Monthly Archives: March 2012
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Miami Marlins-*
- Atlanta Braves
- Washington Nationals
- New York Mets
Analysis: This division rivals the AL East for the best division in baseball. Teams one through four have a chance to make some serious noise this season. The Phillies still have their Big Three in the pitching rotation in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. The Jonathan Papelbon signing was a shrewd one for the Phils, as it addressed there weakness at closer. As long as Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley stay healthy, the Phils will be the team to beat in the NL. If only they played that way in the playoffs…
The Marlins have some newness to them: manager, personnel, the name (Miami), unis, phat ballpark, and some swagger. The Marlins do have the talent to win the NL East, and they have the manager in Ozzie Guillen to help reach that goal. That buzz alone should help generate some more fan interest. Hell anything more than 20 fans per game would be an improvement. Look for twenty more fans to be jazzed over a playoff berth.
Poor Atlanta. It’s one thing to try and recover from an epic choke job that only the Red Sox could trump. It’s another to look and find themselves looking up at TWO teams instead of one in the division. I like the Braves’ talent. I love their manager. I think the “Chipper Jones Retirement Tour” would bring good vibes to the team. I think that this is the wrong division to try and pull it off. The Braves would be instant faves in the Central and especially the West. Alas, it was not meant to be…
I really, REALLY love what the Nationals are doing. They are staying aggressive in free agency and are definitely displaying a commitment to win. As with the Braves, they are in the wrong division. They will be a team to watch next season.
As for New York, it is what it always has been. Mets is an acronym for “My Entire Team Sucks”.
- Cincinnati Reds
- Milwaukee Brewers
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Chicago Cubs
- Houston Astros
Analysis: This is a division in transition. All of these teams are undergoing changes in personnel. The Reds have lost their newly signed closer for the year with an elbow injury. The Brew Crew lost Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers. The Cards lost Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim above San Diego and former manager Tony LaRussa to retirement. The Pirates acquired AJ Burnett. The Cubs cleaned house and hired a new manager and front office led by Theo Esptein, formerly of the Boston Red Sox. And the Astros …well they are still the Astros.
I think the Reds are the best of this flawed bunch because they still have their hitting led by young stud Joey Votto. Their starting pitching is still underrated. In short, they had the least amount of turnover from last season, and should win the division because of that.
The Brew Crew’s offense got a lot weaker this past offseason when they lost Fielder. It also doesn’t help to have that steroid – errrr, I mean “performance enhancing drug” – cloud hovering over reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun’s head in spring training (don’t think for a minute it will get better during the regular season). All that will be too much to overcome.
- San Francisco Giants
- Arizona Diamondbacks-*
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Colorado Rockies
- San Diego Padres
Analysis: I think the Giants are on a mission to avenge last year’s injury-riddled season. Let’s face it, if they suffered injuries to only HALF their stars, they would have won the NL West. It’s hard to overcome injuries to your star closer (Brian Wilson) and star catcher (Buster Posey). Last I checked, the Giants still have their one-two pitching punch in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. They will win the division in what will be a hotly contested battle with Arizona.
Speaking of which, the Diamondbacks over-achieved big time under manager Kirk Gibson. The good news is they still have pitching studs Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders. The bad news is they will not sneak up on any teams this season. Before I leave D-Back fans all sad and (spit), I think Arizona will still make the playoffs. That pitching will make them VERY dangerous in a one-game playoff scenario.
The Dodgers will receive good vibes thanks to finally being rid of Frank McCourt’s bumbling ass. Magic Johnson owning the team is the best thing to happen to Major League Baseball in a long time. I think that alone will help the Dodgers improve dramatically in the standings this season.
To Rockies and Padres fans, better luck next year – and perhaps the year after that if you are a Padres fan!
-*: denotes wildcard team
National League Champion: Philadelphia Phillies
World Series Champion: Philadelphia Phillies
Kentucky-Louisville is as fierce as it gets.
Growing up in ACC country, I never thought I’d see myself type that. But, as they say, “I gotta keep it real”.
Sure, Duke-UNC is intense and is arguably the best rivalry in college basketball. Hell both schools are less than 10 miles from each – a short, straight drive down highways 15 and 501. The fans of both teams work with each other. The Battle of the Blues: Royal Blue and Light Blue. Dick Vitale slurping Duke at every Duke-UNC clash on ESPN. Most of all, players for both teams play pickup ball against – and with – each other every summer. There is a lot of mutual respect to go around.
However, Kentucky-Louisville is just flat-out nasty. The players hate each other. The fans really hate each other. And the coaches despise the hell out of each other. After all, what other rivalry has one fan punching the other during dialysis treatment?
There is no neutrality in the state of Kentucky. You are either red (Louisville) or blue (Kentucky). It divides family members. Word on the street there are family members who are not talking to each other this week. Friendships had been ruined in the UK-UL rivalry.
There is lot of trash talk among family members and friends who are Duke and UNC fans, but not to that level of bitterness. I never heard of Duke fan punching UNC fan, let alone in a dialysis joint. To me it’s more about bragging rights than bitterness. And it didn’t take years for one to FINALLY play the other in basketball.
There is a bit of history between UK and UL. Kentucky refused to play Louisville for years until 1983 – and that was because it was during the NCAA Tournament. Louisville was seen as the “scary big city” in the state, and was ahead of the curve in integration. In fact, legendary coach/bigot Adolph Rupp refused to recruit black players until he had to do so while kicking and screaming. Despite all of that, it didn’t truly become a rivalry until Louisville begin winning national championships. Louisville was suddenly on par with Kentucky in basketball, and it’s led to intense recruiting wars ever since.
And now that they are going to play each other in the Final Four, the state of Kentucky is going to be nuclear. Hell I would just love to be at the Final Four in New Orleans to see the inevitable carnage between fans of both schools.
The 2012 Major League Baseball team is upon us. Another year, another division crown for my Yankees (whoo-hoo!), though I didn’t exactly buy into them at the beginning of last season. At any rate, I will preview the American League today, followed by the National League tomorrow.
- New York Yankees
- Tampa Bay Rays-*
- Boston Red Sox
- Baltimore Orioles
- Toronto Blue Jays
Analysis: I didn’t believe in my Yankees last season, but I have learned my lesson. CC Sabathia is still a pitching stud and the Yanks added depth to their pitching rotation and bullpen. One thing hasn’t changed from last year: they can still hit.
The Rays should be better and contend for their annual playoff spot. Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball and still has a good young core led by Evan Longoria and David Price. I just wish their fans would appreciate them as much as I do.
The Red Sox is a team in transition. The popular Terry Francona is out as manager, and in is firecracker Bobby Valentine. While I still think that he is a good hire for the Red Sox, Valentine is doing what he always do – stirring the pot. While the Sox will contend for a playoff spot – thanks to the extra playoff spot starting this season – but the Sox have a tough road ahead of them.
If the Orioles and Blue Jays were not in the AL East, they would contend for division titles – but alas, they are not. At least both teams play hard and do not stink. Maybe if there were NO DIVISIONS in the American and National Leagues…
- Detroit Tigers
- Minnesota Twins
- Cleveland Indians
- Chicago White Sox
- Kansas City Royals
Analysis: This is the Tigers’ division to lose. They have gotten immensely better on offense with the addition of Prince Fielder. Imagine that lineup with Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Jhonny Perlata – oy! And they still have at Justin Verlander fellow as their pitching ace. This may be the only team that will stand in my Yankees’ way come playoff time.
I think the Twins will bounce back this season. As long as Joe Mauer is healthier, the Twins will compete for a wildcard spot. I just think Ron Gardenhire is too damn good of a manager for this team not to do well. At least THEIR fans appreciate them (hear that Rays fans?).
The other three teams in the division will be playing for next year. The White Sox will rue the day they let former manager Ozzie Guillen walk to the Marlins. And why do the Indians and Royals – ESPECIALLY the Royals – bother to compete? Sucks being fans of both.
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim below Long Beach
- Texas Rangers-*
- Oakland Athletics
- Seattle Mariners
Analysis: This division is basically a two-team race, though I think Texas is much weaker with the departure of former ace C.J. Wilson to the Angels. Texas still will be able to mash with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.
Speaking of the Angels, they should pull away from Texas and win the division for the first time in a couple of seasons. The Angels landed the big fish in Albert Pujols to go with Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells in the batting lineup. Their starting pitching is much improved with the acquisition of Wilson to go with staff ace Jeff Weaver and Ervin Santana. Angels all the way baby!
And then there’s Oakland and Seattle, what’s the point? Both teams suck, and even though they are opening up the season in Japan, again I must ask ‘what’s the point?’ – as well as ‘who gives a f—?’
P.S. this division will be more weaker with the addition of the Houston Astros next season. Blech!!!
-*: denotes wildcard team.
American League winner: Detroit Tigers
This was significant because it was a full tour event against a strong field, and a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine. Woods played flawlessly. He was dominant.
In short, he’s baaaaaaaack – and golf is good for it.
Let’s be real about something: golf was relevant from a ratings and interest standpoint when Woods was dominant. Viewers tuned in the last day of a golf tournament to see if Tiger either holds on for the win or if he will stage a comeback.
Did you honestly think that people cared to see a few no-namers compete on the last day of a tournament. Hell even when Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy were in contention, it’s nothing like seeing Woods in contention.
Hell if you don’t believe me, do a study of how much golf made before and after Woods came on the scene. I didn’t think so…
The Denver Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the Jets yesterday. While the Broncos – namely John Elway – were happy to rid themselves of Tebowmania, the Jets have no idea what they are in for.
As I mentioned earlier, the Jets were a circus last year. Actually they were worse than a circus – they were a MESS. Now the Jets are going to place a green dude like Tebow in that locker room? Are you kidding me?
First of all, the last thing incumbent QB Mark Sanchez needs is a fan favorite as a backup. Tebowmania is going to be much bigger in the NYC than in Denver. No disrespect to Denver, but there is a reason why NYC is called “the media capital of the world”.
At any rate while I agree that Sanchez has been overly coddled, dude did lead the Jets to the AFC title game his first two seasons. Sure he took a step back, but I think he will bounce back now that he has time to learn from his mistakes last season. Sanchez is not mentally strong enough to deal with Tebowmania, especially after a few poor throws.
I think Tebow would have been better served playing in Miami. From what I understand, the Dolphins really wanted Tebow to play for them. I know Tebow is from Jacksonville and the Jaguars did make a push for him, but I think that was more from ownership than the front office and coaching staff.
Plus, you mean to tell me Dolphins are set with David Garrard – a dude who didn’t even play last year? Really? Tebow would have been starting games by Week 3.
I am on record as being a Tebow fan. I still think this kid can and will be a productive starting QB in this league. I think he has the ability to succeed.
I just do not think it will be in New York.
Saints coach Sean Payton gets suspended for a year for being an alleged enabler of a bounty program, while Patriots coach Bill Bellicheat gets docked a fine ($250K) for cheating (Spygate).
Something is very wrong with this picture (forgive the poor grammar).
So in NFL Commissioner/Warden/Playa-Hater Roger Goodell’s eyes, hurting players is more important than cheating. So I suppose the moral of the story is if you play football the way it’s meant to be played, your ass is going to get popped. Meanwhile, cheat your ass all the way to the bank – as long as you do not get caught.
Before you call me barbaric, let me remind you that football is a violent sport. Defensive players are paid to lay the wood on ball carriers. Defensive players look to send a message to ball-carriers and receivers who dare to go across the middle – whether they catch the ball or not. And this just in: defensive players HATE opposing – sometimes their own – quarterbacks.
Look, I understand the whole player safety thing. Hell, even I would agree that there should be no bounties in the NFL. No one should intentionally hurt another player.
I just think that bounties and intentional injuries are not mutual exclusive. I bet every team has a pool that includes rewards for big hits on marquee players in every game. After all, there are legal “kill shots” that knock out players out of every NFL game.
Again I must say, between this suspension and the NFL slapping the wrist of Bellicheat for his role in Spygate, I have a bigger problem with the lack of consistency in the punishment levied by Goodell. Cheating is not as egregious as nailing the hell out of the opposition.
I’ve said it once, and I will say it again: Goodell sucks.
Word on the street is Peyton Manning is working on a contract to play for the Denver Broncos. The Broncos – namely executive John Elway – get the prototypical QB it long desired since the Tebowmania wrecked havoc in Denver. Plus, it makes the Broncos the team to beat in the AFC West.
While this was a great move for the Broncos, it’s a questionable one for Manning.
First of all, there were better teams out there that were recruiting Manning. You cannot say with a straight face that the Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans AND San Francisco 49ers are not better than the Broncos. Hell if you stick Manning on the 49ers, they would be an instant favorite to WIN the Super Bowl.
So why wouldn’t Manning want to ball in San Fran? I think it’s because he will not have complete control of the offense. Niners’ coach Jim Harbaugh is himself a control freak, and would have a cow if Manning kept audibling out of offensive plays.
Meanwhile, Broncos’ coach John Fox and Elway have said that Manning can do whatever the hell he wants on the offensive side of the ball.
So what about Denver? The Broncos have a wide receiving corps that is in the Witness Protection Program. Their defense outside of Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller and Champ Bailey is suspect. At least they have a running game with Willis McGahee, but the Broncos still do not measure up with those other teams.
Hell as much as I love the 49ers fit, I thought the Titans would be a shoo-in for Manning. He went to school at the University of Tennessee (and yeah, I know Vanderbilt is in Nashville where the Titans play, but who gives a damn about the Commodores?). Plus last I checked, Nashville is a helluva lot warmer than Denver.
At any rate, good move – check that, GREAT move for the Broncos. Elway finally gets his man, and Tim Tebow will be shown the door.
And as long as Manning is willing to accept being no better than second-place in the AFC, then it’s a great move for him as well.
A few months ago I wrote that the woes plaguing my beloved New York Knicks were not all then-coach Mike D’Antoni’s fault. Boy, was I wrong.
Turns out there were many things that was wrong with D’Antoni. First of all, the man refuses to coach defense. Defense is critical in the NBA, especially come playoff time. It is no coincidence that the recent NBA champions knew a thing or two about playing good defense. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ defense was turnstile-ish at best.
Second, D’Antoni’s offensive system did not fit this team as its constructed. D’Antoni’s offensive scheme gives the green light to whoever is open, no matter how bad that shooter is.
Though I am a huge fan of Jeremy Lin, there is no way on God’s green earth that he should be getting more shots than Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is a scorer who needs his touches.
Sure I was worried about Anthony screwing up a good thing when he came back from injury but let’s face it, Anthony is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He and Amar’e Stoudamire need their touches.
Lin is a turnover-prone point guard, not a scorer.
Now whether interim coach Mike Woodson (who is a good coach in his own right) rights the ship in New York, my Knicks need to get a defensive-minded head coach who has come cache of his own.
Hello Phil Jackson (or Jerry Sloan)…
Why else did the Bears make the move to acquire Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall for a couple of 3rd round picks (this year’s and next)?
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the move. First of all, this reunites Marshall and QB Jay Cutler. They made beautiful music together when both were in Denver pre-Josh McDaniels (still liking that McDaniels move Broncos fans?).
Plus, and more importantly, it gives the Bears a legit, bonafide #1 receiver they lacked the past few seasons. I mean, you know it’s bad if your #1 receiver is a kick returner (Devin Hester).
Couple that with RB Matt Forte, and Chicago has the balanced offense they have been sorely lacking.
Meanwhile, you know the defense is loving this move. I bet Brian Urlacher and co. are thinking, “no need to worry about holding teams to 13 points anymore”. Look for the Bears defense to become more aggressive because now it has an offense that could potentially match the Lions and Green Bay Packers point-for-point.
Look, I still am buying into the Lions stock. It’s just that they – nor other teams – shouldn’t be sleeping on the Bears next season.
Top four seeds:
- Ohio State
- Florida State
Dark horse: Florida State
Analysis: Syracuse might not have looked so good in the Big East conference tournament, but it is too long and deep to not make a deep run in the tournament. While I have Syracuse as a favorite coming out of the East, keep an on Florida State. FSU plays hellacious defense and can score some points if needed (see the win over UNC yesterday). In fact, look for FSU to upset Syracuse to win this region. Side note: Look for Harvard to make some noise too. They should beat Vanderbilt and Wisconsin and make the Sweet 16.
Top four seeds:
Dark horse: NC State (don’t let me down fellas!)
Analysis: Whoever set this region up has to be a huge Tar Heel fan. UNC should not be remotely challenged until the Elite Eight. I mean, Creighton/Alabama in Round 2, followed by Michigan in the Sweet 16? Really? The only team that could challenge UNC is Kansas, but I do not like Kansas as a tournament team. It didn’t look so hot against Baylor in the Big 12 tournament, and that hangover will carry over into this tournament. It wouldn’t shock me to see Kansas get upset by St. Mary’s in Round 2. Side note: look for my Wolfpack to upset San Diego State and an unimpressive Georgetown and make the Sweet 16. GO PACK!!!
Top four seeds:
Dark horse: Wichita State
Analysis: Kentucky and Duke are the prohibitive favorites to come out of this region, and it’s easy to see why. Duke does not have any tests before the Sweet 16 (Notre Dame and Xavier? Really?), while UK has Wichita State blocking its path to the Elite Eight. Speaking of Wichita State, the Shockers (an interesting choice of a nickname) are really good. Sure they stumbled in their conference tournament, but the Shockers are a fearless bunch that will give UK problems.
As for whom I think will come out this region, this is Kentucky’s region to lose. If they fail to get to the Final Dour, coach John Calipari should be drug tested…
Top four seeds:
- Michigan State
Dark horse: Murray State
Analysis: this is clearly the “Murderer’s Row” of the four regions. Six (or seven) of the teams in this region could win it. I love Michigan State as a tournament team, but I am feeling Missouri. The Tigers have been on a mission in what is their final season in the Big 12. In addition to winning the Big 12 tournament, Missouri was a collapse away from sweeping Kansas in the regular season. I would keep a close eye on Murray State. They’ve been counted out all season and have a low seed (a sixth seed) to show for it, despite losing only one game all season.