up for the loss of Pat Burrell.

Things I was wrong about:
1. D. Lowe not making up for Tim Hudson

2. Ricky Nolasco, not so much

3. Brett Myers, even less

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Emilio Bonifacio, 3b Marlins

NL Central- Oh those boys are way too much, those boys are way too much. (Replace boys with Cubs)

Things I was right about:
1. Milton Bradley being injury prone. Yessssssssss

2. The Brewers pitching being real bad.

3. If you flip flop the Brewers and Astros, my predictions for finishing places are correct so far.

Things I was wrong about:
1. Houston not having a problem putting runs on the board.

2. Could be wrong about Carpenter if he comes back from his rib injury ok.

--Pretty spot on in the Central so far other than those two small errors

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Aaron Harang "brain", P Reds

NL West- Padres pulling a fast one

Things I was right about:
1. Broxton throwing gas.

2. Co Jack ready for a breakout year. He crushed one last night.

3. The Giants lineup sucks. Pablo Sandoval thought to be the main reason

Things I was wrong about:
1. The Giants rotation being good

2. The Padres being a shell of a team.

3. The Rockies having a solid bullpen. Stairs took Huston Street DEEP.

PLEASANT SURPRISE: Felipe Lopez, 2b D'Backs

All these things that are right and wrong at this point could change throughout the season. It has been very interesting so far. Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Passing of A Legend

While enjoying a day off yesterday and getting ready for the Phillies/Nats game on MLB Extra Innings I was shocked and dismayed to find out that long time Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas had passed away suddenly before the game. It is hard to describe how much Harry Kalas meant to sports fans, especially those from Philadelphia. Harry was Philadelphia, he was Summer, he was baseball. The Phillies and the city of Philadelphia will be hard pressed to replace the legend that was Harry Kalas.

Ever since I was old enough to know what baseball was, I have listened to Harry Kalas. As a child I grew up with him, watching the Phillies back in the days when they were on PRISM and WB17. His deep, smoky voice which some thought to be boring always sounded perfect for baseball to me. He let the game play itself out, describing the plays with the perfect amount of words, and always had some great stories to tell about a player or a team. When the Phils gave up a game winning shot in the 9th inning, Harry summed it up perfectly with an "ohhh there it goes", but it was his trademark "Watch that baby, OUTTA HERE!" that made every home run for the good guys so special. Through the bad years (and there were many) in Philadelphia baseball, Harry was the constant. I'm sure Phillies fans can all remember calls like "Two run home run Rrrrruben Amaro Jr.!!!" or "What a play by Kim Batiste!" or "Tommy Greene struck him ouuuuut!" even though they may not remember the player or the horrific season that was. In the good years he made it all seem that much better with lines like; "A game winning hit for Mitchie Poo!!" or "Jimmy Rollins you are the maaan!!". His voice and his personality made every game memorable and was the epitome of Phillies baseball.

Not only will Harry be missed for calling the games; he will be missed for what he meant. Hearing Harry Kalas meant that you knew that warm weather and summer were coming. As a kid this meant no school, no responsibilities and lots of fun. Hearing Harry's voice most recently for us Phillies fans also represented the one thing we had waited for for so long: a World Series Championship. The fact that he got to live long enough to see and call the first championship in 25 years in Philadelphia seems so special now. Finally, hearing Harry Kalas made one inevitably think of Philadelphia. Whether it be on the Lehigh/Lafayette rivalry video (check it out), NFL Films, Campbell's Chunky Soup commericals, Puppy Bowls or on Comcast Sports Net, hearing that voice always made me think of where I grew up. I don't think a Phillies game will ever sound quite right again without him. We'll miss you Harry.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Price Is Wrong For Kenny

After choking it up big time on the last two holes yesterday then losing in a playoff, Kenny Perry said he was fine with it. While he might have acted all "gold jacket, green jacket who gives a shit" at the press conference, this one hurt for him more than a Bob Barker haymaker right in the stomach. After weathering the storm (and all the tv coverage) from Tiger and Phil's pairing, KP seemed to have one arm in the green jacket with a two shot lead with two holes left. He would have become the oldest player ever to win a major but let it all slip away with some really bad shots on 17 and 18. There is no way he will not be kicking himself all the way back to Kentucky after this weekend. Without making Kenny feel any worse, here are some of my observations from a Masters Sunday that was crazier than George Clooney's blonde, black and white beard in The Perfect Storm.

The first thing that struck me on Sunday was the Tiger and Phil pairing. These two guys couldn't be more opposite. Tiger is an athlete. He is jacked, he is intense out there. He is sponsored by Nike, an athletics company. Phil is a soft, flabby yuppie. He still needs to drop a few more pounds for those tight t's to fit, and the big belt buckle and pinstriped pants look like he is planning on going window shopping after the round. His sponsors, KPMG and Callaway speak to this. Accounting and golf. He would do well in Wellesley, and would probably frequent Brigham's or White Mountain Creamery. Despite these differences though, Phil and Tiger both played pretty similarly with great rounds on Sunday, and Phil hit some of the best shots I have ever seen him hit. A 7 shot deficit was just too much to come back from for both of them.

Speaking of Tiger and Phil, I was pretty disgusted with the amount of coverage that they got, and how much all of the announcers were sweating them. Sure they were playing well and drawing all the crowds, but did we have to watch them walk around the green and line up their putts at the expense of the missing the leaders' shots behind them? It got to the point where the leader Kenny Perry was on a two shot tape delay so we could watch Phil suck in his gut. The announcers were also ready to crown either Phil or Tiger as this year's champion when they were going through the easy stretch of the back nine, despite the fact that Perry was still leading the tournament and had yet to go through these easy holes himself. I understand that Tiger and Phil are a huge reason why so many people tune in, but the final two pairings were seemingly forgotten about by the cameras and the announcers. I was pretty pumped when Phil and Tiger finished their round so that the other guys would actually get some coverage.

Finally, how unlikely was the playoff pairing? Chad Campbell, a quiet guy from Texas with a huge head. Angel Cabrera, a guy that looks like a used car salesman and speaks no english. And Kenny Perry, a 48 year old Kentuckian with a wacky swing. The Masters Champion was coming from this group? Keeping with the unlikely theme, Angel Cabrera managed to save par after hitting his second shot off of a tree and having it bounce back into the fairway. Chad Campbell, who watched Angel rattle around in the trees and Kenny hit his shot short and right, seemed to be in the best position to win but then hit his shot into the sand, splashed one close and missed the putt. Gone. Kenny managed to take the playoff to a second hole against Angel, but by then it seemed all the momentum was with Cabrera. Cabrera became the unlikely (and of the three, the most unwanted) Masters Champion on what was a wild weekend with many sub plots in it. On the heels of all this Greg Norman talk, I certainly feel bad for Kenny Perry. KP had an almost Kenny Powers like fall from grace. But he has great memories of the Ryder Cup to fall back on so he can't feel too bad. Go get 'em next year Kenny. Congrats Angel.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Masters Update

While watching the Masters scoreboard on today I was very pleased with what I saw. The Shark and Ogilvy are both at -2 and tied for 17th. Fat Phil finished at 1 over(weight) par. The story of the tournament so far though has been MY BOY Chad Campbell at -9 last I checked. Allow me to expound on why Chad Campbell is my boy. At the TPC Boston last year, I got the pleasure of watching Chad play a few holes in succession. After a few Michelob Lights, and after he had hit his shot of course, I yelled "CHAAAAAAAAD" in his general direction. Seeing as there were about 10 people in his vicinity and there was no need to yell at all, Chad naturally was a bit startled by what had come to pass and looked around for the perp. To smooth things over I gave a thumbs up when he looked in my direction. He acknowledged my support with a nod and walked up to the green. He is the man. I have a feeling it was that day that led him to be a Ryder Cup pick as well. Yes Chad Campbell, you are the man. Looking forward to watching the highlights when I get home.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Let us all bow our heads in respect to this week's important religious holidays. Of course I am talking about each round of the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, which marks the real beginning of the golf season. With some help from my main man Patrick Lyons, who Tom O'Donnell is in training to be, we have several important issues to tackle. The first being the fate of one Greg Norman. The Shark could potentially be playing in his final Masters; he needs to finish very high in the money in order to earn another exemption. Let's hope that the Shark doesn't keep up his "tradition unlike any other" and tantalize us with the hopes of a victory, only to collapse on the final day. Greg Norman is one player I would never wish that on again.

I'll never forget the 1996 Masters. Even though I was only 11 years old, I had been playing golf for about 6 years already and had already learned the significance of the Masters. I remember my mom telling me that Greg Norman had never won the Masters before and that this year had to be his year. After an opening round 63 Norman seemed well on his way, and he had a stranglehold on the Green Jacket after three days with a six shot lead. Then it happened. On the final day Norman completed one of the most amazing collapses of all time. His six shot lead evaporated after only 12 holes. After nearly chipping in for eagle on 15 (see picture), Norman hit his tee shot on the next hole into the water and secured the collapse en route to a 78 in the final round. Nick Faldo shot a 67 and cruised to victory by 5 strokes. Normally, I would laugh at meltdowns like this, but I remember even at a young age feeling sick to my stomach about this collapse. Last year, Norman held a 2 shot lead at +2 going into the final round of the British Open only to shoot 7 over in the final round and watch Padraig Harrington (Donk's boy) kiss the Claret Jug. I couldn't help but feel that awful feeling for the poor fella. Bittersweet as it was again, at least it earned Norman this final chance at Masters glory. I'd love to see Norman, Greg win the Green Jacket this year, but I don't know if he or I could handle another one of his collapses. I will certainly be pulling for him.

With the Shark pushing 55 though, he may not have the fire power capable of winning this tournament. The year after his collapse in 1996, Tiger Woods took home the Masters Championship and ushered in the young gun era in golf. With that said, here are some guys that I think are capable of winning this year.

Tiger Woods- Obviously. Woods is a 4 time champ and his win at the Arnold Palmer Classic has everyone buzzing that he is back. Winning the Masters would double stamp it. And we all know that you can't triple stamp a double stamp.

Fat Phil- I hope not. I hate him so

Zach Johnson- The 2007 Masters Champ is coming off of a good week at the Arnold Palmer Classic as well. Apparently he is also tight with Jesus. That could be a good sign on Easter weekend.

Rory McIlroy- This is the Donk's sleeper pick. The 19 year old Northern Irishman won the Dubai Classic, and played very well at the Match Play Championship. He looks like he needs a good beating to me though.

Geoff Ogilvy- He has never finished in the top 10 in the Masters but is dominating this year with wins at the Mercedes Benz Championship and the Accenture Match Play Championship. I also saw him play at TPC Boston last year and he was good. Tip from the pros right there.

Padraig Harrington- The Donk's boy has won the past two majors and is looking to complete the "Paddy Slam". Sounds awful, but that's what we're gonna call it. He'll have some extra incentive to prove that his two most recent majors weren't flukes either with Tiger back in the field now.

Boo Weekley- It is unlikely, but I don't think anyone besides Norman winning would make me happier. The dude is sponsored by Mossy Oak and sells autographed tins of dip. If he were to catch the spirit of the south and win the Green Jacket, it would probably make for the best story.

Now all that's left is to huddle up with the family this weekend and watch someone rise to golf's elite status. Maybe eat a few Cadbury eggs while you're at it. That's all I got. Donk, did I cover it all?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On the Heels of Victory

This year's March Madness was not great in terms of drama and Cinderella stories. Because of this my bracket was destroyed before it even got going. Teams like BC, West Virginia, VCU and Temple lay on the cutting room floor after round 1 and had my bracket looking like an English test taken by Zutroy from the Simpsons with all the red marks on it. Furthermore, my UConn Huskies got beaten in the Final Four, ending any hopes I had of winning some March Madness pool money. In all though, North Carolina proved that they are a deserving champion. They had a solid core of players who saw their careers through to their senior year and put the ultimate cap on their time in college. They are a deserving team and I am glad that they won.

A few months back I made a post about my admiration for collegians who play all 4 years of college sports before going pro. I highlighted why it was selfish to go pro, and why staying in college was so much better anyway. One of the players that I highlighted was one of the fellas playing in last night's game: Tyler Hansbrough. Do you think he's glad that he stayed in college now? To quote Adam Sandler in the Schmitt's Gay Beer commercial, "uh, yah". As a matter of fact the Tar Heels had 7 seniors on this year's championship squad. While some of them are jockeys on the pine pony, Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green definitely could have jumped for the draft early, but decided to stay so that they could bring home a title to Chapel Hill. I applaud them for making the right decision, and with the help of "Deputy Dog" Roy Williams they were able to achieve their dream.

Hopefully other players will take a tip from this UNC team. Most notably, Blake Griffin is said to have planned a press conference tomorrow to announce his decision on staying at OU or going pro. Though he has already won a Naismith Award for Player of the Year as a sophomore, how much sweeter would a national championship be? Not to mention a college degree. Not too shabby. Stick around Blake, maybe the Sooners can become the Tar Heels in a few years.

Monday, April 6, 2009

AL East Preview

With MLB Opening Day upon us, I figure it is time for my final division predictions. Most of my readers are supporters of one of the AL East teams, so there is a lot at stake here. I will try to be as impartial as I can be, but living in Boston and being compared to a modern day Brad Penny is obviously heavy on my mind. The AL East is obviously going to be a three horse race this year between the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The Orioles and Blue Jays will have the unfortunate assignment of having to play each of these teams a lot, with lineups that are far inferior. Taking everything into account, I'm going to predict that the Boston Red Sox will take the AL East this year, with the Yankees battling them tooth and nail the whole way while taking the Wild Card. This division will probably have the teams with the two best records in the American League, and will most likely represent the AL in the World Series.

I picked the Evil Empire to finish second this year and win the Wild Card for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the questions in their lineup. With A-Rod out until the end of the month recovering from hip surgery, there is a huge production void at third base. Also, how will Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui respond to their injury riddled seasons last year. Unlike the injured Red Sox guys, these two are still going ot be counted on to be a huge part of the offense for New York. Can Robinson Cano play to his potential? How will Brett Gardner fare as the starting center fielder? Have Jeter and Damon lost a step? There is no doubt in my mind that when the Yankees are firing on all cylinders they are one of the most feared lineups in baseball. But they have a lot of work to do to get to that level and I think that could be a bad sign for an aging lineup. The Yankees pitching looks pretty great on paper, but questions loom there as well. How will C.C. Sabathia do after pitching sooooo many innings last year? How will he respond to returning to the American League, where he went 4-8 with a 4.34 ERA last year? Can he win in the playoffs? Will A.J. Burnett stay healthy again this year, or was last year just a fluke? How will Wang bounce back from his ankle injury last year? Can Joba stay strong the whole season as a starter? Speaking of Joba, how will the bullpen do without him this year? Mariano will be solid in the 9th for sure, but can they get the ball to him? Damaso Marte and Brian Bruney are pretty good set up men, but in the unlikely event that one of them should falter, would Joba have to pick up the slack? Then who becomes the 5th starter? The Yankees certainly have the fire power to compete in the AL East and to make the playoffs, but there are a number of questions with their squad this year, coupled with the Curse of the Rod and the Curse of the Highest Paid team, that will probably keep them from winning the division. Still, look for them to win about 92 games this year and make the playoffs.

I envision the Tampa Bay Rays going through some serious growing pains this year. In the last three years, the World Series losers have gone on to miss the playoffs the next season, and I see that happening to the Rays this year. Though they signed free agent slugger and all around model citizen Pat Burrell, I think the Rays offense will take a step back this year. B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria all played well last year and are a solid core, but the rest of the lineup played out of their minds. Look for the Rays to come back to earth in the hitting department, and maybe not stay quite as healthy as they did last year. The Rays starting rotation should improve this year with the addition of David Price whenever he gets called up, but I think their aces James Shields and Scott Kazmir still need a little seasoning. Their bullpen is also questionable as Troy Percival is an injury waiting to happen at closer. Balfour, Howell and Wheeler are all pretty solid set up men though. Though they are a very talented team, look for the Rays to falter this year against the Red Sox and Yankees.

The Orioles will be a pesky team this year, but they have nowhere near what it takes to compete in the AL East. Their rotation has Adam Eaton in it. That should tell you all you need to know about that. The bullpen is nothing special with Chris Ray returning from surgery and George Sherrill an adventure at closer. The O's lineup has some potential with Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and eventually Matt Wieters, but that is not much compared to the clout of some of the other lineups in the AL East. The Orioles have the potential some day to be the surprise team of the AL East like the Rays were last year, but they still need a lot of improvements, particularly to their pitching staff, until they get there. Look for them to win about 70-75 games this year and finish fourth in the AL East.

Which brings us to the Toronto Blue Jays. Roy Halladay is the stud on their staff, but there is no substance behind him. With B.J. Ryan struggling, the bullpen could also be a huge liability in Toronto. This does not bode well. The lineup is nothing special either. Alex Rios could be a great player, but I think that Vernon Wells has reached his maximum potential as a player and there is not much else to crow about in the Blue Jays' batting order. Toronto tried to throw money around for a few years to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, but ultimately failed. Now they are locked into some big contracts and don't have much to show for them. The only thing worse than playing for Toronto this year will be watching them play.

I picked the Red Sox to come in first this year for several reasons. Most of all though, I like their depth in all areas. The Yankees made all the big news in the offseason this year, but I think it was because they knew that the Red Sox were way ahead of them in terms of talent. Therefore the Sox made a few minor signings and are going to watch the players that they have developed turn into stars. The Sox big 3 of Beckett, Matsuzaka and Lester (possible Cy Young candidate) can match up with anybody. On top of that add two former All-Stars who got injured at the wrong time in Brad Penny and John Smoltz and you've got a stellar rotation. And should they get injured again you've got innings eater Tim Wakefield and talented but shaky Clay Bucholz to back them up. That is 7 major league quality starters. Not bad. The bullpen was bolstered by the addition of Takashi "beating on his gong" Saito, and was solid to begin with featuring Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson and Jon Papelbon (or Bapbullbon in Dill speak). The Sox lineup has shifted its identity from the 2007 World Series team. Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Bay are now the heart of the order, but David Ortiz should finally be healthy this year so it will be interesting to see if he can help out more. I wouldn't count on much from Mike Lowell though. Jacoby Ellsbury and JD Drew are big questions in the outfield, but again the Sox have depth should those two struggle. Chris Carter tore the cover off the ball in Spring training, and Rocco Baldelli has finally figured out what was ailing him for so long and put together a decent Spring. Again, options. The Sox have done a good job over the past few years of keeping their stars while producing new ones. I look for them to have very good pitching, solid hitting and respond to adversity very well with their depth. I like them to win about 95 games this year and to take the AL East. Like it or lump it, that's how I see it. Enjoy the regular season!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

AL Central Preview

Now that we already know that John Frisch is going to win the NCAA Championship, we can focus on the AL Central race this year. The AL Central is really anybody's division this year. I could honestly see any of these teams winning the division. The defending champion White Sox are getting old, the Tigers fell way off the map last year even though they were supposedly gearing up for a World Series run, and the Twins, Royals and Indians are looking to capitalize on some young talent. Due to a number of nice offseason acquisitions, and some good talent already in place, I like the Indians to wake up the echoes of Willie Mays Hayes and steal the AL Central this year.

Though they are getting well old, I see the Chicago White Sox being the AL Central runner up this year. They won the Central last year, but are in a stage of serious decline. Sluggers Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko are on their way out, but will hopefully be buoyed by full seasons from Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez this year. The White Sox pitching is decidedly average. Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd will pitch a lot of innings and could each tally up anywhere from 10-15 wins. Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras fill out the roster, and could either get injured or implode at any time. Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink and Bobby Jenks make for a pretty solid bullpen, saving those hard earned wins for the starting rotation. Looking at the whole team, I see the White Sox contending, and maybe going on a hot streak or two during the season, but ultimately falling just short of the playoffs this year.

The Twins are a very tough team to read this year. I could see them winning this division, or their pitching falling flat. Coco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn seem like they could be a great staff, but never really dominate games. Liriano is the ace without question, but the rest of the rotation will probably end up going .500. Joe Nathan is a stud closer, but I'm not sure I trust the Twins bullpen other than him. Also, the Twins lineup is nothing to shake a stick at. Justin Morneau is good, but seems to struggle in the second half, and with Joe Mauer out for a while the Twins lineup shall go wanting. They've got some good pieces in place, but need a little more fire power to win the division.

The Kansas City Roy Dawgs look to be a nice surprise this year. After sucking for so long, they deserve to be somewhat successful once again. They are loaded with young talent, and if they can keep the players around they could be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. In the starting rotation, Dill's favorite pitcher Gil Meche eats innings for breakfast, and Zach Greinke and Kyle Davies could make for a good 2 and 3. Sidney Ponson pitched well in the WBC and will be a solid, sturdy, hefty 4th starter. When you put that all together, the Royals rotation isn't half bad. They also have a nice bullpen with Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth (who will do well out of NY) and Ron Mahay. The batting order is where the Royals could make some huge strides though. From 1 to 9 they have great potential. Miguel Olivo looked good in the WBC, Billy Butler, David DeJesus, Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon, Mark Teahen and Mike Jacobs all could be solid hitters. No easy out in that lineup. The Royals will probably finish below .500 this year, but the framework is certainly in place for future success. George Brett will soon be a proud Royal once agian.

The Tigers are my hard luck team to finish in last place this year. They sucked it up last year even though they are very talented and I think will struggle with the expectations placed upon them. They have a great lineup with Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames, but for some reason they did not gel as a team last year. The pitching that once carried them to a World Series appearance is now in serious question. Verlander had a horrible season last year, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galaragga could be decent but not great, and Zach Miner and Rick Porcello are unproven as starters. The bullpen is also shaky with injury prone Fernando Rodney replacing the ever shaky Brandon Lyon as closer. Playing in Comerica Park could be the Tigers only hope for decent pitching. The Tigers certainly have some star power, but I think they will crumble under their high expectations again this year. Therefore, I have low expectations for them. Hey someone's gotta finish in last place.

The Cleveland Indians are my choice to win the AL Central dogfight this year. Their lineup is certainly good enough with a healthy Travis Hafner (or maybe Matt LaPorta) striking fear into the hearts of pitchers at DH, fatsos Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach slugging home runs, MVP candidate Grady Sizemore providing great support as leadoff hitter, and Mark Derosa chipping in to do a little bit of everything. I was very impressed with him in the WBC. Also, Shin Soo Choo aka Tie My Shoe could be a sleeper in the Indians outfield, and Ryan Garko is a good option off the bench. Last year's Cy Young winner Cliff Lee will probably not be able to do as well as he did in 2008, but Fausto Carmona surely won't do as badly as he did in '08 either. The two make for a good 1-2 punch at the front end of the rotation. Carl Pavano could be another guy who does well out of New York, and Scott Lewis looked good in September last year going 4-0 in 4 starts. The Indians bullpen was strengthened greatly with the addition of Kerry Wood as the new closer. Last year the Indians kept trying to turn good set up men into closers with no success. Now they have a solid closer, and all the middle relievers can stick to what they are good at. Addition by addition. While I don't expect any AL Central team to challenge for the World Series title, I think that the Indians have all the pieces in place to make a playoff run. I see them finishing at about 89-73 to capture the AL Central crown. You might see Grady Sizemore hoisting the MVP trophy by season's end as well. Enough from me though. What do you guys think?