Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series / Opt-out

World Series

Did people forget that all year, as well as all last year, the consensus was that the American League had the 4 or 5 best teams in baseball? I guess last year's World Series confused us, but we all knew the Tigers weren't one of the three best teams in baseball; they just happened to win enough games at the right time to make it to the World Series. But the Red Sox were one of the top 3 teams in baseball, and they proved it by rolling over the Rockies.

The Rockies had a very nice lineup, but the Sox pitchers shut them down mostly. The Rockies had a staunch bullpen, but the Sox got to 'em. The Rockies were hot, but the Sox cooled 'em down (it's up to you to decide if the 8-day layoff caused that). While I was very disappointed with both the outcome and the lack of competitiveness throughout, there can be no doubt that the better team won.

Is there any doubt anymore, though, that the Red Sox are simply a hairier version of the Yankees? While the Yankees have the highest payroll, a staggering $52 million higher than Boston, the Red Sox' payroll is another $26 million higher than the #3 team, the Mets. Any time you can fit another team's payroll (even if it's just the lowly Devil Rays) between yours and the next one behind you, you're paying some outrageous salaries. And remember, Alex Rodriguez just declared that he'll be opting out, so that salary and Roger Clemens' salary come off the books for the Bronx Bombers, as well as potentially Jorge Posada's, Mariano Rivera's, and Bobby Abreu's. There's a distinct chance, though probably still less than 50%, that the team with the highest payroll next year is in fact the Red Sox. They're no longer the "idiots" or what-have-you.

I'll still root for them against the Yankees, but that's it. They're the baby Evil Empire, like the Olmec when compared to the Mayans.

Alex Rodriguez Opts Out

How exciting is this? The best player in baseball (try to look at Rodriguez's numbers and argue that) is suddenly on the free market, barring some radical change in his intentions. It's such big news that, on ESPNews tonight, it co-owned the "Breaking News" headline on the bottom line, along with "Red Sox win World Series." That's big.

I'd make guesses as to where he'll end up, etc, but I really need to be hitting the hay. So I'll just give you one intriguing idea: the Philadelphia Phillies. Nobody's talked about them being a big spending team, but certainly a team in Philadelphia has got plenty of money. Howard, Utley, and Hamels should still be in their arbitration periods, which will keep their salaries in check. With Rowand likely departing due to free agency, the Phillies will be in the market for some kind of bat. Obviously Rodriguez is a little bigger bat than Rowand, but I think he'd fit great. Plus, with someone like A-Rod in the fold, you have to think that Utley, Howard, and Hamels are more enticed to stick around; you know the offense is going to have some juice to it. I'm not a Phillies fan, nor am I an A-Rod fan, but I think it's a good fit.

Feel free to share your thoughts or guesses as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Damn Yankees

To briefly summarize the relevant information:

Joe Torre, manager of the Yankees, is offered a 1-year contract with a pay cut that has incentives based on reaching/winning the World Series. He declines.

About a week later, Yankee ownership says that whoever the new manager will be taking over a "team in transition," and will not be expected to win the World Series every year.

Sportswriters and the general fan population cry foul, saying that by the Yankees offering the type of contract they offered Torre, they illustrated their sentiments and expectations. Additionally, because their payroll outweighs everyone else's in baseball, any manager for the Yankees should be and will be expected to win big right away.

Alright, so now you're caught up. And I, of course, disagree with the sportswriters and general fan population mentioned above.

Expectations will always be high for the Yankees; I don't debate that point. But wasn't there a little bit of disdain for George Steinbrenner when he said if the Yankees didn't go to the World Series, Torre would lose his job? Wasn't that disdain from exactly the belief that it's stupid to expect to win the World Series every year? Maybe the new management team actually has some baseball sense. You can't be offended when one guy says something, and then be offended again when the new guy says he disagrees with the old guy.

Secondly, why can't Joe Torre be held to a different standard than some new manager? Joe Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena have a combined 4+ years of managerial experience, with Pena as the only one with more than a year. Joe Torre has 26 years under his belt as a manager, and 11 first place finishes. Even if the roster stays essentially the same, the team will be "in transition" because they'll have a relative neophyte at the helm. If you keep expecting managers to win in their first year with the club, you're going to be going through a lot of first-year-managers.

Finally, the roster may in fact look quite different. The following players from the Yankees' 25-man roster have either expiring contracts or some kind of option (player or team): Bobby Abreu, Roger Clemens, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jose Molina, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Luis Vizcaino. It's a safe bet that at least 4 of those players won't be back, and potentially up to 8 (Abreu has a team option which I imagine they'll pick up). That means you could have new starting third baseman, catcher, right field, closer, and 2 new starting pitchers. And you'd be replacing Hall of Famers at at least 3 of those spots (A-Rod, Clemens, Rivera).

I'm not saying it's wrong to expect the Yankees to be a playoff team. Even if they lose all of those players, they'll sign new guys who can play ball, without question. But this is the first time in 34 years that Yankees higher-ups have demonstrated some ability to evaluate Major League Baseball with some logic, some temperament. We should not be castrating the new guys for not being as crazy as The Boss.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HaloCountry

Since HaloNation seems to escape us with every attempt, we are making a solid attempt to get people together for HaloCountry.

What is HaloCountry? Getting together a serious group of people online for some Halo2 custom games.

Leave Saturday evening, November 3rd open for some serious Halo2 online gaming with some great company.

Contact Joe Mattingly or myself (or respond to this blog) if you have any questions

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kobe Bryant Trade (3)

To re-iterate, here are the criteria that a potential trade must satisfy for Kobe and the Lakers to both approve of it:

A) Kobe must be traded to a playoff team.
B) Lakers must receive a starter who can handle the ball.
C) Lakers must receive young talent.
D) Lakers must receive expiring contracts/unload undesireable contracts.

I decided to reword aspect D to take into account the value of moving a bad contract. Now, let's look at a couple less trite trade ideas, ones that don't involve the front-running Bulls or Mavericks.

Trade #3: Hawks trade Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, Lorenzen Wright, Acie Law IV, and Shelden Williams to Lakers for Kobe Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovic.

A) 1 point - While the Hawks were once again a lottery team last year, they keep stockpiling talent, and keep maturing. They've got playoff potential. Plus, Atlanta is very supportive of its athletes; I have to think Kobe can appreciate that.
B) 2 points - Joe Johnson can play either guard or small forward, and is a marquee player. He gets buried in Atlanta right now, but for the Lakers he'd be a big deal.
C) 2 points - Childress, Law, and Williams are all very young and talented.
D) 2 points - Almost $7 million comes off the books next year between Childress and Wright. More than that, however, Radmanovic's $20+ million over the next 4 years gets shipped out of town.
Total - 7 points, it's a little unconventional because of how bad the Hawks have been, but in my heart, I think it would work.

Trade #4: Knicks trade Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Nate Robinson, and Fred Jones to Lakers for Kobe Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovic.

A) 1 point - The Knicks seem somewhat improved, and a starting five of Marbury, Bryant, Quentin Richardson, David Lee, and Zach Randolph seems like it could work.
B) 2 points - Both Crawford and Robinson have ball handling skills.
C) 2 points - Curry, while turnover-prone, is talented offensively and still pretty young. Robinson is young as well.
D) 1 point - Again, Radmanovic's contract gets tossed, which is nice. Fred Jones also has $3.3 million expiring this season.
Total - 6 points, again, it's not a playoff team from last season, but a team that could be a 48-50 win team if this trade were to happen.

Trade #5: Celtics trade Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine, Glen Davis, and Tony Allen to Lakers for Kobe Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovic.

A) 2 points - Nobody questions that the Celtics are ready to compete.
B) 2 points - While not everyone would be crazy about it, Pierce can handle the ball.
C) 1 points - Davis and Allen figure to not be prominent in Boston's rotation, but they could develop in the Lakers' system.
D) 1 point - Allen's $2 million contract expires, plus they unload Radmanovic (see a trend?). Scalabrine's contract negates about half of Radmanovic's, though.
Total - 6 points, another one that I couldn't realistically see happening, but it gives the Lakers a lot of potential pieces.

Trade #6: Suns trade Shawn Marion and Eric Piatkowski to Lakers; Lakers trade Kobe Bryant to Jazz; Jazz trade Andrei Kirilenko, Gordan Giricek, and Matt Harpring to Suns. ($8M trade exception used to acquire Harpring).

A) 2 points - Jazz? Yes.
B) 1 point - Piatkowski isn't a dream to handle the ball, but Marion is probably the best player they could hope for in any Kobe trade.
C) 1 point - Marion's not really young, but he's so good you have to give another point here.
D) 1 point - Marion's contract is $3M less and a year shorter than Kobe's, and Piatkowski is a free agent after this season.
Total - 5 points, I know, it's not "enough" points, but wouldn't this be the trade that would leave everyone involved pretty happy? The Suns get another defensive force in AK47, plus two flexible hustle guys in Harpring and Giricek. The Lakers get Marion, a perfect guy to build your team around because he can fit into so many roles. And the Jazz get Kobe, the scoring guard they haven't had since Jeff Hornacek.

In the end, the trade that happens will probably be a permutation of one of the deals with Chicago or Dallas, but it's fun to look at other possibilities. In the NBA, because salaries are such an important factor, they tend to dictate the deals that can happen. Also, there are a lot of trade restrictions in the NBA, preventing guys like Andres Nocioni, Morris Peterson, Darko Milicic, and Rashard Lewis from being traded until December 15th. My guess is Kobe gets traded between that date and Christmas, when so many guys fall back into the realm of "trade bait."

Kobe Bryant Trade (2)

When you're trading a superstar, you obviously have pretty high standards for what you want in return. Thus, I established the following criteria that a potential trade that I believe the trade would have to satisfy for it to happen:

A) Kobe must be traded to a playoff team.
B) Lakers must receive a starter who can handle the ball.
C) Lakers must receive young talent.
D) Lakers must receive expiring contracts.

Initially, I thought that only one of the last two would be necessary, but realistically, to equal Kobe's value, the other team would probably need to provide both. However, to take into account the different caliber of players (and contracts), I'm setting a variable of 0, 1, or 2 points per trade aspect. For the Lakers to accept the trade, they would need at least 6 points in return.

The two teams that seem to come up a lot when talking about Kobe Bryant trades are the Bulls and the Mavericks. So I played with it a little, and came up with the following two trades that seem to benefit both teams involved, and match up salary-wise.

Trade #1:
Bulls trade Tyrus Thomas, Chris Duhon, Viktor Khryapa, Joakim Noah, and Kirk Hinrich to Lakers for Kobe Bryant.

A) 2 points - The Bulls are still one of the sexy picks in the Eastern Conference.
B) 2 points - Hinrich has his faults, but he's definitely a very solid ball-handler, and is talented enough to command a starting role immediately.
C) 2 points - Thomas was in the mix for the #1 overall pick a year ago, and Noah has got the potential to be a solid contributor.
D) 1 point - Over $5 million in expiring contracts between Khryapa and Duhon. It won't get them under the cap, but it'll get them closer.
Total - 7 points, looks like a decent deal for both parties.

Trade #2: Mavericks trade Josh Howard, DeSagana Diop, Nick Fazekas, and Jason Terry to Lakers for Kobe Bryant.

A) 2 points - As long as Dirk is a Maverick, they're a safe bet to make the playoffs.
B) 2 points - Terry is a fantastic point guard. He's a little seasoned, but can still play with the best of them.
C) 2 points - Howard is highly touted, and last year he really started to shine. Fazekas could be decent.
D) 0 points - Only the $2 million for Diop expires next season, and there's over $50 million committed to Howard and Terry over the next 4 years.
Total - 6 points, and Dallas has to give up a lot of its core, plus Kobe goes to a Western Conference team. I don't see this happening.

So the trade with the Bulls is the one that will probably happen, right? Well, hold on there. You should know by now that, once I get started talking about trades, I don't stop until everyone else is bored to tears. I'm going to make a third post, using the same evaluating factors, but looking at trades between the Lakers and teams besides the Mavs and Bulls. Get ready for that.

Kobe Bryant Trade (1)

So what did we learn about the NBA trade climate over the summer? Well, we learned that, if all parties want to make a trade happen, a trade will happen. The NBA salary cap is such that there are a wide variety of ways to make things work, and when you're talking about elite players like Kevin Garnett, there's no shortage of buyers.

Your next question is, "What about Shawn Marion and Andrei Kirilenko? They wanted to be traded, but they're still on their respective teams." Right you are, but in those instances, only one party wants to make a trade happen (though the Suns seem willing to move Marion if the situation is right). The Suns and Jazz both had very nice seasons last year, and aren't hankering to break up their cores. The Timberwolves and Celtics were both sub par teams last year, so shaking things up was appealing to both sides.

Now, let's look at the current situation with Kobe Bryant. Unless we've been deceived, it certainly seems like Bryant wants to be traded. Now to the harder question: do the Lakers want to trade him? They've postured themselves recently to suggest that they do, but Bryant is a transcendent player who's still in his prime. It's never easy to toss that kind of talent aside, and it's even harder when your team is coming off of a playoff appearance, regardless of getting bounced in the first round.

But it's no fun to say that a trade won't happen, so we'll take the comments of Jerry Buss at face value, and start looking at potential trades. Also of note: In the NBA, matching salaries is just as important as matching talent. Luckily, ESPN.com has what they call the NBA Trade Machine, which evaluates trades on a salary basis to determine whether or not a particular trade works out. I'm currently working on another post that will have a few trades I've examined. I'll post it as soon as it's done.

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Inappropriate" Video Games

If you're in the loop as far as video game news goes, you're already aware that Soldier of Fortune: Pay Back has been banned from being sold in Australia. If you haven't heard, there's a brief article about it on Gamespot that you'll want to read before continuing with this blog entry.

Being someone who disagrees with censorship at just about every level, my opinion on this is pretty predictable. Refusing to give people the option to experience a work of art is wrong. And there's no question that, on all relevant levels, and to anyone who appreciates them, video games are as much works of art as novels, songs, poems, paintings, or movies. The amount of creative energy that goes into creating a video game is tremendous, and, if any of you care to differ, I'll be happy to toss in another blog in the future outlining all of the different ways a video game qualifies as art. In fact, I'll probably do it anyways, regardless of your level of interest.

Back to the matter at hand, however, what kind of place has Australia become? Isn't that where the UK sent all their criminals? Are government officials afraid that, if the citizenry is exposed to these violent images, they'll revert to their murderous, criminal ways? I mean, the United States government does a decent job of trampling free speech rights from time to time, but just about anything that doesn't involve child pron is fair game (I intentionally use a misspelling there, "pron," to avoid the kind of Google searches I'm not looking for).

Check out this list of games that were "refused classification" in Australia, which means they cannot be sold in the country:
  • Manhunt
  • Grand Theft Auto III
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude
  • and apparently various others...
I understand the "spirit of the law," as is commonly used when talking about sports in America. The idea is to prevent people deemed incapable of compartmentalizing the game's experience (read: kids) from purchasing the game without the approval of someone with the authority to judge that capacity (read: parent/guardian). But in Australia, it's not "kids" and "parent/guardian." It's "everyone" and "the Office of Film and Literature Classification." What kind of bizarre country doesn't believe its citizens can be trusted to act responsibly in response to violent or sexual imagery in a video game, or in anything for that matter? What a shallow life those people must live.

Grand Theft Auto isn't just a game in the U.S.; it's a whole phenomenon. It's spawned countless mimics, like Saints' Row (really fun game, by the way) and Tony Hawk's Underground 2. To think that the people of Australia are playing a different, toned down version of the game is troubling. As Americans, we think all the time about how many countries in the Middle East have oppressive laws, forcing the rules of their religion on the general populace. But it's a fair bet that most people in those countries are Muslims, and take their religion seriously, so the government is implementing laws that reflect the desires of its constituency.

It seems to actually be a little bit worse in a place like Australia, where most video games are okay. It's okay to be sort of violent, or sort of sexual, but there's a point (and an arbitrary one at that) beyond which you're not allowed to venture.

As an aside, the clips I saw of the game looked really interesting, and knowing now that it's considered particularly graphically violent, I'm going add it to my list of games to wait for to drop to $20-$30 and purchase. (I never buy anything new; I'm a cheapskate, remember?)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Oh Dear, the BCS Again.

What if.

Those two words are scaring the pants off of people who back the BCS system in college football. People who've resisted a playoff for one reason or another may have some reckoning coming their way this season, and if so, it's about time.

What if USF runs the table, and we're stuck putting them in the national championship game? What if more than 2 teams finish undefeated...again?

The BCS has always been purported as being the way to "finally" determine who the #1 team in the country is, and crown a national champion. The group that put together the BCS system acknowledged that the previous system was flawed. They realized that the system works better when fans, sportswriters, and players could feel confident that the team declared as "champion" deserved the moniker. Declaring a true national champion was (and still is) in the interest of the perpetuation of the sport.

But somewhere along the way, someone messed up. The current system still has bowl-style flaws. At the end of the year, only 2 teams get a shot at the national title. The path to the national title game passes through Columbus and Pasadena, but also passes through the evaluative minds of coaches, computers, and the American media machine. What sort of strange world do we live in where the championship decisions of a sport (even an "amateur" sport) are decided by people making guesses as opposed to playing head-to-head games, and getting your winners from their actions on the field?

"But Joe, the NCAA tournament uses a selection committee to determine who's eligible to play for the national championship." Right you are. In the end, even professional leagues have to make concessions; in the NFL, tie-breakers are used to determine playoff teams occasionally, and the tie-breakers are probably equally effective in choosing a playoff team when compared to a voting body of experts. But we're not talking about a field of two here. We're talking about a field of 12 in the NFL, or 65 in college basketball. We've acknowledged that it's inappropriate to have every team play every other team and hold a 300-team tournament at the end of the season. But we've also acknowledged that more than two teams are worthy of a chance.

Here's the kicker, a la Tim Cowlishaw on Around The Horn (and various others): "The college football regular season is essentially a playoff system. For the most part, it's 'win or go home' all year long." For the most part, yes, it's win or go home.

Except, Boise State went undefeated last year and never got a shot to get into the title game. So they defied logic, by winning and going home.

Except that Michigan's only loss last year was to #1 Ohio State by 3 points, but got squeezed out of the title game. (Don't talk to me about Michigan ending up losing in their bowl game and Florida winning the title; ask any poker player if the results justify the tactic, and they'll tell you the right move is always right, and the wrong move is always wrong, regardless of the results).

Except that, in 2004-2005, Auburn, Utah, and Boise State all went undefeated, and none of them were afforded the opportunity to play for the title.

Except...except....except....

Now look at this season. Right now, the following six teams are undefeated: Ohio State, South Florida, Boston College, Arizona State, Kansas, Hawaii. Of those six, five are in BCS conferences. Could we again be looking at a situation where an undefeated team from a top-caliber conference gets left out of a championship game? I wouldn't be surprised. Arizona State has a brutal schedule coming up, and Ohio State has some very loseable games, but there's a very real chance that we'll have 3-4 no-loss teams come bowl bid time.

And that's where the concept of the "year-long playoff" fails. In every other sport, if you never lose a game, you've got a shot at the title. College hoops, if you win every game, you earn an automatic bid, either through your season or your conference tournament. College football is the only sport where you can win every single game you play, and still be considered only the 4th best team at the end of the year. If it's a year-long playoff, then every undefeated team is still alive.

So BCS, I wish for you that Ohio State loses (I wish that for myself as well, just as a selfish Penn State fan), and all five of the other teams run the table. You'll get to enjoy Boston College vs. South Florida as your marquee title game matchup. You'll see Kansas vs. Arizona State in one of the other BCS bowls. Hawaii will take on South Carolina. Your ratings will go in the tube, and you'll keep paying $1.8 million to Notre Dame for the luxury of being able to include them in the BCS system.

Without question, a true playoff system is the answer. It vastly reduces the impact of politics, biases, and television exposure in the determination of who'll play for the title. Grab the top 16 BCS-rated teams, seed them according to ratings, and let 'em go at it. The fact that this is somehow difficult for college chancellors or athletic directors or anyone else to grasp is a testament to the total ignorance of the general American population.

I'll leave you with this. Beano Cook, ESPN analyst, said, "The BCS is college football's equivalent of prayer in school. There's always got to be a debate about it." He forgot to add, "It's something that only idiots think is right."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Evander Holyfield and the End of Boxing

So apparently Evander Holyfield lost a title fight this weekend in Russia. This should not come as any great surprise, as Holyfield is nearly 45 years old. However, the fact that he could even get a title fight speaks volumes about the sad state that boxing is in today.

It wasn't so long ago that Mike Tyson was the next big thing in boxing, and he plowed through the competition to achieve super-stardom, including a video game franchise. He had a couple of classic fights with Holyfield (even if one did end with an ear-biting incident), who then went on to fight the next big thing, Lennox Lewis. Lennox Lewis was a tremendous boxer who defeated everyone in his path, but then a funny thing happened: he quit.

The fact was, the competition in boxing by the time Lewis became champion was so weak that Lewis could never hope to reach the same level of stature as his predecessors. For there to be a Batman, there has to be a Joker. For anyone to claim to be elite at anything, they must be tested. And there were simply no valid tests for Lennox Lewis. So, rather than wait around for a new boxer to emerge while putting his body on the line against low-level competition, he retired.

At first I thought, "Why not just keep boxing, pulverizing each opponent and collecting a paycheck?" The reason, however, is that his paychecks would be smaller than those of previous champions, because nobody would be anticipating the possibility of Lewis losing. So he gets less money to fight less accomplished boxers, boxers who might try wild haymakers that could injure Lewis because they're so overmatched. Lewis made the right decision to preserve his long-term health.

The long-term health of boxing, however, is a different story. The heir apparent for boxing's fans is the mixed martial arts circuit, but there's something less elegant about MMA. Boxing drew fans from all walks of life, from the railroad worker and garbage man to the CEO and the MD. Because of this, massive amounts of gambling and widespread interest helped fuel the boxing industry. For the moment, the ultimate fighting world can't pull those kinds of numbers.

Will boxing die off? I doubt it. It will endure, just as horse racing and the Olympics have over the years. And there will always be an occasional story that floats up on SportsCenter or PTI, mentioning an old boxer doing something new, or a new boxer doing something exceptional. But the long-term prospects for renewed success are bleak.

It's too bad, really. The old times getting together at Lu's house for boxing matches with the guys, having Mrs. C cook up all sorts of goodies and Lu's dad bring down pizzas, those were great times back in the day. I'm not optimistic that boxing can recapture that kind of interest, but I'll keep hoping.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fable: The Lost Chapters

I finally completed the "expanded" version of Fable this past weekend. For those of you who've never played either version, it's similar to the original Legend of Zelda. You control your character with a 3rd-person Grand Theft Auto style point of view, and move him through various zones, killing enemies and completing quests. The general setting is a standard medieval realm with swords, bows, magic, etc.

The game has a series of gold (primary) quests that progress the story, as well as silver (optional) quests that become available at different times during the game. At a number of points during the story, specifically in determining how you complete quests or which optional quests you accept, you can choose to make "good" or "evil" decisions. While the big selling point of this game is how your experience changes based on your decisions, I didn't find the two paths to be substantially different, which was disappointing. If you spared character A, their assassins would come after you later. If you killed character A instead, character C's assassins would come after you. Small changes in dialogue don't constitute a unique gaming experience.

That being said, the game is enjoyable, as long as you're able to accept that you can't play it twice through as you might with other games that change more dramatically based on your decisions.

Now, to address the "Lost Chapters" portion. There is definitely additional content, scattered throughout the story as well as an extra set of quests after the end of the original game. While I don't think this extra content justifies a full-price purchase if you already own the first game, spending $20 at this point to get the updated version isn't a terrible idea, and if you don't own either, you definitely want to go with the Lost Chapters version, if only because it's simply a better economic decision. The additional 2-5 hours you'll spend playing the added pieces of the game for essentially the same price as the original is obviously worth it.

Overall, the Fable entity as a whole is a nice basis for a sequel (the upcoming but still a ways off Fable 2), for which I'm pretty excited. Fable 2 sounds like it will have greater player immersion, and hopefully they will have really deepened the impact of "good" and "evil" decisions throughout the game.

And if you're wondering, yes, I only play games that have been out at least a year. I'm still enjoying NCAA Football '05 and Madden '05.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Travis Johnson: Bonehead Extraordinaire

Travis Johnson, on the block thrown by Trent Green resulting in Green getting a concussion:

"It was uncalled for. He's like the scarecrow. He wants to get courage while I wasn't looking and hit me in my knee instead of trying to hit me in my head. God don't like ugly, you know what I mean?"

The scarecrow needed a brain; it was the cowardly lion who needed courage. Knee injuries are less serious than head injuries, so I don't know why Johnson says Green should've hit him in the head. And "God don't like ugly" is the most bizarre comment I think I've ever heard. The good news is that Johnson had the class to stand over Green's motionless body and taunt him, likely saying something like, "That's what you get for trying to block me!" What a horse's ass.

I'm not saying that Green was innocent; Tiki Barber and Cris Collinsworth said the hit was a "cheap shot," and they know more about football than I do (though Jerome Bettis said it was fair, and it's possible he knows more about football than the other two combined). But there's a funny thing about "cheap shots;" they're almost never illegal. If what Green did was a legal block, and I haven't heard anyone say Green deserved a flag for his block, then Travis Johnson needs to suck it up and take it like a man. You got blocked by a quarterback, son. Own up to that fact, and acknowledge that Trent Green got the better of you, instead of whining and bitching about it being "uncalled for." Christ.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Postseason Awards

I'd like to take this time to discuss the potential recipients of the American and National League postseason awards; that is, the winners of the MVP and Cy Young awards.

First, the AL MVP and NL Cy Young have already been wrapped up by Alex Rodriguez and Jake Peavy, respectively. You're welcome to look at the numbers yourself, but if you're any kind of baseball fan, you already know that those awards are locked.

So, let's move on to the other two awards, which are in fact wide open. I'm going to comment on players based on their Yahoo Fantasy Baseball rankings, which seems as valid an order as any to sort by. (Stats with *'s after them indicate league leaders).

NL MVP

1. Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies -
(.340*, 36 HR, 137 RBI*, 120 runs, 11 SB) The Rockies slid into the playoffs, winning 14 of 15 games to close the season, and Holliday was a huge part of that epic run. He hit 12 home runs and racked up 30 RBI in September to lead the Rockies to their first playoff appearance in years. Many people believed that the Rockies had to make the playoffs for Holliday to win the MVP award, which I think was unfair, but Colorado made the point moot. Holliday ought to be your NL MVP.

2. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins - (.332, 29 HR, 81 RBI, 125 runs, 51 SB) More reasonable as a fantasy MVP than a league MVP, Hanley continued to grow and impress in his second full season in the big leagues. But the Marlins will have to at least break .500 for one of their players to win the MVP award.

3. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies - (.296, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 139 runs*, 41 SB) Comparable to Hanley Ramirez, but on the Phillies, Rollins will get some consideration for the MVP award, but some of his potential votes may go to his teammate Ryan Howard. Rollins is another player who'll get more credit in fantasy circles than he will in MVP voting.

4. David Wright, New York Mets - (.325, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs, 34 SB) Wright had an extremely balanced season statistically, and had one of the better seasons for a 3B in recent memory. However, the only thing voters will remember is how the Mets crumbled in September, and Wright will end up as someone who just had another great season. He's a decent bet for a future MVP award, though.

5. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers - (.288, 50 HR*, 119 RBI, 109 runs, 2 SB) Fielder seemed primed to have a breakout season in 2007, and he certainly didn't disappoint, becoming the youngest player ever to hit 50 home runs in a season. Heading into September, Fielder was the favorite for the MVP award, but as Milwaukee fell in the standings and Colorado surged, Holliday took the lead. The voters will show Fielder some love, but playoff berths seem to be a prerequisite for most MVP winners.

Other impressive performers this season include Ryan Howard (47 HR, 136 RBI), Miguel Cabrera (.320, 34 HR, 119 RBI), and Jose Reyes (119 runs, 78 SB*).

But hold on a second. There's actually a player ranked in between Rollins and Wright: the aforementioned Jake Peavy. Peavy's numbers this year were absurd (19-6, 2.54 ERA, 240 Ks in 223.1 IP), and as I said, he's a lock for the Cy Young award. While many voters tend to shy away from selecting pitchers as their MVP winners, I would not be surprised nor would I be upset if Peavy received a substantial number of votes for his tremendous season. I do think that it's probably time to establish the MVP awards as solely for hitters, but until that happens, the elite pitchers deserve consideration for the MVP awards.

My prediction: Matt Holliday, probably in a landslide, with Prince Fielder garnering most of the #2 votes.

AL Cy Young

1. J.J. Putz, Seattle Mariners - (6-1, 40 saves, 1.38 ERA, 82 Ks in 71.2 IP) It's rare that a closer gets much consideration for Cy Young awards; it really only happens when a closer has a year that defies logic. While Putz had a very nice season, it's not a season so rare to see out of a closer. You'll find similar statistics out of Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan, so don't look for Putz to grab any first place votes for Cy Young.

2. Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins - (15-13, 3.33 ERA, 235 Ks in 219 IP) In most fantasy baseball leagues, losses carry no punishment, which is how a guy with 13 losses ends up #2 on the list. Santana was certainly a very nice pitcher this year, but the high number of losses, combined with the expectations of so much more out of Santana because of his previous performances, will keep him on the outside looking in when it comes to the Cy Young award.

3. C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland Indians - (19-7, 3.21 ERA, 209 Ks in 241 IP*) Finally a real legitimate Cy Young candidate. His 19 wins were tied for second most in the American League, and he pitched more innings than anyone else in the majors. He was the ace for a Cleveland team that finally started to perform after a few disappointing years.

4. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox - (20*-7, 3.27 ERA, 194 Ks in 200.2 IP) What's funny here is that the one win difference between Beckett and Sabathia (likely explainable due to the difference between Papelbon and Joe Borowski as closers) will end up being the difference between a Cy Young award and second place. The fact is, the 20-win mark is still a very big deal in all baseball circles. While Sabathia's complementary numbers are at least as good as Beckett's, the Red Sox' ace will likely bring home the gold.

5. Erik Bedard, Baltimore Orioles - (13-5, 3.16 ERA, 221 Ks in 182 IP) I considered skipping Bedard because of his low win total and the Orioles' failures this season, but absolutely worth mentioning is his ridiculous K/IP ratio. Not even the incomparable Jake Peavy can touch Bedard when it comes to his strikeout frequency. If the Orioles can repair their bullpen and develop a couple other starters to go with Bedard, Baltimore could be a solid team, and even if they're only a few games above .500, Bedard could demand reckoning as a Cy Young candidate like Santana has for the Twins over the years.

6. John Lackey, Anaheim Angels (I will never call them by that ridiculous conglomerate of a name they've given themselves) - (19-9, 3.01 ERA*, 179 Ks in 224 IP) Very solid numbers, but again, missing out on that 20th win will cost him 1st place votes to Beckett, and in the end, it'll be between 19-game winners Sabathia, Lackey, and Wang to fight for 2nd place. The strikeouts from Lackey and Sabathia should force Wang into 4th, but never underestimate the power of the New York media.

7. Dan Haren, Oakland Athletics - (15-9, 3.07 ERA, 192 Ks in 222.2 IP) Haren is unlikely to get much consideration outside of the later votes (4th, 5th, 6th place votes), but he had a very nice season. More importantly, he sports a beard as thick as my own, and that counts for something in my heart.

My prediction: Josh Beckett by a solid margin, with Sabathia, Wang, and Lackey
very close to each other for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively.


Now go watch some playoff baseball. It'll do wonders for your back pain and migraine headaches. Wait, don't quote me on that, I'm not a doctor.

But it might help. :)

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Mets

Wow. You know, if...

No, you know what? There's really not much else you can say. Just, wow. Big time choke.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...