Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Turn up the Heat

The NBA season begins tonight so I guess I should make some comments and predications. It seems like the season just ended(I think it was four months ago, but it really seems like last month) with the Heat being crowned as the champions and Dwayne Wade ascending to the title of the next big thing. This season should be interesting for a number of reason. I'll get into those later. I'll give you a rundown the teams that I think have a shot at the title. Anyway, here we go with the predictions:
East: Nets
West: Spurs
Champion: Spurs
MVP: LeBron James/Tracy McGrady
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
Surprise team: Orlando Magic/Houston Rockets

The East
The East is available for the taking. The Pistons are not what they used to be, the Heat are still relying on the diminishing returns from Shaq and so there is no dominant team. In theory, the Heat are the best team in the east, but Shaq is at a point where he doesn't dominate on a nightly basis anymore. He averaged 20 points a game last season but picked up under 10 rebounds a game. He isn't as agile as he once was so he picks up more fouls and spends more time on the bench than ever. Don't get me wrong, the big fella can still turn it on, but those times are now few and far between. His goal is to try and stay healthy and turn it on for the playoffs. However in last years playoffs, he really only had one dominating performance. Dwayne Wade is a special player. He showed that by uping his scoring in the 4th quarter of every playoff game last year. He is the best in the league at scoring after contact (either him or Alan Iverson). He needs Shaq to give the team at least something close to what he did last year, or else the pressure on him will be too much.

The Nets have the trio of Kidd-Carter-Jefferson which should allow them to get to the playoffs easily. Carter is his free agent year, so expect big numbers from him as he makes a push for his next big money contract. He may, in fact, try to do too much in order to put up big numbers. Kidd has to be able to control that and he is still the best point guard in the east. It seems to me that they have added enough to win a weak Atlantic division and give the Heat a run for their money in the playoffs.

I'm really interested to see the Orlando Magic this year. Dwight Howard is the best young big man in the game. He finished second in rebounds last year and scored over 15 points a game and that is from someone who is just two years removed from playing against high schoolers. He should only get better. Grant Hill will attempt to stay healthy for more than two seconds this year and should provide solid scoring and veteran leadership. It's a shame that injuries caused him to miss most of the last five years. He is clearly not the player that he used to be, but he can help stabilize this young team. I think is Hill is healthy, they could really push the top three teams (Miami, NJ, Detroit).

Chicago made an off season splash by signing Ben Wallace to a huge contract. This helps in a couple of ways. One, it makes the Pistons weaker, and it immediately improves the Bulls defense. Tyson Chandler was a good shot blocker and rebounder, but he was not in the class of Wallace. The Bull overpaid to get him and he is on the downside of his career, but he will definitely provide them with a lot of defensive intensity. He can't score at all, but he will not be asked to do that on this team. The Bulls are young and explosive. Their backcourt of Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich is among the best in basketball. Gordon can score in bunches, and has a scorers mentality and is not afraid to take the big shots. Hinrich is much better than anyone thought he would be coming into the league. He's got a consistent outside shot and handles the ball very well. The Bulls need to take advantage of having Wallace immediately. As I said, he is on the downside of his career, so their window of opportunity is probably only a couple of years.

Cleveland has Lebron James and that always makes them a threat, but they are a point guard away from being a serious contender. If they could get Brevin Knight or perhaps Sam Cassell (if Shaun Livingston develops into a star) or another decent point guard, they would immediately be elevated to serious contender status. They aren't going anywhere with Eric Snow as their starting point guard. I look for Detroit to struggle somewhat this year. The east is still pretty soft, so I'm not expecting a collapse. I just don't think that they are a real title contender anymore.

I have to say a couple of words about the Knicks, since I am a New Yorker and a Knicks fan. They suck. On to the West:

The West
The Spurs should be able to hold off the competition in the west. A lot depends on Tim Duncan and whether he has healed after an injury plagued season. When he is healthy, he is the best player in league. The Duncan-Ginobli-Parker trio is probably the most potent offensive threat in the West. I would really like to see Parker pass the ball a little better. His assists should be higher considering the talent that he plays with. Ginobli is great at going to the basket and he really seems to thrive on contact. They are still the most well rounded team in the division. It's theirs to lose.

The Phoenix Suns have the two time MVP, Shawn Marion and a supposedly healthy Amare Stoudemire. If he is anywhere near full strength then they will pose a strong challenge to the Spurs. Nash is 32 and given the fact that he is coming off back to back MVP's, I don't think he's going to get any better. However, if he can maintain his production for another year, then the Suns might actually have the best shot at beating the Spurs in the West. Stoudemire's health is really the key to the team. They can win 50 games with him at half strength, but they could be a 60 win team and a serious contender if he's at 90% of what he used to be.

The Mavericks made an impressive run to the finals last year as Dirk Nitkowski showed why he's probably the best shooting big man ever. The problem with the Mavs is that I don't think that Dirk is going to get any better. He has improved every year in the league, but I think he's the best he's going to be and it still wasn't enough for them to win the championship. Josh Howard and Devin Harris are the keys to whether the Mavs can equal their run from last year. Their continued development has to offset the plateauing of Dirks skills. For the team to improve they must improve. If they do not take the step up, the Mavs will take a step back.

I think the surprise team in the West will be Houston. Everything depends on Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming staying healthy, but they have a built a pretty good supporting cast around those two stars. Shane Battier provides defensive energy and a great attitude, Mutombo can back up Ming and help on the defensive end, Juwan Howard is a jack of all trades and they added Bonzi Wells to provide scoring off the bench. Ming, when healthy is the best center in the league on a nightly basis. He can't dominate the game the way Shaq can, but he will bring more to the court than Shaq will on a regular basis. McGrady can score with the best of them. He can take over a game at will. His health is the only thing holding him back from being mentioned in the same breath as Lebron, Kobe and Wade. If everything breaks their way, they could get as far as the conference finals.

Well that's it for now. And that's certainly more than I thought I had to say. I'm just looking forward to the soap opera that's going to take place at Madison Square Garden this winter. Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis in the same backcourt??? There aren't enough shots for those two to exist peacefully in the same place. Isiah should have an interesting year. I'm taking bets that the first meltdown will come within 2 weeks. Let's play ball!


Monday, October 30, 2006

House of Cards

Toby's wish has finally come true. Baseball is over for the year. That won't stop me from still speaking incessantly about it however. The Cardinals overcame extremely long odds and beat the Tigers in the World Series. And since I was probably the only person outside of Missouri to predict a Cardinals win, I have to give myself a big pat on the back. Clearly I know more about baseball than anyone else. Or maybe that was just lucky guess based on absolutely nothing. Either way, I'm taking credit for that one.

So what have learned from this years postseason? Pitching still wins in the playoffs. But playoff pitching doesn't necessarily have anything to do with pitching during the regular season. The Cardinals came into this years playoffs with one of the worst staffs in the National League. If not for the Cy Young type year that Chris Carpenter put together, they would have indeed had the worst staff in the National League. Only a desperate team, with a terrible rotation picks up the likes of Jeff Weaver and immediately inserts him into the starting rotation. Five out of the seven pitchers who started more than 13 games for the Cardinals this year had an ERA over 5.00! Only Carpenter had an ERA under 4.00. That is not exactly the blueprint for that staff that will lead you to a World Series championship. And yet, that is exactly what happened. It just goes to show you that the playoffs are a crapshoot to some extent. The key thing is to make it in. Once you get there, practically anything can happen. If there was seeding before this years playoffs began, I'm fairly sure that both the Tigers and Cardinals would have been seeded last in their respective leagues. The Cardinals played below .500 after April and the Tigers played below .500 after the all-star break. It was pretty clear that they were playing the worst baseball among the eight teams in the tournament and yet they made it to the end. That's baseball for you.

So will the Cardinals repeat next year? It's one the safest bets in sports that the winner of the World Series will not only not repeat, but they won't even make it back to the World Series. The last repeat winner was the NY Yankees in '99-'00. And the last team to make back to back appearances was the Yankees in '00-'01. Since the Yankees ended their run of four straight appearances, we have had two new oponents and a new World Series champion every year . I'm pretty sure that trend will continue. As I said earlier, the Cardinals pitching is an absolute mess. They managed to win 83 games this year, but I'm not sure that they will even match that total unless the pitching staff is completely overhauled. I'm not sure that there's enough pitching available to make that happen. If they have Jeff Weaver as their number 3 starter, then they are finished. The Astros, Brewers and Cincinnati will all make life much more difficult for the Cardinals next year. If I were picking that division for 2007, at this point I would have no choice but to pick someone besides the Cardinals. The prospects for the Tigers are much better. They have a young pitching staff with great arms and and some decent hitters. An offseason tweak or two could find them knocking on the door once again. They play in the toughest division in baseball however. Any slip up on their part and they will find themselves looking up at the White Sox and/or the Twins. I would wager a guess that the Tigers will be a better in '07 than the Cardinals.

Another season has come and gone and it always amazes me how unpredictable the game is. I'm not looking forward to the long cold winter ahead, but hopefully the memories of the season past will keep me warm during the bitter upcoming season. It really was another fabulous year of baseball. There were a whole host of things that made this year special. I don't think that I'll ever forget that dramatic win by the Dodgers against the Padres. The Yankees coming back from 10 runs down to beat the Rangers. The Boston Massacre II that finished off the Red Sox. The Tigers coming out of nowhere to dominate the first half of the season. Roger Clemens coming out of retirement to pitch for half a season. Ryan Howard challenging the 60 home run mark. The Frank Thomas resurrection in Oakland and a bunch of other spectacular games and plays from the just completed season. So while it's going to be a few months before we get anymore late inning comebacks or tape measure home runs, I'm just happy that I got to experience another fantastic year. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Ain't baseball grand!


Friday, October 27, 2006

Week 8: Baseball? Still?

A few thoughts before we get to it this week. And a few more before I grade myself on a curve for my most recent performance.

Why is there still baseball on TV? Seriously, why isn’t this over yet? Halloween is in four days. Isn’t this dragging on a little long? Are these boys going to have to play baseball in November? In Detroit? It's not that I hate baseball, mind you, but this was a little much. Congratulations to the Cards. I lived in St. Louis for a few years in the mid to late 80s, so I don't have a problem with the way things turned out.

I am LOVING Friday Night Lights. Best thing I’ve seen on TV in a long, long time. But one thing troubles me. Jason was paralyzed like three weeks ago. Couldn’t his girlfriend wait to hook up with his best friend until, I don’t know, prom or something? I guess Tim is supposed to be fucked up so it’s expected, but Lyla has been shoving her good girl, church bake sale perkiness in everyone’s face since day one. I hope she gets crabs. I also hope I’m not supposed to be rooting for these two douchebags just because the actor who plays Tim is such a fox. How can you look at the picture that blogmaster MYCUE posted and not want to watch this show?

Please see my esteemed colleague’s post below on the state of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s all true. I'll get to this later.

Do you know what one of the headlines on dallascowboys.com is today? “Emmitt Advances With Waltz and Mambo.” For the love of God, Emmitt, please get off that dancing travesty on ABC. Do you think Walter Peyton would have appeared on television prancing around in sequins to the soundtrack from The Love Boat? Nothing more to add to this, because I'm still right.

On to the business at hand. Home teams in bold:

Tennessee (-3) Houston
The team of George Bush I vs. the team of Vince Young. The greater Texan will prevail, and he plays in Tennessee. One point for me and all right thinking Americans across the land.

Philadelphia (-7) Jacksonville
It occurs to me that the Eagles might keep losing because I keep picking them. If that’s the case, let the tradition continue ‘cause I’m picking them again! I'm taking half a point for this for having the foresight to recognize the correlation between my confidence in the Eagles and their losing games.

Cincinnati (-4) Atlanta
Bengals again for my Dad. Plus, like half the Falcons starters are hurt. Dad was sad. I need to update my thinking on Michael Vick.

NY Giants (-9) Tampa Bay
Crazy spread. Giants are all banged up. No way they cover a nine point line. Apparently Vegas is smarter than me.

Chicago (-16) San Francisco
Awesome as Chicago now appears, the only team they’ve played thus far that can really be considered good(ish) is Seattle. Happily for the Bears that trend continues this week when the 49ers come to town. Up to this point the Bears have won at home by an average of about 30 points, which I guess makes the line acceptable. If Dallas had beaten the Giants last week, they'd be good enough for me to really enjoy San Francisco's meltdown.

Green Bay (-4.5) Arizona
For no reason whatsoever, I think Arizona is going to win this game. I think I’ll have one of these a week. One decision based on nothing but a hazy notion that a crappy team will pull itself up by the bootstraps for three hours on Sunday and conquer a slightly less crappy or even somewhat mediocre team. Arizona, this is your time to shine. You know how sometimes you get drunk and something like, I don't know, making out with another girl for $5 while some random dude takes a picture seems like a really good idea? And then you wake up the next day and you know something bad happened the night before but you can't quite put you're finger on it, and then you order a cheeseburger and settle in for an afternoon of watching TV, and as you're flipping through the channels you see that the Drew Barrymore classic Never Been Kissed is on, and you think to yourself, "Why does that title resonate with me this morning?" And then suddenly the memory pierces through the alcoholic fog and you're immediately so mortified that you have to put a pillow over your head because you're literally about to die of shame? I hope that's how Matt Leinart feels this morning.

Kansas City (-6.5) Seattle
Is any team more relieved that the Chiefs this week? You get to play the Seahawks while they’re missing both Hasselbeck AND Alexander? Naturally none of us are ever, ever happy to see injuries, but do you think that maybe in the Kansas City locker room this week it might have felt that God was smiling down on them? Just a little bit? Back to being right.

New Orleans (-2.5) Baltimore
I hate to keep harping on this, but one city has had to overcome unprecedented catastrophe in the face of overwhelming Federal incompetence and indifference, and that city will still let you walk into a bar on a Sunday morning and get a Bloody Mary in a to-go cup. You know what happens when you visit the other city? You end up spending three hours in line at the DMV because some asshole stole your wallet out of your car. Dude, the radio was right there. You could have gotten more money for that, and it would have been easier for me to replace. The city of Baltimore will never pay enough for that. Like all right thinking people, I will be cheering for New Orleans this weekend. I hate Baltimore.

San Diego (-9.5) St. Louis
Nine and a half points?!?! That makes no sense to me. Am I back to totally misreading the Rams? Probably, but they’re not this bad. More to the point, the Chargers aren’t this good. Vegas is a lot smarter than me.

Pittsburgh (-9) Oakland
The Raiders already have one win more than a lot of people were saying they would get all season. That’s going to have to be enough for them this week. Pittsburgh is the better team and needs this game a whole lot more. Wait, what? One of these teams won the Super Bowl last year. The other is Oakland. Having watched the dreamiest QB to ever put on silver pants (I love you Troy! Now and forever!) succomb to something like 14 too many concussions, I have to say, Ben, take a break man. You're still a kid (who I may have made out with...)

Cleveland (-2) NY Jets
I like Cleveland here, primarily because I really want to believe that the Jets aren’t quite as good as their record would suggest. And I am right. I'd like to dedicate this Jets loss to my ex-boyfriend. I hope it hurts.

Denver (-3) Indianapolis
Woo boy. Who do we think will choke first, Manning or Plummer? They’re both so adept at self-destructing, but their styles are so different. Manning isn’t flashy; he just quietly slips into mediocrity. Plummer flips fate the bird and starts tossing the ball up in the air with his eyes closed (“Let me ask you something. When you threw that pass last week, that game winning pass, were your eyes closed?” “No sir, they were open. My eyes were wide open.” Yeah they were! Damn, that’s a good show.). I’m not sure there’s enough riding on this game for Manning to blow it, though, so let’s go with the Colts. So are we all back to loving Peyton Manning? Playoffs are still two months away, so I guess it's safe.

Carolina (-5.5) Dallas
Does is really matter? Stupid cowboys. I’d also like to point out that this is the second week I’m going to get stuck staying up late to watch them play. I guess I hope they blow it early (again), so I don’t get stuck watching their patented Midnight Meltdown. Okay, I didn't actaully predict anything here, but I'm taking two points for this anyway. Tony Romo had a better than average first game tonight. Not perfect (Did anyone roll their eyes when Madden busted out with the first Joe Montana comparison? At one point he also said, "There is nothing worse than losing. On the other hand, there's nothing better than winning." Thanks Obi-Wan. I admit to going into this game with a heavy heart, but I'm in a surprisingly good mood today.

New England (-2.5) Minnesota
New England, but it doesn’t matter. Catch the highlights on Tuesday. FNL is on NBC at 10:00 EST, and you should be watching that instead. It’s Rivalry Week, and one small town is coming apart at the seams. Can a new Coach and his young charges pull together in time to get the win they all so desperately need (And can Lyla please stop fucking her paralyzed boyfriend’s best friend already)? Who cares? Watch Friday Night Lights. 10:00 EST. There will still be two hours left of the game when the show ends.

7.5 out of 13. A marked improvement.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tim McCarver on Baseball...

"You can't score a runner from third on a groundout with two outs, but you can with one out."

He actually gets paid for this.


Out With The Old

The Dallas Cowboys have finally decided that Drew Bledsoe is not going to lead them to the promised land. Bill Parcells announced that Tony Romo will be the starting QB this weekend. The Drew Bledsoe era came to end with a whimper on Monday night as he threw an interception at the goal line. His record has been less than stellar but the Cowboys should have known what they were getting when they acquired him. He has a good arm, but he's a statue in the pocket. He has zero mobility and the Cowboys offensive line is not exactly going to remind anyone of the line during the glory days of the 90's. Parcells knew what he had to work with, but he still decided that Bledsoe was the answer to his QB problems. He was wrong.

Tony Romo doesn't exactly have the pedigree of a great QB, but that doesn't mean that he won't be able to do the job. Right away he gives the Cowboys a more mobile QB, which they need given the current state of their offensive line. He came in on Monday night and threw three interceptions, but also threw a couple of touchdown passes and converted a
2-point attempt. Is he the answer to the Cowboys problems? Probably not, but I don't think that he can do any worse than Bledsoe. It is time for the Cowboys to think about the future and now is as good a time as any to get started on that. Jerry Jones is certainly not a patient man and it's not like him to think about rebuilding, but it's clear that the Cowboys were never going to be any more than a mediocre team with Bledsoe at the helm.

Parcells is in the last year of his contract. That's probably a good thing, because I think it's time for this marriage to be dissolved. Parcells reputation as a football genius has certainly been tarnished somewhat by his lack of success with the Cowboys. It just goes to show you that no matter how good a coach is supposed to be, he can't win without talent (just ask Joe Gibbs in Washington how much his supposed "genius" is helping the Redskins right now). Can the right coach turn a team around? Certainly. He can change the attitude of the players and an organization. But what he cannot do is turn a mediocre team with mediocre talent into a championship team. The same is true in any sport. Is Jim Leyland a genius because of what the Tigers did this year? He's no more a genius now than he was when he sucked as the manager of the Rockies or when he couldn't get the Pirates to the World Series in the early 90's. Talent wins, and that is the bottom line. The Cowboys haven't had enough talent under Parcells to be consistent winners. The problem is that Parcells had built up his reputation as a genius. He brought with him the idea that he could single handedly turn a team around. He was wrong and so was Jerry Jones in believing that the answer was coaching and not talent.

Perhaps Bill can bench himself along with Bledsoe and they can ride off together into the sunset. Parcells hates to admit defeat, but his effect on the Cowboys has been minimal. I'm pretty sure that any other coach could have gotten the same number of wins as he has over the past 3 years. Bledsoe is a competitor and I understand that he feels disappointed over being benched, but if he were to take an honest look at the numbers that he has put up, he would see that a change was long overdue. Parcells drafted Bledsoe #1 when he was the coach of the Patriots, so perhaps it is only fitting that they both exit stage left at the same time. As for Tony Romo, the Cowboys have three consecutive road games, so he's going to learn fairly quickly that life as the QB of "America's Team" is not always going to be a bed of roses. I hope he enjoyed that ovation that he got when he came into Monday nights game after halftime. It may be a while before he's greeted that warmly again.


Monday, October 23, 2006

The Gambler strikes Again

Kenny Rogers pulled off another amazing pitching performance last night. That is now three consecutive games in which he has allowed zero runs. He is approaching the playoff record for consecutive scoreless innings in one year, which has been held by Christy Matthewson for about 100 years. Christy's innings all came during the World Series, but it is undeniable that Rogers has pitched three gems in a row.

During the first inning of last night's game it became apparent that there was some foreign substance on Rogers' pitching hand. The pictures show something that is clearly not supposed to be there. The Cardinals noticed it and alerted the home plate umpire. He had a conversation with Rogers and told him to wash the substance off. In a strange move, Rogers later denied that the umpires had spoken to him about this. Anyway, the substance was removed and he went on to pitch seven more scoreless innings. I've never known that Kenny Rogers was a pitcher who threw a spitball but here is something I found on SI. com:

"Someone who used to be on one of Rogers' teams told me late Sunday night that Rogers preferred to wear dark uniforms at home to camouflage any substances of interest (though he was in Tigers white during his masterful eight shutout innings). And someone from FOX said tape from previous games this postseason showed a similar discoloration on his hand."

Kenny claimed that the substance on his hand was dirt. However it certainly doesn't look like dirt to me. You can judge for yourself from the pictures. If that's dirt, then the Tigers are apparently mixing in some manure with their dirt. I guess I can't accuse Kenny of anything, but when a pitcher who has been consistently slightly better than average for his career, suddenly turns into Cy Young then...screw it, I'm accusing him of putting stuff on the ball. There, I've said it. The Gambler is a cheater. I know it's going to sound like sour grapes because he shut down the Yankees, but he also shut down the A's and now the Cardinals. There is something rotten in Denmark or in this case, Detroit.

I can only hope that the series gets to game 6 because Rogers is scheduled to pitch in that game. It would be one the most scrutinized pitching performances in recent history. I think FOX would have about 50 cameras trained on Rogers to try and record him putting anything extra on the baseball. Kenny is known as the Gambler though (mostly because of the song and it has practically nothing to do with his style of pitching) and as the song goes, "you gotta know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em", and if he was putting something a little extra on the ball, now is the time to throw those cards away.

I guess I could just be a good sport about this and congratulate Kenny for his spectacular run of success, but I'm a small, petty man and I can't let it go. Kenny is cheating. I don't know how, but he is. I can only hope that he is caught and embarrassed on national TV. Perhaps he made a deal with the devil and for that his soul will be banished to eternal damnation. Somehow that's still not enough for me though. He needs to pay for his failure as a Yankee. And no, I'm not being too harsh.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Week 7: No time for clever title

Not much time today. Too much work to do! Home teams in bold.

I'm doing my post mortem early this week. Best to get it out of the way today, because who knows what kind of mood I'll be in tomorrow. Win or lose, I'll definately be hung over and in no mood to look back. I've also decided to grade myself on a curve. Close is good enough for me.

San Diego (-5.5) Kansas City
Kansas City. The Chargers can’t play there, and the Chiefs are going to be good and pissed after last week. Told you so. Never bet on the Chargers in KC. One point for me.

Jacksonville (-10) Houston
I have no logical reason for thinking this, but I’m picking Houston. I know Jacksonville is better. I know they had a bye last week. I know how bad Houston is. I just can’t help myself. I state boldly and with absolutely nothing to back this up: Houston wins this game. I'm tempted to give myself two points for this even though this prediction was based on nothing more than a vague feeling. I won't, but I am compelled to point out that I was right, and everyone else was wrong. One more for me.

New England (-6) Buffalo
New England is marginally better than they were when they barely managed to beat the Bills in Week 1. Buffalo is much, much worse. I don’t anticipate anything surprising happening here. Another one for me. I rock this week!

Pittsburgh (-3) Atlanta
I’m picking a hell of a lot of visiting teams this week. This could be the week that I prove to the world that I’m not as smart as I think I am. Pittsburgh to take this, because they’re starting to get good and Atlanta is…a very strange team. It’s time to stop this ridiculous QB experiment and give Vick a chance to shine in a position it looks like he can play—WR. Actually I'm a complete idiot this week. Well played, Mr. Vick. Ah well, a blip on the horizon. Nothing more.

Miami (-5) Green Bay
Dolphins. Poor Brett. I’ve hated him for so long, but now I just feel bad for him. And kind of happy that I can finally just ignore him. Damn it.

Philadelphia (-6) Tampa Bay
No fucking way Tampa Bay does it two weeks in a row. I’m already preparing myself to sit through McNabb’s highlight reel on Sunday night. Be warned, though, Eagles fans (gag). They’re going to have to play a lot better against the Bucs than they did against the Saints to cover this one. I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, things look dire as far as my picks go. On the other, I am thrilled to be wrong about this. Two losses in a row. That must sting in Philly. Huzzah!

NY Jets (-3.5) Detroit
An old boyfriend of mine took me to see the Jets play the Lions once. The Jets lost 7-6 while I sat in the rain trying to decide if this dude was really worth me freezing my ass off for three hours in New Jersey. As it turns out, he wasn’t. I predict this game to go differently. The Jets will beat Detroit 7-6, and I will not watch it! I'm giving myself half a point for this. I didn't think the Jets would cover, but I did say they would win. I also predicted that I wouldn't watch the game, and I didn't. It's enough for the .5.

Cincinnati (-3.5) Carolina
My head says the Panthers, and my heart says the Bengals (For you Dad!). Carolina is better, but Cincinnati needs it more. And that is how I shall justify this pick to myself against all contrary evidence. Cincinnati. I'm also giving myself half a point for this, because I totally cheered for Cincy on Sunday when everyone else scoffed.

Denver (-5.5) Cleveland
I can’t bring myself to care about this game. I’m thinking about it now hoping to get some kind of inspiration, but it’s just not coming. I expect Denver will win it, and I will yawn and change the channel. Still don't care. One more point for me.

Indianapolis (-9.5) Washington
Both of these teams could have lost to Tennessee. Only one of them did. Indy isn’t quite as scary as it used to be, but they are still good enough to give Washington another richly deserved weekend of misery. For a second I was worried Brunel was going to pull off some kind of 2nd half heroics, and Washington was going to, ahem. Sorry. Can't finish that thought without laughing. One for me.

Seattle (-6.5) Minnesota
If I cared about the Rams, I would think that they end of the game last week was kind of bullshit. But I don’t, so that’s someone else’s fight. I have been entirely wrong about Seattle all year, save that one weekend they lost to Chicago. I thought they would be nothing on the road. Goes to show you never can tell, Any given Sunday, etc. Here you’ve got them going up against a crappier team at home. Seahawks to roll on. I have been so completely wrong about Seattle all year, that I'm subtracting half a point for this one. That will teach me to spout off.

Arizona (-3) Oakland
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re a three point underdog at home. To the Cardinals. I’ve been impressed by Leinart thus far, but this may very well be his last chance to win a road game this year. In a remarkable coincidence this might also be the only game Oakland can win this year. Period. 0-16 is unlikely, but not inconceivable. It’s quite a conundrum we have here. The worst team in the league is hosting a team that could lose to the worst team in the league. What to do, what to do? On the one hand Oakland will be desperate, and that could make them dangerous at home. On the other, when/if Arizona goes up by 20, they’re not going to have to worry about a last minute comeback. I think that from here on out, my strategy with the Raiders will be the exact opposite of my strategy with the Saints. New Orleans gets my vote until they lose. Oakland doesn’t until they win. Or at least put on a game that I feel compelled to spend more than 45 seconds watching. Somebody better break up the Raiders!

Dallas (-3.5) NY Giants
Cowboys have to win this. No further discussion. After this week, they’re playing three in a row on the road, and they absolutely cannot go into that 3-3.

And a warning to you, Big Fat Tuna: This is your last chance with me. I think you are now and have always been overrated (Yeah, I said it), and in your time with the Cowboys you have done nothing to disabuse me of this notion. So I say this to you now, win.this.fucking.game. Just win it. I don’t care how you do it, just get it done. Per ESPN this morning, Bledsoe is worried about the Giants defense. I would certainly hope so. I also hope he's worried about his propensity to toss the game into the hands of opposing cornerbacks, linebackers, mascots, etc. I'll be watching this game with Giants fans tonight, so don't let me down boys. I've known you, loved you, and supported you for a great many years now, and I really, really need a win here. You know what I really don't need? I don't need the game to drag on and on. Score early, score often, and let's try and end this by midnight.

Result (Not including Monday night):
5.5 out of 12. No pass no play, TLE. Get those grades up, or you're through for the season.


The World Serious

The Tigers and Cardinals have survived their respective playoff rounds to make and have made it to the World Series. Both teams entered the playoffs as the longest of long shots to make the series. They have the worst post all-star game records of any teams to ever make the series. The Cardinals almost lost a 8-1/2 game lead with 12 games to play. They won a total of 83 games during the regular season. The American League alone had eight teams that won more games than that. They beat a team, in the Mets, that won 14 more regular season games than they did. The Tigers went into the all-star break with a 60-29 record and proceeded to play under .500 the rest of the way. They went 35-38 the rest of the way, including a less than inspirational 12-16 in September to blow an 11 game lead and lose the central division to the Twins.

How did we end up with these two teams in the World Series? I don't know. The Tigers got swept at home by the worst team in baseball right before the playoffs began. Yet they then turned around and beat the Yankees in 4 games and swept the A's. Is there any explanation for that? Their pitching has been outstanding, but it's the same pitching that got slapped around by the KC Royals a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals couldn't buy a win down the stretch. They lost 7 games in a row at one point and saw their lead over the Astros dip to 1/2 a game. Their bullpen gave up leads in 5 consecutive games over the last week of the season. Why is their bullpen now seemingly impregnable? I don't know. I wish I had some answers for you, but all I can say is that the post season is (to use a baseball metaphor) a whole new ballgame.

The Tigers enter the World Series as prohibitive favorites. Like the Mets they won well over 90 games. However unlike the Mets, they did it in a much harder league. They have the best starting pitching in the American League and they have enough hitting to win. The only question will be which team will show up. Will it be the Tigers who swept through the first half of the season like a house on fire or the team that limped home after the all-star break? Will it be the team that got swept at home by the Royals or the team that has won seven straight playoff games? If the Tigers play somewhere near their best, then this should be a short series.

I think the most amazing thing about the playoffs so far has been the performances of two former yankees who failed miserably in their playoff appearances in the Bronx. Kenny Rogers has two wins and has yet to be scored upon. Jeff Weaver has a win and has pitched very well in his three starts. Weaver had an ERA over 7 in three games for the Yankees, including giving up a game winning home run in extra innings to the Marlins in the yankees last World Series appearance. Rogers ERA in the three playoff series that he pitched for the yankees were 9.00, 12.00 and 22.5. Rogers' other NY playoff experience with the Mets was equally as bad. His ERA with the Mets was over 7.00. Explaining the success of these two pitchers in the playoffs is like trying to explain the appeal of Paris Hilton. She's famous for nothing and yet is in the press every day. These pitchers have no history of success in the post season and yet have been huge factors in the current success of their respective teams. Go figure.

The facts all point to a Tigers win, but given the absolutely unpredictable nature of the this years playoffs, I have to predict a Cardinals win. I know it doesn't make any sense, but so little in this years playoffs has. The Cardinals in 6. That's my call. It's really going to suck having to listen to Tony LaRussa proclaim his genius, but then again listening to another story about how Jim Leyland is the sole reason for the Tigers turnaround is just as annoying a concept. Is there anyway for these teams to manage themselves?


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tweddle Dee, Tweedle Dum

I have to apologize for not being able to post anything for the last couple of days. Unfortunately I do have a job (regardless of what you've heard), and occasionally it does require more of my time than I generally like to give it. Anyway, hopefully that won't happen again for a while. So, what's there to talk about today? The Yankees? I don't think that even I can plumb the depths of yankeeland for an article that would be relevant. There has been no new news so I'll leave them for another day. The Mets? They are facing a game seven tonight in the Queens. I think that about covers it. Football picks are now the property of Toby, so I don't have that to talk about. I could talk about Hockey, but seriously, does anyone know anything about the NHL? I could make a couple of things up, but I think I'll pass. The NBA hasn't started yet and just to show you how meaningless pre-season is, the Knicks are actually winning.

College Basketball will begin shortly, so I guess I can make my picks there. UNC is going to win the national championship and Duke is going to suck. Hopefully at least one of those becomes a reality. I guess I can make some other long range predictions as well.

The Yankees will win the world series next year, however George Steinbrenner will die under mysterious circumstances before October rolls around. Later it will be discovered that his son in law killed him in order to hasten his take over the yankees.

Joe Torre will be fired after the Yankees start the season 2-10. George will replace him with Wille Randolph, who will be fired by the Mets after complaining about too much salsa music in the clubhouse and the fact that his wallet keeps on getting stolen.

The Knicks will make the playoffs after trading for Kevin Garnett in midseason. However, they get eliminated in the first round after Stephon Marbury and Garnett get into a fight on the court during game 1. Marbury then refuses to pass the ball to Garnett and takes 80 shots during the game. Marbury will later claim that he's the only star in this town.

Arod will start the season with the Yankees, but will take a three month leave of absence to follow the Dali Lama around. He says that he is trying to get the Lama to grant him total consciousness, "Like Bill Murray in Caddyshack".

The Knicks will pick up Latrell Sprewell in order to try and corner the market on combo guards. Sprewell spends much of his time on the bench trying to feed his family in the stands.

Isiah Thomas will coach the entire season and will then fire himself. He will say in a press conference that the coach lacks the authority to properly discipline the players. He will then hire himself back after a 2 week stint in marine boot camp.

The Mets GM, Omar Minya, in order to combat the rumors that he only wants to hire hispanics, will bring back an old Met favorite as manager. Doc Gooden will be hired on work release to be the manager. He isn't allowed to travel with the team, but he uses his bench coach, Daryl Strawberry as the "road manager" during away games. The Mets will make the playoffs, but both Gooden and Strawberry will mysteriously disappear on the night before the playoffs begin.

Well, I think that's enough stupidity for today. Hopefully something interesting happens in the world of sports in the next 24 hours.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Glory Days

I ran across a ridiculous article on the Fox Sports website. A supposed "sports" writer named Roger Sackaroff thinks he has come up with all the answers to the Yankees problems. Before I start I would like to say that I do agree with a couple of things he said. I would like the Yankees to take a shot at signing Matsuzaka. Also I think bringing Mussina back at a reasonable price would probably be a good thing to do and Phillip Hughes should get a shot in spring training to prove himself. That's about it.

Let's start with his evaluation of the championship teams from the 90's:

"the Yankees relied on everyone pulling on the rope together to win big games. The home run leaders in 1996, '98, '99 and 2000 were Williams (29), Martinez (28), Martinez (28) and Williams (30). There was no single player relied on to step up and carry the team. Everyone had to chip in, and they did. Those teams struck out less, bunted better, moved over runners and stole bases."

Alright, where do I start? First of all the Yankees have so many good hitters in their current lineup, that it is clear, that no one player is relied on to carry the team. In fact a lot was made of that fact when Bobby Abreu came over from the Phillies and was much more comfortable in the lineup because he didn't have to carry the offense. Robison Cano hit .340 from the 9th spot. If there has been a better example of a lineup in which every single player could come through at any point, I'd like to see it. The lineups from '96-'00 were top to middle heavy. The exception being '98 when Brocious had 99 rbi's from the 9th slot. As far striking out less, the '06 team did strike out more than the championship teams, but the only one with a significant difference was the '96 team, which struck out 144 fewer times. The '98 team only struck out 28 fewer times. Stealing more bases? The '06 team stole more bases than each of the championship years except '98. Bunts? Only the '96 team is credited with more sacrifice hits. The on base percentage and slugging percentage was practically identical to the last three championship teams and on base percentage was significantly better than the '96 team. This is the kind of anecdotal bullshit that gives sports writers a bad name. Mr. Sackaroff could have easily looked up these numbers at Baseball Reference, but he instead decided to rely on his clearly faulty memory of previous yankee teams. I know that everything seemed like roses and candy back in those days, but if you look at the numbers, this years lineup was every bit as good as those and probably a little bit better. Keep up the good work Roger. Oh, but I am just getting started.

His take on the pitching from the "glory" years:

"The Yankees teams in the late 1990s had multiple pitchers who could have been aces on other teams."

The '06 yankees had Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Wang (who lead the majors in victories). It seems to me that those guys would qualify as pitchers who could have been aces on other teams. And why don't we take a closer look. The average ERA of the top 4 starters for the '06 team was 4.16. That seems pretty high until you compare it to the top 4 from each of the championship teams. The '98 team has the best ERA of 3.84. It goes up from there, with a low of 4.22 to a high of 4.87. These are the ERA's of the top 4 starters that the yankees took into the playoffs in each of the championship years. Only the '98 team had a better starters ERA than this years team. So clearly the pitching wasn't any better than it was this year. Roger Clemens, David Cone and Andy Pettitte all have career post season ERA's which are higher than either Mike Mussina's or Randy Johnson's. Did the pitchers in previous years have better performances in the playoffs than this years team? Undoubtedly some of them did, but that doesn't mean that there was anything particularly wrong with this years rotation. It had one Cy Young candidate (a far distance from Santana, but a candidate non the less), one first ballot hall of famer who still won more games than any pitcher in the National League and one potential hall of famer at the top of the rotation. Randy Johnson came up with a major back problem at the wrong time and the Tigers pitchers were just better in the series. That is the reason the yankee pitching looked bad, but on a whole they were no worse than what the Yankees took into the playoffs in each of their championship years.

Now that his premise has been proven to be absolutely wrong, let's take a look at his remedy for what ails the yanks. His first change is the obvious one that people who don't know anything about baseball are going to make: Trade Arod. This is just ridiculous. Would I trade Arod? Sure, for Johan Santana, but outside of that, there is no way to get equal value for him. Arod hit 35 home runs and drove in 120 IN AN OFF YEAR! Do you know how ridiculous it is to think that his production can be replaced. He has this to say about Arod:

"He is one year removed from an MVP and near Gold Glove year, and besides his issues in the field, wasn't bad at the plate this season either."

Then why in the hell would you want to trade him? This makes absolutely no sense. He must be blaming Arod for not carrying the team on his back, when clearly he has made the argument that the team is better with no one particular player carrying the load. He doesn't give a reason for trading Arod, he just thinks that it would be a good idea. Way to strike a blow for journalism, stupid.

His next idea is trading Giambi. He has this to say:

"Giambi has regained his health and his hitting stroke, but should not be a regular fielder."

I think everyone would agree with that, probably even Giambi. He goes on to say that Giambi will make too much noise in the clubhouse if he doesn't get to play first every day. By the way, Giambi played more games at DH this year than he did at 1B. He is clearly on his way to becoming a full time DH. Did anyone hear all the noise that Giambi was making this year for not playing first base all the time? Good, because neither did I. What the hell is he talking about? And if this is going to be an ongoing problem, why would another team want to assume that headache? Or Giambi's contract for that matter? This doesn't make any sense, but neither does his next point which is to trade Johnny Damon.

"Damon had a very good year at the plate for the Yankees. He played hurt and fit into the team seamlessly. However, his defensive shortcomings, most notably his poor throwing arm, cost the Yankees several games. It would make a lot of sense for both teams if the Yankees traded Damon back to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell, but it would never happen."

I didn't think that the Yankees needed Johnny Damon and I still think that Derek Jeter is a better lead off hitter than he is, but with all that said, he did have a pretty good year for the Yankees. Does he have a shitty arm? Yep, he sure does. But did his throwing arm cost the yankees "several" games. I don't think there is one statistical measurement which would show that Johnny Damon's arm cost the yankees several wins (I'm not even sure you could find one that showed that it cost the yankees one win). I would also argue that his glove saved more than a few runs and his legs and bat won a few games as well. Whatever shortcomings his arm creates, were more than made up for in other areas. The only way his arm could have cost the yankees "several" games was if he made a bunch of throwing errors which allowed runs to score and that just didn't happen. As far as trading him to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell???? I don't even know what to say about that except that at this point I think he's just writing the article as a comedy piece.

I'll just go through a couple of more of his suggestions. We should sign Andy Pettitte or Mark Mulder. Arm injuries waiting to happen. We should sign Soriano or Gary Matthews Jr. to play CF. We already have a CF'er and he's not going anywhere. In his final equation he would replace, Arod, Sheffield, Giambi and Damon with Andy Phillips, Mike Lowell, Melky Cabrera and Gary Matthews Jr. I guess that's what you call addition by subtraction. His idea is to take 120+ home runs and 400+ rbi's off the team and replace that with 50 home runs and 200 rbi's. That, my friends is sound thinking. It's the kind of thinking that made the betamax the great success story that it was.

So Mr. Sackaroff how is this supposed to work again? The yankees will be better because they'll have four fewer people in the lineup who can hit? Genius! I can't believe that your work has been limited to the Fox website. I'm sure the NY Times is going to come beating down your door any second now. Hey, keep up the shitty work.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Just the Right Time

I somehow missed the fact that Buck O'Neil died last week. I know that he had been in ill health for a short time and I was also aware that at 94 his chances of survival were not good. His is a very sad passing for fans of the game. He was virtually forgotten by the game until Ken Burns' Baseball documentary put him back on the map. He was the unquestioned star of the series. His tales of the negro leagues and segregation were incredibly entertaining. He spent the last part of his life trying to keep the memory of the Negro leagues alive and that culminated in the opening of the Negro League museum in his hometown of Kansas City. Someone who had been denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues might have been bitter, but Buck was simply not that kind of man. He always said that he didn't wish that he had been born later so that he could have played in the major leagues. He said that he was born at just the right time.

He missed inclusion in the Hall of Fame this year by one vote. The special committee, which had been set up by baseball to review the records of Negro League players and owners, elected some 17 players and owners to the Hall but Buck was not among them. I wrote at the time that he, along with a number of the people who were voted in, did not deserve the honor. I was speaking of his play on the field. As a baseball player, I did not think that he had done enough to deserve to be included with the greatest baseball players of all time. However, his work on behalf of the game, after his playing days, certainly would merit his inclusion in the Hall.

By all accounts he was a happy man who was never bitter over his lot in life, even though he had every right to be. I never saw a photo of Buck when he didn't have a smile on his face. He even came to bat in a professional game this year. He was supposed to just take a walk, but he couldn't help taking a swing at one of the pitches. I wish I was aware of passing sooner. I can only apologize to Buck that this is a week late. Not only the world of baseball, but the whole world is darker place because we have the lost the light that was Buck O'Neil. Hopefully, at least now, he'll get to play baseball with whomever wants.


Week 6: More from the Girl

I am not going to look back and judge my rookie performance. Onward and upward! Home teams in bold: I will take a look back this week. How did I do? See below in bold:

Cincinnati (-5.5) Tampa Bay
Cincinnati is rested, and the Bucs still blow despite putting on a better show than I had anticipated in New Orleans. Bengals by a touchdown. Ouch. That wasn't a fluke in New Orleans.

Washington (-10) Tennessee
I do not trust this line. I think it should be a prerequisite that in order to be favored by ten points, you need to have scored at least ten points in your previous game. I am right about a two things here. First, Washington sucks. Second, if you're the favorite, the spread cannot be larger than the number of points you managed to put on the board the previous week. I guess it was also weird that Tennessee won, but I'm taking credit for this despite never having actually said that.

Dallas (-13) Houston
Did anybody watch that new show “Friday Night Lights?” In the first episode the back-up QB gets called in after the starter gets hurt. He gets sacked on his first play and bounces a pass off the helmet of one of his lineman on his second. Time Out. Coach (the delectable Kyle Chandler) calls this poor QB over and asks if he remembers how to read coverage. The scared young man shakes his head No. At which point Coach offers the following piece of wisdom, “Look down the field. Look where their guys are and look where our guys are. Then you throw the ball to our guys.”

Somebody put that on a t-shirt for Drew Bledsoe.

Dallas better win this game by a pretty goddamn significant number of points, or I will impotently shake my fist at the TV and come back for more next week. Hooray, we beat a shitty team. Let's see how we do next week against actual competition.

Buffalo (-1) Detroit
Detroit will take this one. They blew it last week, but they’re home now so they can lick their wounds against Buffalo. One more for me.

Seattle (-3) St Louis
This is my upset pick. The Rams should have had a better game than they did in Green Bay, but I’m beginning to think I underestimate them. I also don’t think Seattle is nearly as dangerous on the road as they are at home. I should have had this one. Credit to Seattle though. They pulled out a tough road win.

Atlanta (-3) Giants
I like the Giants here. And that’s really all I have to say about this one. Score one for intuition.

Philadelphia (-3) New Orleans
I’m picking New Orleans until they lose. I also believe that the Eagles think that they’re better than they actually are after last week—like they actually won the game rather than having Dallas throw it away. Fuck the Eagles. Go Saints! I love Drew Brees. I wish he were the Drew playing for my team.

Baltimore (-3) Carolina
Panthers because they’re clicking now. Plus, my wallet was stolen in Baltimore, and I think they need to pay just a little bit more for that. Baltimore continues to pay! Huzzah!

NY Jets (-2) Miami
There’s a rule for games like this. When two crappy teams play each other, don’t bet on the game. Jets should take it, which means they won’t because I never know what they’re going to do from week to week. For example, last week I expected them to score points. No credit at all for this. I need to learn to focus on an actual prediction rather than an off-topic tangent.

San Diego (-10.5) San Francisco
I’m rarely comfortable with double-digit spreads. Last weekend’s Indy game is a perfect example of why they’re to be avoided. The 49ers blow, but come on. Take San Francisco to cover this. Bit down hard on this one, didn't I? 49ers really are this bad. Huh.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) Kansas City
This should have been Ben Roethlisberger’s first game back after his various surgeries, injuries, etc. Still, despite coming back too soon, I don’t anticipate Pittsburgh losing four in a row. How right was I about this? Completely and totally. Go me!

Denver (-15) Oakland
Another huge spread, but at least the favorite is at home. Oakland doesn’t look like they could take my high school football team (Go Red Raiders!), so Denver should be the safe pick. And here my orignal theory about huge spreads is vindicated. Why do I ignore my instinct?

Chicago (-10.5) Arizona
There’s nothing bad to say about Chicago right now. The same can’t be said about Arizona, but things appear to be looking up for them. Not wild about that line, but the Bears should be able to take this one pretty handily. Okay, I was completely wrong about this pick, but I was right in life. I have friends who can attest to the fact that during the draft I said Dallas should have traded up for Leinart. They didn't, and now he's stuck in Arizona. That's not really fair to us or him.

7 out of 13 for me. Staying ever so slightly above .500. I'll give myself a barely passing grade this week.

And last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t extend my sympathies to all the Yankees fans out there. You’ve had a tough week.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

We Have A Winner

My "greatest thing since sliced bread" contest is over. We have a winner. A surprise write in candidate won (I know there wasn't anyplace for a write in candidate, but since it's my contest, I get to say what the rules are, damn it!). Anway, the winner in a landslide is my fellow contributor, TLE. I present this award to her in recognition of her fantastic and entertaining NFL picks last weekend. I certainly hope that there are more to come. We all look forward to many more weeks on the Estrogen train. Congratulations to the winner and thanks to all our contestants for playing our game. Tune in next week for our "worst thing since sliced bread" contest. I hear Mike Lupica has the inside track on this one (but keep that between you and me).


O Captain, My Captain

Derek Jeter is the captain of the yankees. That means that he is supposed to put the team first, on the field and in the clubhouse. It shouldn't mean that you allow personal issues to influence your role as the leader of the team. However, that is exactly what Jeter did this year when he allowed Arod to twist in the wind amid a chorus of boos and press criticism. A word or two from Jeter would certainly have gone a long way, at least with the fans. Jeter instead made some non committal statement saying that he couldn't control what the fans do and that every player has to deal with that kind of stuff on their own.

I'm certainly not blaming Arod's struggles on the fact that Jeter didn't stand up for him. Arod had a mediocre year. It would amount to a great year for 99% of the hitters in the majors, but it was not what the fans have come to expect from him and certainly not what he has come to expect from himself. It became clear at some point that he was allowing the criticism to hurt his play on the field. The fielding issues and the prolonged slumps were evidence of that. He should have been able to deal with the expectations that are placed upon him. He knows that he has long been considered the best player in the game. He understands that people are going to be more critical of him because he is the highest paid player in team sports. He knows this and yet he seemed unprepared to handle the negative feedback that he got this year. Instead of facing issue, he continued to insist that there was no problem. His seeming lack of emotion, regarding his less than stellar play, only fueled the negative response from the fans and the media.

Jeter has spoken up for teammates in the past. He defended Jason Giambi from the wrath of fans after his horrendous, steroid clouded start to the '05 season. He has even gone on record defending Barry Bonds, but when one of his teammates and former friends was facing an onslaught from the fans and media, Jeter had nothing to say. Jeter and Arod used to be good friends. They broke into the majors at the same time. They both experienced immediate success. They played the same position. They were single and enjoying their lives. It was almost natural for them to become friends. They used to stay with each other when their respective teams came into town. The rift in their relationship came from a quote in an article in which Arod said that Jeter was only successful because he had a great team around him. Jeter took that personally and their relationship has never been the same since.

Jeter is the face of the New York Yankees. He may very well be the most famous player in the game today. His pre-eminent position on the yankees has never been questioned. Remember it was Arod who moved positions to come to New York, even though he is undoubtedly a better shortstop than Jeter is. Arod moved for the good of the team and because he probably makes a better 3rd baseman than Jeter would have. It's an act of seflessness that has never been appreciated by the fans of NY. He gets booed for making errors while playing out of position to help his team. I'm not sure why Jeter thinks it's okay to defend admitted steroid users, but not a teammate who has never been anything but a positive role model as a player. I'm not sure if Derek feels threatened by Arod or if he is still holding a grudge over the perceived insult from Arod. His lack of support this year was not the mark of a captain. He did not have to accept that designation from the yankees, but he did. I can remember David Cone telling reporters to quit bugging Kenny Rogers after poor outings. That is what a clubhouse leader does. He does not play out some silly personal issue in order to prove a point. He does not hurt his team because he is trying to "get back" at someone. That's petty and it's beneath someone who is supposed to lead by words and example. If this is the example that he's setting then it would come as no surprise if the yankee clubhouse begins to resemble the set of Desperate Hosewives.

Derek Jeter is a great player and will end up in Cooperstown one day. He is praised by the media and loved by the fans. He has a mountain of endorsements. His face is on TV constantly. He is also the captain of the Yankees. Hopefully going forward he will perform that duty as well as he performs the role of player/spokesman/man about town. He is supposed to be the captain of 25 men and that should also include the ones that he decides that he doesn't like.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Samurai

The most heated discussion Yankee fans will have during the off season will be concerning Arod. They should be talking about the Yankees most pressing need which is pitching. Johnson, Wang and Pavano are under contract for next season. In Johnson we have a pitcher who will turn 43 next year and has a back that will require off season surgery. In Pavano we have a player who has pitched a total of 17 games over two years while collecting $20 million dollars. Wang was great this year, but his lack of strikeouts should be a major concern. No pitcher has been able to sustain a winning record with the low strikeout totals that Wang put up this year. He could the one exception in baseball history, but that's not likely. He needs to come up with another pitch or somehow start striking out more batters with what he's got now. He simply cannot continue to win at the rate he did this year by putting so many balls in play.

Jaret Wright has a team option for next year, but it's unlikely that the Yankees will bring him back. They need more than a 5 inning starter, which is what Wright had become this year. Mussina also has a team option for somewhere north of $15 million. The team will not pick that up, but they may resign Mussina for a two year deal in the $8 million/per year range. At least that makes sense to me. Mussina may be able to get more money elsewhere given how thin the pitching market will be this off season, but I don't know if he wants to go to another team at this point. He's got an outside shot at the Hall of Fame and the Yankees probably provide him with the best opportunity to win games. He's 61 away from 300 and it would probably take at lest four more seasons to get there. I don't know if he's going to want to hang around for that, considering the $122 million he's already made in his career, but anything is possible.

If Mussina does re-sign, that would leave one spot open in the rotation. Although as we've seen, there will probably be at least one more spot available due to some unforeseen injury (that's right, I'm looking at you Carl Pavano). Phillip Hughes, the Yankees best pitching prospect, will be given a chance to make the team out of spring training. It's possible that he could be the 5th starter, however it's just as likely that he ends up in Columbus and then gets called up in mid-season if he does well there. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese phenom is going to get a long hard look from the Yankees. They have been burned before by one japanese pitcher(Hideki Irabu), but Daisuke is supposed to be a different story. He was the best pitcher at the World Baseball Classic and went on to have a stellar year in Japan. He will not come cheaply for the Yankees. They would have to outbid the other major leagues team (which could cost upwards of $20 million)just to have a chance to sign him. Matsuzaka is the supposedly the only pitcher in professional baseball who throws the Gyroball. It supposedly comes out the hand with a different spin and is very deceptive. We'll just have to see (I saw some video of him supposedly throwing the Gyroball and it looks and acts just like a screwball). However, let's all remember that Irabu was supposed to throw a 95mph splitter before we all get too excited.

The bullpen also needs some attention. Scott Proctor was great this year, but he was over used by Joe Torre. He needs some help out there. Brian Bruney is an intriguing addition to the team. He throws in the mid to upper nineties and was a great late season addition. He was released by the Diamondbacks however, which leads to some concern as to why a team would release such an obviously talented player. The Yankees need another arm in the pen and I don't thing that Tanyon Sturtze is the answer. I'm not sure who is going to be available, but the Yankees need to pick a hard throwing lefty to complement the lefty specialist Mike Myers. Kyle Farnsworth needs to show that he is indeed going to the set up man or else he'll have to move back in the pecking order. If your primary set up man can't pitch two days in a row, then you have a problem. This year, the Yankees had a problem. Farnsworth has outstanding stuff. He topped 100 mph on the Yankee radar gun on more than a few occasions this season. At times he can be dominating. Other times it seems like he's afraid to throw it in the strike zone. And still other times, it seems like the ball is coming up to the hitters on a tee. He certainly has the arm to dominate. It just remains to be seen whether his back and his head will allow him to.

Brian Cashman definitely has some work to do in the off season. I trust that he will make the right moves and once again put the Yankees in position to make another playoff run. I know George wants another championship before the heads off to that great big luxury box in the sky, but I want a million dollars and I don't see anyone lining up to give me that either. The Yankee pitching is not in shambles, but they do need some help. Hopefully, they'll get it this winter.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Winter of Our Discontent

The Yankees season came to a crashing halt over the weekend in Detroit. The lineup, which may have been the best ever put together, was held in check by the starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers. Kenny Rogers threw eight innings of scoreless baseball in game three (Kenny Rogers???? What the f#$K?), and Jeremy Bonderman shut them down in game four. So what is to be done with this team? How can they get back to the World Series? Will George Steinbrenner lose his mind? Stay tuned for answers to these and more questions in the upcoming paragraphs.

Our good friend Mike Lupica calls this the single worst post season era in Yankees history. I actually think the 14 years between post season appearances was the worst era in Yankees post season history, but what do I know. I'm sure Mike was in Boston laughing it up with his Red Sox buddies during that time. Lupica, of course, thinks that Joe Torre should be fired. That is just silly. Is Lou Pinella the answer to the Yankees post season problems? I don't think so. Lou Pinella won a World Series with the Reds when he wasn't supposed to, but the also couldn't lead a team that won 116 games in the regular season to the Series. Lou doesn't really fit with the Yankees as currently constructed. A team full of all-stars doesn't need somebody to yell and scream and tell them what to do. They know what to do and yelling and throwing things isn't going to give them any extra motivation. Over seven years with Seattle, he led the team to three first place finishes in the division. That was a team with Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr, Arod, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and ulitmately Ichiro. They were a star filled team and they never reached the World Series under Pinella. Do you think that 3 first place finishes and no World Series appearances over seven years would fly here in New York? I'm fairly confident in the fact that Joe Torre will be back. George is first and foremost a business man and throwing seven million dollars out of the window is not high on his list of priorities. Joe Torre is a good manager, but he doesn't go out and pitch or hit. He got too much credit when the Yankees won and will take too much blame for the Yankees loss. There are times when a team can lose a game by being out managed, but the Yankees were out played by the Tigers, not out managed. Joe will be back.

So if Joe's not the problem, what is? Well, in one word, Pitching. The Yankees pitchers gave up no fewer than four runs in every game to the Tigers. You cannot win in the post season with an ERA over 5. The Yankee lineup was supposed to score runs but they were shut down by superior pitching efforts, which I said could happen. The pitching simply didn't show up. Wang was ok in game one, but the Yankees scored eight runs, so all was forgiven. Mussina was handed a 3-1 lead, but couldn't hold it. Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright were awful. That was the story of the Yankees post season. Not Arod's continued struggles at the plate, not the lack of offense, not sloppy defense. The problem was pitching. Pitching wins in the playoffs. Pitching and timely hitting. The Yankees had neither. The Yankees are stuck with Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano. Mussina has an option that will not be picked up. He could be back for less money. Wright has a $3 million buyout clause for next year, so it's possible that he may be back as well. There aren't that many options for next year. Barry Zito is adding millions to his asking price as the A's advance in the playoffs. There is also a Japanese pitcher who is available as well. Phillip Hughes will be given a shot to make the rotation out of spring training, but there is no guarantee with rookies, especially rookie pitchers. If I were a gambling man, I would say that based on the way things stand now, the rotation will be Johnson, Pavano, Mussina, Wang and Hughes. Of course George could do something stupid in the offseason and open the bank for Zito. We will have to see. The bullpen also needs some work. Ron Villone showed his true colors in the second half of the season. Scott Proctor needs some help out there or else his arm is going to fall off. Brian Bruney was a good late season addition, but he has a history of being wild. Farnsworth was a major disappointment. I don't know how the Yankees could have signed without realizing that he couldn't pitch two days in a row. Someone screwed the pooch on that one. Anyway, a hard throwing lefty would be a nice addition.

There isn't anything wrong with the Yankees lineup. As currently constituted, it is among the greatest lineups of all time. That team would easily score 1,000 runs. I don't think that Sheffield is coming back. I don't see the Yankees investing $13 million dollars in another 1B/DH. They already have Giambi and I'm sure they'll be looking for a better fielding option. However, outside of Sheffield, the Yankees are financially committed to everyone else. There is the talk of moving Arod for some pitching, but I don't think that Arod is going anywhere and at the end of day, it would be impossible to get equal value and to replace his offense at 3rd base. Fans may be clamoring for his head and as soon as they figure out who can play 3rd base and produce 35 home runs and 120 rbi's, I'll be right there with them. The starting team is set for next year. It's just a matter of who the supporting players are going to be. Bernie wants to come back, but I'm sure he'll want more than the $1.5 million the Yankees gave him this year. I don't think they'll want to pay him any more than that, so Bernie is going to have to decide whether the $103 million he's made in his career is going to allow him to live in the manner he's become accustomed to. Melky Cabrera doesn't have a starting role on this team. The Yankees can keep him around for insurance, but if there are no injuries in the outfield, then he gets to play the role of 4th outfielder. The one thing I can never understand is why on earth the Yankees can't find a back up catcher who can hit? They have trotted out a gaggle of backups for Jorge, but all of them end up hitting under .200. Also Jorge isn't going to be around forever. In fact next year is the last year of his contract. They need to start looking for a replacement. I suggest they just get someone from the minor leagues or trade for a catching prospect and start grooming him as Jorge's replacement.

So can the Yankees get back to World Series with only minor adjustments? Of course they can. They are built to win in the regular season. They will overwhelm teams with their power. They will absolutely destroy mediocre pitching. The question is whether the pitching staff will be enough to carry them in the post season. That is a question that really can't be answered until they get there. Most people, including me, would have put money on the fact that the Yankees were going to light up Kenny Rogers. He ends up shutting them out for eight innings. Who could have seen that? Not me. Getting to the post season is like buying a lottery ticket. You've got to be in it, to win it. The Yankees have bought that ticket for the last 12 years. They've been to the Series six times and won four of them. It really is an embarrassment of riches.

The best that Yankee fans can hope for is that they keep punching that ticket. The playoffs are a crap shoot. The best team doesn't always win. The Yankees were good enough and lucky enough to win three in a row from 98-2000. The fans here are spoiled. They take the Yankees for granted. They view the World Series as a birth right. It isn't. As a fan who remembers the 13 year drought from 82-94, these years a gift. The payroll doesn't guarantee victory, having the best players doesn't guarantee victory. Nothing can guarantee victory in the post season. The Yankees will probably have the best team on paper again next year and they will probably make the playoffs (baring an injury to Mariano Rivera), but once they get there, all bets are off.

I'm most disappointed in the fact that the season is over (for me). Every October, whether the Yankees win or not, I realize that I have 5 months before baseball returns. The winter is long and cold here in the northeast. And it's longer and colder without baseball. However,I really enjoyed this season. The Yankees fought hard and overcame some adversity to prevail in the AL East once again. Let's not forget how this team got to the playoffs. Many had written them off at the mid way point of the season. Many predicted the Red Sox would win the division or even the Blue Jays. They Yankees fought back and even claimed the best record in baseball. It was a great year. Just because it ended before the ultimate goal, we shouldn't just disregard all that came before it. That is short sighted and does not give credit where it is due.

The season is over, but thankfully tomorrow is new day and as God is my witness, I shall never go hungry again (sorry about that. I lost my mind for just a second). I know it's months away, but I'm already looking forward to hearing those two most magical words in the chilly depths of winter, "Spring Training".


Friday, October 06, 2006

Week 5: Football picks with 100% more Estrogen!

As promised, I’m here for you MYCUE23! Guest writer finally reporting to make her picks for Week 5. Full disclosure: for better or worse, I am a Cowboys fan, now and forever. (Save the booing and hissing. You’re not going to come up with anything I haven’t already heard.) Also, many moons ago I won a radio football pool by picking every game correctly that weekend. It’s made me something of a legend to the three or four people who heard me on the radio that day. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve had a picked even half the games on any given weekend right since. Let’s see if I can turn things around here, shall we? On to the picks (As always, home teams are in bold.):

Indianapolis (-19) Tennessee
This would be a great game if it were taking place two years from now, by which point Vince Young will have gotten back to the business of being awesome. For now, take the Colts, because at the moment I’m hard pressed to come up with one good thing to say about Tennessee. And nobody kicks more ass in meaningless games than Peyton Manning.

Giants (-4.5) Washington
Washington sucks. I mean, they always suck, but this year, they objectively suck. Yeah, they have their moments, but I remain unconvinced. Their most dominating performance has come against the Texans, the JV squad of the NFL. The Giants have had their bye and plenty of time to lick their wounds, and hopefully somebody has sat them down and explained to them, using small words and charts if necessary, that the points scored in the first three quarters count too. I also find the idea that Washington will win three in a row to awful to contemplate. New York should carry this one.

Minnesota (-6.5) Detroit
I hate games like this. Two not very good teams squaring off to make sure that the requisite number of games will be played this weekend. I think Detroit is at least heading in the right direction, but it’s going to take some time. Minnesota has settled in to mediocrity, and I see no evidence that they will get be getting better anytime soon. That being said, the Metrodome is still a tough place to play, and I don’t see Detroit pulling off the upset just yet.

New Orleans (-6.5) Tampa Bay
I love Drew Brees, and I love New Orleans. Go team! I am officially jumping on this bandwagon while there is still room. They may be headed for a fall, but it’s not going to be at the hands of the Bucs who appear to be descending into a Raiders-like abyss.

St Louis (-3) Green Bay
Hopping back in my time machine, I’d say that if this game were taking place five years ago, the Packers would have this one in the bag. Favre would have been good and pissed following last week’s debacle, and he’d want to show off at home. Plus, really, this is as good as St. Louis is going to get, and they’ve already lost to San Francisco. However, Favre is not that same guy, and the Packers defense scares precisely nobody. Though I remain unconvinced that the Rams should be 4-1, they will be.

New England (-10) Miami
Well I think we can all say that Culpepper was clearly not the solution to the many, many problems the Dolphins are facing. I can’t heap all the blame on him either, because nothing, absolutely nothing, looks good for Miami right now. I don’t think there is one player in Miami who can watch game film and say, “Well, at least that looks good.” New England should be able to brush off these sad little Dolphins without so much as mussing Tom Brady’s hair.

Chicago (-10) Buffalo
I have a friend who loves the Bills. This is going to be a sad weekend for him. He still has an OJ poster, though, so really, he kind of deserves to be sad.

Carolina (-8.5) Cleveland
Carolina seems to have turned things around, and they’re at home. The Browns are still the Browns, and they’re on the road. Panthers take this one.

Jacksonville (-7) Jets
All I ever do when I bet on Jets games is lose money. I have never really understood this team, and I still don’t. I don’t know what it is about them that keep them such an enigma to me, but if you want to retire in style, do the opposite of what I say here. Or do exactly what I say, since I’ve already pointed out my incompetence with anything involving the Jets and have adjusted accordingly. Whatever. I think the Jags will win, which means they won’t. More likely they will win but not cover. Yes, this is what would happen if I had money on the Jags in this game: They would win by a field goal kicked from 50 yards out with no time left on the clock leaving me impotent with rage and muttering into my Bloody Mary while their fans dance on the field.

Kansas City (-3) Arizona
I do not bet on rookie quarterbacks making their first start, and you shouldn’t either. It’s never a pretty picture, and it won’t be this time around either (This is where MYCUE chimes in to point out that Dan Marino was the bestest, smartest, handsomest, most wonderful QB EVER in his VERY FIRST GAME!!! Don’t encourage him!).

San Francisco (-3.5) Oakland
Is this game even going to involve any actual football? Do we really need to sit through three hours of this? I guess it will be interesting to see if, for the first time in history, both teams find a way to lose. When all else fails, I guess you have to go with the home team, so it’s nice that they play like 20 minutes from each other. I guess you should take San Francisco if you really have to bet on something and you can’t find two guys tossing around a Nerf ball to wager on.

Philadelphia (-2) Dallas
I really, really fucking hate the Eagles. Absolutely everything about them. When that commercial for Invincible came on TV, I would have to change the channel, because I cannot stand the sight of anyone being happy about anything good happening to a football team in Philadelphia. I was thrilled to see them turn into the Bills of the NFC championship game and just as happy to see them bitterly disappointed after the Super Bowl. I have never eaten a Philly Cheesesteak or seen the Liberty Bell. I have a similar, visceral reaction to TO (I remember him dancing on the Star like it was yesterday.), but he’s kind of one of us now, so I have to not hate him quite so much anymore. It kills me that a Dallas victory here would be all about Owens, but I can think of few things prettier than seeing the Eagles lose at home to their new archenemy. I don’t put money on Dallas games, and I live in fear of jinxing them some how, so I will not be picking this game. Hate me if you will, but there’s a higher power at work here.

San Diego (-3) Pittsburgh
I once got drunk in Oxford, Ohio and made out with the backup QB at Miami in a cornfield (I think. It was some kind of field, and we got lost in it). It was some time ago, and I have no idea what his name was, but let’s go ahead and say it was Ben Roethlisberger, because that makes for a better story. Poor Ben, though, has had a tough off season, and Pittsburgh overall just looks kind of blah (Yes, MYCUE, it’s this kind of in-depth analysis that I’ve been failing to provide for the past four weeks.). I’m taking San Diego, because I think last week was a fluke. I’m going to give the Chargers one more week to prove that my confidence in them is not unfounded.

Denver (-4) Ravens
Plummer is, was, and will always be a disappointment. Not to me—I’ve hated that guy for too long to have any sort of faith in him now—but to his fans, or at least the people who haven’t been disappointed by him yet. Still, the Broncos are at home, and they’re coming off a bye. The Ravens are due to slip a little after last week. The last time I was in Denver I had an awesome time with my cousin. The last time I was in Baltimore my wallet was stolen, and someone must pay for that.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Singing in the Rain

I went to the stadium last night to watch a baseball game but instead was treated to another example of the mess that is the Commissioners office. Apparently the office of the commissioner was fairly certain that the window to play the game last night was going to be small. Once the rain started to fall about 5 minutes before the first pitch, they should have called it and sent everyone home. They didn't and even had Bob shepherd say that there would be a game played which kept about 40,000 people hanging around for another 2 hours (and if you've ever waited out a rain delay at Yankee Stadium, you know what an unpleasant experience that is). By the time the rain stopped and the tarp was removed, the weather forecast was already calling for heavy rain by 11. Unless they were planning on playing the fastest game in playoff history, there was no way that the game could be completed. The point is that someone should have realized very early on that a game could not be played last night. Instead they kept tens of thousands of people waiting around for nothing. The concessions were still up and running, so I guess there was still money to be made.

I don't really have anything poignant to say about this travesty. It's just that it sucks getting home at almost midnight from a game that never happened. It's also a shame because there are certainly people who will not have the chance to go to another playoff game and won't be able to make it to the makeup game today. The only playoff experience they will have this year is waiting in the hot and muggy tunnels of Yankee stadium.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's a Start

The Yankees won the first of hopefully 11 games this post season over the Tigers last night. They won with offense and decent starting pitching. It was not Wang at his best, but it was good enough last night. The bullpen came in for a shaky 1.1 innings before turning the ball over to the greatest closer since death to wrap things up in the ninth.

The NY press and Tim McCarver have already decided that the bullpen is going to be the weak spot for the Yankees. That is based on one game. McCarver called the bullpen the "soft underbelly" of the Yankees. I believe he referred to them that way at least three times last night. I guess he was waiting for someone to acknowledge his cleverness. I thought that it was a curious move for Joe to take out Wang in the 7th when he had retired 6 batters in a row and was under 100 pitches. I don't really like to second guess Joe, but that decision really didn't make sense to me. It almost backfired as Myers gave up a solo home run and Proctor gave up two singles before getting Ordonez to fly out to end the inning. Farnsworth was a little wild last night, but he did manage to get out of the eight inning without giving up a hit or a run. The Yankees didn't use Brian Brunney last night and Proctor only threw 12 pitches, so both should be available for tonight. I don't understand why the press has decided that the Yankee bullpen is so weak. They aren't the best bullpen in the playoffs, but they aren't the worst either. They are going to have bad moments (like last night), but I think it's far too small a sample to say that they are going to be terrible or as the great McCarver put it "the soft underbelly" of the team. I think we should start a running count of how many times McCarver actually uses that term during this post season.

Jeter, Abreu and Giambi all came up big for the Yanks last night. Jeter went five for five and I think you could practically feel the man love dripping from the Fox both last night. Abreu, in his first playoff start, drove in the most important runs of the game. He started the Yankee scoring with a two run single in the third and he added two insurance runs in the 7th when the lead was cut to two runs. Giambi put the punctuation mark on the five run outburst in the 3rd inning with a two run home run. The Yankees put together six straight hits in the 3rd inning and showed just what kind of damage they can do when the offense is running on all cylinders.

It was a good start, and as Joey Fagan said, I believe in starts. But as Joey also said, remember people, Rome wasn't built in a day. We shouldn't get too excited about one win. It's obviously better than the alternative, but in baseball, momentum is always your next days starter. So let's hope that Mussina can keep it going. The Yankees are facing the probable rookie of the year and Detroit's best starter in Justin Verlander today. If they Yankees can manage to win tonight's game, then it's on to Detroit to face the gambler, Kenny Rogers. Rogers has an absolutely terrible post season record and has a track record of coming up small in big games. A win tonight and it looks like a sweep might be order. Of course a lot depends on tonight and then it will be up to the balky back of Randy Johnson. Randy had an epidural on his back last week. They give those to women during pregnancy, so I have no idea what kind of performance we can expect from him. A herniated disk sounds painful and pitching in the playoffs does sound like something that's going to make it feel a whole lot better. Anyway, let's hope for a win tonight and that Tim McCarver doesn't find anymore soft underbellies.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's A Small World After All

Mike Lupica is at it again. Spouting his Yankee hating bulls#@t, that the Daily News for some reason allows him to print. Today he said that the Yankees have no excuse for not winning the World Series this year. He had this to say about Joe Torre:

"If Joe Torre can't win with this lineup, with this kind of insane financial advantage over any American League team they are going to come up against, if Torre can't win with the deepest and most diversified and most talented batting order in baseball history, then when does he win again? If this isn't enough for him, what is?"

First of all, anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that there are no guarantees in the post season. A five game series does not prove who the better team is, it just proves who played the best over those five games. Do the Yankees have a ridiculous lineup? Of course they do. I've already stated that I think it's the best of all time. Does that guarantee a win? Absolutely not. We only have to look to a few days ago when the Yankees came within two outs of being no-hit.

Lupica is really trying to set the Yankees up for the big fall. He can't wait to tear them apart if they don't win the series. The key to playoff baseball is pitching. He dismisses the fact that Randy Johnson is not 100%. He makes this statement:

"They are supposed to win it all, and do it without much sweat. With or without Randy Johnson. They shouldn't lose a game in the first round and they should handle the Twins or A's easily in the ALCS, and they should win the World Series even if it is against the Mets, who played them tough in this year's regular-season version of the Subway Series."

They shouldn't lose a game in the first round? Says who? The Tigers won 95 games this year. For the first half of the season, they played as well as any team ever has. They reeled off multiple double digit win streaks. Why on earth should they now roll over for the Yankees in playoffs. They should handle the Twins or A's easily? The Yankees split the season series agains the Twins and lost the season series to the A's. The Twins have the best starting pitching and bullpen in the league. The A's starters are also very good. The Yankees have the worst team ERA of any of the teams in the playoffs. Why exactly are the Yankees supposed to steamroll through the playoffs again? Oh, that's right. Because Mike Lupica says so. And of course what he says goes. Just to show you what a complete and absolute idiot Lupica is he makes this statement:

"The Yankees have Chien-Ming Wang, as much a Cy Young candidate as anybody in the American League"

Johan Santana of the Twins won the pitching triple crown for Christ's sake. He led the majors in wins, strikeouts, ERA and a few other categories as well. There is only one Cy Young candidate in the American League and he pitches for Minnesota. I understand that Lupica is trying to build the Yankees up to mythic proportions at this point, but seriously, only an absolute moron would make a statement like that.

I can understand how painful the Yankees dominance of the late 90's must have been for Lupica. As I understand the absolute joy that only someone who is a Boston Red Sox fan must feel at the continued failures of the Yankees in the postseason. He just can't wait to blast Torre and the rest of the Yankees in the press. Here's another comment:

"Barring another injury to Rivera, there are no excuses. None."

I'm sure if the Yankees lose they will not make excuses. They never do. But it is certainly possible that they will lose. The White Sox ran the table last year with extraordinary starting pitching. Could the Yankees run into a similar buzzsaw this year? Of course they could. As has already been seen, good pitching will beat good hitting. The Yankee lineup is great, but they can be shut down for a few nights by stellar starting pitching. Even with a lineup full of .300 hitters, they are still going to fail 70% of the time. Baseball is not a game of guarantees. The breaks have to go your way along with timely hitting and good pitching. The stars must align in your favor. And sometimes it's just not your day. Even with the greatest lineup in history, the Yankees are assured of nothing, except the gloating and "I told you so" nonsense from Lupica should they lose.

I assure that Lupica is rooting for a Yankees loss with all the desire that his cold, little heart can muster. I always hope that someone at the Daily News would sit lupica down in his booster seat and explain to him that openly rooting against the home town team is probably not the right thing to do. Well, Mike, I hope you enjoy shopping in the "husky" boys section of your local clothing outlet, because while the Yankees winning is not a certainty, your remaining a midget is.