Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yankees Bungle Away A-Rod, Greatest Player on Earth [Addison Quale]

As much as I’ve ragged on A-Rod this year for being classless (and Mike Lupica skewers him today), he truly is an impressive player. You knew the Yanks were coming back when he hit that homer off of Papelbon in early June this year. You have to give him credit for what he did this year: pretty much single handedly keep the Yankees in contention and get them into the playoffs. He deserves a lot of praise for that. Does he get it? Not in NY. What is wrong with this city? Don’t they know a hall of famer when they see one? So what if the guy is a prima donna? He’s your prima donna! And he just hit 54 homers! I think Yankee fans are getting yet another dose of comeuppance for their swagger and arrogance over the years. You know why A-Rod is leaving. Because he’s had a terrible time here and can’t seem to “win”. Even winning his second MVP in 3 years doesn’t obscure the fact that he didn’t hit 1000 homers in the playoffs. The media in NY constantly dog him for playing poorly in the postseason. It is way overblown. They nit-pick to find anything they can to tear him down. Today’s NY papers pointed out how he only hit 1 meaningless solo shot and 3 measly singles. Give him a freakin break will ya? Without A-Rod they would never even be there in the first place. Now A-Rod will find himself a new home somewhere and continue on with his march towards many historic records. Then will he be able to do it in a place where people actually care about baseball and not just pride in their own self-image. And I don’t think he will look back. So what if A-Rod has never become a “true Yankee”? What does that even mean anymore? In conclusion, while A-Rod certainly is a prima-donna punk, NY doesn't know how to appreciate good baseball talent. A match made in hell if you ask me.

BoSox at Top of World Again--Yanks Slump To Bottom, Again [Addison Quale]

We may have just witnessed the most eventful weekend in baseball history. In one fell swoop the establishment of one dynasty was solidified just as another crumbled before our very eyes. The Boston Red Sox, a team which had led the majors for much of the year as the premier team then slumped its way into the playoffs. But just as you thought they were sleeping, they pulled out the big guns for October and finished it off by sweeping the Rockies with the biggest World Series run differential in history. It’s the second time in 4 years the Sox have taken home the title and with the same core of players. What’s even more impressive is that it looks to be the making of a dynasty as the Sox will most likely only improve at every position as this year’s team was comprised of many rookies and young pitchers.

Was Lowell truly the MVP? Perhaps in a team-leader sort of way. But I think they got it wrong—just as they did in 2004. It should have gone both times to the closer: Foulke in ’04 and Papelbon in ’07. How can you not give it to a pitcher who closes 3 of the games in multiple inning high pressured situation saves? Did anyone notice how bizarre he was in the post-game interview? This guy is just weird. I thought his “25 man team effort” comment was a bit forced since some players never even stepped on the field—Snyder for one. (And how scary was that when Gagne was warming in the bullpen in game 4??)

Overall, I thought as much as the Red Sox dominated this World Series, a lot of breaks went their way—the way the ball landed so many times just out of reach for the Rockies and just in reach for the Sox. And they escaped by the skin of their teeth in the last game. The Sox had pretty much used up Okajima and Timlin was on his last gasp. No other relievers seemed to be able to handle the pressure of October for the Sox—not Delcarmen, not Lopez, definitely not Gagne. I think the Sox ended up being very fortunate.

As for the Yanks, just as 2004 brought the Sox the title while crushing the Yankees along the way, this year’s title brings with it more bad news for the Bombers. Could things honestly get any worse for them? I can only think of it as effectively the defeat of the Yankees as we know them. They will never be the same as the core players from their championship runs in the late 20th Century (seems so long ago…)—Posada, Rivera, Clemens and Torre as manager—will most likely be headed out the door. Also the main reason the Yankees even made the playoffs this year was that a man named A-Rod had an absolutely explosive season for them. He will be gone as well. In other words, Red Sox are on top of the world. The Yankees are in the dumps—and may be looking seriously at their first playoff miss in over a decade. It seems the Sox may really be the new Yankees! Oh how the tables have turned.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Boston Bloggers React to Happy Days [J. Mark English]

Last night, the city of Boston was filled with nothing but good news from their local sport teams. New England continues to prepare for yet another sacrificial lamb en route to what could be a perfect season. The Boston Red Sox went up two games to nothing against the Colorado Rockies in the World Series. Boston College remained undefeated last night by beating Virginia Tech in the final minutes in a thriller, as they seek to retain their #2 ranking in the polls.
Here are some reactions of bloggers following the Boston hysteria.

First up is Kevin Donahue with his Boston College fan blog:

Everyone that I had spoken to prior to the Boston College - Virginia Tech game expected the Hokies to put an end to the Eagles BCS dreams. The only problem was no one bothered to tell BC.

Down 10-0... late in the fourth quarter... on the road... in one of the toughest road houses in college football... Boston College came alive. The Eagles scored 14 unanswered points in the final 2:11 of the game to stun the Hokie Nation.

Even Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski was stunned after the Eagles flurry....

...Yes, B.C. rallied for 14 points in four minutes in sloppy conditions to down a first rate defense in a first rate madhouse of a stadium, but it was only after 56 minutes of steady ass-kicking by the Hokies. Yes, B.C. survived the kind of impossible "team of destiny" game every champion has to endure at some point, but what are the odds of a similar push (there was the flubbed onside kick and everything) when the proceedings turn sour again down the line, as they almost inevitably will? Yes, Matt Ryan is a hero, a tough, vomiting hero, but his undeniable brilliance in the clutch only cancels out the rushed misfires that made up the great bulk of his first 39 attempts over more than three and a half quarters, which produced nothing. B.C. spent so long digging itself a hole on offense, the spectacular finish only got it back to 'even' in my mind.

Covering the Red Sox is the blog Joy of the Sox:

The Red Sox have not made any official announcements, but David Ortiz could play first base for all three games in Colorado. Terry Francona acknowledged that was a possible scenario: "His bat is so important [and] there will be rest time pretty soon. But if we need to [rest him], we will."

Kevin Youkilis would be the odd man out in that case as Yerry said moving Yook across the diamond to third would be "playing two guys out-of-play position, which isn't real good." Youkilis would likely come into the games in the later innings (PH/double switch) and replace Flo at first.

The last time the Red Sox won six straight World Series games? 1915 (Games 2-3-4-5) and 1916 (Games 1-2). All six of those games were decided by one run.

Dustin Pedroia became the third Red Sock to lead off a World Series game with a home run, joining Johnny Damon (2004 Game 4) and Patsy Dougherty (1903 Game 2). Only Damon was the actual first batter in the top of the first, however. The other two were batting at home.

Hideki Okajima became the first Japanese pitcher to appear in a World Series. ... Misters October. ... Teams have taken a 2-to-0 lead in the World Series 34 times -- and won the series 27 of those times, including the last 10 in a row.

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RIP City is Back, Even Without Greg Oden [Snave]

I have been a fan of the Portland Trailblazers since the inception of the franchise, and it still looks like “Rip City” is on the way back from the dreary "Jail Blazer" days of Isaiah Rider, Shawn Kemp, Qyntell Woods, Bonzi Wells, etc. despite the loss of #1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden for the season to knee surgery. Why am I optimistic?

Last season, SG Brandon Roy was the NBA’s top rookie. Big man LaMarcus Aldridge (pictured above) was developing into a good ballplayer, and SF Martell Webster and SF/PF Travis Outlaw continued to make strides. In his second season at PG, Jarrett Jack did a good job for coach Nate McMillan. Add in the fact that 7-foot defensive specialist Joel Przybilla seems to be healthy and Channing Frye has been added in the offseason trade of Zach Randolph (dubbed “Z-Fat” by many Blazer fans) to the Knicks, and it seems like Portland is definitely a team on the way up. PG Steve Blake was added to the roster, and he may actually start at his position. F James Jones was also added to the team. At any rate, between Roy, Jack and Blake, the plays will be made. The front line will get its share of rebounds. During the exhibition season, Aldridge, Webster and Outlaw have all shown tremendous improvement, to the point that Aldridge will start at center and Webster will be the starter at SF… watch out, Martell can drain threes!

Utah, Denver, Seattle and Minnesota are the other teams in the NBA’s Northwest Division. I don’t know how Portland will stack up against teams like Phoenix and San Antonio, but I like their chances in their division this year, and I would be willing to bet they will finish in the top three.

Even with Oden rehabilitating his knee, this season will still be fun for all of us who are Blazer fans, although next season can’t be too far back in our minds. For now, we will take what success we can get, and take pride in the solid young players the franchise has acquired and has continued to develop.

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Onward, Oregon! [Snave]

I am a big fan of the University of Oregon Ducks, as UO is my alma mater. I was talking with a co-worker a few weeks ago, and he is a big fan of the Ducks' archrival, the Oregon State University Beavers. He told me “Mark my words, there won’t be any undefeated teams in the Pac-10 this football season.”

His words have proven prophetic, as the upper two-thirds of the league appears fairly well-balanced. UCLA and Arizona State are undefeated in league play at 4-0, and Oregon (6-1 overall) and the USC Trojans, also 6-1, are right behind at 3-1 in Pac-10 play. Cal and Oregon State are next at 2-2.

This weekend and the next could go a long way toward determining who is in the driver’s seat for being top dog. Oregon hosts USC tomorrow in Eugene, ASU (7-0, 4-0 in league play) hosts Cal (5-2, 2-2), UCLA (5-2, 4-0) has to go to Pullman, WA to play the Washington State Cougars (2-5, 0-4), and the Beavers (4-3, 2-2) play host to Stanford (3-4, 2-3). In the remaining game, less important to the league standings, the University of Washington Huskies (2-5, 0-4) host the Arizona Wildcats (2-6, 1-4) in Seattle.

On November 3 in key games, Oregon hosts ASU, Arizona hosts UCLA, WSU is at Cal, and USC hosts Oregon State. The Washington Huskies are at Stanford.

As a Duck fan, I love the team’s high ranking in all the polls, but I know it could be short-lived. While Oregon plays USC and ASU in the next two weeks, both contests are at the Ducks’ friendly Autzen Stadium. Washington State may not win at Cal in two weeks, but their stadium can be a hostile place to play… the UCLA Bruins could find that out tomorrow. Cal is a very good team, and could give Arizona State a tough time in Tempe tomorrow.

At any rate, it is possible that Oregon, with a couple of wins tomorrow and next weekend, could be 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Pac-10, possibly tied at 5-1 with UCLA. If the Ducks can beat Arizona in Tucson on 11/15 to go 9-1, 6-1 it would set up a showdown with UCLA in Los Angeles on November 24.

Oregon has one of the best offensive teams in the nation, led by QB Dennis Dixon (pictured above). Dixon has the best timing on ball-fakes that I have seen in recent memory; he can get the defensive team moving toward a running back or receiver, and before you know it he has broken off a long gain. Mention of Dixon as a Heisman Trophy candidate is not unfounded, as his QB rating is 165.8. Dixon has completed 69.3% of his passes for 1728 yards and 16 TDs, with only three interceptions. The same Heisman justification applies for RB Johnathan Stewart, who has 940 rushing yards with an average of 7.2 yards per carry. He also returns kickoffs and averages 29.8 yards per return! The offensive line is good, Jaison Williams leads an injury-riddled but still solid corps of receivers, and the defense continues to manage with its “bend but don’t break” strategy. The Ducks tend to allow a lot of points, but their offense is so dominant they can get by with a defense that is average.

Lots of college football fans deride the Pac-10 for too much finesse and a lack of hard-hitting defense. Some like to talk about the SEC as the best defensive conference in the country, and that’s fine. It is probably true. As for defense in the Pac-10, the teams come up with the good defensive plays when they are needed most.

With all that said, in a league where defense does tend to take a back seat to the offense, I have to think my Ducks, with one of the best offenses in the nation, could find themselves in the Pac-10 driver’s seat in a couple of weeks.

We’ll see.

Quack quack!

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What Will the Off-Season Hold for Seattle? [Snave]

When you are a Seattle Mariners fan lately, it never seems too early to be thinking about the off-season. Considering the many holes in their roster, the Mariners had a surprisingly good season in 2007, finishing at 88-74. That was good enough for second place behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League West. During the Hot Stove League of 2007-2008, Seattle’s General Manager Bill Bavasi will face the daunting task of finding better pitching, among many other things.

For better or for worse, the ballclub continued Bavasi’s job for next year. They also decided to give interim field manager John McLaren the job of manager. McLaren named his coaching staff this week, keeping only the M’s hitting coach Jeff Pentland from the 2007 staff. New additions include pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, former major-league manager Jim Riggleman as bench coach, and ex-Red and Mariner reliever Norm Charlton as bullpen coach. Eddie Rodriguez will coach at first base, and Larry Bowa will possibly be added as third base coach.

With that out of the way, once the World Series ends you should expect the Mariners to inquire about two available Japanese starting pitchers, Hiroki Kuroda and Koji Uehara. Both pitchers are 32 years old, and both are righthanders. For his career, Kuroda is 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA. Uehara is 106-57, 2.96. Both have fairly good WHIPs. It is unsure how either of these pitchers would fare in America’s major leagues, but given the Seattle Mariners’ association with Nintendo and their history of signing Japanese players, it is fairly likely the M’s will sign one of, if not both Kuroda and Uehara.

Other options include trading for starting pitching. Bavasi was roundly panned by baseball’s other GMs and in the press during last year’s winter meetings for his ill-advised trade of set-up man Rafael Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for SP Horacio Ramirez. People questioned his trade of OF Chris Snelling and RP Emiliano Fruto to the Nationals for Jose Vidro, who became the Mariners’ DH. The signings of Jose Guillen and Jeff Weaver were also questioned. Weaver generally pitched horribly, and his good stretch during the midseason was probably not enough to keep him with the Mariners for 2008. With Bavasi doing the trading, what could the Mariners reap in trades this winter? The track record indicates “not much”, and what is acquired could be of very questionable value. The White Sox’ Jon Garland is one name that has been bandied about by bloggers and sportswriters as a Seattle trade target. Young Felix Hernandez and Jose Batista appear to be set in the 2008 rotation, as does Jarrod Washburn unless he is traded; slots 4 and 5 are up for grabs.

The Mariners organization is also faced with other tough decisions, including whether or not to re-sign right-fielder Jose Guillen to a multi-year contract after he proved himself to still have plenty of skills after injuries (.290, 23 HR, 99 RBI, .447 SLG, .773 OPS), and that he’s capable of good behavior and clubhouse leadership. Waiting in the wings is RF Wladimir Balentien, 23 in July. He posted great numbers at AAA Tacoma in 2007 with 24 HRs, 84 RBI, a .291 BA, 15 SBs and an .871 OPS. Should Seattle sign Guillen to a 2-3 year deal, or give Balentien the job to lose, while using their “Guillen money” for a free-agent pitcher? It is a tough call, but from all indications the ballclub is leaning toward not re-signing Guillen.

The team seems set with Kenji Johjima behind the plate, a somewhat resurgent Adrian Beltre at 3B, the steady Raul Ibanez as LF/1B/DH, youngster Adam Jones (25 HRs, 94 RBI, .967 OPS in AAA in 2007) in LF, Yunuiesky Betancourt at SS, and of course Ichiro Suzuki in CF. Jose Lopez will probably man the 2B position again next season.

The bullpen looks decent for 2008, with lights-out J.J. Putz and LH set-up man George Sherrill both locks. Youngsters Brandon Morrow, Sean Green and Eric O’Flaherty all pitched well at times and showed good major-league upside, although Morrow may be tried as a starting pitcher this spring, thus the Mariners may also be looking for some late-innings right-handed pitching help.

Does any team out there want 1B Richie Sexson, he of declining skills and large contract? How about Jose Vidro, a very smart hitter but who has bad legs and very little to offer in the way of power? Light-hitting but slick-fielding CF Jeremy Reed, anyone? 1B/LF Ben Broussard? (He plays a good guitar, anyway…)

There are moves to be made. Is the outlook rosy when the Mariners’ GM is widely considered to be one of the worst GMs in baseball? Not really… but even the blind squirrel finds the nut once in a while. And in baseball, hope springs eternal, even for Seattle Mariners fans!

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Poem about the World Series [Karen Zaborowski Duffy]

The following was a poem read tonight on the PBS News Hour:

Poet Karen Zaborowski Duffy has been a high school English teacher for 20 years. She's been a Philadelphia Phillies fan for even longer. Although her beloved team is not in this year's World Series, she shares a poem about being at the event years ago with her daughter.

World Series, Game 5

Even God, I think, is here,

so high up in the stands

with my ten-year old daughter and me

we can almost touch the X

from Schmidty's old home run,

probably the two worst seats at the Vet

but right where the whole world

wants to be.

I let her drink real Coke,

eat Milky Ways and dance with strangers

at 11:30 on a school night and still

ninety minutes from home.

I took her sticky hand.

The Phillies and we are in control.

For now, the world has stopped worrying

about players who might be traded,

moods that might swing and miss.

There are no thoughts about new uniforms

and the boys who will wear them.

Tonight she is here and finds it easy

to love me for this end-of-season

home game.

We are those jumping red dots

in the center of the universe, my daughter

and me and a baseball game

that is perfect and no more meaningless

than anything else.

World Series: Ratings and Polls [J. Mark English]

America's national pastime is on the rebound according to the ratings released from last night's game one of the World Series between the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox. The lopsided game did not seem to affect much in terms of a viewing audience.

This is from James Hibberd's blog on TV Week:

With the popular Boston Red Sox playing the Colorado Rockies, the game hit a 5.8 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the national Nielsens, up 61 percent from last year's Cardinals-Tigers match.

Among total viewers, the game was seen by 16.9 million, up 31 percent.

The figures reverse a World Series Game 1 downward trend in recent years, despite the match being a blowout, with the Sox winning 13 to 1.

Like any major sporting event, the game throws its competitors numbers off balance, making week-to-week comparisons suspect.

Meanwhile, a Fox News poll attempted to take the pulse of the nation as to its thoughts on the World Series. Here are there results:
Equal shares of Americans (33 percent) are rooting for the Boston Red Sox (red) and Colorado Rockies (purple) in the World Series, according to the latest FOX News poll.

Interestingly, among those who identify themselves as baseball fans (48 percent overall), the underdog Rockies are the favorites — by a 49 percent to 40 percent margin....

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from Oct. 23 to Oct. 24 — the latter being the date of World Series Game One. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

The poll also shows that when the focus shifts from the team respondents want to win to the team they think will win, results are quite different. In this setting, a solid plurality (43 percent) say the American League Champion Red Sox will win, while just under one-quarter (24 percent) feel the National League Champion Rockies will prevail in the 103rd Fall Classic.

This sentiment is even more intense among self-identifying baseball fans, with the Red Sox viewed as likely victors by 57 percent of fans.

Despite the growing dominance of NFL football in American sports culture, nearly half of Americans (48 percent) say they consider themselves baseball fans.

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The NFL Invades Britain [J. Mark English]

The New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins will play the part of good-will ambassadors this weekend in jolly old London.

This is not the first time that the NFL has been featured in a foreign country. A few years ago they had a regular season opener in Mexico City between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. During the pre-season they have played games in places like Tokyo, as well as London.

This will be the first regular season game to be played overseas. Curious Britons will be able to see a real (American) football game, not just some minor league game that the NFL Europe offers.

An article the London Telegraph projects the cultural clash likely to take place this weekend:

In his rich Louisiana drawl, Eli Manning affects a certain wide-eyed innocence as he contemplates a visit to London this weekend forgetting, momentarily, that he is coming not as a tourist but with a reputation to protect as the New York Giants' star quarterback. The 26-year-old spent a summer in the capital before his junior year at the University of Mississippi, including the obligatory foray to "Oxford, England", but breaks the nostalgia to claim that Sunday's engagement against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley is "strictly business".

On a first meeting, you would not imagine Manning as an icon of the National Football League, or as the strong-armed aggressor for whose services the Giants have paid £22 million. Dressed down after training, he can be by turns languid, withdrawn, defensive. Perhaps it is a wariness instilled by the New York press corps, notorious for magnifying Manning's every mistake, or perhaps it is just 'younger brother syndrome' — Eli is, let us not forget, the shy sibling of Peyton, winning quarterback at last season's Super Bowl for the Indianapolis Colts and one of American sport's most marketable faces.

Ostensibly, this transatlantic transplanting of two major NFL franchises for a weekend of shuttle diplomacy is not quite the logistical headache many imagine — both teams face similar problems just travelling to Seattle. But as Manning recognises, it is the symbolism of the occasion that resonates. Wembley could have been sold out six times over for the first regular-season game to be staged outside North America. The quarterback recalls his brother's reaction to this London mission. "Peyton said, 'That will be pretty neat'. Expanding to the international level is exciting, but it's not enough to treat this as an exhibition. There are more people attracted by this event than I thought there would be, and we have to retain their interest."

The cultural shift promises to be stark. From the blasted industrial landscape of East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Giants are relocating to the green fields of Chelsea's Cobham training complex. It is, apparently, more than a token connection: both John Terry and Didier Drogba are serving as New York's honorary captains. Manning professes to be oblivious to Premier League politics but he is aware of the extravagance that awaits at chez Chelsea. "I hear about some of the financial figures," he says. "I hear their owner is trying to buy every popular player there is."

With all that being said, not every NFL player seems to know exactly what to expect when arriving in England. Actually, some of the players may be either down right dumb or ignorant.

Channing Crowder of the Miami Dolphins for example thought he might need a translator in England. This is from the Palm Beach Post:

Maybe he was joking, but gregarious Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder confessed today he didn’t know until Tuesday that people spoke English in London.

Crowder, a former Florida Gator and Atlanta native, apparently isn’t sure where the plane is headed when it takes off this afternoon for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants in Wembley Stadium.

“I couldn’t find London on a map if they didn’t have the names of the countries,” Crowder said. “I swear to God. I don’t know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I learned that.

“I know (Washington Redskins linebacker) London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That’s the closest thing I know to London. He’s black, so I’m sure he’s not from London. I’m sure that’s a coincidental name.”

Oh man, aren't people over there are going to think so highly of us? Although to be fair, does it really matter if Crowder knows how to find London on a map? I mean seriously, why do we even learn world geography. Unless your going to get in a boat and navigate the open seas, all you need to do is sit down on the plane and the pilot will take care of the rest for you. If the pilot doesn't know what to do, then your screwed.

Anyway, I digress. As a Giants fan, I could care less where they play, only that they win. This is probably the Giants third straight "trap" game in a row. The Dolphins come in to this game winless, and maybe this is the game that finally gets them their first W in the win column. I just hope that the Giants can get up on the Fish early, and not let up.

In the spirit of this being a trap game, I refer to Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars who always knew when to expect a trap:

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A-Rod Wins Baseball's Most Clutch Award [David Stefanini]

How ironic is this? Last year the big argument against A-Rod was how he never comes through in a big situation. Sure he put up over 30 HR's and over 100 RBI's but they didn't come in big spots when they were needed. Now this season, claims the inaugrial award of being Baseball's most clutch hitter.
Here is the story by Bryan Hoch:

For his efforts in what will be remembered as a remarkable individual season worthy of praise, Rodriguez has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the 2007 Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Year, presented by Pepsi.

The officially sanctioned Major League Baseball award recognizes the player who performed his best when the game was on the line.

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Pigskin Pick'em - Week 7 Results AND Week 8 Picks [EdMcGon]

Another two-fer Thursday, in honor of David Stefanini pulling his second weekly win of the season in week 7:

David Stefanini - 11
Robert A. George - 10
EdMcGon - 9
bl - 9
J. Mark English - 7
Bill Barker - 6

Year to date results (with weekly wins in parentheses):

David Stefanini(2) - 63
EdMcGon(1) - 58
Robert A. George(1.5) - 57
J. Mark English(1) - 52
bl(1) - 44
Bill Barker - 40
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 33
SoloD - 28
Dave O'Leary - 21
Rigel - 17
Mike - 8

Normally, this is where I brag about how great my picks will be this week. Unfortunately, I have a cold, so I really don't feel like my usual overconfident self. So here they are, my picks in red:

Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers: The Colts may fall into this trap game, but I won't pick it.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: The last time these two teams played in Detroit, and the Lions had to score 34 points in the fourth quarter to win. I don't expect them to do that again, especially not in Chicago.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: This game could get ugly. The Steelers are a BIG step above the Bengals.
New York Giants at Miami Dolphins: Welcome to London. Dolphin fans, try not to leave your lunch there.
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings: Which Eagle team will show up this week? My gut says the "bad" Eagles show up.
Cleveland Browns at St. Louis Rams: The Rams may surprise someone. And I will be wrong that week. Until then...
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans: As much as I would love to make the Raider homer pick, the Titans are too good to pick against. The Raiders need to develop more before I can pick them in a game like this.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: This game could go either way, but neither of these teams is going anywhere this year. At least the Bills seem to be moving in a positive direction.
Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers: Expect the Chargers to be a little more motivated to win this one for fire-ravaged south California.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The battle of the two best teams in Florida. I have to lean towards the Bucs with Jeff Garcia over the Jags with Quinn Gray.
Washington Redskins at New England Patriots: The Skins are about to be skinned.
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers: I think the 49ers will find the Saints to be a little easier than their last four opponents.
Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos: Denver's biggest weakness? Run defense. Green Bay's biggest offensive weakness? The running game. Expect Favre to throw this one away.

Pigskin Pick'em Rules:
1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites:
Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday (otherwise known as "The Barker Rule"), or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)


Sox Rock Rox in Game One: 13-1 [Addison Quale]

Are you getting tired of all these annoying alliterative titles playing around with the Red Sox and Rockies? Not me. Anyway, the Sox absolutely butchered the Rockies last night at Fenway. Do they have some sort of mystique and aura of their own now? Are they truly the new Yankees? Perhaps. But then again, didn't we just learn in the ALCS that winning game 1 handedly doesn't mean the series is over? Let's all remember that the you're only as good as your last game and that momentum lasts one game too. The Rockies are still a very good ball club and we've probably not seen the last of them.
As for managerial decisions, why in the world did Beckett pitch the 7th up 12 runs? That was absurd. The Sox could have had Beckett on short rest in game 4 and save him for a game 7 if possible. Furthermore, why bring in Timlin, your third best reliever in the 8th? As the Brazilian commentators said in the 2004 ALCS as I watched the games from Minas Gerais, "He was like a paralytic mummy out there."

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Photo: Fall Classic Returns to Fenway Park [J. Mark English]

More Steinbrenner Horse Crap and Why HR's Are Bad [Aaron DeRosa]

"I think the most important thing is whoever we hire, give 'em a chance because he's not getting the '96 Yankees. He's getting an even younger team or for the most part a team in transition. Give him a little while,'' Hank Steinbrenner said, "We want to win the World Series every year. We're not stupid enough to think we can do it. Of course, we'd love to win the World Series next year.''

While I buy the sentiment that New York is a bit impatient, let's call it like it is. The 2007 Yankees are, on paper, a better team than the 1996 Yankees. Just a look at the basic numbers:
  • 1996 Team Stats: .288 / 162HR / 830RBIs / 871 Runs
  • 2007 Team Stats: .290 / 201HR / 929RBIs / 968 Runs
So, a more potent offense. But surely the pitching isn't as good:
  • 1996 Team Stats: 4.65 ERA
  • 2007 Team Stats: 4.50 ERA
Younger? Actually, the average age of the 1996 Yankees was 29.7 or so, while the 2007 Yankees was about 31.

Perhaps it's because there is more talent in the league nowadays that the Yankees can't compete? It's gotta be that there's just so many homerun hitters and so much strong pitching, they're just out-matched. Wrong again.
  • 1996 Ranks: 2nd (BA) / 12th (HRs) / 9th (Runs) / 5th (ERA)
  • 2007 Ranks: 1st (BA) / 1st (HRs) / 1st (Runs) / 7th (ERA)
It's not even a matter of small-ball or money-ball tactics. Both teams had comparable OBP% and similar stolen base and sacrifice hit #s.

Maybe it is the management. Maybe it's player attitude. There's no "right answer." I think, however, one telling statistic is this: In 1996, Yankees batters were issued 56 intentional walks and only 32 in 2007. If you think that you only offer an IBB if there are runners on base with threatening hitters coming up, this suggests that the 07-Yanks simply aren't loading the bases up for their heavier hitters. This neutralizes the threat of the homerun (you only lose one run if there's no one on base) and emboldens pitchers to attack those hitters.

We might take this a step further and say that the more homerun hitters on your team, the more you weaken your offense. If we agree that in the NL, a pitcher is effectively an out every 3 rd inning, or a "rally-killer" (even a pinch hitter doesn't produce like a regular hitter), I think it's safe to assume that there are greater routs in the AL than in the NL. I'm not sure how one would test this theory, but that just seems logical. There is no interruption to the flow of a rally because you've constantly got full-time hitters at the plate.

Now apply this same logic to HRs. A homerun would actually seem to favor the pitcher rather than the hitter. For every HR that's hit, the bases are cleared. This affords a few things: the pitcher can wipe the slate clean and "start the inning over" in his mind, using his full wind-up, etc. Psychologically speaking, a pitcher can settle down from a 2-run homerun easier than 3 doubles in a row that plates two runs. On the hitter's side, not only are you facing a (potentially) calmer pitcher, but there's no longer pressure on the fielders who can play the field to your weaknesses rather than the runners on base (think of Ellsbury's steal of second base that brought Cabrera back to the bag in the 7 th, which allowed a hit and runners at the corners in Game 7). And psychologically I'd imagine it's more difficult for a hitter to hit when there's nobody on as opposed to having men on base.

Of course, my limited resources hinder me in the quest for this knowledge, but I think they're all fairly logical claims. So lay it on me.

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Rock vs Sock: Game 1 Preview [David Stefanini]

Well here is the good news for the Colorado Rockies. They are on a historic hot streak, and have yet to lose a single game in the playoffs. They have proved they can pitch and play good defense. Now here is the bad news:

The Boston Red Sox are going to send pitcher Josh Beckett to the mound. Beckett is a career 5-2 pitcher in the postseason. In his two losses he has combined to pitch 14+ innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 runs. In other words, he is a virtual lock to win this game tonight against the Rockies.

Something else strikes me off at the beginning of this series. Boston is threatening to become the new Evil Empire. With the Yanks being off their game, and some big questions hovering over them, Boston is in perfect position to establish themselves as the team of this decade. They have already won, one championship, and at the end of this series they can have 2. They have great pitching and great hitters. Their bullpen is solidified with young talent, and their farm system is very deep.

I think Boston will win this series in 6, or less.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rudy is a...Red Sox Fan?? [J. Mark English]

Former NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, whom is running for President, and is an die-hard Yankee fan, has publicly stated that he will root for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series according to the New York Post:

Rudy's turned red -- and that's sure to have Yankees fans feeling blue.

Even though many New Yorkers are still mourning the Yankees' defeat by the Cleveland Indians two weeks ago during the playoffs, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani today declared his allegiance to Boston Red Sox, and said he'd root for them in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies.

"I'm rooting for the Red Sox," the Republican presidential contender said in response to a question, sparking applause at the Boston restaurant where he was picking up a local endorsement.

"I'm an American League fan, and I go with the American League team, maybe with the exception of the Mets," he said. "Maybe that would be the one time I wouldn't because I'm loyal to New York."

Comment -

I see where he is coming from, but I beg to differ. When the Philadelphia Eagles were in the Super Bowl a few years ago against the Patriots, I was not inclined to root for them just because they came from the NFC East (keep in mind I'm a Giants fan). Contrary to hoping the Eagles won, I wanted them to lose. The last thing I wanted to see was a championship parade going down Broad Street.

Why would Rudy want to see another parade in Boston, if he is such a big time Yankees fan? You'd think he rather have that happen 2,000 miles away in Denver where he wouldn't be constantly reminded about it during the entire off season and into next year.

Also, you'd think it would be politically advantageous for him to show favor to the Colorado Rockies. He stands much more of a chance of winning Colorado in a national election then Massachusetts. Showing last minute support for the Red Sox in the World Series, will show him as more of a flip-flopper in the New England states, most notably New Hampshire. Seriously, this was a dumb move on Rudy's part.

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ALCS Provides Great Ratings for FOX [J. Mark English]

The ratings are in, and FOX is the winner. The ALCS match up between the Indians and the Red Sox provided FOX with the most viewers over the past week. Here is a summary from Variety.com:

Fox Sports is riding a wave of momentum -- and heightened advertiser interest -- into the World Series after the seventh and deciding game of the Red Sox-Indians series scored big numbers Sunday night.

The Boston Red Sox will take on the Colorado Rockies in the Fall Classic beginning Wednesday night.

Boston has a large national following while the Rockies are a great Cinderella story: Left for dead for most of summer, the young team rallied to become the last squad to qualify for the postseason and then swept the opening two rounds of the playoffs...

...Nielsen estimates that an average aud of 19 million viewers watched the Boston Red Sox cap their rally in the best-of-seven series with an 11-2 victory on Sunday. That made it the most-watched program of the night -- besting "Desperate Housewives" on ABC and "Sunday Night Football" on NBC -- and will help Fox win the week's primetime ratings race among young adults and total viewers....

....From Fox's perspective, one of the big advantages this year is that the first game will take place on Wednesday instead of Saturday, as in previous years, Goren said. Viewing levels are higher on Wednesday than Saturday, and "we'll get more of a sports-page buildup to the Series because baseball is not competing directly with weekend college football and the NFL," he said.

Also, the Wednesday start means that if the Series goes to a sixth and seventh game on Wednesday (Oct. 31) and Thursday (Nov. 1), Fox's sales staff will have two days to sell the time (Tuesday and Wednesday), not one day (Friday) when Game 6 takes place on a Saturday, as in previous years.

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Sox Stun Tribe - Get Ready for Rox [Addison Quale]

It's just amazing how the animal spirits get going when it comes to postseason baseball. After the Sox manhandled Cleveland in game 1, everyone seemed to be saying, "Well this will be easy! I wonder who we'll play in the WS?" It was amazing. The Sox won one game and extrapolated that they would win all the rest. Then, after just barely losing game 2 (by 7 runs) all of that momentum was squashed. Game 3 was lost. And then Game 4. And suddenly--or rather this became clear after game 2--the feeling was: "How do we even have a chance?? Cleveland is WAY too good!" It was unbelievable. And then, looking forward to game 5, I started thinking that Beckett is going to win this one. And if Beckett can win and bring it back to Boston, then Schilling certainly has a chance. And then if it goes to 7 anything can happen then. So really, the Sox have a pretty darn good chance here. And I turned out to be right. Anyway, baseball in the postseason is a bizarre animal. It's all about momentum. And confidence. Things that Rob Neyer I think has trouble quantifying. (He even said that players often throw away at bats not working the count in the late innings of blowouts--how does this get factored into predictions?) And that's what makes this game amazing. Because anything can and does happen.

As for the upcoming Sox-Rox matchup, both teams look pretty good. But the Rockies pitching sure seems to pale in comparison to Beckett and Schilling. Then again, their pitching has been absolutely outstanding as of late. And also they dominated these guys earlier this year at the Fens. I could imagine anything happening.

Either way, what an awesome season of baseball it's been. Especially for Sox fans. I mean, this team has been pretty excellent from wire to wire this year. And you can't complain about that. I think it's a disgrace to say: "If you don't win the WS, the year is a failure." I think that just misses the entire point of why baseball exists. That is--it is NOT TO JUST WIN. Winning is not everything. It's a sport. It's our pastime. It's beautiful--like art. And so it should be celebrated and followed--but not like religion. You should celebrate for your team knowing that even if they lost, you'd still be content that they played their hearts out this season for you. Whatever happens in the next week, I'm thankful for the Red Sox. I hope they sweep the Rox. But if they don't I'm still proud of them.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

World Series Ticket Demand Halts Rockies Computer [J. Mark English]

All those die hard Rockie fans going back to 1993 seem to be going nuts over their first World Series trip...

This is from Duncan Shaw of CBS News in Denver:

Colorado Rockies officials said Monday night their computer system for online-only World Series ticket sales was the target of an "external malicious attack," and that online ticket sales will resume at noon Tuesday.

Team spokesperson Jay Alves couldn't immediately provide details of the attack. He said nearly 18,000 tickets were available for each game in Denver -- Games 3, 4, and 5, if necessary -- on Saturday, Sunday and Monday....

....he company that handles online ticket sales for the Colorado Rockies told CBS4 News it isn't sure what caused its systems to crash on Monday morning.

"They are amazed and overwhelmed at what happened here this morning," said Colorado Rockies spokesman Jay Alves. He said Irvine, Calif.-based Paciolan's servers received 8.5 million visits in the first hour-and-a-half after the tickets for the World Series games at Coors Field went on sale at 10 a.m.

Spokesman Shaw Taylor said Paciolan is looking at the issues that led to the crash. He told CBS4 News one possible cause may have been a large-scale denial-of-service attack.

Paciolan is the official ticket vendor for Major League Baseball. It handles ticketing for more than 700 college and professional sports teams, as well as other live events. According to the company's Web site, it sold 25 percent of all live event tickets in the United States last year.

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Rocks and Sox World Series [J. Mark English]

For a wrap up of last nights game 7 of the ALCS, where the Boston Red Sox defeated to the Cleveland Indians to advance to the World Series, here is some excitement from bean town shared by the SawxBlog:

Wow...ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, your Boston Red Sox are on their way to the 2007 World Series, and what a game they played to get there. Like a lot of the games in this series the box score at the end of the night can be awfully deceiving. The final score may have been 11-2, but it sure didn't feel like that for a majority of the game.

The story of this ALCS was that the Red Sox actually had the opportunity to manufacture a heck of a lot more runs then they did (the record number of double plays attests to that), and game 7 was a great example of this early on. For the first three innings the Red Sox were nibbling and getting only 1 run an inning when they really had an opportunity to break it open a la game 6. That's why when it's the top of the 7th inning and we're up 3-2 and there are runners on base you felt like you were having heart palpitations, it was nerve racking man.

But in the end the Red Sox controlled the game with solid pitching from Dice-K and a super clutch double play ball by Oki Dokie. Oh yeah, that and the fact that the ghost of Dale Sveum was apparently coaching third base for the Indians, I have no idea how Lofton didn't score on that shot down the third base line.

So it's now onto the World Series against the Colorodo Rockies, much like the ALCS it should be fun. I feel for Indian fans today, they have a bunch of good passionate fans and a good ball club. More to come on the ALCS victory and World Series later. For now congratulations to your pennant winning, American League Champion, Boston Red Sox!!!

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Torre and Manny -- Total Opposites in Terms of Class [Addison Quale]

What an amazing week for baseball. The Sox in the ALCS. And the Evil-Empire destroyed as we know it. It's very possible that the next 25 guys the Yankees run out on the field in the Spring of 2008 will be very different from those who played for them the last decade. Think about this: It's possible that the only holdover from the championship years will be Derek Jeter. We've seen the last of Torre--and with him probably goes Mariano, Posada. It seems A-Rod may bolt. And Clemens surely won't return. The Yankees as we know them are history.

This does give me a sort of satisfaction as a Red Sox fan. It's great to see that the Yankees were stopped in their tracks after a torrid spat of WS Titles. And they were stopped in part by the Sox. But as great as it is to see this version of our foes vanquished forever, I am sad to see Joe Torre leave.

Torre was one heckuva manager. He was it seems the epitome of class in terms of managers. Even as the general of our arch rivals, you have to give him respect. He did a great job--year in year out making the postseason, running a clubhouse full of big egos with integrity and composure. If my prediction is worth anything, I would say that the Yankees will not make the postseason next year. There's simply no one who's going to be able to fill Torre's shoes that quickly. And the mystique and aura that will have left the Yankees will be palatable.

Now, on the other spectrum of the class dial, you have Manny Ramirez. Honestly, could you envision the Yankees and Torre putting up with his shenanigans? First off, the showing off after homeruns is just so obnoxious. He raised his hands after the 3-run walkoff blast against Anaheim. That was not TOO bad. But to do it trailing then 7-3 on a solo homer? He's very childish. Secondly, the 390 foot single? Why does this man not run?? I can't imagine Torre and the Yankees would put up with this. As for his comments where he said that it didn't matter whether or not the Sox will win, there's always next year? Maybe you're right if you say that he certainly lacks professional desire. But at the same time, these guys have so much pressure on them already, they've been doing this for 4 years now in the postseason--that's just the distanced attitude they might need to come back. And indeed it looks like the Sox have. Besides, English is Manny's second language and we shouldn't dig too deep into his words.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Video: Joe Torre's Last Hurrah [J. Mark English]

Red Sox Force Game 6 [Allen Chace]

This comes from guest blogger Allen Chace, of Over the Monster:

Absolutely superb. Josh Beckett clearly feels his WS MVP trophy is a little lonely on the mantle. After a dicey 1st in which he escaped partly due to a non-RBI DP off the bat of Travis Hafner, Becks gave a clinic on pitching, being efficient while also striking out hitters, and almost got an opportunity to teach Kenny Lofton some humility in the process.

The offense finally looked like the offense all season long. Working counts and generally wearing out C.C. Sabathia with a number of great ABs and getting 14 baserunners against him over 6+ innings.

Indians setup man Rafael Betancourt was good in following Sabathia, only allowing one inherited runner to score on a SF. Those that followed were not so effective, with Rafael Perez allowing 3 runs (1 earned) and Tom Mastny allowing all 3 runners he inherited to score during the Sox's 3-run 8th inning.

The ALCS swings back to Boston with Curt Schilling on the hill in another do-or-die game. Aside from allowing Becks to borrow someone else's ligaments for a night, I know you nor I would have it any other way.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pandemonium in Piscataway Part II [J. Mark English]

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have done it again, one year later. The University of South Florida came in undefeated and ranked number 2 in the nation. Similarly, last year it was the Louisville Cardinals that came in to Piscataway undefeated with a high ranking. Just like last year, the Scarlet Knights came away with the upset.

Chris Carlin coined the term last year with his exclamation at the end of his broadcast on WOR with, "pandemonium in Piscataway!!!" The Rutger faithful can once again make this celebrate with madness.

Rutgers took down USF by the score of 30-27. Ray Rice ran for 181 yards, showing that he is truly the toast of the Scarlet Knights. His 39 carries demonstrates just how much of a war horse he will be in the NFL. Mike Teel did just enough not to screw up, and helped manage an efficient offense against one of the best defenses in the nation.

The only difference between last year and this year, is that last year Rutgers came out of no-where. This year there should be bitter sweetness to Rutgers season. They lost two winnable games at home against Maryland and Cincinnati. If they had won both of those games, they could be ranked in the top 5 right now.

The topsy-turvy season continues in college football. Its hard to remember a season with so many upsets. Think about this season so far...you have Appalachian State shocking Michigan, Stamford upsetting USC, Kentucky defeating LSU, Oregon over Cal, and now Rutgers taking down USF.

What a roller-coaster. Enjoy the ride folks.

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Dan Patrick Joins SI Staff [J. Mark English]

Dan Patrick will join the pages of Sports Illustrated. ESPN has not been the same without the staple of their Sports Center broadcast. He had a unique way of mixing facetiousness, wit, and wisdom in his commentary.

Sports Illustrated, which is already chalk full of quality writers, will only continue to improve with Dan Patrick as a member of the staff. Here is more from Variety:

Dan Patrick, who left ESPN earlier this year to help organize his own company the Content Factory, has signed a deal with Sports Illustrated to write a weekly column for the magazine and place his website under SI's Digital Group.

The Patrick column begins in January, and SI will supervise the audio simulcast of Patrick's daily radio show on his website, starting early next year. SI.com will also carry the radio show, encouraging people, eventually, to download the program as a podcast. SI writers will make regular appearances on the Patrick radio program, including Peter King, Tom Verducci and Rick Reilly.

Patrick said his radio show, which kicked off two weeks ago, airs on about 50 stations. It's distributed by Premiere Radio.

SI will have nothing to do with any TV programs Patrick does next year, which will occur through the Content Factory. He joked that his next TV job might be as host of "Wheel of Fortune," playing off all the rumors that he was on the shortlist to replace Bob Barker as host of "The Price Is Right," a plum that eventually went to Drew Carey.

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A British Super Bowl? [J. Mark English]

Two weeks from now the Giants will be heading to jolly old London, some ways across the pond that is the Atlantic Ocean, to square off against the Miami Dolphins.

This is all well and good, but the Dolphins lose a home game, and can the average fan in Miami travel to London afford to see their team play?

While you ponder this notion, think about what could happen down the line if the NFL dreamers have their way. The Super Bowl could be coming to a European city over there... Most likely in London.

This is from the Press Association:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes London is a candidate to host a future Super Bowl, an event that has never in history been held outside the United States.

"There's a great deal of interest in having a Super Bowl in London," Goodell said in a news conference Monday in Phoenix, which will host the 2008 Super Bowl. "We'll be looking at that."

The Miami Dolphins and New York Giants are due to play at Wembley Stadium in London on October 28.

It will be the second regular-season game the NFL has played overseas after the fantastic success of a game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City in 2005 - a contest which attracted an NFL record 103,467 fans.

Goodell said that, regardless of whether an overseas Super Bowl were to happen, more regular-season games are in the pipeline.

Comment -

Grrrrr. Not sure how I feel about a Super Bowl in some far off land. Football (as we know it to be called) is an American institution. Let them have cricket and soccer and whatever else the Brits play. Can't we please keep football over here?

Its not like we've tried to steal away cricket from the Brits and host the Ashes over here in America. I fear that the NFL is getting a lot out of control.

(Please note I am not disregarding the significant profits the NFL sees in making the game international...its just the principle that bothers me.)

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Joe Torre Leaves The Yanks [A.J. Cordi]

From AJ's (My) Sports Blog:

It's been more than a week of waiting to find out whether or not "Clueless" Joe Torre would be returning as the manager of the New York Yankees. Over the past week, players and fans alike have been begging for owner George Steinbrenner not to fire him.

Meetings have been going on since Tuesday at the Yankees' Florida camp regarding not only Torre's future, but the team's future in general.

Finally, Torre was made an offer: A $5 million 1-year contract, with an additional $1 million bonus for each level of the postseason reached.

Torre responded with a healthy NO!

Torre has been the manager of the Yanks for 12 years now. He brought October to the Yankees every year he was the manager, plus 4 World Series championships and 6 Pennants. I have been a Torre fan since he arrived in New York, and I will continue to be one regardless of where he ends up. As a fan, I can't thank him enough for the joys he brought to the fans.

Additionally, I also have to applaud the way he left the Yankees. Over much debate about whether or not he would be fired, he kept quiet and remained laid back. Then finally, when an offer was made, he walked away from the team - on his own terms! He (probably) had it planned all along, and I can't blame him considering the way Steinbrenner treated the future Hall-of-Famer!

Good luck, Joe, on all future whatevers!

To read the article about Torre leaving the Yanks, click here and/or here. (Note: The articles have been changing as more details are made public.)

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Say it Ain't So...So Long Joe [J. Mark English]

Its official. The long drawn out wait is over. The Yankees brass down in Tampa have finally put an end to the Joe Torre era.

All Joe did with the club was to take them to the playoffs for 12 straight years. He won four World Series, won the AL East division 10 teams, including 9 years in a row between 1997-2006. The Yankees have had a successful run over the last decade in a half that is hard to maintain in the modern day sports era. He may be impossible to replace, and is assured to have many job offers thrown his way starting tomorrow.
Here is more from the Associated Press:

Joe Torre is out as manager of the New York Yankees, rejecting a substantial pay cut after the team failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Torre turned down a $5 million, one-year contract Thursday that still would have made him the highest paid manager in baseball.

Bench coach Don Mattingly is the leading contender to replace Torre, who led the Yanks to 12 straight playoff appearances and won four World Series championships. Yankees broadcaster Joe Girardi, the NL Manager of the Year with Florida in 2006, is another top contender.
"It's a difficult day," general manager Brian Cashman said.

But it was a day Yankees' fans could see coming.

After losing the first two playoff games to Cleveland, owner George Steinbrenner said he didn't think Torre would be back if the Yankees didn't advance.

Torre, who took over the team to start the 1996 season, made his decision after traveling fom New York to the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. He was accompanied by Cashman and chief operating officer Lonn Trost.

"It is now time for the New York Yankees to move forward," Levine said.

Torre made $7.5 million this year, the final season of a $19.2 million, three-year contract. His new deal would have included substantial bonuses for each round of the playoffs the team reached.

"We felt we needed to go to a performance-based mode," Levine said. "We thought it was very fair. It clearly was at the top of the market, but we respect Joe's decision."

Comment -

Is it a mistake to let a man who has managed the Yankees to such great success go? Only time will tell. If the team falters next year, and fails to make the playoffs, then the only assumption that can be made is that they should have held on to Joe Torre.

Joe Torre has been a phenomenal regular season manager. Winning in the regular season is much more impressive then winning a playoff series. The playoffs are a crap-shoot, and the best team usually does not win the World Series.

If the Joe DiMaggio Yankees had to play in two playoff series as well as the World Series back in the 1940's and 1950s...could they have won as many World Series as they did then? Would DiMaggio have won 9 rings? Possibly it would have been less.

Considering this point, the Yankees probably should have kept Torre. They will be hard pressed to find a replacement that can manage all of the delicate egos and superstars that the Yankees have.

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Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 7 Picks [EdMcGon]

For all you weekend warriors out there, if you feel like skipping the NFL games this weekend to get some yardwork done, here are the final results BEFORE they happen. Well, at least a reasonable facsimile of them (my picks in red as usual):

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills: If you don't like offensive shootouts, this is the game for you. Blackbirds over Bills.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions: I'm not sure which Lions team will show up, but even the "good" Lions should have a hard time with the Bucs.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: For football purists, AFC South matchups are always fun to watch. Along with the Monday night game, this is definitely a weekend for football purists. I'll take the Titans to win by a tiny margin.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: No-brainer of the week. With the Fish trading away their best wide receiver (Chris Chambers), I think it's safe to say they will be mailing it in for the rest of the season. Unfortunately for them, the mail won't be delivered this Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: So the Saints DO know how to win! That's bad news for the Falcons.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants: This will be a good test for the G-men.
Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins: The Cards go with two quarterbacks who weren't on NFL rosters a few weeks ago. Sounds like they're about to get plucked.
New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals: The only team the Jets have beaten this year is the Dolphins. The only team the Bengals have beaten is the Ravens. I'll take the team that beat the Ravens.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders: Homer pick alert! Seriously though, the Chiefs are quite beatable.
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys: Even an Adrian Peterson sighting is NOT going to save the Vikes. The Boys should be sufficiently ticked off by the spanking they took from the Pats last week.
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles: This one is just a gut feeling.
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Take the Hawks to fly circles around the Lambs.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos: If the Steelers win this one, I will have a ton of respect for Mike Tomlin. I lean towards the Steelers pulling it off.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: There are two teams I won't pick against this year, and one of them is the Colts. But I won't be surprised if the Jags pull the upset.

Pigskin Pick'em Rules:
1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites:
Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday (otherwise known as "The Barker Rule"), or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pigskin Pick'em - Week 6 Results [EdMcGon]

Last week's results:

bl - 10
David Stefanini - 9
Robert A. George - 9
SoloD - 9
EdMcGon - 7
FunkyPundit - 7
J. Mark English - 6
*Bill Barker - 1

The year-to-date results (with weekly wins in parentheses):

David Stefanini(1) - 52
EdMcGon(1) - 49
Robert A. George(1.5) - 47
J. Mark English(1) - 45
bl(1) - 35
Bill Barker - 34
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 33
SoloD - 28
Dave O'Leary - 21
Rigel - 17
Mike - 8

*Being the nice guy I am, I let Bill Barker have one this week, since he did get in the Monday night pick prior to that game.


Indians Down Boston 7-3; Lead ALCS 3-1 [David Stefanini]

The Boston Red Sox need to find a way to get themselves going again. This from ESPN.com:
Hang tight, Colorado Rockies. There's another team roaring through October.

And you just might see them in the World Series.

The Cleveland Indians, relying on a throwback pitcher who looks as if he stepped out of their 1948 team photo, moved one win from another crack at winning an elusive championship.
Hopefully they don't make it to the World Series, because then it'll be just like last year. A red hot NL team going up against a team from the AL not many people picked to be in the World Series.
But Cleveland is only 1 win away from making it an improbable World Series. But don't count out Boston. As Paul Byrd acknowledges, Boston has the ability to come back:
"We want to put them away here," Byrd said. "That's a great team over there. They can easily come back and win three. We're taking absolutely nothing for granted. We'll enjoy the win for now, but we want to put them away."

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Christmas in Rock-tober - Rockies World Series Bound [Dan Lucero]

From Guest blogger, Dan Lucero of Up in the Rockies:

“The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.” – Red Smith

From my seat in Section 303 at Coors Field, the play seemed to go in slow motion. Eric Byrnes checked his swing and the ball bounced to the left side of the infield. Jamey Carroll couldn’t get to it, but of course Troy Tulowitzki could. The kid gets to everything.

The throw wasn’t a typical Tulo lazer, but it had plenty of steam considering Tulo was going away from first base when he cut it loose. Byrnes dove headlong for the first base bag, but the throw beat him. Todd Helton gloved it, and let out a roar that was overpowered by the roar of 50,000 other purple-clad maniacs.

The rest is a blur. Towels were waved. Brooms were thrust skyward. Fireworks filled the sky. I hugged my brother first, then started high-fiving and hugging total strangers. I did not truly know the meaning of the word ‘pandemonium’ until I witnessed in person the final out that sent the Colorado Rockies to their first World Series in franchise history.

Suddenly, words like ‘remarkable’ and ‘incredible’ and ‘fantastic’ have been redefined in the vocabularies of Rockies fans everywhere. We didn’t really know what such words meant before. Now we do, and we have the images and moments to help us define them.

‘Remarkable’ is winning 21 of 22 baseball games, games that absolutely had to be won.

‘Incredible’ is a team left for dead in mid-September, largely ignored by a town that had once adored them, putting together a run for the ages and sending Denver into a frenzy unmatched by any other local team ever (move over ’77 Broncos and ’96 Avalanche, the ’07 Rox just became the greatest story in Colorado sports history).

‘Fantastic’ is a lot of things. Matt Holliday’s swing. Seth Smith’s guts. Matt Herges’ guile. Manny Corpas’ slider. Tulo’s glove. The return of the “GO! (pause) ROCKIES!” chant to Rockies games, 13 years after the Rox left Mile High Stadium and left that chant behind. A “National League Champions” flag being hoisted down the left field line at Coors Field…

As I sat down at my laptop tonight, about half an hour after getting back home, I sat and wondered if I could possibly do this moment justice. The words do not flow freely at a time like this. My subconscious is a steady stream of “WHOOOOO” and “YEAHHHHH” and “WE’RE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!” – and that’s how it’s been since that final out was recorded.

So I went to one of the great sportswriters of all time, Red Smith, and I found that quotation you see at the top of this article. It was written after the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, describing the 1951 New York Giants, who had a pretty impressive stretch run themselves.

And I keep coming to that part about the “inexpressibly fantastic,” and, really, if anything in my lifetime has ever been that, isn’t it tonight? Isn’t it seeing the Rockies celebrate a National League pennant in 2007? Isn’t it seeing the Monfort brothers hoist the William Giles Trophy to a roar that threatened to shake the snow loose from the tops of the Fourteeners?

Isn’t it watching Todd Helton and Matt Holliday – the past and present faces of the Rockies franchise – embracing on the field, celebrating a moment they both might have thought they’d never experience as Rockies?

Maybe “inexpressibly fantastic” is an entire time zone rejoicing as one, whipping white towels above their heads and making enough noise to conjure rolling thunder across the eastern plains, up in the foothills, and through the Continental Divide. Maybe it’s the moment you don’t dare dream about, because dreams this fabulous never seem to come true.

You may not dream it, but you always hope for it. And when it comes… boy, ol’ Red had it right, as far as I can see. Simply inexpressible. Simply unbelievable.

Fiction is dead. So let the truth ring out from the Coors Field clock tower.

The Colorado Rockies are National League champions.

Todd, Tulo, Matt-V-P, Manny, U-Ball, Jeffrey Franchise and Kaz are coming to the biggest stage of them all.

15 years ago, Denver as a city finally made The Show. Now, it plays host to The Big Show.

The first words of Red Smith’s article – the one that I quoted above – were “Now it is done. Now the story ends.” But the story of the 2007 Rockies isn’t over yet.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Night Football First Half Thoughts [David Stefanini]

A couple of words come to mind when I think about the first half of this football game. They are; Reggie Bush. I guess the Saints decided to get their offense going, they should give the ball to Reggie; it seems to be working tonight. Throughout the first few games, Reggie Bush was doing to much dancing instead of down hill running. Tonight, he is still dancing a lot, but he is being smart about it. Instead of doing it all the time, he is doing it in spots where it is beneficial to the team.

The other thing is, the Saints are using him brilliantly in the passing game. They are throwing him screen passes, and check downs. This gets the ball into his hands with plenty of open space. He can then dance his way around defenders and pick up big chunks of yardage.

The last thing about Reggie in the first half is how he is being smart about putting his head down and running straight. He is starting to figure out sometimes its smarter to barrel ahead and pick up 2 yards as opposed to dancing around losing a couple.

Now I'm not saying he is the best RB in the league, but I am saying its nice to see him find a groove this season. So far he has been lost, and there have been whispers about him being over rated. Let's see if he can keep it up going forward into the second half.

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Monday Mourning Headlines [David Stefanini]

Here are some headlines you should look forward to seeing tomorrow mourning:
  • Adrian Peterson---ROY, No Doubt. He ran for 224 yards, with 3 touchdowns. As impressive as that is, it's impressive he did it against the Chicago Bears. As of right now, Peterson is leading the league in rushing with 607 yards.
  • Can New England be Stopped? The answer is no; look at the article below for details.
  • Welcome Back LT. You didn't think LT would let Adrian Peterson put up LT numbers alone did you? LT ran for 198 yards with 4 touchdowns. Including the game sealer, 41 yard dash in the 4th quarter. If anyone worried about when the real LT would show up, worry no more; he is here.
  • News Flash to Mangini: Start Clemens. I am a big Chad Pennington fan. He isn't a great QB, but he has the heart of a champion. Unfortunately, that doesn't win games. The Jets are to predictable, it's time to start Clemens. Let him go through his growing pains, and lets take it from there.

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Anyone Want to Question the Pats? [David Stefanini]

The New England Patriots are now 6-0. Tom Brady threw for 5 TD passes, and had a 40+ yarder overturned. The Cowboys looked helpless trying to stop this offense. They are simply too good.

Now don't let the final score fool you. This game was actually much closer than it appears. Early on in the 4th quarter, the Cowboys were 3rd and Goal on the 5 yard line. Instead of playing it as 4 down territory, they ended up kicking a field goal. At the time it was a 14 point game, and a field goal cut the lead to 11. Why not go for it? Worse case scenario the Pats have to travel the length of the field to score (which they'd probably do relatively easily) but at least you are giving your team a shot.

Instead the Pats go on to win 48-27. Now the only thing that remains is who will get their first lose first, the Pats or Indy? I think along with myself, everyone, thinks the Week 9 showdown between the Pats and Colts will be between two teams who are undefeated. I think the Pats will end up running the table and go 16-0. They simply have to much talent for anyone to compete with.

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Top Teams in the Country Lose [David Stefanini]

For the first time since 1996, the top two teams in the nation lost on the same day. First it was Kentucky upsetting No. 1 LSU in 3OT. This was an amazing game, which came down to Kentucky's defense holding LSU to nothing in the 3OT to pull off the upset.

So NO. 2 Cal, was playing their game looking to be the NO. 1 team in the nation. But unranked, Oregon State had different ideas. Oregon State had a 20-14 lead going into the 4th quarter, and was lucky enough to hold on to the 31-28 victory.

This season is becoming the season of upsets. People thought for sure LSU and USC were heading for a collision in the national title game. Rutgers was supposed to continue their climb to the football elite, and Michigan was supposed to virtually unstoppable on offense.

Now Rutgers is unranked, Michigan was unranked as of Week 2, and both LSU and USC have lost games. The Top 10 will surely be shuffled again this week.

It looks as if we are headed to another BCS controversy. Which 1-loss team deserves to be in front of all the rest? I guess we will have to wait until tomorrow to see, who is ranked where. One thing is almost certain, Ohio State will be ranked #1 in the nation.

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