Friday, November 6, 2009

Babe of the Week and Week 9 Picks

In honor of the N.Y. Yankees World Series victory (and due to the fact that there isn't an alumnus from LSU or Alabama that belongs here), our Babe of the Week is the hottest of the Yanks long list of girlfriends/wives, Minka Kelly, Derek Jeter's main squeeze. Since I don't use this space to showcase a whole bunch of photos (unless I personally take them), here's a link that shows the Kate Hudson's and the Joanna Garcia's that date/married Yankees, plus other teams and sports. It's also the perfect opportunity to write my World Series review.

For the Phillies, this season will be remembered for one of the better title defenses in recent memory. Last year, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge were the difference between them winning and losing; this year, both players had subpar years, yet still won the National League and took the Yankees six games. They were the first defending champ to return to the World Series since the 2001 Yankees, and despite suffering the same fate as the last dynasty team did, they have changed baseball in Philadelphia for the better. They will be back in contention in 2010 as they keep Cliff Lee and their vaunted 1-6 batting order and if they can get bounce back years from Hamels and/or Lidge, they will be the favorite to return to the World Series a third straight year. Kudos to the Phightins.

As for the Yankees, they won this World Series for five reasons. First, signing CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, two players in their prime and among the best at their positions was a change from recent Yankee spending (bonus points for swinging the AL East when it seemed Tex was headed to Boston). Put it this way, the Yankees passed on Vlad Guerrero for Gary Sheffield in 2003 and Carlos Beltran for Randy Johnson in 2004; this team didn't make Derek Lowe and Manny Ramirez as their top two free agent choices (and if George Steinbrenner was still running things, I have to think the Yanks sign Manny, something that could have imploded the team). Second, none of their veteran players had extensive injury time. When you consider that A-Rod's hip injury in the first month was the longest injury to a major player, it's pretty remarkable; then add the fact that no player played like their age, even Matsui. Third, both the Twins and the Angels came into their series with the Yankees feeling like they needed to be both perfect and aggressive to beat them and turned out to be neither. The Twins had no chance, but blew every opportunity the Yanks gave them with boneheaded baserunning and a Joe Nathan meltdown. Meanwhile, the Angels committed errors (which they never do), couldn't hit consistently (which they usually do against New York) and had no pitching (at least no shutdown starter).

I'll use the last two for the actual series. The fourth reason was that the Phillies unfortunately were not much different than the Angels, except Cliff Lee was a legitimate starter who if he could of pitched Game 4, maybe we have a Game 7 and with Lee starting, who knows. Their bats never hit at the same time and while the Yanks didn't hit well statistically, they seemed to have at least one inning from Game 3 on that they did damage. Which brings us to number five, the turning points of this series. Pedro Martinez twice was left in too long as he should of never started the seventh in Game 2 (allowing the insurance run the Yanks needed to feel safe) and although Shane Victorino should have played Jeter's single into an out, Pedro should have never faced Matsui, the one man who was hitting him hard. Game 3 was Cole Hamels becoming a Section 8, giving up a 3-0 lead in a matter of two innings. If Hamels can get through the fifth still in front, perhaps the Phillies get some runs and change the outcome of the series. The last one was the Johnny Damon at bat against Lidge, who was dealing until Damon worked the count and got a hit. Then, in the overmanaging moment of the series, Charlie Manuel plays the shift against Tex and Damon steals two bases to get to third. We all know that Alex Rodriguez knocked the winning run in and we don't get to know if Phil Coke can keep that game tied in the bottom of the 9th.

The Yankees proved to be the best team in baseball, and earned this 27th World Championship, something I didn't think they were really close to last year (for the record, I believe the Yankees weren't overly concerned with making the playoffs a year ago, just so they could clear house). I should have known better, since the Yanks will spend their way to make a turnaround and because the Rays were destined to fall back after the high of 2008, opening the door for the Yanks and Sox to make the playoffs. Now, next season will be interesting because with the economy continuing to widen gaps between big-market and small-market, the Yankees will not only have it easier in the regular season to win, but I'd say a little more difficult since other big-market teams will gun for them.

Enough baseball, I'll write something about the hot stove soon, now let's do some football picks. Last week was a bloodbath and a reversal of fortune is needed. All of a sudden, a simple football season is turning upside down as teams I thought were among the best (Giants, Bears, Jets) have come down to earth. Fortunately, there still are a whole bunch of bad teams in this league and remember, whatever my Houston pick is, it means the other team will win, almost a lock (aside from the one push this season). As for college, I just haven't had any good weeks yet and I'll be happy when it's over (this has been a weak season anyway). Here are my picks; home team in CAPS.

Kansas City (+7) over JACKSONVILLE- Here's this weeks winner of "You Know You Have a Gambling Problem" Game. I think we have one for the rest of this year and another this week.
CINCINNATI (+3) over Baltimore- I don't think their Week 5 game was a fluke, the Bengals can run, they can pass and play defense despite the loss of Antwan Odom.
Houston (+9) over INDIANAPOLIS- This seems like the perfect week to play the Colts for the Texans, they are starting to gain steam for the playoffs and no Bob Sanders.
ATLANTA (-9) over Washington- After losses to the Cowboys and Saints, the perfect elixir is a visit from the Redskins, let's their defense puff its chest and their offense will too.
Green Bay (-10) over Tampa Bay- The Bucs have decided to wear their "creamsicle" uniforms this week, makes sense since the Bucs have been this bad since they wore them.
Arizona (+3) over CHICAGO- This is a week that I expect the Cardinals to lose, thus it makes sense to pick them here. They are the NFC version of the Texans.
Miami (+10.5) over NEW ENGLAND- The Pats should win, but a bye week and better competition than the Titans and Bucs will keep this closer than expected.
NEW ORLEANS (-13) over Carolina- Bad matchup for Jake, this is a ball-hawking, turnover-hungry defense, plus an offense that the Panthers must throw to keep up with.
SEATTLE (-10) over Detroit- Another game that show exactly how much you gamble, though I'm sure you know the Lions won't win a game in Qwest Field, too tough a home crowd.
SAN FRANCISCO (-4) over Tennessee- You have Vince Young on the road and a Niners team who should be encouraged and pissed off for losing by four up in Indy.
San Diego (+4.5) over GIANTS- Yes, I'm capable of picking against the Giants. This is a tough matchup for the G-Men; I expect Phil Rivers to throw five TD passes.
Dallas (+3) over PHILADELPHIA- Tony Romo gets his revenge at the Linc as he and Miles Austin combine for a couple of scores and the Dallas defense shuts down McNabb.
DENVER (+3) over Pittsburgh- I know the Broncos had trouble with the Ravens, but that was a flat performance against a desperate team after a bye. Plus, the home-field matters against the Steelers

NFL Record: 60-55-1

MICHIGAN (-6) over Purdue
South Carolina (+7) over ARKANSAS
Kansas (-2.5) over KANSAS STATE
STANFORD (+7) over Oregon
Florida State (+9) over CLEMSON
CALIFORNIA (-7) over Oregon State
Oklahoma (-4.5) over NEBRASKA
PENN STATE (-5.5) over Ohio State
LSU (+7.5) over ALABAMA

College Record: 38-44-1

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