Friday, December 29, 2006

Two Things On Baseball

1. Let me be very clear about this: I am not in favor of steroid use in baseball (or any other sport, for that matter). The “Steroids Era” has made me skeptical of every record or accomplishment achieved in baseball since 1995 and, likewise, has made me doubt the integrity of most of the game’s elite players. I’d love to see baseball cleaned up but I’m not na├»ve enough to think that rogue medicine won’t always be one step ahead of testing and enforcement.

That being said, I’m not in favor of witch-hunts or the ridiculous hypocrisy that goes along with any conversation about steroids in baseball. Ballplayers are being blamed for something that was condoned and encouraged by all levels of baseball hierarchy, from the commissioner, to the owners, to the GM’s, to the writers and commentators, right down to the fans.

The biggest perpetrator of this unjustified witch-hunting has been our own government, which, in their attempts to nail Barry Bonds, seems willing to trample on the rights of every single American perceived to be standing in their way. Peter Abraham frames the scenario in a way which is easy to understand without oversimplifying things. Read this and tell me if you’re as disgusted as I am.

2. The San Francisco Giants signed Barry Zito to a seven year, $126M contract with an option for an eighth season also at $18M. That is just way too much money to pay a pitcher, even if he’s proven to be durable and is still relatively young. Barry Zito has never been a game-changing ace like a Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, or Roger Clemens and is more of a #2 or #3 starter in terms of stuff and ability. Not only do I not understand why they didn’t make an offer to Jason Schmidt but why they were willing to double what Schmidt got from the Dodgers. I have a hard time seeing Zito finishing this contract in San Fran and I fully expect the Giants to eat a big chunk of his money in three or four years when they look for potential trade partners.

Of course, the biggest losers in all of this are the New York Mets. The Mets wanted Zito. Hell, they needed Zito. They tried to go for Suppan last weekend but missed the boat. While I praise the Mets for showing restraint in not offering more than five years, they certainly should’ve offered more than the $75M. Had they gone up to $18M a year, perhaps Zito would be in their rotation. Now, the Mets have to figure out how to repeat as NL East champs with Glavine and El Duque as their #1 and #2 and hope that Pedro does indeed come back in July and not much later.

That was my last baseball post in 2006. It’s been a good year for me in the baseball department – I learned a lot and expanded my interests into the minor leagues and statistical analysis. I hope some of my posts have been interesting and informative. Happy New Year to all.

The Joys of (200)6: Hitman's Year in Review, Part IV

Top 6 Teams of 2006:

6. Florida Gators: Lost in the excitement of the George Mason cinderella story (see below) was the fabulous performance of the Florida Gator's men's basketball team. It's nice to see Billy Donovan getting his due as a top coach, after the title he won for Gainesville this spring. Led by Joakim "I am as Good as I am Ugly" Noah and Corey Brewer, the Gators conquered all in an impressive, fun romp to the title.

5. Italy: The Azzurri finished first in the "Group of Death", squeaked by Australia in a tight Round of 16 match, then blasted Ukraine to reach the semis. There, they handed the host Germans their first loss ever in Dortmund. In the World Cup championship against France, the team survived "The Headbutt Heard 'Round the World" en route to a penalty-kick win. Great, gritty World Cup performance by a seasoned, exciting team.

4. Miami Heat: Sports announcers love to use the "Team of Destiny" tag when playoff season rolls around and one team starts winning games in spite of everything. Miami didn't quite battle the adversity that previous Teams of Destiny did, but they did climb the mountain in some very exciting, hard-fought series - the first round against Chicago and the Finals against Dallas, most notably. They very clearly deserved the title, for the way they jelled toward the end of the season and into the postseason.

3. New Orleans Saints: The new America's Team! What a great story coming out of the Crescent City this fall. How do you root against these guys? Is there a more memorable play from the 2006 season than the blocked punt for a TD on Monday night against Atlanta, in the first game back in the Superdome? But this team isn't just about the return to the devastated New Orleans and the pick-me-up it's providing to the City's residents. There's the steady hand of the cast-off, Drew Brees, and the emerging rookies, Reggie Bush and Marques Colston. No matter what happens in the playoffs, we'll all remember this team.

2. Detroit Tigers: Nobody - and I mean nobody - saw this one coming. Everybody loves an underdog, and a surprise underdog even more - but what impressed me most about the Tigers is that they weren't just getting lucky. This team played fundamental baseball about as well as it can be played, and it was that discipline more than anything else that got Detroit into the World Series. In the end, the talent wasn't quite there - but like the '02 Angels, '03 Marlins, and '05 White Sox before them, this team showed that when you play baseball "the right way," you can get a lot farther than teams with more talent and less focus.

1. George Mason: The little engine that could - George Mason was a lowly revolutionary and an unknown school before the 11th-seeded Patriots romped to the Final Four. There simply was no better story in sports in 2006 than what this team did in March. With apologies to Coach Jim Larranga for not making my Top 6 Coaches list, I name the George Mason men's basketball team as Team of the Year.

*Of course, I hope that 2007 brings GMU a #1 seed and a first-round loss to #16 Mississippi Valley State - it's madness!

Happy New Year to all the Back Seat Drivers!

Week 17 - The End of the Beginning

There are so many crazy playoff scenarios for this week. I’m not sure whether I should be biased, and just pick the outcome I want to happen, or just pick the games as normal. I’m going to try picking the games as normal without looking too much at the playoff scenarios (though it was impossible to avoid knowing that the JETS and the Broncos only need wins to get in). Last week, I picked with my heart and ended up going 5-11. Ouch! I’m still in utter shock that the Green Bay Packers, the Packers!, are in probably the best position to make the playoffs if the Giants should lose to Washington.

Manwich Matchup of the Week
Jacksonville at Kansas City – Because this is a 1PM game, and both teams are 8-7, this is certainly the sexiest matchup on the schedule. No matter how silly it sounds, I think I have to go with KC at home, rather than Jacksonville on the road, simply because of their respective home and road records. Pick: KC

Upset of the Week?
NYG @ Washington- Well, I’m not really sure what to make of the Giants. I mean, the odds are actually pretty high right now that they are going to just lose out the season, and fail to qualify. I don’t expect all the 7-8 NFC teams to lose, though part of me is rooting for that to happen. Pick: Washington

New England at Tennessee- Tennessee needs too much help to get in the playoffs. If I picked with my heart, I would pick the scenario allowing the Titans to be the first 0-5 team EVER to make the playoffs. It’s strange how my 2007 playoff chant about a month ago almost has turned into a 2006 playoff appearance. Pick: Tennessee

Atlanta at Philadelphia – Atlanta’s another team that is just fading away. Gotta stick with the red-hot Jeff Garcia. Pick: Philly

Buffalo at Baltimore – Baltimore is still playing for a bye, and possibly even homefield. Pick: Baltimore

Carolina at New Orleans – I’m extremely torn on this game. But my rule of thumb is to typically go against the team with nothing to play for, and the Saints are locked in at the #2 seed. Pick: CAR

Cleveland at Houston – QB Ken Dorsey is starting for the Browns. This guy once was like 38-2 in college football, and then went to the pros… and the rest is history. Pick: Houston

Detroit at Dallas – Even the Cowboys can take down the Lions. Right? If the Lions win, that would be like Rocky Balboa fighting his son after a boxing match for the “Right to Fight” under the Balboa name. I still think Rocky Balboa will find a way to make a Rocky 7, because Rocky is a winner. Pick: Dallas

Green Bay at Chicago – Welcome to your Sunday Night matchup! The Bears are resting everyone, and the NFL Network is hoping people tune in to watch Favre’s (possibly) last game. Honestly, I don’t understand the enfatuation with watching someone’s LAST game. Usually, the person is past-their-prime, makes lots of mistakes, and its just an utter disaster. Pick: Chicago

Miami at Indianapolis – Who the hell is Miami QB Cleo Lemon? Sounds like a fortune-telling used car salesman to me. Pick: Indy

Oakland at N.Y. Jets – Such bullshit. Pick: Jets

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati – Of all the strange losses by the Steelers, the one that certainly seemed to seal their fate was that loss to the RAIDERS when they had like 6 turnovers. Imagine if the Steelers had won that game, and both the Steelers and the Bengals were 8-7 in this game? Now, that would have certainly qualified for Manwich status. Pick: Cincy

Seattle at Tampa Bay – I don’t believe that Seattle even cares at this point. Pick: Tampa Bay

St. Louis at Minnesota – Yawnn… I’m just going to think back to when both teams were good, and Kurt Warner and Randy Moss were awesome. Pick: St. Louis.

Arizona at San Diego – The Chargers are going to lock up homefield in a place that they haven’t lost yet this year! Pick: San Diego

San Francisco at Denver- What bad luck for all the other AFC teams. Pick: Denver
[Under my game-by-game predictions, Jets and Denver are AFC wildcards and based on the NFL.com playoff scenarios http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9817776 , the CAR Panthers end up making the playoffs! Actually, it does seem like all of the NFC 7-8 teams could lose this week! FYI – I just picked 14 home teams and only 2 road teams. That’s never going to happen.]

Last Week: 5-11 (I hope that’s the worst I’ve ever been)
Season: 134-105
Manwich: 10-7 (Stupid Jaguars)
Upset of the Week: 5-11 (The Titans cannot be stopped!)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Joys of (200)6: Hitman's Year in Review, Part III

Top 6 Players of 2006

6. Carlos Beltran: I sang the praises of Beltran all season long. In my opinion, and with apologies to Ryan Howard, Carlos should have been the NL MVP. Beltran hit .275 with 41 homers and 116 RBI, leading the Mets to the division crown and the best record in baseball (tied with the Yanks). No player meant more to his team than Beltran did to the Mets in '06. His production slipped in September - but the Mets are not playing in October without Beltran, who finally earned that big paycheck. He was a joy to watch this year.

5. LaDanian Tomlinson: I don't need to elaborate on his 1,749 rushing yards, 494 receiving yards, and 31 touchdowns to date. But I will, with this thought: is there a classier superstar in sports today? LDT is unbelievably dominant and is the biggest reason why San Diego is the current favorite to win a title. What does LDT do when he scores? He flips the ball to the official, takes the pats on the back, and heads to the sideline. No showboating, no dancing, no bullshit. He is a true role model on and off the field - someone a lot of his peers could learn from.

4. Troy Smith: I can't write a lot about this guy because, as a Buckeye, he represents evil incarnate. But dammit, this frickin' devil is one hell of a football player. On an extremely talented team, clearly the best in the country, Smith rightly stood out as its leader and playmaker. His 2006 campaign is one of the best any of us have seen in our lifetimes.

3. Dwyane Wade: Raise your hand if, after the 2003 draft, you thought Wade would win a title before LeBron and 'Melo. If you're raising your hand, you're a bold-faced liar! Here's a guy who was highly regarded by scouts and unheralded in the media, because of the other superstars who went before him. 2006 was D-Wade's coming out party, a year in which he averaged 27.2 points per game, and most importantly, put his team on his back to fight back from an 0-2 Finals deficit. Not to take anything away from James and Anthony - but Wade is the yardstick of the 2003 Draft. What a tremendous year from a tremendous athlete.

2. Vince Young: Young single-handedly muscled Texas over USC for the college football crown, and now, as a rookie, is 8-4 and has the Tennessee Titans poised for an unlikely playoff berth. I don't think they'll beat the Pats, so I think the Titans will be home for January - but if they slipped in at #6, you think the Colts want to see them next weekend? I can't remember the last time a rookie had such a tremendous impact on championships in both college and the pros in one calendar year.

1. Roger Federer: I can't believe this guy lost in the French Open finals! He sucks! What, does winning the Australian Open for a second straight year, Wimbledon for the fourth straight year, and the U.S. Open for a third straight year makes him some kind of superstar? Sheesh.

Bowl Predictions


Well the Bowl Season is almost upon us and as most of us will require help operating the tv remote in order to watch the games on New Years Day I thought it would be smart to start the Great Bowl Pickoff Challenge. Picking Bowl Games is much like predicting the weather, few people are good at it. I mean who knows how a team will show up after being off 30-50 days. Its like a different season. I think some seniors might be eligible for social security by the time the BCS Championship Fiesta Bowl Presented by Trojan Ford Microsoft blah blah blah. (Fucking Corporate Sponsors. Guess what just because of your insistent ads I'm not going to use Sugar, Oranges, Cheetos or Roses. I might buckle under and eat some tostitos. I mean what else would eat with all this dip?

Alright so here's the list of things to watch for Bowl Season (just select which applies to you)
Dec 31 Nevada v. Miami
This is the game you should be watching while preparing to head out wherever it is that your poisoning your liver/sacrificing bulls to Jupiter/ wearing funny hats. Why you ask? Because Miami (or the U as they say among the ex-convicts) is playing in Idaho. How great is that?
Pick: Miami

Jan 1
11 AM - Outback Bowl Penn State v. Tennessee
At this point in the morning you should very angry that sunlight exists/ cuddling with your significant other/ cuddling with your favorite stuffed animal/ cursing that asshole who turned on the tv to watch Penn State and Tennessee. I think the major story lines here at will Joe Pa man the sidelines on foot or some scooter and how many pies will the Tennessee coach eat during the game (over/under of 4). This game should be slow so you don't have to be fully cognizant yet.

Pick: Tennessee

1 PM - Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin v. Arkansas
At this point you should have rolled out of the bed/off the floor/dragged self out of bathroom and are now stationed in living room watching the tube. The capital one bowl I think is a good foreshadowing of the SEC v. Big 10 Championship Game on Jan 8. Arkansas' Coach McNutt is starting with his QB Dick. I couldn't make that up if I tried. On the Wisconsin side are very large farm boys that are playing for pride and bratwursts. According to Publius, Bratwursts are tasty and can be used to keep Jewish Vampires away.

Pick: Wisconsin.

5 PM - Rose Bowl - Trojans v. Wolverines
Well according to ABC the road to the Rose Bowl is paved with Trojans. I can only say I'm pretty angry I wasn't invited to this party. Nonetheless its a battle of the disgruntled. USC lost in a close match to its cross-city rival UCLA which gave away their shot at the championship. The Maize and Blue lost the BCS vote brought to you by Diebold. Which team(s) will show up? Will they take their anger out on the opposition or did they spend the time off sulking? Will Lloyd Carr perform his tribute to James Brown by singing "I'm Just a Sex Machine" at halftime or after the game? While enjoying this game you should be checking to make sure you have a light dinner/ making sure you've hidden the remote so no one can change the channel/ checking to make sure you're in the right city.

Pick: Wolverines

Jan 3 Sugar Bowl - Notre Dame v. LSU
I think the only question here is will LSU be sober enough to play the game. The Tigers are playing in the Superdome and have been home near Bourbon street for awhile now. That doesn't sound promising. Notre Dame better hope that LSU has had one too many drinks otherwise Charlie Weis' team will get crushed once again by a top 10 team

Pick: LSU Wins While Drunk

I'll save my analysis for TOSU v. Florida for next year. I just wanted to thank everyone for all their work and postings. It really is a joy to wake up or go to bed reading your guys analysis. I realize I might not express it but I certainly learn a ton from all of you. Happy and Healthy New Year to one and all!

Colonel Sanders Finger Lickin' Picks For All Degenerate Gamblers Out There - Week 17

This is the do or die week. I am backed up against the fence. I want to beat the bitter Bill Simmons and beat him badly however it seems that he might be jumping ahead of me. I know this is a little early to post my picks. I normally do it after Gutsy, but there is a storm brewing in these parts and after shoveling out of 2 feet of snow last week, I figured I would do it while I have access to a computer. Ok onto this weeks important picks

NYG (-1) at WAS: WAS. MJ just told me that whatever I do, take the Skins. I will follow the logic of the great wizard, not the one from the Baseball Bunch but MJ. I even think he might be the one on the far left.





CAR (-3) at NO: NO. This is a tough one because I don't know if the Saints will play their scrubs since they have #2 locked in or will they want to put the beat down on the CAR. Gotta go with the home dog in any case.

CLE (+4) at HOU: HOU. After using Cleveland's starting QB last week on my fantasy team I will never ever go with Cleveland ever again. Even if they are playing the Texans.

DET (+13) at DAL: DET. I am sure they are going to pack it in and go on the #1 pick stakes...perhaps they will be interested in one of the UM defenders. However, 13 points seems to be a bit high.

JAC (+1) at KC: KC. I still go with the idea that nobody beats KC in KC in the winter.

NE (+3) at TENN: NE. NE still has something to play for. The way Indy is playing now they really could lose to Miami. With Brady and Co, this will be a great game but NE will win.

OAK (+13) at NYJ: OAK. The Jets will probably win but not by 13 points. Oakland will be in the #1 stake with Detroit by the end of the day.

PIT (+6) at CIN: CIN. This is another tough matchup. Not a good week to take on Simmons. I am still in shock about the "kick", and will not lose hope in the Bungals.

SEA (+3.5) at TB: SEA. Seattle still has something to play for and Shalex needs to make LDT believe that there is not a Madden Curse out there so that he won't be hesitant to appear on the cover.

STL (-1) at MINN: STL. St Louis has something play for, Minnesota does not.

ATL (+9) at PHI: ATL. Whatever happened to the Falcons. Michael Vick was on a run and they just collapsed. And speaking of Vicks, I saw his brother is playing for the Dolphins. I can't wait until Ricky Williams comes back, him and Marcus will keep the people of CSI Miami very busy.

BUFF (+9) at BAL: BAL. Although I wish that the Cobras would just curl up and be eaten by a Mongoose, I think they have more to play for and should breeze by the Bills.

MIA (+9) at IND: MIA. Another one of those bets that I probably will lose, but it is all or nothing right now. Indy is not that good this year.

ARI (+13.5) at SD: SD. San Diego also still has something to play for. I don't want to think about LDT going up against the Cobras. If only the Bungals can make it to the first round. Ocho Cinco is Gung Ho, Housh is Spirit and CP is Duke. They could bring down the Cobras.

SF (+11) at DEN: SF. If San Fran can get into the city on Sunday, I think that they will be able to keep it close. Denver is not that great this year. Definately not deserving of 11 points.

GB (+1) at CHI: CHI. Wow even with the Bears playing their second string they are still favored by 1. Not sure but I will give it to the home team.

Last Week: 6-9-1
Total: 112-115-13

And I will not include my fabulous playoffs picks in my total amounts.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Truth Hurts…And So Do Lies

The Truth Hurts:

As much as I don’t like Phil Jackson – he seems like a giant phony – I have to say that I love him for taking a potshot at Shaquille O’Neal. When you’re 380 lbs. and you don’t come to training camp in any sort of shape and then publicly admit that you like to play your way down to the appropriate level of physical fitness, you’re pretty much opening yourself up to this sort of criticism.

Shaq has always skated by with a Manny Ramirez-like coating of Teflon, never getting called out for being fat and lazy or for his role in the premature collapse of the Lakers dynasty. I’ve never understood why his boastful, arrogant, hyper-sensitive nature hasn’t been picked on more by the press but it’s good to see that Big Chief Triangle isn’t afraid to take on the Big Unshapely.

And So Do Lies:

Over the past several days ESPN and the New York papers have used some form of the word “regress” next to Eli Manning’s name. Some are blaming Manning’s “regression” on Tom Coughlin or his assistant coaches. Some are saying that Manning’s “regression” will cost Coughlin his job, as it has already cost offensive coordinator John Hufnagel his. Everywhere I look this week, people refer to Manning and how he has “regressed” this season, resulting, in part, in the Giants’ mediocre 7-8 record heading into Week 17.

Let’s blow the roof off this lie right now. Here are Manning’s career stats, updated through this past Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints. Manning’s completion rate climbed six points and his QB rating increased by two points. In statistics, it would be incorrect to call that “regression” but rather “stasis”, or stagnation.

In effect, Manning is the same player in 2006 that he was a year ago. Slightly wiser, slightly more experienced, marginally improved in the face of devastating injuries to his offensive line and possession receiver. I personally don’t have faith that Manning will ever improve far beyond what we’ve seen of him thus far. He will always be prone to inaccuracy and mistakes. I think there is still talent to be mined in his body and perhaps new coaches can bring up some of the value that is trapped deep within him. But one thing is clear – ESPN continues to perpetrate negative myths about Eli Manning because ESPN knows nothing but negativity and hyperbole.

The Joys of (200)6: Hitman's Year in Review, Part II

Top 6 Coaches:

6. Scott Skiles: The 2005-2006 Bulls were clearly not ready to seriously challenge for the NBA crown. They are also widely credited with putting up the best fight against the ultimate champion Miami Heat. A team without a true center then, and still built mainly on youth and still-improving talent, the Bulls have become the team that everybody hates to play - in large part because Skiles motivates his hard-working bunch to maximize their abilities. It's time that Skiles gets credit for the great work he's done over the last few years.

5. Greg Schiano: Rutgers won its first nine games, and finished 10-2. RUTGERS. Coach Schiano orchestrated the best story in what might be the beginnings of a resurgent Big East. Unless you're a fan of the Scarlet Knights' rivals (New Jersey State, anyone?), you had to root for these guys.

4. Sean Payton: We'll never know the exact combination of emotion, talent, luck, and coaching that made the surprise success that is the 2006 Saints. What we do know is that Payton played a major role in this wonderful story (that I hope ends in Chicago). No city needed to win more with a team that had less. Payton played almost every card right, and as a reward his boys get a home game in January.

3. Jim Leyland: This will not be my first reference to Motown's ballclub. Leyland guided a team from obscurity to the playoffs - and then to the World Series! The Tigers were a top team all year, and though they shit the bed in the Fall Classic, they took on their skipper's persona and played solid, fundamental, hustling baseball for 6+ months. Fabulous job by Leyland in getting the most out of these previously-unknown players.

2. Jim Grobe: I think I read that Wake Forest was picked by the experts to finish last in the ACC. Memo: they're in the Orange Bowl. If you're like me, you still didn't know Grobe's name until this week. I'm ranking him this highly because for the Deacs to have the season they did, the coach must have done a phenomenal job.

1. Eric Mangini: The "Man-genius" has taken a team that nobody expected anything from, and brought them to the brink of the playoffs. Unlike the G-Men, who'd be a #6 seed that everyone would love to take a big fat crap on, the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets are showing signs that they could pull an upset or two, especially if they draw the stumbling Colts. Full credit to the Mangina.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Another Year in Review Special

What better way to go through the year in review then to recap some of the greatest games and moments of 2006…

NCAA Basketball –George Mason vs. Uconn in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. A school that no one outside of small portions of the East Coast had even heard of was taking on the undisputed #1 team in the country. In addition, Uconn also happened to have FOUR 1st round NBA draft picks and a 2nd round draft pick on their team. So, the odds were clearly in Uconn’s favor. What made this game even more memorable for me was going to a sports bar to watch the game and people were screaming and cheering for both teams equally, presumably because half the bar stood to win their brackets, and half the bar rooted for the most absurd Final 4 team since the Jacksonville Dolphins made the Championship game in 1970 (I looked that up, but it’s still cool trivia).

NBA – San Antonio vs. Dallas, game 7, 2nd round of the playoffs – The Mavs had a 3-1 lead in the series, only to be forced to a game 7. The Mavs then had a 20-point lead, only to have Ginobili bury a 3 for the Spurs to take a 3-point lead with 32 seconds left. At this point, it seemed like all of the momentum was on the Spurs side and that they would win. Then, the most inexplicable foul of 2006 happened, as Dirk went to the lane for a layup, Ginobili fouled Dirk. The Spurs had a 3-point lead, and the only thing they had to do was ensure that they didn’t foul someone, especially Dirk, especially if it was going to just be a soft foul. Dirk then hit the free throw to tie the game and the game miraculously went to OT (after close misses by Ginobili and Duncan). At this point, Duncan already had 39 points. Then, the ‘Lil General, Avery Johnson, made what turned out to be the smartest coaching decision, which was to let DeSagna Diop take on Duncan for OT. Blame it on Duncan’s fatigue, or Diop playing the best 5 minutes of his life, but Diop just dominated OT. 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, and most importantly, he forced Duncan to travel and miss two other shots, holding Duncan to only 2 points. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playbyplay?gameId=260522024
By the way, Diop forced Duncan to travel by doing the classic move where you’re your opponent start to back you down, and then you suddenly move laterally, which allows your opponent to stumble backwards as there no longer is anyone supporting him!

2005 NFL Playoffs – Indy vs. Pittsburgh – Everything seemed so normal: Dungy & the Colts were chokcing, the Steelers were controlling the game physically, and Bettis was about to score from the 2-yard line to ice the game. Somehow, one of the Colts jars the ball out by HEADBUTTING Bettis arm! And the Colt’s Nick Carter picks up the ball and it looks like he should be able to go all the way (or at least very close to returning it 90 yards). All Nick Carter has to do is get by Roethlisberger… but Carter dekes INTO the path of Roethlisberger, instead of cutting to a spot where Roethlisberger wasn’t. Roethlisberger gets enough of Nick Carter to stop him. Once this insane play is over, the game plays out predictably, with the Colt’s kicker shanking the kick, allowing the Steelers to advance (and eventually win the Super Bowl).

2006 World Cup – France vs. Brazil – Just an utter domination by Zinedine Zidane of France, who juggled, one-touched, spun, and juked his way around the whole field, in what was a rather surprising upset by France over the heavily favored Brazilians.

As for some other moments of 2006…
You Have Chosen Wisely

New Orleans Saints – for choosing Drew Brees and gambling that a throwing should injury would not be as detrimental as 3 torn knee ligaments would be to a mobile Daunte Culpepper.
Deron Williams – for losing his baby fat during the summer of 2006, allowing him and the Utah Jazz to get off to a dominating start.
New Orleans Saints 4th string QB Adrian McPherson – actually, he’s no longer on the Saints, but this is the guy who got hit by a golf cart by the Titans’ mascot, T-Rac (a cool-looking raccoon) during a pre-season game, and McPherson was subsequently cut. It sounds dramatic that he got cut right after he got injured, but McPherson probably would not have made the team anyways. I don’t know why it took McPherson so long, but he finally filed a lawsuit against the NFL for getting injured by a mascot. I don’t like promoting lawsuits, but the mascots have clearly gone too far. If one of the medical trainers was driving the “injury golf cart” and he accidentally ran over another player, the medical trainer would get in a lot of trouble. Mascots should be treated equally, as they are not above the law.

To Be Determined…
Tennis decided back in August 2006 that in 2007, some of the lesser tournaments will employ a “round robin” format, to increase the likelihood of marquee matchups. It’s a decision that was made in 2006, that may truly help revitalize the popularity of tennis. Or at the least, I hope it increases the popularity so that I can watch more matches on TV.

The Joys of (200)6: Hitman's Year in Review, Part I

Top 6 Things and People to Leave Behind in '06:

6. Dennis Green: The Cardinals were exactly who I thought they were.

5. Barry Bonds: Retire. Please. Ben Johnson didn't get the silver medal, so be content with your lot and find yourself a nice, peaceful, secluded, shark-infested beach.

4. No-Name Bowls: We really don't need a January 7, 2007 International Bowl in Toronto. We don't need 6-6 teams playing anytime after their conference schedules are done. May 2007 be free from all bowl games (a) sponsored by companies we've never heard of, (b) in places we'd never go, and (c) featuring teams that don't have winning records.

3. Tom Coughlin: I picked the Giants to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I didn't have faith in them to win it, but I thought - as many did - that there was enough talent to run the NFC table. You know what? There is enough talent on the G-Men to come in first in the weak NFC. There is no excuse why the Giants are 7-8, not with the raw ability they have. To be fair, the team's collapse and infighting isn't necessarily or even primarily Coughlin's fault - but when a coach loses total control over a team that underachieves in the way the Giants have, the coach's head must roll.

2. The Atlantic Division: These five teams aren't even close to .500. The NBA should just sit this group down until fall, and let the East play a 6-team playoffs, NFL-style. Division winners get the byes, and let the others duke it out. Do we need to waste the Bulls' or Cavs' time in sweeping the pathetic #4 seed that will come out of the Atlantic?

1. NFL hyper-parity: I love parity when it gives each team a chance to improve in each off-season enough to at least make the playoffs the following year. I hate parity when it levels the playing field too much. The NFC features five 7-8 teams that could make the playoffs - and that lucky winner could go in at 7-9. There needs to be a greater spread in each conference - and 9-7 playoff teams should be the minimum, and 10-6 should be more common than that. Jacksonville's still in this? The Niners were just eliminated this past Sunday? Yuck.

Holiday Sports Wrap

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the land
Lots of stories were breaking, and all were in hand

Some baseball, some football, some hoops stories too
Thanks to old MJ, here they are from me to you

Baseball

1. The Cardinals continue to mystify the mind and it seems as though they wish to continue the trend of taking success for granted. While the rest of baseball has spent the off-season in holiday shopping mode, the Cardinals seem insistent on parlaying their unlikely World Series championship into a one-and-done fairytale. The Cards let their second-best starter and NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan walk away to another team within the division, watching him sign a four year, $42M deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Christmas Eve.

The Brewers, who had traded their #3 starter Doug Davis to Arizona in exchange for catcher Johnny Estrada, have now upgraded their rotation and can slot Suppan between Ben Sheets and Chris Capuano. As unlikely as it sounds, the Brewers might just have the best rotation in the NL Central.

As mentioned previously, the Cubs should’ve picked Suppan over Marquis, in a “kill two birds with one stone” strategy for winning the division. That they didn’t, and that they allowed Suppan to sign with another team that will try to wrest the division away from St. Louis highlights their folly. But that the Cardinals let anyone sign Suppan away from them demonstrates something far more insidious than stupidity; it shows the Cardinals as a team that is not interested in winning at all costs.

After finishing the 2004 season with the best record in baseball and making it to the World Series for the first time since 1987, the Cards seemed poised to really clamp down on the National League and make it their own. The Cards had the rabid fan base, the plans for a new revenue-generating stadium, the best player in baseball (Pujols), the best starter in the NL (Carpenter), and a healthy $100M payroll in a division and a league where most teams were reluctant to spend. Instead, the Cards did nothing to improve their team for 2005, saw that they could still win their division (if not the pennant, narrowly missing out to the Astros), and continued on their apathetic path in 2006. That they made the playoffs and the World Series was a testament to the relatively poor level of competition in the NL and a gift of dumb luck.

Memo to Bill DeWitt and Walt Jocketty, owner and GM of the Cardinals, respectively: cry all you want about how the big, bad Yankees and the other mean bullies of the east coast make competition impossible but it’s a hollow complaint. You just don’t want it enough and, sooner or later, your fans will get sick of your excuses. It’s pathetic that a baseball town like St. Louis should get the shaft from lazy losers like you two.

2. The Yanks are in negotiations to jettison Randy Johnson to a team in the NL West. As of this morning, the Giants, Padres, and Diamondbacks are all in the running, with the Padres and D-Backs considered as the most likely destinations. In return, the Yanks are looking for a righty-hitting first baseman, a fourth outfielder, and young pitching. Eric Byrnes and Chad Tracy have been mentioned as possibilities from Arizona, with Scott Linebrink and prospects being offered by San Diego. By clearing RJ from their roster, the Yanks would be able to make room for Barry Zito or Roger Clemens (or both) and get rid of a pitcher who, more than any one other player, has been responsible for the team’s early exit in the past two postseasons. He’s a cranky, creaky and unlovable 43 year-old and anything the Yanks can get for him would be fantastic.

3. The White Sox traded young pitcher Brandon McCarthy to the Texas Rangers for two young arms, John Danks, Nick Masset, and Jacob Rasner. Stockpiling young arms is always good but I don’t quite see how the White Sox have improved themselves. In effect, they’ve chosen Gavin Floyd, acquired from the Phillies in the Freddy Garcia trade, over homegrown product McCarthy. A bit of a head-scratcher, if you ask me.

4. Ken Griffey broke a bone in his left hand in an unspecified accident in his home. What else is new? This guy can’t stay healthy for even five minutes.

Football

1. The Jets are now in position to make the playoffs by beating the Dolphins last night. And, together with Cincy’s special teams collapse, the Broncos seem like they’re a near-lock to join the party as well. As much as people scoffed at the Jets and their weak schedule, the truth is that Coach Mangina has done a good job turning Gang Green into a physical defensive team. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and safety Kerry Rhodes are very good young players and give the Jets a defensive foundations for several seasons to come. As for the Broncos, they’re more lucky than good. If Carson Palmer had anything close to a better day on Sunday, the Bengals would’ve destroyed Denver.

2. Improbable as it may sound, the Giants are still in the driver’s seat for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot. A win on the road against the Washington Redskins pretty muck guarantees the Giants a date with either Dallas or Philly in a Wild Card game. Even a Giants loss – combined with losses by the Falcons, Panthers, Packers, and Rams – will get the G-men into the post-season. Without devolving into a rant on why I think the NFL’s product is as poor as its ever been, I think having a team make the playoffs at 7-9 pretty much seals my case. That’s just pathetic.

3. From Peter King’s most recent MMQB:

“Does Jeff Garcia have one more Christmas miracle in his sack?”

The words “Jeff Garcia” and “sack” should never appear in the same sentence. That’s disgusting. But at least I know where Peter King’s mind is at.

4. The Colts are in the playoffs. They seem to have the #3 seed locked up and will host at least one playoff game this January. But beyond that, I have no idea if they’ll fade out as usual or if they’ll somehow pull it together and make this the year that they finally make it to the Super Bowl. In my opinion, a Super Bowl run is unlikely, but in the NFL, you never know. After all, the Giants could be the first ever 7-9 team to make the playoffs so anything’s possible.

Here’s what I do know, however. When a fat slob like Ron Dayne, an NFL bust by all measures, can torch you for 153 yards on 32 carries and 2 TD’s, well, you’ve got problems. Ron Dayne is on his third team in seven seasons. He’s never been the feature-back in any NFL offense. He’s deceptively weak for a man his size and he hasn’t even the slightest understanding of how to run behind blockers or explode through the hole. In effect, this 243 lb former Heisman Trophy winner plays like a 3rd down back. But he smoked Indy’s run defense. That speaks volumes about how bad Indy should get spanked in January.

Basketball

Nothing to report here, just wanted to make the poem work...

Monday, December 25, 2006

MMBSD: It's a Christmas Miracle!

Yes, there was a Christmas miracle (outside of the one Denver received on a botched PAT). We have a little clarity as to who is going to be in the NFL playoffs. Huzzah! How'd it happen?

1. Broncos slipped out of their stadium with an all but certain Wild Card spot when the ball slipped through the hands of the Cinci holder. After one of the uglier starts (Two interceptions in the first 3.4 seconds or something) the game picked up speed. The game was played in the weather conditions that only a true football fan could love. Icy winds and snow that turned even Mike Shannahan's hair white. Carson Palmer ran the perfect hurry up offense to seemingly tie the game but special teams are indeed special and Denver won out. With an 8-4 conference record, Denver is certainly in the driver seat for the playoffs.

2. Seattle clinched the NFC West via a San Fran choke job in the desert. After working so hard to put themselves in a position to pull off the heist of the century and steal the NFC West, San Fran fell flat. As such Seattle backs into the playoffs as the first Super Bowl loser in 6 years to make the playoffs the next year. Luckily the Steelers loss means that no pair of Super Bowl combatants have the playoffs the following year in a long long time.

As such the biggest games for the playoffs are tonight. A Jets win over Miami pretty much puts the kaibosh on the plethora of 8 win teams in the AFC. I'm sure the folks at MNF are as shocked as anyone that this game means something. Over in the NFC a Dallas victory gives them the NFC East division, while a Philly win gives them a playoff birth and a shot at the division crown. Things are slowly coming into focus. It's a miracle!

News of Note
Few things are as disappointing when your team obviously has mailed it in at the end of the season. The Browns didn't want to play yesterday and it showed. Crennel should be (and hopefully will be). The other stinker of the day was out in New Jersey where the G-Men are merely collecting their checks. Might as well clear out the locker rooms today boys.......I was really sad to see Yao Ming come down with a case of fractured knee. Yao had become the dominant center that was on the verge of becoming extinct.....On the other hand I've been very happy to see Amare Stoudemaire slowly coming back to all-star form. Not sure if he'll ever have the same explosiveness but he's playing great and right now the Suns are playing the best basketball in the league.....Only a few more shopping days till January 1 Bowl Games. Any bets on which USC/TTUP (that team up north) team will show up? The disappointed ones or the hungry ones?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Favoritism By Stern, Or Whining By Sheridan?

OK, I promise I’ll stop a) doing my impersonation of Bill Simmons with the endless string of NBA columns which get tedious after a while and b) talking about this topic after I get this one last post off my chest.

No matter what one thinks of Isiah’s skills as a general manager, coach, or human being, I really don’t understand why ESPN’s Chris Sheridan is arguing that Zeke should’ve been suspended for his role in Saturday’s brawl. While one can certainly assume that the flagrant foul was pre-meditated and not simply a hard foul in the heat of battle, no one can prove that Isiah explicitly ordered Mardy Collins’ hack on JR Smith.

What’s more curious about Sheridan’s argument are in his final three paragraphs:

“This one reeks of Stern doing a favor for Dolan, heaping all the blame on the players and letting Thomas off without even so much as a public scolding.

All in all, it was a bad weekend for the NBA and a bad Monday for Stern. We’ve come to expect him to be a disciplinarian when circumstances call for it, but we expect him to be evenhanded.

By letting Thomas off, Stern came off as more disingenuous than disciplinarian, and that's as big a disappointment as the brawl itself.”


First of all, why would anyone feel that David Stern would owe James Dolan a favor? Unlike in Major League Baseball, where Bud Selig owes his job to several of his fellow owners (whom he relishes in repaying time and again), I can’t recall one time where Commissioner Stern ever kowtowed to the whims of this owner or that. If someone can give me an example where Stern showed blatant favoritism, I’m all ears.

Second, what would be in it for Stern to spare Isiah Thomas and James Dolan, two lightning-rods of criticism among fans and media pundits alike? League business would not be furthered by keeping Thomas clean of this affair and Sheridan, who should know better than anyone, that the NBA has made it a point to always further league business first. Image is everything, after all.

Why do I get the feeling that Sheridan simply has an ax to grind here, and that none of his whining is rooted in any legitimacy. Furthermore, if Nate Robinson was suspended for actually instigating a fight – Collins and Smith appeared to be merely jawing at eachother and punches may not have been thrown without Robinson’s involvement – then Robinson’s role as main troublemaker would partially exonerate Isiah as puppet master.

Cheers and Jeers: Year in Review Edition

Rollercoaster Ingredients:

It was a wild year in the sports world. Up was down, black was white, and unpredictable was predictable. It was like reading Alice in Wonderland while on Acid. In a strange way it almost made sense from the right perspective. (note the following things still don't make sense no matter how much drugs are used: Why Around the Horn is still on TV, Why corporate sponsors are scared of NBA players when NFL players commit at least Class D Felony every 4.2 seconds, Why Dick Vitale calling a Duke game is not censored for the gratuitous amount of oral sex given, and How many homicide-suicides those Chevy commercials have caused). Every week for a year there's been lots to cheer and jeer about so here's my season in review list


Cheers

Unexpected Results

If you were a degenerate gambler like me this year then you're probably out of money and currently reading this from inside a coffee shop under the assumed name Homer Thompson. It was a year of unexpected results and underdogs which drained money away from all but the craziest of gamblers. The Saint Louis Cardinals started the post-season with less of a pulse than Dick Cheney. Somehow a catcher that hadn't hit the ball all season finished off the Mets and a shortstop that spends his off-season as horse jockey or lawn gnome led the Cards to winning a World Series in their inaugural season at Bud Light Stadium. It was a year in which a quarterback that throws like a submarine pitcher, single handedly made Mack Brown, a man that lost to his kid in coloring contest, a winner over a team that had two Heismen trophy winners. It was a year in which a perennial choker, Florida, was led by the son of a tennis star to a NCAA basketball championship. It was a year that we discovered that George Mason was a school and apparently a founding father. It was a year that the scion of Schottheimer, The Jaw, and a quarterback whose best attribute was that he could tackle a defender, won a Superbowl. Somewhere along the way I think Griffindor won the NHL. I like surprises and if there's one word to sum up the champions this year it was unexpected.


Blogs
It was also the year of the blog or in our case, online magazines. For those that aren't aware of how the actual hardware lets our online magazine run it’s a series of tubes that are powered by a Ninja hamster named Mr. Zero. Anyway this year Internet websites began to be havens for those tired of autistic monkeys known as ESPN analysts. I mean what kind of insight does Steven A. Smith provide other than if yelling means right than yelling really loud means more right? I suppose Harold Reynolds taught us that no really means no. The best analysts for Christsake are John Clayton, who I am convinced is just a walking penis they dressed up in a shoddy suit with some glasses on, and the Hollywood invented Ron Jaworski. Does anyone believe that Jaws was an NFL QB? Honestly I'm worried that they have a special scooter to get him around the set. How in the world did a man built like a hardboiled egg play the QB position? Your fancy computer graphics and doctored films can not change the underlying problem that it is physically impossible for Jaws to have played a professional sport other than maybe Bass Fishing. Anyway soon after our linkage (and almost certainly as a result of our linkage) the website Kissing Suzy Kolber won the award for best sports blog. KSK finds way to poke fun at Mike "I'm a Huge Douchebag" Lupica, Rex "Rexstacy" Grossman and Bill "Tits McGee" Parcells while using the word "bukkake" on a regular basis. Incidentally Dick Vitale is still patiently waiting for his invitation to the Duke bukkake party. Nonetheless, finally, there are alternatives to the insider coverage and general wankery that is the big boys of sports journalism. In the end it was the importance of the online world that led me for the first time and apparently the Hitman for 17th straight year to being named time men of the year.

Jeers

Terrell Owens
Whether we like it or not it was a year of T.O. There was his release from the Eagles. His parting shots at Donovan McNabb. His signing by Dallas. His suicide attempt. His fight with Bledsoe. His support of the Iraqi Insurgency. His dropped passes. His gay love affair with Tom Brady. His resurgence with Tony Romo. His drooling problem. You only needed to turn on the TV and there was a TO story. The media's inability to ignore him coupled with his ever changing tactics to ensure that media wouldn't ignore him has resulted with him being probably the most famous football player today. I'm hoping next year will have less TO news as anything left for him to do would probably end up in his arrest.


Yinzers Winning
Of all the champions this year though one that rubbed my rhubarb the most (and not in a good way) was the Steeler's victory. Yinzers, or people that root for the Steelers, are creatures that fear the light and must swing pieces of yellow cloth in order to survive outside their underground layers. They can typically be stopped by garlic, silver bullets, and holy water. However this year it wasn't enough and the Yinzers got another Super Bowl. This event should be (and was) jeered for any number of reasons. There was the annoying whiny rally cry of "one for the thumb". For some reason a running back that would show off a shimmie every time he gained 3 yards was given a swan song sweet enough to send a man into insulin shock. There was the fact that it was both a boring and yet controversial Super Bowl. It was an event that took a coach I used to respect for his fire and passion and turned him into a Brett Favre Clone (will he retire or won't he). Where once the Jaw would lift players into the air and pile drive them into the ground if they ran the wrong routes or didn't tackle hard enough, today you see a man that probably sleeps in fields of periwinkles and cries at Bambi. Nothing good came out of their Super Bowl win. The Yinzer capital (a town known as Pittsburgh) which should be dead and buried (much like Mel Gibson's career) was given a brief reprieve. There's no bitterness here Man did it suck watching that

The Women of Cheers and Jeers.

Over the past year many women have blessed my cheering and jeering. They have given me (and you the reader) pictures that are mostly nude but tasteful. They also have given me restraining orders. Ah the dance. Here are my top 5 for the year.

The Student Body (hat tip to withleather.com)

Our nation's greatest resource. Thankfully UCLA every year has their underwear party to celebrate the fact that they don't go to USC. I think the cops cheer them on. I mean what else would LA cops do?

Cheerleaders

According to Maxim, who will undoubtedly demand I take this picture down, Jeanette is the hottest cheerleader in professional football. She also likes short PhD students who are interested in politics. Which means she doesn't dig my ultimate fighting professional bull riding ways.

Ali Larter

This Heroes star has a look of a woman that’s angry in bed. According to sex experts you shouldn't try having sex with Ali unless your armed with a battle axe, shield, chain mail and have a good excuse for where all the bruises came from. Mine is that Ali Larter beat the crap out of me in bed. What's yours?

Miss USA

You don't need to know her name (its Tara Conner). You just need to know that she was almost stripped of her crown for a) consistently getting caught going to bars while underage (she's nearly 21 but not quite), b) using cocaine at said bars and c) making out with Miss Teen USA while drunk/coked out on tabletops at various bars. She needs to be awarded a Nobel Prize in hotness or for making the world a better place. I heard that when she got involved in the lesbian action angels cried.

Our girl: Scarlett Johansson

Her and her perfectly natural body has led to a great deal of cheers. I'm not sure what I'd do without my weekly ritual of hunting down new and wonderful photos of her. Maybe get elected UN Secretary General. Or just look for another hot girl. Still it wouldn't be the same. Thanks Scarlett.

Passing of the Torch?

If you watched the Bengals-Colts game on Monday night, you saw commercials for ESPN's Christmas Day coverage of the Lakers-Heat game. What was fascinating about it was how the Worldwide Leader sold the contest: Kobe vs. D-Wade. I understand that decision to an extent - but no mention of Shaq at all? I still think that's a compelling storyline, even now.

Just Say No To Larry

Larry “Diapers” Brown might be making a comeback in Philly?

There’s no question that a low-life on the magnitude of a Larry Brown desperately wants back into the NBA so he can begin to work off the blemishes of the last two years. Beginning with the poor job he did at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, continuing in a distracted championship defense in Detroit, and culminating in perhaps the worst coaching job in NBA history last year in New York, Brown needs a chance to repair his image. But why in Philly? Their roster is terrible right now. And even if they get Greg Oden and two other high-profile rookies with their three first round draft picks, will Brown really enjoy coaching a team that would be even younger than the 2005-2006 Knicks?

At this stage in Brown’s career, he needs to cherry-pick and pull a Phil Jackson by simply finding a championship-ready team that he can hitch his fallen star to. But hey, if Philly wants to bring Brown back, I’m willing to sit back and watch the show. If Brown can find a way to change, if he can tolerate rookie mistakes and control his whiny nature, it will only serve to highlight the fact that everything that went wrong in New York was 100% his fault. And if he can’t change his behavior, if he insists on berating players in the press, benching rookies in favor of less-talented veterans, if he trades young players for older ones, then he’s setting the Sixers back and I’m all for that.

The real question is this: what do loyal Sixers fans want? Do they want another roll in the hay with Larry Brown? Because if it comes out that Brown in stepping back in after orchestrating Allen Iverson’s trade out of town, then we’ll know that Brown hasn’t changed a bit. And isn’t it funny that Iverson was traded to Larry Brown’s little bitch, George Karl. So the next time Brown and Karl are spooning under Carolina Blue satin sheets after a hot night under a mirrored ceiling, I wonder if Karl will ask Brown how he used to handle AI?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Colonel Sanders Finger Lickin' Picks For All Degenerate Gamblers Out There - Week 16

I feel like a phoenix coming up from the ashes to start afresh. Or I have just watch too many Harry Potter movies. LTC MJ did fabulous last week and allowed me to have a clean slate. I am hunkered down in the snow covered bunker this week. Charlie is all around me and I feel that it is either kill or be killed. Sgt. Elias Grodin is telling one thing and Staff Sgt Barnes is telling me something else. Sorry, having a little flash back...onto this week's picks.

MINN (+3) at GB: GB. Not only will I not go against the home team here, I will definately not go against a team that loves to play in snow and cold weather two things of which it is supposed to be on Thurs.

KC(-6.5) at OAK: KC. Getting back to our previous conversation about the NFL network. Why oh why does Oakland play, not once but twice on this network. Don't you want fans to call their cable operators and request the NFL network.

BAL (+3.5) at PITT: PITT. Tough tough game. Pittsburgh is on their usual roll. Baltimore is far overrated and will be bounced the first playoff game. Gotta go with the home favorite.

CAR (+5.5) at ATL: CAR. I think that the Car will bounce back even if some washed out Florida QB is running their ship. Michael Vick could be hurt and that will up my chances for a cool 100 bucks of Mighty's money.

CHI(-4.5) at DET: CHI. Wow the Bears are only favored by 4 points. Does Vegas know something that I don't about the Lions. Is Barry Sanders going to come back and play ala 1994?

IND (-9) at HOU: IND. The Colts just whooped up on Bungals this past weekend. Possibly wrecking their chances at a playoff berth. Damn you Peyton Manning, damn you to hell.

NE(+3) at JAC: NE. I don't think the Jaguars have that much fire in their bellies.

NO (+3) at NYG: NO. I take MJs word for it. The G-men are bad. I don't know how their pass defense this year is, but hopefully Drew Brees can throw for another 5 TDs.

TB (+3) at CLE: CLE. One game that I will definately not be missing on the Sunday Ticket. I hope that Chuckie goes wild in Cleveland and there is a Child's Play 8 out of it.

TENN (+4.5) at BUF: TENN. The Titans are on a roll and I don't care if there will be ten feet of snow in Buffalo, Tennessee will win this game. Could it be possible that Tennessee has a better record than the Bungals at the end of the year?

WAS (-2) at STL: WAS. Ladell Betts and Jason Campbell are on a roll. The porous defense of STL will make this a run fest for both teams.

ARI (+4) at SF: SF. Will the insanity ever end. Another one of those games I will not be missing with the loss of the Ticket.

CIN (+3) at DEN: CIN. Where did you go my Cincinnati defense and offense? If they were playing tonight (we are getting about a foot of snow), Cincy would lose. They are playing on Sunday, so Santa will be dressed as Ocho Cinco in Denver.

SD (-4.5) at SEA: SD. I hope that LDT scores another 5 TDs this game, offers the game ball to Shalex and tells him, "no I will not be appearing on the cover of Madden next year"

PHI (+7) at DAL: DAL. A division rivalry. If Donovan was playing maybe this game would be close but the Eagles are on their way out in Big D.

NYJ (-2) at MIA: NYJ. Another reason why I am not missing the Sunday Ticket. Wait, this game is actually on throughout the country. Are they trying to have the booth announcers throw down to make it more exciting.

Last Week: 11-5 (Thank you MJ for pulling through in the trenches)
Total: 106-106-12. Ah, now I feel like i am in the NFC.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Week 16 – It’s Time to be a Man and Put Pants on

I think the NFL should have some snappy motos for each week. I think that this week is where you really just have to be a man and put pants on. Many of the teams are still playoff eligible (at least mathematically), so all you can do is put your pants on, and try to beat the other team. On to the games…

Manwich Matchup of the week
New England at Jacksonville – The best road team in the AFC? The Pats. Meanwhile, the Jags are 6-1 at home. I’m anticipating some major coaching adjustments, because no teams other than San Diego and Tennessee seem to get on a role this year. Pick: Jacksonville

Upset of the Week-
Tennessee at Buffalo – While not the Manwich Matchup, this might be the Pot Luck Special of the Week. Buffalo is 7-7, and yet, I thought they were just as mediocre as usual. Their best wins were over Jacksonville and the Jets?, with a bad loss to Detroit. The Titans? Well, I had been telling everyone that they were trying to make a playoff run for 2007, but they are just so excited they might just make it this year. (NOTE: I don’t understand why the Titans are 4.5 point underdogs) Pick: Tennessee

Philly @ Dallas – I almost made this the Manwich, but I think AFC matchups take precedence over NFC matchups. I can’t wait to see which sucker team shells money out for Jeff Garcia next season. My money is on Oakland. The weird thing that most people don’t realize, is that Philly actually controls their own destiny in terms of winning the NFC East. Pick: Dallas

Minnesota @ GB- Two 6-8 teams who possibly can get a miracle to make the playoffs, but first, they have to have the desire to actually win a game. The NFL Network, it’s fantastic! Pick: GB

KC @ Oakland- Mathematically, KC is alive, but they would need a miracle to qualify with that 3-7 conference record. Pick: KC

Baltimore at Pittsburgh – Cobra Commander versus Sgt. Slaughter, round 2. I think that Sgt. Slaughter is going to rebound from the first, because hell, there’s no way Sgt. Slaughter is allowing another 27-0 beat down by the evil Ravens. Pick: Pitt

Carolina at Atlanta – No matter how much the Falcons stumble, they are still in the wildcard race, due to the patheticness of the NFC. Honestly, its like no one in the NFC can be manly and put pants on. I think an 8-8 playoff team is like someone trying to believe that capri pants are pants. Anyway, it’s kind of sad what happened to the CAR, with a ridiculous 4-games losing streak. Pick: Atl

Chicago at Detroit – The Bears have clinched homefield, the defense is banged up, what reason is there to even play hard? Pick: Detroit

Indianapolis at Houston – At least the Colts survived Monday night. Pick: Indy

New Orleans at N.Y. Giants – Ok, Ok, I’m done picking the Giants at this point. Pick: Saints

Tampa Bay at Cleveland – Welcome to a crucial game that will change the fate of the destination of some of the top players in the NFL! Recent history suggests that the Browns really enjoy winning games in the last 2 weeks to worsen their draft position. Yes, even when they win, they find ways to hurt the team. Speaking of hurting, I can't understand why the NFL union won't sue the NFL and the Browns for the FOURTH player in two years getting a staph infection after a surgery. Pick: Cleveland

Arizona at San Francisco - Because I have nothing better to say, I mine as well entertain with a Naked Gun quote: Drebin: “You’re part of a dying breed, Hapsberg. Like people who can name all 50 states.” Pick: San Fran

Washington at St. Louis - Drebin: “I’m sure we can handle this like adults. Isn’t that right Mr. POOPYPANTS?” Pick: Washington

Cincinnati at Denver - The Bungles will bounce back, don’t worry, they’ll still be a trendy Super Bowl pick. Pick: Cincy

San Diego at Seattle- I can’t wait until everyone starts freaking out that Seattle could possibly lose the division! The only problem is, Seattle would still have to lose to Tampa Bay next week. Pick: San Diego

NYJ @ Miami- It’s absolutely no fair that Mangina gets an easy schedule, (relatively speaking) with Miami and then Oakland. They have the inside track to the playoffs. However, this is a season full of coaching adjustments, and after Miami’s 21-0 loss to the Bills, the ‘Phins will find a way to rub the Mangina the wrong way. Pick: Miami

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 134-94
Manwich: 10-6 (Rumors of the Colts demise were not true)
Upset of the Week: 4-11 (The Falcons at least made it interesting in Dallas)

On Hoops

1. As the resident Knicks fan on BSD, I have very mixed feelings about what happened at The Garden on Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets.

First, I’m annoyed that 24 hours after posting an optimistic piece about the Knicks, they make headlines in a negative story.

Second, I agree that getting blown out is never an excuse to resort to flagrant fouls. As Mighty, Gutsy, and others have pointed out, if you want to get tough, do so in the first half or in the third quarter, when you’re still in the game. Flagrant fouls with two minutes to go is the action of a sore loser.

Third, despite the unpleasantness, I’m not sorry it happened. For any Knicks fan, nay, for any NBA fan that came of age during 1980’s, rough, physical play – even the stuff that might be called cheap or dirty – has always been a part of the game. That does not excuse, justify, or otherwise condone fighting in any way, shape, or form. After all, this isn’t hockey, where violence is (or was) glorified and marketed by offering paychecks to unskilled hacks for their pugilistic talents. This is still basketball. But it’s still a physical game and very much a contact sport. Fights will happen from time to time and that’s just a reality. And as a Knicks fan who grew up watching Pat Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, John Starks, Mark Jackson, Derek Harper, Greg Anthony, Charlie Ward, Chris Childs, Larry Johnson, and Latrell Sprewell, playing with a kind of toughness and physicality has always been a part of Orange-and-Blue basketball. That the Knicks have lost their rough and tough identity over the past several seasons has been one of the big reasons why I (and many Knicks fans like me) have had trouble identifying with the team in recent years.

Like I said, I don’t condone what happened. It’s never good to see a fight and it’s especially bad to see a fight spill off the court and into the stands where the paying public may be harmed. But George Karl didn’t come into The Garden with clean hands and he has spent the past several months antagonizing Isiah Thomas. For a guy who has a resume spanning 18 seasons’ worth of underachievement, turmoil, and feuding, he may want to tone down the act just a bit.

2. So Iverson was finally traded, interestingly enough, to the aforementioned Denver Nuggets. Philly gets Andre Miller for another couple of seasons, Joe Smith’s expiring contract, and Denver’s two first round draft picks in the June draft. Denver gets a feisty, determined, intense, hard-working (in games, at least) guy who also happens to be a tremendous ball-hog.

I don’t buy the argument that Iverson’s never shared the ball because he never had anyone to share with. Sure, he never played with All-Stars. But I’m not approaching the argument from the “he’s a bad teammate” standpoint. I’m merely saying that his talents lie in scoring and dominating the basketball. To play any other way would diminish his impact on the game and hence to negate his true worth. For that reason, Iverson is a tragically flawed and tragic player. He can win games on his own but he can never truly play within a team system.

I don’t see how he and Carmelo Anthony can coexist as teammates starting next month, or for the two years they’ll be together in Denver. I don’t see how two scoring prodigies can play on the same team without one player deferring to the other. I know Iverson is a driven player, one who wants to win very badly. But I think sometimes that’s the tragedy of life – the one thing we want most is sometimes unattainable because of our own shortcomings. If Iverson can find a way to play without the ball in his hands, maybe Denver can figure this out. But he hasn’t figured it out so far and I tend to believe that Hall of Famers can’t reinvent themselves overnight...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Custard Anyone?




I know I have been away training to become the next snow storm trooper, and want to thank LTC MJ for bringing me close to .500. I just saw a funny story that those who spent some time in St. Louis would appreciate:

A man has been choked to death by his pet boa constrictor at his home in the US city of Cincinnati, police say.
The 13-ft (3.9m) snake was still strangling Ted Dres' body when it was discovered by an acquaintance.

Members of an animal protection group removed the snake from the house after helping police officers free it.

An animal expert told the Associated Press news agency people were often unaware of the risks of keeping snakes such as boa constrictors as pets.

"People who keep these type of animals as pets should know exactly what they're doing and what they're capable of," Andy Mahlman, a spokesman for the Cincinnati Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said.

He warned reptile owners against wrapping such snakes around their necks, for instance when posing for photographs.

"They don't realise they could be a few seconds away from death," he was quoted as saying.

The snake would be housed at an animal shelter until Mr Dres' family had decided what to do with it, Mr Mahlman said.



And yes those were the sheep's balls that we fried for Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Year in Review


Well its been a great year in sports. So many memories. This week at the BSD we will be doing a year in review symposium with some of our best umm only columnists pitching in with their thoughts on the year in sports. All are invited to sprinkle in their thoughts on what was truly a unpredictable year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

MMBSD: AAugh!

Arghh! Just when I thought I had the NFL figured out they yank the ball right out from under me and fall flat on my ass. Alright Jacksonville was a good team but Vince Young was an up and comer. This should be a close contest. Wrong! Vince Young is a slightly less productive then your average member of team green after a Phish Concert. Instead Tennesse pulled off a win when they returned 3 Jaguar turnovers for TDs. (Guess which team with be searching for a QB this offseason). New Orleans was rising to the top of the NFC. They had just thrashed Dallas and now were facing the dregs of the NFC East in the form of the Wasington Native Americans for an easy beating….not! Drew Brees, like Michael Douglas without Viagr,a couldn't put it in the scoring zone (unlike Tom Brady who according to the odds makers in Vegas always finds the end zone). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Terrell Owens acted like a deranged asshole. I mean who could've guessed he would spit on another human being? Here I am every week trying to make sense of what obviously has slightly less rationality than a White House Iraq Study session. Why? Why do I even try? It's like I somehow I'm looking forward to the pain of being wrong. I wonder if the Defense Department feels the same way. Luckily I can always find solace in the Browns. They never cause repeated trauma. I don't cry myself to sleep on Sundays praying for Jim Brown to come out of retirement.

Typical ending to my Sundays after watching of a Browns' Game

Luckily the NBA gives me consistency. The Spurs are on top of the league. Tracy McGrady is out with a bad back or a testicle cramp or something. And the players are beating each other up like it’s a strip club at 3 AM. In Madison Square Garden the Knicks and Nuggets staged their own Royal Rumble with Carmelo coming out on top with a TKO in the 4rth. David Stern, who tends to get constipated anytime his workers show emotion, individuality or color, will bring the hammer down on the offenders. The suspension rotation system will probably be fully in effect. An interesting twist is that the suspensions could force Denver out of running for the Allan Iverson sweepstake. Denver will need a lot of bodies and it may be missing too many to swing the trade.

I'm pretty sure this foul by the Knicks' Mardy Collins will earn him a suspension

Random Thoughts:

Game of the week coming up is NCAA basketball matchup of The Ohio State with Greg Oden's left hand v. defending national champion Florida on Saturday. The combination of the best incoming big man versus the best returning big man with the subtext of the same teams meeting on January 8th in Arizona for the BCS has me psyched. Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan captured his 1,000 victory. Sloan coaches his teams to play like he did. Smart, hard nosed and team oriented. Brett Favre now holds the record for most completions. He's also only a few interceptions away from setting the all time record for most interceptions. I wonder if that will get the same fanfare? Congrats to everyone on this blog for being named Time Man of the Year! Seriously. I'm saving this one to tell my kids. Not serious.

Obviously it was a slow year

Friday, December 15, 2006

So Much Funn-a-kah

Happy Hannukah to all the Back Seat Drivers out there!

Ruminations: Friday

These are a bunch of random thoughts that have been floating around my head but I haven’t had a chance to comment on yet:

1. Devin Hester. He’s pretty darn impressive to watch and has a legitimate claim to the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. But when I found out that he and Deion Sanders formed an off-field relationship as mentor/mentee, I decided to write Hester off as a flashy punk, just like Sanders was. I hate everything that Deion Sanders represents and I think he’s one of the biggest scumbags to ever play the game of football. Deion was a braggart, a thug who hid behind a false veil of piety that never jibed with his ostentatious lifestyle and mannerisms. In other words, he taught Ray Lewis everything he knows...

2. Bud Selig. A few weeks ago, Selig announced that he was stepping down as commissioner of baseball after his term expires, in three years’ time. Bud, unless you’re a former President of the United States with a debilitating disease that robs you of your faculties, you don’t need to give us the “Long Goodbye.” We’re not going to miss you and we don’t think that highly of you (nor should you of yourself) that you should so grace us with such a self-important announcement. Give me a break. The only question now is who the Communist Bloc of owners (Reinsdorf, Pohlad, Henry, and Loria) will appoint as their next marionette and if they will use the next three years as a grooming period to emasculate Selig’s replacement as Selig himself was emasculated.

3. NFL Network. I touched upon this in my comments to Hitman’s most recent column but I think it bears mentioning again. The NFL Network, from a league and business perspective, was a savvy investment and has the potential to be a long-term asset to the NFL’s bargaining position with its broadcast partners (Fox/CBS/NBC/ESPN). Obviously it’s not working out in the short-term because the four games played on NFLN have been total stinkers and no one is picketing their cable company, screaming “I want my NFL Network!” I think the NFL should adjust their short-term strategy just a little bit. Instead of providing a feed of the game exclusively to the local markets in question, they should expand coverage to the team’s territory of influence. For instance, Saturday night’s match-up between Atlanta and Dallas should be broadcast across all of Georgia and north Texas/Oklahoma. The more fans can watch the games on a limited basis, the more they’ll know what they’re missing. And it never hurts to increase eyeballs on the product. Confining the game to the Dallas Metroplex and local Atlanta markets results in turning off casual, out-of-market Falcons and Cowboys fans and that just doesn’t make any sense.

4. Knickerbockers. In New York, it seems that it’s almost impossible to get a fair shake once the press has turned on you. Now, it’s only mid-December and there’s a whole lot of time left for the season to end in unmitigated disaster, but the Knicks are giving me hope. Sure, part of my hope is predicated on the fact that the Eastern Conference in general, and the Atlantic Division in particular, is especially awful this year. But part of it is by virtue of the fact that – HOLY CRAP! – Isiah is actually an astute judge of basketball talent. David Lee, if you haven’t yet seen him, is one of the smartest players in the NBA right now – a bonafide white Charles Oakley. Quentin Richardson is playing very solid, all-around ball right now. Jared Jeffries is back from injury and is playing the kind of defense that glues together a starting unit. And Eddy Curry, that fat, lazy piece of shit with no heart or work ethic...well, he’s having the best season of his career right now. I know that most people think Isiah’s a terrible GM and there’s some truth to that. But I also think that out of the ashes of some colossal financial and personnel blunders rises a Phoenix of young, scrappy players who are giving their coach 100% effort. They may not be a .500 team just yet but they’re getting there. I might be the only one left on earth that feels this way, but I truly do believe in Isiah Thomas. I think he’s doing a hell of a job for the Knicks right now and he’s not getting nearly enough credit after far too much blame.

Have a good weekend, BSD’ers.

The Heartbeat of the Astros

Jeff Bagwell called it quits today, officially. Bagwell retires as the Houston Astros' all-time leader in home runs (449), RBI (1529), walks (1401), and extra-base hits (969). He had a lifetime .297 average, made the All-Star teams four times, and won the 1994 NL MVP award.

A workaholic and a standout both at the plate and with the glove, Bagwell's most important contribution, in my opinion, is the class that he brought to the game. Never controversial, never a problem, always giving his all for the team. Bags was simply a joy to watch, and he'll be missed.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cheers and Jeers: Mind Eraser Edition

Ingredients:

MVP's are typically hard to select for any number of reasons, most prominently its rare that a sport defines what a MVP is. Is he the best player? Is it the player whose team would have the most precipitous drop without him? Is it the player that the media likes the most? Is it the guy that everyone picks just so they can complain about it later? The NFL this year has a similar quandary. Is the MVP LaDainian Tomlinson or Drew Brees? Let's review the tale of the tape.

LDT

(note I refuse to call LT. Until Tomlinson breaks Joe Theisman's leg I will call him LDT. Also that’s a not so subtle hint for someone to end the MNF announcing experiment)

Pro: Broke NFL TD mark in the 13th game of the season
Con: The NFL TD record has been broken like 4 times in the past 6 years. Is it that big of a deal?

Pro: Currently second place in the league in rushing and should finish with over 1700 yards rushing
Con: This is a Marty Schottheimer team. His running backs always gain tons of yards. A young Joe Piscpo rushed for 1200 yards for the Browns in the mid-1980s.

Pro: LDT is the best player on arguably the best team in the league. In fact he's probably the most talented player in the league
Con: If we admit that what would happen to all of Peyton's commercials? Has anyone thought of Peyton's feeling in all of this?

Drew Brees
Pro: Helped turn around the Saints fortune from a 3-13 to a division winner in one season
Con: Has not rebuilt New Orleans yet.

Pro: On pace to lead the league in passer rating and to throw for almost 5000 yards.
Con: Wait, did you say 5000 yards? Is that possible? On the other hand this is the NFC we are talking about.

Pro: Somehow turned Marquis Colston and Devery Henderson into fantasy worthy players.
Con: Has not restored electricity to Southern Louisiana who are thus unable to enjoy the benefits of fantasy football.

Well there you have it folks. I'm pretty clueless myself. Maybe we can call it a tie?

And now for a little Cheers and Jeers.....

Cheers: To the 60th anniversary of the greatest baseball game ever played. Down 54-0 a young Bugs Bunny, playing every position, somehow led the Tea Totallers to an amazing comeback over the Gas-House Gorillas.

Apparantly usage of hot women was legal in baseball in the 1940s...

Jeers: To Straight Talkin John McCain. McCain who apparently feels that there's just too much freedom out there is introducing legislation aimed at increasing liability for blogs. Thank goodness McCain is trying to save us from ourselves. Before the government seizes my computer, I'd just like to send out a hearty up yours to McCaiin.

Cheers: To speculation over where Allen Iverson is going. The nation stands riveted. Productivity is plummeting. Babies are no longer being born. Everyone is waiting for this momentous decision that will literally change a team from being an 8th seed to being a 6th seed.

Cheers: To the news that Barbaro might be coming home from the hospital soon. Somehow the athlete of the century has over come the odds and is looking like a full recovery is possible. Barbaro has not yet announced which way he is leaning in regards to speculation over the 2008 Presidential Elections. I'm normally not a praying man but Barbaro please fix our government. You are our only hope.


Barbaro is reportedly polling very well among New Hampshire primary voters due to his pro-family stance.

And now for the last new Cheers and Jeers of the year (next week will be Cheers and Jeers year in review) Ms. Johansson dressed as a pussycat (hat tip www.gorillamask.net)

Hot Stove Report / “Dice-K” Edition

It’s amazing how much things can change in one week’s time. Last week, at the conclusion of baseball’s Winter Meetings, the Red Sox had signed JD Drew and Julio Lugo but were staring a deadline in the face in their negotiations with Japanese star Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka. A week later, the Red Sox and Matsuzaka have come to terms on a six year $52M contract which, with incentives, could hit $60M.

Together with the posting fee of $51.11M, the Red Sox are committing a maximum amount of $111.11M on Matsuzaka, or roughly $18.5M per season (of which Matsuzaka only receives $10M). That’s a lot of dough for any pitcher, and especially for one that has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues. But I think Matsuzaka will be very successful in the big leagues and will reward the Red Sox with #1 or #2 starter stuff. As much as I hate to say it, there is no doubt in my mind that the Red Sox have the AL East’s best lineup and the best starting rotation on paper. Their bullpen is lacking a closer and reliable setup men and that could be their Achilles heel. But the Red Sox won’t be a third place team in 2007 like they were in 2006.

In other baseball news:

• The Yankees signed Andy Pettitte to a one year $16M contract with a player option for $16M. New York needed to make this move, as it pushes Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson down to the 3 and 4 slots in the rotation, respectively. And, despite the size of the contract, a one year deal gives the Yanks the flexibility to turn over their rotation next year when RJ and Pettitte both become free agents. If one or more of the Yankees AA and AAA prospects develop this summer then the 2008 rotation will look a lot younger (and cheaper).

• The Atlanta Braves did not offer a contract to 2B Marcus Giles. According to reports, the Braves were reluctant to go to arbitration with Giles because he was expected to get a raise from the $3.85M he made in 2006 to around $5.5M. Here’s what I don’t understand: the Braves had the league’s ninth-highest payroll last season at just over $90M. If you can’t wedge $3M into your budget for a former All-Star, should you really be in the baseball business? I mean, we’re talking about a team with a payroll at nearly $100M. Is $3M really that much? I lost a lot of respect for the Braves yesterday; that was a straight-up Kansas City Royals/Florida Marlins move right there.

• Ironic that I should be knocking the Royals for their penny-pinching ways in the wake of their astounding five year $55M contract offer to Gil Meche. Here’s a guy who has never topped 200IP in a season and has a career ERA of 4.45. He’s battled injury problems as recently as 2005. And he’s making more per season than two-time Cy Young Award Winner Johan Santana. Incredible! The Royals won’t be within 10 games of .500 again this season but they seem willing to increase payroll by 8% ($47M in ‘06, $58M in ‘07) for one below league average starter. They essentially took the Yankees’ welfare check and went on a three day bender.

• Figuring that they needed to corner the market on league-average starters, the Cubs offered Jason Marquis a three year $20M contract. The “glass half-empty” type mocks the Cubs for spending $60M on mediocre products Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. The “glass half-full” type would simply say that Jason Marquis has the potential to be better than Lilly at roughly 30% of the cost. One question to the Cubs however – why go for Lilly and Marquis and leave Jeff Suppan on the table? If you really want to win your division, a better way to do it is to take your main rival’s second best pitcher...

• In an astounding turn of events, the Houston Astros responded to their loss of Andy Pettitte (and, presumably, Roger Clemens) by trading leadoff hitter Willy Taveras, #4 starter Taylor Buchholz and #1 organizational prospect Jason Hirsh to the Colorado Rockies for 2002 Rookie of the Year and de-facto ace Jason Jennings. I like Jennings a fair amount but I don’t know that I’d give up my top pitching prospect for him going into his last season before free agency. If Jennings tests the waters – and he’d be a fool not to – the Astros may have given up their #1 pitching prospect for absolutely nothing in return. What’s worse is that the Astros had the same deal in place with the White Sox for Jon Garland. I would’ve done whatever it took to get Garland. It pains me to admit it but he’s the best pitcher on the White Sox and a top-10 starter in the AL at this point.

• The Texas Rangers got into the Hot Stove mix, signing closer Eric Gagne and CF Kenny Lofton to one year, $6M contracts. The Rangers are run by a bumbling idiot of a Cornell grad and, if reports are to be believed, will offer free agent pitcher Barry Zito a six year $100M contract. However, these two signings make a lot of sense. The Rangers get a low-risk/high-reward closer for under market value and can move last season’s closer Akinori Otsuka back to a setup role. And in Lofton, the Rangers get a known commodity; he won’t be an All-Star or a spectacular performer but Lofton’s a competitor and coming in at $54M less than what departed CF Garry Matthews Jr. signed for with Anaheim.

• Finally, the Blue Jays made news by offering All-Star CF Vernon Wells a six year $126M contract to stay in Toronto. The Jays have had a horrible winter, losing Ted Lilly and failing to sign Rod Barajas or Gil Meche. They need a bit of this good news otherwise the Jays might be forced to deal with trade rumors circulating around the team all season long. The Mets and Rangers have already made inquiries into Big Vern’s availability.