Take Note Gamblers

>> Thursday

It would now be time for my brilliant 2007 NFL predictions. Eschewing last year's long-winded previews that put readers to sleep two paragraphs in, I will give you predictions for all eight divisions and the playoffs following them.

AFC West:
San Diego 13-3
Denver 12-4
Kansas City 5-11
Oakland 4-12

AFC South:
Indianapolis 13-3
Jacksonville 8-8
Tennessee 5-11
Houston 5-11

AFC North:
Baltimore 13-3
Cincinnati 10-6
Pittsburgh 8-8
Cleveland 5-11

AFC East:
New England 13-3
Buffalo 7-9
New York Jets 7-9
Miami 4-12

NFC West:
St. Louis 10-6
San Francisco 10-6
Seattle 7-9
Arizona 7-9

NFC South:
Carolina 11-5
New Orleans 10-6
Tampa Bay 5-11
Atlanta 3-13

NFC North:
Chicago 12-4
Minnesota 8-8
Detroit 6-10
Green Bay 4-12

NFC East:
Dallas 11-5
Philadelphia 9-7
Washington 7-9
New York Giants 4-12

AFC Playoffs:

Wild Card Round
Indianapolis over Cincinnati
Baltimore over Denver

Divisional Round:
New England over Baltimore
San Diego over Indianapolis

New England over San Diego

NFC Playoffs:

Wild Card Round:
Dallas over San Francisco
New Orleans over St. Louis

Divisional Round:
Chicago over New Orleans
Dallas over Carolina

Chicago over Dallas

Super Bowl XXXXII:
New England over Chicago

NFL MVP: Carson Palmer, Cincinnati
Offensive Player of the Year: Palmer
Defensive Player of the Year: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Anthony Spencer, Dallas
Coach of the Year: Mike Nolan, San Francisco


I don't see the problem

>> Wednesday

Apparantly, there is some kind of fashion problem with Bethanie Mattek's U.S. Open outfit. Personally, I can see the plus side.


It all makes sense now

Ah, so this is what they were waiting for.

After the Brewers blew yet another lead (to the jerks from the Northside, nonetheless) Milwaukee had a plan to keep the shotguns out of Milwaukee sports fans' mouths.

That, and football season (at least the college version) officially begins tomorrow.


Proof that Nobody Should be Worried About Athletes Using PEDs

>> Tuesday

Why? Because steroids and HGH obviously don't work.

"Former No. 1 NFL draft pick Tim Couch had doping regimens that called for anabolic steroids and human growth hormone, according to documents obtained by Yahoo.com."


Commissioner Goddell on our fantasy league

Trying to get away from the whole Michael Vick saga, NFL commissioner Roger Goddell has decided to take a look at the fantasy league YCS staffers and friends of YCS participate in. Each team kept 6 players, with a 12 round draft last Saturday night. Here would be Mr. Goddell's breakdown of said draft and each team's rosters.

The Grifters (YCS staffer Zuch, fearless fantasy commissioner): Jesus, you actually kept Tatum Bell. Must not have not run that one by Broncos executives. Vincent Jackson taken in the second round. I don't think Jackson's parents are that high on him. Is this 2004 with Byron Leftwich actually getting drafted? It may be time to consult Dan Marino on how to handle a fantasy career without ever winning a title.

Bad Newz Kennelz (Friend of YCS Peter Sellis): I guess that taking Adrian Peterson counts as two running back spots, seeing as how the other two running backs you drafted will be inactive week one. You must have missed the memo that Tony Gonzalez would now be 75 years old and has a career back-up throwing to him. Speaking of old geezers, Isaac Bruce and Steve McNair. A hell of a fantasy combo at the turn of the century, but not quite so much in 2007.

The Replacements (YCS staffer Gavin): Eddie Kennison on a keeper league roster. If you desperately wanted a Chiefs receiver, you could have at least taken Dwayne Bowe. Pairing Kennison with Joe Horn, just ask Zuch how that combo worked for him last season. Backing those picks up by taking Amani Toomer, Eli Manning's third option. Once again, we're looking at the 2007 season, not trying to re-create the 2002 campaign. It only seems appropriate that you'd have Brett Favre quarterbacking this squadron.

Devolution (YCS Staffer Vinnie): Good lord, have you had time to digest the fact that you have to start 2 of Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman, Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper every week. I think Kellen Winslow has had more surgeries in his career than touchdowns. Your support of Chris Henry has just gotten him an extra year added to his suspension. If you losers can stop supporting these miscreants maybe I could shape this goddamn league up.

Counter-34 Pike (YCS Staffer Nate): Showing up to the draft drunk. Has Matt Millen's reign taught you anything? Jamal Lewis left his talent in the slammer. Maybe his example could teach these damn hellions that crime done not pay. Taking Cadillac Williams and Joey Galloway in the early rounds, you must not have watched any Buccaneers games last season. Enjoy that Jake Delhomme pick when he gets benched in week four. Also, good to see that you stayed in Chicago an extra night and took a spin in Lance Briggs's car.

Larry Horse (Friend of YCS Michael Blunda): Nice to see that you waited until round 3 to take an unquestioned starter. Terry Glenn and L.J. Smith should give your team a very formidable injured reserve. Ask Cleveland and Detroit fans how Jeff Garcia plays for shitty teams. The Mike Bell pick was so 2006. Still, this draft looks like less of an atrocity compared to the rest of the geniuses here.

PB Diddly Doodler (YCS staffer Paul): Congratulations on taking the first reach of the draft. I think this will be the only time that Bernard Berrian gets taken in the first round of a draft. Following that up by taking the back-up Falcons running back screams championship. Well that, and taking Lamont Jordan after his 2006 season. Also, mad props for drafting the first kicker three rounds before everyone else even thought of it.

The Tony Kornheisers (YCS staffer Matt): Plaxico Burress, I hope your team a strong training staff to get his fragile ass on the field. Alge Crumpler without Michael Vick, kind of like Ringo Starr without the Beatles. Ask David Carr how quarterbacking for Texans will work for Matt Schaub. Another team who mocks my disciplinarian ways by taking a scalawag like Jerry Porter. Your support of rogue ways will lead to more disappointment.

He Gone (Friend of YCS and chief bail bondsman Dan Cherwin): Deuce McAllister, Hines Ward, Ahman Green: You do realize the purpose of a keeper league would be trying to draft some young guys for the future. I don't think that David Martin's wife gave him two years to make a difference. And the point of drafting two defenses is what again? At least Tavaris Jackson is on the right side of 30, even if he sucks ass. Maybe that Ted Ginn character could be your team's elusive Fountain of Youth.

Golden Warriors (YCS staffer Danny): Yep, he's the one guy in the league who actually likes Brady Quinn and will make sure to own him the next ten years. Muhsin Muhammad and Joe Jurevicius will really solidify that receiving core. Maybe you can channel the spirit of Muhammad's 2004 season and fluke your way to a championship.


This Could Very Well Be What The Kids Call "It"

If you read this blog with any sort of regularity (or are quick-witted enough to look at the top sidebar on the left), you know that baseball allegiances among the staff are pretty much split between the Brewers and the Cubs.

Paul, Vince, Pat and Mike bleed the proverbial Cubbie Blue, whilst Nate and I live and die (and, let's be honest, we're pretty much doing more dying right now than livin') with the Brew Crew. Additionally, Zuch backs the White Sox, so for the stretch run this year, he's one of ours.

As such, tonight, tomorrow and Thursday could very well tear this blog apart. In what has come down to an ugly-though-still-entertaining finish in the NL Central, the Brewers and the Cubs will square off for a three game set at Wrigley that will in all likelihood tell us a lot about the race over the next month. It's no understatement that the series is much, much more important for the Brewers - if they lose 2 of 3 or get swept, you can pretty much write them out of the division race. For the Cubs, losing would be a blow, but with a game and a half lead, they wouldn't be out of it just yet.

As if the series itself weren't big enough already, the three game set gets an extra boost with the return of two of the teams' most important players. The Cubs will get Alfonso Soriano back in the lineup tonight as he returns from a month-long layoff due to a leg injury. The Brewers got good news of their own recently when it was announced over the weekend that Ben Sheets would likely make a start either tomorrow or Thursday against the Cubs. Due to the recent woes from the starting pitching (Tuesday's starter Jeff Suppan has been horrible of late, Yovani Gallardo is clearly running out of gas, Claudio Vargas may be headed to the DL, Chris Capuano has been bafflingly bad after winning his first 5 starts), the Brewers desperately need a strong Sheets for any hope of a playoff berth.

More important for me (and therefore you) is the fact that win or lose, this three game series represents the first time in a long time that the Brewers have played a slate of games so meaningful this late in a season. Sure, in '05 they were fighting for a winning record, but that isn't the same. They weren't a headline on ESPN or a featured story on SportsCenter in 2005. This means more. It's an entirely different feel now, they've got a legit ROY candidate with Braun and an MVP hopeful in Prince Fielder, and for the first time in a long time, there's legitimate reason to believe that they will, in fact, come back better next year.

How fitting it is also that as the Brewers develop into a contender that they've finally also found themselves a meaningful rival. Sure, it'll never top Cubs-Cardinals for history's sake, but Brewers-Cubs ain't nothin' to sneeze at. There's some legitimate bad blood between the fan bases and an interesting dichotomy between big market and small market that casual fans can appreciate. It'll never be Yankees-Sox, but for now I'll take it.

Whether this is the last hurrah of the '07 Brewers or the beginning of a miracle stretch run, I guess my point is this: this year has proven to me that pennant-chase baseball is better that I could have imagined (despite the ups and downs) and that even though it's just three games at the end of August, this series is huge.

My homeriffic predictions:
Brewers win 2 of 3 behind Suppan and Sheets, with Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder having huge series to back the starters.

Your own predictions welcome in the comments.

Also - no matter what happens, let's just hope that one of these two teams goes on to win the division. If the Cards sneak past both teams...well, that would be lame and I, for some reason I can't really put my finger on, would feel a little cheated.


One man's reaction to Vick's apology

>> Monday

Based on initial reactions, it seems like I'm the only one who's calling "bullshit" on Vick's painfully scripted apology.

Watch and judge for yourself, but the fact that he keeps stumbling and correcting his speech screams of a coached apology. Of course, to expect anything else would be ignorant. But there are a lot of ignorant people out there who apparently think Vick was honestly "speaking from the heart" as he stated.

So of course his apology was thought out and scripted in detail. This is not my complaint. My complaint is that the initial media response has been that Vick "took responsibility for his actions." And on that, I'm calling bullshit.

Vick had an opportunity to buy my forgiveness when he directly addressed the kids that look up to him as a role model. Vick said, "What I did was...immature." Immature? Try WRONG; disgusting, inhumane and twisted, to be more specific. As someone who spends every weekend with the exact type of kids that look up to Vick, they needed to hear him say that what he did was wrong, not "immature," which means nothing. Vick later said that dog fighting is "terrible," (a statement that was obviously a "you have to say this" statement) but once again he missed his opportunity to really take responsibility for wrongdoing.

One phrase that was used repeatedly was "bad judgement," which was the closest Vick came to accepting responsibility. But using that phrase, instead of using the dangerous word "wrong," proved only that Vick was sorry he got caught. Nowhere in the speech did I see a man who was sorry, or even a man that believes what he did was wrong.

To top it off, he appealed to religion ("Through all of this I found Jesus and asked him to forgive me"). Yeah, Jesus forgives him! So why are they still trying to put him in jail? Excuse me while I puke. For me, that was the proverbial icing on the cake.

There is a lot more to this case, and this is certainly not a complete summary of my opinions. But as far as the apology goes, I'm just stunned that no one is pointing out all the things that were horribly wrong with it. So I figured, what the hell, I'll do it.


What an unfair double-standard

>> Sunday

Check out this headline:

American Gay grabs gold in 100 meters at worlds

Now come on... You know they'd never say, "American heterosexual grabs gold in 100 meters." What does a sprinter's sexual orientation have to do with his athletic achievements? How will we ever overcome discrimination if we can't... unless... oh, wait... it is. Gay's his last name.


MLB Has Cake, Oddly Unable to Eat it too

>> Saturday

Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees in particular are in a bit of hot water over some official caps that feature the Yankees logo with either a crown above the logo, or stitched in red/blue bandana patterns. These caps are being criticized as feeding into gang colors and symbolism for profit.

Major League Baseball issued a statement saying, "Major League Baseball was not previously aware of the symbolism of the cap design and, of course, is very concerned about the issue."

Come on.

Admittedly I'm a white (borderline translucent) guy from the suburbs, so I don't really have much firsthand experience with gangs and street violence and all the social problems associated with that. But if even this white-bread kid from the 'burbs knew that red bandanas were for Bloods and blue bandanas were for Crips, and that black-and-gold was a Latin Kings color scheme, then wouldn't you think at least ONE person in MLB's marketing department would have figured that out, or at least HEARD of the similarities?

Add to that the fact that MLB seems to be making and marketing "fashion cap" merchandise almost specifically to see what can land in the next rap video on MTV. Frankly, for Major League Baseball to say that they had no idea what those images meant in terms of gang symbolism is either bold-faced and insulting or catastrophically stupid. They really do look like they're trying to exploit the market for rival factions, thugged-out rap, and gang symbolism on one hand, then plead ignorance by saying they were unaware of the connotations.


Yes, I actually looked this up

>> Friday

And yes, I actually watched The Bronx is Burning. What can I say? The Ramones soundtrack sucked me in. Ok, so I didn't actually watch the show so much as caught few-minute blips during commercials of tonight's Seinfeld rerun. (It was the one where Kramer sets up George with the bald woman after George starts wearing a toupee, and Jerry fails the polygraph test and admits to watching Melrose Place.)

But I did pick up this much from the episode. Billy Martin started a big hubub by deciding to bench Reggie Jackson for the deciding Game 5 of the '77 ALCS in favor of Paul Blair. As the episode portrayed it, Martin chose to bench Reggie because he'd been producing poorly in the series (1 for 14) and, according to some player's sketchy anecdotal recollection, Jackson had never hit Royals starter Paul Splittorff.

After some quick research (I know; I'm that hypothetical fact-checking nerd that Conan O'Brien always immitates), I suspect that Billy Martin was just a stubborn dope.

Up to that point in his career, Jackson was 19-72 (.251) with 2 dingers against Splittorff. Not great, but not terrible. Blair was actually quite awesome against this Splittorff fellow up that point--16-36 (.441) with one dinger lifetime, but still, he was at the tail end of an ok career whereas Reggie was in the prime of a pretty kickass one. And of course, the 1-14 rationale wasn't just bogus at the time, but even more comical after the fact when he went 10 for his next 22, including those famous 5 World Series longballs.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that was my last and only time watching the show. 'Twas lame, and I have CDs and records for listening to the Ramones.
(Wow, it just dawned on me how utterly useless and unnecessary this post was. Shit.)


The Worst Offender in Cold-Pizza-Journalism

>> Thursday

"Cold Pizza Journalism" has spawned some pretty lame storylines, which usually focus more on the athlete's conduct off the field (What movie they're in, who they're dating, what their legal troubles are), but it sometimes also extends into the players' families.

Sometimes this is can be appropriate, like in the Michael Vick case, where his alleged conduct could affect the futures of the Atlanta Falcons for this season, and perhaps seasons to come. It's also somewhat relevant if a player leaves the team to be with a sick or dying relative, leaving them out of the lineup.


Just reading the lead-in made me question the very premise of the story. Eagles Coach Andy Reid's son got stopped for DUI.


Not only will this pretty much not have an impact in any way to anything transpiring on the field, but Reid's son at the time was awaiting sentencing in a road rage case, so perhaps no one should be surprised.


An Instant Classic and a SuperClasico

Yes, I know the Packers are playing the Jaguars tonight. Fine. That's OK.

But if you're looking for something to paruse around during the commercials, tonight might be the night to get into soccer. I know I've been preaching to the back of the church....or rather...the people who don't go to church at all about the wonders of the beautiful game, but tonight your other sports options are pretty slim. WNBA Playoffs and Little League World Series. But soccer on TV holds at least one spectacular game, possibly two.

At 7PM on ESPN Classic (Curse my basic cable package!) the Red Bull New York- LA Galaxy 5-4 thriller game from last Saturday is being replayed as an instant classic.

At 9PM on ESPN2, the focus shifts back to live games as the LA Galaxy are on the ropes, struggling for their playoff lives against their in-stadium rivals Chivas USA in the Los Angeles Derby, or as the suits would call it, "The Honda SuperClasico." The game is usually a barnburner as the local rivals square off, and it seems to almost always end in a flurry of a finish in the last 20 minutes. If anything, watch it to see if David Beckham collapses from jet lag on the field. The man was in New York Sunday, then flew to London for England's loss to Germany at Wembley, on Wednesday, then flew back to LA (Only 8 time zones) to play in the LA Derby.

I'm hoping to catch at least some of it in between reading for Crim and Contracts. Boo law school.


Kige Ramsey for Deadspin HOF

Seriously people, how can you vote against the epitome of the internets. I mean, even though sound does not work on my old ass computer, Kige has provided me numerous minutes of great entertainment as I try to absorb his fascinating opinions. Graceland has not had much to celebrate since the death of Elvis, but Kige might as well be the Elvis reincarnate. A vote against Kige would be a vote against America. If you don't have it in your heart to vote for this simple YouTube Sports reporter, you're dead to me.


He wears his sunglasses at night/ So he can So he can/ Look cool in the dugout and stuff la la la something etc.

>> Tuesday

As the general populace of baseball fandom has grown more familiar with the idea of Pythagorean Win-Loss% (or more generally, the idea of run differential as a predictor of wins), more attention has been given to teams like this year's St. Louis Cardinals who have compiled an actual win-loss record that betters their expected win-loss. And whenever this topic surfaces, so does the manager's name--almost without fail.

In the case of a team like the '07 Cardinals, where the manager is someone as high-profile as Tony LaRussa, he's not only mentioned but given the bulk of the credit. (The latest sportswriting-guy to go with this angle: Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune.)

I understand the temptation here: The on-field numbers don't compute, so something intangible must be at work. Someone must be "managing" the runs in a way that stretches their value into a greater number of wins.

And I think there could be some truth to this line of thinking. Say a team consistently loses 4-0 or 6-1 type games but pulls out a lot of 3-2 and 2-1 wins, one could argue that the manager is doing a good job of holding small leads with wise defensive maneuvers or "manufacturing" key runs late in tie ballgames when "agressive" strategies (i.e. sac bunts, moving runners) can prove advantageous.

But that doesn't seem to be the case with the Cardinals this year. (Pay no mind to the fact that the Cardinals, who stand at 59-62, are just 2.4 games over their third-order expected win-loss and just five games over their straight-up Pythagorean win-loss.) While I understand that the general premise behind ExWL is that good teams = more runs = more wins and that individual games shouldn't really be picked apart, I think the real story with the Cardinals is a team that's suffered a lot of blowouts.

Let me show ya sometin'!!

April 4, 10-0 loss to the Mets
May 1, 12-2 loss at the Brewers
May 5, 13-0 loss to the Astros
May 18, 14-4 loss at the Tigers
June 15, 14-3 loss at the A's
July 13, 13-3 loss at the Phillies
July 27, 12-2 loss to the Brewers
Aug 1, 15-1 loss at the Pirates

That's a total score of 103-15, or a run differential of 88 in just eight games.

They have had wins of 12-2, 11-1, 15-6, and 10-1, which alone get back 38 of those runs, showing that it hasn't all been extra-inning wins and blowout losses for the Cardinals. But still, we're looking at a sizable 50-run differential in their twelve most blowout-y games, which leaves the Cards one game over .500 with a 14-run differential in their other 109 games.

Ok, so maybe Darrin Jackson wouldn't manage them to that mark--in large part because he'd probably be starting So Taguchi, Jose Oquendo, and Tom Pagnozzi right now--but it doesn't exactly prove that Tony LaRussa is a sorcerer who can will the trajectory of baseballs.

While I understand that all teams suffer and/or score blowouts that can skew their run differential, it doesn't help the hypothesis that the Cardinals are just 10-15 in one-run games. They are, however, 6-3 in extra-inning games--a fact that should garner LaRussa some credit, albeit some very caveat-loaded credit.

Is Tony LaRussa a good manager? In the debatably insignificant realm of baseball managing, he may be. (I won't answer that question because I hate him for his role in the popularization of current trends in bullpen categorization, and I am therefore biased.) At the same time, I think it's really lazy for analysts to attribute this sort of statistical oddity to something as subjective as "good managing" unless they've really scrutinized that manager's technique throughout the season. Even then, they really can't know.


Hawk Harrelson just used this phrase twice this inning, both times making absolutely no sense

The phrase?

"That's why they call it baseball."

The first time it was, "There's exceptions to every rule. That's why they call it baseball."

The second time it was, "Every [trend] goes through cycles. That's why they call it baseball."

Last time I checked, the game is called "baseball" because it's played with both "bases" and "balls." Drop the pluralizations, and you get "baseball." You're much too folksy for your own good, Hawk.

FYI: As I write this, the Royals' Joey Gathright just perfectly illustrated what Matt, Nate, and I always say about the "balls out" approach to baseball. Going for a foul pop in shallow left, he nearly killed himself (or at least seriously injured himself) by running full speed and tumbling into the front row of seats. And yes, Aaron Rowand's name has been heavily dropped by Hawk and DJ in the aftermath of the play.


YCS Fantasy Football Guide 2007 - K's

About a week ago, I provided my expert opinions on what RB's you should choose in your fantasy draft. Now, I'm helping you out with the ultra-important choice of kickers. Remember, a lot of fantasy football games are decided by only a few points (and many more are decided by more outrageous disparities), so having a good kicker can make or break yours season.

As I mentioned in my last Fantasy Football Guide, I'm actually not a football expert at all. In fact, I follow NFL football almost exclusively during the fantasy football season (which means weeks 16 and 17 are irrelevant to me).

Yet, I feel more than adequately informed to provide you with my oustanding advice that is based on unfounded favoritism, unabashed subjectivity, and tidbits I picked up at the draft I attended last weekend.

Now, picking kickers is a little easier than choosing RB's; there's not much difference between a top tier kicker and a shanker... except Robbie God, I mean Gould, who is easily the most precious, adorbable kicker of all time.

Must-Have Kickers
Obviously, Robbie Gould falls into this class. He's amazing. You can throw Adam Vinatieri in here as he is "The Greatest Clutch Kicker of All-Time Plus He Played for an East-Coast Team When He Garnered This Title". I really believe these kickers are worth going out of your way to grab in the seventh or eight round of your draft when other guys are picking third-string running backs. Fantasy football isn't only about scoring the most points, but it's also about fielding the best guys at each position. I'm not sure how it works out, but it does.

Good Kickers on Good Teams
Football teams need to score points to win games, and good teams find ways to score (talk about insight!). You can't go wrong with a kicker who falls in this category. Of course, I'm not going to tell you who they are as I'm unqualified to do so.

Kickers Who Score a Ton of Points Because No One Else on Their Teams Do
Here's a good category. Often, these kickers can be more rewarding than good kickers on good teams because their teams have no other way of putting points on the board. This year, in horrible Berman-ism style, I'll pick Matt "Pot-Belly" Stover (Baltimore), Jason "Electric" Elam (Denver), Jeff Reed "Between the Lines" (Pittsburgh), and Ryan "Fourth and" Longwell (Minnesota).

Kickers to Avoid Because Their Teams Can't Even Find the End Zone
Here's another good rule. Don't choose a kicker on a team that never scores. And this year, I predict New Orleans' offense will bomb. Thus, you should avoid Olindo Mare.

Very Easily Confused Because They All Have Generic First Names that Start with "J" and Relatively Generic Last Names
I don't know about you, but I have a hell of a time keeping Jason Hanson, Josh Brown, Jeff Reed, and Jeff Wilkins straight. Throw in Josh Scobee, Jason Elam, John Kasay, Jay Feely, Justin Medlock, and Sebastian Janiksowski, and you could end up bewildered on draft day. I suggest avoiding all of them, and don't ever draft more than one of them. If you're strapped for time, you could end up starting Jason Hanson instead of Justin Medlock... Just imagine how devastating that could be for your team.

Hope that helps. And remember, if you win your league based on my advice, you can give me a cut. Please, I'm serious. I have more gambling debts than Bill Simmons.


Tip of the hat, wag of the finger

Tip of the hat to Joe Torre. Wag of the finger to every other manager in baseball!

Bottom of the ninth, tie game.

Most managers' approach to this situation: "There's no way I can use my closer here. What if it takes my team a couple innings to score and I need to close the game out in the bottom of the 11th? Then I'm completely fucked because I don't have my closer. That's what closers are for! To close games! Why would any sane person use them in any other situation?!"

Joe Torre (who, remember, was threatened with losing his job earlier this season): Duh, the Angels' best hitters are up in the bottom of the ninth, so I should use my best pitcher to make sure I get to the next inning, with A-Rod leading off, and give myself the best chance to win. Seriously, is this that hard to understand?


Thoughts on the Bears/Colts First Half

>> Monday

Bullet-point style, motherfuckers.

  • Whether or not you can read anything into Grossman's somewhat lousy start, I don't know, but Zuch is right -- the Chicago media will eat this shit up tomorrow in the papers and on the radio.
  • That said, it's a relief to see Rex in midseason form already, apparently picking up right where he left off in the Super Bowl (hah!).
  • Why, yes, I'm aware that the Packers may not be great this year. Your point? While my primary rooting interest is the green and gold, you'll be pleased to know that I also root passionately for the misfortune of my friends.
  • Ruben Brown sucks.
  • Aren't the Colts supposed to have a shitty run defense? What, they add some white guy in place of Bob Sanders at safety and suddenly they think they're all that?
  • Nothing is as funny or timely as using the phrase "all that."
  • If you see one movie this year, make it Gattaca!
  • Ron Jaworski: "Grossman dropped that one because he didn't ride Olin Kruetz enough on that play." Gaaaay.
  • The difference between Jaws and Theismann? When Jaws said "Bill Polian let me wear his ring for a while," Kornheiser responded with, "What, are you two going steady?" Whereas Jaws laughed at the line, Theismann would have sulked and probably tried to stab Kornheiser during the next break.
  • Wanna get totally, and I mean absolutely bombed during a Monday Night game? Take a sip of beer every time Jaworski says "The National Football League." You'll need roughly 4 cases per half to make it through the game.
  • Grossman just fumbled again. Jeezum crowe.
  • Hahahaha, he did it again! Jaws just said (empasis his) you have to ride that center. Twice. Good lord.
  • I don't know which is funnier: that the Bears' QB coach's name is "Pep Hamilton" or that Pep Hamilton is a young black guy and not some crusty old white guy that used to mentor Bear Bryant. Pep Hamilton being black is like Joba Chamberlain being white. Baffling.
  • Hahaha, Jaws gets gayer - after Grossman's sneak TD: "Olin Kruetz created a liiiiittle seam for Rex to wedge his way in."
  • As Tirico talks about Bears fans calling for Griese, Griese responds by gunning one 15 yards past Olsen into the end zone. Poetic.
  • Nice toss to Bernard "Boysen" Berrian for the touch. You'll recognize Berrian when Zuch drafts him in the second round next week, right around when Danny picks the Bears defense and Brady Quinn (i.e., round 2).
  • Immediately after Griese's td, I get a text from Zuch: "God damn dont give the Chicago morons any ideas." We should make these things into their own post category (see the previous 2 NBA drafts).
  • I'm really proud of Bernard "Boysen" Berrian.
  • Sorgi!
  • Description of the ideal third receiver in Tony Dungy's playbook: "Must be white enough to have played for the 80's Celtics."
  • If I were a tall, skinny and completely generic-looking white guy in the Indianapolis area, I would rock the hell out of telling women that I was Jim Sorgi while in bars. Who's gonna know I'm lying? Nobody, that's who. Then, sit back and watch the 2nd string QB ass come rollin' in. If the plan worked, you'd have a life that might actually be better than Jim Sorgi's.
  • Is there a team in the NFL that would be more fucked than the Colts if Manning got hurt? Seriously, Jim Sorgi was lousy at Wisconsin, where the measuring stick of a QB is how well they hand off and get the fuck out of the way of whatever fat guy is playing running back that year. The Pats? At least they have a guy that could, in theory, have been good in college, and you know he's fresh, cuz he never played at USC and he hasn't played in the NFL. How has an NFL team not picked up on this? If I'm a dirty player (and believe me, I would be), I'm gunning for Manning's knees like they're a juicy Christmas ham. Although, you have to be careful because it's completely possible the Roger Goodell would literally murder whomever takes out the Gump.
  • What are the odds that by midseason Greg Olsen is actually longing for the days of catching passes from Ken Dorsey or (insert recent Miami QB that I don't know here)?
  • Despite that miss, I'm convinced that 14 Karat is still Solid Gould, baby.
  • Ahhh, and there we have it, the epitome of preseason football - 'balls' jokes. From the announcers, not me.
  • A fair warning to AP and ESPN headline writers: If Anthony Gonzales has a huge game at any point during this year and one of you assclowns uses "Speedy Gonzales," I'm coming for you.
Vinatieri's FG ends the first half, and I'm off to watch the Brewers definitely stop the slide and fight their way back into the race. Right?


BBTN needs to be cancelled

>> Sunday

Baseball Tonight was once a show that baseball fans could rely on for detailed highlights, insightful analysis, and legitimate reporting. These days, it's nothing but a gimmick-loaded suckfest hosted primarily by idiots. And tonight, ESPN may have aired the worst installment of BBTN ever. The lineup responsible for this travesty was Steve Berthiaume, Fernando Vina, Steve Phillips, and John "Krukie" Kruk.

The episode had a theme. Playing on the fact that so many staff "aces" made starts today, the entire show was card- and gambling-themed. So to begin the show, they did this ridiculous thing where each of the studio analysts drew a card from what appeared to be a stack of aces with pitchers' names taped on them--the analyst with the best ace being the "winner" of the show apparently. Man, that's some clever shit, guys.

From this point on, the entire show was an obnoxious string of "card" puns that made me want to punch the TV. In addition to the stupid card-themed lists they had the analysts compile--team with the "best hand," team with the "best trump card," team with the biggest "wild card," biggest homeruns in Cardinals history (you know, like "Cards" for short... get it? get it? eh? eh? pretty good, huh?)--I counted no less than a dozen independently-formed card puns delivered by the studio analysts--most of which made no sense, e.g. "Prince Fielder cashes in his chips" on a homerun highlight, "we'll ante up the day's best plays for you," referring to Mark Teixeira as the "Mark-ed card," etc.

That's not to mention the three or four times Phillips said a pitcher was "dealing" and the pair of times he made the same stupid pun about "King" Felix Hernandez being "a king, but is he an ace?"

Out of fairness, it should be noted that Berthiaume and Phillips were by far the guiltiest parties and that Vina had the dignity to refuse participation almost entirely. Surprisingly, so did Kruk, he only making one or two card puns, which he said in more of a mocking tone.

Never has it been more apparent to me that Baseball Tonight--like every other ESPN show that once had substance--has degenerated into embarassing self-parody and needs to go away for good.


2007 NFL Forecast

The 2006 NFL season was filled with so many memorable moments that it is hard to imagine the 2007 edition surpassing last year's excitement. That said, interest is slowly turning away from baseball and refocusing on each individual's special team in hope of savoring the taste of a Super Bowl winner.

NFC North
1.) Chicago Bears 13-3
- Fresh off their Super Bowl blow-out against the Colts, the Bears reloaded with the signing of Darwin Walker, Adam Archuletta, and rookie tight end Greg Olsen. Gone are the distractions of Tank Johnson and Thomas Jones. The defense will very likely be better than last years unit and the offense should give opposing defenses fits with Berrian, Muhammad, Olsen, Clark, and Benson as options for Rex Grossman. The Special Teams have become a growing concern over Training Camp as many key members left via free agency. Overall, despite a difficult schedule, the Bears should be a lock for 5-6 division wins along with cupcakes against Oakland and Washington.

2.) Green Bay Packers 8-8
- The Packers are a difficult team to read. They have good weapons in Jennings and Driver for Favre, but they traded Ahman Green and now have Cornhusker Brandon Jackson carrying the load. Ultimately, the offense will go as their running game goes. Brett Favre can't carry the team by himself anymore. Defensively, they should be a solid top 12 unit with Barnett and Hawk leading the charge. Ultimately, this team could be 10-6 or 6-10 depending on how the season folds, but for now, 8-8 seems likely.

3.) Detroit Lions 6-10
- Believe it or not, the Lions group will be much better than their record will indicate at the end of the year. Yes, the dumbass Matt Millen still has a job, but will Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz, they could surprise a lot of people. They drafted Calvin Johnson and he should be an immediate contributer with Roy Williams on the opposite side of the field. John Kitna threw for 4,000 yds last year and has another weapon in Johnson, but don't expect the same this year. If the Lions are to do anything, they need Kevin Jones to gain more than 3.8 ypc and a defense to not yield 126 rushing ypg and 220 passing ypg. Another rebuilding year, but they have a nice foundation to have a couple decent teams in the next couple years. Wow, who thought Wayne Fontes was that great!

4.) Minnesota Vikings 4-12
- Why bother...other than Adrian Peterson and a decent defensive line, they deserve a spot in NFL Purgatory along with the Raiders (cheap bastards) and Browns (The Mighty Quinn).

Thats all for now knuckleheads, tomorrow the NFC East will be previewed and maybe a last place NY Giants team...


Trees Falling All Over the Forest

But because the game was on FSC, nobody saw it. However, the 66,000+ at Giants Stadium saw what was probably the best game in MLS this year as Red Bull New York beat LA Galaxy 5-4 Saturday night.

--The game featured 9 goals (and several near-goals)
--There were 7 ties/lead changes.
--David Beckham made his first MLS start, played the full 90, and notched two assists. From what I hear he is a pretty decent footballer.
--Up-and-coming stars like 18-year old Josimer Altidore (RBNY), Former EPL standout Juan Pablo Angel (RBNY) and Honduran striker Carlos Pavon (LAG) all had great perfromances.
--Fast, flowing, attacking soccer
--Goals from 2002 USA World Cup heroes Landon Donovan (LAG) and Clint Mathis (RBNY). Mathis's goal was an absolute golazo.
--Largest crowd ever for an MLS game at Giants Stadium, and the atmosphere was electric, despite all the soccer moms who were there just to see David.

I'm trying to link to the highlights. Just watching them this morning, it felt like I was watching Barcelona-Real Madrid, Lazio-Roma, Celtic-Rangers, Man U-Liverpool or any other big-time world rivalry. I knew I missed something very special last night.

Red Bull New York 5:4 Los Angeles Galaxy


300... Now on DVD!

>> Thursday

APOLOGY: I began this post, oh, ten days ago--ten days that have seen its subject analyzed every which way imaginable, including the way I'm about to--but I let it slip my mind. Well, guess what--I'm shoving it at you anyway. Whether you choose to eat is entirely your choice, but a good man never leaves a job unfinished.

It's nothing new for people to talk in crazy absolutes when making predictions about sports--especially when they're talking about records and milestones.

"Eleven world championships? No one will EVER top that!"

"DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak? That's one record no one will break!"

Etcetera. And as of recent weeks, the latest prophecy to join that list is, "Tom Glavine will be the last 300-game winner." It's a prediction whose both premise and assuredness are nothing short of insane.

Slap me for caring about an arbitrary benchmark for a counting stat (though really, I don't), but I just can't stand by and allow so many people to perpetuate such a totally unfounded notion.

Analysts trying to sell us this tripe insist that the role of the starter has changed so much in the last two decades that Maddux, Clemens, Glavine, and Randy Johnson (who sits 16 wins short of 300) are the last of their kind--the staff ace who logs big innings and makes a quarter of his team's starts. Unfortunately--in the case of these four guys--the perception is utterly false.

Consider: Contrary to popular belief, the entirety of all four of these men's careers fell in the five-man rotation era. Greg Maddux's career high in starts is 37. Johnson--35. Glavine and Clemens? 36--the same number that Roy Halladay made as recently as 2003. These are not unusual totals for #1 starters, and remember--those are career highs.

The idea that aces threw way more innings back then proves kind of bogus in these instances also. Johnson actually became more of a workhorse as he got older--his career-high year in innings being 2002. Glavine threw exactly three more innings in 1990 than he did in 2005 in the same number of starts. Yes, Maddux's inning totals dropped after he left the Cubs in '92, but some of that can be chalked up to Bobby Cox intentionally saving his arm for the postseason. And Clemens, despite mid-career arm problems, didn't see his first major drop-off in innings until 1999.

So just because there are presently no sure-thing candidates to crack 300 in the immediate future, that hardly means no one will ever win 300 games again. Baseball Prospectus writer John Perrotto wrote this article telling us why the older guys with 200+ wins aren't such unlikely candidates after all. But if Pettitte and Mussina don't make it, there's a strong crop of younger pitchers who have given themselves a very good jump on 300, even if that milestone won't come for another fifteen years.

Let's categorize them in vague, odd ways, shall we? (Note: Players' ages refer to 2008 opening day age.)

Good enough pace and the right style to do it

Mark Buehrle, 29, 106 wins
Buehrle locked into the White Sox rotation at a young age, and he's the perfect type of pitcher to win a ton of games. He's efficient with his pitches, and his repertoire shouldn't age much. He doesn't rely on velocity or taxing power pitches like sliders and splitters. The cutter and change are two of the last pitches to go for aging pitchers. I wouldn't be surprised if Buehrle is the same pitcher at 40 that he is now.

Barry Zito, 30, 110 wins
Laugh if you must, but he's almost sure to bounce back after this year, based on previous relsults. Like most people, I think Zito's overrated, but he's a lot like Buehrle in that his game should age slowly. He doesn't rely on velocity, nor does he rely on sharp movement. Any serious arm injury would probably kill his chances because he's nothing without that huge hook, but if he avoids that, he probably has a decent shot.

Roy Oswalt, 29, 110 wins
As a stathead, I'm supposed to ignore the psychological aspects of the game, but it's one of Oswalt's most promising attributes. Everything he says projects a success addict who lives for baseball. Add to that his exceptional talent and ability to rack up innings, and he's almost a lock to put up 230+ wins and probably more.

Slightly older but still a strong candidate

Roy Halladay, 31, 103 wins
Halladay's volitale early days set him back a little, but he's been extremetly reliable since. By all indications, he's recovered fine from his recent injuries. Like the cutter, the sinker tends to stay effective into old age. 31 may seem too old for a guy to notch 200 more wins, but if his heart stays in it, there's no reason to say he won't be effective into his early 4os.

Tim Hudson, 32, 132 wins
Hudson's '06 was pretty weak, but the way he's pitched this year has restored his reputation entirely. Looking short-term, he should have plenty of run support as long he's with the Braves, and he could easily knock out another 40 wins before he turns 34. If he's effective through age 40, he could be sitting around 250 at that point.

So good now that it's hard to imagine them ever losing it

Johan Santana, 29, 90 wins
His early prime has been so unfalteringly brilliant that I can't see it slowing for at least five years. With a little run support, that could easily put him at 170 by age 34. Yes, he's a power pitcher (which I've implied in this post puts him at a disadvantage), but he has the body for it. As long he stays in decent shape, he could very well top 250 by age 40.

Carlos Zambrano, 27, 78 wins
He's so, so young and so, so good that he makes a 222-win prediction seem reasonable. Based on his inning totals and overall performance, he's probably been a tad unlucky in notching the wins to reflect his individual production. Like Santana, he has the physique to pitch with power indefinitely, and like Oswalt, he's addicted to competetive success. Wherever he pitches in the future, it will likely be with a high-payroll team, which should mean better offensive support than he's had so far.

Jake Peavy, 27, 70 wins
At this point, Peavy has pretty convincingly sold his ability, and the early pace is promising. Right now, he thrives in the power pitcher mold, but his repertoire is deep enough and his location good enough that he shouldn't have a problem adapting to age or injury should his velocity ever escape him.

Good early pace but probably not talented enough

Jon Garland, 28, 90 wins
He's sort of Zambrano's opposite--luckier with wins than he should expect to be the rest of his career. Besides 2005, he hasn't had a full year as a starter where his ERA was anything but league-average. As he's grown up, he's done nothing to limit base runners--only traded walks for more hits. He still nibbles too much, and his innings will probably suffer as a result. Unfortunately, I see nothing in his game that suggest this will change, and that makes him highly susceptible to a subtle loss of control or movement.

Dontrelle Willis, 26, 66 wins
No doubt the Choo! Choo! D-Train has gotten off to a fast win pace, but it's been clear since mid-rookie year that he's wildly overrated. This year has been especailly disappointing, and it makes one wonder whether there's anything particularly special about his game at all. Neither the location or the movement of his pitches say there is. Like Zito, I'd guess he recovers in '08, but I think at this point, his fast start is a better selling point than his future.

Injury-like issues make me squeamish on their chances

Josh Beckett, 28, 72 wins
Belive me; I love Beckett's talent, and he's in a good run-support situation at the moment. But the whole blister thing has to spook you a little. This season appears to be the unofficial year one of this hazy thing we call a "prime." By '10 or so, we should have a much better feel for the magnitude of this prime and, consequently, his long-term outlook.

Mark Mulder, 30, 103 wins
At this point, it may be a bit of a stretch to put him on this list, but the sheer win total vs. age comparison makes it hard to leave him out of this discussion. If not for his injuries the last two seasons, he'd likely be closer to 120 wins at this point. It's difficult to predict how well he'll bounce back from his injuries, but there's a good chance that his big breaking pitches are gone for good. His control should keep him employed for a long time, but I could see him being the next Mark Langston, spending the 2010s chillin' in someone's bullpen as a lefty specialist.

Sufficient talent, good pace, wrong make-up

John Lackey, 29, 75 wins
I'm a big fan of Lackey, but his early career suggests that he's not efficient enough to compile the number of decisions he'll need to reach 300. He's a strikeout pitcher who doesn't compile very many innings for an ace, and he throws a lot of power pitches from the stretch, which will probably wear on his arm over the long-haul.

Javier Vazquez 31, 110
Vazquez is another stretch to include on this list, but like Mulder, I mention him simply for the wins/age combo. Vazquez has always been erratic--both in season-to-season production and game-to-game production. Throughout his career, he's wasted too many bullets straining his way through fifth-inning jams to have an effective over-35 career. He's never exhibited the ability to "coast" the way great pitchers do, and a two-pitch fast/change arsenal is not a good for keeping pitch counts low.

The guy who's totally gonna do it because his pace is crazy right now as long as his fat ass doesn't slow him down

C.C. Sabathia, 27, 95 wins
Ok, so he's only topped 200 innings once, but the innings will come if he keeps not walking people (2.1 BB per 9 IP last year, 1.4 this year). C.C. has the same number of wins Maddux and Clemens had going into his 27 season, 22 more than Glavine did, and 71 more than Johnson.

Obviously, the future can bring anything for these guys--an injury, an unforseen fall-off, a religious experience that renders baseball a meaningless speck in the endless expanse of the universe--anything. If Doc Gooden fell short of 200 wins, then C.C. Sabathia could fall short of 100.

Here's my point in going through this whole exercise: While it may be impossible to peg any one pitcher to reach this arbitrary milestone right now, there's plenty of young guys whose early success has put them in a great position to prove the skeptics wrong. Maybe none will make it; maybe five will; maybe someone I didn't list comes on like gangbusters and wins 400.

It's just incredibly arrogant for anyone to think they can say with absolute certainty that a sport will change in such a permanent way that "no one will ever do __ again." Trends can reverse. Trends can be misread. And I'd rather extrapolate the achievements of a 27 year-old to ridiculous lengths than to spout some absolute "never again" bullcrap that makes me look like a big, bold dude.


Disappointing Headline/Subhead


Guilty verdict
Padilla convicted of supporting terrorist groups

Before you excitedly click the link, don't bother. I checked, it's not Vicente Padilla.


Groundbreaking stuff, Pacman

I just love this description of Pacman Jones's hip-hop single from this morning's Red Eye:

His National Street League Records, based in Atlanta, said Wednesday that Jones will team with producer Spoaty in a duo called Posterboyz with their first single "Let it Shine" being released Aug. 27. The song talks about big money, cars, and jewelry.

As if they needed to tell us. The blurb also goes onto say that the NFL is looking into whether the record label name infringes on its trademark. Man, this league will stop at nothing.

Also, right next to the Pacman blurb is one about Nick Mangold's sister Holley who's gonna start on her high school team's offensive line this year. It offers this frightening information:

She weighs 315 pounds, bench-presses 265 pounds and has squatted 525 pounds.

So by my calcs, she benches two of me, weighs in at two-and-a-half me's, and squats an incredible four Vinnies.



One of the worst MLB All-Star selections in the past twenty years swings bat at unarmed players

>> Wednesday

Apparently, Jose Offerman isn't quite done with baseball... at least as of yesterday he wasn't. Thanks to an incident on Tuesday in which Offerman swung his bat at a pitcher and catcher after being hit by a pitch, his playing days may be over. This reporter speculates that the outburst could put Offerman in jail for one to three years on charges of assault and battery with a weapon. Although not yet reported by major media outlets, I also am reporting that, like other sports personalities in legal trouble, Offerman's lawyers will work toward a plea bargain in the coming weeks, especially as Offerman allegedly has been implicated in recent Tour de France doping scandals and the Sergio Garcia scorecard incident this past weekend.


A very personal connection to baseball history

I can't believe that it only took me 23 years to be part of MLB history. Well, kind of...not so much directly a part of it. More indirectly...very indirectly.

Well, what's important here is that my cousin's good friend (stood up in his wedding type of friend) was the pitcher that threw the ball that was called a strike that drew Bobby Cox's ire, which led to Cox's record-setting ejection.

That's right, Jack Taschner, Racine native and friend of my family, set off Cox's historical tirade. It might as well have been me who personally gave Cox the thumb.

Man, I'm awesome.


Mike Vickin'

>> Tuesday

Two stories I want to touch base on about current media whipping boy Mike Vick. I won't go into my whole grumpy rant about how it's a bunch of bullshit that people are so terribly up in arms about the whole dogfighting thing, but seriously, they're fucking dogs and I don't give a shit.

First story is one I heard on sports talk radio on my way home from work yesterday, and although I don't really pride myself on getting my sports news from talk radio, this one was too good to pass up.

Apparently, the NFL will not air this year's QB Challenge competition from some tropical island in which a bunch of crappy guys that aren't Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady battled over who has the best footwork on a three-step drop and who can throw the ball through a ring the most. The reason, you ask? Is it because they realized that a choreographed skills competition won by Josh McCown is utterly unwatchable and rendered laughable on its face because it was won by Josh McCown?

Nope. It's 'cuz Mike Vick was in it.

I'm cereal. The NFL, like so many South American dictators have chosen to make its embattled superstar a desaparecido.

"Mike Vick? Who's Mike Vick? Are you thinking of Vince Young? No, I'm pretty sure you are. Isn't Vince Young awesome? He's on the cover of Madden this year. Here, watch this highlight of Peyton Manning, he won the Super Bowl last year by himself. He's in a bunch of commercials. No, the Falcons quarterback is currently, and as far as I know, has always been Joey Harrington."

Seriously, Germans are more forthright about the six years between 1939 and 1945 than the NFL is about Mike Vick and his pit bullin' shenannigans.

Now, as if it couldn't get any worse for Vick than hearing that his two primary co-defendants have decided to roll on him, word is that prosecutors are going to attach additional charges to his federal indictment to make it a RICO case. In case you're wondering (Sever...) what RICO is or why this matters, just look up John Gotti and the Gambino crime family and you'll quickly find out that this really, really sucks for Vick. Now, if Vick doesn't plead out, it'll be even easier for the prosecutors to convict him.

Anyway, that may suck on its own, but on top of that, now there's this story. A South Carolina inmate is now suing Vick for $63 billion because, he alleges, Vick stole his pitbulls and sold them to, wait for it, buy missles from Iran.

Read that last sentence again. This guy seriously thinks Mike Vick was buying missles. From Iran. A famous NFL quarterback was buying missles, this guy says. Buying them, he says, from Iran.

No, really, it's a real lawsuit.



The most overrated plays of all time

Today I caught a segment of some "Who's #1?" show on ESPN Classics, and I just had to write this post.

Here's the thing. I am a sucker for old highlights of great plays. I love them. If they involve the Packers (or Reggie Miller), they are likely to bring a tear to my eye. But there are some plays that I have seen repeatedly because of their "greatness," and for the life of me I cannot figure out why people consider them so damn great. So I have compiled a list of six plays (I don't believe in forcing a list into the 5, 10, 25 format) that I personally consider overrated. Now I realize that most of these plays happened before I was born, and all of them happened before I was cognitive of sports. But this goes hand in hand with my contention, and that is that over time certain plays have gained such a high reputation as "great plays" that we feel it would be somehow sacrilegious to knock them down a few rungs on our "all-time greatest plays" lists. These plays have been overrated in greatness because of their memorability, but we all remember Buckner's fuck-up, Webber's timeout, and Gary Anderson's first missed field goal of the season, and that doesn't really make those plays great, does it?
The tendency towards old, "classic," plays doesn't really make any sense. Why don't more of these lists contain plays from the last decade in their top ten? Plays like Boise State's Statue of Liberty two-point conversion, the Music City Miracle, or Vince Young's game-winning scramble; these plays deserve some serious recognition. Unlike great songs, I don't think that sports plays need to "stand the test of time" to earn their greatness.

Feel free to disagree (that's what blogging is all about), but here are my 6-through-1 most overrated sports plays of all time:

#6 - The Ice Bowl Sneak
I'm throwing this out here right away to disprove any bias that anyone might suspect. It doesn't pain me much to say that Bart Starr's sneak into the end zone has become excessively legendary. To me, it was a mediocre ending to a great game, no different than Vinatieri's relatively chip-shot 41-yard field goal to beat the Panthers in SB XXXVIII. Yeah, I know, we will always remember that field goal, but we will (or should) remember it as the end of a great game, not as the defining moment of that game. Starr's sneak was a play that is successfull more than 50% of the time, especially when you're right guard gets an early jump.
Ice Bowl. Great game: kind of a dud ending, relatively. If you have ever gotten the chance to watch every snap, you should be able to see where I'm coming from. If you don't see where I'm coming from, then just consider this as me avoiding the homer boo birds.

#5 - Willie Mays' Catch
This is so easy that I almost didn't include it in the list. But Mays himself has said that he didn't consider his famed over-the-shoulder catch to be that great. And come on, don't we see this play made by someone else at least once a year? Not to mention the fact that we see this catch made at least once a game in every football game. I have heard the play defended (by Bechtel) that it was Mays' ability to immediately throw the ball back in that made it impressive, and that makes a lot of sense.
So let's set the stage for why this was a great play. Reasons that are often forgotten:
1. The circumstance. Tie game in the eighth inning of a World Series game, with two runners on.
2. The distance. The centerfield wall that Mays' was running towards was 461 feet from home plate, and Mays ran a good 100-150 feet to get there. That's like Soriano running to Waveland Avenue to make a catch.
3. Finally, the aforementioned throw. This is what makes the play great (note that I am not saying that this play, or any of the other plays, are not great; simply overrated) Mays made this sprinting catch, and without a moment's hesitation, spun around to throw the ball in to keep the runners from scoring.
So yes it was a brilliant play, but had Larry Doby (who started the play at second base) been tagging from the start, he probably still could have scored. As it was, he ran all the way back to second base, tagged, and still made it to third.
Strangely, the circumstance is rarely mentioned today. Instead, it is simply heralded as the greatest catch of all time. As an overall play, all circumstances included, it's maybe one of the top 25 plays of all time. Purely as a catch, it's not even in the top 100. Sorry Willie, but I know you'd agree with me.

#4 - NC State's unorthodox alley-oop
I've heard the argument that without this play, we may not have gotten the full affect of Jimmy V, and I respect that, so I'm not going to argue it (read: please, please don't call me a heartless bastard because I'm downplaying Jimmy V's greatest moment). But this play happened to win a championship for a great coach and has been overblown because of that.
First off, this was not a succeed-or-go-home moment, because the game was tied, so let's just get that out there.
But more importantly, this was a case of confusion and a failure to box out (which happens on like 95% of any jump shot in college basketball). This was a freak play that was not impressive on anyone's part: Thurl Bailey made a shitty pass, which was followed by Houston's Benny Anders inability to intercept the pass, which led to an air ball shot by Dereck Whittenburg, and was capped off by the inability of any Houston player to box out.
Lorenzo Charles just happened to be there to receive the easiest alley-oop anyone has ever received ever. Had a defender gone up for the ball and touched it before Charles, the defender would have likely been called for goaltending, seeing that the ball was coming down so close to the basket.
Improbable play? Certainly. Great play? By who, exactly? Who made the great play? No one. That's who.

#3 - Rodney McCray runs through wall
This was the #1 play on "Best Damn Spectacular Plays" so I just have to knock it down a few notches. And there are the reasons.
Much like Aaron Rowand's famed broken-nose catch, McCray is praised for putting his body in danger. Now, I personally play most sports with a similar reckless abandon, so a lot of people assume that I love plays like this. I don't. If you're a multi-million dollar player that a franchise has invested in, you should put your health ahead of a single out, because ultimately that's what's better for your team. If you're an in-debt 20-something with halfway decent insurance who thinks that breaking your shoulder is proof of your "toughness" then by all means, dive into a brick wall.
But if you actually look at this play, McCray had no clue where he was, ran through what looked like drywall and came up completely unfazed. Cheap wall. That's all this play was. A cheap fucking wall.

#2 - The Doug Flutie Hail Mary
Hail Marys in general are so overrated, because they're almost completely luck. I could have easily included Kordell Stewart's hail mary in this group, but because of my Michigan alliance, I avoided the homerism.
Here's the breakdown of a hail mary. Everyone run deep, protect the quarterback, launch the football as far as you can, and pray (that's why it's called a Hail Mary). But as we here at YCS know, prayer is nothing more than helplessly hoping you get lucky.
Doug Flutie's hail mary is impressive for one reason and one reason only: Miami's defense underestimated how far Flutie could throw the ball. At least, that's why everyone praises Flutie. But that's not exactly true. Everyone knew that Flutie had a gun like no other. If you watch the play, the Miami defenders simply underplayed the ball. Gerard Phelan (I wonder what local car dealership he's advertising for these days) made a relatively routine catch because he was a good three feet behind the defenders.
This comes back to my basic pretention that great plays should be great plays, not a combination of luck and mistakes by the other team. Also, I'm probably bitter about hail marys in general because of the whole Kordell Stewart thing.

#1 - Grant Hill to Christian Laettner
I read Hill's (auto)biography in middle school, read about this play, and thought "So what?" I watched the play on ESPN's "Who's #1?" this evening, and I still thought "So what?"
Really, this comes down to my opinion that great games tend to inflate the value of great plays (Although you could also go to the "Other players fucking up" defense, since no one managed to get in front of Laettner). This particular play gets recognized as one of the greatest not just because of its significance, but because the game preceding it was a great one. And, I'm sorry, but that's just stupid.
This play was a great one, and it won a championship. So it should be remembered, but not as the great play of college hoops. Because look at the play. No one was guarding the inbound pass (a rare Pitino mistake) and Laettner was able to catch the pass at the free throw line, pump fake, turn the other way, and make a shot that was pretty much uncontested.
I'll tell you why this play is considered great. First off, because it was the early years of what would become a Duke/Coach K dynasty. Also, because it was the last defining moment of Laettner's career. Is Jordan remembered for his game-winner at North Carolina? Well, yeah, but that's like #17 on his best play list. Unlike Jordan, Laettner never went on to have any kind of pro career, so because he was such a great college player, we all hang onto this memory of him.
He had two seconds! Two whole seconds! And he started at the free throw line!
Not so great, if you ask me.

Okay, I'm done ripping holes in everyone's favorite memories (memories that I have no conception of, nonetheless).


Sayeth Sut, III

>> Monday

Rick Sutcliffe probably made a lucky guess with this one:

You look at the MVPs in pro sports right now... Steve Nash--he's from Canada... Morneau is from Canada... And hockey... I can't remember his name right now, but I know he's from Canada.

I just looked it up. The Hart Trophy was given to Sidney Crosby. Probably the most famous hockey player in the world. You couldn't remember his name, Rick? Or did you just have no idea who won and thought, "One must play hockey to win the NHL MVP. All hockey players are Canadian. Therfore, the NHL MVP last year must be from Canada"?

That's what you did, Sut, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?!?!


Do I smell some funny business goin' on?

I don't watch Law and Order, so I know next to nothing about our legal system, my rights, or even the name for the mallet thingy the guy in the robe holds. So can someone please explain this latest Vick development to me, preferably as you would to a child? I'm looking at you, law school boy (Mike), and also at you, Mr. I Have a Degree in Criminology *Vinnie chortles* (Matt).

Are plea bargains inherently shady? Would it be as easy to set up a targeted defendant as it seems to an unlearned dum-dum like me? I ask because I sense that Vick has been double-crossed by his co-defendants and, potentially, by law enforcement involved in the case.

This is essentially what I'm trying to figure out: In a case like this one where there's a high-profile defendant and a few Joe Scumbum co-defendants, what's to stop the powers that be (aside: I love that term because it's such a fantastic cop-out when I don't know who the hell I'm actually talking about) from giving the co-defendants a sweeter-than-usual plea bargain in order to get their cooperation early on, forcing the high-profile defendant from caving or facing an unwinable trial? Had Vick been the first to accept a plea bargain for some reason, would he have gotten a deal on par with those he co-defendants received?

Answers guys, answers.


Son-of-a-BITCH! Law School I hate you already!!!!

One day.

Literally, one day after moving into my new pad in the Gateway City (Radio stations start with Ks here!!! WIERD?!?!?!), the USSF (based in my usual stomping grounds of Chicago) has announced that instead of traveling to Mexico City on September 9th to take on Mexico for the third time this year, the US Men's National Team will be playing an international friendly against Brazil at Soldier Field.

The Gold Cup Champs will be taking on the Copa America champs for what I can only imagine is for the title of "Champion of the Western Hemisphere."

Thanks guys. Thanks a whole lot. Your timing is PERFECT.

I'll probably miss out on a spontaneous full-contact game on the concourses too. Weak.


Is our Kyle all growed up?

The man whose charm, talent, and wild nights spawned an internet cult and inspired YCS's own Pat to grow a fashionable neck beard seems to have steadied his ways. And he has the guy who's bogarting his reps to thank.

"You won't get me to say a bad thing about Brian," Orton said after Saturday's 20-19 exhibition victory at Houston. "Brian's been the most important person on this team for me, trying to get me through everything. He's helped my game dramatically in the last year and a half. He's a pro. He's taught me how to be a pro and how to approach the game."

While some might lament Kyle's newfound professionalism as the death of the overgrown frat guy who amused us so with his candid moments on film, I applaud him for embracing adulthood--a reality we must all eventually face--and also for being a #1, A+ nice guy. (Really, how many of us could be so gracious toward the guy a notch up on the depth chart?)

It was never Kyle's boozin' that won our affection but rather, his don't-give-a-hell demeanor that kept him even-keel whether he was getting picked off five times by the Bengals or having one of his two-ish good games. So I was very disappointed when I Googled "kyle orton" this morning and the first suggestion on the toolbar was "kyle orton drunk," and the basic "kyle orton" search turned up those famous bar photos. We at YCS (Matt and I at least) rather loathe the TMZ-esque tabloid trash that's given sites like Deadspin their big readership, and we'd rather celebrate our athletes than mock them.

We may be approaching the dawn of a new Kyle Orton era, and I, for one, welcome that with open arms.


YCS Fantasy Football Guide 2007 - RB's

>> Sunday

Ah yes, it's the middle of August, and that means only one thing: fantasy football drafts. Now, I'm not a big follower of NFL football except the 20-odd weeks of the year it's actually played. Yet, I've managed to finish in the top 3 in my league each of the last 3 years, so you might listen to a thing or two I say.

Without further ado, here's my advice on fantasy RB selection in your fantasy based solely on anecdotal evidence, foolish conjecture, and other people's opinions on football.

Best value
Larry Johnson - If he's not snatched at #2 or #3, you should pounce on him. Forget the contract hold-out. He's going to play, and he's going to rock your league. These contract things always work themselves out. Let's say he even missed a game or two. Big deal. Most early-season wins are based on luck in the draft and not based on long-term roster management. Ever notice how the best teams in your fantasy league come on strong at the end of the year? Yeah, it's just like real sports. If your star RB can come on strong at the season's end, you're a lock for the playoffs.

Best combo to draft as a pair
Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush - If you're like me, you don't have the time nor do you care enough to try to figure out who's going to get more touches, who's going to get the ball in the red zone, who's going to star in the team's season tickets commercials, or who's going to lay the linebacker's wife. I say, "Fuck it, I'll just draft both of them." Drew Brees and Colston aren't going to repeat last year's performance, so these guys will do even more for the Saints. Plus you can probably pick one of them up in the 2nd round and the other in the 4th or 5th round and look like an absolute genius.

Worst combo to draft as a pair
Marion Barber and Julius Jones - Drafting a pair of decent running backs can be cool (see the previous category), or it can really suck. If you make this move, you're stupid because 1.) neither of these guys is good enough to start every week for you anyways, 2.) Wade Phillips can't coach, 3.) Marion Barber isn't related to Tiki, meaning Marion Barber sucks and Ronde Barber is simply overrated, 4.) it's a proven fact that nobody has ever won a fantasy league with either of these two guys on their team.

Worst player on a good team
Laurence Maroney - Here's the type of RB you don't want in fantasy football, a decent guy on a great team... and worse yet, an overrated team who's supposed "dynasty" has been nothing but luck. I don't know how this team wins football games since every single Patriot clearly sucks at fantasy football, even that prima donna Brady. I bet the Pats work really well as a team on the field, are well-coached, blah blah blah. Who cares? You need yards and TDs, not victories and hooded sweatshirts with cut-off sleeves.

Best player on a bad team
Frank Gore - Here's another type of RB you better stay away from, a great player on a bad team. Yes, he carries the load for the Niners, and yes he carried the load for my fantasy league championship team last year (and yes, I'm going to mention that I won my league as many times as possible). But he still plays on a shitty team, so he doesn't get a ton of scores. And if you saw his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," you realize he's still too bitter about losing the 2000 presidential election to focus on football. I'd only pick him if he falls to like #9 or #10 in your draft.

Most likely to make you regret you used your first pick on him
Joseph Addai - Talk about an unproven player! I didn't even know who he was until Week 9 last year. Here's a pretty good criterion for making your first round pick, "Is he one of the top 12 most recognizable names in the NFL?"... or better yet, "Would I build an actual NFL franchise around this man?" ... or even more importantly, "Would I draft him on Madden with my first draft pick in franchise mode?" If you answer no to any of those questions, then you're drafting on hype, potential, and lunacy. Or maybe you're just smarter than I am about football.

Most likely to get injured and make you say, "I should have known"
Brian Westbrook - He really has only been injured a couple times, but he plays with McNabb. And everyone knows how contagious ACL tears are.

Players you'll draft too high and say, "Aww man, but he used to be good on his old team."
Edgerrin James - This guy sucked last year. Somehow he inched his way to a 1000-yard season. All I remember was seeing him trip forward in two-yard increments and still asking for more touches. He needs to just accept that he plays for a perennial loser. The Cardinals blow. Forget the new stadium, insane wide-out talent, a proven college QB who is probably due for a good season... This team will still lose more than 10 games this season, and the Edge will provide nothing but regrets for your team.

Guys I would never draft because I don't watch college football and -- yes, I'm serious -- I've never, ever heard of them Marshawn Lynch - His name sounds pretty cool. I just can't see myself on draft day making the "bold pick" of an unproven rookie. Let some other schmo draft him who knows even less about football than you do, and he can be the schmo that says, "But he was rated highly on this list of fantasy projections that I printed out from MSN.com!"

Guys that you can safely draft and later say to your league, "But I meant to draft the OTHER Adrian Peterson" Adrian Peterson (MIN) and Adrian Peterson (CHI) - Enough said. I don't know who the Vikings' Peterson is, but I'm betting he doesn't look as much like Bob Marley as ours does.


New NFL Policy to Directly Affect YCS Staff

I caught this piece on NPR on Friday, but I hadn't any time to blog about it then.

In essence, the NFL is now requiring all approved on-field photographers to wear a special red vest. The vest, which is adorned with Reebok and Canon logos, allows security staff to identify which photographers are authorized to be on the field. Of course, the popular media is crying foul and stating that the corporation-sponsored vests force photo journalists into sponsoring products.

Moreover, journalists are frustrated that the NFL also issued a policy earlier this summer restricting the amount of footage that newspaper internet sites could broadcast online.

Yet, as far as I'm concerned, the NFL has the right to control its product. If the photo journalists do not want to wear the vests, then they can go cover another sport. Journalists do not have an inherent right to attend sporting events nor do they have the right to broadcast unlimited content from a given sports league.

As much as I would like to have free access to sports content, such as accessing an internet radio broadcast of a Cubs game on WGN without paying for the MLB package, I understand that a sports league is like a corporation. For example, the NFL itself, the teams, and the stadiums (for the most part) are privately owned and managed. If Google or Microsoft (which for the record are publicly owned) wants to limit a reporter's access to its facilities or trade secrets, nobody seems to mind. But when the NFL determines that journalists should wear a vest, the media gets irate.

Ultimately, if fans get frustrated enough with a given league, they will simply give up on it. However, people seem plenty satisfied with the NFL right now in spite of its recent "transgressions," like broadcasting certain games on its own network. Let the free market decide. If we fans want to follow a league that is increasing its restrictions and charging us more for its content, then that's our own fault. And if media corporations don't want to follow the NFL's policies and risk losing readership/viewership, they don't have to. Sorry, but that's capitalism.


The Triple Crown watch is on

>> Saturday

While the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox have been grabbing all the headlines with their dominant play this year, the Modi'in Miracle's Eladio Rodriguez has quietly put together a remarkable season and could be the first Triple Crown winner in league history.

With nine games remaining, Rodriguez is just .011 off the pace for the batting title at .478 and 6 off the pace for the RBI lead. His league-leading 16 HRs put him on pace to shatter the previous league record of zero.

Tomorrow night, his Miracle will take on the Tel Aviv Lightning at Gezer Field, where the ball is known to carry in the evening. Tel Aviv ace Adam Crabb has had a fine season, but if he's not careful, Rodriguez might send a few into the ruins of King Solomon's summer palace.


Ha-HA! Take that, FOX!

FOX's hope to capture a memorable Barry Bonds dinger has clearly backfired on them.

Right now, they're televising the final inning of a Pirates-Giants game that the Pirates are currently leading 13-3. Oh, and Barry Bonds didn't even play.


Please, Kenny, I beg of you!

>> Friday

...Pull Scotty Po off vaivers!

Yeah, though, I'm serious. Rumor in the Chicago press says the Cubs have claimed Scott Podsednik off waivers from the White Sox... just waiting for the Sox to release him into their solicitous hands.

And just when Matt Murton and--I can't believe I'm saying this--Jacque Jones were starting to come around!


Majerle on rash of potential NBA un-retirees: "I want some of that action."

Ok, Dan Majerle didn't actually say that. Unfortunately. Because come on; if there's one mid-'90s star that should be coming back, it's him. Need I remind anyone of this?

Also, is anyone else shocked that the perpetually attention-loving, money-strapped, and un-retirement-considering Dennis Rodman hasn't entered this conversation?


Read this entire post, or you'll have made me waste the last twenty minutes

>> Thursday

Obama invite Bonds? Probably

August 9, 2007

Asked at a news conference in Oakland on Wednesday whether he would invite Barry Bonds to the White House if he were president, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he "probably would."

"It's a remarkable achievement," Obama said. "And he deserves, I think, our congratulations. I remain concerned about the cloud that exists not just in baseball but in everything from basketball to the Tour de France. I mean you just get a sense right now that sports is suffering from a crisis of confidence and my hope is that all the various sports leagues take those responsibilities seriously. I left out Michael Vick and what's happening in the National Football League.

"So you basically have every single sport suffering from some major questions."

Asked how he would have combated the growing steroid problem over the past decade were he president, Obama responded, "First of all, I would not have entered into an illegal war based on false pretenses," to which the crowd responded with a thunderous ovation. "But when I'm president, if we have actual information about big time athletes using steroids, and if Commissioner Selig won't act, I will."

Obama then further detailed his plans to address improprieties in professional sports were he elected president.

"If that means having federal agents storm Tim Donaghy's house with helicopters and tear gas, we will do that," Obama said. "If it means sticking a catheter in Floyd Landis's urethra while he sleeps to draw a urine sample, we will do that too. Or if it means dipping Michael Vick in corned beef hash and tossing him to a pack of starving pitbulls, we can do that also."

After several audience members chuckled in response to the latter comment, Obama added, "No, for real. Thanks to laws passed since 9/11, that's actually legal, and I would gladly do it."


Paul's Sports Celebrity Tour of Homes, Marc Stein edition

This article today by Marc Stein is about NBA athletes considering un-retiring. Don't worry, this isn't another post about retired NBA guys wanting to recapture glory. Instead, this post is about our disappearing personal privacy and how this loss of privacy could turn into some really super-fun celebrity stalking! So enjoy this first installment of the "J. Peterman Reality"... er, I mean... "Paul's Sports Celebrity Tour of Homes".

The Stein article mentions Toni Kukoc's residence in northern Illinois. Of course, I started to wondering, "Where does that crazy Croatian live anyways?" Thanks to the internet, I think I've found his place.

Then, I decided I'd try to hunt down Spree, a well known resident of the Brew City, and Pip, who I'm pretty sure resides in Chicago.

So Milwaukeeans, here's your map to Sprewell's house. And next time any of your are in Zuch's (very extended) neck of the woods, drop by Scottie Pippen's to say hello. You'll notice Scottie isn't too far out of the way from Toni's place. Maybe you can round up a little game of H-o-r-s-e.

Finally, I think I found Charles Oakley's house. Then, this game lost its entertainment value as I rarely pass through White Plains, NY, nor do I care much about Charles Oakley or any of the other guys in the article. But Danny, maybe you can swing by Oak's house next time you're in NY anyways.

Thanks for taking the tour, and I hope you look forward to the next installment in which I explore homes of all the Chicago- and Milwaukee-area sports writers that we hate. Watch out Mariotti!


A Rabbit's Foot, Four-Leaf Clover, Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow concoction of luck

My friends: Your 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks. Actual record 63-51, Pythagorean Record 53-61. This is NC State over Houston in 1983, Villanova over Georgetown in 1985, 1969 Mets over Orioles, Buffalo Bills overcoming a 34-3 deficit to the Houston Oilers in the 1993 Wild Card game type of flukish luck.


How Not to Run an Organization

>> Wednesday

Example: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite having never played a game or signed a contract with the Bucs, Tampa wants to collect some of Jake Plummer's bonus money from his last contract with the Broncos. In a dangerous and violent sport, you can not blame Plummer for deciding to retire at age 32 instead of playing out his career as a back-up. I hope that future free agents note Tampa's treatment of Plummer and show the Bucs orginization the same respect that Tampa has shown Plummer here.


"Now kids, enough about my being the greatest 3-point shooter ever; let me tell you about the year I rode the pine to win an NBA championship."

Reggie Miller is contemplating a comeback with Boston. Why would a guy like Miller bother? Like most sports fans, I'm guessing he doesn't want to be remembered with the other guys of his era, namely Barkley, Malone, and Ewing, who were the best of their time but never got a ring. But what's the appeal of this situation? Who would do such a thing?

Of course, there is some recent precedent, with Malone and Gary Payton whoring themselves to the '05 Lakers only to get their asses handed to them by Detroit in the Finals. Payton picked up a ring the next year with Miami, but what's the significance? I'm not Gary Payton, so I don't know what it means for him to have the chance to play on a championship team. But come on, he played 20 mpg and contributed less than 6 ppg in the '06 playoffs. As fans, what do we remember Gary Payton for? World Champion 2006? Hell no, that was Wade's series. Payton was a forgettable role player, no better than Kapono or Posey. Most of us will remember the Glove from the 90's: racking up steals, dishing to Kemp, finding Detlef on the wing.

If Reggie Miller returns then, what will his legacy be? The guy who proved he could contribute 5 ppg off the bench at the age of 42 behind three of the top 12 active scorers? Or the guy who torched the Knicks at MSG for 8 points in the last 30-odd seconds of a game?

I just don't understand the ego or the competitive spirit of a star NBA player. But me, I'd rather have people remember me -- and have myself remember me -- as a guy who performed at an outstanding level and lead his team to many successes, just never the ultimate success, rather than as a wash-up who happened to join the right good team at the right time. What is a fallen star proving by winning a championship as a role player? If anything, he's just adding to the notion that he wasn't championship material and wasn't able to carry a team himself to the championship.

I just can't imagine that Gary Payton looks at his ring and says, "Wow, I really earned this... this is what I worked so hard for in the NBA." I know I wouldn't.

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