Sunday, January 31, 2010

Putting Things Into Perspective

Between UConn completely sucking, my NFL playoff picks being absolutely terrible, the Cashman-Damon-$2 Million fiasco, the Yanks' unwillingness to commit to Brett Gardner as a full-time player, and the countless number of trades and signings of washed up and/or irrelevant "replacement" outfielders, there's been a bit of a negative vibe about the blog lately.  So to end the bitching and moaning, here are some reminders to myself, and all Yankee fans, that there are things to smile about in Yankeeland:

-The Yankees still obtained Curtis Granderson, a guy who has the potential to do everything Johnny Damon did offensively while also doing more defensively than Damon did.

-Adding Granderson and Winn to the pair of Gardner and the severely defensively underrated Nick Swisher, the Yanks will have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball this season

-That improved outfield defense will help AJ and Andy, 2 guys who can pitch to a lot of contact, especially fly ball contact when they aren't locked in, continue to put up numbers just as good, if not better, than what they put up last season.

-The Yanks now have another innings-eating horse (Vazquez) to go with their Secretariat (CC) who, even if he sucks like he did his first time here, will still help minimize any issues that could creep up in the bullpen this year.

-They have by far the best offensive infield in baseball that will come back a year more comfortable in New York (Teix), a year more mature (Cano), and a year more healthy (A-Horse).  There really isn't anything that anybody could want or expect Jeter to improve on this season, so you'll all just have to live with another .300+ avg./200+ hit/100+ run season.  The potential for what kind of numbers these guys could put up this year is scary, like Charlie Weis in a suana-scary.  Oh, and all 4 could win Gold Gloves too.  Just a thought.

-They have Jesus Montero in the minors just waiting to get up to the big leagues and tear AL pitchers apart.  The numbers this kid could put up as a catcher (assuming he stays at that position) would make Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez look like Brian Schneider and Jason Varitek.

-They still have this guy...

Ahhh, now I feel better.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Launch The Lifeboats

That disgusting sound you hear is the sound of UConn gagging away a game that they should have won easily in the last minute, and in the process effectively ending their season.

After getting their dicks knocked in the dirt by a bad Providence team on Wednesday, the Huskies came out today and shot 49% from the floor to Marquette's 38%, shot a pretty respectable 70% from the line, outrebounded Marquette 41-18, blocked 11 shots, and still held only a 3-point lead with 55 seconds to go, a lead that they turned into a 2-point loss with a combination of fouls, bad defense, missed shots, and the same level of general sloppiness and carelessness that has defined their season.  The fact that they committed 16 turnovers to Marquette's 2 also didn't help.

It's clear after this week that the Texas win last Saturday was just an aberration and the immature, uninspired bunch that we have seen for most of the season are the REAL 2009-2010 UConn Huskies.  Whether it's Jim Calhoun screaming at them and shuttling them in and out of the game or George Blaney calmly pacing the sidelines and sticking with what appears to work at the time, this team just plain doesn't have it.  There are no leaders on this team and there aren't going to be.  There also won't be an NCAA tournament bid.

So put your life vests on and get up to the main deck now, Husky fans, because this ship is going down.  Don't let their next win fool you into thinking they are starting to come together and make their run.  This team sucks and they're going to continue to suck.  The best thing you can do is start to forget about this year, hope Calhoun recovers from his ailment to return for next year, wish Jerome and Sticks well in their future NBA endeavors, and gear up for next year and next year's incoming class and hope that they have a little more in their nutsacks than these guys have.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Yankees Opening Day Roster Taking Shape

With the Randy Winn signing official, the Yankees' 25-man roster is pretty much set. Now I know we're still a few weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting and even further away from Spring Training officially starting, but barring any major injuries or insane performances by a borderline guy, expect the opening day roster to look something like this:

Starting Lineup:
1) Derek Jeter
2) Nick Johnson
3) Mark Teixeira
4) Alex Rodriguez
5) Jorge Posada
6) Robinson Cano
7) Curtis Granderson
8) Nick Swisher
9) Brett Gardner

Starting Rotation:
1) CC Sabathia
2) A.J. Burnett
3) Andy Pettitte
4) Javier Vazquez
5) Phil Hughes

-Francisco Cervelli
-Randy Winn
-Ramiro Pena
-Juan Miranda

-Mariano Rivera
-Joba Chamberlain
-Damaso Marte
-David Robertson
-Alfredo Aceves
-Chad Gaudin
-Boone Logan

Now the bench still looks a bit thin, but with a rotation and bullpen like that, and one of the best starting lineups in the game, there's still more than enough on that roster to get the job done.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Damon Vs. The Yankees: The Saga Ends

From Joel Sherman's column today in the Post:

If...July rolls around and the Yankees are dissatisfied with their outfield/DH production and are looking for a Damon-esque player, then they probably will rue not behaving like their behemoth-market self to keep Damon. If Damon is unable to find significant dollars and/or ends up slumming in, say, Cincinnati or Oakland, then he may wonder how he let the Yankees get away.

Like his departure from Boston to New York as a free agent, Damon leaves a championship in the background, and leaves angry and in a financial dispute. He landed well with the Yankees (four years, $52 million). But there will be no repeat this time, and he may not exceed $7 million plus deferrals.

He might have chased a few extra bucks and left behind a Stadium that ideally fit his swing and a winning, big-market club that fit his outsized personality. Of course, the Yankees, too, are losing that Stadium swing and imperturbable personality, and are replacing Damon with a human first-aid station (Johnson) and role players (Winn and Brett Gardner).

From the outside, it seems like both sides needed to relent. But pride and inflexibility reigned, and now you wonder if regret is coming next.

Preach, Joel, preach! Nobody could have summed up the Damon-Yankees situation that played out this off-season any better than that. But it's a hot topic today so I'll get my 2 cents in too.

Damon's approach shouldn't have come as a surprise to anybody, especially the Yankees or their fans. He wanted more money when he was in Kansas City and he got traded; he wanted a big-money contract in 2001 that Oakland wasn't going to give him so he signed with the Red Sox, AKA the highest bidder; when his contract was up with them, he wanted more money and more years than they were willing to give him so he bailed to the highest bidder again, the Yankees.

Damon is a classic Scott Boras client; he follows the money and drinks the Boras Kool-Aid when it's contract time, always putting years and money ahead of winning and team fit, and holding out to wait for a better offer if Boras tells him it's out there. During the prime of his career that was a solid strategy that earned him a lot of cash and a few World Series titles, but now that he's 36 and a free agent during a poor economic time when teams are much more reserved in their spending, that strategy left him high and dry.

Damon can say whatever he wants about how much he wanted to come back and how much he loved being a part of the team and the locker room, but it's the same story he sang when he jumped ship from Boston to New York in '05. The fact of the matter is, the 2-year, 14-mil offer he got from the Yankees, while not being what he and Boras wanted, was the best and so far only offer he received. It was a more than fair offer for an above-average offensive player who is also a defensive liability and a potential injury risk. If Damon really loved being and playing in New York as much as he said, he would have taken the deal, realizing that competing for more World Series titles, possibly reaching 3,000 career hits in pinstripes, and becoming an eternal Yankee legend in the hearts and minds of Yankee fans for generations to come is just as good as making a few extra dollars. When you can walk into any bar or restaurant in New York after you retire and never have to pay for a meal or drink for the rest of your life, those couple of lost millions aren't that big a deal.

The puzzling part to this soap opera was the Yankees' approach. After years and years of spending money to put a championship team together, they finally decide to put a hardline on their payroll the year after they win the title again and when it involves bringing back a key piece to that title-winning team. When you consider that the Yankees were in the driver's seat with the Damon negotiations, it makes their decision and the fact that they stood so pat on their position even more bizarre. Damon and Boras were standing out there like the fat kid waiting to get picked in a kickball game and the Yankees were the only team showing any interest in picking him. Instead of just sucking it up and picking the fat kid, they decided to take the blind kid with polio.

Every day that passed gave the Yankees more and more leverage to come back to Damon and say "Hey chief, you wanna play ball next year or not? One year, 6 mil. Take it or leave it," and they still thought that wasting $2 million on Randy Winn to platoon with Brett Gardner was a better financial and baseball decision than forking over an extra $4-5 million for Damon. Now I'm all for being financially responsible and I fully understand the team's position of not wanting to inflate their payroll anymore after the money they threw around last off-season, but to be so nit-picky about $2 million instead of $6 or $7 million for a still very productive player who is tailor-made for their stadium and their clubhouse was more Oakland A's than New York Yankees, and more "let's watch our expenditures and double check the balance sheet" than "let's win another championship." In a nutshell, it went against what has become the "Yankee Way" under The Artist Formerly Known as George Steinbrenner.

Basically what this whole ordeal came down to was the Yankees having a plan this off-season and Johnny Damon being a part of that plan, but not a big enough part that the Yankees were willing to risk throwing the rest of the plan out of whack just for him. After seeing how the theory that "pitching wins championships" played out for them in the 2009 postseason, they made sure they addressed that first by bringing in Javy Vazquez and using the rest of their budget to fill out the roster the way they thought was best, which was something that Damon apparently couldn't accept. Only time will tell which side was right and which side was wrong, but my money would be on Joel Sherman's theory of both sides realizing the errors of their ways and both sides spending some lonely summer nights laying in bed in their hotels, thinking about what could have been.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Losing With Winn

On the one hand, I want to give Cash credit for at least adding an outfielder with Major League experience and All-Star credentials as a replacement to Damon.  On the other hand, when that outfielder is Randy Winn, a guy who hasn't been a major contributor to a team since his All-Star year of 2002, and at 35 (turning 36 during the season) is just as old as Johnny Damon and far less productive, I can't help but feel like that magical $2 million could have been better spent by being donated to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.

The Yankees were looking for a potential starting left fielder, and at worst a 4th outfielder who could hit right-handed with some power and split time with Brett Gardner in the outfield depending on matchups or if there was a lefty on the mound that day.  What they got was a dude who put up a whooping .262/.318/.353 line at the plate last year, has NO power whatsoever, and can't hit lefties to save himself.

The only positive thing about Winn is that he's an above-average outfielder.  But that also happens to be Gardner's greatest strength and Gardner's offensive numbers (.270/.345/.379) were better than Winn's last season and project to improve thisyear as he is younger and has less experience than Winn.  Winn is nothing more than a glorified late-game defensive replacement, but when your outfield consists of Swish, C-Grand, and Gardner, where is the glaring weakness that Winn needs to replace?

And what does that say to Gardner when the Yankees are basically telling him "We don't trust you to be good enough next year to be an everyday player so we're bringing in an older, slower, less productive version of you who hits lefties worse than you to platoon with you?"  If this is some kind of secret motivational tactic for Gardner to prove himself, it's insanely misguided.  You want to motivate Gardner and get him to play well?  Have Joe call him tomorrow and say "Hey, Gardy, you're my starting centerfielder next year."  Instilling a little confidence in somebody never hurt, right?

For Cashman, signing Winn today for $2 mil when Damon was still out there, still with no other serious suitors, and still with a pretty damn good 2-year, $14 million deal potentially on the table is the equivalent of asking an ugly chick who has a reputation of not putting out to the Senior Prom when the hot chick in your class who you've had a crush on since 5th grade and who is known for giving amazing, coma-inducing blowjobs, who you asked out a few weeks ago but told you she wanted to hold out and see if the captain of the basketball team asked her instead but now she just found out him and his ex are back together and going to the prom together, still doesn't have a date and still doesn't have any other guys asking her out. 

Now you can take the ugly chick out and who knows?  Maybe you'll have a good time and maybe you'll get lucky.  But if you just went back and asked the hottie out again and she said yes, then you KNOW you're going to have a good time and you know your potential for "postseason success" is much higher.  Sure, you'll have to spend a little more money on a nicer tux and probably take her out to a much fancier restaurant beforehand.  But at the end of the night, when you're laying (standing) in bed (in the locker room) next to her (next to the team), covered in sweat and strawberry-flavored body butter (covered in sweat and champagne), holding her left ass cheek in your hand (holding the World Series tropy in your hand), you'll know it was worth it.

And if that ugly chick comparison isn't bad enough, here's a nice little tidbit of info on Randy Winn via Buster Olney's story of the signing on

Winn... has played 1,601 career games without a postseason appearance. That's the longest drought by an active major league player.

Nothing like adding a little loser spice to your World Series-caliber soup to really fuck up the recipe, huh?

The Search For Damon's Replacement Is Over

The Yankees have acquired outfielder Greg Golson from the Texas Rangers for infielder Mitch Hilligoss in a swap of 24-year-old minor leaguers.

Golson played one game in the majors last year. He hit .258 with 40 RBIs in 123 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2009. He was designated for assignment last week when Texas signed infielder Khalil Greene.

Golson, who had 27 extra-base hits last year, is a .263 career hitter in the Minors with 48 homers and 265 RBIs in 634 combined games in the Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies organizations. (story courtesy of the AP)

As if Jamie Hoffmann wasn't enough to fill the void left by Johnny Damon's departure, now the Yankees bring Greg Golson into the fold and the outfield instantly transforms from a potential weak spot on the roster to an embarrassment of riches.

The numbers don't lie; this kid has future All-Star written all over him. .263 career Minor League average? 48 homers?? 265 RBIs??! You might as well put his number and plaque in Monument Park right now. If you take those earth-shattering career numbers and expand them over a 162-game season next year, Golson projects to hit 12.26 HRs and drive in 67.71 runs next year. Never mind the fact that putting up those number would involve Golson stepping up to Major League competition, something he has never faced; this move definitely puts the Bombers over the top.

Seriously though, Khalil Greene can barely hit a baseball off a tee, and the Rangers made room for him by designating this Golson kid, so how fucking useful can he be? Can Cash just cut the shit with this $2 million budget and sign Damon already? This isn't some cutesy Home & Garden Network "home redecorating on a budget"-style reality show; this is the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees. It's clear that there are no other teams involved in trying to sign Damon so he and Boras' genius plan to get a long-term, big-money deal has failed and now they have no leverage.
If the team isn't going to commit to Gardner as a full-time guy or discuss the better defensive option of Gardner in center and C-Grand in left, then sack up, make Damon a fair deal, bring him back for a year or 2, and put the Korbel and Bud Light tall boys on ice.

**UPDATE** (4:25PM): The Yanks just signed Randy Winn for, you guessed it, $2 million.

Words cannot express how disappointed I am in that signing and how much my heart goes out to Greg Golson and Jamie Hoffmann, who never got their chance to shine in the leftfield Yankee Stadium sun.

More on this signing later tonight.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yankees STILL Winning Awards

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez looked at the award he just received from Babe Ruth's granddaughter with big eyes and a broad grin. It was as if he almost couldn't believe it was his.

"Postseason MVP. Wow," Rodriguez said Saturday night. Pausing for effect he added, "What's next, the good guy award?"

A-Rod picked up the hardware at the 87th annual New York baseball writers' dinner Saturday night.

And after he told fans at the dinner that "he'd stick to the script of 2009 and keep it very, very brief," he choked up, taking a long pause -- save for a nervous laugh -- to look down at the podium and smile awkwardly....

Rodriguez batted .365 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games in the postseason, quickly putting to rest his reputation for failing when it mattered most....

"I've been to these dinners a couple of times to receive MVP awards and those, I'm very proud of those accomplishments," he said. "But none of those accomplishments will ever compare to the feeling you get from being part of a team that won a world championship. Like Albert [Pujols] said there's nothing like winning a World championship." (story courtesy of the AP)

Awwww, it looks like our little boy has finally grown up. About time we got back to some Yankee business on the blog, huh?  After 6 seasons in the pinstripes, A-Rod's realization of what it means to be a Yankee has come full circle. It's not about racking up MVPs and Silver Sluggers Awards; it's about winning championships and being recognized for being great in the situations that help win those championships.

While I can't say I approve of A-Rod breaking the "There's No Crying In Baseball" rule, the fact that he was that emotional and that proud of getting the Postseason MVP award shows that the new approach he took to the game and his life last year wasn't just an act; he actually learned something valuable. The fact that he's promising to stick to that approach of "handle your business on the field; keep your mouth shut off of it" is a good sign for him and the Yankees as they head into 2010 picking up right where they left off in 2009.

Now that he's got a ring, an award that actually means something, and a clean bill of health under his belt, expect the A-Horse to come out of the gates harder than Secretariat this year. The rest of the AL better get ready to get out of the way or risk getting their teeth kicked in.  April 4 can't come fast enough.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Most Beautiful Thing I've Ever Seen

That sound you hear is the entire state of Wisconsin both laughing uncontrollably and breathing a huge sigh of relief at the same time. 

You would think after all this time, all the mistakes, all the stupid plays, and all the bad decisions, that Brett Favre would have finally learned his lesson and would just do the smart thing to win the game, but no.  His gargantuan ego and unquenchable thirst for personal success and praise were too much for him to overcome and he had to unleash one more ill-timed, against-his-body throw to a stationary receiver.

Does it change the fact that Green Bay lost in a way that could be succeeded only by Favre's pick in '07 against the Giants?  No, of course not.  But is it funny as shit to watch and bask in the ole gunslinger's failure and idiocy one more time, especially in a situation that cost him the shot at the Super Bowl he so desperately craved?  You bet your fucking ass.

Thanks, Brett. I knew you wouldn't let us Packer fans down. And that fact that I had to wait 4 and a half months for it to happen actually makes it better.

P.S.- If I could take that look on his face at the end of the video and make a meal out of it, I would eat that meal every day, 3 times a day for the rest of my fucking life.

Who Woulda Thunk It?

Just call the Huskies the Tin Men of the Big East.  Turns out they do have some heart after all.  After an expected smackdown of the Red Storm on Wednesday, UConn showed up at Gampel yesterday and in atypical Husky fashion, fought back against early adversity and ended up running the #1 ranked Texas Longhorns off the floor in the second half to end what had been a potentially season-destroying slide and re-assert themselves as a potential NCAA tournament team.  And as much as people won't want to hear it, the signs of this team being different and, dare I say it, better without Jim Calhoun were apparent.

Under George Blaney yesterday, the team didn't seem as tight as it usually is in close games against good teams (Duke, Kentucky, 2nd half against Georgetown).  As awful as Kemba Walker was in the first half yesterday, and he was absolutely fucking terrible, Blaney didn't verbally rip his head off and bury him at the end of the bench.  Instead, he let Walker play through his mistakes, let him realize how bad he was fucking up, and probably talked to him at halftime, away from the thousands of fans and dozens of TV cameras, about slowing down, making the simple play, and being confident.  And wouldn't you know it?  Walker was dynamite in the second half; he ran the offense, made great passes, finished his drives to the basket, and played with more poise and guile than he has all year.

But it wasn't just Walker.  Blaney wasn't quick with the hook with anybody yesterday.  Players were part of a regular rotation, getting taken out when they needed rest or for foul trouble, and for the most part being allowed to play through their mistakes and missed shots without having to look over their shoulders.  Ater Majok, while still a disaster offensively, showed great energy on the boards and was a key defensive presence and was rewarded with more minutes.  Alex Oriakhi was a piece of shit yesterday and so he sat on the bench more while Majok and Gavin Edwards got the lion's share of time.  And when UConn made their quick burst to pull even and take the lead 68-62 in the 2nd half, they did it with Donnell Beverly running the point.  Coming out of the next timeout, Beverly was still on the floor, as Blaney probably felt it was better to stick with what was working and reward his guys for playing well rather than mix up the lineup again and potentially wreck the momentum the Huskies had established.

The team played hard yesterday, but they also played confident, something that has been the key missing ingredient for them for most of the season.  And that confidence was a direct result of the confidence that George Blaney showed in them.  There were no 20-second substituions, no public dressing downs in front of the home crowd, and only one quick timeout to get the team re-focused.  Blaney let his guys play and they responded by playing the way they were supposed to.  A win like that can do wonders for a team, and when it happens to a team like UConn who has underachieved mightily this year against top competition, it can be a starting point for bigger things.

Will those bigger things happen?  Will they make a run back to the top of the Big East and finish the season strong?  Only time will tell.  Could they have won that game yesterday with Jim Calhoun on the sidelines running his team instead of Blaney?  Sure.  Would they have won the game with Calhoun instead of Blaney?  I don't know.  I just know that yesterday's second half was the first time all season this team has shown any toughness and heart in a game where they needed it to win.  What happens from here on out is up to them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

AB4AR's NFL Conference Championship Picks

NY Jets @ Indianapolis: Line- Colts by 8

Sexy Rexy and the Fighting Sanchezes look to continue their improbable run to the Super Bowl and what better team to beat to get there/have their run stopped by than the Colts, the team who laid down for them in Week 16 to get the ball rolling on their season-ending run that carried over in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs.

So far, Mark Sanchez has done everything the Jets have asked him to do. Make smart decisions, complete a pass here and there, and take care of the ball. He was one Braylon Edwards drop away from having a killer Wild Card game against Cincy, and was just as efficient last week against what was thought to be a good defense in San Diego. Now, just like the last 2 games were, this Sunday will be Sanchez's biggest test to date.

After bottling up a Ravens' run game that stomped all over the Pats, Indy will be looking for similar results against Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. If they can keep the Jets from running wild and controlling the clock, they can force Sanchez to have to beat them and hopefully force turnovers with their 2-man pass rushing bonanza of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and their severely underrated secondary.

On offense, Peyton Manning will look to do what he does best, and that is pass against the blitz. The Jets' biggest asset on D is the blitz, as they have already used it to make Carson Palmer and Phillip Rivers look like Pee Wee QBs, but Manning is the league's best QB against the blitz. Plus, Manning could care less about Reggie Wayne getting lost on Revis Island as he has already shown he is perfectly happy checking down to Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, and Dallas Clark, and letting them run wild. If the Jets are looking to put pressure on Manning, they better damn well have their coverage straight. If they don't, it could be a long day.

The best subplot to this game is the fact that each team has a high level of motivation to win. The Jets need to win to prove that their Week 16 matchup was no fluke and that they CAN beat the Colts best players over 4 quarters. The Colts need to win to prove that they are that much better than the Jets and to keep the sting of the undefeated season that could have been fresh in their minds as they head for a title. So far this postseason, The Dirty One has outplayed 2 QBs who were considered better than him. That streak will end this Sunday. Jets will cover, but Colts will win.

The Pick: Colts 23 Jets 17

Minnesota @ New Orleans: Line- Saints by 3.5

After both looking like shit at season's end and opening their teams up to all kinds of upset talk before last weekend against hotter teams, the Saints and Vikings both snapped out of it last week and reminded everybody why they were the #1 and #2 teams in the NFC. Now with potential Super Bowl storylines aplenty on both sides, they will play to end the debate about who the best team in the NFC was this season.

I'm not even going to try to badmouth Favre anymore; the guy has been lights out this year, period. He defied the odds and his most recent history and made all the haters like me sit down and eat a big helping of shut the hell up. Last week he looked like Favre circa 1999 in his almost single-handed destruction of the Cowboys defense. A similar performance is going to be needed to beat the Saints, who beat the mighty Cardinals offense down and probably retired Kurt Warner, and is very possible against a defense that thrives on taking chances. Jabari Greer vs. Sidney Rice is the matchup to watch when the Vikes have the ball, narrowly edging out the mental chess game that will be Favre vs. former teammate Darren Sharper.

The biggest key to this game is going to be the Vikings pass rush. Last week they made Tony Romo miserable, sacking him 6 times and forcing 3 turnovers. But that performance came with a price as both Ray Edwards and Kevin Williams left that game with injuries and were held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The Vikings have been able to cover for their weak LB core and average secondary by generating such a great pass rush with their front 4, but if Edwards and Williams either can't go or aren't effective, they will be forced to blitz to get pressure on Drew Brees. And just like Manning, Brees eats pieces of shit like a blitz for breakfast; he diagnoses them before the D even knows it's blitzing and almost always finds the open man, usually for huge gains. If the Vikings are forced to go to the blitz because of their injuries up front, it will be a long 4 quarters for their secondary and a lot of funny shots of Brad Childress looking forlorn on the sidelines.

I see this game being close for the better part of the first 3 quarters, and then a defensive or special teams TD giving the Saints the breathing room they will need to hold on and get to their first Super Bowl. Brees and Favre will both play great, but Brees will make a few more key throws and solidify himself as the best QB in football not named Peyton Manning.

The Pick: Saints 34 Vikings 29
Playoff Predictions (Season): 2-6

Thursday, January 21, 2010

As The Yankee Outfield Turns...

Did I miss something?  Did Jerry Hairston steal Brian Cashman's girlfriend or something?  Did he and Johnny Damon bump into each other at a restaurant and it got awkward?  Is Cash going to talk shit about Hairston to LC and Heidi now?

All I know is I can't wait for next week's episode of "Jersey Shore" to see what happens when Jerry finds out Johnny hooked up with J-Woww and Cash saw it happen and didn't tell him.  Truly riveting stuff.

And by the way, somewhere in the middle of all this nonsense, the possibility of Johnny Damon returning at a super-mega discount gets buried.  Stay tuned, Yankee fans.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joseph Pawlikowski Is Smarter Than Me

While I've been sitting here chewing my nails off the last couple weeks watching all the productive Yankee bench players from last year get scooped up by other teams with no moves being made to replace them, Joseph Pawlikowski has probably been kicking back, sippin' on gin and juice, and waiting to place his order for 2010 World Series memorabilia. His post today at River Ave. Blues on how the Yankee bench is just fine heading into this season not only put me at ease about the supporting cast, but also made me feel a little bit dumb for being concerned in the first place.

Cervelli has shown me enough both behind and at the plate to have me not concerned about being the full-time backup catcher so that was never a concern. I wasn't too keen on the idea of Ramiro Pena being the Swiss Army Knife infield-outfield guy, but as Joe brilliantly pointed out, Jeter and Bobinson don't take many days off and with A-Rod coming into this season at 100% healthwise, there aren't going to be as many situations where Pena is going to have to step in and contribute.

Outfield depth might be a bit of a concern, but as Joe expertly noted (again), the Yanks picked up Hairston and Hinske last season for what was the baseball equivalent of the 1$ box on the last day of a yard sale, so if needed, there should be no doubt that they can do it again.

With a lineup, rotation, and bullpen that are all among the top-5 in baseball respectively, the bench shouldn't even be a concern and I'm ashamed to say I let myself get that fired up about it. The Yankees are dealing with cracks in the tile and smudges on the mirror here, not gaping holes in the wall. And cracks and smudges are easy to fix. Thank you, Joe Pawlikowski, for showing me the light. If you ever make it out to New Berlin, WI, I owe you a beer.

In case you were too lazy to click on the first link, the complete post can be found here:

Get Well Soon, Coach

I know I've been hard on the guy this year, and I would hate to think that my harsh words had anything to do with his most recent health issues, so I would like to wish Jim Calhoun a speedy recovery. We miss you, Coach, and hope to see you back on the sidelines yanking guys for making stupid passes and screaming "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!?!" at Sticks soon.

One thing I will say is that if Calhoun can beat cancer 3 times and hand out epic verbal beatdowns like this to lowly hippie freelance reporters:

then this newest health issue doesn't have a chance. This ailment better get some facts before Coach Calhoun's white blood cells come back and see it.

P.S.- If the Huskies have any heart, they will band together and stomp the shit out of St. John's tonight and Texas this Saturday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jerry Hairston A Padre

The San Diego Padres have agreed to a $2,125,000, one-year deal with Yankees utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr.

The deal with the infielder-outfielder comes two days after the Padres completed a trade with Oakland to reacquire Hairston’s younger brother, Scott. (story courtesy of the AP)

Wow, 2.125 mil, huh? I guess the Yankees weren't playing around when they set that $2 million hardline for a left fielder. It's starting to look more and more like Brett Gardner is going to be the everyday left fielder (which I'm perfectly happy with), and that the Yankees are serious about making Ramiro Pena their do-all, infield-outfield bench guy to replace Hairston (which I'm a little concerned about).

If the Yanks are serious about Reed Johnson, which all reports say they are, they are going to have to increase the ceiling on that $2 mil budget at least a little bit because I don't see him coming any cheaper than Hairston did.

And if you're keeping score at home, the bench right now consists of Pena, Cervelli, Miranda, and that Jamie Hoffmann kid. Here's hoping he turns out to be some type of modern day Roy Hobbs, otherwise letting Hinske and Hairston go is going to look dumb.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

UConn: One Foot In The Grave

After yet another turnover-committing, 3-point-bricking, foul shot-missing, composure-losing, Stanley Robinson-disappearing performance in front of a strangely calm and stoic (and probably disgusted and confused) Jim Calhoun, the UConn Huskies' season is almost over.  Once again they put on a performance that showed no improvement of their previous mistakes or change in their flawed gameplan, culminating in a blown 2nd-half lead, and they STILL aren't into the meat of their Big East schedule.

Just for shits and gigs, let's take a look back at what I wrote in my season preview a few months ago and spice it up with some special edition director's commentary based on how the season has played out so far:

Alex Oriakhi is a textbook Jim Calhoun-style big man who can rebound and defend like a maniac (but usually chooses to rebound and defend like a pussy) and has an offensive game that's already light years ahead of where Hasheem was at in his first year (but still light years behind that of a competent, good power forward).

Charles Okwandu, a 7-1 junior, is an intriguing possibility to replace Thabeet's shot-blocking presence and should get a look early in the season...

The only thing intriguing about Okwandu has been trying to figure out how he managed to fleece the university by keeping his scholarship for 3 years.  And as far as shot blocking goes, fucking forget about it.  This guy gets posted up on a daily basis when he plays as himself in March Madness 2010.

...Calhoun already knows what he'll get from Gavin Edwards and Jonathan Mandeldove, which is nothing.

Surprisingly, here's something I got wrong that actually worked out in a good way.  Gavin has been surprisingly effective on both ends of the floor and has shown more poise and leadership than fellow seniors Sticks and Dyson.

Stanley Robinson, now a senior and team leader...

That statement should read: "now a senior and overrated candyass who disappears in the biggest games and 2nd halfs of close games and puts up his best numbers against teams with white 6'2" small forwards."

The key player for this group will be freshman center, Ater Majok.... Having already been with the team and learning the system for a year, he is ahead of the curve compared to other freshmen and shouldn't have the jitters and brain farts that usually come along with being a young player in D-1 basketball.

There's really nothing I can say to try to explain what my thought process was in writing this description of Majok or to justify how absolutely pathetic he has been, so I'll just sum up his performance so far this year with this:

Seriously, somebody plant a bag of weed on this kid so he can get kicked off the team, out of the school, and put on the first flight back to the Sudan.  Even Nate Miles contributed more to the team before he was sent packing last season.  Just an absolute disgrace to the game of basketball and UConn's recruiting process.

Dyson and Walker will be the straws that stir the drink. As they go, the Huskies will go. Both are fearless, hard-nosed players who look to drive and create opportunities at the rim for themselves or their teammates....

Or drive to the rim with their heads down and throw up an over-the-shoulder prayer after passing the ball back and forth to each other for the first 27 seconds of the possession while everybody else stands around and watches them.  When they go like this, the Huskies go nowhere.

Both guys can hold their own shooting the ball, but are not nearly the marksmen that Price was...

Correction: Both guys can hold their own shooting the ball BADLY, and are not nearly the marksman that Stevie Wonder is.

Backing them up will be a tandem of freshmen, Darius Smith and Jamaal Trice. Trice will be looked at to provide scoring and shooting off the bench, think Rashad Anderson Light, while Smith will probably end up being the backup point guard because quite frankly, Donnell Beverly fucking sucks and can't run an offense.

Another complete blunder by me calling this, although at least I got the "Donnell Beverly fucking sucks"-part right.  About the only thing Trice and Smith have done this year is look stupid with their Kanye West-style goofy high-edge mohawks.

How quickly Trice and Smith adjust to the college game will be a key for this team all year long as Calhoun can't afford to run Dyson and Walker ragged every night like he did with AJ Price last year.

It's obvious these 2 haven't adjusted to the college game at all, but it's hard to do that when your coach refuses to play you, instead choosing the option of running his 2 best players ragged and leaving them mentally and physically drained at the end of each game when they miss free throw after free throw.
Overall, this season is wide open in terms of possibilities. This is a team that can be a carbon copy of traditional UConn teams and be a Big East and National title contenders if the veterans step up their games and leadership skills. This is also a team that can struggle to find its identity and be hampered by its inexperience and youth and resemble the 2005 Husky team.
Consider identity not found and resemblance of 2005 team complete.  Strangely enough, the youth and inexperience hasn't come into play as the lion's share of playing time and mistakes have been made by the core veterans and Hall of Fame coach.
Coach Calhoun will have more work to do than he has in past years, both in managing and motivating his seniors and molding his freshmen, but if anybody can do it, he can.
Unless, of course, he decides to refuse to address any of his team's weaknesses, fail to motivate his team to start games strong or manage them to finish games strong, never script a single play when they can't get their halfcourt offense going, and completely ignore his group of freshmen, thereby ensuring their continued uselessness next season when they'll be expected to step up and replace the departing seniors.
I mean, you don't just win 800 games by accident.
Then again, maybe you do...
Season Prediction:
22-6 regular season, 3rd in the Big East
Semifinals of Big East Tourney
Sweet 16 in the NCAAs
I would laugh reading this if it wasn't so sadly misguided.  Here's the revised predictions:
17-11 regular season; bottom 3rd of the Big East
First-round exit in the Big East Tourney
Final Four of the NIT Tournament
I was counting on filling a lot of the void of the blog left by the Yankees' off-season with UConn posts.  Now I could give a fuck who they play next and can't wait for pitchers and catchers to report.

Friday, January 15, 2010

AB4AR's NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

Arizona @ New Orleans: Line- Saints by 2

After a bit of a lackluster finish to the regular season, the Cardinals snapped out of it last week in their victory over the Packers (well, at least their offense did). New Orleans will be hoping for similar results on Saturday as they were downright awful in the last month of the season. With the way the Cardinals secondary failed to cover anybody last week, they could be just what the doctor ordered for Drew Brees and company.

The Saints will be looking to do what Green Bay could not last week, and that's get pressure on Kurt Warner. The line kept him relatively clean and his was surgical in his dissection of the Packers' blitz and coverage schemes. The Saints like to blitz on 3rd down and like to bring pressure from their secondary, but if the Cardinals protect against that the way they did a week ago, it could be another huge day for Warner, especially considering it looks more and more like he's going to have Anquan Boldin back for the game.

What the game will come down to is whether or not the Saints offense can get going again. Both teams are going to score points, but like last week, it's going to come down to who scores last. The Saints aren't going to win this game with 20-28 points. Drew Brees is a better quarterback than Aaron Rodgers and should put up big numbers against the Cardinals D and it would be almost impossible for the Saints D to play worse than the Pack did last week. They will give up yards and point, but make a handful of plays here and there that will be the difference in the end.

The Pick: Saints 37 Cardinals 30

Baltimore @ Indianapolis: Line- Colts by 3.5

This line has gone up a bit with concerns lingering about the severity of Joe Flacco's hip injury. As little as he factored into last week's game, you would think that would count as an bye week for him, but the Ravens won't be so lucky this week and will have to rely on Flacco's arm more if they want to win.

The big question is whether or not the Colts can shake off the rust and win a game after resting at the end of the season, something they have not done in the past. With as pissed off as all their starters looked in Week 16, I think they use the loss of a perfect season as extra motivation to win the Super Bowl. Everyone questioned Polian for making the call when past history suggested the Colts were better off playing all the way through, so the players know it's on them to come out and perform.

The Colts will take care of the ball much better than New England did last week, so they aren't going to put up a measly 14 points, and they should put more pressure on Flacco than the Pats did as well. It will be interesting to see how the Colts try to match up Mathis and Freeney with Baltimore tackles Omar Gaither and Michael Oher; which one will they try to attack and which end will they use to attack him? If the Colts stack the box early, take away the run, and force Flacco to beat them, they should be in good shape. When a game comes down to Flacco having to outplay Peyton Manning to win, I'll take my chances with that.

The Pick: Colts 24 Ravens 13

Dallas @ Minnesota: Line- Vikings by 1.5

It's the Showdown at the Playoff Choker Corral. The greatest gun-slingin', river boat-gamblin' son of a gun in the history of sports against the younger version of himself who is the only player in the NFL that comes close to having as much fun on the field as Favre does. There will be boners aplenty for all media covering the game, but which guy will come out and top and do a little more to squash that "can't get it done in the playoffs" stereotype?

The Vikings were looking like they were primed for a late-season collapse before they played against the Giants in Week 17. Since that victory, everyone has proclaimed them a favorite again, but it's easy to look good when your opponent is trying harder to not try than they are to actually win. The reality is the Vikings offense hasn't been what it was earlier in the year, mainly because Adrian Peterson has not been as explosive. Their defense also hasn't been as dominant due to the loss of EJ Henderson and lack of sufficient depth at LB and the fact that Antoine Winfield is hobbling around at corner and teams are attacking him over the top knowing he doesn't have his usual burst and recovery speed.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, have been clicking on all cylinders since their defeat of the Saints. Their secondary is greatly improved, their pass rush has been a force, and Tony Romo is playing great football. They’ve gotten great production from their running game, no matter who's carrying the ball, and in the process made themselves very difficult to defend.

Based on their past history, expect both teams to try to attack the QB and force turnovers early. Whoever can protect the QB and establish the run first to take some of that heat off their guy will be the team that wins. I expect this to be the Cowboys because their offensive line has been fantastic this year and Bryant McKinnie has been awful. After the disaster that was the Panthers game, Demarcus Ware has to be cumming in his pants at the thought of matching up with McKinnie and should have a field day terrorizing Favre. Once Romo gets settled in, expect him and Miles Austin to be the latest to test Winfield's injuries and open up the passing game. The Vikes will be in the game all the way, but if Adrian Peterson doesn't run for 200 yards and 3 TDs, they don't win this game. He won't and they won’t.

The Pick: Cowboys 30 Vikings 23

New York Jets @ San Diego: Line- Chargers by 6

Is this line too high? It's hard to decide. The Jets looked like world beaters again last week on both sides of the ball, executing their "run the ball and defend"-plan to perfection, and Mark Sanchez is trending upward again at the right time. But the Chargers have been the best team in the league for the last 2 months running and have shown no signs of slowing down. Phillip Rivers was a legit MVP candidate and has now established himself as a top-tier NFL QB, right next to Manning, Brees, and Brady.

You know Vincent Jackson most likely isn't getting off of Revis Island, but unlike some of their most recent opponents, the Chargers have better secondary options in the passing game. Malcolm Floyd is big and fast, just like Jackson, and is just as good at stretching the field and creating matchup problems; considering Lito Sheppard is about 4'5", you can count on Rivers looking to get single coverage and exploit that matchup. Antonio Gates is still one of the best tight ends in the game and will challenge the Jets' linebacking corp's ability to cover, and both LT and Darren Sproles are excellent at catching passes out of the backfield. The other 10 guys on D are going to have to step up the Revis' level of pass defense if the Jets are going to win.

San Diego, like everybody else, is going to gear up to stop the run, but you have to assume the Jets are going to get their yards. 3rd-down defense and getting pressure on Sanchez are the keys for the Chargers; if they can at least stop the run on 3rd and short and get off the field, and make Sanchez think and scramble, they will win. We all know Sanchez can be a good QB when he has time to throw, but when you force him to move and rush his decisions, that's where the rookie inexperience shines through. One or 2 picks will be more than enough for the Chargers to control the game and I expect them to force at least that.

The Pick: Chargers 27 Jets 16
Playoff Predictions (Season): 0-4

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things Are Already Looking Up For The Mets

Nothing like a little off-season knee surgery that could keep your starting centerfielder out for the first month of the season to get 2010 off to a good start, huh?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Left Field, Anybody?

The Yankees have signed lefty reliever Royce Ring and outfielders Reid Gorecki and David Winfree to minor-league contracts. Meanwhile, their chances to re-sign Johnny Damon remained remote.

The Yankees are telling agents they only have $2 million, at most, to spend on a left fielder. They figure Damon, even in a diminishing market, never would drop his demands that low.

So unless ownership reverses course on the budget, the Yankees will continue to look at a supplementary player for left field rather than Damon. Specifically, the Yanks would like to find someone to start rather than Brett Gardner or serve as a righty-swinging complement to Gardner.

The player who most entices the Yankees is Xavier Nady, who, like Damon, is represented by Scott Boras. However, Nady is of interest to several teams and, therefore, might be too pricey for the Yankees.

Their next target is Reed Johnson because, of the remaining candidates, he is the one who projects best to being a help defensively while also having a history of hitting lefties well.

The other three free-agent possibilities, at the moment, are Rocco Baldelli, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Marcus Thames. (story courtesy of the NY Post)

Royce Ring, Reid Gorecki, AND David Winfree??? Talk about a fucking haul of talent right there. The hell with a left fielder; the Yankees might as well just play with 2 outfielders because they are stacked with these 3 guys waiting in the wings in the minors.

Seriously, what did Brett Gardner ever do to the Yankees' management and coaching staff that nobody wants to give him a chance in left next year? The kid covers more ground than the Roman Empire, gives the Yankees all kinds of situational, hit-and-run, sac bunt options with him batting #9 and Jeter #1, and showed last year that he can be a more than capable Major League hitter if given the at-bats. He's still a relatively inexperienced hitter at the Major League level and should improve with more work in the cage, more plate appearances, and just by being around guys like Jeter, A-Rod, Jorge, etc.

Instead, the Yanks are entertaining the thought of Xavier Nady; the guy who hasn't played in a year and is going to command far more money than he should rightfully deserve by being a Scott Boras client. It's going to take him at least half a year to shake the rust off, so if you're going to overpay for an older, Scott Boras-guy, why not suck it up and re-sign Damon? I'm not following the logic here.

And as far as the other contingency plans, I would rather go back to the 2-outfielder strategy than have Reed Johnson or Marcus Thames out there. And Rocco Baldelli? Really? Doesn't he have muscular dystrophy or bone marrow cancer or something?

Jerry Hairston, on the other hand, should already be re-signed and it's blowing my mind trying to figure out why he hasn't been already.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Just Go Away, Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire finally admitting he did steroids yesterday is hardly newsworthy. At this point, after his tight-lipped performance before Congress and his disappearance from the game altogether after his retirement, everybody knew his silence spoke volumes about his guilt as a steroids cheat. The fact that SportsCenter basically focused wall-to-wall coverage on this was ridiculous and downright boring. What is newsworthy, however, is the way in which he went about "admitting" his wrongdoings yesterday and how insincere and insulting it was to baseball fans and to the general public.

From Tim Kurkjian to Tony La Russa to Bob Costas, we were inundated yesterday with first-hand, direct accounts of what McGwire said and how he felt about this whole situation. And all those accounts lead to the exact same conclusion: Mark McGwire was a lying, cheating scumbag back then, and he's still a lying, cheating scumbag now. Even when he was supposedly being honest and admitting what he did, that honesty was shrouded in a black veil of untruths and excuses most likely designed to fool us but succeeding in fooling only himself.

He played the "there's no way a pill or an injection will give you hand-eye coordination"-card. He played the "I did this for health purposes, not strength purposes"-card. He played the "God blessed me with this talent"-card. He played the "I've always hit home runs since Little League. Steroids didn't help me hit home runs"-card. He played the "this is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do"-card. Dude played so many cards that a Vegas blackjack dealer would have had a hard time re-shuffling the decks to keep up with him. Unfortunately for Big Mac, all playing all these cards and "admitting" his wrongdoings did was make him look like an even bigger jackass than the "I'm not here to talk about the past"-fiasco did.

For starters, the "nothing for hand-eye coordination" and "God-given talent" arguments are completely bogus. Anybody that read "Game of Shadows" or has followed the baseball steroid scandal knows that part of the reason HGH is so popular is because in addition to building muscle mass and helping recovery time, it also helps improve vision, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination. Ichiro Suzuki has great hand-eye coordination; Derek Jeter has great hand-eye coordination. That is reflected in their consistently high batting averages throughout their careers and their ability to hit the ball the other way better than anybody. McGwire's low batting average and high strikeout totals point to him not having good natural hand-eye. When you consider that McGwire ended his career with a less-than-stellar .263 BA and his BA numbers had bottomed out before he started using steroids and then increased steadily through the prime of his playing (and juicing) career, it's safe to say that there was definitely something involved in improving McGwire's hand-eye. And that something sure as shit wasn't God or more time in the batting cage.

The "health reasons, not strength reasons" and "'roids don't help you hit HRs" arguments are the real doozies, though. McGwire stated that he wanted to stave off his injury problems so he could play more games, not hit more home runs. When you're injured, you can't play; when you can't play, you can't hit; when you can't hit, you can't hit home runs. So when you can't play, it goes without saying that your HR totals are going to suffer as a result. By taking steroids and HGH and whatever else, you allow yourself to recover faster and/or prevent injuries, thus allowing yourself to play more. Just by being on the field and at the plate more, one is going to accumulate more HRs through the law of averages. So yes, Mark, your steroid use was a direct cause for your higher HR numbers just by giving you the ability to play more.

Furthermore, just by nature of the definitions of the words, one can be considered "stronger" when "healthy," so by taking steroids to make your body healthier, you are, in effect, making yourself stronger too, and that's before you even get into the massive transformation they did to your body by adding the noticeable tons of muscle mass. You think having all that beef helped jack a few more fly balls out of the park that otherwise wouldn't have gone out if you were left to your God-given crappy hand-eye coordination? I think so.

McGwire's statements yesterday were far more damaging that anything he said or could have said in front of Congress a few years ago. Before yesterday afternoon, people had pretty much forgotten about the guy. He had vanished from the public eye and nobody anywhere was clamoring for news on McGwire or calling for him to admit his guilt. Then he decides to thrust himself back in front of us all and insult us by making all these idiotic statements, assuming that everybody who cares is still completely in the dark about steroids, their effects, their side effects, and still naïve and stupid enough to believe the "hard work, first-in/last-to-leave, drink your milk, take your vitamins, say your prayers" bullshit that he was passing off as the real cause for his success. He failed to realize that we are all way past the "Fool me twice, shame on you"-stage in the steroids era, and failed to realize that everybody watching his interview and listening to other people's accounts of their discussions saw right through his bullshit. He would have been better off going on the MLB Network and slapping Bob Costas across the face, turning to the camera, injecting himself with a syringe full of deca-durabolin, and saying "Fuck you, America."

I was a big Mark McGwire fan back in the day. I can still remember being 12 years old in the summer of 1998, watching he and Sosa battle back and forth and hit baseballs farther than I had ever seen. One of my fondest memories for a long time was the night he broke Roger Maris' record; I had just gone to bed when my Dad came upstairs to tell me Big Mac was up again if I wanted to watch. I ran downstairs just seconds before he lined that frozen rope that barely made it over the wall and stood there for what seemed like an eternity watching the celebration unfold and thinking to myself that I had just witnessed something incredibly special, never once even stopping to look at how insanely and unnaturally muscular McGwire and Sosa were. Now I, like many other baseball fans my age, watch those highlights and laugh at being so stupid, but also feel a bit bad about how we got sucked in and tricked. Even now as I sit here writing this, I can't help but feel a little hurt now that I now know the ugly truth about someone I revered.

And that's why yesterday was newsworthy. Not because McGwire finally outed himself as a liar and a cheater, but because he went about it in a way that felt like he still believed we were all 12 years old and in awe of him and were going to shower him with forgiveness and praise for his honesty. Instead of lowering himself to our level and being a regular person, he still tried to pass himself off as someone and something great.

So go ahead and cry your crocodile tears, you son of a bitch. You aren't fooling anybody. Your family and friends might accept your admission and apology, but I don't and I'm sure there are millions more fans like me out there who don't either. If you would have just stayed away, maybe you would have stood a chance of gaining back some recognition and reverence in the long run. But you had to come back and put on your little show yesterday, and because of that your reputation will remain in tatters in the minds and hearts of all baseball fans who truly care for the rest of their lives. Even in your locker room this year I bet there will be players who will stand there and nod and agree with you to your face but secretly despise you for what you did and how you tried to justify it. And because you chose to be dishonest about being honest, that's what you deserve.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dan Shaughnessy Can Fuck Off (But He Does Kinda Know What's Up)

This man will rape your children

All bolded items are from Dan's column from today.  I would post the link to it but I don't want to direct people to more bad writing.  Just take a gander at some of the high-(low?)-lights below:

Is that it? Has the curtain officially been drawn on the golden era of New England sports?

Yes, Dan.  Yes it has.

I hear all of you cackling across the land. Boston teams were pretty darned great in that '00s. The Celtics returned to glory with their first World Championship in 22 years when they smoked the Lakers in 2008. The Red Sox broke an 86-year curse with the Greatest Baseball Story Ever Told (coming back from 3-0 against the Yankees) in 2004, then topped it off with another Fall Classic sweep in 2007. And the Patriots? They demolished the rest of the NFL and acquired enemies around the globe, winning three Super Bowls in four seasons, then steamrolling to an unprecedented 18-0 in 2007....

Ahh yes.  Nothing says "not used to success" like living balls deep in the past and re-hashing every title you won in the past decade like it just happened yesterday.  And what's all this "Greatest Baseball Story Ever Told" nonsense?  Why the capital letters?  Is that the title of your new book?  In case you don't remember, the greatest story ever told was that of the 1994 California Angels, who, behind the brilliant managing of George Knox and career resurrection of pitcher Mel Clark, rallied to win the AL pennant.  All the information on that magical season can be found here.

Truth be told, there's been a sense of arrogance and entitlement about Boston sports fans in recent times.


Success did not become us. We were lovable losers back in the day...

Losers, yes.  But lovable?  Outside of the greater Boston area, I can't imagine too many people would agree with you on that.  Your 86-year run of futility was more like baseball's running joke that everybody was in on.  Kind of like the crazy uncle that everybody smiles at and talks to when he visits on Christmas but all go into the kitchen to laugh at and make fun of later on.  But hey, tell yourself whatever you have to...

...but gracious winners in good times.

The scores of hastily-written books, tidal waves of off-colored, lame merchandise, scores of fair-weather fans popping up like dandelions after 2004, and the seemingly never-ending torrent of chest thumping and bragging by your drunken Mick fanbase would argue otherwise.

Ask fans in Baltimore, Oakland and Tampa how much they love having citizens of Red Sox Nation overrun their ballparks every summer.

Probably about as much as any fan likes having even one insufferable citizen of Fraud Sox Nation sitting anywhere in their section of one of their team's home games every summer.

The Red Sox won 95 games last year and have been in the playoffs in six of the last seven years. They have one of the top four payrolls in baseball and this winter added John Lackey to a stable of starters which includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield. They have depth in the bullpen and one of the best closers in baseball in Jonathan Papelbon.

Yeah, about that.  Lackey is overrated and has never gotten it done against good teams; Beckett might have already peaked; Dice-Gay just admitted he hid an injury to pitch in the meaningless World Baseball Classic last year, thus costing the rotation much-needed depth and the team the millions of dollars it paid him; Clay Buchholz is still the same scared little bitch he was the last 2 seasons and hasn't shown any signs of breaking out of that shell; Tim Wakefield is more washed up than Bret Hart looked on Raw last Monday night.  Oh yeah, and your closer is a 'me first' jackass who cares more about making money for him and all other closers than winning championships.

And there's something to be said for the "depth" in the Red Sox bullpen.  Call me crazy, but I'd take Mo, Joba (or Hughes), Robertson, Marte, and Aceves over Papelbon, Okajima, Bard, Delcarmen, and Saito any day of the fucking week.  Nobody of that last 3 in the Sox 'pen screams "gamer," and Bard and Papelbon didn't exactly light the world on fire in pressure situations at the end of last year.

But I'm saying the Sox will not hit enough to compete with the Yankees in 2010. The Sox were too often easily shut down by good pitching in 2009 and it showed when they were smothered by the Angels in the playoffs. Boston's top four hitters are terrific, but the lineup stalls after messrs Ellsbury, Pedroia, Martinez and Youkilis. David Ortiz struggled terribly last year. He wound up with decent numbers, but too much of his damage was done against the Triple-A Orioles. If Ortiz continues to slide, the Sox lineup will struggle. Since the season ended the Sox have added Mike Cameron in center, moving Ellsbury to left. Marco Scutero has been brought on board to plug the shortstop hole and Adrian Beltre signed for one year to take over at third. It's a big-time commitment to defense, but offense promises to be Boston's problem. They can be a playoff team, but they are falling further behind the Yankees. And that's not a prescription for a World Series championship.

Now you're talking, Danny Boy.  From your keyboard to God's ears.  Good call staying away from Cameron's, Scutaro's, and Beltre's borderline laughable offensive stats.  You may be a homer but at least you aren't delusional about your team's chances or the fact that the Yankees are still head and shoulders above your beloved Sox.

...the Red Sox may pick up Adrian Gonzalez next summer and there be could another Duck Boat parade in downtown Boston this year or next.

Just what they need; another corner infielder!!  That will put them over the top for sure and completely negate the Yankees' signings of Joe Mauer and Cliff Lee.

But this new decade is off to a bad start here in Boston. And the rest of the country must be loving it.

I won't be so bold as to speak for the entire country, but as far as Yankee fans and Red Sox haters go, yes, we are loving it to death.  The only thing that could make it better would be for Victor Martinez to blow his knee out in spring training so we can all enjoy bathing in your tears.

Jeter Not Letting Wedding Get In The Way Of Another World Series Title

After months of speculation that the Yankees' hunk and his sexy steady Minka Kelly are headed to the altar,... the super couple may have settled on a wedding date -- Nov. 5.

And while it may bring little solace to Jeter's legion of female admirers, fretful Yankees fans will be glad to note the date is at least two days after the World Series ends. (story courtesy of Page Six)

As if there needed to be any more proof that Derek Jeter is the man, here comes this story from the Post about how The Captain is putting off his wedding until after the latest possible date for a World Series game to be played. Genius, pure fucking genius.

This move shows that Jeter will continue to maintain his level of coolness and extreme pimpage even now that he's off the market in 2 ways. One, by setting the date for the wedding, Jeet is letting it be known right off the bat that he's going to be running the show. Seriously, what other guy could pick his wedding date for when he wanted it and have his wife-to-be sit back and accept it? Chicks LIVE for planning weddings; it's engrained into their DNA. And now Minka has to sit back and wait until the Yankees wrap up their 28th title until she can officially become Mrs. Jeter. She already knows where she stands in the pecking order; Yankees 1st, Minka 2nd, as it should be.

And therein lies the second, and far more important, factor for why this is such a gangsta move by Jeter. He's essentially telling his teammates and the rest of baseball, "Yeah, we're winning the World Series again this year. I'm so confident in this that I'm actually setting my date to marry my knockout of a girlfriend after the World Series is over." If that isn't confidence and great leadership then I don't know what is. At the very least, Jeter is saying the Yankees are going to be in the World Series next year, and that's a hell of a lot more than more than half of the other teams in baseball can say right now.

So all this worry about only replacing Damon and Matsui with C-Grand and Fat Nick can end because The Great and Powerful Jeter has spoken. The Yankees are going to steam through the season and win their 2nd consecutive World Series title, kicking off the new decade in style, and then they're going to cap off that celebration by attending Jeter's wedding and celebrating the retirement of one of the most productive cocksmen of our time.

Now if it were me, I'd be faking injuries left and right or jumping in front of double-decker tour buses in the city to give myself enough time off to marry this chick...

...but not Jeter. He's still got his eyes on the big prize and that big prize is another World Series title. I know we're still a good 3 months away, but start spreading the news...


Talk about a kick right in the fucking apple bag, huh? I give out 4 guaranteed winners for this weekend and all 4 of them go down in flames, 3 of them in spectacularly pathetic fashion. Thank Joe Pesci I didn't actually follow any of my own advice and bet any of the games I picked, otherwise I'd be calling out of work today to either hit the street corners and give HJs and BJs to pay off my debt or skip town completely. To anybody that was unfortunate enough to read and believe anything I said on Friday, I apologize. And remember to cup the balls.

To put it in baseball perspective, my Green Bay-Arizona pick was 'Tim McClelland missing 2 obvious calls in Game 4 of the ALCS'-bad; Close game, could have gone either way. If you subtract the first and last plays of the game, Green Bay probably goes on to win the game and cover, so it wasn't like my prediction was so far off that it made a difference.

Jets-Cincy was 'Mike Scioscia removing John Lackey in Game 5 of the ALCS'-bad. Just like Scioscia, I focused too much on past performance and didn't give enough credit to what had been happening recently. I had blind faith in the Bengals, my version of the Angels bullpen, and believed they would regroup and get it together. Once the game started, they shit the bed completely and the Jets were Mark Teixeira knocking the Bengals all over the place.

Dallas-Philly and Pats-Ravens were just awful calls on my part. We're talking 'Ron Gardenhire leaving Jose Mijares in to start the bottom of the 11th in Game 2 of the ALDS' or 'Charlie Manuel deciding to start Pedro in Game 6 of the World Series'-level bad calls here. Just absolutely indefensible decisions that were so bad, after they were made and the results played out you had to wonder if the managers (or in this weekend's case, me) were smoking asbestos and drinking embalming fluid when they made those calls.

Just like this past weekend saw the end of the undeniable end of the Patriots' dynasty and the possible end of Donovan McNabb's tenure in Flipadelphia, it also signaled the end to my status as a surefire football prognosticator. My 11-6 regular season record is completely nullified and now it's time to rebuild. But hey, there's always next week and that's why I'll be back on Friday to try to right the ship and get back to my winning ways.

(Just don't take anything I predict to heart or to your bookie)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bring Out The Meat Wagon

WEEE-OOO, WEEE-OOO, WEEE-OOO!!!!  After yesterday's game, the Huskies are the family rolling around on the ground burning alive and us fans are the paramedics standing there going "Oh my god!"  It was the perfect microcosm for what this team is and how this season is going to play out.  Considering I made my pick for UConn to go 22-6 and finish 3rd in the Big East and they have yet to play Syracuse, West Virginia, and Villanova in the conference, you can pretty much take my prediction and flush it down the toilet like the big piece of shit that it is.

Yesterday was a classic tale of 2 halfs, both of which showcased the 2 versions of the UConn team that everybody is used to seeing.  In the first half there was ball movement and player movement on offense; guys were working the defense and finding the open man; guys were knocking down open shots; there was tough defense and great rebounding, keeping the ball out of Greg Monroe's hands, keeping a hand in the shooters' faces, and not giving up second chances on the offensive glass; and the transition game was flat-out running Georgetown off the floor.  The Huskies were looking to push after every steal, every block, and every rebound, and showed that they were the much quicker, more athletic basketball team.

Stanley Robinson epitomized the way the team played in the first by being the catalyst for all the good things they did.  He was everywhere: slashing to the hoop for alley-oop and putback dunks, knocking down 3-pointers, playing great man-on-man and help defense, and grabbing big rebounds to start fast breaks.  They way he played in the first half, you would think he's a top-5 lottery pick this summer.

In the second half there was none of that.  Shots stopped falling; players stopped cutting and moving the ball; Kemba Walker went from running the offense to running around like a guy whose head was on fire; the defense broke down and got beaten so badly off the dribble that even Rihanna cringed at the sight of it; nobody helped when guys did penetrate the lane and nobody rotated to open shooters; the rebounding broke down and the Hoyas got many more second chances on possessions when they didn't make shots (which were few and far between).  Basically everybody pussed out when they realized the Hoyas weren't going to lie down and die and nobody had the balls to bring the team together and get re-focused.  And to top it all off, just so we could all feel like we had seen this before, the Huskies were horrid from the line, clanging over half their FT attempts.

Much like the first half, Stanley Robinson was the perfect representation of how shitty UConn played in the second half.  After exploding for 12 and 7 in the first half, he finished with just 16 and 8, completely disappearing offensively and becoming a human turnstile defensively, as he continued to go under picks to give Austin Freeman open looks.  As usual, when the going got tough, Stanley got nowhere.  Instead of stepping up like a senior should, he shrank into the background and watched his team collapse around him. 

Sure it didn't help that Kemba Walker ran the offense like Isaiah Thomas when he froze out Jordan in the All-Star Game, but as a senior Stanley needs to call for the ball, demand it, and find ways to get it in his hands when his teammates are failing in that aspect.  Instead he sulked around the court like a zombie and when he did the get ball, his shot inexplicably became flatter than 10-year-old tits, bouncing off the rim so violently that I was concerned for the safety of the Georgetown players trying to catch the rebounds.  After watching him play in the 2nd half, a scout with any sense wouldn't even consider signing Sticks to a D-League contract.

The most maddening thing about this game was that it still leaves everybody wondering which team is the REAL UConn Huskies.  Are they the run-and-gun, athletic-as-fuck team who can defend anybody and then turn turnovers and bad shots into fast break layups and open transition 3-pointers in the blink of an eye?  Or are they the team that folds when their opponent goes on a run, forgets to play defense and rebound in critical moments, and can't run a good half-court set or make 2 free throws to save their lives?

It's halfway through the season and this team still has no identity.  There has been no noticeable change or improvement in the team's attitude, approach, or execution.  You'd like to think the players would take it upon themselves to get better and fix their mistakes, but that clearly isn't going to happen with this team because there are no leaders, so the responsibility and blame has to fall on the coach.

I love Jim Calhoun, don't get me wrong, but his 'yank guys constantly for the smallest mistakes even though that sometimes leaves you with a crappy lineup on the floor,' and 'sit or stand with your arms crossed and a vanilla look on your face while your team completely self-destructs'-acts are starting to get a little old.  As the head coach, he's supposed to have his team prepared for each game, but each game this team looks just as clueless as the last.  They can't figure out how to work the ball and get open shots against a zone, and their man-to-man offense still consists mostly of some combination of Kemba, Dyson, and Sticks swinging the ball around the perimeter and then Walker (who, by the way, is no longer Black Jesus) or Dyson driving aimlessly to the hoop for a contested layup or runner.  There's no entry into the post, no inside-outside game, no drive and dish, no give and go.  WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU WORKING ON IN PRACTICE?!?!?!?!  Worst of all, when everybody starts to fall apart mentally, Calhoun is nowhere to be found to pick up the pieces and get them back together before the game slips away from them.

Calhoun needs to wake the fuck up and realize that there aren't any Ray Allens or Khalid El-Amins or Emeka Okafors on this team.  These kids aren't tough, they aren't smart, and they aren't mature; they NEED to be coached, need to have everything explained and diagrammed for them, and need to have their hands held and fragile egos stroked at all times.  It's the coach's job to recognize what he has in front of him and what he has to do to maximize that talent and potential, and right now Jimbo is doing a shit job at that.  He needs to roll up his sleeves, loosen the tie, and do some fucking work with these guys or this team is going to continue down the path it's put itself on after yesterday, and that's a path to nowhere.

Friday, January 8, 2010

AB4AR's NFL Wild Card Weekend Picks

As promised, here are the 4 winners you can take to the bank this weekend:

NY Jets @ Cincinnati- Line: Bengals by 2.5

So the Jets have gone from Super Bowl contender to being a few years away to being a bad team to being a good team who can compete for a playoffs spot to a team that "still isn't ready" to now the trendy pick to make noise in the AFC all in the span of 4 months.  And to make things even sillier, that "serious threat" status they have now comes on the heels of getting 2 games handed to them by the Colts and the same Bengals they beat last week.

Sure the Bengals tried in the first half and still got their shit pushed in, but the bottom line is they had nothing to play for, they knew it, and they knew the Jets did, so they eased up and let things play out.  Now they have almost become the forgotten team despite having a running game and defense just as strong as that of the Jets. 

The major advantage Cincy does have is in the QB spot, and in today's NFL that means more than having a big-time RB.  Carson Palmer has the experience and the smarts to win a game for you in the playoffs; Mark Sanchez does not.  Period.  The running game and defense will cancel each other and Palmer will pull a Shooter McGavin on Sanchez, showing him how we do things in the pros, and that will be the difference.

The Pick: Bengals 24 Jets 10

Philadelphia @ Dallas- Line: Cowboys by 4

Dallas seems to be peaking while the Eagles were stru-ggl-ing last week in a game that held big ramifications.  Finally, after countless postseason fuck-ups, Tony Romo appears poised to prove he can perform well and win in the postseason and finally earn his spot in the top tier of NFL QBs that so many analysts are dying to put him in.

That being said, Dallas' inability to step up in big games over the past decade does linger in the back of one's mind like a bad fart in an elevator.  Their secondary is due for a torching, Roy Williams flat-out sucks at football, and Romo is the same guy who couldn't get a hold down on an extra point and has never shown a consistent ability to hold onto the ball or complete passes to guys in the same jersey he has on in the playoffs.

After getting hacked up last week, expect the Eagles' D to be bringing the heat against Romo and looking to force turnovers while their offense looks to get back on track and test the Dallas secondary with their bevy of burners at WR.  McNabb and DeSean Jackson will hook up for 2 TDs and a late Romo pick will kill a Dallas comeback and clinch a win for Philly in an exciting game.

The Pick: Eagles 33 Cowboys 27

Baltimore @ New England- Line: Pats by 3

Baltimore was once again a trendy preseason pick to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC and once again failed to deliver on that hype despite having a solid O-line, multi-talented RB, big-armed QB coming into a second season in his system, and a still respectable defense.  The fact is, they just haven't been able to put it all together this season and every group on that team has faltered at one point or another.  Not exactly the recipe for a first-round upset.

The Pats, despite losing Wes Welker last week, are still a more talented team and have enough weapons in their offensive arsenal to do what they want to do.  Add to that the fact that they will be getting Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren back to anchor the D-line and they have the evil genius Bill Belichick coaching them, and the Pats should be able to handle the Ravens easily on Sunday, using Welker's absence as motivation.  Expect Tom Brady to carve up the Ravens like Bernard Pollard carved up his knee last year.

The Pick: Patriots 29 Ravens 16

Green Bay @ Arizona- Line: Even

Arizona was another team that took the week off last week, but as their season has shown, they are the team that can least afford to do that.  They have looked great in beating up on the Vikings and absolutely pathetic in getting beaten by the 49ers and have done nothing to earn some of the sleeper praise they are getting from people.  The week off combined with the potential absense of Anquan Boldin shouldn't make Cardinal fans feel warm and cozy about their offense going into the game.

Since falling to 4-4, the Packers have been hitting on all cylinders the last couple months.  The defense finally got a good grasp of the 3-4 and Aaron Kampman's injury proved to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed for Clay Matthews to spend more time on the field where he belongs.  He should be running wild all day on Sunday and there isn't a chance in hell that Kurt Warner is going to be able to avoid his pressure.

Boldin being on the sideline while Charles Woodson is on the field should be a huge difference maker as it will allow Woodson to focus solely on Larry Fitzgerald.  Aaron Rodgers will be looking to expose the injuries in the Arizona secondary and connect on multiple deep shots to Jennings and Driver.  The Packers will make more plays and fewer mistakes than the Jekyll-and-Hyde Cardinals and advance.  (No homerism in that pick at all)

The Pick: Packers 31 Cardinals 20