Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cheers and Jeers: Alabama Riot Edition


The week's firing of Mike Shula was as clear as signal as any that inmates are running the asylum that is called University of Alabama. Shula took over the job that had seen more turnovers than a Big 12 basketball game. It a program that was hamstrung with severe NCAA restrictions on recruiting and the specter of probation hanging over it. Despite this Shula somehow led Alabama back to the Promised Land with a 10-2 record. As Alabama had a rebuilding year given a new quarterback and a new defense the 6-6 record in the deepest conference in the land was expected (nearby Georgia didn't do much better at 7-5 given similar circumstances). However in the land that Bear Bryant created with his two hands, it wasn't enough. The boosters pay and expect championships every year except in years when the rapture happens and then a 10-2 record is ok. The result Alabama will pay a golden parachute of about 4 million dollars to fire Shula. Selena Roberts quoted a figure that including hiring a new coach and other factors it might cost Alabama over 8 million dollars to get a new one. There is a concept in political economy known as Race to the Bottom. It begins with simple market transactions but over-competition, the need to immediately gratify producers no matter the cost, begins to erode public goods like schools or roads or free Crispy Crème Donut Day. That 8 million dollars being doled out for a football coach will be indirectly taken out of scholastic needs and directly out of other athletic programs. Boosters are the steering wheel at Alabama (and frankly many other schools) and they will drive universities off a cliff to satiate their needs for instant gratification.

Anyway time for a little Cheers and Jeers.....

Cheers: To Greg Oden. I don't remember the last time there was this much hype about a college basketball that hasn't played yet. Oden is only one of 4 people to ever be named two-timed High School Basketball Player of the Year (the others Lebron, Alcinder, and Lucas) so the hype could well be deserved. That said is it just me or does Oden basically look like Old Lebron from the Nike commercials? (update: screw PTI for stealing my material. I thought of that this morning in Italian Class)

Jeers: To the Cleveland Browns. As Kiss Me Suzy Kolber aptly put it, Cleveland is still looking for a professional football team. It is now looking more and more likely that Romeo Crennel will be fired and another search will begin for a coach that can lead this team to at least mediocrity. Crennel has not only failed to field a competitive team but its obvious that locker room has already checked out. I'm still unsure which is easier: have the Browns win a playoff game or have peace in the Middle East.

Cheers: To the unlikely emerging star in Michael Redd. The second round selection of Ohio State is now third in the NBA in scoring at 30.4 points a game. Not too shabby I say.

Jeers: To France and its soccer. As many problems as the US has with sports, race, intolerance, and at times hygiene, its nothing compared to France. Just check out the story and then remember why you probably shouldn't be a tourist there for awhile.

Cheers: To paranoia. Apparently Art Shell thinks that some parts of the internal organization of the Raiders is undermining him. I'm not sure if he means spies or saboteurs or a bad case of termites. I mean who would think that when you’re the laughing stock of the league that were would be some grumbling. I mean just because your paranoid doesn't mean people (or clowns) aren't out to you.

Cheers: To Rapture index. Finally a way of tracking when the rapture is nigh. I'd like to know ahead of time so I can spend my time finally doing all those things I wanted to do like eat an entire bag of gummi worms or buy a PS3 or make the perfect grilled cheese (apparently the key is not setting fire to the bread).

Cheers: To the holiday season. Here's a picture of Santa on a British stamp. Not entirely sure what Santa is doing to that chimney but I can say there's probably going to be some unhappy clean up at the bottom.

Finally a little Scarlett to end your week on a bouncy note….

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bo Knows Tecmo

Colonel Sanders Finger Lickin' Picks For All Degenerate Gamblers Out There - Week 13

Another week of wonderful snow and cold temperatures out here in the mile high city. Speaking of which, anybody else get a chance to check out the fine specimens on Real World Denver. An Oakland Raiders cheerleader, a girl that slurs her words when she is sober, a belligerent Jesus loving man all mixed up with thin air and the ability to get drunk alot quicker. What more could you ask for? Onto the picks.

BAL (+3) at CIN: CIN, interesting fact that it is goign to rain really hard for this game, I still think that Acht Funf will eat streudel all over Ray Lewis' stomach

ARI (+6.5) at STL: STL, The battle of former teams. The State Bird of Ohio is only allowed one team in St Louis and that is the World Champions.

ATL (+1) at WAS: ATL, does anybody think that the Skins are that good. And I am sorry for our DC least you don't have to watch the Ravens this week

DET (+13) at NE: DET, I haven't looked at the weather but it is about time to snow in NE...I would say this is a TD game

IND (-7.5) at TENN: IND, Tennessee has been decent but gotta give it to Peyton

KC (-5) at CLE: KC, I see lots and lots of Gran Ma Ma in the future of the Brownies

MINN (+9.5) at CHI: CHI, gotta go with the Bears, when it gets cold there aren't that many other good teams that can play

NYJ (-1) at GB: GB, Favre should have won that game in Seattle

SF (+7) at NO: NO, another good day for fantasy for Drew Brees. If only Kerry Wood could play as well after having shoulder surgery

SD (-6) at BUF: SD, I would say the O/U on LDT's TDs is 3, I will be happy to take the over. Too bad he isn't their return man so he could have a return TD, rushing TD, receiving TD and passing TD all in one game

HOU (+3) at OAK: HOU, Ugh...think it is bad living in DC watching the Skins...what if you didn't have the ticket in Houston and this was the only game on

DAL (-3) at NYG: Dallas...however this game could go either way I think

TB (+7.5) at PITT: TB, without most of their starters on defense, this line seems a little high

SEA (+3) at DEN: DEN, gotta go with Cutler, even though many folks don't like replacing the Jake Roberts

CAR (-3) at PHI: CAR...Jeff Garcia will get anally raped by Julius Peppers and will probably enjoy it

Last Week: 5-11
Total: 80-85-11

(Mikey you might not want to use your money or my money on any of these picks)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Week 13 – Screw you NFL Network

The next few weeks, games will be airing on the NFL Network on Thursdays, which also forces me to write this column even sooner than usual. Since no one else has complained much about NFL Network, I think the time has come to unleash some additional fury at the NFL. The NFL Network isn’t available in most places, due to the NFL wanting a very large fee for every subscriber (so, each cable company has either removed NFL Network from their offerings, or are asking like $10/month for it). I can only hope the NFL learns a lesson to not make every broadcast cost money. If they don’t learn the lesson, we could soon be faced with the grim reality of EVERY GAME being pay-per-view, which just doesn’t seem right at all! I applaud the cable companies for not caving into the NFL.

Manwich Matchup of the Week
Dallas at N.Y. Giants – So many storylines… but ultimately, the Giants are in disarray, and unfortunately, I think this may be the “End of the Road” for my NFC Super Bowl pick, the NY Giants. Sing it with pride like Boyz II Men would. Pick: Dallas

Upset of the Week
Seattle at Denver- So, do we call Jay Cutler a reliever? A closer? A replacement? An heir? A temp? Pick: Denver

Balt @ Cincy- Cobra Commander must be removed from office. Ocho Cinco to the rescue! Pick: Cincy Editor’s Note: I intended this to be my upset of the week, but the bookies are saying the Bungles are the favorite. I also intended on watching this game, but its on the NFL Network.

Arizona at St. Louis – I cannot remember a time when the NFC has been so incredibly even. All of the games are guesses because hardly anyone can even sustain a winning streak. Pick: St. Louis

Atlanta at Washington – No, I refuse to give up on Vick. Pick: Atlanta

Detroit at New England – If the Detroit Lions are supposed to be the Cobra-Kai from Karate Kid, I guess we’re still waiting to see some fire and passion, as well as instructions to “sweep the leg!” Pick: New England

Indianapolis at Tennessee - Not only has Tennesee become a “feisty team w/ resolve”, as I said at some earlier point, they also are suddenly capable of wrecking other teams playoff chances. Unbelievable. I may be hopping on the Titans 2007 bandwagon. Just out of curiousity, did anyone else realize that the Titans spent BIG money on WR David Givens, and only got 8 catches, 5 games, and 1 torn ACL? Pick: Indy

Jacksonville at Miami – Battle for Florida! Because the Jags like to beat good teams (Giants, Dallas) and lose to questionable teams (Texans TWICE, Bills, Redskins), I’m very curious to see how the Jags handle Miami. Miami has suddenly won 4 in a row, so are they good enough for the Jags to show up? Pick: Miami

Kansas City at Cleveland – This just in… from… Priest Holmes will not be playing this year. I know, its completely shocking news, because thousands of fantasy owners have been plannning for months to use him this week on their fantasy teams. In other shocking news, the Cleveland Browns have no offensive line. Pick: KC & the Sunshine Band

Minnesota at Chicago – And now the Bears are fortunate enough to get to play another easy NFC North divisional game! Pick: Chicago

N.Y. Jets at Green Bay – Next time someone raves about Brett Favre, I’m just going to start talking about Steve Beurelein for no reason, and then start mentioning how great of a man Steve Beurelein is, and how he is one of the most underappreciated leaders in the late 20th century. If Steve Beurelein had ever won some playoff games, maybe he would also be popular like Brett Favre, and then everyone would rave about his magnificent 1999 and 2000 seasons while on the Panthers, when the Panthers went 8-8 and 7-9, and Beurelein was in his 12th and 13th seasons. Pick: NY Jets

San Diego at Buffalo – Marty! Marty! Pick: San Diego

San Francisco at New Orleans – And just like that, the 49ers are no longer .500. Pick: Saints

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh – See, if Pittsburgh had kept Omar Jacobs, we could have seen who was better between MAC standouts Omar Jacobs and Bruce Gradkowski. Pick: Pittsubrgh

Houston at Oakland – Toilet Bowl! Toilet Bowl! Pick: Houston

CAR @ Philly – What the hell is wrong with the sputtering CAR? Pick: CAR

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 106-70
Manwich: 8-5 (Thanks for the turnovers Rex Grossman!)
Upset of the Week: 3-9 (Steelers got shut out of their game and of the playoffs)

We're Here to Talk About the Past

Today's unscientific poll asks: "Should Mark McGwire be elected into the Hall of Fame?"

Overall, with 127,140 votes cast, only 41% say yes. Only six states (Missouri, Arkansas, Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, and West Virginia) give Big Mac even a 50% vote. His highest percentage is 58%, in Missouri.

Typically, BBWAA voters are even stingier than the public - which means that, if this trend continues, McGwire has no chance of getting the required 75% in his first year on the ballot.

Me? I'd reject McGwire and his shriveled gonads faster than you can say "HGH".

Upcoming week in Sports: Nov 28-Dec 3

Week in Sports

Well I don't make money off guiding to people to watch my tv channel (well I do but that's only for the SciFi channel) but here's some of the big sports games of the week as a public service announcement. Feel free to add anything

Weds: Nov 29th

College Basketball at 9 PM: #1 OSU v. #9 - UNC two possible Final 4 teams is the highlight of the ACC Big 10 Challenge

Thursday Nov. 30


Bengals (Roadblock) at Cobra Commander at 8 - Great game but on NFL network


Utah at Lakers (TNT) - First real chance to see how much second year center Bynum is. How good is Utah? How good are the Lakers? What will Sir Charles do on air?


You either be going out or watching SciFi channel and making me royalties

Saturday Dec 2nd

College Football

USC at UCLA 4:30 - BCS Championship Birth at Stake

Arkansas v. Florida (Georgia Dome) 6 - SEC Championship and rights to be the biggest whiner on the line.

Sunday Dec 3rd


4:30 Romentum and the Cowboys at NYGiants - Last stand for the Giants 2006

8:15 Seattle at Denver - How good is Cutler? How much money will Colonel lose on this game?

Peter King: As Much An Ass As Peter Gammons

As I am mainly obsessed with baseball, I leave most of the NFL columns to Mighty, Gutsy, and Colonel Sanders. But King’s most recent MMQB raised a few issues for me that I feel the need to comment on. Love him or hate him, Peter King’s weekly MMQB column is important reading for any NFL fan. Personally, I straddle the fine line between appreciating some of his insights and tiring of his joyless, overly-moralistic, bourgeois take on everything. I also find much of his analysis too simplistic and reliant on accepted conventional wisdom (Belichick/Brady good, everyone else not as good...). Plus, he’s a Red Sox/Patriots fan. OK, fine, I hate Peter King. There, I said it.

My two bones to pick with Peter King are:

1. This week’s edition has a new feature, called the “MVP Watch.” King, an MVP voter, explains the ground-rules for this section of his column as how he would rank his top five MVP candidates, if he “had to fill [the ballot] out that day. Could be pretty malleable from week to week.”

King then lists Drew Brees as his first choice for MVP, followed by Peyton Manning, LaDanian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, and Brian Urlacher. Four of these names seem alright to me, but the fifth...

-Katrina-insprired sentimentality aside, Brees is having a fantastic season for the New Orleans and has brought stability to the QB position for a team that has had one bad QB after another. While I’m not entirely certain that Brees should be the MVP, I certainly have no issue with him being ranked among the list of favorites.

-Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. He’s the most gifted player at his position in the NFL right now and will end his career as the most prolific passer in league history. His career arc is following that of Dan Marino’s and, if Peyton can ever pull it off, a Super Bowl ring would put him up in the John Elway stratosphere as perhaps the greatest to ever play the position. Peyton’s having a typically great season. I’m not sure he’s done anything to warrant an MVP in 2006 but he’s certainly not doing anything to not warrant it, either.

-LaDanian Tomlinson. This is my choice. He’s en route to shattering the single-season record for total touchdowns in a season, set only the year before by 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander. With 24 through 11 games, Tomlinson needs only four more to tie and five more to set the record. In addition to being the perfect offensive weapon on the NFL’s best team (that’s my opinion, at least), he’s shouldering the responsibility of playing big while the team breaks in a rookie QB and plays without Shawne Merriman, the NFL’s best individual defensive player (again, my opinion). In other words, Tomlinson has the stats and he has the leadership credentials.

-Larry Johnson is a great RB on a rising team. He belongs on the list but isn’t quite as good as Tomlinson. I’ll leave it alone.

-Brian Urlacher. Here is where I have a problem. A top five MVP consideration? Peter King thinks this guy is underrated? That’s ridiculous. He’s a very good player, one of the best at his position in the NFL. But he’s certainly not underrated. He plays behind arguably the best, most physical front four in the NFL so it’s not as though he’s doing all the heavy lifting on that defense. Furthermore, if Peter King was watching the Bears-Patriots game, I’m not sure how he missed the not-exactly fleet of foot Tom Brady juke past Urlacher to convert a critical first down. If you’re voting for MVP’s the morning after your “underrated” player swings and misses in the open field, I think you need your head examined, especially after calling Baltimore Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas one of the best defensive players in the NFL six paragraphs earlier. If you want to vote for a defensive player as MVP, how do you put him over Urlacher?

2. My second argument against King arises out of his “Stat of the Week” section. In this section, he blames the Giants loss in Jacksonville on Tom Coughlin’s game plan, saying that it was “absolutely wrong” for Tiki Barber to carry the ball only five times in the first half and 10 times for the game (for a total of 27 yards). He then draws the analogy to a slugger swinging and missing on the first two pitches of what will become a five at-bat day. King justifies his contention by citing nine other running backs who had 30 or fewer yards after 10 carries and went on to finish the day at over 100 yards.

It would please Mr. King to note that of the nine instances he cites (against eight opponents, as the Saints were victimized twice), I have found the following statistics on the offending rush defenses:

Ranked 32/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 32/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 32/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 14/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 15/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 14/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 24/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 18/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 24/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 29/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 31/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 29/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 32/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 32/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 32/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 25/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 27/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 25/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 6/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 3/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 6/32 in rushing yards per game

Ranked 18/32 in total rushing yards allowed;
Ranked 23/32 in rushing yards per carry;
Ranked 17/32 in rushing yards per game

For comparison’s sake, the Jaguars rankings in those three categories are 5/32, 5/32, and 5/32. Clearly, of the eight teams King lists, only one – the Dolphins – rank in the top 33% of NFL rushing defenses. So, then, how stupid was Coughlin’s decision to feature a game-plan that avoided a heavy dose of Tiki Barber against the NFL’s fifth-best defense against the run? Very stupid? Not so stupid?

The bottom line is that teams need to be able to run the ball and stop the run to be successful in the NFL. But on a game-to-game basis, that formula may not always work. It seems to me that Peter King didn’t do his research, otherwise he’d probably come to the same conclusion as Tom Coughlin; running against Jacksonville is the quickest way to going nowhere.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Brett Favre Must Be Smiling

With all the oral pleasure he's received from Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann tonight, how could he not be?

Congrats, OSU

The Ohio State University today reached a pretty historical achievement by gaining the number 1 ranking in the Coaches Poll in both Football and Basketball simultaneously. Theyalso have the number 1 rated recruiting video on youtube (Not suitable for work). This is only the third time in history that a school has the number one ranking in both sports at the same time. To celebrate President Karen Holbroke will be holding an animal v. hippie bare knuckle fight in The Oval.

Skynet Championship Series: Week of 11/27

Skynet also chooses USC as the #2 team in the nation this week. I’m very curious to see how high Florida rises IF they beat LSU. LSU’s road victory over #11 Arkansas last week resulted in LSU shooting up from #12 to #6 this week. Based on that result, a netural-site win by Florida over #6 LSU this week may be enough to vault Florida past Michigan. We shall see…

Editor's Note: As Stotle pointed out in the comments, this column is completely wrong. Florida is playing ARKANSAS. They are probably screwed of any realistic chance of making the championship game. Unless, of course, the SEC alumni band together, and compromise all of the Harris Poll voters through bribery, kidnapping, and blackmail. It would be similar to the TV show 24, only with Jack Bauer trying to save the legitimacy of the Harris Poll.

Skynet Championship Series - Week of 11/27

2006....... SCS..... BCS
1 OSU..... 1.83.... (1)
2 USC...... 2.25... (2)
3 Mich..... 2.63... (3)
4 Fla........ 4.09... (4)
5 louisv... 8.48.... (6)
6 LSU..... 8.70..... (5)
7 ND........11.35... (10)
8 boise st 12.04.. (8)
9 auburn 12.44.. (11)
10 rutgers 12.46 (13)
11 Ark..... 13.38... (9)
12 wisc.... 14.72... (7)
13 Okl..... 17.13... (12)
14 W. Va. 18.04.. (15)
15 Va Tech 18.73 (14)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

MMBSD: Questions, Questions

For those that know me, know that I'm road warrior. Nothing fills me with greater amounts of happiness and calm then driving down the construction laden, orange barrel filled, crappy driver littered highways. Ah to get behind the umm I think its called a wheel and to enjoy the open skies of scenic Ohio. Anyway while driving the interstates a few questions popped into my head like who's that hottie and why is she with that obvious jerk of a boyfriend? I mean he just seems like a rebel and who likes all those muscles. Would she like me or less if I held up signs asking for her to perform various tasks? And would Scarlett get jealous? After ruminating on that topic for awhile and before I solved the issue of how to make chilli with 6 alarms I tackled some sports questions. Here's what I came up with…..

1) Where do they breed those USC receivers?

Honestly, like all of them are over 6'4. All weigh in excess of 220. All run the 40 in like 4 seconds. Some of them seem to be able teleport and one possibly had a cannon in the middle of his chest. That’s just not normal. How exactly do you stop them? Sure Notre Dame's secondary hasn't stopped anything but those receivers were obviously bred by a company to be a super soldier but realized soldiers needed souls so they sold them to Pete Carroll at discount.
They also apparently use a superformula for making their cheerleaders at USC. I'll take the three on the right for Hannukah.

2) Why do announcers felatiate Brady Quinn?

Brady Quinn might be a great QB someday in the NFL and Quinn sure looks impressive at times. However name a big game that Quinn has looked good in? Name a big game that Quinn has actually won? I dare you. I double dare you. I mean if you knew that if USC beat your team they would get to sleep with your wouldn't you try a little harder than Quinn did? No heart I say, no heart.

3) Why is there not more of a QB controversy for the Bears?

Well the debate is over. The Bears have the best defense in the league. They also have a decent running game. All they ask of the QB is to throw less than lets say 3 interceptions a game. Factor in Chicago has a good backup in Brian Griese and it's a little perplexing why there aren't more questions. I mean if Plummer has already been benched then at least the question I think is fair game. Maybe those questions are being raised and my ears are packed with stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes and pie and…. did I have a point?

4) Which Coaches will be gone after this year?

The axe man is sharpening his weapons for the soon to be end of the year beheadings so a question is who's neck will be on the line. The last few years have been pretty brutal so it leads one to think that this year's list will be fairly short. That said coaches are typically fired either because beyond ridiculous incompetence (Dennis Green), lose the team (i.e. team doesn't respect/listen to you anymore (John L. Smith) ; your team members have a tendency to kill or be killed (Larry Coker). At least in the NFL Art Shell seems to have the incompetence and not respect down pat so all he has going for him is he's a first year, Romeo Crennel- His team is imploding so somebody needs to take a fall that said this is only year 2 so its possible old RC will be back, Tom Coughlin - Coughlin deserves a great deal of kudos for all the injuries and making adjustments but the locker room certainly is a mess. I'm not sure a) why Coughlin wants to deal with this and b) the Giants organization doesn't over-react. Something needs to purged, Bill Cowher - last year of his contract, family has fled to North Carolina and the current season seems about as much fun as listening to Joe Theisman and Tony Kornheiser talk to Jay-Z (wait they actually did that?), and Jeff Fisher - Also last year of his contract. He's a great coach and the team seems to be improving but hey last year of contract and there's uncertainty if the Titans' will let him grow his beard back. Note this does not mean I think these people WILL be fired but there is certainly that possibility. Others?

Sure he's got a nice gig in Titanville but deep down Jeff just wants a hug and a beard like most of us do.

Is anyone really going to make a comment that the East is slowly catching the West in the NBA?

No. Not even Steven A. Smith can make a crazy rant like that. I think………

Saturday, November 25, 2006

USC Punches Ticket

Although it brings sadness, USC will jump into the BCS championship game with this win over Notre Dame and TFF Weis. ND didnt bring enough game.

Hot Stove Report: Carlos Lee Edition

Carlos Lee signed a six year, $100M contract to play LF for the Houston Astros. Well, the market sure has gone crazy, hasn’t it? Not that Carlos Lee isn’t an above-average power hitter – he’s averaged .290-33-111 over the past four seasons – but $16.6M for the next six years?

Coming off a season where Lee regressed from league-average to below league-average in the field, and without the benefit of DH-duty, I’m not sure I see the logic in spending that kind of money on a player such as Carlos Lee. In addition to the salary, Lee gets a full no-trade clause for the first four years of the deal and a limited no-trade clause for the final two seasons. As I’ve been writing since early November, GM’s have flown off their rockers...

The most interesting thing about this deal is, when viewed through the prism of the past few off-seasons, how incredibly illogical Houston management’s approach has been. Before 2006, the Astros were a two-time NLCS participant, narrowly missing the World Series in 2004 and finally winning the first pennant in franchise history in 2005. And yet, in both off-seasons, the team decided to stand pat, not adding any talent to what seemed like the best team in the NL. In fact, the Astros went as far as simply not offering Carlos Beltran a legitimate contract after his coming out party in the 2004 playoffs. So where is all of this new cash coming from for Carlos Lee? Why are the Astros offering more money for Carlos Lee, who is a limited defensive player without the all-around game of a guy like Beltran?

If I were a sportswriter whose job it was to cover the Astros, I’d demand an answer. Why did the team pick this Carlos over that one? Why did the organization lie to its fans in 2004?

All that being said, the Astros are still a contender in the dismal NL Central, where any team (except for Pittsburgh) can realistically win the division in 2007.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sports Chop Suey: Hot Stove & NFL All Mixed Up

Most of my fellow Back Seat Drivers are in the midst of a Thanksgiving-induced food coma. As such, it is my duty to lead the charge today. So along with the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, I’ll be talking baseball, a little football, and whatever else comes to mind.

1. For baseball, it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, world. Ever since Bud Selig and Donald Fehr announced the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement in baseball, citing that baseball was in a “second golden age”, many teams have gone on a ridiculous spending spree.

What I find curious about this behavior is how just twelve months ago, David Ortiz, Paul Konerko, Hideki Matsui, and Johnny Damon all signed contracts based on a similar benchmark of three to four years for between $11-13M. A year later, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are making, respectively, $17M and $15M annually. How short-sighted can some of these GM’s and owners be? Certainly they’ve known the state of baseball’s financial health better than anyone on the outside. The negotiations for the recently-executed labor agreement didn’t happen overnight. So why are owners spending like drunken sailors this time around when they were pinching pennies last winter?

I can offer no logical explanation. I simply chalk it up to stupidity and short-sightedness and leave it at that. Baseball owners and executives are notoriously fickle individuals who cry poverty whenever possible, but don’t hesitate to make the big splash whenever they need a boost in positive PR and media coverage. Three and four years from now, teams like the Cubs may be wondering if their annual $32M investment in Soriano and Ramirez was worth it. And teams like the Yanks, long (and unfairly) blamed for the out-of-whack economics in baseball, will be there to pick up those then-unwanted players from teams that overspent in the winter of 2006. Personally? I can’t wait for the Yanks to rescue the overspenders; there’s nothing more fun than shopping in the discount aisle and getting the next version of David Cone (1995), Cecil Fielder (1996), David Justice (2000), or Bobby Abreu (2006).

2. Keeping with the outrageous Hot Stove season for a moment, there is another ex-Texas Ranger cashing in this morning. Gary Matthews Jr. signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a staggering five years and $50M to play CF full time. This will likely spell Chone Figgins’ return back to utility infield duty, despite the fact that statistical evidence suggests Figgins is an absolute butcher as a defensive infielder.

What makes no sense about the Matthews signing is that it addresses neither of the Angels’ critical needs: power hitting and protection for Vlad Guerrero, and an improvement in overall team defense. Yes, Matthews had the catch of the year in CF and is a solid defensive outfielder. But he can’t single-handedly change a team that led the AL in errors. Why a five year contract for a 32 year old playing for his seventh team in nine seasons? And why $10M per year when two better centerfielders – Torii Hunter and Johnny Damon – make only $2-3M more than him? Is Gary Matthews in their league? I don’t think so, and I don’t think I’m in the minority on this one.

The more amusing facet of the Matthews contract is how Cubs fans have lost their perspective and are up in arms about Mark DeRosa’s three year, $12M contract to play for Chicago. The common refrain I hear is that it makes no sense to pay a 31 year old coming off a career year that kind of money. Matthews, being a year older and also coming off a career year, is being paid more than double the salary for nearly twice as many years. DeRosa played six positions for the Rangers in 2006, Matthews played only two. At $4M per year, a utility player is a fine bargain, especially in today’s market and with such a relatively short contract. I honestly can’t see why the Angels felt Matthews would be worth a five year investment when he hasn’t been able to stick with any other team for more than three years. Paying $10M a year to a career .263 hitter just seems irrational.

3. Rounding out the baseball discussion for the day, I should point out that Angels GM Bill Stoneman is at a crossroads. He and his staff have been able to scout and draft one of the most impressive crops of young players in recent memory. He currently holds the rights to seven of the top 100 prospects as ranked by Baseball America: Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Jered Weaver, Jeff Mathis, Kendry Morales, and Nick Adenhart. Additionally, the team has all-star caliber players in Vlad Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Frankie Rodriguez, and Chone Figgins, and young hopefuls Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson.

Despite such an impressive array of talent, the Angels have come up short the past few seasons, failing to qualify for the playoffs in 2004 and 2006. With this kind of talent and with an ownership willing to spend money, how Stoneman can sell the Gary Matthews signing is beyond me. If the Angels don’t make the playoffs in 2007 or fail to land a big hitter via free agency or trade – and Matthews better not represent the lone addition to this team over the off-season – I’d have to say that Stoneman deserves to lose his job.

4. Onto football. Tiki Barber has a favorable reputation around the league as a thoughtful and eloquent player and a very good running back. My perception of him has changed over the past few days, however. He’s certainly eloquent, and he is still a very good running back. But he’s also something of a prima donna and a selfish player.

In the aftermath of the Giants’ loss to the Jaguars on Monday Night Football, Tiki Barber roasted Tom Coughlin and the coaching staff, using the “outcoached” excuse for the second time in the past nine months. Specifically, Barber said his lack of use (10 carries, 27 yards) left him feeling “insignificant,” and that Coach Coughlin’s excuses for abandoning the running game were “a cop-out” and “a slap in the face.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a player feeling frustrated after a bad loss. But did Coughlin’s choice of going with a pass-first gameplan serve as a metaphoric slap in Tiki’s face? Can someone really be that selfish, causing controversy in the week leading up to what amounts to the Giants trying to stay in the NFC playoff picture? As far as I’m concerned, Tiki ought to be ashamed of himself. He must be taking lessons in how to be a teammate from guys like T.O., Jeremy Shockey, and Keyshawn Johnson.

Fortunately, Coach Coughlin publicly blasted Barber for his remarks, calling his outburst “inappropriate and unacceptable.”

The use of the phrase “outcoached” has become too commonplace among athletes these days. It’s a perfect way for them to deflect attention, responsibility, and blame away from themselves and onto the guys whose lives are most immediately affected by wins and losses. When players don’t perform up to their capabilities, the coaching staff ultimately pays the price. While there are certainly instances when a coach and his staff fail to put their team in the best possible position to win – Bill Belichick, not Tom Brady, cost the Patriots a chance to beat the Colts three weeks ago – none of the Giants’ four losses this season belong exclusively to the coaching staff. Missed tackles, blown coverages, costly turnovers, and most of all, back-breaking injuries, are leading the Giants down the path of mediocrity. And if Tiki doesn’t like playing for a mediocre team, well, he and his teammates can either work harder or he can quit.

In many ways, the team will be worse without Tiki next year after he retires. But I think that in some ways they’ll be better off too. Tiki can go into retirement next year knowing that, strangely enough, Michael Irvin was right about him – Tiki is a quitter. Calling out your coach and crying like a baby about getting 10 carries in a game that may cost your team a shot at the playoffs, that’s quitting in my book.

Cheers and Jeers: Tripdephan Edition

Well after a heavy night of indulging in turkey and tripdephan I'm frankly not up for drinking. In fact I barely have the energy to type at the moment. I keep passing out on the keyboard. So no drinking today. Just working the tripdephan out of my system. Anyway here are a few things that I'm thankful for this year. Let me know what your thankful about this season.....

College Football and Great Rivalries. Nothing brings people together like a good college football rivalry. Every year no matter the records its a bitter fight. This weekends bitter rivalry is between USC and Notre Dame. Back in the old days to show off the fact that trains worked the two teams would cross the country to face each other. Notre Dame won the first matchup in 1926 when Jesus O'Malley scored the only touchdown of the game. In honor of the victory the player's picture was put on the library.

Turkey Trot. Turkey Trot is a Cleveland charity run. In fact, its so famous that Elvis comes out of his hibernation to run in it every year. I think if Elvis sees his shadow its good luck or winter comes early or Chris Collinsworth says something useful.

Scarlett - Do I really need to say why?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Bunch of Turkeys

Roy Williams breaks into an animated celebration after every first down he gets. Ronnie Brown added his own little show on an 11-yard run. Some offensive lineman named Shelton did Marty Booker a favor and spiked the ball after Booker's TD.

All of this came in the first 20 minutes of a game between two teams that won't sniff the playoffs this year.

Maybe you should focus on winning, fellas...

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all the Back Seat Drivers out there.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Still Crying Over Spilled Milk

After I found out that Derek Jeter finished second in the 2006 AL MVP voting, this is what I wrote:

“It’s over. There’s no point in crying over spilled milk, as the expression goes.”

But the more I thought about it, the more I listened to sports radio, the more I read about it online and in newspapers, the more I realize that it’s not over for me. I’m seriously outraged by this. Not only because Jeter lost to a less deserving candidate, but because the process was tainted and lacking integrity.

As I already mentioned, Jeter led the AL in Win Shares and VORP, which is to say, he was the single-most indispensable everyday player in the American League in 2006. That Justin Morneau hit more homers and drove in more runs is an irrelevant point, in my opinion. MVP voting isn’t about how many homers a player hits, it’s about what that player means to his team. Unfortunately, though, the HR/RBI obsession taints far too many voters’ minds. After all, RBI are a function of where one hits in the batting order and HR, well, they look cool on SportsCenter highlights but they are only one facet of a player’s game. But if people insist on breaking down Jeter’s stats in relation to Morneau’s, both in terms of leaderboard position and those vague and nebulous “clutch” stats, here’s what one would find:


Jeter finished in the top 6 in: batting average (2nd), on-base percentage (4th), runs scored (2nd), hits (3rd), times on base (1st), runs created (3rd), and stolen bases (6th).

Morneau finished in the top 6 in: total bases (5th), runs batted in (2nd).

Runners in scoring position (AVG/OBP/SLG):

Jeter: .381/.482/.581
Morneau: .323/.401/.575

Close and late situations (AVG/OBP/SLG):

Jeter: .325/.434/.434
Morneau: .299/.343/.540

Beyond the stats, however, here’s one of the things I don’t understand. Voters placed two of Morneau’s teammates – Joe Mauer and Johan Santana – in the top seven finishers. If voters recognize the contributions of Morneau’s teammates to the success of the Twins season, how is it that Derek Jeter’s season is overlooked? The Yankees played four months without Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield and five weeks without Robinson Cano. Neither Alex Rodriguez nor Jason Giambi put together a full season’s worth of production. Jeter more than pulled his weight on the team with the best record in the AL, a team that won its division by 10 games, despite all of the injuries and inconsistencies of its other star players.

I truly can’t figure this one out. I simply chalk it up to an insidious anti-Yankee/anti-Jeter bias that infects much of mainstream America. While I certainly don’t like all the Yankee-Hating that goes on out there, at least I can understand it from a fan’s point of view. The reason I hate parity is because I love rooting for great teams (when they are my own), or rooting passionately against them (when they are from another city). So fans hate the Yanks, that’s OK, it’s a part of sports. But when writers hold the same biases? That’s unacceptable. Worse than that, it’s unprofessional.

There is no textbook definition of what an MVP is. At the end of the day, there is a tremendous degree of subjectivity that goes into the vote. But at the root of any MVP discussion should be certain key elements that all voters must weigh objectively. Writers must be reminded that they are not above the game. They cannot be so subjective to the point that they compromise the integrity of the entire process. Being from Chicago, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times is, and voting for Jermaine Dye second, placing Jeter sixth, and then skipping Joe Mauer entirely in favor of AJ Pierzynski is a travesty that should be punishable by a one-year suspension from the BBWAA. No level of subjectivity can justify AJ Pierzynski over Joe Mauer.

I should say that Cowley’s not the only idiot in the bunch, lest anyone think that I’m simply picking on the traditional “homerism” among Chicago’s sports media contingent. John Hickey of the Seattle Post Intelligencer had Raul Ibanez eighth. I suppose the hometown scribe from Seattle didn’t realize that the Mariners finished in last place in their division, tied for the 12th worst record in the AL (only Tampa, Kansas City, and Baltimore finished with worse records).

Here is a link to the ballot submitted by each of the 28 members of the BBWAA that voted for 2006 AL MVP. I’m glad to see that this was made public. Now we know who the idiots are and who, if the BBWAA had any sense of decency and accountability, should be suspended from voting for next season’s award winners.

For the record, I wrote the following email to Joe Cowley this morning:

Dear Mr. Cowley,

I’m certain that I’m not the first (and won’t be the last) to write to you and tell you that you’re not only a fool but reckless and irresponsible for your 2006 AL MVP ballot.

Since you’ve heard it all before, I will leave you with this: I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving. During your festive meal, think about how lucky you are to be doing the job you do. There are literally hundreds of thousands of intelligent, eloquent, and dedicated fans like myself out there who would trade anything to be in your shoes. It’s only a pity that selfish people like you – people who think that a BBWAA member card puts them above the players and the game they are covering – are in a position to vote players into posterity.

I am sure that the cash gift that AJ Pierzynski gave you was worth the utter lack of integrity you showed in your ballot.

I meant every word of it. I won’t let this ruin my Thanksgiving but I’ll be damned if I will ever stop beating the drum about how atrocious the mainstream American sports-media institution is. Thank goodness for blogs, message boards, and fan sites – people like us “get it”.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Colonel Sanders Finger Lickin' Picks For All Degenerate Gamblers Out There - Week 12

Ok so I guess I am a little bit better at picking the NCAA games than the NFL games. Maybe because the NCAA games actually make sense. And since the UM team felt like they had been punched around by a sweatervest. I figured I would show a picture of the victor with the natural sweatervest. And yes unfortunately this is an actual event.

Now onto the Turkey day and beyond picks with a little stuffing of a NCAA game.

MIA (-3) at DET: DET, I don't think Harrington has a better shot at throwing turkeys

TB (+11) at DAL: TB, something tells me that there was all this hype for Dallas beating the Colts and now they won't show up this week

DEN (+1) at KC: KC, a pick em game. I don't know what the stats are for the Chiefs November forward at Arrowhead, but they are pretty good.

ARI (+6) at MINN: MINN, no comments

CAR (-4) at WAS: CAR, Portis out, rookie QB, Skins suck CAR starting to get tuned up...

CIN (-3) at CLE: CIN, Wow only favored by 3 points...I guess the Bungals have fallen back to the level of being the Bungals

HOU (+6) at NYJ: HOU, gotta go with the underdogs getting the love this year

JAC (-3) at BUF: JAC, Although I hope that JAC loses most of their games so the Bungals have a better chance at getting the WC, looks like it is not going to happen

NO (+3) at ATL: NO, even though they got trounced by the Bungals last week, Drew Brees is steadily making his way to be an elite passer

PITT (+3) at BAL: PITT, I still can't believe that the Ravens/Browns are this good this year

SF (+6) at STL: SF, I think that the 49ers are definately the come back team of the NFL, maybe followed by the Ravens.

OAK (+13) at SD: SD, Another fine day for LDT, have we seen a better RB in the past 5 years?

CHI (+3) at NE: NE, one of the three somewhat decent teams that the Bears play on their schedule, and yes I am bitter

NYG (-3) at TENN: NYG, I can't quite understand the Titans this year...some weeks they look pretty good some weeks they look like the Cardinals

PHI (+9) at IND: PHI, something tells me that this game is going to be closer without McNabb than many people think

GB (+9) at SEA: SEA, Shalex is back, however his TD record will not be back since LDT gets about 5 TDs a game.

And the NCAA choice. Even though people around here are getting super excited about the Nebraska/Colorado game (who gives a shit) I am going to have to go with the rematch between the Condoms and the Drunkards.

ND(-7) at USC: ND...since the UM/OSU game was held to a field goal I think this one will be too, with ND hopefully trouncing all over them

Last Week: 7-9 (1-0 in college, and I didn't break any bones, but I had a couple of pitchers of Fat Tire during the game, along with a few shots of some no so clear liquid at 9000 feet above the sea)

Total: 75-74-11

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Week 12- Early Edition

Had to make an early edition this week, due to the Thanksgiving games. Obviously, the playoff races were all shaken up this past weekend by a number of injuries, especially to Donovan McNabb. For some reason, I just don’t see Jeff Garcia regaining his Pro Bowl form of 5 years ago.

Manwich Matchup of the Week
Chicago at New England – This one’s a doozy. The Bears are one of the more fickle teams and while they continually win, they don’t necessarily play well. It’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen, though I say Bill Belichick will find some ways to exploit and embarrass Mr. Rex Grossman, and I’m not talking about pie-in-the-face embarrassment, I’m talking 3 turnover embarrassment. Pick: New England

Upset of the Week
Pittsburgh at Baltimore – 2 of my most hated teams. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Cobra Commander. It’s actually the 1st time they’ve met this season. The Ravens are incredibly lucky, in every way, shape, and form. If anyone is going to break this luckiness, it’s the Steelers, who’ve gone through hell to reach 4-6, and are trying to win out the season and make the playoffs. Pick: Pittsburgh

Miami at Detroit – Joey Harrington revenge game! Now, when the Detroit fans boo, it can work for both the home team and the visiting team. Pick: Miami

Tampa Bay at Dallas – Dallas really has the momentum now that the Eagles are doomed. Pick: Dallas

Denver at Kansas City – This is a tough one, but I’ve gotta go with Jake Plummer on the bounce back game. No, seriously... Pick: Denver

Arizona at Minnesota – Well, early indications are that no one in the NFC other than the top teams are capable of a winning streak. So, by that backwards logic… Pick: Minnesota

Carolina at Washington – The CAR is just getting warmed up. Pick: CAR

Cincinnati at Cleveland – I was watching last week’s Browns-Steelers game, and even with a double-digit lead, I was confident in the Browns blowing it. I’m not proud of this, but I should still be able to laugh about it. Pick: Cincy

Houston at N.Y. Jets – You see, Houston really can’t beat anyone other than Jacksonville. No one ever said the NFL had to make sense. Pick: NY Jets

Jacksonville at Buffalo – Jacksonville has been like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, only this time the trigger has been losing twice to Houston. Pick: Jack

New Orleans at Atlanta – 2 Teams slip sliding away from contention. Vick had 2 phenomenal weeks followed by 3 atrocicious weeks. It’s anyone’s guess as to who gets the win. Pick: New Orleans

N.Y. Giants at Tennessee – Go Tiki. Pick: NY Giants

Philadelphia at Indianapolis – If only McNabb was playing, this game would be a lot more interesting. Though I did see that Philly signed QB Omar Jacobs to the practice squad. Apparently, Pittsburgh already had dumped him earlier this year. I hope he plays instead of QB Jeff Garcia. Pick: Indy

San Francisco at St. Louis – The 49ers are a 5-5 team. How is this not a major headline??? They are only 1 game back of the Seahawks! Maybe there still is time for the Super Bowl Curse to stop the Seahawks from making the playoffs! Pick: San Fran

Oakland at San Diego- I hope someone else saw the end of the Broncos-Chargers game last Sunday. Marty Schottenheimer almost let the game get tied. The Chargers were up 8, and the Broncos had the ball with less than a minute to play, and almost the entire field to cover. Marty starts playing “prevent” defense, the very same “prevent” defense that burned Marty in the 1986 AFC Championship game against the Broncos! Only thing is, this time, the Chargers sacked the Bronco QB, and ensured that time would run out. This is why I’m picking against Marty come playoff-time. Pick: SD

GB @ Seattle- I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Coach Holmgren actually isn’t fat, its just that he’s wearing a big Packers sweatshirt underneath his clothes. Pick: Seattle

Last Week: 11-5
Season: 96-64
Manwich: 7-5 (Marty Schottenheimer almost blew it)
Upset of the Week: 3-8 (Jacksonville is so angry right now.)

Hot Stove Report / Massive Catch-Up Edition

I feel like a broken record. Every time I promise to be more diligent in posting, the demands of my job interfere with my ability to be held to that promise. Anyway, this post will be extremely long so I apologize in advance. Without further ado, here’s a wrap-up of the extremely busy hot stove season that has kicked off...

1. Mike Mussina has re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $22.5M. Given the current paucity of quality starters on the free agent market, the Yankees had to get this done quickly. Fortunately they were able to do so, and at a relatively good price.

Although Mussina will be 38 years old heading into the 2007 season, there is enough evidence to suggest that he will pitch at or above league-average quality for at least the life of the contract. The Yankees also pointed to Mussina’s willingness to work with the organization’s young pitchers as a hidden positive in bringing him back for another tour of duty. As the Yanks are likely to flood their major league roster with at least three to four youngsters over the next 18 months, having a veteran who knows how to pitch effectively by changing speeds and giving hitters different looks will be a minor, but nonetheless valuable, bonus.

2. The Red Sox have won the rights to negotiate exclusively with Seibu Lions pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and his agent Scott Boras by posting a record $51.1M.. Early indications are that Matsuzaka and Boras will come to terms on a four-year contract worth somewhere between $9-11M.

I will most likely comment on Matsuzaka again later in the winter once his deal is finalized (assuming, at least, that Boston bid that staggering amount because they actually want him as their #2 starter behind Curt Schilling). In the meantime, my feeling is that Boston most likely tampered with the integrity of the process and will never pay the full $51.1M to Seibu. As was reported back in 2001, the Mariners posted a then-record sum of roughly $13M and were rumored to have paid only a fraction of that amount. I know it sounds like sour grapes coming from a Yankee fan. Whatever. The only good thing to come out of this for Yankee fans is that Boston and their corrupt, despicable ownership can never play the role of a poor, small-market team struggling to compete with the Yankees. Boston has changed baseball’s economics in a way the Yankees never have. I hope all Red Sox fans enjoy listening to the sort of garbage Yankee fans are now used to.

3. The Mets came to terms with Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez on a 2 year, $12M contract. Given the cost of starting pitching, $6M for a back-end starter isn’t outrageous. Hernandez is getting long in the tooth and he’s shown increasing fragility over the past few years but he’s certainly not a bad guy to keep around because...

4. Tom Glavine is a free agent. The Mets declined his $14M option and now have to figure out if they can come to terms with Glavine quickly. With Pedro Martinez likely to miss at least half of 2007 following rotator cuff surgery, Glavine’s departure would likely spell doom for the Mets pitching staff. Glavine is only 10 wins away from 300 and is most likely looking for a two year contract. Unless a third team blows the Mets out of the water, Glavine’s decision will end up being a derby between staying in New York and going back to Atlanta.

5. The Cubs signed utility infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa to a three year, $13M contract. DeRosa’s ability to play all four infield positions (as well as in the outfield) makes him a useful addition to a team that got very little production from its middle infielders. Beyond that, I don’t have much to say on this deal except to say that although three years might be a bit excessive, the per-season salary is extremely sensible given the current market.

6. Of course, any discussion on the sudden irrationality of the market should begin and end with these same Chicago Cubs. The Cubs’ signing of the 31 year old Alfonso Soriano to an eight year, $136M contract with a full no-trade clause borders on lunacy. There’s simply no other way to put it. He’s not as good as the three players who receive a higher per annum salary (Alex Rodriguez/Derek Jeter/Manny Ramirez). He’s too old to be given an eight year deal. He’s a somewhat apathetic player in the outfield. Despite posting a career high .351 OBP in 2006, he still posted a career high 160 strikeout season. Most importantly, Soriano isn’t a pitcher. The Cubs may score more runs than last year (they scored the 2nd fewest runs in the NL in 2006) but as long as that team is waiting around for Mark Prior to get back on track, they’re still at least 2-3 pitchers away from truly contending for a World Series ring.

I don’t want to belabor the point here. All I can say is that I think Soriano is a decent fantasy player. He’s quite an overrated player in real life. And to Cubs fans, I say this: don’t throw your remote every time Soriano strikes out on a breaking pitch on the outside corner.

7. The Mets continue reshaping their roster in the image of GM Omar Minaya. This time, they’ve swapped Cliff Floyd out, choosing not to re-sign him, and instead replaced him with Moises Alou. Alou gets a one-year, $7.5M contract to play LF and murder lefty pitching (.349 AVG / 1.093 OPS). For the money, it’s not a bad move. The only problem with Alou is that he’s an injury risk.

8. Frank Thomas signed a 2 year, $18M contract to be Toronto’s full time DH and hit cleanup between Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus. Oakland lost their only big-time thumper and the A’s loss is the Blue Jays’ gain. As with Alou, Thomas represents a serious injury risk so there is no guarantee that the Blue Jays get a full season out of their new cleanup hitter. But if he plays the whole year, he’s almost guaranteed to put up big numbers in that hitter’s paradise. The AL East just got that much tougher on pitchers...

9. The Dodgers and Nomar Garciaparra came to an agreement on a two year, $18.5M contract. Nomar started breaking down in the second half of the season but he adapted well to first base and, when healthy, hit consistently in the middle of the Dodgers lineup. The injury risk is always high with Nomar but the Dodgers couldn’t afford to let him go in light of J.D. Drew’s defection.

10. Staying with the Dodgers, they committed the second act of sheer lunacy this hot stove season, spending $45M for five years worth of Juan Pierre. I am not a big Juan Pierre fan. A player whose primary function is getting on base and causing distractions for the other team should be able to get on base at a better rate than the .330 OBP Pierre posted for the Cubs this past season. Furthermore, an “elite” base-stealer should be able to swipe at a rate better than Pierre’s 74% success rate. By comparison, Carl Crawford (83%) and Jose Reyes (81%) are much better in the stolen base department, and provide far more power in the lineup. Considering the Dodgers made it to the playoffs with Kenny Lofton in CF at $3M, it seems silly to triple the outlay without triple the output. Toss in the fact that the Dodgers lost J.D. Drew but have Rafael Furcal and Wilson Betemit as potential leadoff hitters and this team seems destined to struggle at the plate with too many light-hitting small-ballers.

11. The Angels added Justin Speier to what has been one of the best bullpens in baseball the past several seasons. With a four year, $18M contract, the Angels now have an excess of arms in the pen and may be preparing to move one or more of those arms in exchange for the big hitter they were unable to acquire when Aramis Ramirez re-signed with the Cubs.

12. Finally, the Texas Rangers replaced Mark DeRosa with Frank Catalanotto, giving him the identical contract that DeRosa received from Chicago (3 years, $13M). Frankie the Cat is a good little player, capable of playing both LF and RF and even a little infield. He’s a veteran and happens to own Yankee pitching. Toronto will miss him, but not that much. And Texas will be happy to have a guy like that in their lineup, hitting around Michael Young and Gary Matthews.

Finally, a brief rundown on the recent award-winners. Johan Santana and Brandon Webb won the AL/NL Cy Young, Jim Leyland and Joe Girardi won the 2006 AL/NL Manager of the Year, and Ryan Howard won the NL MVP. I know promised to weigh in with my analysis on all the award-winners but I assumed that none of the guys I “hoped” would win would actually come through. So far, every single choice has been the correct one. It’s kind of nice (except that now I have nothing to bitch about)...EXCEPT for the egregious error made by the BBWAA in picking Justin Morneau over Derek Jeter.

For the statistical analysis, I’ll leave it to Steve Lombardi, curator of the online baseball forum and author of the book The Baseball Same Game. A simple examination of the stats makes Jeter’s case quite well, in my opinion. He led the AL in Win Shares and VORP, which is to say, he was the single-most indispensable everyday player in the American League in 2006.

For the Yankee bias analysis, I will simply make my case by showing the vote breakdown. Someone actually voted Jeter sixth? Are you kidding me? And the fact that Johan Santana got exactly one first place vote, robbing Jeter of a share of the award, seems awfully fishy to me. It almost seems as though Santana’s one vote for first place was intended to knock Jeter down.

I’ve long believed that all votes should be made public so that the voters face greater accountability for their decisions and give a bit of transparency to the process. I am reminded of the MVP voting for the 1999-2000 NBA season when Shaquille O’Neal missed being a unanimous selection for the MVP by one vote, which was given to seventh-place finisher Allen Iverson. Obviously that voter didn’t impact the award being given to the right player, but it cheapens the process. Those who vote for these awards are entrusted with the legacy and historical importance of these players. To deny a deserving player of an award based solely because of the fact that he plays for a team that is despised by many fans and pundits (and even the commissioner of the game) is a petty and irresponsible way to go about things.

Hell, even ESPN, known for spawning this era of mass-media Yankee-Hating, got it right.

From Keith Law:

“The AL’s voters couldn’t even correctly identify the most valuable Twin, never mind wrapping their heads around a whole league. The reality of baseball is that a great offensive player at an up-the-middle position is substantially more valuable than a slightly better hitter at a corner position. And when that up-the-middle player is one of the best fielders at his position in baseball, there’s absolutely no comparison. Joe Mauer was more valuable than Justin Morneau this past season. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand the first thing about baseball.

Even by the counting stats that the dinosaur voters have favored for as long as the MVP award has existed, Morneau’s season wasn’t all that impressive. He tied for 12th in the AL in homers. He was second in RBI – seven behind David Ortiz – and just nine ahead of the least clutchy player to ever be clutch, Alex Rodriguez. He was seventh in batting average, a few miles south of Mauer and Jeter, the other major MVP candidate. It’s hard to fathom why any voter would put Morneau at the top of his ballot with so many obviously better candidates – Mauer, Jeter, Ortiz, Jermaine Dye, the unanimous Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, or the criminally neglected Carlos Guillen (the best player on the AL pennant winner) – and in reality, more than half of the voters did just that. If you don’t watch the games, fellas, don’t fill out your ballots.”

It’s over. There’s no point in crying over spilled milk, as the expression goes. But I hope Jeter, famous for holding grudges, remembers this slight. And I hope that he finds out which writer or writers conspired to deliver the award to another, less-worthy candidate. My money’s on Jeter to win the award outright in 2007. To the writers around the country that don’t take their jobs seriously enough, here’s a big “Fuck You”. There are people like me out there who would do anything to be in your shoes and, unlike yourselves, we actually know baseball and watch the games.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Skynet Championship Series: Part Deux

As promised, I will continue to post Skynet’s rankings. I’m neither endorsing nor condemning Skynet. I just think its interesting to see what Skynet says.

I’ve already had multiple mistakes and overlooks since last week’s rankings were published. Just to be clear, here’s the process of how I’m calculating Skynet Championship Series Rankings, for better or for worse:
1) I’m down to 4 polls, because another computer poll starts with ranking the teams 1-117, which is just absurd.
2) I take the top 15, and I let excel calculate the standard deviation. Then, Excel normalizes the distribution, and fits EACH computer score onto a 1-15 scale.
3) Finally, the normalized-computer averages are determined (i.e. Florida is ranked 5.76, 2.55, 2.21, 5.77, which is an average of 4.07) . The computer averages are added into the losses, and the strength of schedule. NOTE: Last week, I was trying to adjust for the strange, "abnormal" distributions near the top of the rankings, but it was just a big waste of time, so I'm no longer doing that.

Skynet Championship Series - Week of 11/20
1 OSU 1.18 (1)
2 Mich 1.99 (2)
3 USC 3.05 (3)
4 notre d 6.23 (5)
5 Fla. 6.51 (4)
6 louisville 8.24 (9)
7 ark. 10.66 (6)
8 W. Va. 12.33 (7)
9 rutgers 13.50 (14)
10 wisc 13.52 (8)
11 auburn 14.68 (12)
12 LSU 15.02 (10)
13 boise st 15.52 (11)
14 texas 17.51 (13)
15 okl 18.02 (15)

if you wanted to compare to last week's, here's the correct version:

Skynet - Week of 11/13
1 mich 1.23 (2)
2 OSU 3.10 (1)
3 rutgers 3.54 (6)
4 USC 4.75 (3)
5 notre d 5.17 (5)
6 Fla. 6.42 (4)
7 louisv 7.75 (10)
8 wisc 11.40 (9)
9 arkans 13.53 (7)
10 cal 14.79 (15)
11 W. Va. 14.72 (8)
12 boise st 14.80 (12)
13 LSU 16.97 (11)
14 auburn 17.04 (14)
15 texas 17.86 (13)

Monday thoughts…

Wow. My Yeltsin style blood alcohol level has returned to normal status just in time for the short work week. Saturday was a classic “college” football game. College is housed within quotation marks because:

• Woody and Bo would not have recognized this game. The forward pass? The spread formation? Tressel highlighted his Heisman QB in the spread formation all night mixing just enough running (2 big plays otherwise a VERY quiet running attack) plays to slow down the Michigan pass rush.
• The Michigan D is not nearly as tough without their LBs in the game. The spread formation made Michigan adjust and the tackling in the middle suffered.
• Troy Smith will make a pro team very happy. He is a winner, took some serious hits (including illegal helmet to helmet), and threw 4 TDs without a pick.

To summarize: Michigan scored 39 points, did not commit a turnover, rushed for 150 yards and 3 TDs (albeit Hart’s attitude after the game he is a great back), and Chad Henne completed 60 % of passes for 267 yards and 2 TDs (no INTs), but LOST!! Bo must be confused.

I’d love to see a re-match. Why should Michigan play OSU again?
1. Florida’s weak out of conference schedule (Thanks Colonel)
2. If ND and USC play a close game, Michigan’s 26 point thumping of the Irish make the case for the Wolverines.
3. The Pac 10/Big East are both not better conferences “on average”… Skynet is out of control!!! We need to season reliance on statistics with some common sense. Statistics are wonderful for those who want to make a science out of a subjective art of selecting which 1 loss team gets the knod. Playoffs anyone?

The NFL:

• Dallas took a step forward to one of the NFC wildcards as McNabb is done for the season (sad) and Vick has been cold for the past 3 weeks (what in the world is wrong with Vick and ATL?).
• I agree with the notion that the Colts losing = better for them in the long run.
• Chicago at New England should be entertaining!! With injuries biting the entire NFC East, Chicago remains the top dog in the NFC. Here we have a test vs. a battle tested AFC team.
• From the bowels of regional coverage, the Skins still blow and the Steamers managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.
• Do the Jaguars or the Giants have any players not injured?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

MMBSD: What does it take to be #2?

To paraphrase King Nelly the first "What does it take to be #2?"

Well with only a few games remaining, the question of who The Ohio State University is playing is still very much up in the air. As of November 19, 2006 here are the teams that have a shot at playing in Arizona as ranked by the BCS


Harris PTS

Coaches PTS

Computer %



Ohio State
























Notre Dame












It's important to realize two things in the BCS 1) For the Human Polls its not the rank that matters as much as the points (number of votes); 2) Strength of Schedule matters a great deal for the Computer polls. As such the big games left are

11/24 LSU at Arkansas

11/25 - Florida at FSU ; Notre Dame at USC

12/2 USC at UCLA

12/3 Florida v. Arkansas @ the Georgia Dome.

While Arkansas has the farthest to make up victories of LSU and Florida could, in theory, provide the opportunity to make their case. The blowout loss to USC is an anchor that they probably can't overcome though. Notre Dame is Notre Dame and therefore a big win on the road could give them a big boost but that boost in turn helps Lloyd Carr's club. That leaves USC and Florida with real chance of catching and overcoming the current number 2. Both will have huge prime time games, where all eyes will be on them. Both have regional blocks of voters that could be pressured into shifting the current #2 on down. As of now, if I was a betting man I think if USC can win out they will pass by that Team Up North. Only a few computer polls need to shift and a victory over the #5 Notre Dame team could do it. Of course nothing seems to have worked out the way it was supposed to this season. That said if I it was up to me (and unless Proposition #312 passes its not) I do not want nor think there should be The Rematch for the following reasons

1) The Maize (is that a real color by the way?) and Blue had their shot and while it was incredible game, they ultimately came up short. Another team should have a shot.

2) Having a rematch takes something away from that game. It should go down as the biggest game in the Greatest Rivalry™ and to have a take 2 seems to diminish the Classic that we all watched. This isn't Championship Boxing.

3) I do tend to side with The Sweatervest in that you should win your conference to be eligible for the BCS Championship Game. Few things annoyed me more than when Nebraska made the Championship Game after getting stomped by Colorado.

4) Winning against the same team in back to back games seems like a tall order. In fact, an impossibly tall order for any team. The team that won the game should be rewarded not punished with having to do it all over again.

5) I really don't want to hear the SEC whine about how they were screwed yet again out of a shot at the BCS. It would inevitably lead to further changes which would mean I'd have to actually watch the SEC in the Championship Game. They already hate California so let's not upset the delicate balance of nobody really hating the Midwest.

6) The Rose Bowl was the coolest of bowl games when I was a kid. There was just something special about the parade followed by the Pac 10 v. Big 10 that none of the other Bowl Games could match. Personally I wouldn't mind the traditional conference rivalry of the Rose played for the all the marbles (albeit in Arizona). Also I feel that a Big 10 team should always play in the Rose Bowl to defend the conference's honor. Since OSU's dancing card is filled, that leaves the Big 10's #2 to hold the fort down in Pasadena.

Random Note:

As a random note pay attention to who the last BCS bowl participant will be. There are four at large bids, three of which are basically filled: ND, Boise State and The Wolverines. That leaves one spot left for: The Big East #2: West Virginia, Louisville, Wisconsin, SEC Championship Game Loser, and LSU. In theory Rutgers could be up for the slot but I'm guessing no Bowl Game committee will say hmm you know what school will bring in lots of money, its definitely Rutgers. Assuming West Virginia beats Rutgers then my guess is that the last at large spot will go to West Virginia. Frankly, a West Virginia shoot out with Carr's kids sounds enjoyable enough in the Rose Bowl.

"What More Can I Say?"

While words escaped Troy Smith to summarize what Brent Musberger personally told me was "simply the biggest game in the history of mankind" allow my running journal to fill you in....

7:00 AM - I wake up and I'm already nervous. I had nightmares of a Clown wearing maize and blue attacking me. I turn on ESPN to see what Gameday is looking like and there is already a packed crowd streaming around chanting for Lee Corso's head on a platter. I'm going to wait a little bit more before heading into the insanity.

10:00 - In attempt to boost the energy and ward off the hunger pains, a mid-morning meal of Thai was in order. Luckily there was a fortune cookie which read "If you say it, believe it and visualize it, it will happen". Cookies are never wrong. I'm suddenly feeling confidant. I call Publius with my war cry "Your going to die Clown" and march off to Gameday to tell Corso exactly what I think he can do to himself. Much to the enjoyment of the mob, a cop is razzing a guy in blue about the importance of obeying the laws. This is going to be good.

11:45 Sooo many people. The early estimates of at least 300,000 milling around might be right. Heck, they might be under. That said I'm the little grey blob on Gameday with a tiny sign saying "See it, Love It, Suck It... Go Buckeyes!". Lousy shortness. My favorite sign so far is "Chad Henner Loves Unicorns" as well as the mannequin dressed in a Henne jersey throwing a box of Cheerios(now thats creative). Corso picks Michigan to win. He's still bitter about not having a hotel room. The crowd responds with demands for Corso to perform physical activities that seem to difficult for a man of his age but what do I know?

12:00 People had been buying programs by the box. I grab one of the last programs. Now it happens that I grabbed the program from some kid but I figure if he had really wanted it, he would've defended his face better. There's even more people here now and the average Blood Alchohol Level is reaching Code Yeltsin. The state troopers are wearing the full combat fatigues today. I'm picking the fans over the cops by 9.

1:00 -
I see Bob Davies walking towards the Horseshoe. I control the urge to assault him. I do give him the dirty eye and my buddy swears at him. That'll teach him to be Bob Davies.

2:00 - I causally stroll through section of houses that have the fraternities. I'm worried that sudden movements might spook them. However everyone is in a good mood- high five people and I even got a nice hug from a girl in a Ginn jersey. Fans in blue seem to all have a Buckeye fan with them for protection. By in large outside a few chants like "Fuck Michigan" I don't notice any serious problems.

3:00 I arrive at my destination for viewing the game. I exchange a few more pleasantries with Publius and follow that with a call to my dad. My dad reminds me to have faith in the Sweatervest. I'm also informed that punk band "The Dead Schembechlers" had their final concert last night and donated the profits from the "Beat M*ch*g#n" rally to the Schembechlers' family's choice of charity. Who knew that civility would reign at the end of the day?

3:30 - Game kicks off, I have my chinese cookie fortune, my lucky outfit and my lucky plate of hummus. Doesn't seem to matter as Henne to Manningham slices and dices the Buckeyes defense in 3.6 seconds.

3:50ish - Buckeyes respond with Troy Smith finding Roy Hall in the end zone. Is it possible we're looking at a shoot out?

6:45ish- I must have blacked out. Did the Buckeyes really win 42-39? Did they really put up almost 500 yards on the Wolverine defense? Did Troy Smith just win the Heisman and cement himself as the Greatest OSU quarterback of all time? Did I really eat that much food? The local feed kicks in and the hometown analysts are wearing sunglasses so its all true...the Buckeyes are going to Glendale for a shot at the BCS Championship. Again. Great game. I can now celebrate with Buckeye Cake (chocolate and peanut butter). The game turned on the roughing the passer penalty. The key to the game was Troy Smith. He was accourate, he was mobile, he was smart and was tough.
8:00 I'm making my way through campus. Everyone is going crazy. Horns are honking. I'm high fiving random people. I don't see any fires yet but I heard reports of some tear gas. I better enjoy the moment, head on home and prepare myself. One Game to Go!