Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who'da thought?


It doesn't exactly roll off your tongue, does it? I didn't think so. I am the most excited for tonight's Game 1 than I have ever been for a World Series. Maybe because the Phillies are my favorite team and it's been a while or maybe it's the pitching matchup. Who knows. What I do know, though, is that this pitching matchup has some amazing potential in it.

Cole Hamels-Scott Kazmir. Two young and dominant left-handers will take the mound for what is the biggest start of their career so far. They're under pressure. Hamels has the entire city of Philadelphia on his back and has showed up so far this postseason (3-0, 1.23 ERA) while Kazmir brings Mets fans to tears (Victor Zambrano, anybody?) anytime they see him and has fans everywhere hoping Tampa Bay can complete their Cinderella season.

The media is on the Rays bandwagon. With the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers out of the playoffs, ESPN jumps on Tampa Bay, hoping the little man can pull one it. The Phillies become shunned again for the "better" marketing tool. The Phillies have the players in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Hamels, but get pushed to the back whenever another team comes up. They will look to buck that trend in this series.

That being said, I cannot wait until 8:35 tonight, when Kazmir delivers the first pitch.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Action-Reaction: August 31, 2008

Yesterday was a big day in the world of sports. The college football season continued its kickoff. Seven hundred four NFL players lost their jobs or shots at a job. Baseball is entering the stretch run. The NBA and NHL are chillin'.

Action: Many, many players lost their jobs yesterday. Some notables: Cincinnati Bengals Rudi Johnson and Willie Anderson, Atlanta Falcon Joey Harrington, Philadelphia Eagle Jerome McDougle, San Francisco 49er Ashley Lelie, Tennessee Titan Roydell Williams, and Baltimore Raven Gary Stills.
Reaction: It seems like most of the cuts are former high-round picks that were trying to get a fresh start with a new team, such as Harrington or Lelie, and just couldn't cut it. The day where the NFL teams trim their rosters down to the minimum has become symbolic for wasted talent, lack of maturity, and horrible development. Johnson and Anderson will most likely catch on with new teams, but the others are more up in the air.

Action: Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Fred Taylor and former star wide receiver Jimmy Smith were both arrested in separate incidents within five hours of each other.
Reaction: This really has to suck for the Jaguars organization. The two faces of their franchise and two likeable members of their franchise could become a black eye for them. Smith was charged with DUI and possession of marijuana while Taylor was charged with disorderly conduct. According to Black and Teal, it does not seem like Taylor was involved in any illegal activity.

Action: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco.
Reaction: Honestly, the only reaction I have to this is hysterical laughter. This story is so ridiculous that it's just funny. Johnson, er, Ocho Cinco, is a good wide receiver and a great personality. He probably isn't the exact type of guy that Marvin Lewis wants in the locker room, but the guy has a personality and likes to have fun. Which is cool with me.

Action: The New York Yankees lose to the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 and drop to 11.5 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
Reaction: I'm not going to call the Yankees dead. Yet. But I will say the division is done. The Yankees, barring a major, and I mean major, miracle, they're out of the division race, which will come down to the Boston Red Sox and Rays. However, they are seven games out of the wild-card behind Boston, so if the BoSox stumble, the Yanks could be in there. But if not, expect another flurry of offseason moves from the Steinbrenners.

Action: San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili will need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle.
Reaction: A lot of rag on Ginobili for being soft and for being a flopper. However, after seeing him play through his injury at the Olympics, he deserves to be looked at in a whole new way. He played through an obviously painful injury and helped lead his country to a bronze medal. He deserves some credit for this.

Action: The Alabama Crimson Tide dismantled the Clemson Tigers, 34-10.
Reaction: This is going to lead to more talk of SEC dominance. I have always been hesitant to delve into this subject, as I'm a firm believer in the "any given Sunday" philosophy, and I don't think the SEC will always win, but they proved to me last night that they are the class of the nation. The ACC's best could not compete with the SEC's fifth or sixth. So yeah.

Action: In the game I really wanted to watch last night, the Missouri Tigers held off the Illinois Fighting Illini for a 52-42 victory.
Reaction: This was the game of the year so far in the NCAA. Mizzou was up 31-13 at halftime, but let the Illini back into it. It took great plays by Jeremy Maclin and the defense for Missouri to pull this one out. Unfortunately, Maclin sprained his ankle, an injury that could severely hamper the Tigers. Both of these young teams are on the rise and should be forces to be reckoned with later this fall.

Action: Michigan loses their opener at home to Utah, 25-23.
Reaction: New coach Rich Rodriguez is in for a long year.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Welcome to the Feminine World of Volleyball

I have to admit, I love watching volleyball. I used to want to play volleyball until I realized that running was my calling and that I didn't have enough reckless abandon to throw myself all over a hardwood floor like some of these volleyball players do. But still, watching the volleyball games in this Olympics has been a lot of fun, watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh frolic in the sand along with Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhauser. Indoor volleyball has been just as good, such as Tuesday's match between the USA and Italy, where the Americans won in a thrilling five sets.

But still, there's something really bothering me about volleyball. The hugging. After every. Single. Point. It's rather obnoxious. A high-five, fist bump, or slap on the back would be acceptable, but hugging after every single point whether you get the point or not? Overkill.

As one of my friends described it: "It's like, 'Hug, touch butts, arms around each other, don't touch butts this time, grabs heads, etc.' This is ridiculous."

I agree. We might as well tell the USA Men's Basketball team to hug and have a team meeting at the free throw line after every free throw, made or missed. I'm sure we all would love to see LeBron James and Chris Paul doing that 50 times a game. It's repetitive. Give them a high-five. Give them words of encouragement. Don't have a meeting every 20 seconds.

This brings me to another point. A lot of Olympians feel they must have their best manners to impress the Chinese. Not so for Martin Laciga. Now that man was a breathe of fresh air. He was little over the top with his antics and the commentators spent too much time harping on them, but I enjoyed them. Today most athletes are scared to yell at their teammates because of the bruising of egos and internal strife between in teams. When people go at each other on a baseball team or a basketball team, the team is regarded as being in chaos. Not so with the team of Laciga and Jan Schnider.

I would say that Laciga's way of, say, explaining Schinder's mistakes was not productive, but it was better than watching them touch each other's butts. It had a negative effect on the team and that was evidenced by their loss to Rogers and Dalhausser. But still, it was great to see someone of Laciga's intensity still out in the sport. His incessant yelling has had a negative effect on his career, but, hell, it was entertaining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Action-Reaction: August 17, 2008

This is the first edition of Action-Reaction in forever, but I need to get my blogging groove back and I decided this would be the best way possible. A lot has been going on lately and I'll try to get you all up to date and I'll try not to focus entirely on the Olympics.

Action: Michael Phelps wins his record-breaking eighth gold medal of the Games.
Reaction: See Someone Get Me a Dictionary! and someone has to give credit to his relay teams. Without them, none of this happens.

Action: Usain Bolt dominates the men's 100-meter final for a world record and gold medal for Jamaica.
Reaction: See Someone Get Me a Dictionary! again.

Action: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson injured his left shoulder against the Detroit Lions in preseason action.
Reaction: Is this some karma for Ocho Cinco's offseason antics? Probably not, but with Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh both injured, Johnson needs to get back as soon as possible and put racing Phelps out of his head.

Action: The Philadelphia 76ers resigned star player Andre Iguodala to a six-year, $80-million dollar contract.
Reaction: With the addition of Elton Brand also in the offseason, the 76ers are looking to hopefully win now.

Action: Georgia is #1 in the preseason polls for NCAA Football.
Reactions: The Dawgs better enjoy it because being in the SEC, they won't be there for long.

Action: Carl Edwards holds off Kyle Busch for a win at Michigan.
Reaction: The Chase for the Cup is looking to be a great duel between Edwards and Busch, two of my favorite drivers on the circuit. I'm all for it. Go get 'em boys.

Action: New New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre threw his first touchdown pass in a preseason game.
Reaction: Well whoopdy-freaking-doo. Go change your underwear ESPN.

Someone Get Me a Dictionary!

I can't find enough words to describe what I just saw. No joke. In one hour, I saw two of the greatest feats in Olympic history. First, I saw local swimmer Michael Phelps break Mark Spitz's 36-year old record of seven gold medals in an Olympics with the US victory in the 400-meter medley relay to give him his record breaking eighth. Then, I saw Usain Bolt set a world record in the 100-meter dash finals with a 9.69(!). I have to say, this was one of the most amazing nights in sports I have ever seen.

First, I'll start with Phelps. I'm willing to admit that my patriotism had been lacking in these Olympic Games, as the first race I saw Phelps swim was Friday night's 200-meter butterfly final in which he out-touched Milorad Cavic by .01 of a second, truly amazing. Laying down on a couch, a jumped up for an enthusiastic fist pump after that one. That race, as everyone knows, gave Phelps his seventh gold medal. Tonights performance, again amazing, gave him the eighth. I can tell my kids I saw Olympic history. I've already got Saturday's issue of The Baltimore Sun saved for posterity and I will do the same Sunday.

I'll admit, I was getting pretty tired of the nonstop Phelps coverage. Being in the Baltimore area, I bore the brunt of it, as he is all over local news and everything. After his spread in Sports Illustrated, I am not sure how many more times I can see him in a Speedo or wearing minimal clothing. I was also tired of Bob Costas referring every single story he possibly could back to Phelps as well. I'm not sure how Costas still has his job either, with his many faux pas this Olympics such as calling traditional African clothing "costumes" during the Opening Ceremonies. That ranks up there with Katie Couric referring to a spinning model of a Greek building during the 2004 Opening Ceremonies in Athens as "the Wicked Witch's house in The Wizard of Oz." Seriously people. Let's show some sensitivity. It's no wonder Americans have a bad name. But I digress. My hat goes off to Michael Phelps, the greatest American Olympian.

On to the second, more exciting part of the night, in my opinion. Bolt stepped to the line, totally relaxed. His countryman and rival, Asafa Powell, stepped up looking nervous, to me at least, while Americans Walter Dix and Doc Patton looked confident. At the gun, Bolt had some trouble getting out of the blocks, as he usually does, but quickly stepped it up, dusting the field. With about 30 meters left, it was won, and his premature celebration began. As Bolt came through, 9.68 flashed up on the screen, before being amended officially to 9.69. Bolt didn't stop at the line either. He started on his victory lap and went all the way around the stadium after seeing his mother.

Bolt's time of 9.69 wasn't the most shocking part of his race either; his margin of victory was just as shocking. Who knows what would have happened if he had not let up? Could have seen 9.59 as NBC commentator Ato Bolden thought? He beat Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson by .20 seconds, which is astounding for track and field. Thompson's celebration was just as entertaining as Bolt's, as Thompson essentially celebrated like he won the gold. Dix surprised all, coming in third to net the bronze. Powell finished a disappointing fifth.

My beef with this race is the lack of emphasis NBC put on track and field this year. This event had happened twelve hours before they showed it in America. Therefore, I already knew the storylines. I knew that American Tyson Gay lost out in the semifinals. I knew that Bolt won and set a world record. The only thing I didn't know was how he did it. I received a text message from a friend that told me not to look online for the results, but nonetheless, I saw the headlines online. Still, I stayed up to watch, and I was not disappointed. NBC was all over swimming this year, which I don't blame them for, as Phelps is once in a generation, but some respect has to be given to the runners.

Despite my frequent beefs with NBC, tonight was an amazing night in sport history, one that I will never forget and one that I will make sure my kids hear all about as they grow up.

Dix said it best about Bolt:

"That guy can run."

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Vacation time.

No posts from Ramblings From The Suburbs or Lombardi Ave or no ice mang until August 12.

See ya.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

MiLB Coming to OKC?

With the announcement of the six names the NBA has filed for trademark rights, a casual observer would think Oklahoma City is becoming home to a minor league baseball franchise, not an NBA franchise. Let's take a look: Barons, Bison, Energy, Marshalls, Thunder, and Wind.

Birmingham Barons, Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Buffalo Bisons, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians
Trenton Thunder, Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees

Seattle SuperSonics is looking pretty good right now.

So right there, 50% of David Stern's ideal names are kaput due to minor league baseball teams. I mean, who wants their NBA team to be a minor league baseball team. But the other choices aren't that much better. The Oklahoma City Energy? The Oklahoma City Wind? Ooooooooooh, I'm shaking in my hightops.

This brings me to what the best option of for the team. The Oklahoma City Marshalls. I like it. It's tough. It has more of a baseball feel to it, like the Texas Rangers, but it is obviously the toughest and most original names.

What would be your pick?

Please Excuse Me

Please excuse my absence from here, O loyal readers. Seriously, I've been busy.

Lombardi Ave, PackerNation's spin-off, is taking the brunt of my blogging and for good reason. It's successful. Go over there and read.

Also, I have launched a new music blog, no ice mang, so check that out as well.

I'm going on a brief blogging hiatus but I should be back mid-August.



Monday, June 9, 2008

The NBA Finals can't hold my interest

I have already lost interest in the NBA Finals. I know it is Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers, the biggest NBA rivalry of all-time and all that jazz. Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. There is quite the list of names involved in the rivalry. This year there’s Kevin Garnett’s quest for his first NBA title. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are on the same quest as well. Kobe Bryant is trying to win one without some guy named Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe already has three. He wants four.

People keep talking about how much gravity the series has and how it is good for basketball. I do not think I will deny the magnitude of the games, but for me, it’s the fact that the Finals take from June 5 until June 19. That is two weeks. Fourteen days. Seven games over fourteen days. My attention span is already gone. I watched part of Game 1 because, heck, I wanted to see what it was all about. I was not disappointed, even though I felt staying up the next day during exams. But then I did not watch a second of Game 2. I opted for watching August Rush with my family. Yeah, I’m a wuss. (That is a great movie, by the way. It almost had me in tears.)

So call me un-American or any other names you want. It’s the truth. I’m already tired of the NBA Finals. You could say that I am ESPN’d out. Seriously. On Saturday, June 7, the day BEFORE Game 2, Game 2 was their “What to Watch For” for the day. Not even the Belmont Stakes drew that so-called “honor.” Having so much time between games gives the schmucks on ESPN time to over-analyze everything, down to what the fan in section 23, row W, seat 21 was doing for the whole game. Giving them two full days to analyze one game is way too much. And then they start talking about how both teams are going to do things differently in Game 2. Are you freaking kidding me? Of course they are going to do stuff differently. It doesn’t take 15 years of NBA experience, however many years of experience Stephen A. Smith has, and Mike Tirico to tell me that.

And now there are former Lakers and Celtics players jumping back into the mix. I find this to be rather annoying and some could accuse them of trying to re-live their glory days, but I do not feel that is valid accusation. James Worthy, if Pierce thought he needed a freaking wheelchair to get off the court, then by-God he needed a freaking a wheelchair. We all have those moments during injuries where we initially think they are worse than they really are and we take precautions. So deal with it.

If the NBA wants my attention for the Finals (and I doubt they want a white teenager’s), they should do things a little differently. Let’s look at how the Finals are scheduled:

Game 1: June 5, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 2: June 8, 2008 (@ BOS)Game 3: June 10, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 4: June 12, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 5: June 15, 2008 (@LAL)
Game 6: June 17, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 7: June 19, 2008 (@ BOS)

The scheduling of this seems rather illogical. Why have two days of rest between Games 1 & 2 and Games 4 & 5 when those sets of games are in the same city? Why not give them two days of rest on travel days? Am I unaware of some “television events” that ABC has been planning around? With so many days of rest, I easily lose track of what is going on. Part of that is because I am not a diehard basketball fan. I am a fan of the game, just not a diehard fan.

This idea probably does not seem feasible to you diehard basketball fans, but the NBA needs to re-do the formula for the series to make it more compact. Baseball’s seven-games series’ are done in nine days (or at least they used to be). I understand basketball is more of a “physical” game, but baseball ain’t no cakewalk either. My idea would be this:

Game 1: June 5, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 2: June 6, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 3: June 8, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 4: June 9, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 5: June 11, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 6: June 13, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 7: June 14 or 15, 2007 (@ BOS)

See, I just cut 4-5 days off the series time. As the series goes on and the players get more worn down, they get more time off. Now, this idea would never fly. The NBA rarely has back-to-back games during the regular season, and when they do, the players complain. It would keep my interest, but the backlash of the players not having enough “rest time” would be way too much. If basketball wants to return to relevance in my mind, it needs to do so through shortening series, not through better matchups. Maybe I’ll watch Game 3. Who knows. All I know is that ESPN is unwatchable for me right now because of this series. And after the proverbial teet of Celtics-Lakers is dried up, it’ll be back to Red Sox-Yankees.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Action-Reaction: June 8, 2008

Yesterday, as most of you know, Big Brown went for horse racing immortality. His attempt to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years captivated the nation. But like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones before him, he fell short at the Belmont Stakes.

I missed the race yesterday because I was at church. When I came home, they were interviewing Kent Desomourx, Big Brown’s jockey. Desomourx actually sounded like he was from Jockey Land. Anyway, Desomourx simply said, “I had no horse.” This feeling caused Desomourx to pull Big Brown out part-way through the race and just jog the horse in.

Some people out there probably feel that Big Brown should have been pushed all the way in, regardless of how he felt. Well as a runner, I know that is not possible. In the replay, Big Brown comes out of the gates pretty powerful, but after a few moments, it is clear that he is totally flat. That is the worst feeling ever as a runner coming off of the start. You feel like you cannot go any faster than how you are already running, which is not that fast. This feeling usually comes from not working hard enough the week before in practice or not warming up enough before the race starts. Big Brown was not able to get as much work in as his trainers had hoped for him in the weeks before the Belmont. This lack of work had an adverse affect on Big Brown, causing him to come out of the blocks totally fast.

Because being flat comes from not training enough in the weeks before a race or not warming up enough, your muscles are not in racing condition. Pushing yourself through the flat feeling in a race is not the best idea. When you push through the flat feeling, you risk injury. Stress fractures, hamstring pulls, and knee problems can result from pushing too hard when your body is not ready for it. Desomourx did not want to risk serious injury to Big Brown, and even said that he wanted to save his horse. Pulling Big Brown up and jogging him in was a good idea.
I am not saying that you should not pull up in every race you feel flat in, as there are always parts of races you will feel flat in. In the 800m, you hit the 400m wall. At the 400 mark, you are supposed to start your kick and you start to feel like you are flying. However, at the 500m mark, the realization that there are 300m to go kicks in and immediately saps all the energy out of your legs. The flat feeling returns, but the fact it comes so late in the race and it comes where you are supposed to be tired is no reason to pull up and jog it in. Feeling flat in the first 100m is a type of situation that can call for pulling up in a race. I have seen teammates do it before. It is rather embarrassing, but you know it is for your own health.

I do feel sorry that Big Brown did not win the Triple Crown. It could have provided the boost that the horse racing industry needs, but I feel the industry will continue to struggle if incidents like the ones surrounding Barbaro and Eight Belles continue. Desomourx was right to save Big Brown, although it seems like he passed up a chance at eternal glory, but it was for Big Brown’s

Monday, June 2, 2008

Action-Reaction: June 1, 2008

Sports: Escape or Microcosm of Life?

Many rags -to-riches stories involving athletes growing up in hard childhoods have one thing in common: sports are used as an escape. In some cases, sports are an escape from drug use which was the original escape from a difficult home life. (In my opinion, using drugs as an “escape” is one of the lamest reasons to use them, right up there with “being cool.” But this is a sports story. Basically kiddies, stay clean and there’s no reason to use them. DIGRESSION!) Anyway, while setting out for my daily run today, I kicked around the following question in my mind: Are sports really an escape from life? Or are they something totally different?

Sports do not provide an escape for an athlete. Instead, they provide a situation that is more easily managed than the athletes own life. Think of the star point guard or the star quarterback battling off the field issues. When they step onto the court or the field, they have almost complete control over the decision-making process, something they do not have in their off the field life. At home, they may be battling a drug addiction or alcohol problems. When they give in to those problems, they lose complete control of their lives and start searching for a new way to gain control of their lives.

This is a double edged sword, too. While the player may now have complete control over what happens, they must take the bad that comes along with the good on the field or court. Off the field, they lack complete control so therefore they do have somewhat of an excuse to blame their problems (albeit not that great of an excuse). But now that they have control on the field, they must take full responsibility for their actions, something they may not be able to do.

Have you noticed that some of the most exciting players in the game run afoul of the law? The one example that comes straight to my mind is that of Adam “Pacman” Jones. When Jones played for the Tennessee Titans, he made some amazing plays. He could break a kick or punt return for a touchdown or intercept a pass and take it all the way back to the yard. However, his on the field playing style was indicative of his off the field lifestyle. His reckless life away from football has made me wonder whether or not how he played the game was how he lived his life. If I were the Dallas Cowboys, it would be interesting to see whether or not Jones’ playing style changes if he has made a complete “turnaround” in his lifestyle. Former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was the team’s best red zone target during his tenure with the team. We all remember his big catch in the 2005 Wild-Card Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where Carson Palmer had his knee infamously rolled over on by Kimo von Olehoffen. Henry was a great player. He could always make the big play. But it seemed he was also trying to make the big play off the field a lot too.

Sports provide a microcosm of life for athletes. Baseball has always been used as a metaphor for life. “You win some, you lose some” is commonly echoed throughout life. You are not going to be able to win all 162 games in a season no matter how much you want to. In life, you are not going to win all the battles you face. You are not going to pass all the tests. Instead, you just pack it up, move out, learn from your mistakes, and try to do better next time.

This also leads into the question of whether or not athletes are actually role models for children, teens, and even older people. The fact is that they are and there is nothing the athlete can do about it. I look at the players and how the face adversity to use as a guide-point for my life. Take Brett Favre and his painkillers addiction in the mid-1990’s. He tried to run from his problem and hide, but eventually it caught up to him and backed him into a corner where he had to confront it head-on. I know a lot of people bring up the fact that he was addicted to pain pills and that a lot of parents would not want their child to look up to a pill-popper, but the fact that he confronted his problem head-on taught me a whole new lesson. I learned that if I run from my problems that they will catch up to me eventually, so it is better to just take them head-on in the first place.

The criteria for kids and their role models should not be what the role model does, but how they respond to their present situations. This is why the situation in the NFL for players being seen as role models is in great peril. When a player gets in a situation they do not like (I’m looking at you Chad Johnson), they kick and scream and demand they get to choose the solution instead of working through the adversity. I am happy to see that the Bengals are not giving in to his demands. When a child sees players like Johnson complaining and moaning to get their own way, it sends a message that if they do not get their own way, they can just complain and throw temper tantrums and they will get their own solution for it. In the real world, that is false.

The athletes need to clean it up.

Excuse the digression.

Your thoughts on whether or not sports are a microcosm or an escape, or if athletes truly are role models are welcome here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Top 100: 70-61

I really need to get this done.

70. Interpol – "C'mere"
Paul Banks' voice combines perfectly with the guitar on this song. The band has kept its genius throughout its entire career.

69. A Tribe Called Quest – "What?"
My favorite song by the hip-hop group uses rhetorical questions. Woot.

68. Derek and the Dominoes – "Layla"
Almost every so-called "expert" out there has this song has one of the best of all-time. Yes, it is a good song, but it does not totally wow me or impress me like it does the "critics."

67. The Dandy Warhols – "We Used To Be Friends"
The techno-ish feel adds a lot to the song, as do Courtney Taylor-Taylor's high-pitched vocals.

66. Sugarcult – "Champagne"
This song has a great feel to it and is a great dedication to their old drummer.

65. The Doors – "Soul Kitchen"
Thank the Lord for the organ!

64. Descendents – "'merican"
I usually try to avoid getting political, but this song speaks volumes.

63. Silversun Pickups – "Kissing Families"
This song rocks deceptively hard.

62. Meat Puppets – "Lake of Fire"
Something about this song just does it.

61. Gang of Four – "To Hell With Poverty"
The British band promotes their political views throughout this and most of their other songs.

Everything I am writing keeps getting lamer and lamer.

The Top 100: 80-71

I'm keeping the amazing coming…

80. Iggy and the Stooges – "Search and Destroy"
No list would be complete without Iggy Pop. The man was a genius in his own right.

79. Big Black – "Jordan Minnesota"
Steve Albini is another genius, while the subject matter of the song is very interesting. If you're into weird stuff, check out the song meaning.

78. Public Enemy – "Party For Your Right To Fight"
Rap enters the list again…

77. Toadies – "Tyler"
A great song, but when you listen closer you feel a little uneasy. Nonetheless, one of the 100 best I have heard.

76. Minus The Bear – "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!"
This song is not as big as other songs by Minus The Bear, but it is one of their better ones.

75. Shellac – "Watch Song"
One of Steve Albini's other bands produces a riff similar to that of "Kool Thing" by Sonic Youth.

74. Sonic Youth – "Brave Men Run (In My Family)"
Speaking of Sonic Youth, this is one of their early 80s hits.

73. Dinosaur, Jr. – "Freak Scene"
The early 90s slackers have been able to keep the same sound for almost 20 years.

72. Fugazi – "Waiting Room"
This song probably should be higher due to the bass riff alone.

71. The Strokes – "Juicebox"
The newest masterpiece from the New York-based rockers.

A Change of Pace

As a young child, I was infatuated by speed. It had control of me. I loved cars. I loved fast cars. I loved going fast while riding my bike. I hated danger though. Totally different story right there. At every opportunity, I would watch any type of auto racing that was on. But the times have changed.

Something has happened to me. Speed should still have control over me. It should still infatuate me. But it does not. NASCAR used to be one of my favorite things to watch on TV. My fondest memory of any NASCAR race is from the 2000 or 2001 Pepsi 400 at Daytona. That was the first race I was into and that I watched all the way through. It had my parents wondering where I was. It got me hooked. Watching Dale Earnhardt, Sr. race was something that enticed me and helped me fall in love with the sport (yes, it is a sport). I watched on and off for the rest of that season, but I was well prepared for the next season.

The next season had hype for me. Dodge was returning to the track and Cheerios was promoting it by having the cars of Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood, John Andretti, and Kyle Petty in the cereal boxes. I tried to collect as many as I could. I tried to collect all the UPC codes so I could send in for more cars, but usually I always fell short in that regard. The Daytona 500 was quickly approaching and I was playing with my cars almost every day before and after school. To my great fortune, I got sick during Speed Week and was home to watch the Gatorade Dual 125s with my dad, who was less than thrilled. The Busch (or Nationwide, if you please) Series race was the day before and I watched intensely. Randy Lajoie won that race. I think.

Race day dawned and I was excited, for two reasons. Number one was that I was supposed to play my best friends’ indoor soccer team that day and number two was that it was race day. However, I was forced to bed before the race started because of my sickness, and I later learned my indoor soccer team lost. I missed Tony Stewart’s spectacular wreck in the back stretch which Earnhardt, whom I was watching intently, snuck by, but saw many other sights that helped me get hooked on racing.

Then came the final laps. Michael Waltrip in first. Dale, Jr. in second. The Intimidator in third. I was living for this. They had made a point about Waltrip never winning a race and I desperately wanted to see him win, followed by his teammate and his mentor. Then there was the crash as Waltrip and Junior crossed the finish line. I was unsure of what had happened. All I knew is that the little guy had won. I was content and went to bed to rest. Later, however, I was informed by my older sister that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. had died in the seemingly harmless wreck. I was stunned. I cried myself to sleep.

I followed racing so closely for the rest of the year. I kept track of who won every race, who won the poles, and so on. I prayed during every Lap 3 and supported the DEI cars. I also fostered a hatred for the Hendrick Motorsports cars. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are never going to be on my Christmas card list. I bought all the NASCAR or Dale, Sr. merchandise that I could and started drawing cars and so on. My teacher that year was a big racing fan and had met Jeff Burton in Charlotte. She helped foster my love for the sport. Kevin Harvick driving the all-white #29 car to victory in the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta was one of the happiest sports-related moments I had at that point.

But then racing lost its appeal. There was something in it that just was not clicking for me. I started growing up a little bit more and just got bored with cars going fast in a circle. I started to dislike Junior, as he was coddled by the media. He just did not win. The Hendrick cars were all better and they just racked up all the points.

I would watch the occasional Daytona 500. I was behind Ward Burton all the way when he won. But none of the drivers had the “it” that could keep me going with the sport.
But I think I have found that driver. Kyle Busch. Yes, all of you hate him, but that’s why I like him. The man does not care while he’s racing. He just wants to win. He is not trying to make friends. He doesn’t care whether it is Junior or A.J. Allmendinger in front of him, he is going to pass them. That is what I like about him. The media portrays his driving style as reckless and malevolent, but if you are driving at 200 miles per hour, aren’t you already doing something reckless? Busch reminds me so much of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. He is always on a mission while he is driving. I like that. Watching him makes me want to get back into the sport.

Maybe I will.

All thanks to the one you hate.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Action-Reaction: May 11, 2008

I'm tired. I'm sick. I don't really want to write this blog, but I'm going to write it anyway.

Action: Greg Maddux recorded win #350 last night against the Colorado Rockies.
Reaction: Maddux will probably be one of the last players to collect 350 wins in baseball.

Action: Mike D'Antoni is leaving the Phoenix Suns for the New York Knicks.
Reaction: D'Antoni is definitely going to need some good luck to get by in New York. The players will have to learn to work hard and the system if they want to compete next year.

Action: The Florida Marlins have signed shortstop Hanley Ramirez to a contract extension worth $70 million over 7 years.
Reaction: The question now is when they are going to trade him. All kidding aside, this is a great move for the Marlins. They lock up the key cog in their lineup for an extended period of time, providing security for an organization that has barely had any security in the past.

Action: Kyle Busch wins at Darlington.
Reaction: I don't get why everyone hates this guy. He's got the talent to win. Just because he wrecked Dale Earnhardt, Jr. doesn't mean he should be beheaded. I've heard comparisons to Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Busch is becoming my favorite racer to watch.

Sorry, but I'm sick. Hopefully this will get a little more comprehensive in the future.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Top 100: 90-81

The second ten are here. Be amazed. Be very amazed.

90. M.I.A. – "Paper Planes"
The addictive beat of this song combines with M.I.A.'s vocals to create a hypnotizing song that gets stuck in the head easily.

89. The Thermals – "Returning to the Fold"
This song is fantastic and actually has a message. The guitar riff is easy to remember while the vocals are very impressive.

88. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – "Enola Gay"
At first listen, this song sounds really weird. Well it is. But that's why I like it. It's '80s music at its finest.

87. Klaxons – "Atlantis to Interzone"
Ah the Klaxons. Nu Rave. Feast your ears on to these sick beats. Also, pay close attention to the bass line of this song.

86. Big Black – "Racer X"
This industrial rock is about a cartoon character.

85. N.W.A – "F**k tha Police"

84. Fugazi – "Do You Like Me"
Fugazi is one of the best underground bands out there, although they are on hiatus.

83. Flight of the Conchords – "Robots"

82. The Mars Volta – "Goliath"
The Mars Volta are one of the most underrated bands out there and this song demonstrates their intense musical skill.

81. Kings of Leon – "Charmer"
This is another intense song. 'Tis a good un.

The next 10 will be up later today sometime…

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Action-Reaction: May 5, 2008

Action-Reaction: May 5, 2008

Action: Indianapolis Colts WR Marvin Harrison has been interviewed in a shooting that took place in Philadelphia.
Reaction: The thing that needs to be stressed here is that Harrison has NOT been arrested or charged with anything yet. He has just been interviewed which is just "part of the investigation" according to a police officer involved. It would be a huge shame if anything comes of this. Harrison is one of the good guys in football. He's not flashy, he does not celebrate his touchdowns, he just makes plays. I really like him. I have his rookie card. He went to my grandfather's alma mater in Philly. Just a great guy that does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breathe as Adam Jones and Chris Henry.

Action: Staying in Philly, Eagles CB Lito Sheppard reported to a mandatory minicamp on Friday.
Reaction: This ended the speculation that Sheppard would hold out after the Eagles signed Asante Samuel in the offseason. The best situation for the Eagles would be to restructure Sheppard's contract to keep him, Samuel, and Sheldon Brown. It might be in the team's best interest to do this as well. The Washington Redskins loaded their wide receiving corps in the draft, drafting Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas to go along with Antwan Randle El and Santana Moss. The Dallas Cowboys have Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, and Patrick Crayton to go along with Sam Hurd and other receivers who randomly show up to play on certain days. Andy Reid needs to try to keep Sheppard on the Eagles.

Action: The Cleveland Browns rewarded GM Phil Savage with a three-year contract extension through 2012.
Reaction: This is a good move for the Browns. Savage has almost single-handedly rebuilt the Cleveland franchise. His free agent moves have combined with good draft choices, giving the Browns one of the great teams and a team that contend for the division in 2008.

Action: Julio Franco has announced that he is retiring from baseball.
Reaction: The 23-year veteran played in five different countries and called his decision to retire the "hardest decision in my life." Franco became the oldest player to ever hit a home run in history last year off of Randy Johnson. I was really hoping that Franco would get a chance to play as a 50-year-old, just because I thought that would be pretty cool. However, that will not happen. Franco will definitely be missed in the majors.

Action: According to The Los Angeles Times, Kobe Bryant will win his first MVP award.
Reaction: I do not Kobe at all. He is just one of those guys that I just do not like. Nothing I can really do about that. But he definitely deserves this award. With all the injuries the Lakers dealt with during this season, he really was the glue that held the team together. So he deserves it. He can do it all.

Action: The Philadelphia Flyers ousted the Montreal Canadiens in five games, allowing the Flyers to return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2004.
Reaction: The Flyers were the worst team in the NHL last year so this is a great story. I'm rooting for the Flyers. Even though it is rather hard to really care about hockey.

Action: LSU Tigers QB Ryan Perriloux has ended his career at LSU.
Reaction: Good riddance.

DJ. Out.

2008 Preseason All-NL West Team

It's been about two weeks since I did the last segment of this. Sorry about that. Anyway, here is the 2008 Preseason All-NL West Team, from my point of view.

First Team

C: Russell Martin (LAD)
Martin is the real deal for catchers. He can hit for high average with some power. And he can run (21 SBs in 2007).

1B: Todd Helton (COL)
Helton's power numbers fell of last season, but he remained a vital cog in the Rockies machine, hitting .320. He is still one of the best hitters out there even though age is catching up with him.

2B: Jeff Kent (LAD)
Age has caught up with Kent, moreso than Helton, but he is still the best option at second base in the NL West.

3B: Garrett Atkins (COL)
Atkins (like all Rockies) benefits from the thin air, but he batted over .300 and hit 25 HRs with 100+ RBIs. Which is pretty good.

SS: Troy Tulowitzki (COL)
I hate to gush on Tulo, but he is one of the rising young stars in the game. Even though he got hurt.

LF: Matt Holliday (COL)
This guy needs to be an MVP candidate every year. Some would argue he deserved it last year even more than Jimmy Rollins. As much of a Rollins fan as I am, Holliday's numbers (.340, 36, 137) are pretty hard to argue.

CF: Chris Young (ARZ)
Despite the fact he batted .237, Young's power (32 HRs) is wanted in a lead off hitter. He could become Arizona's version of Alfonso Soriano.

RF: Matt Kemp (LAD)
Just keep your eye out for this guy.

SP: Brandon Webb (ARZ)
Webb was dominating at times last year and can easily do it again this year.

SP: Dan Haren (ARZ)
Haren was quietly dominate in the American League and should continue his success in the the NL.

SP: Jake Peavy (SD)
This is another player that is hard to argue with.

RP: Trevor Hoffman (SD)
The aging closer is still dominant and a force to be reckoned with at times.

RP: Takashi Saito (LAD)
Saito is the latest Japanese reliever to be a success.

Second Team

C: Bengie Molina (SF)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez (SD)
2B: Orlando Hudson (ARZ)
3B: Mark Reynolds (ARZ)
SS: Khalil Greene (SD)
LF: Eric Byrnes (ARZ)
CF: Andruw Jones (LAD)
RF: Brad Hawpe (COL)
SP: Jeff Francis (COL)
SP: Brad Penny (LAD)
SP: Chris Young (SD)
RP: Manny Corpas (COL)
RP: Brian Fuentes (COL)


Sunday, April 20, 2008

2008 Preseason All-NL Central Team

National League Central

First Team

C: Yadier Moline (STL)
Molina headlines the weakest position in the division. I don't know if I'll be able to find someone for second team…

1B: Prince Fielder (MIL)
I do not think the vegetarian diet will hurt Prince that much. He has become one of the most feared hitters in the game, hands down.

2B: Brandon Phillips (CIN)
Phillips has 30+ HR power to go along with a decent average (.288). Phillips is fast becoming one of the best second basemen in the National League.

3B: Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
Ramirez can hit the cover off of the ball with the best of him and batted over .300 last year. The only real question is his fielding ability.

SS: J.J. Hardy (MIL)
Hardy fell off after a strong start last year, but remains the class of a weakened position.

LF: Alfonso Soriano (CHC)
Hitting at the top of the lineup, Soriano does not get the gaudy RBI numbers, but his home run total (33) speaks for itself. He is a force to be reckoned with.

CF: Michael Bourn (HOU)
Yes, he is unproven, but he has plenty of potential. He is a base stealing threat the moment he gets on and should score plenty in Houston's lineup.

RF: Ken Griffey, Jr. (CIN)
Sure, he's old, but Junior did hit 30 home runs in 2007 and should be able to be good for at least another 25 in 2008.

SP: Carlos Zambrano (CHC)
Zambrano's best year will be 2008; his contract issues are behind him.

SP: Ben Sheets (MIL)
Sheets has a devastating curve, although there are health issues. If he is on though, he is one of the best.

SP: Roy Oswalt (HOU)
Oswalt appears to be falling off, but he will win 15+ games this year. He's too good of a pitcher to stay down for long.

RP: Francisco Cordero (CIN)
Milwaukee let him go after a 44 save season, so I in no way expect him to duplicate his numbers. He is still solid of the bullpen.

RP: Jose Valverde (HOU)
The former Diamondback saved 47 games last year. With Houston not expecting to win that many, Valverde will not reach that mark again, but can be lights out on any night.

Second Team

C: J.R. Towles (HOU)

1B: Albert Pujols (STL)

2B: Freddy Sanchez (PIT)

3B: Bill Hall (MIL)

SS: Ryan Theriot (CHC)

LF: Adam Dunn (CIN)

CF: Rick Ankiel (STL)

RF: Hunter Pence (HOU)

SP: Aaron Harang (CIN)

SP: Yovani Gallardo (MIL)

SP: Adam Wainwright (STL)

RP: Jason Isringhausen (STL)

RP: Carlos Marmol (CHC)


Action-Reaction: April 20, 2008

We all know what today is. Therefore, I am foregoing the usual Action-Reaction and instead I am going to give you some suggestions on who the best people to celebrate today with are! Enjoy!
Well for starters, if you're in the Cleveland area, there is Kenny Wright....
...and if you prefer no-name defensive backs, Willie Andrews is another option...

...or for NBA players, Keon Clark seems to know what he is doing...

...and Quincy Carter has a bit of a history...

...Kellen Tillman from Texas Tech seems to enjoy the same thing...

...Damon Stoudemire and Rasheed Wallace are some notable names...

...ah, Jerramy Stevens, you're such a cool dude...

...Theo Davis and Josh Heytvelt like the stuff as well...

...the Bengals and Jonathon Joseph are involved with a little something-something...

...and of course, the grandaddy of them all, Mr. Ricky Williams...

Thanks to TheSportsCritics for this info...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

2008 Preseason All-NL East Team

My first jaunt into the National League.

First Team

C: Brian McCann (ATL)
McCann headlines a weak catching class in the NL East. He is still a complete catcher and his job his safe with the exit of Jared Saltalamacchia.

1B: Ryan Howard (PHI)
The 2006 NL MVP recovered from a slow start to finish with 47 home runs. He just needs to cut down on strikeouts.

2B: Chase Utley (PHI)
Utley is looking to make up for time he lost last August after suffering a broken wrist. Utley helps the middle of this lineup go.

3B: David Wright (NYM)
Wright is a complete young player. He definitely deserves this spot.

SS: Hanley Ramirez (FLA)
A tough choice over Rollins, but Ramirez will definitely have a great season.

LF: Pat Burrell (PHI)
Look for a strong second half from Pat the Bat. One of the most maddening players from a Phillies fan's perspective.

CF: Carlos Beltran (NYM)
Beltran can still hit, run, and cover ground in New York.

RF: Jeff Francoeur (ATL)
Francoeur has been somewhat inconsistent throughout his career, but looks to stay steady for 2008.

SP: Johan Santana (NYM)
The early favorite for the NL Cy Young Award.

SP: Cole Hamels (PHI)
Hamels headlines a weak rotation and will be called on to deliver by the Phillies.

SP: John Smoltz (ATL)
The ageless Smoltz teams with Hudson for a strong top-two starters in Atlanta.

RP: Billy Wagner (NYM)
Wagner was hit hard at times last year, but still remains a feared closer.

RP: Chad Cordero (WSH)
How many games will Cordero actually get to save? That aside, he remains one of the best relievers out there.

Second Team

C: Paul LoDuca (WSH)

1B: Mark Teixiera (ATL)

2B: Dan Uggla (FLA)

3B: Chipper Jones (ATL)

SS: Jimmy Rollins (PHI)

LF: Elijah Dukes (WSH)

CF: Shane Victorino (PHI)

RF: Jeremy Hermida (FLA)

SP: Oliver Perez (NYM)

SP: John Maine (NYM)

SP: Tim Hudson (ATL)

RP: Brad Lidge (PHI)

RP: Rafael Soriano (ATL)

How does this one stack up?

Top 100 Songs: 100-91

You hear that? That's the sound of music. That sound means that my Top 100 is here. Yeah, I'm actually doing it. But doing it seems rather pointless, as this list is totally inaccurate now. Whatever. I'll do it anyway. In increments of ten, to make you want it more.

100. Coconut Records – "West Coast"
This song is nice and relaxing. Jason Schwartzman does a masterful job in it, and it is a love song that is not too "lovey-duvey." Or something like that.

99. Nada Surf – "Hi-Speed Soul"
This song starts with a cutting riff, but the mood changes throughout the song. The vocals do a great job of mellowing the song out and making it have a better feel overall.

98. Weezer – "My Name Is Jonas"
I liked this song before it was on guitar hero. It is still a great song, even though its commercialization has knocked it down a few pegs in my mind. Not really, but I recently rediscovered Weezer, throwing this song onto this list at this spot.

97. T.I. – "What You Know"
This is plainly the most addictive song I have ever heard. I love it. I am hard-pressed to find a more addictive rap/hip-hop song (even though there are higher ones on this list).

96. Jay-Z – "99 Problems"
Yet another rap song. This one is a gem. And I can almost sing along with it word-for-word.

95. Shellac – "Prayer to God"
An angry song written by an angry man (Steve Albini) performed by an angry band. Keep the kids away for this song folks. Rather explicit.

94. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – "Purple Haze"
I figured there would a mob of angry Balkan villagers at my door if I did not have at least one classic rock song up on here, so here it is. I still like it, even though it is not quite the holy grail it was in middle school.

93. The White Stripes – "A Martyr For My Love For You"
I just really like this song. This is my favorite song of Icky Thump and it is very addictive. I get it stuck in my head a lot, even though it is interesting to try to figure what Jack White is singing about. Was he in love with a 16-year-old?

92. Flight of the Conchords – "Business Time"
And when I'm down to my socks….

91. Sonic Youth – "Death Valley '69"
Hey look, it's Sonic Youth! Get used to them folks. They are going to make their presence known on this list. Unfortunately for all of you.

So there are the first ten. This was totally worth your time. The next ten will come out whenever. Enjoy.

The 4: 4.13.2008-4.19.2008

So again, this comes to you on a Saturday instead of during the week when I really want to do it. That is one of the problems with having a life I guess.

1. "Leader" – Phantom Planet
2. "Black Hole" – Be Your Own Pet
3. "Hi-Speed Soul" – Nada Surf
4. "I Am A Scientist" – Guided By Voices

1. The Body, The Blood, The Machine – The Thermals
2. Our Love to Admire – Interpol
3. More Songs About Buildings and Food – Talking Heads
4. Icky Thump – White Stripes

1. New Orleans Hornets
2. Washington Capitals
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Philadelphia Flyers

1. Alexander Ovechkin
2. Adam Jones (baseball player)
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. Chris Long

I'm going to have to revamp this and make this longer…

2008 Preseason All-AL West Team

First Team

C: Kenji Johjima (SEA)
Although there is speculation on whether or not Johjima will have his job at the end of the season (Jeff Clement is waiting in the minors), he remains the best option at catcher in the West. His defense is adequate while he hits more for average than power.

1B: Casey Kotchman (LAA)
Kotchman has yet to reach his potential, but compared to all of the other first baseman in the division, he is the best option. With the strength of the top of this lineup, I expect him to get more opportunities to hit and hopefully have a break out year.

2B: Howie Kendrick (LAA)
Kendrick is young and inexperienced, but he can hit (.322 in limited action last year). With a full season under his belt, he should be able to reach his potential and become a superstar.

3B: Hank Blalock
Yes, the man only had 10 HRs and 33 RBIs in 2007, but he can definitely rebound from an injury-plagued season. He is still relatively young and has 30+ HR power, a plateau he should be able to reach in the hitters paradise that is in Texas.

SS: Michael Yong (TEX)
Young hit .315 last year, as he continued his great hitting. He is one of the best hitters in the league that gets absolutely no exposure or credit. He hits .300 again in 2008.

LF: Jack Cust (OAK)
Left field is very weak in the AL West. That is why Cust makes this team. He cannot hit for average at all, but he hits for power which has to be worth something. Time will tell if last year was a fluke for him or not.

CF: Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
Ichiro is still one of the best all around players in baseball. He hit .351 last year and still stole 37 bases. The Mariners are relying on him to provide a spark for their lineup, something he is willing and able to do.

RF: Vladimir Guerrero (LAA)
Vlad can still hit. Although his home run totals dipped below 30 in 2007, he still hit .324. The powerful lineup can pick up the home run slack, but all Vlad needs to do is get hits with runners on and get driven in by a strong lineup.

DH: Milton Bradley (TEX)
Torn ACL and uncontrollable temper aside, this man will tear the cover off baseballs in Texas.

SP: John Lackey (LAA)
I know he is currently injured, but he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. He did win 19 games last year.

SP: Erik Bedard (SEA)
Another injured pitcher. When Bedard is on though, he can strike you out with the best of them, and teamed with Felix Hernandez, he becomes lethal. Bedard also has an offense. Something he did not have in Baltimore.

SP: Joe Blanton (OAK)
Blanton could be on his way out in Oakland soon, but he is still their best pitcher.

RP: Francisco Rodriguez (LAA)
Injured, I know. K-Rod is still the guy you want for your team on the mound in the ninth inning in a close game.

RP: J.J. Putz (SEA)
Another injured pitcher in the AL West, but last year he was amazing. If he was healthy, he would definitely repeat those numbers.

Second Team

C: Gerald Laird (TEX)

1B: Richie Sexson (SEA)

2B: Ian Kinsler (TEX)

3B: Chone Figgins (LAA)

SS: Bobby Crosby (OAK)

LF: Gary Matthews, Jr. (LAA)

CF: Josh Hamilton (TEX)

RF: Travis Buck (OAK)

DH: Mike Sweeney (OAK)

SP: Felix Hernandez (SEA)

SP: Kelvim Escobar (LAA)

SP: Jered Weaver (LAA)

RP: Huston Street (OAK)

RP: Scot Shields (LAA)

The Preseason All-AL West First & Second Teams.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Action-Reaction: April 13, 2008

So this is coming out a little bit later than normal, but there are definitely some extraordinary circumstances behind this one.

Last night we had a "jazz band lock-in" at my school, where we all got together and practiced from 7 PM to 5 AM. Granted, we only practiced for about four of those hours, but getting to bed at 5:45 AM and waking up at 12:30 PM is not that much fun. Especially with still having an English essay about Holden Caulfield to write. So here's an abbreviated Action-Reaction.

Action: Gavin Floyd nearly no-hits the struggling Detroit Tigers.
Reaction: It's great to see Floyd finally do something great. This guy is from the Baltimore area and went to one of the local prep schools. As a Phillies fan, I really wanted him to succeed with the Phillies, but I feel he can reach his projected potential eventually with the White Sox. Hopefully, he will continue to get better and live up to all of his potential.

Action: The Yankees have unearthed the Red Sox jersey a worker buried under the new Yankee Stadium.
Reaction: It would have all worked if he had just kept his mouth shut. Those Red Sox fans and their big mouths....

Action: The Arizone Diamondbacks have won eight straight games.
Reaction: Arizona has to be the most underrated, disrespected, not talked about team out there. So much talent on one team that gets no publicity or press. The Rockies became media darlings last year on their run, while the Diamondbacks were just kind of "that team that won that one division out there." So start respecting those Diamondbacks.

Action: Bill Self has agreed to a new deal at Kansas.
Reaction: I think he'll stick around for a few more years and have Kansas back in the Final Four in the next four years.

Action: Tyler Hansbrough has swept all major awards.
Reaction: Great player. Should be able to repeat his performance if he stays for his senior season.


2008 Preseason All-AL Central Team

So I've already done the Preseason All-AL East Team. Time for the AL Central, which is one of the most talented divisions in baseball.

All AL-Central First Team

C: Victor Martinez (CLE)
Martinez earns the nod over Joe Mauer, as Mauer had some injury issues last season that caused him to miss a lot of time. Martinez is still one of the best run producers in baseball, a consistent .280+, 20+, 100+ guy that helps boost the middle of Cleveland's order.

1B: Justin Morneau
The former AL-MVP had 30+ and 100+ last year and should be able to repeat those results again this year. Though he lost protection in Torii Hunter, Morneau gains Delmon Young, a blossoming young power hitter to help him. Morneau will be the best first basemen in the division in 2008.

2B: Placido Polanco (DET)
A weak position in the division, Polanco earns the nod with his high average (.341). If Polanco continues to hit for high average, the lineup for the Tigers will receive a huge boost.

3B: Miguel Cabrera (DET)
Although Cabrera has not spent much time in the AL (about two weeks), he is still the best third baseman in the division. He should be able to set a career high with 120+ RBIs this season in a deep Tigers lineup.

SS: Jhonny Peralta (CLE)
I'm talking Peralta over Edgar Renteria based on Renteria's horrible 2005 season with Boston. Peralta hits for better power than Renteria and means more to the Cleveland lineup than Renteria means to the Tigers.

LF: Nick Swisher (CWS)
Swisher is an ideal fit for the White Sox as he can get on base often and provide a power boost to a lineup that includes Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Jermaine Dye.

Curtis Granderson (DET)
Granderson barely gets the nod over Grady Sizemore, as Granderson hit for a higher average than Sizemore. Granderson can do it all and is probably one of the best all-around outfielders in the game.

RF: Magglio Ordonez (DET)
It is hard to match Maggs' .363 batting average last season. Add 28 home runs and 139 RBIs to the equation, then you have a great player. Ordonez will be just as good or better than last year, as the addition of Cabrera makes him harder to pitch around.

DH: Travis Hafner (CLE)
Although he had an off-season last year, Hafner will rebound this year. I expect him to get back up to 35+ homers and 110+ RBIs. The Indians lineup is still very potent with him in the middle.

SP: C.C Sabathia (CLE)
Sabathia is in the last year of his contract and will be gunning again for good stats (19 wins in 2007). We have seen players in the last years of their contract do horribly (see: Jones, Andruw; 2007), but I think C.C. will be able to reach 15+ wins and under 10 losses with a sub-3.50 ERA.

SP: Justin Verlander (DET)
Verlander is right on Sabathia's heels for best pitcher in the Central. If Verlander can lower his ERA and WHIP, he will be the best pitcher in the Central, especially if Sabathia stumbles.

SP: Fausto Carmona (CLE)
I am not expecting Carmona to totally duplicate the stats of 2007, but he should come close. Gets the nod over the White Sox' Mark Buehrle.

RP: Bobby Jenks (CWS)
The big man is a reliable closer and barely walks opposing batters.

RP: Joe Nathan (MIN)
Nathan has just been one of the best over the past few seasons, plain and simple.

All-AL Central Second Team
C: Joe Mauer (MIN)
1B: Paul Konerko (CWS)
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)
3B: Alex Gordon (KC)
SS: Edgar Renteria (DET)
LF: Delmon Young (MIN)
CF: Grady Sizemore (CLE)
Jermaine Dye (CWS)
DH: Jim Thome (CWS)
SP: Mark Buehrle (CWS)

Jeremy Bonderman (DET)
SP: Javier Vazquez (CWS)
RP: Rafael Betancourt (CLE)
RP: Joe Borowski (CLE)

There they are.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday Burn: April 11, 2008

So this is coming out on Saturday, due to the fact I had a track meet that went WAY too long last night.

On Monday, the Kansas Jayhawks knocked off the Memphis Tigers for the NCAA Basketball Championship. Memphis essentially had the game won before collapsing in the final minute and losing in overtime. Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose each missed key free throws before Mario Chalmers sank a game-tying three-pointer with about 2.1 seconds left. Kansas dominated overtime for the win. This game kicked off a sleepless week for me and a week where I isolated myself from major sports media outlets, which basically means I changed the channel whenever ESPN started to talk about the game or read any articles or blogs about the game online.

I really hate watching or reading sports news after a major championship game. I knew that all ESPN and everyone would be talking about was the fact that Memphis lost the game, not the fact that Kansas won it. Well I watched that game, and Kansas won it. They buckled down at the end and took advantage of all the breaks Memphis gave them. But all everyone could talk about was how Rose could not sink the free throws and how Douglas-Roberts could not either. Not the fact that Kansas hung tough in the game.

They talked about the fact that Memphis lost the game. Not the fact that Kansas won it.

That was a short burn. But I am busy.

The 4: 4.6.08-4.12.08

So I'm back after another week of listening to music and seeing what is going on in the world. It was a decent week. Extremely busy. But lots of time for music. Woot.

1. "Returning to the Fold" - The Thermals
2. "Break" - Fugazi
3. "Out at the Pictures" - Hot Chip
4. "99 Problems" - Jay-Z

1. LCD Soundsystem
2. Pixies
3. Minus The Bear
4. Cold War Kids

1. Highly Refined Pirates - Minus The Bear
2. The Body, The Blood, The Machine - The Thermals
3. The Cool - Lupe Fiasco
4. Get Awkward - Be Your Own Pet

Did not watch any this week. Hah.

1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Green Bay Packers
3. New Orleans Hornets
4. Baltimore Orioles

1. Nick Marakakis
2. Chase Utley
3. Chris Paul
4. Matt Stover

The 4: April 6, 2008-April 12, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Action-Reaction: April 6, 2008

Well I am back. For SIFS. Again. Woot.

Action: The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles are atop first place in the AL East.
Reaction: I love early season baseball.

Action: Nick Markakis is my new mancrush.
Reaction: He definitely is, and deservedly so.

Action: The Boston Celtics have clinched home court advantage in the playoffs and set the record for largest single season turnaround, a 37-game swing from last year.
Reaction: Of course you are going to have a turnaround when you trade for three of the top players in the game your team is going to be good. This reminds, in a way, of the Yankees. Bostonians, are you fine with that identity? Being Yankee-like?

Action: Texas and Wyoming are starting a college football series that will meet three times in 2009, 2010, and 2012. The Wyoming athletic director said that it would be the biggest game in the history of Wyoming's stadium.
Reaction: Yeah, bring out a big team so your home fans can get your butts kicked. One thing is for sure, I will be rooting for Wyoming in these games.

Action: Memphis and Kansas have clinched spots in the NCAA title game.
Reaction: For all the talk of the top four seeds giving the best games, I was not exactly blown away by either game. The first half of Memphis-UCLA was the best part of any game. Memphis just took it to them in the second half, and North Carolina and Kansas were playing way too out of control. That Kansas-North Carolina game was almost painful to watch actually.

Action: I can't stand Billy Packer as an announcer.
Reaction: He sounded like a pompous, arrogant jerk during the Kansas-UNC game, criticizing every little thing. There was one play most notably where Wayne Ellington got a rebound, ran the length of the court and sank three. Packer started gushing all over him about how that was a great play and great decision. Fact is, if Ellington misses that shot, Packer is all over him for making a bad decision. I'm sure that's the case for all announcers, but Packer really bothered me last night. Really bothered me a lot.

Action: Jake Peavy two-hits the Dodgers in a 4-1 complete game win.
Reaction: Once they start breaking out the complete games, you know baseball has arrived. And baseball has arrived. Peavy will again be top five in Cy Young voting.

Action: Arizona freshman guard Jerryd Bayless is leaving Arizona early for the NBA Draft.
Reaction: Bayless is just clearing space for my boy, Brandon Jennings.

Action: Eric Gordon will enter the NBA Draft.
Reaction: Yeah, get out of Indiana as fast as you can. I do not blame you.

Action: The Denver Nuggets have fallen into an eighth place tie with the Golden State Warriors.
Reaction: When these two teams meet Thursday, that's going to be a good game.

Action: The Washington Capitals have clinched the Southeast Division in the NHL.
Reaction: Alex Ovechkin is the MVP. No question about it. If he does not win, it is robbery.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

2008 Preseason All-AL East Team

I was originally going to do predictions for each division, but all the divisions are too close for me to call. So instead I have decided to go and create Preseason All-Star Teams for each division (First & Second teams). At the end of the series, there will be a vote on which team is the best. Please note I am factoring in last year's performance and this year's projected performance.

All-AL East First Team

C: Jorge Posada (NYY)
Posada's numbers from his career year last season trump all the other numbers of the other catchers in the East. I do not expect Posada to duplicate those numbers, but I definitely think he will still be the most productive catcher in the division.

1B: Carlos Pena (TB)
Like Posada, I do not think Pena will duplicate his numbers. That would be pretty cool if he did, but I do not expect him to hit 46 home runs again. Maybe 30, but not 46.

2B: Robinson Cano (NYY)
Cano had the best average and the most HRs and RBIs of any second basemen. He struggled in the field at times last season, but remains the top second baseman in the division. I expect him to only get better this season.

3B: Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
Need I say more?

SS: Derek Jeter (NYY)
Jeter is not the same player he was three or four years ago, but that does not mean he is not skilled. A .300 hitter, he comes through when needed and is adequately skilled in the field. Who cares if a study says he is the worst shortstop in baseball? I'm taking him over Julio Lugo, David Eckstein, Jason Bartlett, and Luis Hernandez.

LF: Hideki Matsui (NYY)
I originally had Manny Ramirez here because he is, well, Manny Ramirez. However, after looking at their numbers, Matsui hit more home runs and had more RBIs than Ramirez. Manny has adjusted his game away from being a power hitter a little bit, so he will not rake in the numbers we are accustomed to. However, I think Manny is in more of a decline than Hideki, so Hideki gets the nod.

CF: B.J. Upton (TB)
Upton will be a shining star in this league. He has 30+ home run power and batted .300 last year as a 22-year-old. I predict he will duplicate this performance.

RF: Nick Markakis (BAL)
Markakis is my newly christened mancrush, part of the reason he gets this spot. But love aside, I think he will have a better year than all of the other right fielders in the division. As a left-handed hitter, he has a short right field line in Camden Yards that he can exploit to his hearts delight.

DH: David Ortiz (BOS)
Ortiz was actually more productive last season even though he hit less home runs than he did in 2006. With no other team having a DH that can perform to Big Papi's level, he gets the nod.

SP: Scott Kazmir (TB)
Kazmir was the strikeout king for the American League last year and is only getting better. He should definitely be a 15-game winner behind his rising young offense. Kazmir will be one of the keys to the Rays projected success.

SP: Roy Halladay (TOR)
Halladay is only a few years removed from his Cy Young-winning season. He has declined recently, but can still hold his own against competition. He is still one of the best pitchers in the game on any given day.

SP: Josh Beckett (BOS)
There is not much to say about Beckett. He is a sure bet to win 17+ games and have an ERA under 3.50.

RP: Jonathon Papelbon (BOS)
The relief corps in the rest of the East pale in comparison to the staffs of the Red Sox and Yankees. Papelbon averaged a fantastic 13.0 K/9 and is still one of the most feared closers in the game.

RP: Mariano Rivera (NYY)
Rivera is most definitely on the decline, but he is still one of the better relievers in the East.

All-AL East Second Team

C: Jason Varitek (BOS)
This was a narrow choice over Baltimore's Ramon Hernandez, but with better offensive numbers and more able to handle pitching staffs, Tek gets the nod.

1B: Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
Youk gets the nod over Giambi, who is aging and has not showed anything recently. Youk is still Euclis, the Greek god of walks.

2B: Brian Roberts (BAL)
This was another close one, with Roberts getting the nod over Dustin Pedroia. Although Pedroia hit .317 to B-Rob's .290, I think that Pedroia will hit a sophomore slump as reigning AL Rookie of the Year.

3B: Mike Lowell (BOS)
Lowell will in no way repeat last year's numbers, but the Red Sox are betting on him to be a consistent presence in the order.

SS: David Eckstein (TOR)
See Jeter, Derek. Eckstein is the most proven and best fielder out the rest.

LF: Manny Ramirez (BOS)
I almost took Carl Crawford over Manny, but I expect Manny to rebound to 25+ HRs and 90+ RBIs this season.

CF: Vernon Wells (TOR)
Melky Cabrera almost got the nod here, but I Wells is a lot better than his stat line last year (.245/16/80) indicated. He should rebound to hit 30+ HRs with 100+ RBIs and bat over .270.

RF: Alex Rios (TOR)
Almost took Bobby Abreu here, but Rios continues to improve and should be a 30+ home run guy around the second or third spot in the order.

DH: Frank Thomas (TOR)
The Big Hurt can still hurt, as his 26 HRs last show. He will still impact the lineup, but not as much as in the past.

SP: Chien-Ming Wang (NYY)
It was tough to leave Wang off of the first team, but I think that Kazmir will have better year. Wang will still anchor the Yankees rotation, but he is liable to get knocked around a bit.

SP: James Shields (TB)
Shields is my sleeper for the year. I predict 15+ wins for him and a sub-3.60 ERA.

SP: Jeremy Guthrie (BAL)
Guthrie over Daisuke Matsuzaka? Just a wild guess. Dice-K was not really as productive as he seemed. Guthrie should win 13+ for the hapless O's this year.

RP: Joba Chamberlain (NYY)
No other relievers really.

RP: Hideki Okajima (BOS)
See above. Okajima will not be as dominate as last season thought…

All-American League East First & Second Teams.

Fantasy Baseball ’08: Volume I

I know, I tried this before with fantasy football last fall, but back then I had four teams. I only have one baseball team this spring, however, so this should be a heck of a lot easier.

First off, I am playing in the Atroo Grou League with FanNationers and members of the Atroo. The league is run by the one and only Coletrain, and is rounded out with Nomar, chrono, redskinhater, Cardsox, thehemogoblin, hiya, Esco, DetroitFan, League of Shadows and Mac. My team is called The Dunder-Mifflins. I would like to say I have a pretty good team.

We conducted a live draft a few weeks ago, and this is the team I ended up with:

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B: Travis Hafner
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Alex Rodriguez
SS: Derek Jeter
OF: Vladimir Guerrero
OF: Corey Hart
OF: Shane Victorino
UTIL: Aaron Rowand
BN: Pat Burrell
BN: Troy Glaus
BN: Adam LaRoche
SP: Carlos Zambrano
SP: Tim Lincecum
RP: Chad Billingsley
RP: Chad Cordero
P: John Maine
P: Ian Snell
P: Joe Blanton
BN: Curt Schilling
BN: Matt Capps

Now, that is a pretty solid team, in my opinion. However, that viewpoint changed a little bit, and I had to move fast.

Schilling is on the DL until probably around August. So I dropped him and added Jeremy Guthrie to my roster. Then, (I didn't notice this until today, shame on me) I realized that Saltalamacchia is in the minors to start the season. So I added the hot Ryan Doumit, who probably will not be able to keep his hot streak up, but hopefully will be productive until Salty can make it back to the majors.

So there it is. Hopefully every Saturday I will be able to update all you readers on the progress of my team.

Loyalty Issues

If I were a fan of the Baltimore Orioles or Milwaukee Brewers, I would count on hating the current front office crew in about five years. That's right, I am willing to predict that Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis and Brewers first basemen Prince Fielder will not be with their current team in five-to-seven years.

These predictions are from the controversy stemming from their contract disputes in the off season. With the numbers both of them put up last year they deserved to get paid this offseason. But they did not. Instead they had their contracts renewed for one year each and they are both being paid less than $1 million. The teams need to show loyalty to their players. To quote my dad, both of these players were "low-balled."

Let's look at each of these cases individually.

I am beginning to think I have a mancrush on Nick Markakis. Actually, I would like to take this opportunity to officially announce that I, DJ, have a mancrush on Nick Markakis. There.

Anyway, I have been watching Markakis steadily move up through the Orioles organization. I always being this up, but I saw him play Single-A ball and even then he was amazing. When he was placed in right field on Opening Day 2006 by Sam Perlozzo, I knew the future had arrived. Markakis was the Orioles lineup at some points this year and he is one of Major League Baseball's rising young stars. The Orioles need to keep him. Renewing his contract for one-year, $455,000 does not show that they want to keep him. I hope the Orioles realize that they are playing in the same division has the Yankees and Red Sox. I would hate to see Markakis patrolling the Pesky Pole in Fenway next to Jacoby Ellsbury or in right field at the new Yankee Stadium next to Melky Cabrera. I want to see him next to Adam Jones in Camden Yards. Playing these two teams many times during the season adds intrigue into Markakis to the potential of playing there.

So kill that potential, pay the man.

Here are Markakis' stats from last year:

G: 161
AB: 637
R: 97
H: 191
2B: 43
3B: 3
HR: 23
RBI: 112
SB: 18
CS: 6
BB: 61
SO: 112
BA: .300
OBP: .362
SLG: .485
OPS+: 121
TB: 309

They compare favorably to J.D. Drew:

G: 140
AB: 466
R: 84
H: 126
2B: 30
3B: 4
HR: 11
RBI: 64
SB: 4
CS: 2
BB: 79
SO: 100
BA: .270
OBP: .373
SLG: .423
OPS+: 105
TB: 197

J.D. Drew is making $14 million.

Markakis is making $455,000.

That ain't right.

Now let's look at Fielder. Now, Fielder is not the physical specimen of say, Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, but the man can hit the ball. Far. When I first heard of young Prince Fielder, it was in Michael Lewis' Moneyball, where Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane painted an unflattering picture of him. Because of that, I did not have the best thoughts about Fielder when I first started seeing him play. After seeing him play multiple times however, my viewpoint is totally changed. The man can play. David Ortiz is aging. The Red Sox are going to be in the market for a DH in the next few years. Teams and general managers know that Fielder is the ideal choice an American League DH in the future. What is there to stop the Red Sox, Yankees, or even Angels from signing him to a huge deal the small market Brewers cannot match? I know the Brewers are a low budget team, but if they were to sign Fielder to a long-term deal now, they would be able to negotiate a shorter deal later in time so they will be able to keep him for his prime. The Brewers need to pay Fielder if they want to contend.

Pay him.

Fielder's stats from last year:

G: 158
AB: 573
R: 109
H: 165
2B: 35
3B: 2
HR: 50
RBI: 119
SB: 2
CS: 2
BB: 90
SO: 121
BA: .288
OBP: .395
SLG: .618
OPS+: 156
TB: 354

They compare to Paul Konerko.

G: 151
AB: 549
R: 71
H: 142
2B: 34
3B: 0
HR: 31
RBI: 90
SB: 0
CS: 1
BB: 78
SO: 102
BA: .259
OBP: .351
SLG: .490
OPS+: 116
TB: 269

Konerko makes $12 million.

Fielder makes $670,000.


To me, the Orioles and Brewers need to follow the lead of the Colorado Rockies who signed young Troy Tulowitzki to a six-year, $31-million contract with the same or less service time as Markakis and Fielder. For both of those guys to see someone with less time than them make more money than them, that has to hurt. The Orioles are committed to rebuilding (or at least trying to be). Lock up Markakis. Put him next to Jones in the outfield. Markakis needs to be the centerpiece of the Orioles rebuilding process. I have heard talk of the Orioles contending in four-to-five years, which would put Markakis in his prime. Markakis is necessary for the Orioles to win. Peter Angelos, be loyal to your team and players. Sign the man.

As for Fielder, the Brewers need him for the future too. Put him in the lineup with Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, and Rickie Weeks, and you have something special. If the Brewers want to be able to outplay the Cubs for the NL Central crown, they will need Fielder anchoring their lineup, the Red Sox or Yankees lineup.

Sign these men.