Monday, December 14, 2009
First the Phillies. Their biggest weapon on their entire pitching staff last season was Cliff Lee. He carried their staff through the postseason and was dominant in all of his outings except Game 5 of the World Series. With his limited exposure to National League teams he would have been a front runner for the NL Cy Young next year, been the #1 starter on a team that would once again be favored to advance to the World Series out of the NL, and given the Phillies the appealing option of going lefty-righty-lefty-righty-lefty in their rotation next year if they so chose.
Now by moving him out of the way to make room for Roy Halladay, they have sacrificed their chance to have the most dominant 1-2 pitching punch in baseball and become odds-on World Series favorites for next season, and at the end of the day end up with a rotation no better with Halladay at the front of it than it would have been with Lee at the helm. All of this because Lee wanted a contract at market value (something very fair for the 2008 AL Cy Young and one of, if not the best, pitcher in last year's postseason to ask for), and Halladay had indicated that he would sign for less than his market value if traded to Philly. What kind of message does this send about Philadelphia's commitment to winning? They could have had the most stacked rotation in the NL by far, probably the best in baseball in either league, and instead they jettisoned one ace to make room for another all over a dollar value that will likely only be somewhere between $5-15 million difference.
Newsflash fellas, just because Roy Halladay says he'll sign for less than you expect, that doesn't mean you're signing him for 5 years, $25 million. The dude is going to want to get paid and you're going to have to pay him. The added revenue that would come from having one of the best teams in baseball and the best 1-2 punch on the hill for the next couple of seasons would have probably offset the extra coin you would have had to shell out to keep Lee, so why wouldn't you be aggressive, trade for Halladay, sign both of them, and make a 4-5 year run at multiple World Series titles while they and the rest of your deep lineup are in their primes? All this move says to me is that the Yankees will have to go through Halladay as the only pitcher who scares you and then the rest of the Phillies' rotation next year on their way to title 28 instead of Lee, so this move is basically a wash.
Now for Fraud Sox Nation, the little engine that could and now can't keep up with the Big Bad Bombers. The whole "slightly more than A.J. Burnett's contract"-thing is cute; $83 million as opposed to $82 mil, trying to show that you're willing to go the extra mile to compete with the Yankees. But it just comes off as pathetic, the fact that you still feel like you have to try to one-up New York, and another weak attempt to try to compete with the Yankees when deep down your entire organization knows you can't hang with them over the 162-game schedule next year. It's like when your little brother is 5 and thinks one day when he's bigger and stronger he's going to be able to beat you at basketball, not realizing that when that day comes you're going to be bigger and stronger too. It's obvious the Boston brass felt like they had to try to make a big splash to keep their fanbase thinking that they were committed to winning, but this move just rings hollow.
If Boston was really serious about competing next season, they would have bitten the bullet on guys like Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz and given the Blue Jays what they wanted to bring Halladay into the fold. A rotation of Halladay, Beckett, Lester, and Lackey is something to write home about; on any given day you're throwing a guy out there who can throw a complete game shutout. Instead all they've done is add another guy who has a good track record against the Yankees but can't beat them when it counts (check the stats; the later in the season these guys pitched against the Yankees, the worse they performed).
With Beckett looking shaky already at age 29, Buchholz still never proving that he can be consistently good for a complete season, Dice-Gay being the pitching equivalent to a roll of bar dice, and Tim Wakefield having one foot and his bad back out the door, the Red Sox rotation doesn't look any better or worse than the Yankees' right now. I'll take CC, A.J., and Andy against Beckett, Lester, and Lackey any day of the fucking week, especially with how weak the Boston lineup is looking next year and how deep and flexible the Yanks' is looking.
So congratulations to the Red Sox and Phillies and their fans. I'm sure you'll sell plenty of tickets with your shiny new pitching toys next year, but at the end of the day you're both still a step below the Yankees looking up. You both had an opportunity to make a fat-guy-in-a-wave-pool-sized splash in the offseason but were too chickenshit to pony up the cash and prospects necessary to make it happen. I hope you both remember this when next November rolls around and you're watching from the opposing dugouts or your own homes as the Yankees are dosing each other in Korbel.
Cleveland 13 Pittsburgh 6
I don't give a shit that head coach Mike Tomlin is a dead ringer for Omar Epps; somebody needs to wheel the Steelers into the ICU, stat, and get House on this case because they are just a fucking disaster right now and nobody on their roster or staff seems to know how to figure it out. You hold Brady Quinn to 6-19 and 90 yards and their RB staff to such little yardage that Josh Cribbs actually leads them in rushing yards and you still lose? Not to mention you fail to score more than 10 points against a defense that was playing half its backups? It's a little late in the year to use the "Super Bowl Hangover" excuse; oh no, my friends, this isn't a hangover. It's a goddamn Super Bowl-Induced Coma.
Houston 34 Seattle 7
In the most predictable outcome this side of Tiger Woods vs. Some Slutty Bar Chick, Houston comes out and runs roughshod over an inferior opponent 2 weeks after choking their season away AGAIN. Matt Schaub racked up 395 yards through the air and 2 TDs, both to Andre Johnson who wasn't too shabby himself with an 11-catch, 193-yard, 2-TD performance against arguably the worst secondary in professional football. If the Texans were smart, they would just go 0-7 to start the season every year, take all the pressure that they clearly can't handle off themselves, and spend the rest of the season putting up monster fantasy numbers for their owners.
Baltimore 48 Detroit 3
Baltimore used the 2-headed monster of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to rack up 242 yards and 3 TDs on the ground on just 25 combined carries to rout the Pretty Kitties. Detroit did their best by countering with Daunte Culpepper and Dennis Northcutt, but when that's what you're countering with and that's what you're calling your best because everybody else is injured then you can take it to the bank that your team is going to get its shit pushed in. Christ, if you tried playing a game of Madden with Culpepper and Northcutt as your WB-WR combo, the game would probably forfeit for you before the coin toss even happened.
Miami 14 Jacksonville 10
In a battle that could determine which mediocre team gets to sneak into the playoffs as the 6-seed and proceed to get torched by the Bengals or Patriots, the Dolphins used a 108-yard, 1-TD performance by Ricky Williams and a 1-yard TD plunge by super-secret goal line bruiser Chad Henne to secure a victory over the Jags. Miami was sloppy, committing 3 turnovers, but when your opponent can only muster 217 yards of offense you could turn it over 6 times and it wouldn't make a difference.
NY Jets 26 Tampa Bay 3
It looks like Mark Sanchez getting hurt is the best thing to ever happen to the Jets as they cruised to an easy victory over the Bucs yesterday behind the veteran leadership of Kellen Clemens (I know, I can't even read that without smiling either). It could have been Sanchez, but it was most likely the fact that Josh Freeman continued to fall back to Earth as he threw for just 93 yards and 3 picks in the loss. It could also have something to do with the fact that Thomas Jones had 24 carries for 99 yards and 2 TDs, continuing to be the most un-talked-about great RB in the NFL. I don't know if either of those are true, I'm just saying...
New England 20 Carolina 10
The Pats held on to get a much-needed win against the Fighting Matt Moores yesterday despite having a ghost or some sort of ethereal being wearing Randy Moss' uniform out on the field instead of Moss himself. Tom Brady was only slightly better than Matt Moore: 19-32-192-1/15-30-197-1, but Brady had help from a suddenly re-emerging Laurence Maroney, who had 94 tough yards on 22 carries. After the game, reporters question Bill Belichick on why Moss would be sent home before a big game, especially after he had served his timeout earlier in the week.
Minnesota 30 Cincinnati 10
In a game they needed to stay in contention for homefield advantage in the playoffs, the Bengals gacked it up big time in Minnesota. They totaled just 210 yards of offense on the road, Carson Palmer was held to fewer than 100 passing, and Chad Johnson didn't even celebrate after scoring his, and the team's only, TD. Adrian Peterson and his Nike-skinned body returned to form yesterday, racking up 97 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, and Brett Favre rebounded from his awful performance last week to turn in a much more typical mediocre-Brett Favre-December performance, going 17-30 for 192 yards, 1 touch, and a pick.
Buffalo 16 Kansas City 10
Buffalo was outgained 354-273 by the Chiefs but used Matt Cassell being the latest to do a Jake Delhomme impression (4 picks) to their advantage in squeaking out an ugly 16-10 win. With Ryan Fitzpatrick playing typical Ryan Fitzpatrick-type football, the Bills rode Fred Jackson to points while Cassell's constant battle with Pick-itis wasted Jamaal Charles' solid effort: 20-143-1.
Indianapolis 28 Denver 16
Peyton Manning was a very un-Peyton Manning-ish 20-42 for 220 and 3 picks, the Colts had little or no running game to speak of, Brandon Marshall went hogwild against the Indy secondary, collecting a new NFL record 21 catches for 200 yards and 2 TDs, and the Colts still win by 12. The fact that Manning managed to sneak 4 TD passes in between his 22 incompletions and 3 picks helped. When you can have a game where all those factors come together and you can still win, that says something about your team. Probably that it just got lucky, but hey, that's still something.
Green Bay 21 Chicago 14
Just when it looked like he had done enough to get his team into a winning position and earn back a handful of fans in the Windy City, Jay Cutler tossed a grotesque INT in the 4th quarter that led to the Packers' eventual game-winning TD. That gives Cutler 22 INTs on the season and has Bears fans pining for the days of not only Rex Grossman but even Cade McNown. Lost in the suffle of Cutler's ineptitude were the facts that Ryan Grant ran for 137 yards and 1 long touch, Aaron Rodgers was an efficient 16-24 for 180 yards, and the Packers have now won 5 in a row and firmly entrenched themselves as the NFC's main Wild Card contender.
New Orleans 26 Atlanta 23
Drew Brees' 31-40-296-3 performance bested that of a very game Chris Redman (303-1) as the Saints held off a late Falcon's threat to stay unbeaten and keep their bid for homefield throughout the playoffs and a perfect 16-0 record intact. Reggie Bush had 6 catches, 2 of them for TDs, and continued to do just enough to stave off calls that he is a bust. Solid numbers aside, it's been a tough first year in Atlanta for Tony Gonzalez as injuries to key players have all but killed their playoff chances. But hey, at least he's got that killer parking spot at the team facility, huh?
Tennessee 47 St. Louis 7
Chris Johnson was a one-man, dreadlocked wrecking crew again yesterday, gaining 117 yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries as well as 69 yards and a TD on 3 receptions, but he did continue to fall behind Eric Dickerson's pace for the NFL All-time rushing record so the day was basically a waste for him. After Vince Young left with a hamstring injury, Kerry Collins put the Heineken mini-keg down long enough to throw for 154 yards and 1 TD in relief. St. Louis' day was done when they came out onto the field with some guy named Keith Null as their starting QB. Null did exactly as you would expect him to do, throwing 4 picks and being completely overwhelmed. Seriously, when there are Keith Nulls getting starts in this league, you can't try to tell me that Tim Tebow isn't going to at least have a decent chance at being a legit NFL QB.
San Diego 20 Dallas 17
And the "Dallas is choking in December again"-meter has been cranked to 100!!! The calendar says it's December 21, but you and I and every other football fan knows it's winter when the 'Boys start slacking off in games, failing to execute on a consistent basis, and losing games that they desperately need to stay in command of their playoff destiny. Yesterday it was the crew from the city that means "A Whale's Vagina" that dumped Dallas, knocking them back to 2nd in the NFC East. Phillip Rivers outplayed Tony Romo just enough to get his team the win as Dallas seemed to lose the wind in their sails after watching Demarcus Ware get carted off the field on a stretcher in the 4th quarter. Their fans in the stands felt the same way as they watched Dallas' hopes and dreams for a successful playoff season be carted away in a casket as the final seconds ticked down.
Washington 34 Oakland 13
After upsetting Pittsburgh last week, Oakland was dealt a sharp blow to its non-existant playoff hopes with a blowout loss to the Native Americans. Washington's 4th RB, Quinton Ganther, ran for 2 TDs, Jason Campbell threw for 222 yards, 2 TDs, and no picks, and Bruce Gradkowski's knee injury meant we got to experience more of Jamarcus Russell butt raping the playing of the QB position. But it's not all bad news; Bruce Gradkowski's knee injury meant we got to experience more of Jamarcus Russell butt raping the playing of the QB position. That's high-quality entertainment right there.
Philadelphia 45 NY Giants 38
The Giants are D-O-N-E done after last night's defensive fiasco. Eli Manning's 391 yards and 3 TDs on a more than fucked up foot doesn't mean shit when Brandon Jacobs has been re-incarnated as Ron Dayne, your defense can't cover or tackle anybody, and your supposed big-time DEs generate a pass rush about as intimidating as Dakota Fanning. And can somebody please, for the love of God, put some safety help over the top on DeSean Jackson??? The guy has only been torching teams deep all season; let's just leave our 4th-string CB out on an island to cover him alone. The red, flush-faced look on Tom Coughlin's face isn't from the cold weather, it's from the heat he's suddenly feeling right under his ass as his team stumbles to the finish line.
Arizona 27 San Francisco 13
The Cardinals are hitting their stride at the right time, much like they did last season, while the 49ers don't even have a stride to hit if they wanted to. I can't see SF's secondary sticking with Fitz, 'Quan, And S-Breast (yeah, I just called Steve Breaston "S-Breast," deal with it) for 4 minutes, let alone 4 quarters. Look for the Cards to jump out to a 21-3 halftime lead and then finish the game on cruise control.
MNF Predictions for the Season (Winners): 10-4