Saturday, March 1, 2008

WNBA Live 2008

When I die and get to heaven, I think it might just be one long WNBA game in the sky. Like this:

Friday, February 29, 2008

Houston Astros Preview

The Astros were weak sauce last year and became one of the oldest teams in baseball thanks to geezers like Craig Biggio. Many people thought Houston would be destined for the NL Central Cellar again this season and look to the future, but instead they surprised many by becoming big players in the free agent market. It's now clear they hope to contend in what should be a very interesting division race.

2007 Record: 73-89 4th place in NL Central

Key Acquisitions

Miguel Tejada

Michael Bourn

Kaz Matsui

Jose Valverde

Key Losses

Craig Biggio

Brad Lidge

Chad Qualls

Mike Lamb

Luke Scott

Projected Line-up

1) Michael Bourn CF

2) Kaz Matsui 2B

3) Lance Berkman 1B

4) Carlos Lee LF

5) Miguel Tejada SS

6) Hunter Pence RF

7) Ty Wigginton 3B

8) JR Towles C

9) Pitcher

Offensive Grade: B+...I'm tempted to go higher here, but I'll keep it like it is for now until I see that this team can stay healthy. It's a pretty intimidating 3-6 centered with Perrennial Homerun Kings Berkman and Lee. Matsui, Bourn, and Pence all missed multiple weeks of last season, but all showed signs of brilliance when healthy. I really like the blend of speed and power here with Matsui and Bourn both capable of 30+ steals while Berkman and Lee are both potential 30 HR guys. Tejada and Pence are no joke either. One is on the still coming into his own and one is on the decline, but both still can produce in big ways for the 'Stros this year. Don't forget about Wigginton either. He's not flashy, but he'll move the base runners ahead of him when asked, and you can bet he'll have plenty of RBI opportunities given the potency ahead of him.

Projected Rotation

1) Roy Oswalt

2) Wandy Rodriguez

3) Woody Williams

4) Brandon Backe

5) Felipe Paulino

CL) Jose Valverde

Pitching Grade: C...This isn't pretty. While Oswalt could anchor the majority of staffs out there, it's very shaky from #2 down. Way-Rod had great stats at home, but was lit up like a Christmas tree on the road. Woody Williams is on his way to the retirement home and neither Backe nor Paulino have proven anything on the Major League level. Luckily for the Starters, if they are able to get the ball to Valverde with a lead, he's probably gonna close the door. His 47 saves last year really helped the D-Backs in their quest to lock down their division title. Every 5th game when Oswalt is out there though, he can bank on getting a win. He's been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game over the last half-decade.

2008 Outlook

This team is going to score a lot of runs this year, but when Oswalt's not on the mound they are going to give up a lot of runs as well. With one of the more complete line-ups in baseball though they should be able to outscore their opponents more often than not. They won't be able to just coast though in this division. The Cubs, Reds, and Brewers all have powerful offenses as well so there are bound to be some high-scoring games in Houston. The Astros are many experts "sleeper" team this year, but I don't see a playoff run in their future. The injury and pitching concerns are too much of a question mark to compete in this deep division.

Projected Record: 84-78

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Since when did fans become allowed to bring signs into Assembly Hall? I was restrained and nearly arrested for a few of the signs in my hayday. Either way, this sign just reads "TRUTH" all over it...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

St. Louis Cardinals Preview

2007 Record: 78-84, 3rd in NL Central

Key Losses: Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, David Eckstien

Key Acquisitions: Troy Glaus, Caesar Izturis, Matt Clement

Projected Lineup:
1. Skip Schumaker-RF
2. Rick Ankeil-CF
3. Albert Pujols-1B
4. Troy Glaus-3B
5. Chris Duncan-LF
6. Yadier Molina-C
7. Adam Kennedy-2B
8. Pitcher
9. Caesar Izturis-SS

Lineup Grade: C-....this lineup would be much worse if not for the Great Pujols, but his elbow must be watched closely this year. If it worsens, Albert may shut it down for the season, and STL may not win a game the rest of the season if that happens. However, this team set a record for fewest innings pitched by starters and they still managed to finish around .500, so give the O some cred. Glaus will need to play like he is truly 100% healthy, and Duncan and Ankiel must continue to develop into power-hitting threats. Also, Adam Kennedy must pretend like he is on an MLB roster and get a hit every once-in-a-while, or the Birds will be forced to either 1. start playing Aaron Miles and plan for '09, or 2. find a replacement through a trade.

Projected Rotation:
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Braden Looper
3. Joel Pinero
4. Kyle Lohse
5. Matt Clement
(Returning mid-season: Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter)
CL: Jason Isringhausen
Setup: Ryan Franklin

Pitching Grade: C-...If Wainwright can continue his ascent to ace status, Pinero and Looper do their jobs, and Clement is actually healthy and lasts the season, this could become an A when Carp and Mulder get back, but only if they come back strong. The bullpen was great last year, only faltering down the stretch because they were so horribly overworked (blame Kip Wells). Ryan Franklin was a revelation as a setup man, and World Series standout Josh Kinney is back from Tommy Johns.

Key Stats from '07:
2.96 =Adam Wainwright's ERA from mid-May to the end of the season
17 = Combined innings pitched by Carpenter, Mulder, and Clement
.327, 32, 103, 99 = Pujols stat line. Very possibly his worst career season

2008 Outlook: So many question marks surround this team, it's anyone's guess how they finish up. If everyone is healthy, and the guys who aren't back return healthy and effective, they might be able to play well enough to stay around .500 long enough to convince new G.M. John Mozeliak to make a move to bring in help at the trade deadline. This scenario is somewhat possible because they play in the weakest division in the weaker league of MLB. But if any one of the key players is not healthy (Pujols, Glaus, Clement), or returns before they are fully ready(Carpenter, Mulder), this team could go south very quickly, and who knows how large a disaster it could turn into.

Kevin Faulk's Sticky Situation

This just in...Professional Athletes love to get high. So do Rappers. What do you get when you mix the two? A place that's smokier than Gary, Indiana. New England Patriot's Captain and Running Back Kevin Faulk thought he would blend in with the crowd at a Lil Wayne Concert on Friday Night at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana. Unfortunately for him, Narcotics Officers get paid to find stoners like him and arrested the Footballer (to use the term loosely) with four hand-rolled cigars filled with Green...and I'm not talking about Spinach. Faulk is the second Patriots player to be arrested with Mary Jane since the Superbowl joining Reserve Defensive Back/Special Teams Specialist Willie Andrews who was caught with 3 bags of Weed...2 days after the Pats loss to the Giants. New England is becoming the New Cincinatti of the NFL. Faulk awaits his court date. If he's smart, he'll front that cash money to get this taken care of like Lil Weezy does when he gets caught on the regular with the Sticky Icky.

If a tree falls in the forest...

In an era of overwhelming sensationalism in television medium, Young Swole finds it shocking that one of the most high-profile athletes stands accused of serious violations and crimes and yet is being ignored.
Two years ago Reggie Bush was on top of the world. He was one of the most electrifying college athletes we had seen in years and was poised to make millions of dollars in the NFL. Since then, a lot has gone wrong though. He hasn't lived up to the hype in New Orleans despite being surrounded by some of the greatest offensive weapons in the entire league, but more damaging are the off the field concerns that have been raised. For years, many skeptics have wondered if USC could build such a powerful football program in a clean way, and while it was hard to find a crack in the Trojan Program, the Achilles heel (pun intended) may in fact turn out to be the face of the USC dynasty in the 2000's, Reggie Bush himself.
Bush is accused of borrowing money from people like Lloyd Lake, an ex gang member who became a sports agent, while playing at USC. Lake is believed to have financed a car for Bush and home for his family, which if true would violate NCAA rules. To make the case even more serious, Lake is now suing Bush because he claims Bush has not paid him back despite making millions of dollars a year. While this is a very serious deal, it unfortunately isn't even the biggest story. What makes the entire situation so shocking is how the overwhelming majority of sports media has chosen to ignore it.
For the past few years, ESPN has degenerated before our eyes into a daily tabloid of sports drama, instead of a reputable source of sports information. Their habit is to choose a controversial team or player, and cover them so extensively that they run the story into the ground before they choose another candidate to feed on for the next rating cycle. Players like Terrell Owens, Michael Vick and Barry Bonds and teams like the New York Yankees are beaten into our collective psyche like a bad catchy song. It seems like the developing Reggie Bush saga would have ESPN executives licking their chops as they see it as an opportunity to fill up another 3 months of programming. Yet if you turn on ESPN you will never hear a mention of the case. Lip service is paid to the fact that Bush's bodyguards threatened Lake's life at a hearing last month, or that Bush didn't show up at a mandatory court appearance yesterday, or even that USC is investigating Bush's financial background and may forfeit victories and championships. In a story that seems like a much bigger deal than most of the other garbage we hear about daily (The Best Highlight of All time for example), why is ESPN almost entirely ignoring it, when it seems so quick to jump on the bandwagon of every sensational sports story that exists?
Here are 3 quick reasons why ESPN is ignoring it:
1. USC was ESPN's glory program for college football. 2 years ago, their talking heads were saying USC was the best football team in the history of college sports before they even won a title (which they promptly lost to Texas). This year they severely overrated the Trojans at the beginning of the year again, and then constantly rated them as the best team at the end of the season despite being no more impressive than many other teams around the nation. This coverage included fawning over the accomplishments of Bush which while impressive, have to be looked at harshly in hindsight if Lake's allegations are true. To bury Bush's career, ESPN is effectively burying all the hype they put into the USC program, which would make them look foolish.
2. Reggie Bush has carefully crafted an image as a clean-cut athlete that fans can look up to. ESPN is quick to bury athletes they deem controversial like a TO, who hasn't done anything near what Bush is accused of. The fact that they play favorites is bad enough (just look at their coverage of Brett Favre and the Patriots last football season), but to not treat all players fairly in the wake of recent and enlightening events is frankly a disservice to ESPN's viewership.
3. Most importantly, Reggie Bush's attorney is a man named David Cornwell. ESPN viewers may remember him as the legal authority then turned to when the Bonds and Vick fiascos were ongoing. Now Cornwell is the man orchestrating the possibly criminal acts that Bush is undertaking, all while still being considered a respectable legal authority in the eyes of ESPN. This entire relationship screams of a conflict of interest. Simply because a person has been on your tv channel before does not mean he should be above the law, and above the judgment of those with the power to do so. By protecting Cornwell, and thus his client Bush, ESPN is stunting the legal process, and also proving highly hypocritical in its reporting and opinion-forming.
So while this Bush story is not going away any time soon, and in all likelihood will only grow more important in the coming months, it may be ignored on one of the most important sports media outlets in the world. Bush may be guilty or innocent, the legal process will surely find that out, but we can already safely say that ESPN is guilty of biased reporting in what may turn out to be a more serious case than all of the sensationalized garbage they have thrust upon America over the last few years.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Arizona Diamondbacks Preview

Last year's big surprise isn't going to sneak up on anyone this year. The D-Backs were active in the off-season switching up a number of things in hopes of improving on their improbable NLCS appearance from last year. The only playoff team to get outscored during the regular season went out and bulked up on...pitching?! Yeah, that's right. The D-backs are banking on their young sluggers improving and traded for one of the biggest pitching names in all of baseball in Young Dan Haren. It appears they're not just satisfied with a 1st place finish in the NL West...they want the whole Cherry Pie.
2007 Finish: 90-72 1st in NL West

Key Additions
Dan Haren SP
Trot Nixon OF
Chad Qualls RP
Chris Burke OF
Key Losses
Jose Valverde RP
Carlos Quentin OF
Tony Clark 1B
Livan Hernandez

Projected Lineup
1) Justin Upton RF
2) Orlando Hudson 2B
3) Eric Byrnes LF
4) Chris Boo-urns Young CF
5) Connor Jackson 1B
6) Stephen Drew SS
7) Mark Reynolds 3B
8) Chris Snyder C
9) Pitcher
Offensive Grade: B-...This line-up doesn't have any All-Stars currently, but the great potential for growth is definitely there. This is one of the youngest line-ups in the majors and besides an oft-injured Carlos Quentin, they didn't lose anything. Their oldest starting hitter by far is the 32 year old Eric Byrnes, who had a career year last season. 2nd Year CF, Chris B. Young came on very strong near the end of the year, hitting more Dingers than almost any hitter in the majors over the last month. Young bucks Stephen Drew and Justin Upton are also still ripening and Jackson and Reynolds each had flashes of brilliance last year too. I think that by this time next year this grade could be much higher.

Projected Roster
1) Brandon Webb
2) Dan Haren
3) Randy Johnson
4) Doug Davis
5) Micah Owings
CL) Brandon Lyon/Tony Pena
Pitching Grade: A-...I had to add the minus because of the depth issues and closer shakiness. The top two flamethrowing duo of Webb and Haren stack up with the League's Elite and you can make an argument that they are the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Both of these ballers are potential Cy Young Candidates in the loaded NL Pitching Race. They really remind me of the Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling tagteam from the 2001 World Series winning D-Backs squad. Could these two have as much success as the '01 Studs? Speaking of Dandy Randy...his health is going to be a Gigantic X Factor for this team. Clearly, he's not going to be return to his dominance of 2001, but if he can stay healthy for 60 percent or more of the season, this rotation is going to be one of the most intimidating in baseball. Doug Davis is the king of mediocrity, but for a #4 hurler, he'll do. Micah Owings is in the same vein as Jason Marquis...mediocre pitcher, above average hitter. I Wouldn't be surprised if he gets pinch hitting duties at some points this season. Losing Valverde is a tough blow. I don't really understand why they dealt him to the 'Stros, but it shouldn't matter if Haren and Webb can go late enough into games.

2008 Season Outlook
The NL West should be a great race this year and the D-backs will be right in the thick of things. It's hard to imagine them not being near or at the top come September considering what they did last year with less. Some of the lucky breaks might not fall their way this time around, but with Dan Haren around, it should make up for the times when they don't have Lady Luck on their side. I see this team at least equalling their performance from a year ago with a possibility of flirting with the century mark in the left hand column. This squad is primed for a run to the World Series again, but they'll need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to advance farther in a much better National League this year.
Projected Finish: 94-68

Monday, February 25, 2008

No Condoms in SEC Country

Remember how big of a deal it was when we learned that Travis Henry has fathered 9 children out of wedlock. Well don't look now, but it looks like the Frostproof Felon may have some new competition on his hands in the Future Seeds department
Good lord, Darren McFadden is only 20 years old and already off to this fast of a start? I guess SEC speed reigns supreme not only on the field, but also off of it as well.

NBA Weekly Preview

The dust has settled after the trade deadline. Now its time to see which teams made the right moves to push them forward. Lets take a look at whats on tap in the association.

The Power 16
1. Boston 42-12. Talk about a rough road to start out post all-star break. The men in green took consecutive L's in games at Denver, Golden State and Phoenix, but after tonight's game they will return home to the friendly confines of the eastern conference and look ahead to a showdown with Detroit in a week from wednesday.
Opponents this week: @LA Clippers, Cleveland, Charlotte, Atlanta
2. Detroit 41-15. The Pistons are probably as close to the Celtics as they have been in months. After two bad losses post all-star break, Detroit rebounded by destroying Milwaukee and Phoenix by a combined 57 points. Two more huge road games on tap this week as they continue their western trip. If they keep up their impressive form, they could be the new top dog in the league.
Opponents this week: @Denver, @Utah, @LA Clippers
3. LA Lakers 39-17. There was no more impressive victory than the Lakers win over the Suns on Wednesday. In winning one of the greatest regular season games in years, the Lakers served notice that they are quite possibly the team to beat in the West. If Kobe can play this good with a hurt finger and Bynum comes back, the road to the finals could go through LA.
Opponents this week: Portland, Miami, @Portland, Dallas
4. Utah 36-20. The Jazz lost an unexpected game to the Clippers on Friday night, but their consistency keeps them in the top 5 for another week. Its amazing how sometimes the smallest moves can make the biggest differences, as seems to be the case with the Jazz acquiring Kyle Korver.
Opponents this week: @Minnesota, Detroit, @New Orleans, @Memphis
5. San Antonio 37-17. Young Swole warned people about writing off the NBA Champs too early, and now they've won 5 straight and appear to be finding their groove. And if Manu Ginobili keeps playing this well, he may have to factor in MVP Consideration.
Opponents this week: Atlanta, Dallas, @Milwaukee, @New Jersey
6. New Orleans 37-17. The road is getting much more difficult for the Hornets. They lost back to back to division rivals Houston and San Antonio and could possibly be in 4th place in their own division after another brutal week of opponents. This is a good test to see if the young Hornets have the mental fortitude necessary to win big games.
Opponents this week: Washington, Phoenix, Utah
7. Phoenix 38-18. Its funny that people are already saying the Shaq trade is a disaster after yesterday's debacle against the Pistons. Educated people knew that of all the trades, the Suns would take the longest time to adjust to their new player. It didn't help they played the 3 top ranked teams in the league immediately after Shaq started playing either. Give this team a few more weeks to adjust before judging the trade.
Opponents this week: @ Memphis, @New Orleans, Philadelphia
8. Houston 36-20. The Rock show has a definite chance to have a 16 game winning streak before heading to Dallas next Thursday. Bobby Jackson is going to be a great addition to this team because he can provide a third offensive option behind Yao and T-Mac. Also, Carl Landry may just fuck around and win rookie of the year if he keeps playing this good.
Opponents this week: Washington, Memphis, Denver
9. Dallas 37-19. Dallas won 2 out of 3 games this week and is in 9th place in the standings showing just how tough the West is. They have three super tough road games coming up which will give us a good measurement of how the Mavs will look with Jason Kidd running the team.
Opponents this week: Chicago, @San Antonio, Sacramento, @LA Lakers
10. Orlando 36-22. The Magic have come out fast since the all star break winning 3 of 4 to solidify their hold on the 3-seed in the East. However, their lack of acquiring a steady point guard to run the team may be their undoing in the playoffs. If I was the Magic I'd look long and hard at acquiring Sam Cassell for the stretch run, his leadership would be perfect for such a young team.
Opponents this week: @New Jersey, @Philadelphia, NY Knicks
11. Golden State 33-22. If the Warriors want to make the playoffs in the brutal west, they cannot afford to lose games such as they did Friday at home to the Hawks. They had little inside presence before, and now without Andris Biedrens for 2 weeks, they will have none. Its a good thing the schedule sets up really well for them the next two weeks, none of the teams they will play have a good low post presence that can hurt them.
Opponents this week: Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland
12. Denver 33-22. If any team seems like it could fall off the pace in the west playoff race, it seems like the Nouglats would be the logical choice. They added no one significant at the trade deadline, just lost 2 games in a row to bad eastern conference teams, and face a schedule even uglier than a naked Rick Majerus over the next two weeks.
Opponents this week: Detroit, @Seattle, LA Clippers, Houston
13. Cleveland 32-24. You know your supporting cast is pathetic when adding bums from Seattle like Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West plus epic bitch Ben Wallace is considered a vast upgrade over what you had before. While these guys are nothing special, the greatness of Lebron James may be enough to make them contenders in the east.
Opponents this week: @Milwaukee, @Boston, Minnesota, Chicago
14. Toronto 30-24. If any team in the east is going to make a strong push in the east it has to be the Raptors. They have the talent and one of the most laughable schedules in league history coming up. This team may still end up winning 50 games this year.
Opponents this week: @Indiana, Minnesota, Indiana, @Charlotte
15. Portland 29-27. The Blazers are pretty much in spoiler role the rest of the year, but their young guys should still treat this as a playoff push so they will be ready for next year when Greg Oden and his fearsome mohawk joins the squad.
Opponents this week: @LA Lakers, @LA Clippers, LA Lakers, @Golden State
16. Washington 26-29. The Wizards have played like garbage lately, but with the teams in the east below them being so bad, they are still 6th in the conference. They are going to need Agent Zero and the Holy Caron back real soon though to hold onto that spot though.
Opponents this week: @New Orleans, @Houston, @Chicago, New Orleans
Young Swole's Baller of the Week
Yeah we could probably give the award to Lebron James every week, but seriously, look at the numbers he put up last week:
-26 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists against Houston
-31 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals against Indiana
-33 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists against Washington
-25 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals against Memphis
Lebron is so good these days he's making Damon Jones look good, which is almost as hard to do as climbing Mount Everest in one of Borat's 1 piece swimsuit things.
Young Swole's Jackass of the Week
To all the GM's who were either too afraid or too stupid to do something to help there teams at the trading deadline, such as Chris Wallace not trading Mike Miller and Kyle Lowry, Denver not getting either Ron Artest or Andre Miller, or Otis Smith in Orlando not upgrading at point guard over sorry ass Jameer Nelson.
5 Games to Watch in order of significance
1. Utah at New Orleans, Friday. Two excellent teams, with the two best young point guards in the league face off in a crucial western conference battle for playoff seeding
Young Swole Prediction: Deron wins the PG battle this time 116-111
2. Dallas at LA Lakers, Sunday. New-look teams battle on Sunday afternoon. Do the Mavs have enough to beat the premier western conference teams after their big trade. This will be a good barometer to find out that question.
Young Swole Prediction: The Lake Show keeps rolling along, 113-97
3. Cleveland @ Boston, Wednesday. The Cavs knew they had to make a move to try and get close to the Celtics and Boston in the east. This is their first chance to face one of the EC's premier squad with their new players.
Young Swole Prediction: Even Lebron can't win this one, Celtics 94-87
4. Phoenix @ New Orleans, Wednesday. Another tough game for the new look Suns. Will they start to adjust to Shaq this quickly and be able to win a huge road game, or will the frisky Hornets stay in the hunt for the top overall seed in the west?
Young Swole Prediction: CP3 eats Nash alive again, Hornets win 122-111
5. Denver @ Houston, Sunday. By next Sunday, this may be a must-win game for Denver if they want to stay alive in the western conference playoff chase. Its going to be tough facing a Houston team that is playing its best since Yao and TMac became teammates.
Young Swole Prediction: Rockets keep the momentum going, 107-97

Los Angeles Dodgers 2008 Preview

Bring on the youngsters. It's time to finally see what that young talent in LA can finally do for this team, who has been sitting on them for quite sometime.

The Dodgers were big players in free agency this off season, adding Andruw Jones into their arsenal and wooing Joe Torre from other potential suitors to attempt to bring back glory to the West Coast.

The question is, did the team make enough moves to contend in a very difficult NL West and will the pitching be strong enough to lead the team onward?

Key Additions:

Joe Torre Manager
Andruw Jones, CF
Hiroki Kuroda, SP

Key Losses:

Mark Hendrickson, P
Olmedo Saenz, 1B
Luis Gonzalez, LF
Randy Wolf, SP

I don't know enough about Kuroda to make an assesment on this addition, but the other two are great for this team. Getting the vetern leadership of Andruw Jones (not to mention the power of his bat and amazing defense in the field), as well as the guidence of young Torre amounted to a very decent off season for this team.As for the losses, none of these seem to be "back-breaking" losses for this team. Randy Wolf provided some depth to the rotation, but all in all this team did a fine job of addition by subtraction.

Probable Line-Up:

1: Rafael Furcal - SS
2: Juan Pierre - CF
3: Matt Kemp - RF
4: Andruw Jones - CF
5: Jeff Kent - 2B
6: James Loney - 1B
7: Russ Martin - C
8: Andy LaRoche - 3B

Lineup Grade: B+

I am not 100% sure if this is what the exact line up order will be come opening day, but this is the eight batters the opposition will face. Through free agency, the Dodgers attempted to go out and add some more power to their line-up via Andruw Jones. This team has almost revamped its power numbers from last year, along with the addition of Jones comes Matt Kemp and James Loney, two young players with a ton of talent and above average power. Russ Martin is the glue that holds this line-up together, a jack of all trades if you will. Martin will likely move up in the line-up (probably the 2 hold) in an effort to get more players on base and create RBI opportunities for the 3-6 hitters. I can also see Loney (a .300+ hitter in limited action last year) moving up to the 5 hole in an effort to give Jones further line-up protection. All in all, this line up appears to have little holes, with a nice balance of speed, power, and average.

Probable Rotation:

No. 1: Brad Penny
No. 2: Derek Lowe
No. 3: Chad Billingsley
No. 4: Hiroki Kuroda
No. 5: Jason Schmidt
Closer: Takashi Saito
Setup: Jonathan Broxton

Rotation Grade: B-

The Dodgers clearly have some talent in thier rotation, but the only problem is that do not have a clear ace on this staff. Penny, Lowe, and Billingsley can both produce great starts and are very consistent, but neither are able to instill enough confidence to say "If we had one game to win, who would do it for us?". Once could say that Brad Penny would qualify as this team's ace, but as every fantasy owner knows, Penny starts off strong and begins to trail off after the All Star break. It will be interesting to see how Kuroda moves up and down in this rotation. Rounding off the bottom is Jason Schmidt, who desperately needs a bounce-back year after the horrendous outing he gave last year. Closing out games (for now) is Takaski Saito, as consistent as they come. But waiting in the wings is a young stud in Broxton and it will be intriguing to see if he begins to take over more games this season. Overall, the rotation is pretty mediocre: unspectacular, doesn't WOW anyone, but consistent enough to contend.

Predicted 2008 Finish: 85-77 3rd Place in the NL West

As it has been said, the NL West is a 3 team race this season, but unfortunately for the Dodgers, I see them being on the outide looking in. Although the line up is sound and they bring in a great manager, the rotation is still shaky and without a clear ace to lead the team to the playoffs, I see Dodger fans watching the postseason at home.

Basketball Power Ranks - The Homestretch

1. 1. Tennessee. 25-2. They have now achieved the school’s highest ranking in history for the second week in a row(#2 then, #1 now). And they were able to end Memphis’ undefeated streak, guaranteeing the ’76 Hoosiers retain their record for at least another year. One of the biggest things to take away from their defeat of #1 Memphis: Chris Lofton only had to contribute 7 points.

2. North Carolina. 25-2. Even without Ty Lawson, the Tarheels manage to stay in the hunt for the ACC title, thanks in large part to Lawson’s stand-in, Quentin Thomas. The emergence of Thomas means they will become that much deeper when Lawson returns. And Hansbrough continues to lead his team in a way that, in my opinion, makes him the player of the year. If your team is on the bubble and isn't at least competing for your conference title, I don't think you deserve the award. UNC and Hansbrough are almost a guaranteed 1-seed, and should go into the final game of the year tied atop the ACC. Meanwhile, Michael Beasley and his K-State squad have work to do to get into the tourney, and are not on the Big 12 radar.

3. 3. Memphis. 26-1. They might have lost a game, but it is their only loss this season. Things like this are generally good for teams, though, as the higher you climb the harder you can fall (See: NE Patriots). Expectations can weigh heavily on an undefeated team; Memphis no longer bears that burden, but they still have a dangerous combo of talented guards and solid post play.

4. 4. UCLA. 24-3. Quite a few teams could occupy this spot, and of all these teams, UCLA has the more excusable losses. Losses to streaky cross-town rival USC and solid Texas, a freakish L at Washington, and 24 wins in the process is o.k. in a season that is anybody’s for the taking. They are still deep, talented, and battle-tested from previous Final Four runs.

5. 5. Duke. 23-3. Getting beat by a team for the first time in a half-century never looks good, but the Blue Devils can certainly regroup and should be able to welcome UNC to Cameron on March 8th for a de-facto ACC title game. Unfortunately for the Dookies, their team leaders in blocks and rebounds are a pair of 6-4 guards, so the question remains: where is their post presence?

6. 6. Kansas. 24-3. This very talented and athletic team has suddenly lost 3 of its last 7 games, and is looking up at Texas in the Big 12. Michael Beasley & Co. could conceivably roll into Lawrence and make some more history next week. Good thing they don’t actually play K-State in Africa. I don’t doubt they are still very good and very dangerous, but is this a flare-up of Bill Self Syndrome??

8. Indiana, 23-4 & Texas, 23-4. (TIE) Not very similar teams otherwise, but Aarmon Basset has been doing his best D.J. Augustin impression lately. IU’s stellar guard play, plus a post game that has been strengthened by the emergence of Kyle Taber and better contributions from DeAndre Thomas, will allow this team to go deep if they can focus their feelings about the Sampson situation and use it as motivation. Texas is now in the Big 12 driver’s seat, but they must still play K-State, and close out their season against OK State, who just upended Kansas.

9. Georgetown. 22-4. They have been overshadowed in the Big East by resurgent UConn and Louisville, but they still sit atop the conference and control their own destiny. The final two games of their season, at Marquette and home against Louisville, are must-wins if they want to win the conference outright. I truly believe that when Roy Hibbert is on, this team can play with anyone, easily. But that question is more easily asked that answered.

10. Xavier. 24-4. They may be a “mid-major” but their schedule looks like anything but. Playing games against Indiana, Tennessee, and Kansas State is no easy task for anyone, but Xavier boasts an outstanding resume right ahead of tournament time. Could their coach become a prime target for the Indiana faithful?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Scientology gets "Rick Roll'd"

So my friend in Richmond just informed me that the "Church" of Scientology recently opened a new franchise or whatever you call it in the River City, my former home. I was pretty disturbed because Scientology is little more than a pyramid scheme gone horribly, horribly mad with power. However, I was relieved to know that the level-headed people of Richmond have been extremely pissed and taken to protesting the storefront, which is located on some prime real estate in the cities' most popular shopping area.

I am all for protesting a dangerous cult when it tries to establish itself in your town, so you can imagine my delight when said protest takes the form of standing outside of the building BLASTING Rick Astley's 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" with a set of huge speakers. Apparently Scientology protestors all over the country have been using this tactic, known simply as the "Rick Roll". Here's a clip of Rick Rolling in Seattle (its really loud so adjust your volume).

I've also attached a clip of Astley himself in his truly unforgettable video for the song. Whats that? You thought these smooth sounds were coming from some soulful black crooner a la Teddy Pendergrass?

Think again my friends. He appears to be a 17 year old British red head who possibly recorded this song while on holiday from his studies at Cambridge. The funniest line in this song is the first one: "we're no strangers to love" sure about that? cuz dude looks like vagina repellent from my view.

Colorado Rockies 2008 Preview

Last year the Rockies made a cinderella run to the World Series with one of the youngest teams in the NL. Do they have the talent to make another run to the fall classic? Lets take a look at how the Rock Show looks heading into 2008.
2007 Finish: 90-73, 2nd place in NL West
Key Acquisitions: Luiz Vizcaino (RP), Kip Wells (SP), Marcus Giles (2b), Scott Podsednik (CF)
Key Losses: LaTroy Hawkins (RP), Kazuo Matsui (2b), Josh Fogg (SP)
Probable Opening Day Lineup:
1) Willy Taveras - CF
2) Troy Tulowitzki - SS
3) Matt Holliday - LF
4) Todd Helton - 1b
5) Garrett Atkins - 3b
6) Brad Hawpe - RF
7) Yorvit Torrealba - C
8) Jayson Nix - 2b
Lineup Grade: A-... Any team that plays 81 games is going to have a good offense. But the Rockies lineup is loaded with a great mix of speed, power and patience. Other than Philly, there may be no greater 2-5 hitters in the National League. And if Willy Taveras can provide adequate leadoff production, the Rockies may score 900 runs this year.
Probable Rotation
1) Jeff Francis
2) Aaron Cook
3) Ubaldo Jimenez
4) Jason Hirsh
5) Kip Wells
Rotation Grade: B-... Just as Coors Field greatly affects hitting, it also does with pitching. For years the Rockies overpayed for starters who were destroyed in the thin mountain air. Now though they have developed some solid young arms for much cheaper, and those starters did better than any Rockies staff in team history. Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook are solid if unspectacular, but the real key to the rotation is Ubaldo Jimenez. He made a huge difference down the stretch and has the most talent of any of the starters, but he pitched a lot of innings last year and will have to be monitored carefully.
2008 Outlook: The young Rockies grew up before our eyes last year, winning 14 of their last 15 regular season games and then advancing all the way to the World Series. Its going to be hard to duplicate such success, and the NL West has many improved teams. But the core of a successful team is in place, and the Rockies know how to win after surviving the crucible of September and October last year. It always comes down to pitching for the Rockies, and this is probably the most optimistic the team has ever been about the staff it has assembled, which means the team will stay competitive all year long.
Predicted 2008 Finish: 89-73. The NL West looks like a three team race for the division between the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Out of those three teams, the Rockies may have the least questions to answer, and should contend for the division title at best, and be a large player in the Wild Card race at worst.