Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Week 16 Picks

It's Christmas Eve and before I give my picks for Week 16, I wanted to point out some things that are making this a Merry Christmas.

-24/7 Rangers/Flyers. Nuff said.

-The first-place New York Rangers after beating the Flyers last night. Still a long way to go

-Seton Hall basketball at 11-1 as they enter Big East play. A legit NCAA chance if they take care of business in-conference

-Watching marathons of A Christmas Story and Home Alone. And if Scrooged and Christmas Vacation are also on, then the only NBA I'll end up watching is the Knicks tomorrow.

-Knicks basketball, who look prime to do some damage (and by damage, I mean win a playoff series perhaps at the very least) this year. NBA and I is a mixed bag, but I do come home to the Knicks.

-Having Christmas Eve off despite working in a retail store. Of course, I still have to shop today, so that's not a overwhelming positive.

-Giants vs Jets today, which means oh so much for both for the first time, probably since the first ever Giants/Jets game.

And on that note, here are my quick picks for Week 16. Happy holidays to everyone and enjoy Christmas Eve football. (Home team in CAPS)

Oakland (+2.5) over KANSAS CITY
Denver (-2.5) over BUFFALO
TENNESSEE (-7.5) over Jacksonville
CINCINNATI (-4.5) over Arizona
NEW ENGLAND (-9) over Miami
Cleveland (+12.5) over BALTIMORE
Giants (+3) over JETS
Minnesota (+7) over WASHINGTON
CAROLINA (-7.5) over Tampa Bay
PITTSBURGH (-12.5) over St. Louis
San Diego (+2) over DETROIT
SEATTLE (+1.5) over San Francisco
DALLAS (-1) over Philadelphia
Chicago (+11.5) over GREEN BAY
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over Atlanta

This week: 1-0
Last week: 7-8-1
Season Record: 112-102-10

Thursday, December 22, 2011

24/7 Episode Two Review

Part Two of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic aired last night it's becoming clear to me that the Rangers are more interesting than the Flyers (with the obvious exception to Ilya Bryzgalov, who's more interesting than anyone). Last year, no one on the Caps and Pens talk about themselves on the show and the Rangers didn't either. Why are the Flyers? Seems like the Flyers are forcing Bryzgalov to be Bryzgalov, instead of it being natural. I fully agree with Steve Lepore from Puck The Media's point about the Flyers, that they are almost too aware of being on camera when not on the ice.

The best part on-ice part of last night's episode was anything that dealt with the officials. We see Peter Laviolette say "typical Montreal" on his perceived bias in some calls against the Flyers. Something my father has said on more than one occasion. Then you have the refs locker room during last week's Rangers-Coyotes game, which was like last year when the refs discussed a goal disallowed in a Rangers-Penguins game. And the interaction with the players, like when Tim Peel tells Raffi Torres it was a clean hit that Mike Rupp made and when Max Talbot gets warned he's going to get a penalty, then after getting called for one, is told it was a bad call.

More random thoughts:

-Tortorella looked very good on the show, very much like Bruce Boudreau as we see him absolutely pissed during the first intermission when he laid into the Rangers for a lackluster first period. Then we see him and Liam who has cerebral palsy and we see he has a heart of gold. Now all he has to do is look for a Haagen-Daaz and it would be good. Also, Liam is in my dream bedroom (though mine would include some Giants stuff as well).

-Favorite part of Torts' rant;"If you're not going to be stiff, you're not going to play". I expect a line like that to show up on Cinemax at midnight. Also, I'd like to thank HBO for not letting us know if Brian Boyle was stiff before the game in his hotel room scene with Brandon Prust.

-Bryzgalov was great again as he compares the husky to a hot blonde in his typical (Montreal) style. Then you see his thoughts about goaltending and defensemen, which I won't quote, but instead will leave the video here. Tell me if your mind that exploded last week didn't just burst again.

-It's nice to see Danny Briere take in young players to live with him, but having new teammate with his old, divorced teammate and his kids together is very sitcomish (even though Sean Couturier.

-Landon Girardi is adorable. Better scene than Hank playing guitar with John McEnroe, though my mother will love both equally (huge McEnore fan back in the day and probably the one person in the world who watched his show on CNBC).

-Tough to take as a Rangers fan, but all those shots with Mike Rupp getting cut (great editing to have the thud when the blood dripped on his face) as well as Ruslan Fedotenko and the injured shoulder to Steve Eminger are just more evidence to why 24/7 is the best reality series on TV.

-Liked the soundtrack HBO played tonight. I'm not entirely sure why.

-What I want to see next time; all three Rangers games (particularly the Devils win), Peter Laviolette to show that he's more than a hockey coach, some more natural interaction off the ice by the Flyers.

Rushed for time because of work (can't wait for holiday to be over), so I'm sure I left out other great and not-so-great footage in need of discussion. Meanwhile, the Colts will cover tonight against Houston.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 15 Picks

There hasn't been a lot of picks in recent weeks as I've been stuck working during Sunday afternoons. Fortunately, there's a good chance I won't be working for any more NFL Sundays (and Christmas Eve football this Saturday) through the Super Bowl.

We saw a couple of beatdowns to start the week with Atlanta and Dallas taking care of business (Falcons are closer to clinching a playoff spot, Cowboys are now guaranteed to be alive for their Week 17 game with the Giants). Let's see who joins them and who doesn't in this make or break week (as every week at this point is).

GIANTS (-6.5) over Washington
Green Bay (-11) over KANSAS CITY
New Orleans (-7) over MINNESOTA
Seattle (+3) over CHICAGO
BUFFALO (PK) over Miami
HOUSTON (-5) over Carolina
Tennessee (-6.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Cincinnati (-7) over ST. LOUIS
OAKLAND (+3) over Detroit
DENVER (+7) over New England
PHILADELPHIA (-3) over Jets
ARIZONA (-6.5) over Cleveland
SAN DIEGO (+2.5) over Baltimore
SAN FRANCISCO (-3) over Pittsburgh

This week: 2-0 (Yes, I'm counting both as wins)
Last week: 9-7
Season Record: 107-94-9

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

24/7 Review

Tonight was the return of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. This year, my favorite team is involved as we get to follow a month in the season of the New York Rangers, as well as one of my most hated teams, the Philadelphia Flyers. I'm not here to tell if this is good or not, because everyone who watches it knows this is the best hockey will ever look. Instead, I'll just give you my random thoughts on what we saw from HBO's access.

-No documentary can ever match 24/7 unless they are allowed to leave expletives unedited.
-Speaking of, while expecting the F-bombs to fly from John Tortorella, Peter Laviolette stormed out of the gate with 5 F-bombs during the intro. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy tweeted that he found 43 F-bombs tonight, a good start.

-That intro, is as epic as anything that HBO has done. I'm dead serious, very well done.

-It was clear to me that we got to know more Rangers than Flyers in the first episode. The specific players profiled was about even (maybe an edge to the Flyers), but we get to see the Rangers as a group interact amongst themselves. This wasn't true with the Flyers.

-Not enough words can be said for Ilya Bryzgalov. The man who was the star of this interview, stole the show with his first interview. One of the two reasons he's my favorite Flyer (the other being as last playoffs showed, can turn into a sieve at the worst time). He also warned me to never come in contact with a tiger ever. Either the tiger will kill me, or the government will after I kill it to save my own life.

-The Rangers locker room scenes were definitely more compelling, but that's because the Rangers lost some games, while the Flyers are on a winning streak. Flyers didn't find their compelling scene until the Claude Giroux concussion. Probably the reason their comeback win in Buffalo was bumped.

-Fun to see Matt Cooke call Scott Hartnell a "piece of shit", while Hartnell calls Cooke the "dirtiest player in the league". Also smart, since both are right.

-I enjoyed everything that resulted from Artem Anisimov's goal celebration. From the brawl, to the reaction to the penalties that were called, to Sean Avery and Marian Gaborik's reaction upon seeing Anisimov in the locker room. All I saw last week was how everyone tried to tell Arty that it's wrong; turns out it was able to be mocked and brought out the humor of Anisimov. I now expect Russians to be funny if their in the NHL.

-Tortorella is as fiery as I thought he is behind the scenes, while Laviolette seems very serious. While the Flyers seem to have the personality of their coach (seem very boring outside of Bryzgalov), Rangers don't, but are very tight-knit, which help them succeed. Once thing is for sure, his calling out of players makes me think of Bill Parcells (best case Rangers fans, Torts wins a 2nd one like Tuna; worst case, he doesn't win in his remaining coaching stops, including here). Plus, he taught me not to "shit my pants" in regards to Phil Kessel.

-Torts: "...if you start changing some things around because there's some struggles, everyone second-guessing. It's a matter of not losing your patience." I hope he thinks of this quote the next time he decides to switch up the lines again.

-Who knew that we would find a worse victory song then the Washington Capitals "Beat Dat Beat" from last year, but the Flyers found it with Mac Miller.

-I'm pretty sure we won't see Brad Richards again unless something happens to him (the anti-Bryzgalov). I do want more Brandon Prust instead of the quick punchlines he said tonight.

-Finally, I had to end with Ryan Callahan with his family, particularly his 95-year old grandma. You can make a case that she stole the show tonight; her and Bryzgalov. If I was Cally, when I'm arguing with the refs, I'd bring her down to help out. By the way, if you don't feel any type of emotion when Cally embraces her, then you don't have a soul.

So ends the first episode of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. I'll be back for each of the 3 episodes with my thoughts. Until then, as Artem Anisimov would say, go reload your weapon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Beginning of the End for David Stern

I think David Stern tonight did more damage to his career and legacy than the entire lockout did. It was the fairest trade the Hornets were going to get for Chris Paul. Yes, the Lakers can pair Chris Paul with Kobe, but the price was both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Bringing the Rockets in the deal and New Orleans gets a team that's like last year's Nuggets, in that they are deep enough to compete for a playoff spot and who knows if they can flip an asset for a better player. Hornets GM Dell Demps should be commended tonight for a great haul for a player everybody knew was out the door.

Instead, after a few owners were upset that Chris Paul was Laker-bound, David Stern takes it upon himself to kill the deal. Now to be fair, the NBA is the owner of the Hornets and in any normal case, an owner can overrule the GM if he/she doesn't want to make a trade. However, it's not normal when a league owns a team and they can't use the same rules that any other owner would. The conflict of interest is too obvious (since the 29 owners own the Hornets, we saw 2 of them approve this trade). And yet, Stern puts the kibosh on the agreement.

I actually could understand the move a little more (still not like it, but understand it) if this was about getting an owner to pay more money to buy New Orleans. Yet, the league's position is that this trade was blocked for "basketball reasons" (leading to a fun night I had on Twitter with the hashtag #basketballreasons). Read the story Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about the trade (my first link in this post) and it's apparent that Stern is trying to control where players going so that the players don't have the control in this instance. Then you find that Dan Gilbert (Cavs owner; of comic-sans fame) continues to write humorous letters to people. Oh, wait, he's serious and is nearly reaching Ted Septien-levels of head-shaking ownership. So much for labor peace; the players just signed the new collective bargaining agreement this afternoon.

So what happens now? Does Chris Paul even get traded? How about Dwight Howard? If they are force to stay with their respective teams, what happens next year when both men are free agents and want to leave and won't make the same money that they can if they sign with their own team. Seems to me that a collusion suit can and will be filed. As for David Stern, this is the last straw. I only remember two other commissioner pulling a move like this; Stern's former protege Gary Bettman putting the Devils signing of Ilya Kovalchuk on hold for circumventing the salary cap (despite many instances of other teams doing the same thing) and Bowie Kuhn blocking the A's from selling Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi in 1976 for cash. Seems to me that Stern is using the blocking in a much more irrational way. It's only a matter of time before Stern will no longer be able to be irrational in his way of dealing with the NBA.

UPDATE: I forgot the last point; this is horrible news if your a fan of the Lakers, Heat (well, they got their guys), Knicks, Bulls, Clippers, even Mavs (eventually). Now, you can't use your money to grab franchise players if you already have one. So don't be celebrating the Lakers losing a player, because you could be in the same shoes the next time.

Pujols to the Angels

And the hammer in the baseball Winter Meetings has just occurred; Albert Pujols signs with the Angels, who came out of nowhere to sign him, beating the Cardinals and the Marlins to the punch. The deal; 10 years in some amount between $250-260 million. Now the Angels have signed C.J. Wilson to 5 years/$75 million and have clearly stated that they are all in. Remember, last year's Angels couldn't hit well, but had a strong rotation in Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Well, now the Angels add Wilson to that rotation, while making the lineup infinitely better with Pujols in the middle of the lineup.

Are they better than the Rangers? I say slightly because of the pitching advantage and that the Rangers haven't finished in their dealings for the offseason. I'm certain the Rangers will add a starter, and if they do, they still have the better lineup and a slightly better bullpen (even with Neftali Feliz and Jose Ogando starting).

How about the Cardinals? Where do they go from here? Well they get financial flexibility in the future and now can start Allen Craig in the outfield while moving Lance Berkman to 1B. Also, now they have plenty of cash so they could look to upgrade CF (Carlos Beltran, perhaps), SS or 2B. I don't think Prince Fielder just moves in there because it makes sense to have Berkman at first. One thing is clear, it was an end to an era when Tony La Russa retired; now Pujols joins him in an exit from St. Louis. I guess for that reason, I'm glad they won the series over the Rangers. Of course, in the race for the 2012 World Series, the Angels have now taken two very important pieces from the participants.

Today's a day for the Angels. We'll worry about if the Angels overpaid for these guys in the future. They probably did; of course, it's still not as bad as taking on Vernon Wells contract. I still figure the first 3 years as to determine whether the Angels win on these deals. And the lack of New York-style pressure will allow Pujols/Wilson to avoid early slumping, in my opinion. Next move: where does Prince Fielder go and is there a trade left to be made to swing the balance of power.

Meanwhile, there's NFL tonight. My pick: PITTSBURGH (-14.5) over Cleveland.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 13 Picks

No Tiffany today, and because my regular job, today's picks will be quick ones. Let's hope this is the last NFL Sunday I'll have to work this season (I'm not counting Christmas Eve, a day I'll surely need to come in). Before the picks, I do have some random football thoughts:

-If you notice, Denver at Minnesota is a Fox game today. The NFL TV contract states that Fox only shows AFC home games against an NFC team, not road. Seems like they got the game after New Orleans-Detroit was flexed to Sunday night, but I'm curious, how many times has the wrong network (CBS-Fox since '98, Fox-NBC '94-'97, CBS-NBC '70-'93) aired a particular game? A question I'm sure Ken Fang of Fang's Bites can answer.

-Now that Fox is done with college football, can Fox now use Gus Johnson as it's second NFL team? I love Kenny Albert, but we need Gus for at least one playoff game (I'm not wasting time wanting Gus to replace Joe Buck; it won't happen).

-LSU would beat Oklahoma St if they played in the BCS championship, but at least it would be a fun matchup. I enjoyed LSU-Alabama, but I don't want a second one. Too bad that's what's going to happen. And you wonder why I'm not a big college football guy.

Enough talk, time for the picks (home team in CAPS).

Tennessee (+1) over BUFFALO
CHICAGO (-7) over Kansas City
MIAMI (-3) over Oakland
PITTSBURGH (-7) over Cincinnati
Jets (-3) over WASHINGTON
Atlanta (-1.5) over HOUSTON
Carolina (+1) over TAMPA BAY
Denver (-1.5) over MINNESOTA
NEW ENGLAND (-21 ) over Indianapolis
CLEVELAND (+7) over Baltimore
SAN FRANCISCO (-14) over St. Louis
ARIZONA (+5) over Dallas
Green Bay (-7) over GIANTS
NEW ORLEANS (-9) over Detroit
JACKSONVILLE (+3) over San Diego.

This week: 1-0
Last week: 10-5-1
Season Record: 87-81-9

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Night Pick

A change in my schedule at my regular job now allows me to have a preview of the Thursday Night Game. It begins this week as the Team Formerly Known As Dream Team Philadelphia Eagles make the trek to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seahawks. Too bad this game means absolutely nothing, since both teams are 4-7, losing games that would have put them on the fringe on the playoff race in the NFC.

Eagles are still without Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin. Meanwhile, the specter of Andy Reid being fired at the end of the year and what happens with DeSean Jackson as he goes into free agency will be the only things interesting about this Eagles team (except from their games with the Jets and Cowboys as a chance to play spoiler). Seattle was supposed to be awful, instead are just bad. Tavaris Jackson still isn't good, but the Seahawks play good defense, and that keeps them in games, and allows them to win games they shouldn't (Baltimore); that and that home crowd.

So what happens tonight? I think a better than normal Qwest Field crowd since it's a night game, and an Eagles team that usually needs a reason to get up for a game will lead to another Philly loss. Seahawks will win 17-13 in a turnover-filled game.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More Week 12 Picks and Tiffany's Song

Here's the Week 11 song by Tiffany, though with some of the games from Thursday, the theme's are somewhat obsolete. Anyway, here it is:

Now for the rest of the picks for a Week 12 which is separating the contenders and pretenders. (Home team in CAPS)

Arizona (+3) over ST LOUIS
JETS (-9.5) over Buffalo
Cleveland (+7) over CINCINNATI
JACKSONVILLE (+7) over Houston
Carolina (-4) over INDIANAPOLIS
TENNESSEE (-3) over Tampa Bay
ATLANTA (-9.5) over Minnesota
OAKLAND (-3) over Chicago
SEATTLE (-3) over Washington
New England (-3.5) over PHILADELPHIA
Denver (+6) over SAN DIEGO
Pittsburgh (-11) over KANSAS CITY
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over Giants

This week: 1-2
Season Record: 77-78-8

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The NBA is Back

Yes, last night, the NBA owners and players finally ended their work stoppage. Looks like I was wrong when predicting the season would be lost. Checking my Twitter, there's a mix of people who are thrilled for the NBA's return and those who either could care less and/or are disappointed. I happen to fall in the middle and probably more or less resent both the owners and players for dragging this negotiation along through Thanksgiving and now they want us to just accept them back like nothing happened, starting on Christmas to punctuate this.

The fact though is the NBA will now have no games played between Halloween and Christmas and I have not missed one game. And I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of people who feel the same way. Why is this? Because the NFL plays 3 days a week, college football has 3 days as well, college basketball is back with some great games already (particularly Duke and Kansas the other night) and the NHL has been very good and the face of the league Sidney Crosby just returned and became the biggest sports story on Monday, even on ESPN. NBA probably realized that despite the great playoffs last year, they aren't that important and can be easily replace by other sports. Thus, they got themselves back on the court.

Most NBA fans are happy that the league will play again. I'll be happy for those who work in arenas who lost 8 nights of work, but no more. I'll be happy for bar and restaurant owners who make more money because it's a game night. As for the players and owners, it will take me longer to be happy for you. Remember, I have a whole lot of choices for my sports viewing that your absence made me realize (okay, I would watch those sports all the same with or without the NBA, but that's not the point).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More Thanksgiving Picks

Miami at Dallas

The one game that doesn't involve two playoff contenders, though the Dolphins have started to play like one in the last three games. And now, a game the Cowboys thought was easy is now one they must show up for. The good news for Dallas, Tony Romo is unbeaten in Thanksgiving games. Maybe Jerry Jones should petition that the season end on Thanksgiving. Everyone thinks the Dolphins will keep it close with the Cowboys, I think that if Dallas wins, it's big. And they do, beating Miami 31-10.

San Francisco at Baltimore

The Harbaugh Bowl. Jim vs John. Toughest game the Niners are playing this season, traveling East to face a Ravens team that doesn't lose to good teams or at home. And yet, they seem like a trendy pick as well. Reason I'm picking Baltimore: I trust Joe Flacco more than I do Alex Smith on the road. Otherwise, these teams are mirror images of one another. Ravens will win 23-16.

Last week: 4-8-2
Week 10: 10-6
Season record: 76-76-8

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you can read this before enjoying turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and more, but I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. It's also a day for football (though to be fair, the Arrested Development marathon on IFC can make me flip) and with three games, let's make some Thanksgiving picks on this great day of football ahead.

Green Bay at Detroit

Game is starting shortly and is the biggest Lions Thanksgiving game in forever. Meanwhile, the Packers keep going for an unbeaten season and look for revenge from last season's meeting, which saw the Lions win after Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion. I believe they get revenge, and beat the Lions 34-30, which also means the Lions cover the 6 they're getting. Now, here's a great Lions moment on Thanksgiving (extremely hard to find and can't put on the website).

I'll have the last two games later.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 10 Picks

Just picks today, as Tiffany doesn't have a Week 9 song. However, there won't be quick picks this week, since I haven't wrote much lately. Before the picks, let's look back at Oakland-San Diego and once again, this game says more about the Chargers than it does about the Raiders. Once again, the Chargers can move the ball until they absolutely have to. The fact that the AFC West isn't led by the Chargers is a failure on Norv Turner and it doesn't help that Philip Rivers has been too erratic. Even if San Diego plays great in December and wins the West, that just means they get to lose in the 1st round. Should be the end for Norv if they don't turn this around big time, especially how quick the Chargers pulled the trigger on Marty Schottenheimer's firing.

Now onto the picks, as I attempt to finally end this middling of my picks. Until Thursday's game, I've been at .500, which is unacceptable. Let's see if there's carryover from Thursday's Raiders win. (Home team in CAPS)

Pittsburgh (-3) over CINCINNATI

Tough to pick against the Steelers after a loss. Especially when facing a rookie quarterback, even though Andy Dalton hasn't played like a rookie. Will be very telling of both teams if the Bengals win this one.

Denver (+3.5) over KANSAS CITY

I have a new rule for the AFC West, take the points. Home or away, this division is so bad that if two teams play one another, you're better off taking the underdog. Just remember, a Broncos win means they will be a game out of first with Tim Tebow as the QB.

Jacksonville (-3) over INDIANAPOLIS

Never saw an NFL team look to get the number one draft pick the way the Colts look. They really could go 0-16 to get Andrew Luck. This is a rare winnable game, but the Jags play good enough defense that should see another single-digit Colts offensive effort.

Buffalo (+5.5) over DALLAS

Just when it's time to buy on the Cowboys, this is when a curve is usually thrown and the Cowboys show us why we shouldn't believe in them. Also, expect a much better effort from the Bills, who last week could do anything against the Jets.

Houston (-3.5) over TAMPA BAY

Yes, I'm taking another road team. The Texans are playing very well lately and if they are going to come down to earth, I don't see the Bucs being the team to do so, even though you could say the season for the Bucs is on the line.

CAROLINA (-3.5) over Tennessee

The Titans are just good enough to play close games, then lose them late. As for the Panthers, I think the bye week helps them and Cam Newton is due to win some ballgames, isn't he?

MIAMI (-4) over Washington

Just read that Rex Grossman will start today, not John Beck. The Redskins have no chance to win a game that John Beck starts. At least with Grossman, he's either competent or godawful. Looks like I'm betting on awful. Of course, if the Dolphins want to stay in Suck For Luck, they lose this one.

ATLANTA (+1) over New Orleans

Because I don't trust the Saints on the road anymore. All three losses are road ones (Green Bay, Tampa Bay and St. Louis). Now they are playing a Falcons team that is finally looking like the one who won the NFC South and held the top seed in the playoffs last year. We'll have a new team in first tomorrow.

St. Louis (+3) over CLEVELAND

Two bad teams, but the Rams have the better QB in Sam Bradford. Remember when a matchup between Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy was the biggest game of the weekend? Now it's probably the worst game.


Arizona (+14) over PHILADELPHIA

I probably would of taken the Eagles until we found out DeSean Jackson isn't playing (nice job DeSean during a contract year). Now, I'm taking the points because no one seems to cover double-digit spreads this year. Besides, why should a 3-5 team give 14 points (even with John Skeleton involved)?

Baltimore (-7) over SEATTLE

I fear this game because of the Ravens propensity of losing to bad teams on the road (especially after a Steelers win). Just know that the Ravens can't afford to blow games like this if they want to finally have home playoff games this year. Besides, will Tavaris Jackson/Charlie Whitehurst really beat Lewis, Ngata, Suggs, Reed and the Ravens defense?

CHICAGO (-3) over Detroit

All of a sudden, the Bears look good. Earl Bennett has made Jay Cutler more comfortable, they still play high level defense with Urlacher, Briggs and Peppers. Meanwhile, the Lions haven't played as well as they did to start the year and the Bears could have won the meeting in Detroit if they didn't make a couple mistakes.

Giants (+3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Now this is football, when the Giants and 49ers are both top teams in the league. Honestly, this is a tossup, and I'm mostly taking the Giants because of that half point. In the meantime, here's some great video (for both fan bases).

New England (+1) over JETS

Funny feeling about this one. The Pats just don't lose 3 in a row (2002 was the last time). Everyone seems to be on the Jets here, and with reason as the Jets have won three in a row and the Pats have lost two in a row and looked bad offensively in their last 3. I just don't think the Jets take advantage of the Pats problem areas on defense and won't cover the tight ends when Brady is throwing it.

Minnesota (+14) over GREEN BAY

Thinking a close Monday night game here. Now that the Packers are 8-0, they will get every team's best shot. That means Adrian Peterson controls the line of scrimmage and Christian Ponder continues to protect the ball.

This week: 1-0
Last week: 7-7
Season record: 63-62-6

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tiffany's Week 8 Recap and Week 9 Picks.

Tiffany is back with a new video, first in a few weeks. She explains the absence in the video, and it also has a new tweak.

Yes, I'm also aware I haven't written much in the last couple weeks. That's what happens when you get a nasty cough (I haven't seen a doctor, though I wouldn't be surprised if I had bronchitis). Once again, my picks will be quick ones, so here they are (Home team in CAPS)

Atlanta (-7) over INDIANAPOLIS
NEW ORLEANS (-9) over Tampa Bay
Cleveland (+11) over HOUSTON
BUFFALO (-3) over Jets
Miami (+6) over KANSAS CITY
WASHINGTON (+5.5) over San Francisco
DALLAS (-11.5) over Seattle
Denver (+7.5) over OAKLAND
Cincinnati (+3) over TENNESSEE
St. Louis (+2) over ARIZONA
Giants (+9.5) over NEW ENGLAND
SAN DIEGO (+6) over Green Bay
Baltimore (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
PHILADELPHIA (-8) over Chicago

Last Week: 4-8-1
Season Record: 55-55-6

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quick Week 8 Picks

No time for explanations or songs; here are my picks for Week 8 (Home team in CAPS)

Indianapolis (+8) over TENNESSEE
Jacksonville (+10) over HOUSTON
CAROLINA (-3.5) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-14.5) over ST. LOUIS
BALTIMORE (-11.5) over Arizona
Miami (+10) over GIANTS
BUFFALO (-5) over Washington-game played in Toronto
Detroit (-3) over DENVER
New England (-3) over PITTSBURGH
SAN FRANCISCO (-9) over Cleveland
SEATTLE (+1.5) over Cincinnati
Dallas (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
KANSAS CITY (+3.5) over San Diego

Last week: 6-6-1
Season record: 51-47-5

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Arena Issues

Two teams, two sports, two small markets, two arena issues.

That is what we have in Edmonton and Sacramento as the Oilers and Kings continue to fight for new buildings for their teams. Though, in the case of the Kings, they are just waiting on the city of Sacramento to pass an arena bill or they are gone.

The Kings are helped by the fact that the Mayor of Sacramento is former NBA player Kevin Johnson, and he seems desperate to keep the Kings in Sac-Town. And the current lockout isn't deterring him in the slightest. Now, the issue in Sacramento seems to be a personal political battle between Johnson and councilwoman Sandy Sheedys, as this column by Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee suggests. However, this issue still has about four months left to figure out in order to keep the team in town.

Up in Edmonton, their issue still seems more like a partnership between team and city and Daryl Katz wants his team out of Rexall Place and in a new barn in downtown Edmonton. And also, today is a big day in the fight for the new building as the Edmonton City Council will vote on it. If you care at all about the Oilers (whether as a fan, rival or someone who appreciates all that franchise has done for hockey), then you should be following the Edmonton Journal's David Staples Twitter page or his live blog of the city council vote. He laid out of history of the Oilers and the arena issues they've had yesterday and thinks it's a good deal for Edmontonians if they passed the current offer now.

What happens if Edmonton doesn't pass a deal? Then I think the Oilers are gone, and 5-10 years later, Edmonton will build a new arena anyway and bring in another team, just like Winnipeg. The difference; cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City lost their teams when the Canadian dollar was failing and the economy was down and a new building just wasn't feasible then. This isn't the case in Edmonton. They have more favorable conditions and there continues to be a sense that the downtown area needs to be revitalized. Why wait until the Oilers are gone and make a deal, do so today. Let's hope a deal is passed and the Oilers stay in Edmonton.Link

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Time to End the Big East

Today it looks like the final blow to the Big East Conference has been absorbed. Unless something screwy happens, West Virginia is leaving for the Big 12. Now you can blame John Marinatto (who is to blame for his horrid leadership), you can blame Mike Tranghese for defending the BCS years back, killing the Big East and making the Big 12 completely dependent on Texas. So it's about time to end the whole thing.

In this instance, I'm not writing about Rutgers, UConn and the football schools. I can careless what they do (though I do love it when Rutgers thinks they belong in the Big Ten; they have as much a chance as DePaul does). I've mentioned this before, but I'm a Seton Hall alum and have become increasingly concerned on what happens to them in this whole school shuffle. But it's not just Seton Hall, it's St. John's, it's Georgetown, it's Villanova; these great basketball programs that will be left behind because they don't play FBS football. What happens to them?

That's why it's time for the basketball schools to be proactive and former their own league. Now who goes into this league? Well, St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova will start the league, and you bring in Seton Hall and Providence because they spent all the years they did in the Big East. Throw in Marquette and DePaul since they are current Big East members. After them, look for all the great basketball schools without major football. Xavier and Butler are obvious ones to pluck. Temple is the interesting case because they're getting better in football. They might not just go into an non-football conference. I also figure Notre Dame doesn't participate in this league, and perhaps join somewhere else for its Olympic sports, but they would be welcome if football independence trumps their plans.

So that leaves us with nine members in a new Big East. Add in UMass, Dayton and Richmond and you have twelve. Twelve is a good number, enough to get multiple NCAA appearances. There, you won't have a round-robin, but with 16 or 18 games, there can be some semblance of rivalry. You can also split into two divisions (say SJU, SHU, GTown, Nova, UMass and Providence in one; Dayton, Xavier, Butler, DePaul, Marquette and Richmond in the other).

We know that the Big East as we know it is done. Louisville and Cincinnati probably follow West Virginia to the Big 12, Rutgers and UConn likely head to ACC and South Florida is the one who probably is forced back into Conference USA. Instead of waiting for this to happen, the basketball (Catholic) schools need to band together like they did once before. Form your own league, play basketball well and more importantly, keep the MSG for your conference tournament, which could be done with St. John's being involved. St. John's is the only college that truly matters in NYC, at least when they're good. If they are back, MSG will host this conference's tournament. It seems ideal for everyone involved.

Not to mention, it makes too much sense.

Truly A Fall Classic

It's been nine years since the last time the World Series went to a seventh game. That was the largely forgettable Giants-Angels World Series with the exception of J.T. Snow saving Dusty Baker's son's life and the epic choke job the Giants pulled in Game 6, allowing the Angels to rally and win. Since then, only twice has the Fall Classic even reached six games (both involving the Yankees). The series the AL team won usually had been sweeps, the NL winning ones were finished in 5 games.

This year, however, it's been trememdous. The Rangers and Cardinals have been thrilling for baseball fans. It's had a little bit of everything; great pitching, clutch hitting, historic performances, and the overmanaging display by both Tony La Russa and Ron Washington which you can expect to show up in Joe Girardi's binder for next season. Especially after the bizarre performance by La Russa last night. It's been 18 hours since the last out, and my head still hurts on all of Tony La Russa's moves in this game. And the shame is that it overshadows the exploits of Ron Washington, who's completely afraid to allow Albert Pujols to ever swing a bat. However, his strategy is working, so he can keep shimmying on now to a win away from the World Series (insert George W. Bush "Mission Accomplished" joke here).

Even with the 3-2 lead for Texas, I'm still uncertain who's winning this series as the Cardinals have the last two games at home. This is outstanding thing for baseball who should finally get the pay off with bigger ratings on Wednesday and hopefully Thursday with a Game 7. But even if it doesn't, it still won't ruin how entertaining a series we are experiencing. As a baseball fan who's become tired of one-sided World Series (not to mention early round playoff series as well in recent years), the possibly that a Game 7 could happen has me very excited.

Some other random World Series thoughts:

-Matt Napoli is your leader for Series MVP. It's clear after the crushed HR in Game 4, then the go-ahead double last night. The Cards don't have a clear leader; despite Pujols' 3 HR game on Game 3, he has no hits in any other game. I'm sure an MVP will present himself if the Cards do rally in the two home games.

-Derek Holland probably won't get to pitch again this series, meaning he won't win the Series MVP despite his great Game 4 performance. Doesn't matter; he wins the MVP in life after his performance in Game 5 as part of the Fox broadcast.

-Matt Holliday isn't going to win Series MVP. Looks like I got that one wrong from my preview post.

-Despite all the craziness that happened with La Russa and the controversy involving who was suppposed to pitch in the 8th, this is all avoided if David Murphy's grounder doesn't hit off Mike Rzepczynski. That's at least an out (maybe even a double play) and allows the Cards to pitch around Napoli and have Rzepczynski face Moreland in the lefty-lefty matchup.

-Home runs are usually mundane, but it seems like every homer hit in this series are either completely crushed or, in the case of Adrian Beltre, absurd looking. Part of that is a World Series blast is more important, but these are some larger than life shots.

-I hope I'm not the only NY Rangers fan to notice that both Rangers teams results seem to be tied together, at least since Game 6 of the ALCS when Texas won, but the Rangers lost to the Islanders. So far in the World Series, both Rangers won on Thursday and last night and both lost on Saturday. I'd root for a Game 7 Texas victory, however, that game won't end before New York's home opener, so Texas fans should root against the Leafs should a Game 7 be needed.

-When this is all over, I'm going to miss the Ron Washington Dance.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Week 7 Picks

This weekend is Tiffany's birthday (let's all wish here a happy birthday), and she was unable to write a song for us to enjoy this week. I wanted to finally do a power poll this week, as well as a couple other posts, but this week has been crazy at work. Next week will be a bigger week here at The Cycle since I'll be on vacation. Until then, here's my weekly picks. (Home team in CAPS)

Chicago (-1.5) over Tampa Bay: No home game for either team as they play in London. I give up figuring out the Bucs, Bears might not be bad, just not on the level of the Packers, Saints and Lions.

Washington (+3) over CAROLINA: Thinking that John Beck can't be worse than Rex Grossman and can pick apart the Panthers defense.

JETS (-1) over San Diego: Despite all the talking this week, it's a game that the Jets need more than the Chargers. Add the 1pm start and the fact the Chargers don't step up against good teams, and the Jets should win. And if not, then the Jets aren't good.

Seattle (+3) over CLEVELAND: Things are so bad in Cleveland right now that taking the Seahawks on the road is more viable.

Houston (+3) over TENNESSEE: Gut pick on my part. I'm not that impressed with the Titans and even hurt, I think the Texans can win.

Denver (-1) over MIAMI: The Tim Tebow Era starts with a bang as the Dolphins continue their "Suck For Luck" season. Last Monday was spectacular in that sense by Miami. One thing Tiffany did do was write a preview for this game.

DETROIT (-4) over Atlanta: Bounce back week for the Lions, facing a Falcons team who took advantage of a bad Carolina defense. Don't see the same result happen today.

Pittsburgh (-4) over ARIZONA: Don't know why this line is low. I know the Steelers struggled last week, but the Cardinals in my eyes are the perfect elixir for offensive troubles.

OAKLAND (-4) over Kansas City: I know this is illogical, but the fact that the Chiefs can reach .500 after the season they had to start is also illogical. Darren McFadden should be enough to win this for the Raiders.

St. Louis (+14) over DALLAS: The Cowboys shouldn't give 14 points against anyone. I know the Rams aren't good, but they can keep it close, right? These two probably won't outscore the Cards and the Rangers in Game 3, unless Albert Pujols puts on shoulder pads.

Green Bay (-10.5) over MINNESOTA: Christian Ponder makes his first NFL start against the world champs. Bad news for the rookie.

NEW ORLEANS (-14) over Indianapolis: Let's hope this game isn't close at all so we can just watch Game 4 of the World Series tonight.

Baltimore (-9) over JACKSONVILLE: See the last section, just change Game 4 to Game 5.

Last week: 6-5-2
Season record: 45-41-4

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

World Series Preview

Well, talk about unexpected World Series matchup, but we have the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. The second year in a row that a World Series between two teams who have nicknames that are used in other sports (NY Rangers, Arizona Cardinals). For the Rangers, they've made it here on the back on the balance in their lineup and their bullpen, which has been particularly dominant, especially when you remove any appearance by Koji Uehara. The Cards, on the other hand, haven't really had a formula, as Tony La Russa seems to be able to make every move work. They also have had a great postseason by Albert Pujols, and the bullpen has done the job when called upon, which has been early and often for La Russa. Here's the top storylines of the series.

1. Will anybody watch this Series? No matter how much you like baseball, it's something that needs to be asked after another year of low LCS ratings. If baseball marketed their stars well, Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Neftali Feliz would be enough to get casual eyeballs to this series. Now, the only way you'll see casual fans is if the series goes 6 or 7 games (preferably 7). Since 2004, the only series to go 6 games is the Yanks and Phillies in 2009. So, let's hope for a long series.

2. Will Nelson Cruz continue his feast of famine approach to hitting? Do we see the Cruz who was 1 for 15 against the Tampa Bay Rays, or do we see the man who dominated the Tigers series with 6 HR's, 13 RBI's and a .364 average. If the latter, the Cards are in plenty of trouble. If it's the former, then the top of the Rangers lineup will have more pressure to hit, especially in St. Louis.

3. How much will DH/no DH make a difference for either team? It's a question that comes up in every World Series. Judging from Ron Washington's Game 1 lineup, expect plenty of Michael Young at first and Mitch Moreland doing pitch hitting. For the Cards, the answer for who plays in Texas is easy, as Allen Craig will play the outfield and I'll assume it's Lance Berkman who's in at DH. With Craig, the Cards have a guy who's a pitcher must be careful.

4. Can the Cardinals bullpen match the Rangers? Biggest question mark for the Cards. The Rangers, aside from Koji Uehara, are outstanding in the bullpen. The Cards have pitched above and beyond, but now it gets serious. The Rangers, though slightly, are a better hitting team than the Brewers and the masterful job Tony La Russa has done with his bullpen will say a lot if it continues.

5. How does the likes of Hamilton, Kinsler, Andrus, etc. handle their second straight World Series appearance? Last year, the Rangers made the World Series on the back of Cliff Lee, then he lost in the World Series, and no one really picked up the slack in the five game loss to the Giants. Now, Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus are all a year old and wiser. Adrian Beltre and Matt Napoli have added some pop in the Rangers lineup, an obvious need. C.J. Wilson has a payday to play for and his start could mean the difference from 15 million a year and 18 million (probably won't make a difference, but go with me). They were favored last year, how do they handle being favored this year?

6. Will Chris Carpenter pitch 3 games? Simple question, answer isn't as much. One reason, because we would need a Game 7 to happen. The main reason is because Carpenter is fighting some injury issues. Right now, it's Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson scheduled to pitch. So it probably doesn't allow Carpenter to start 3 games. But in a Game 7, win or go home, you're telling me Tony La Russa won't call upon a former Cy Young winner in a big spot? I don't think so.

7. Is this the last we see of Albert Pujols as a Cardinal? Pujols has been great this postseason, best one from him in quite a few years (I'd say 2005 for him). We all know he's getting paid by someone, but will it be the Cardinals? I really don't think the choice is difficult. Jon Paul Morosi wrote this on the pending free agency of Pujols:
When the season began, there was a credible exit strategy for Pujols: If the Cardinals finished out of the money, and if manager Tony La Russa left for the White Sox or elsewhere, then Pujols could take stock of the situation and say, “Well, maybe it’s time.”

He can’t do that now. The Cardinals are in the World Series for the third time in his illustrious career. La Russa isn’t going to the White Sox, and he’s probably not going anywhere at all. Pujols is hitting in the best lineup in the National League, one that is deeper now with the emergence of NLCS MVP David Freese. As Laird said, this team should be as good — and maybe even better — next year.
I really don't see Pujols burning his bridge in St. Louis, win or lose. The Cards will pay and Pujols will stay.

8. Will Nolan Ryan be proven right about his "Rangers in 6" prediction? No, I have the Cardinals winning a thrilling 7 games, with Matt Holliday as your MVP, since I hardly mentioned him until now. For those watching, enjoy a great series. For those not, enjoy watching the Colts and the Jaguars on primetime football games this week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tiffany's Week 5 Recap and Week 6 Picks

We begin this weekend slate with some news. The lovely Tiffany will be making her second appearance on Boomer and Carton on Friday, October 28th. You can listen on WFAN, or if you're in NYC, but get MSG, you can watch it there. Even though I can't stand the show, I'll be sure to watch for her song and I hope you all do as well. In the mean time, here's her song for Week 5.

Now we move on to Week 6 after another chaotic week of football. Especially if you're a fan of the Eagles or the Jets. And the theme I would say for the week is how many unexpectedly great matchups are on tap for this weekend. Here's the picks (home team is in CAPS).

GREEN BAY (-15) over St. Louis: We know this team from St. Louis will lose in Wisconsin on Sunday, the question is will the other one do so. If not, the Cards are in the World Series.

PITTSBURGH (-13) over Jacksonville: A team that's tailor made for the Steelers defense. Overplay on the run and force Blaine Gabbert to beat you.

Philadelphia (-3) over WASHINGTON: I can't believe the Eagles are still getting points. Still, enough is enough, right? (I really hope the answer is no)

San Francisco (+4.5) over DETROIT: Who'd thought that this is the game of the day? Short week for the Lions, and the Niners I think are overlooked.

Carolina (+4) over ATLANTA: I will never pick against Cam Newton. I will never pick against Cam Newton. I will never pick against Cam Newton. I will never pick against Cam Newton

Indianapolis (+7) over CINCINNATI: Despite the 3-2 record, no one in Cincy believes in the Bengals. Could be a game for the Colts to sneak in here, or at least cover.

Buffalo (+3) over GIANTS: I can't depend on that Giants defense to stop either Fred Jackson or Ryan Fitzpatrick. Plus, the Bills convert on fluky turnovers, something the Giants are experts at committing.

BALTIMORE (-8) over Houston: No Andre Johnson. No Mario Williams. And now the Texans are on the road against the best team in the AFC. Yeah, you read that right.

OAKLAND (-7) over Cleveland: Wrong week for the Browns to show up in the Black Hole. I expect (not to mention need) Darren McFadden to bounce back big time this week.

Dallas (+7) over NEW ENGLAND: I don't know if the Cowboys will win, but I think they keep it close in a high-scoring game in Foxboro.

New Orleans (-5) over TAMPA BAY: I might as well go ahead and rip up my "Bucs to win NFC" wager. This is what happens when you bet in March.

Minnesota (+3) over CHICAGO: This could be the week Jay Cutler gets killed (something I think every single NFL column/blog has said this week). Can't we flex this game out for SF/Det? At least this means we can focus on baseball.

JETS (-7) over Miami: Matt Moore is the Dolphins QB. Brandon Marshall said he's going to get thrown out. No reason for the Jets to be close, let alone lose. If they do, the stories this week about the Jets in trouble will be a picnic for the one you'll see next week.

Last week: 6-7
Season Record: 39-36-2

Friday, October 14, 2011

Season Saving Wins

There was a chance both LCS' would have been short. Both the Tigers and the Brewers needed a win. The circumstances were different; Detroit was down to it's last game, while the Brewers needed to avoid getting into a 3-1 series hole. And the other different circumstance was that the Brewers were going with Randy Wolf to get them back in the series, their number 4 starter, while the Tigers had Justin Verlander, the soon-to-be Cy Young winner and possible MVP.

What happens? Both men save the season.

Verlander had the tougher task. Not only for the obvious of not allowing the Rangers eliminate the Tigers last night, but he needed to give Joakim Benoit and Jose Valverde a day off after both men pitched three straight days. So one thing you were guaranteed to see was that Verlander was going to throw until his arm couldn't throw anymore.

Just like it's been all playoffs, Verlander hasn't been dominant. He's been hit, but the damage always seems to be mitigated. Just one run in the 1st inning. Holds the Rangers to one run in the 5th (though a inch or two to the right and Adrian Beltre knocks the ball out). Then loads the bases in the 6th, and faces Ian Kinsler, who was hitting him hard all game long. First pitch and a double play, ending the inning. It was at that point which Verlander was rewarded for his escapability, as the Tigers put up 4 in the bottom half, helped by the 3rd base bag.

Verlander finished the game after a Nelson Cruz HR, but with a lead. Enough outs for Phil Coke to close the door and to set up a return trip to Arlington.

Meanwhile, Randy Wolf was outstanding, better than Verlander. He goes 7 innings strong, only giving up a couple solo HR's. That was enough when you pitch for the Brewers, who predictably got to Kyle Lohse. It was more redemption for Wolf, after he was hit hard in Game 4 of the last round against Arizona.

Now, the Brewers-Cards series is up for grabs, which benefits Milwaukee who are great at home, plus they have Zack Greinke pitching the road start. It would seem to me that St. Louis needs to win tonight so they don't have to win two games at Miller Park. Of course, if the Cardinals are "zombie-like", as Jeff Passan suggests, then maybe they would prefer to have to win two in Milwaukee. The best of three begins tonight.

As for the ALCS, tomorrow is Game 6, with Game 2 starters Derek Holland and Max Scherzer doing battle. It will be interesting to see who gets this game to the bullpens with a lead. Especially with Benoit and Valverde each getting two days off. It should be a fun weekend of baseball and Justin Verlander and Randy Wolf are big reasons for that.Link

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Realignment Talk, Part II

Yesterday, I gave a more rational idea for realignment of the NHL teams starting next season. Now, I'm going to get creative. I get that it's almost certain that you won't see a true transformation of the divisions, but I wanted to get this out there since I couldn't find any hockey writer/blogger that I know suggest this. Let me start with the division that I find most unique to this plan. Oh, and by the way, I'm doing away with geographical names with updated NHL legends named as divisions.

Howe Division: Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Rangers, Islanders, Devils

That's right, a division with Original Six teams. I hate to include the Islanders and Devils, but what's the point of a division of just Original Six teams if they can't play more often. Since the Islanders and Devils basically are aligned with the Rangers, they are included so we see more divisional play. Besides if/when the Islanders move, they are out of here.

Gretzky Division: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Minnesota, Buffalo

Now here is where the rest of the Canadian teams will join together. And the addition of Minnesota and Buffalo make sense because those are arguably your two most hockey-crazed American cities with the exception of Pittsburgh (obviously no Original Six teams count here) Also, since the division has seven teams, there's room for Quebec City whenever a team comes in.

Lemieux Division: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville

Now this division is more or less based on geography. It more or less pairs all the rest of the teams in the Eastern time zone, as well as Nashville, who while in the Central share a lot more in common with Florida and Tampa, than Dallas and St. Louis.

Orr Division: Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Dallas, St. Louis

Here's the division that might have the most gripes because it doesn't solve the problem of travel for the Stars and now gives the Blues the same problems. It's made to pair up all the U.S. based teams west of the Mississippi. It has an open slot for a team to move to Seattle, though if the team that moves is someone like the Islanders, then you can move the Blues to the Howe Division to reignite their Red Wings and Blackhawks rivalries.

More than likely, the same split of games will occur as in yesterday's post (8-team divisions would play 5x in the division, everyone else home and away and 3 games against a team in the other 8 division team; 7-team divisions play 6x in the division, and everyone else home and away). We'll add a divisional first round, then reseed for the rest of the playoffs. How's that for creative?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Realignment Talk, Part I

The day is coming when the NHL will realign again as the Winnipeg Jets would have to leave a division that includes Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida. However, last night, Bob McKenzie started tweeting that the only realignment that might occur is a swap of the Jets to the Central Division and the Red Wings into the Southeast. I know the Red Wings are desperate to leave the Western Conference, but it seems wrong that they are abandoning their rivals in Chicago and St. Louis (at least without re-energizing their rivalries with the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs). How about the Dallas Stars, still stuck in the Pacific Division, even though they are geographically closer to each team in the Central. Shouldn't the NHL scrap the six-division format in it's entirety? Yes, it needs to be at least 4 divisions (or conferences where Greg Wyshynski called at in this Puck Daddy post). And I have two ways for the NHL to align them. Here's the first one, which does the job, but it seems ordinary:

Western: LA, Anaheim, SJ, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, Colorado.

Yes, I'm not leaving the Jets in this division. Travel benefits all these teams and each game can be played no earlier than 9 PM EST.

Central: Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville.

Sorry Detroit, you still play in a more Western division, but my plan will have an equal amount of games between non-divisional opponents, so there will be less travel; which is your compromise for staying sorta West.

Northeast: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia

Splitting the East teams was the hardest chore, as it's either the Rangers in the Northeast with the Islanders and Devils, or the Penguins with the Flyers. This is one where I can go either way with.

Atlantic: Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey, Washington, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay.

Columbus gets to move to the East because of this format. They are another team which I can see in the Northeast instead, in order to start a rivalry with the Penguins, but you can always have Pittsburgh and Philly in this division in order to do so.

Figure that each team is guaranteed to play their division foes 5 times, and a home and away against everyone else. Since that leaves an uneven amount of games (8-division teams are at 79, 7 -div at 76), I figure will use what the NHL does now and add some random games. The 7 division teams will have 6 games against one another. The 8-division teams will fill the last 3 games with games against the opposite 8-team division. As for the playoffs, you do either a 1 vs 16 format, or you start with divisional playoff round, like in the 80s, then reseed at that point. That is probably a sensible way to realign the NHL for the 2011-12 season. However, there are more way to arrange the league and I will have another realignment option that fortunately, I'm not really seeing as of yet and think can work out. This will be done for tomorrow, so comeback for Part II.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tiffany's Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Picks

A later NFL picks post due to Yom Kippur this week, and Tiffany is back with her musical goodness on a crazy Week 4.

I was planning on doing a quarter power poll after each team played 4 games, but work and other blog posts this week have conflicted. It just means that we'll have the power poll ready for next weekend. On to the picks (Home team in CAPS)

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Kansas City- In this week's edition of the Suck 4 Luck Invitational, you have the Chiefs who screwed up royally (though not Royal-like) by beating the Vikings. Meanwhile, you have the Colts (who my friend Alison called the Fauxlts last Monday) are getting closer to winning, but still find ways to lose, keeping the pole position. Roles will reverse this Sunday._

MINNESOTA (-3) over Arizona- This is getting ridiculous for the Vikings. Another game which they blow a lead. Meanwhile, the Cards continue to be a most confounding team, which makes sense since they're in the NFC West. Vikings last chance in picking terms.

BUFFALO (+3) over Philadelphia- Because I'm not sold yet on the Eagles turning things around. And because I think losing to the Bengals will be the best thing for the Bills thus far.

Oakland (+5) over HOUSTON- For the record, I was on the Raiders because of no Andre Johnson and the expectation of a bounce back game from Darren McFadden. Even more convinced that the Raiders won't lose on the first game after Al Davis' death. RIP.

New Orleans (-7) over CAROLINA- It's tempting to keep riding Cam Newton and the Panthers for another late cover, but I think they are stepping up in weight class here. Saints will put up points today.

Cincinnati (-1) over JACKSONVILLE- Why is no one talking about how bad the Jaguars are? I know they aren't the same team who played the Jets, but they just aren't good. Maybe when Blaine Gabbert gets settled, they will perform.

Tennessee (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH- Conversely why aren't the Titans being talked about as being sneaky good? The Steelers are still struggling and Big Ben is banged up.

GIANTS (-10) over Seattle- Seahawks are away from home, so don't pick them. Giants are still playing October games and Eli Manning is playing some of his best football right now. Should be an easy one.

Tampa Bay (+3) over SAN FRANCISCO- I'm a full believer in Jim Harbaugh and this Niners team will win the NFC West (maybe even with 10+ wins). But too much is invested in the Bucs by me to pick against them. They just keep grinding out victories like Knish in Rounders.

Jets (+8) over NEW ENGLAND- Upset of the week; Jets will win 27-24 as they finally step up in the last game of this 3 game road trip. Mark Sanchez will not play as bad as last week and expect a few turnovers created by the defense against Tom Brady.

San Diego (-4) over DENVER- Is this the week Tim Tebow finally gets to play some QB? If the Chargers actually decide to beat a team down, they will. The Broncos, another horrible team in a league full of them.

Green Bay (-6) over ATLANTA- And we have the Falcons, who quietly are much worse than last year. It's their mo to fall back to earth the year after a playoff season. If there is any chance of salvation for the Falcons, they win Sunday night.

DETROIT (-6) over Chicago- Everything's going Detroit way of late, isn't it? Tigers are in the ALCS (forget the loss tonight). Red Wings started the season and are already punishing teams. And the soon to be lockout will keep the unwatchable Pistons away. And this Monday night game comes on the ALCS off day, even more wonderful news.

Last week: 8-8
Season Record: 33-29-2

Saturday, October 8, 2011

ALCS Preview

Time for a quick preview of the ALCS with the Detroit Tigers set to face the Detroit Tigers momentarily. We begin the series with the two aces of each team's staff pitching as Justin Verlander gets to pitch on normal rest here in Game 1, facing C.J. Wilson, who hasn't pitched since Game 1 of the Tampa series, which he was hit hard by the Rays lineup at the tune of 8 runs, 6 earned in 5 IP. Verlander is off a gritty 8 IP, 4 ER performance which he at times was toying with the Yankee hitters with his fastball and curve, but had a couple inning make Game 3 much closer than it should have been.

Just like in the Yankees series, the Tigers will have the perceived weakness in their lineup and their bullpen. And again, it's not accurate when Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are batting. The thing that hurts Detroit is the loss of Delmon Young to an oblique injury, but this means that Don Kelly will get more playing time after the great series he played. The Rangers lineup seems to have new heroes every game; the last one being Adrian Beltre hitting 3 HR's in the deciding game. In my eyes the bullpens favor Texas as while Valverde=Feliz and Benoit=Adams, the Rangers are deeper with Ogando and Mike Gonzalez. As for the rest of the rotation, it's a slight edge to the Tigers, with Doug Fister ready for a Game 7 and the terrific pitching of Max Scherzer. And that's why I have the Tigers winning the series in 7, back in the World Series for the first time since 2006.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

NHL Preview

Tonight is the start of the NHL season, with the puck dropping in Toronto, Vancouver and Boston (who will see the banner raise). I wanted to write a quick list of 10 things to expect to see in the 2011-12 season.

1. I basically agree with everything Steve Lepore from Puck The Media wrote the other day. The NHL will take advantage of the NBA not being around this year. Especially come playoff time, since college basketball will get its share of attention most of the year. Expect the biggest ratings ever for Versus/NBCSN as well as the games on NBC.

2. This is something we are already seeing, as now there is more accountability in terms of headshots. Brendan Shanahan is already upping the suspensions for players targeting the head. Plus, his video explanations on why someone is suspended is must-see TV.

3. I've seen a bunch of experts saying that Henrik Lundqvist will win the Vezina this season. I have no choice but to agree with them.

4. I think Jeff Skinner sees a little sophomore slump, while Logan Couture will be just as good as last year. However, Tyler Seguin will be the breakout star this year. Expect him to play more consistent this season for the defending champs.

5. Shea Weber will be your Norris winner. He's the best defensemen in the league and getting some national spotlight (at least in Canada) during the playoffs will give him a chance at winning, not just being a finalist. I also have Barry Trotz as my Adams winner, another one long overdue for his award.

6. I see too many people picking Adam Larsson for the Calder. Can't get myself to pick the Devil, so Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is my guy.

7. No repeat for Corey Perry in terms of being the Hart winner. I think Jonathan Toews has his best regular season, and adds a Hart trophy to his already extensive trophy case.

8. Sidney Crosby returns in January, but doesn't help the Pens win the Atlantic. Instead, it's Hank and the Rangers winning the division. My East standings: 1. Caps 2. Bruins 3. Rangers 4. Bolts 5. Pens 6. Sabres 7. Flyers 8. Canes 9. Leafs 10. Habs 11. Isles 12. Devils 13. Panthers 14. Jets 15. Sens.

9. You would think the Canucks would drop off, but I still say they are the best team in the regular season, since they still have plenty of depth. 1. Canucks 2. Sharks 3. Hawks 4. Kings 5. Wings 6. Preds 7. Jackets 8. Blues 9. Oilers 10. Ducks 11. Flames 12. Wild 13. Yotes 14. Avs 15. Stars.

10. The Caps reach their first Stanley Cup Final with Alex Ovechkin, but it's not enough as the Blackhawks win their second Cup in three years. Enjoy the hockey everyone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Is A-Rod The Scapegoat?

I was at yesterday's Game 2 of Yankees-Tigers and it was a pretty ho-hum contest. The reason I'm writing is because in the 8th inning as everyone knows, Alex Rodriguez was booed after his popfly. If you are going to boo someone, it should have been Jeter, for his 0-5, the strikeout while the Yankees tried to rally in the ninth and the error in the sixth which helped the Tigers get two more runs in the inning. Otherwise, the entire Yankee team decided to allow Max Scherzer to pitch a no-hitter into the sixth inning and could have been booed as a unit, if possible.

I think it's absurd that I even have to write another post pointing out how unfair it is to boo A-Rod. We all know that he's playing hurt. He hasn't played much in the second half and is clearly not in rhythm. Plus, he's not making excuses, as evident by his postgame comments yesterday. So give him a break, that's what A.J. Burnett is for.

Some other thoughts from yesterday:

-My friend Justin who went to the game with me is calling Miguel Cabrera "The Monster". A fair and accurate statement.

-Girardi didn't help things by pinch-hitting Brett Gardner for Eric Chavez with two on in the 6th. Also, Luis Ayala is this year's Sergio Mitre, meaning when he comes in, the white flag is being waved.

-There were three Tigers near me in my row who I didn't know even where who they were until Detroit added that run in the 9th and they were brave enough to cheer aloud. Really wanted to say something to them if Jose Valverde blew the lead.

-Glad not to see Valverde get to do his celebration. Small victories.

-This was only my third ever Yankee playoff game I saw in person. The other two were 2000 ALCS Game 2 (the only time I sat in the Bleachers with the Creatures) which the Yankees put up seven runs in the eighth to salvage a split with the Mariners, turning around the series and 2001 ALDS Game 5 which was the first Jeter catch in the stands (and incidentally, the forgotten one after the one against Boston). Same we had the opposite type of game from Jeter yesterday.

-This Sabathia vs. Verlander matchup will decide the series. Don't want the season to hang on the arm of AJ Burnett. Enjoy the game everyone.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tiffany's Week 3 Recap and Week 4 Picks

Good news, Tiffany is back! After being out with a camera, she has her Week 3 song up on YouTube, but never fear, we have the video up here on this post and hopefully every week from now on.

Now after that musical awesomeness, it's time for my picks, which are slowly but surely improving. Can you guys believe that we've reached the quarter pole already. Seems like football season moves so fast. Anyway, here's my Week 4 picks. (Home team listed with CAPS)

Detroit (+1) over DALLAS: If the Dallas from Monday night shows up to this game, the Lions probably win by 3 touchdowns. Even if the Cowboys play better, the Lions are better and should be at 4-0 after today.

New Orleans (-7.5) over JACKSONVILLE: Can't you just see the Saints putting up 35+ points and if you think the Jaguars can score 28+ to cover this spread, by all means. It won't happen, but it's your money.

PHILADELPHIA (-9.5) over San Francisco: Not just because the Niners are playing on the East at 1 pm (last week proved that's no be all end all), but because I do expect the Eagles to give the Niners a whooping after the loss to the Giants last week.

Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS: Rams continue their death march to 0-7. Next stop; a good Redskins team, though if the Rams keep it close late, I'll trust Sam Bradford more than Rex Grossman.

CLEVELAND (+1) over Tennessee: Why in the world are the Browns giving the point to the Titans when their best WR just suffered a season-ending injury. Plus, Chris Johnson will only carry more of the load, likely to see 8 men in the box.

Buffalo (-3) over CINCINNATI: Tough call considering there maybe some week after in terms of the Bills. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick will face his former team and I expect he'll play well, and that's enough to be the Bengals.

Minnesota (-3) over KANSAS CITY: The Vikings won't blow 4 halftime leads this year, will they? Not against the Chiefs, setting up Chiefs-Colts: Battle for Luck.

Carolina (+7) over CHICAGO: The only way the Bears win easy is if they either injure Cam Newton or a monsoon shows up at Soldier Field. The Chicago forecast says sunny weather.

Pittsburgh (+4) over HOUSTON: How many times do the Steelers get points when they face someone not named Patriots or Ravens in Baltimore. Despite the close game in Indy, I still think it's early to proclaim Pittsburgh in trouble.

Atlanta (-6) over SEATTLE: My policy is that if the Seahawks play any NFC West teams at home, I'll pick them. As far as I know, the Falcons no longer play in the NFC West, despite NFC West like play against the Bucs last week.

Giants (-1.5) over ARIZONA: Great memories for the Giants as they return to the scene of the greatest Super Bowl ever (at least in my eyes). The game Eli Manning had a week ago, expect more of the same. Wish I can watch though, but Game 2 of Yankees-Tigers calls.

Miami (+7) over SAN DIEGO: I'm so disgusted with the Chargers. And they probably will win by a touchdown just to frustrate me some more. I hate this game, because now I must back the Dolphins; hoping for a bunch of field goals.

GREEN BAY (-13) over Denver: I tried to make a case for the Broncos, but they are playing above their weight class. Not going to happen at the home of the champs. Besides, it's time for a statement game by the Packers.

New England (-6.5) over OAKLAND: I wish the Pats didn't lose last week. I would have grabbed the points for certain, plus it would have been more. But you have a big win for the Raiders and a bad loss for the Pats. This won't repeat.

BALTIMORE (-4) over Jets: The Jets are staring at the barrel of a 2-3 start (with the Pats next week on the road), unless they win tonight. Problem is, the Ravens are just a better version of the Jets.

TAMPA BAY (-10.5) over Indianapolis: With Curtis Painter starting, should be an easy win for the Bucs. Which is fine because no ones going to watch either on TV and the stadium might be a bit empty with the Rays playing a playoff game (different than the regular season Rays crowd).

Last week: 10-6
Season Record: 25-21-2

Friday, September 30, 2011

NLDS Preview

Yesterday, the ALDS was tackled. Yet, already the Yankees-Tigers series has taken a complete turn because of the rainout in Game 1, forcing CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander to lose their impact, going from in essence two starts to one. Buster Olney this morning had been tweeting like crazy about the potential of Sabathia convincing Joe Girardi to let him go in Game 2. I believe the chances of him pitching Game 2 hinge on how the rest of Game 1 plays out. If the Yanks lose, then I can see CC pitch, or be saved until Monday if the Yankees lead 1-0. Enough about this series, today the National League begins their round of playoffs.

Let's start with the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals, who like the Rays, surged their way into the playoffs, beating out the Red Sox brethren in the art of the collapse, the Atlanta Braves. It wasn't a good year for the Cardinals up until late August, then Albert Pujols turned around his year, and Tony La Russa started taking a firmer role with the pitching staff and bullpen once Dave Duncan left the team to be with his wife. It's been tough for the Redbirds without Adam Wainwright all year, and they have patched together a staff led by Chris Carpenter, and a bullpen that only recently started to gel. Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia have been decent, but will have to be extraordinary to match the Phillies arms. The Cardinals bats don't have as much to match; they still have Pujols, plus Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. They arguably have the better lineup when compared to their opponents.

Meanwhile, the Phillies lineup continues to get older and less productive (aside from Shane Victorino). Jimmy Rollins is the NL-version of 2010 Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard is more and more becoming a feast of famine hitter and Chase Utley just can't stay healthy for a full year. You'd be more worried if not for the fact that the Phillies can trot out the best pitching rotation since the 90s era Braves. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt are as formidable a quartet of arms as any in history. I mean Hamels carried the Phillies to the title in 2008 and he's now the number 3 starter. Doc shows up in postseason play last year, and all he does is throw a no-hitter. Lee has swung the pennant for the last two years with his pitching, particularly last year. And everyone forgets Oswalt because his last postseason play before last year was in Houston back in 2004-05 as well as the fact he's struggled with injury this year. One last thing about the Phillies, the bullpen is not weak. Ryan Madson has filled the role of closer superbly and it appears the Brad Lidge is back as a setup man, which for some reason, I think can work out. If the Phillies go down, it won't be against the Cards. This should be like their series with the Reds last year and I see a sweep.

The final first round series is the one that's starting within an hour as the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks will take on the powerful Milwaukee Brewers. Power is the word for the Brewers in their approach to hitting and pitching. The Brewers three-headed monster of Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum are as good as any trio not named Halladay, Lee and Hamels. They are also supported with a vastly improved bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez as the setup man and John Axford as the closer, who's been a gem this season. We all know the Brewers lineup with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder as the biggest threats, but once you start rattling names like Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks, then you have the most formidable lineup in the NL and one any team would be wary to face, especially at Miller Park, where the Brewers have a majors leading 57-24 record at home.

That's the challenge for the Diamondbacks, who seemed to win the NL West with ease after back-to-back losing seasons. The story most of the nation knows about Arizona is pitcher Ian Kennedy's breakout season which saw him win 20 and Justin Upton as the dominant bat in the lineup, but that's not fair to Kirk Gibson's team. They have Miguel Montero, who's just as much a run producer as Upton, despite lesser power. You also happen to be dealing with arguably the best fielding team in baseball, and just so happened to score more runs this year than Milwaukee. The pitching staff for the DBacks are solid behind Kennedy, with Daniel Hudson as the best of the rest. The real pitching story is the improved bullpen that they have. This team had the worst bullpen in baseball the last few years, but led by closer JJ Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler, they are impressive. Just not impressive enough to outlast the Brewers with home-field advantage, as Milwaukee will win a hard-fought 5 game series.

ALDS Preview

Today is the beginning of the American League playoffs and I'm absolutely certain the drama will not match that of the last day of the year. It can't, there won't be four must-win games going on at the same exact time in these playoffs. There will be a spacing of these games for television purposes, so it's not built to equal the excitement of the opening weekend of March Madness, which Wednesday night was (and will be next year now that Gus Johnson no longer will call that).

Now, we are down to 4 teams left in the AL and they are very similar to the teams last year as a result of the Tampa Bay Rays incredible comeback win Wednesday, giving the Red Sox the worst collapse in history, an 11 on the Choke-O-Meter. Now, they get their rematch with the Texas Rangers with two major differences. One, Texas has the home-field and last year, home-field meant nothing as the road team won each game. And two; no Cliff Lee, the main reason the Rangers won 2 games in Tampa. Instead, it's C.J. Wilson who heads the staff with Derek Holland pitching Game 2 and some combination of Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis in Tampa. The Rays might be a little stronger in their rotation, despite the struggles of David Price this year as James Shields is much improved and Jeremy Hellickson has been tremendous in his first year. However, the surprise is how Matt Moore will make his second career start later in Game 1. One thing's for sure, if all the managers in baseball dropped their pants, Joe Maddon I guarantee you will end up with the biggest set of balls. Bar none.

The lineups are a contrast, just like last year. The Rangers, led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre can mash with anyone. Meanwhile the Rays have Evan Longoria as their biggest threat, with a lot of guys who can do anything and are opportunistic. This results in Matt Joyce and Dan Johnson with season saving home runs in back-to-back games. The Rangers have the clear edge in the bullpen because Neftali Feliz is a MAJOR upgrade at closer than Kyle Farnsworth. The Rays have been up and down with their relievers, only they are pitching very well as of late. Texas now will have Alexi Ogando in the bullpen, joining Mike Adams and Mike Gonzalez as quality arms in the bullpen (I don't care how good Darren Oliver is, I'll never trust him, though he could succeed against Tampa). It comes down to this, Tampa is hot, very hot in the past week, however, they might have better served playing Boston yesterday and keeping the momentum going. The day might kill it, like it did last week in NY and I think Texas wins this series in 4 games.

The other series is the Yankees once again, facing the lone newcomer in the AL, the Detroit Tigers. The script for this series could be the Game 1 matchup of CC Sabathia against Justin Verlander, the man who will win the Cy Young and dare I say, likely MVP winner. You'd think that the Game 1 winner sets everything up for the series, but the Yankees have Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia going in Games 2 and 3 and you won't know who either man will pitch. The Tigers trot Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello and that's not exactly a Phillies rotation full of arms either, though Fister has been very good and if Verlander should fall tonight, Fister is more than capable to winning Game 2 and getting a split.

Both teams lineups are good offensively, even though the number of household names is less on the Tigers. I will say that the most feared hitter on either team is Miguel Cabrera, yes, even more than Robinson Cano, though not by much. However, no team will have an easy time getting through Curtis Granderson, Cano, Alex Rodriguez (if he's healthy) and Mark Teixeira (if he finally can hit in the postseason). Lineup wise, A-Rod is the key, just like every other postseason the Yankees have been involved in since his arrival. It's funny that the one year A-Rod hit like he does in the regular season, the Yanks have won his lone World Series. Detroit has Victor Martinez alongside Cabrera, with Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta also with terrific years. Looking at the bullpens, the Yankees have the advantage, but not by much since Jose Valverde is perfect in save opportunities. We all know Mo, that's the advantage, plus when you add the ridiculous year David Robertson posted. Tough series and if this goes 5, the Tigers win. I think it goes 4 and the Yankees take it, setting the rematch in the ALCS.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So Long College Football

I've had it. Conference realignment has ruined college football for me. And it's about to ruin college basketball, which I've always held more dear than football. Part of the reason is because I went to Seton Hall, a non-football playing Big East school. So already I don't belong to any college football team and thus, I never really root for anyone.

The inspiration to this rant: this tweet. This is still a sport that can't and won't decide it's national champion on the field, which makes it useless to follow the sport anyway. I know that conference champions mattered more before the Bowl Coalition/Bowl Alliance/BCS Era, but now with these superconferences, no longer is there anything close to a true round robin. Money and greed has ended the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry (which really ended when the Big 12 was formed).

Better reactionary articles can be seen here, here and here. All I'm here to say is because of Dan, Gregg and JP, I'm all but finished following college football with the same passion as the other sports I follow until either these schools stop sacrificing tradition for money or until they create a real playoff, which will naturally solve the first point.

Does this mean I won't watch college football anymore? Probably not. I'm sure I'm going to bet on college and will have to at least know who's good and who's not. However, I'm certainly finished thinking about college football outside of a game itself. To me, it's a better version of high school football. The only regret I have will probably be the way I evaluate potential pros. That's what the Combine and these All-Star games are for.

MLB Awards

Wednesday is the end of the regular season in baseball and it's once again time to give out some regular season awards. As it's been the case for most years, the vote in various categories should be contentious. And that's just the battle for AL MVP, as tough a vote as I can remember. As a matter of fact, I'd say there's only award that has a no-brainer answer (I'm pretty sure you can guess, but I'll make you sweat a little before revealing). Without further adu...

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi and Jim Leyland both have compelling cases. Tigers are back in the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, while Girardi has the Yankees with the best record despite only one good starter (same issue with Leyland). Before Yanks fans give me hell for writing that, the stats show that a lot of Freddy Garcia's and Ivan Nova's success this year is due to luck (low BABIP, high FIP). You also can make a case for Mike Scioscia for having the Angels alive until last night despite a pedestrian offense. However, if you look at the Tampa Bay Rays, you ask yourself why they are tied for the wildcard. Their pitching is good, but no ones been outstanding. They haven't had anyone in the lineup to carry them, just someone new everyday (they probably are better this year had they brought up Desmond Jennings earlier in the season). Seems to me that the answer is clearly Joe Maddon. And that's before mentioning how the Rays lost Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Joakim Benoit and Rafael Soriano last year.

NL Manager of the Year: Tony La Russa will get votes for having the Cards alive into these last two days. The Milwaukee Brewers are back in the postseason, and Ron Roenicke will also get attention for that. However, both teams were expected to contend this year. The Arizona Diamondbacks weren't. Maybe I was wrong, I think there are two awards that are easy to figure out and Kirk Gibson for NL MOTY is the other one. Only fringe MVP and Cy contenders (even though I do love Justin Upton) and a marked turnaround seems like the recipe.

AL Rookie of the Year: There's something to nitpick about each candidate. Nova's win totals are inflated. Jeremy Hellickson has been very lucky according to his BABIP. Jordan Walden's been good, but I happen to have a bias against voting closers in postseason awards, unless it's a no-brainer. Mark Trumbo's .290 OBP is horrible for a major award candidate. Eric Hosmer hasn't played well defensively, according to defensive metrics, knocking down his WAR to 1.6 on Fangraphs, 1.5 on Baseball Reference. And then I look at Michael Pineda. He has a 9.11 K/9, leads all rookie starters in FIP and xFIP and is tied for first with Alexi Ogando in Fangraphs WAR with 3.4. I don't see a flaw, so Pineda's my guy (though I wish Jennings and Brett Lawrie were up for a full year, then we'd have a race like the NL last year).

NL Rookie of the Year: Clearly not as strong as a year ago. Freddie Freeman probably would be the winner if he could field. Only Lucas Duda was a worse fielder among rookies. It seems to me that it all goes back to Craig Kimbrel. Yes, I know I just said I have a bias against closers, but I just don't see a better rookie than Kimbrel. His K/9 ratio is 14.86, only beaten by Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers. Even for a closer, his FIP and xFIP is very low. Add the 46 saves on a playoff contender and I forgive the fact that Fredi Gonzalez has overused him (and the rest of the bullpen) down the stretch for the Braves.

AL Cy Young: This should be a closer race. CC Sabathia had in my mind his best season as a Yankee and Fangraphs WAR has him tied for 1st. Jered Weaver has a 2.41 ERA, just one point behind 1st. James Shields should get some credit for completing 11 games, something I thought pitchers don't do unless their last name is Halladay (Comeback Player of the Year for him). But the fact is, Justin Verlander is a nominee for MVP. Pitching wins might finally no longer decide awards after King Felix a year ago, but 24 wins is hard to ignore, not to mention that he's going to win the pitching Triple Crown (provided Weaver doesn't beat him out for ERA on Wednesday). Plus, Verlander doesn't have a flaw (not going to hold his low BABIP against him). He's the Cy Young and there really is no doubt.

NL Cy Young: Here's a better race. Ian Kennedy will get votes for finishing 21-4 and has a nice 2.88 ERA, but he's really not a contender. The race seems to be down to Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee. Here's where the divide between Fangraphs and Baseball Reference WAR shows up. Halladay has an 8.2 WAR on Fangraphs, up 1.3 on Kershaw. Baseball Reference, however, has Doc at 7.1, up 0.2 over both Kershaw and Lee. The ERA is close between all three, with Kershaw ahead. Roy has the better FIP, while Lee has the better xFIP. Kershaw has the better K/9 innings, though Zack Greinke leads. Really, down the line, all three are so similar except one thing. Halladay and Lee are on the same team, that's the advantage Clayton Kershaw has. So I think Kershaw will win the Cy Young because of the split, and I'll go with that because I have to pick someone. Couldn't we take away Eric Gagne's and Brandon Webb's Cy Youngs and hand them to Halladay and Lee. It's only fair.

AL MVP: If you thought the NL Cy Young was a tight race, may I present you the MVP of the American League. Every baseball fan has been bombarded ad nausem on this race for MVP. It's a race that even after I write this, I might change my mind another 2-3 times. So who wins the award? Let's start by those who won't win. Michael Young is the dark horse because of all he does for the Rangers (despite them taking him for granted every offseason, like the Yankees did at the end of Bernie Williams career). Yesterday, Jacoby Ellsbury was back on the forefront of the MVP race, today no so much. It's not fair, because Ellsbury has been a better version of Curtis Granderson this year, as Granderson is clearly better in HR, runs and RBI, but gets trumped in WAR by Ellsbury on both Fangraphs and BR. Miguel Cabrera gets taken for granted by baseball people for having the same awesome numbers every year. Probably should of been the guy who the Tigers focused on trying to get MVP. Instead we're down to Jose Bautista and Verlander. An interesting case, a pitcher vs a slugger for a non-playoff team. I give the nod to Verlander for two reasons. First, because Bautisa had a worse second half than his first, though he still has a 1.061 OPS. And also because Verlander was carrying the Tigers back when they were struggling with the Indians and White Sox. Let's not penalize him for Tigers running away with the division once September hit.

NL MVP: As good a year Justin Upton has had and as good a close to the year Albert Pujols has given the Cardinals, it's really a three man race between Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Matt Kemp. The same problem as the Cy race, two of the three are on the same team and they will split votes. The difference; I think it's much clearer that Matt Kemp is the NL MVP. Braun beats Kemp in OPS, but by only 16 points. Kemp looks like he'll finish third in batting, aside from finishing first in HR and RBI. He wins both Fangraphs and BR WAR (BR has him ahead by over 2 wins). Eric Seidman had a great article on Fangraphs about how both Kershaw and Kemp could make history if both win their respective awards. It would be deserved, both men are the reason the Dodgers, despite all the turmoil with ownership, will finish over .500 and can legitimately be contenders next year with the right moves.

Many thanks to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for providing all the numbers used in this post.