Sunday, March 30, 2008

Baseball's Back Baby!!!!

(I'll get to the Final Four later in the week, but I will say this could be the best Final Four ever. There's not only four number one seeds, but after watching every game these last four days, they were clearly the best teams- although Davidson and Stephen Curry? Wow. Just wow. Without even realizing it I stood up out of my chair every time Curry put up a three because I was expecting it to go in. Just electric. He will be missed but there's some great hoops to come.)

Monday is one of the best sports days of the year, right up there with the opening Thursday and Friday of March Madness. When I rule the world these WILL be national holidays, since every guy is trying to skip work to watch. Well except for Canada- while their March Madness coverage has been excellent, let's just say the opening day baseball coverage is lacking. Severely. 14 games tomorrow, and guess how many are being broadcasted by any one of the THREE Canadian sports networks? If you guessed ZERO, well then you are correct. What are they showing instead? Curling, poker, MMA, and the Canucks game. I wish I were kidding.

Despite this, I'm still really excited for Opening Day (and by the way, we're pretending the season didn't start a week ago with a couple of games in Japan. Because if that happened it would be nothing short of retarded. No sport in their right mind would pull such a stunt- well except hockey if it still existed), and thought I should put up a mini-preview in its honor. Since I tend to rip others for their picks, I might as well man up and give mine.
WARNING: I did not put a lot of thought, research or time into this!!

1. Boston
2. New York*
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
9,483. Baltimore
* Wild Card. They damn well better with a $200 million payroll.

Not really going out on a limb here, but the Sox look to be the best team in the division, and the Yankees are the Yankees and will figure out a way. I'm really, really, REALLY bullish about Tampa Bay. They will be in the wild card hunt well into August, and if their bullpen doesn't explode (their one real weakness right now), into September too. Like the football team in that town did years ago, the "Rays" will go from punchline to front-of-the line starting next year. They're very well run and are absolutely LOADED with good young talent. Beware the Rays. I feel the same way about the Blue Jays as I do about any other Toronto team, so my opinion of them is far from rational, but let's be honest: anyone from outside of Toronto takes one look at that team and says "wow, those guys blow." And Baltimore will be the worst team in baseball.

1. Detwah
2. Chicago
3. Cleveland
4. Minnesota
5. Kansas City

The Tiggers are my pick to win the whole thing. The bullpen is an issue, but it's also the easiest of any area to fix. Solid starters and the scariest offense we've seen in a long time. It's not that I love the White Sox, it's that I think Cleveland won't be as good as expected. They had a LOT go right last year (well besides Travis Hafner), and a repeat of that will be tough (sketchy pen, Hafner won't rebound back to his old self, and who's playing corner OF or 3rd?). I also think the Sox could bounce back, and be better than people think. There's ALWAYS at least one team who's much better, and one who's much worse than people think. These are my two in the AL I guess. The Twins? Wow. It hurts. Some good young talent but they're going to fall a ways I think. Better than the Royals, but not much better. And 2009 the Royals might be better. Twins Fever! Catch it! Seriously though, because they still have Mauer, Morneau, Cuddy, Nathan, and a stable of decent starters, they'll be ok, but there's just so many questions. And their infield other than Morneausy? Are you serious? I LOVE the Adam Everett signing because although he's one of the worst hitters in baseball, he's one of the best defenders. But since you're going to get nothing out of Everett at the plate, you need more offense in the lineup and the Twins don't have any. Whoever plays second will be the worst second baseman in the AL (I will wait for you to look it up if you want, or you can just trust me), and Mike Lamb is damn close to the worst at third. Hey look on the bright side Twins fans: at least you're paying for a brand new ballpark so your owner can REDUCE his payroll! Um let's just move on.

1. Orange County Angels
2. Seattle
3. Oakland
4. Texas

Not a good division, especially with the injury issues the Halos are having now with Escobar AND Lackey. Still I don't think Seattle is better, and Texas and Oakland are both rebuilding, although both will be better than expected. Not a good division. Be glad you don't have to watch anybody out here.

1. Mets
2. Atlanta
3. Philadelphia
4. Florida
5. Warshington Nayshunuls

You can't not pick the Mets with Johan there. While they're not a perfect team, all of their issues are managable. Hotlanta's kind of a bandwagon pick, but I'm making it. Pitching will keep the Phils from the playoffs, Florida is getting good again but not that good and hey at least Warshington gets to play in a shiny new ballpark (did anybody watch the Sunday night game? Did the park look good? Because none of the 3 "Sports" networks carried that game either.)

1. Milwaukee
2. Chicago*
3. Cincinnati
4. St Louis
5. Pittsburgh
6. Houston

How do we have six teams in this division and only four in the AL West? A bunch of freaking geniuses running baseball right now. Anywho, yes I love the Brew Crew IF stud pitcher Yolani Gallardo comes back healthy and soon from injury (he's supposed to be back by late April). You haven't heard of him but you will. Their rotation is solid, they have enough arms in the pen if Gagne falters (I believe he'll be ok- not Dodgers days of old Ok but not "gasoline on a fire" like he was with the Red Sox either), and their lineup could be downright scary. I'm bullish on Ricky Weeks finally figuring things out, think Billy Hall will regain a bit of his stroke back at third, and LOVE the Mike Cameron signing. Defensively, Cameron in center (one of the best defenders in baseball) + Hall at 3B + Ryan Braun in left (not great but not gawd-awful like he was at third) will make a YUGE difference for them. You've probably heard plenty about the Cubbies already, and while I like them enough to grab the wild card, not quite enough to win the division. Cincy's looking pesky with better pitching than they've had in a long time (not saying much I know), and a solid order. Defense? Not so much, but playing in that small park if the ball actually stays in the yard guys don't have to run very far to get to it. With the Cards, Bucs and Stros? Flip a coin. They'll all be varying shades of unwatchable.

1. Los Angeles
2. German for a Whale's V&*^%a
3. Colorado
4. Arizona
8,473. San Francisco

I really like the Dodgers- like "could go to the World Series" kind of like. Tons of pitching depth, great pen, decent defense, and an offense with potential. While Jeff Kent is in decline and NO-MAH is d-o-n-e, they've got plenty of other bats and some good young kids. Also look for bounce-back years from Raffy Furcal and Andruw Jones. San Diego (founded by the German's in 1904) is a real sleeper. If they can get any offense at all, they could be tough. The Rocks return to earth a bit, and the D-Backs, well, I just never understood what made them good last year. Seriously, look at their lineup: what the deuce? THAT's the offense of a playoff team? Really? On what planet? I mean, I know the National League is the inferior league right now, but come on! I've seen "experts" picking them to win the division again because of how well they did last year AND now they have Dan Haren. Ok, fine their 1-2 punch in the rotation is awesome- BUT THE REST OF THEIR TEAM SUCKS!!!! I don't get it. The Giants will battle the O's for the worst team in the history of the universe.

AL: Miggy Cabrera, 3B, Tiggers
NL: Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers

AL: KING FELIX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Just kidding, it's Justin Verlander of the Tiggers)
NL: Johan Santana, Mets

Friday, March 28, 2008


No, not high school or college, but I'm thinking about NBA All-Americans. It's weird timing with the tourney going and all, but after reading John Hollinger's now annual list of the Top 30 Foreign Players in the NBA (although this is "Insider" content, as of right now it's a free read for everybody), I felt compelled to put together a list of the top 12 American players that would square off against this team (although I am fully American, kindly insert joke here about how I'm a Canadian living in Canada composing an American team. Thank you). If you can't read his article, Hollinger (whose work I love- can't stress that enough) includes guys like Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Al Horford (Dominican Republic), Raja Bell (Virgin Islands), and Wally Szczerbiak (yes that same Wally World. Did you know he was born in Spain? Me neither) because they were all foreign born even though most people, including myself, would consider them American players. For the sake of argument, and for this post, we'll keep them on Hollinger's list.

While he puts them in a list, I thought it'd be fun (because I'm a nerd like that) to give a starting five and seven bench guys for both squads. I'm only making one change to Hollinger's list by excluding Zydrunas Ilgauskas (who he ranks 9th) because I just don't feel he's one of the top 12 Euros (while I know there's a more correct term, and that players like Nash and Ginobili and Yao are not technically Euros, let's be honest: they're all Euros). Before I get to that, what stands out to me is that there's not a lot of young blood on the Euro team. Not many young guys banging on the door of the top 12. Of the 30 listed there's only five (and this includes Horford, who I don't consider foreign) who are 24 or under. Remember a few years ago with Darko and the flood of foreign players that were going to take over the NBA? Yeah that didn't happen. When we get closer to the draft I'm putting up the biggest post I've ever done on why you should never ever draft a white center, domestic or foreign, in the first round under any circumstances. Seriously, never. Ever. Anyway, in researching that I was amazed at how few foreign guys have actually panned out. For awhile there I think everybody was scared to death to miss the Next Dirk, but the failure rate for the Foreign guys has been so high it looks like GM's are more than willing to take that risk again.

ANYWAY here's the Euro Team from Hollinger's list:
Starting Five
C Yao Ming, 27, Rockets, China
PF Tim Duncan, 31, Spurs, Virgin Islands
SF Dirk Nowitzki, 29, Mavs, Germany (Can you believe he's only 29?)
SG Manu Ginobili, 30, Spurs, Argentina
PG Steve Nash, 34, Suns, South Africa (now Canadian)

Um wow. That's a helluva starting five right there. Not an athletic group, but great players and a lot of good ol' fashioned fundamentals.

Bench (this is in order of who's coming off the bench first):
PF Pau Gasol, 27, Lakers, Spain
PG Tony Parker, 25, Spurs, France
PG Jose Calderon, 26, Raptors, Spain
SF Luol Deng, 24, Bulls, Sudan
SF Hedo Turkoglu, 29, Magic, Turkey
PF Andrei Kirilenko, 27, Jazz, Russia
C Andris Biedrins, 21, Warriors, Latvia

Drops off pretty fast after Parker, doesn't it? Some good players but no real big stars after that. While Kirilenko's had a couple of rough years and Biedrins is young, I'd still take those two over Big Z and anybody else available.

Starting Five
C Dwight, Howard, 22, Magic
PF Kevin Garnett, 31, Celtics
SF Lebron James, 23, Cavs
SG Kobe Bryant, 29, Lakers (like Dirk it's hard to believe he's not even 30)
PG Chris Paul, 22, Hornets

As good as the Euro's starting five is, this one blows it away. Howard's an absolute beast, and while you could debate putting Amare Stoudemire over Garnett, KG's leadership and willingness to share make him perfect for this lineup. King James, Black Mamba and CP3 are simply the three best players in the league right now.

PF Amare Stoudemire, 25, Suns
SG Dwyane Wade, 26, Heat
SF Carmelo Anthony, 23, Nuggets (not a misprint: he's really only 23. Wow)
PG Baron Davis, 28, Warriors (another shocker for me)
PG Deron Williams, 23, Jazz
C Marcus Camby, 34, Nuggets
C Shaquille O'Neal, 36, Heat

You cannot argue the first two, but there's plenty of debate after Amare and DWade.

OK I'm going to have to devote an entire paragraph to Dwade. This started as a quick bracket comment but needs much more than that. So what happened to Wade? It was just two years ago he was in the conversation with Bronbron and Kobe for the best player on the planet. Now? Definitely not. This is a hypothetical team, and if he's 100% healthy I'd definitely take him, but if he plays in the Olympics this summer he's certifiably insane. Crazy. If he cares at all about his career he needs to skip it because his health has become a major major issue. Looking at his bio, in his five years in the league he's only played in at least 75 games twice, played only 61 his first year, and in the past two he's only played in 51 apiece. That's alarming right there. The Heat shut him down to get him fully healthy for next year (and also to get better draft positioning for Mike Beasley or Derrick Rose), and next year will be a YUGE one to determine if he's going to continue on the path to be one of the all-time greats, or become one of those Bernard King/Shawn Kemp/Chris Webber types who had a few unreal years but couldn't put a hall-of-fame career together. The knock on Wade when he was drafted was whether his smaller frame (only 6'4) would be able to handle his kamikaze-style of attacking the basket. After absorbing nine million hard fouls (he's shot a mind-boggling 2879 free throws in just five years) on his way to the basket, he's clearly taking a beating, and his body is not holding up well. Can he learn to pull up for the mid-range jumper or do a better job of avoiding contact? If he wants a long career, he's going to have to.

This is also a good time to point out how ridiculously good and tough Allen Iverson is considering he's built like a kicker (6'0, 165 lbs), yet drives to the basket hard all the time, and is in his ELEVENTH SEASON averaging almost 70 games a year, over 40 minutes a night, and is still scoring in the mid 20's and averaging over 7 assists. Wow. Still, I wouldn't put him on the team because he wouldn't be one of my first three or four guys off the bench, and would worry about how he'd handle a reduced role. It was him or Baron Davis for that spot, and I'd rather have Baron right now. I actually debated having Baron at all, but he's playing SO well this year, he has to be there (and he's only 28? Seriously? Wasn't he at UCLA with Tyus Edney, the O'Bannon brothers, Toby Bailey, Don McLean and Tracy Murray. Apparently it just seems that way). After that Melo provides instant offense off the bench as a swing man, and Deron Williams is a great backup true point.

Camby? So underrated and so good for this team. Second in the league in rebounding and first in blocks by almost a full block per game, and in the last five years he's been healthy, averaging double digits boards and 3 blocks a game. I don't think he's ever shaken the frail injury-prone tag he rightly got stuck with early in his career, but he has not been that guy in awhile. He'd be perfect for this team as he doesn't have to score to be effective or happy.

And finally for the 12th man- I thought about Mark Madsen to wave a towel and give awkward high-fives, but after seeing what Shaq's done for the chemistry in Phoenix, he gets my vote. He'd be great for team morale, and I THINK would accept a role of playing in short spurts. Plus he seems like a guy who really likes beating up and dunking on Euros. So if he'd accept the role, he's in.

So there's my team, and I'm stressing TEAM here as Camby and Shaq aren't the 11th or 12th best American players available. But to make the best team to win, this is my group.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oh There's the Upsets!

So how's your bracket looking on the the third day? (Notice I didn't say "brackets" since I not only believe but know that the correct and true way is to fill out ONE bracket and then submit that ONE same bracket for every pool you are in. People who fill out a different bracket with different results in different pools, I mean, what does that prove? How hard is that? That's like taking a multiple choice final exam but instead of submitting one test you submit ten, all with different answers, and you tell the prof "whichever one of these ten gets the most right answers is the one you'll take." It's ridiculous, and it's wrong. Just plain wrong!). Speaking of wrong, so far I have picked 10 wrong games out of the first 32, putting me at the bottom of most of my pools. Already I'm kicking myself for changing my answers before submitting them (Again with the multiple choice exam example, you should always go with your first instincts if you're not sure), and for not following a reminder I made for myself last year: don't pick too many upsets. I don't know about you, but when filling out my bracket I always get the feeling that there'll be upsets galore, but with the exception of the crazy George Mason Tourney a few years back, there's never as many as you think.

As we all know, there's ALWAYS at least one 12 over 5 upset, and there seems to be a 13 over 4 as well as an 11 beating a 6. Knowing this, I didn't like any real upset possibilities in the 5/12 matches, and picked the wrong one (Temple over Michigan State). For the 4/13 games, I originally had, and I swear it, Siena beating Vandy. Vandy had struggled down the stretch and Siena seemed fiesty, but then I started reading about how Vandy has the SEC player of the year and blah blah blah and changed it Wednesday night. Deciding that i still needed a 13 over 4 I dumbly took Winthrop over Washington State.

I did not pick an 11 to beat a 6, so I missed K-State over USC. I thought USC was too hyped and was surprised to see some "experts" picking them to the Elite 8 or Final Four, but I at least thought they'd beat K-State. Nope. With the 7/10 games I, like seemingly the rest of the world, picked Davidson over Gonzaga, but missed WVU over Arizona (I thought Arizona had too much talent to lose in the 1st round, but I suppose that's why they were a 10 seed in the first place), and had St Mary's beating Miami. Again, too many upset picks!! I did get three of the four 8/9 games, missing A&M over BYU.

Two of my Sweet 16 teams are gone (Clemson and Drake), but still have my Elite 8 intact: Carolina over Tennessee, Kansas over Bucky Badger (watching Wisconsin play basketball should replace the death penalty. Make a tape of murderers being forced to watch Badger hoops, like Alex in "A Clockwork Orange", and I guarantee murder rates would drop dramatically. Seriously while I greatly respect the Badgers and the program they've built, and in no way am I being sarcastic about my respect for them, watching them play makes LISTENING or HEARING paint dry seem exciting. Yet as ugly and boring and slow as they play, they still took the Big 10 regular season and tourney titles, so that's why I have them in the Elite 8. They will bore you to death), Texas over Pitt (Memphis' woeful free throw shooting will come back to haunt them, although as somebody pointed out Pitt does well in the Big East tourney EVERY year and then flames out in the big dance. Frick I'm an idiot!), and UCLA over Duke (who is trailing by 7 to West Virginia right now. Good gosh I would love to see the damn Dookies lose here. Why do I ever pick them out of the first weekend when they are probably my least favorite team on earth? Mental note for next year: don't pick Duke out of the first weekend! Noted. Thanks brain).

I picked UCLA over Carolina in the finals because I think Carolina is loaded and can play any style of basketball...until they play UCLA apparently. I don't know, I didn't like taking the top-seeded Tar Heels even though it made the most sense. So I went with UCLA because it felt right, and then I saw the Sports Guy made the same pick and knew I was screwed. But hey, I was picking to my picks!!- Well except for Siena over Vandy...long story short, as Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men "you want me in your bracket pool! You NEED me in your bracket pool!" I mean with reasoning like this, who wouldn't want me in their pool? Enjoy the rest of the weekend everybody, and happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Day the (Polka) Music Died

The world has officially ended in Wisconsin. Judgement Day is upon the fine folks of the cheese state. The collective will to live has been taken from them, as they sing Bye Bye Mr. American Pie: Brett Favre officially announced his retirement today. Governor Jim Doyle has sent everyone home to mourn in their own way (i.e. liquor stores across the state will be sold out any minute now), and flags are flying at half mast. The Man that every Packer man and woman wants and every Wisconsin man and woman wants to be has left them for good, riding off into the sunset on his garden tractor, never to take the hallowed frozen tundra of Lambeau Field again.

This child (assuming life goes on in Wisconsin) will grow up in a Cheesehead world without Favre, without #4, without the guy who just loved playing the game. This lil' tyke will never get to hear announcers on every network fall all over themselves to applaud, praise, and practically make out with Favre every chance they get as they continually call him "Brett" like they're his best friend.

So if you live anywhere near the state of Wisconsin, stay away. Stay FAR away. Anyone daring to enter does so at their own peril, as Scony's statewide will be operating heavy machinery and driving motor vehicles at a time when they should be doing neither. God help you if you live in Wisconsin. Trying to get out of there will be like a scene from Escape from New York.

This man was just trying to escape the reality of Life Without Brett, and really who could blame him? While the last 17 Years of Brett has been bliss for the green and gold, let us not forget in between the glory days of the Packers that ended with a Super Bowl in Vince Lombardi's last game in 1967 and Favre's first in 1992 were dark days, and they are upon Packer fans again.

So just lock up your family, hide in the basement, and secure your rations of Old Mil, brats, and Wisconsin cheese. Everything will be ok...well at least until Packer fans realize that THIS man is your new starting quarterback:

We as Vikings fans say good luck with that.