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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cubs Swept

And that, my friends, is why the Cubs are the Cubs. 

Best record in the NL and swept right out of the playoffs... At least put up a fight Cubs. That. Was. Pathetic.

Make it 101 years...

NFL Picks

10-8-2 on the season. Had a couple of good weeks, let's keep it rolling. On to the picks!

San Diego -7 over Miami (L)
I don't care what Ronnie Brown did a couple weeks ago. The Chargers are a hungry team in need of wins. 

Carolina -10 over Kansas City (W)
I also don't care what Kansas City did against the Broncos last week. This is a whole other level of defense, and it's on the road. 

Buffalo +1.5 over Arizona (L)
This Arizona team has a bad secondary and is missing their best player. Buffalo is too physical for them. 

Tampa Bay +3.5 over Denver (W)
I went back and forth on this pick, admittedly. But Denver hasn't played a real defense yet, and the Bucs are pretty solid. That said, this is my least confidant pick of the week. 

New York Giants -7.5 over Seattle (W)
I don't buy Seattle, not for one bit. They are a bad football, and they won't fool me. I called Shaun Alexander's demise three years ago, and i called the Seahawks demise two years ago. They only made the playoffs because their division is the worst in football.

Friday, October 3, 2008


You must be kidding me. 

Granted that was a Home Run, but the play before that at 2nd base the runner WAS OUT. It wasn't even close. He was out by a mile. Good job by the refs to FUCK IT UP.

I fucking hate the Bosox. Especially when they keep getting the benefit of the doubt from the umps over, and over, and over, and over, and over, AND OVER, AND OVER A-FUCKING-GAIN. FUCK! 

They're the 'luckiest' team in fucking baseball, and it's a fucking disgrace. FUCK.

College Football Picks

13-13-1 on the season. Need a good week this week to get a jump. To the picks!

Alabama -16 over Kentucky (L)
It looks like it could be a trap game, admittedly, but Bama has next week off and i think Saban will be pushing them hard to finish.

Ohio St. -2 over Wisconsin (W)
Ohio St. struggles against spread offenses. Wisconsin is not a spread offense. Ohio St. dominates the Big Ten.

USC -16.5 over Oregon (W)
Oregon has once again lost it's starting QB. Oh, and USC is coming off a bye. And a loss. And they're at home.

Penn St. -14 over Purdue (Push)
Penn St. is this year's 'ride them till they collapse' team. Did you know they're averaging 50 points a game? And they haven't given up more than 24 in any game?

Kansas -12 over Iowa St. (L)
I don't have nearly enough time to go into detail about ISU's struggles against Kansas lately, but let's just say KU owns ISU. And that was before Kansas was good...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Brief Brush With Cubs Fandom

As anyone who knows me or reads this blog regularly knows, i grew up in iowa. Northwest iowa to be specific. Growing up there, you had three choices of baseball teams to root for: The Royals, the Twins, or the Cubs. 

Back when i was young and growing up, the Royals were actually good and had George Brett, who was a great player. In fact, my first professional baseball game was at Kaufman Stadium to see the Royals. 

The Twins were also good back then, winning the World Series in 1987 and 1991, when i was 6 and 10 respectively. In fact, my first memory of any World Series was listening to Jack Morris pitch Game 7 of the '91 series for a 1-0 win over the Braves. 

Then there were the Cubs. As usual for most of the last 50 years, the Cubs were terrible. Though they had some great players, with Mark Grace, Shawn Dunston, and Ryne Sandberg. To be honest, i don't really have any memories about the Cubs as a kid except for a poster of Sandberg my friend had in his room. 

When you're young, allegiances to teams are formed mostly arbitrarily, born out of things like 'this is my favorite player!' and 'this is the first team i saw live!'. It can also be passed down from family, from a mother or a father or an older brother. 

So which team was i a fan of growing up? None of them. In fact, to be honest, i didn't really like baseball all that much growing up. I thought the game was boring. I never played Little League. Hell, i never played tee-ball. I played hot-box occasionally with my friends, but that was the extent of my baseball interest as a kid. I was more interested in watching and playing soccer and football and basketball. 

Fast forward 15 years, to when i'm in college. By this point my interest in baseball had increased only to the point that i would watch the World Series every year. I remember Game 7 of the Indians-Marlins in '97, The Blue Jays repeating in '93, The great Braves winning their one Series in '95, and of course watching the Yankees dynasty in the late '90s. 

It came to a head in 2001. I was amazed by what the Yankees had been able to do the previous 6 years, and with them in the World Series again shortly after 9/11, i was captivated. Of course, i also happened to be in Phoenix for my brother's wedding at the same time, who was a huge Diamondbacks fan. We watched Game 1 during his rehearsal, Game 2 during his wedding reception. That Series turned out to be one of the best Series ever played, and to be honest transformed me into a baseball fan for the first time. 

Then came the 2003 season. In July of that year, halfway through the baseball season, i moved into a house with 10 other people (Yes, you read that correctly). A majority of those people were from the greater Chicagoland area; As such they were all huge Cubs fan. Cubs games became appointment viewing, playing every night on every tv in the house. Because i watched them every day, and because everyone around were big fans, and because they were actually good that season, i got swept up in Cubs fever

I became a fan of the Cubs. I even went to a couple games that summer in Wrigley. I can't say i completely immersed myself in them like some of my housemates, but i definitely cheered for them and followed them closely. When the playoffs rolled around and the Cubs were rolling, it was an exciting time. 

We all know what happened from there. In ways that can only happen to the Cubs, they collapsed and did not make the World Series. The rest of the house was heartbroken but not surprised. They seemed to sense something like that might happen. I was more dumbfounded than anything. How could that happen?

The following year i moved to Kansas City as baseball season was getting in swing. Royals games were cheap, therefore i went to quite a few that first summer. I started following the Royals. not because they were good (they were terrible), but because they were the local team. As i said, i was a baseball fan but never a fan of any certain team. I followed whatever team i had the most access to. 

Two years after that i moved to Phoenix. I moved in with my brother, who was still a huge Diamondbacks fan. As a result i became a Diamondbacks fan. Only this time was different. I became a fan not of the local team, as i had with the Cubs and Royals, but i became a fan of the Diamondbacks. I started following the team, looking at statistics, paying attention to the farm system. Things i had never done with any other team. The Diamondbacks became my team. And they were terrible that year. 

Since then they've remained my team, and to be honest will always be my team wherever i go from here. I've had season tickets each of the last two years, and was at each of their playoff Series' last year. 

All that said, the Cubs still have a special little piece of my heart due to that 2003 season. I keep my eye on them, to see how they are doing, and to be able to talk to all my friends from back home who are big Cubs fans. I will always root for the Dbacks first, but i pull for the Cubs. 

This long rant was to focus on one thing, as i sit here and watch Game 2 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Dodgers: The Cubs fans suffer. A lot. That is one tortured fanbase. Game 1 starter Ryan Dempster gives up more walks in 4 1/3 innings than he has in any start this season. In the 2nd inning of Game 2 the Cubs commit 2 errors and the Dodgers score 5 runs. This is a cursed franchise indeed. 

I feel bad for the Cubs and their fans. It's been 100 years since their last World Series win, and it's looking like it's going to be at least one more. The Cubs and their fans deserve more than this. No other fanbase is as loyal to their team as the Cub fans, and no other franchise has waited as long as they have for a World Championship. Things happen to this franchise that happen to no other franchise in baseball, from curses to bad luck to collapses. 

As this game goes on, i keep getting texts from my die-hard Cubs fans friends, and they all have varying ways to same the same thing: Of course this is happening. This is the Cubs. Why would i think anything else would happen?

I used to laugh at the futility of the Red Sox until they broke through; I can't do the same to the Cubs. It's too painful. The Lovable Losers are becoming less parts lovable and more parts loser by the year. And it is a sad sight to behold indeed...

The 2009 Diamondbacks Season

A few days back i wrote a (lengthy) piece on the 2008 Diamondbacks season, with a promise to write a follow-up post about where the Dbacks go from there. This is that post.

That 2008 column ended with a line about the Dbacks facing a mountain of questions going into the 2008 off-season and into 2009. While an admittedly cheesy wrap-up to the post, it was nonetheless true. The Dbacks have a ton of questions they need to answer, and i'm not sure where they (or i) will even begin.

Let's start with a big one: The Big Unit. Randy Johnson is sitting on 295 wins, just five short of they mythical 300. There's no denying it would be a great accomplishment for him, and based on the way he pitched the second half of this season he will get it next year. But will he be in a Diamondbacks uniform? Hard to say.

The Dbacks aren't going to pay Johnson a lot of money. They still owe him something like $41M for his last contract with the Dbacks (no, not this one. The one from before. You know, back from when he won the World Series here?). It's hard to tell what Randy will do; He's always been a bit of a selfish player, but i wonder if he recognizes he should stay here and win 300 with the team he's going into the Hall of Fame with. If he does re-sign here, look for it to be around only $4M, even though he could command upwards of double that in the open market.

Staying in the starting rotation, you have Webb and Haren as the unquestioned leaders. Behind that? Murky. Doug Davis is a crap-shoot as to whether he will be back or not. Max Scherzer will be your number 4, probably regardless of who is here and who isn't. A rotation of Webb, Haren, Johnson, Davis and Scherzer isn't bad. Webb, Haren, Scherzer, Petit, and a started to be named later not as much.

The bullpen is even worse. Depending on who you listen to, the Dbacks need to either get rid of everyone or everyone had an off year and will be better next year. Realistically it's somewhere in the middle. I don't know how you bring Jon Rauch back after his trainwreck of a season here. Chad Qualls is the 2009 closer, mark it down now. He will be fine in that role. Move Lyon back into the 8th inning, i think he will be fine there as well. Either Tony Pena or Juan Cruz are likely gone; Make the other the 7th inning guy.

Billy Buckner and Leo Rosales will be the long-relief guys. What the Dbacks are in desperate need of, and what they have been in desperate need of for years, is a left handed reliever. Sorry Doug Slaten, you are not the answer. Will Ledezma, a late season pickup, could be it. He pitched fairly well in admittedly limited action.

Looking out into the outfield, there is a logjam. Chris Young is the starting Center Fielder. His bat suffered this season, but his defense is gold-glove-worthy. Justin Upton is the Right Fielder. His defense is suspect, but he's only 21. And his bat became electric the last month of this season. In left-field you have some issues.

After the way CoJack adjusted to the switch and how he started to hit once out there, you are basically forced to leave him in left. Problem is you're paying Eric Byrnes $10M a year to be the left fielder. And i know not many people remember this, but when healthy Byrnes isn't a bad player. He hit .276 in his two full season with the Dbacks, 2006-2007, and has some pop in his bat. Not to mention he's the best base-stealer on the roster, something the Diamondbacks sorely missed this year. From the things Bob Melvin and Derrick Hall have been saying, it sounds like Byrnes will go into 2009 as the 4th outfielder. Hard to put $10M on the bench, but in this case it looks like the best option. He'll get plenty of chances to play.

On the infield you have a total disaster. Shortstop is the only position locked up with Stephen Drew. Drew really came around the last month and is poised to have a seriously good breakout season in 2009. The rest of the infield is completely up in the air. Mark Reynolds will be there, though there's no telling where. Third clearly isn't the best place to put him (though he played pretty well there in 2007). There are a lot of rumors about him moving to second, which is where he played in the minors, to replace Orlando Hudson, who will be gone. Just in the last week there has been some talk of putting Reynolds at first as well.

Where Reynolds plays will depend largely on what the Dbacks do in the offseason. If they can get a good third baseman, Reynolds moves to the right side of the infield. If the Dbacks get a stud second baseman, Reynolds may stay at third. The Dbacks do have some options already here. Augie Ojeda and David Eckstein wouldn't be a bad combo at second for the year. Both are good with the glove and good enough from the plate. If the Dbacks go that route, i could see them going after a third baseman in free agency or through trade, and putting Reynolds at first.

Either way, there are a lot of choices and decisions to be made. The Dbacks could also bring Jamie D'Antona up; He can play either corner infield spot. And, of course, all of this is assuming Adam Dunn is gone as well. There has been talk of the Dbacks trying to re-sign him, but i don't think it will happen. Dunn strikes out too much in a lineup filled with people who strike out too much, and is a defensive liability pretty much everywhere on the field.

The last position is catcher. Unlike every other position on the Dbacks, catcher is locked up. Chris Snyder is the starting catcher, he can play almost every day, and he brings a decent bat to the order. Behind him could be interesting. Miguel Montero has been rumored to be working out at third base in the offseason. If that's the case, Robby Hammock would likely be the back-up catcher.

No matter how you shake it, the Diamondbacks will be a very different looking team in the 2009 season. It would not surprise me to see 8-9 players from this season's team gone next season. And while that is a lot of change, it is not necessarily a bad thing. As we saw down the stretch this season, something needs to be done. Let's just hope the Dbacks can pull the right strings...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You Have Failed At Life

We have another NFL firing today, the second in two days following Scott Linehan's departure from the St. Louis Rams. This one surprises no one, except for maybe how long it took for the actual firing. Lane Kiffin was fired from the Oakland Raiders today. Finally.

Now i actually don't think Kiffin is a bad coach. He didn't have much to work with last year, and while the team hasn't had much success this year yet either, they're been playing fairly well for him. And, you know, it doesn't exactly build continuity or goodwill when you fire a Head Coach after just 20 games...

The Raiders are turning into a complete joke of a franchise, and as one local sports radio host puts it, "The Raiders will never win anything again until Al Davis is dead". Well alrighty then.

Scary pic huh?

Oh, and just for good measure, Davis is claiming he will not be honoring the remainder of Kiffin's contract.

Al Davis: You Have Failed At Life

The 2008 Diamondbacks Season

Now that the season has come to a whimpering end for the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks, it's time to take a look back at the season that was. This will be part 1, with part 2 coming later this week in which i take a look at the Dbacks going forward.

First things first: No matter how you slice it, this season was a disappointment. Coming off a year when the Dbacks made the 2007 NLCS, this team was expected to compete for the NL West crown and return to the postseason. Contend for the crown they did, firmly planted in first place in the NL West for 136 games of a 162 game season. Unfortunately those other 26 games just happened to be at the most critical time of the season: The end.

Other than a fast start in April, the Dbacks played sub-.500 baseball all season long, though managed to finish 82-80. It just so happened they were in a historically bad division, which allowed them to remain in first place through most of the season. Which became a rallying cry for this team: "We're still in first place". No matter how bad they looked, no matter how many games they lost, no matter how many errors committed and games blown by the bullpen, the answer always became "Hey, at least we're still in first place".

Ultimately, i believe this is what led to the Diamondbacks demise. The Dbacks never took control of their situation. They never showed a will to win the games they needed. They never showed that killer instinct to step on teams throats when they could have. They were content to sit back and just scrape by.

The Dbacks, and admittedly Bob Melvin was behind this, showed an amazing knack this season for giving away games. This manifested itself in many ways, all of which were destructive. In a three-game series, if the Dbacks won the first two they would invariably trot out their b-team for game 3 as if it did not matter. 2007 was all about winning each series. While a good mantra, it just did not work for 2008. This season we needed more wins, more games. This Dbacks team could not afford to start 3 or 4 bench players at a time.

And don't get me started on giving away games by the bullpen. In 2007 this team had one of the best bullpens in the Majors, which is ultimately got them to playoffs and was the difference over the Cubs in the NLDS. With only one move, trading Jose Valverde to the Astros, the Dbacks thought they would be ok. Move Lyon from the 8th to the 9th, move Pena from the 7th to the 8th, and put Chad Qualls, who they received in the Valverde trade, in the 7.

Despite Lyon blowing two saves in the first 5 games, all seemed fine with the bullpen through April. That was, until it completely imploded, a disaster so complete that not only did every pitcher there go through stretches where they couldn't get an out, but you never knew who was going through the stretch and when. Each pitcher had times when they were completely awful, but it would come and go from week to week, game to game. How do you decide which relief pitchers to run out there when you never know which one is gonna suck, just that one of them definitely is going to?

Just so we don't place all the blame on the bullpen, we must also look at the offense. Arizona finished 27 out of 30 teams in Batting Average, with a paltry .251. They finished with the second highest number of strikeouts in the Majors. And for a team that played virtually no small-ball, you would think they would rely on the home run. Problem is, they finished 19 out of 30 in home runs hit this season.

With the exception of Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson when he was playing, and Stephen Drew in the last month, the rest of the team could be described only as struggling. If you look at our 'core' 13 starters (Snyder, Montero, CoJack, Dunn, O-Dog, Ojeda, Eckstein, Drew, Reynolds, Tracy, Byrnes, Young, and Upton), 8 finished with a .250 BA or below. Only 3 finished above .290. That's not getting done.

Honorable mention goes to Mark Reynolds, who admittedly i am a fan of and will defend to the death, to his season that is a complete and total statistical oddity. Taking away Adam Dun, who played only 44 games with the Dbacks, Reynolds managed to: Lead the team in HR's, lead the team in RBI's, lead the team in Walks, 2nd on the team in Runs Scored, 3rd on the team in Total Bases, 2nd on the team in Stolen Bases, and lead the team (and set a Major League record) in Strikeouts. Oh, and just for good measure, he lead the team (and the Major's) in Errors as well. His season is on par with one of the most bizarre, inexplicable seasons by a single person in MLB history.

And as long as we're talking about fielding, let's not forget that the Diamondbacks finished 26 of 30 in team fielding percentage, and 6th in most Errors committed.

So to review, the Diamondbacks finished in the bottom 10% in team batting, and the bottom 20% in team fielding. At least we have pitching, right? Right?

Well, actually, in this case they are right. The Diamondbacks did have pitching, despite their horrific bullpen. Did you know the Dbacks had more Quality Starts than any other team in baseball? And gave up the fifth-fewest home runs in all of baseball? It helps when you have Brandon Webb (22-7, most wins in the Majors) and Dan Haren (16-8, tied for 7th most wins in NL). Every other person that started a game for the Dbacks went a combined 27-39. The Bullpen went 17-26 in case anyone was wondering. Special mention here goes to Jon Rauch, who the Dbacks traded for to be their closer, and managed to go 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA.

There are many other items i could get into regarding the 2008 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. For instance the strange, almost complete refusal to attempt a running game (only 2 teams had less stolen bases than the Dbacks), and Bob Melvin's decision on pretty much everything. In 2007 Melvin was dubbed the Mad Scientist because seemingly every decision he made worked perfectly. 2008 was the exact opposite, as seemingly no decision he made worked out and was second-guessed by everyone. He may not be as good as the NL Manager of the year award he won last year, but he can't be as bad as he was in 2008 can he?

Regardless, everything that happened with the Dbacks resulted in one thing: An 82-80 record, and watching the playoffs from home. In the end, it wasn't enough, which amounted to a massive hill of disappointment for the Diamondbacks and their fans. Not to mention an even larger hill of questions going forward into 2009...

Monday, September 29, 2008

NFL Picks Review

Now that's what i call a good week, for the second week in a row. I was 1 point scored in the Denver-New Orleans game from being 4-1; instead i finished 3-1-1. Which puts my season record at 10-8-2. Two good weeks in a row have got me rolling, another one good put me in good shape...

CFB Picks Review

2-3 on the week, which puts me at an even 13-13-1 on the season. Not great, but not getting killed either. Need to get better starting soon though...