Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 MLB Awards (by the other Joe)

Open for debate? I'm not sure what you are talking about Joe because here are the correct answers (including Manager of the Year, because you, the reader, demand it):

AL MVP - Cliff Lee - My choice of Lee has as much to do with his incredible season as it does with the lack of a offensive front runner. A-Rod, Kevin Youklis and Carlos Quentin put up very similar stats, Josh Hamilton really slowed down in the second half of the season, Miguel Cabrera didn't find his power stroke until July and on top of all of that Milton 'freaking' Bradley led the AL in OPS. Lee, on the other hand, was definitely the best pitcher in AL, leading the league in wins and ERA. Looking at the big picture, the Cleveland Indians finished the year at 81-81, but were 24-7 in games in which Lee pitched. So let me put that another way, the Indians were 57-74 when Cliff Lee wasn't on the mound. Lee single handedly kept 2008 from being a complete disaster for an Indians team that was one game from advancing to the World Series in 2007 and if that isn't the definition of an MVP then I don't know what is.

AL Cy Young - Cliff Lee - See above

AL Rookie of the Year - Evan Longoria - Brad Ziegler had a nice year (making his debut on the last day of May), but didn't have nearly enough innings. Longoria's homer and RBI totals, along with on-base and slugging percentages that are much higher than Alexei Ramirez, make him the AL's best first year player.

AL Manager of the Year - Joe Maddon - Took the Rays from worst to first in the AL East by winning 34 more games in 2008 than in the previous season. Oh yeah, Tampa Bay has the second lowest payroll in the majors.

NL MVP - Albert Pujols - Your choice for NL MVP really comes down to what type of baseball fan you are. If you are a fan of eye-popping numbers, it's Ryan Howard and his 48 HR and 146 RBI. If you are a fan of percentages, it Albert Pujols by a mile. Pujols lead the majors in OPS and slugging percentage and trailed only Chipper Jones in batting average and on-base percentage. While Pujols did not benefit from an explosive offense or a tiny ballpark, he was simply the best hitter in the game. Want more proof that Pujols was the best hitter in the game, the well-traveled Ryan Ludwick raked 37 homers and 113 RBI in the coveted lineup spot behind big Al.

NL Cy Young - Tim Lincecum - Wrong again Joe. A pitcher's job isn't "to win games", it's to put your team in a position to win games. Since pitchers have relatively little impact on the offensive side of the game, all they can do is limit what the opposing hitters do and nobody in the NL did that more consistently than Tim Lincecum in 2007. Lincecum led the league in strikeouts, opponents batting average and winning percentage, while finishing second in ERA and quality starts (at least 6 innings, no more than 3 runs). Brandon Webb had a better offense behind him, but does that make him a better pitcher than Lincecum? My answer is no.

NL Rookie of the Year - Geovany Soto - Good with the stick, good with the glove and good with one of the NL's best pitching staffs.

NL Manager of the Year - Fredi Gonzalez - I'm not going to lie to you, I had no idea who the Marlins manager was and I'm guessing you probably didn't either. Gonzalez, who took over when the Marlins canned Joe Girardi after 2006, led baseball's lowest payroll to a 84 win season, no small feat.

2008 MLB Award Winners (by Big Joe)

Alright folks, the regular seasons have finally come to a close, and just like the AL Central and NL Wild Card, most of the league awards races came down to the wire and are open for debate. Of course, here at Joe & Joe Sports, we don't leave things open for debate; we take a stand and make a pick. So here we go, my picks for each of the three major awards in each league for the 2008 season (I decided not to pick a manager of the year; sue me):

AL MVP - Alex Rodriguez - I'm sure you'd all like this to be someone else, but the numbers are there. And before you go shouting about "They didn't make the playoffs!", tell me who you'd like to give the award to. Among playoff teams, you'd be looking at Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, and I just don't see it in either of them. Josh Hamilton was definitely the 1st half MVP, but the award is for the whole season. A-Rod is my pick.

AL Cy Young - Cliff Lee - This became more of a race at the end than I realized, but I'm still giving the nod to Cliff Lee. Lee led the league in ERA, wins, winning percentage, tied for the lead in shutouts, was second in complete games, and was in the top 10 in Ks. Worth mentioning, though, is Roy Halladay, who had a great season in his own right, notching 20 wins, more Ks than Lee, and placing first in complete games with 9, more than double the second place Lee (4).

AL Rookie of the Year - Evan Longoria - The only real no-brainer in the bunch. Chicago's Alexei Ramirez put together a nice season, but Longoria was perhaps the best hitter on the historic Rays team that's become everybody's darling outside of the northeast corridor.

NL MVP - Albert Pujols - Lance Berkman was the likely winner for the first 4 months of the season, but Pujols climbed steadily into the discussion (as he always does). Then, when Berkman went cold for the last two months, Pujols hit stride and brought his batting average all the way up to .357, finishing second behind Chipper Jones. Pujols led the majors in slugging percentage, and proved once again that he's one of the greatest hitters of our time.

NL Cy Young - Brandon Webb
- Listen, Tim Lincecum is a great pitcher. So is Johan Santana, and so is Cole Hamels. But none of them are 20-game winners, and Webb is. In fact, Webb is a 22-game winner, tying him for the major league lead with the aforementioned Lee. Webb also had a solid K rate and a good ERA and WHIP. In terms of Ks, and ERA, and WHIP, all three of those guys were better than Webb. But nobody came close to him in wins, and when you're a starting pitcher, your job is to win games, and Webb did that better than anyone this year.

One final note. If we were naming the fantasy Cy Young, Webb would be behind Lincecum, Lee, Halladay, and C.C Sabathia. But as far as major league pitchers go, the wins are far more important than they are in fantasy. PS: Sabathia had a 1.65 ERA for the Brewers, and pitched seven complete games in 17 starts. He should get 2nd and 3rd place votes; he pitched like a champion.

NL Rookie of the Year - Geovany Soto - The Cubs boast the best record in the NL, and Soto's quick maturity to an everyday productive catcher is a large part of that success. Soto finished right up there in production with the best NL catchers, like Brian McCann and Bengie Molina. Moreover, the Cubs' pitching staff did its best work in years, and some of that credit has to go to Soto. Well done, young buck.

I'm sure BizJoe will have his own dissenting opinions, but until then, I'm the boss, applesauce.

My Rock Band 2 Band Is Made Up Of Former Wrestlers

You would think that the title pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the situation, and you might be right. But I'm going to tell you more.

My band in the original game was a hodgepodge, including Dr. Heimlich (a Southern rock guitarist from Berlin), Sticks McGee (a punk drummer), Dylan (a hillbilly off-the-street singer), and joe2 (a hastily created second guitarist). I also had a female singer, "Chick," created for when girls wanted to join in. That band was fine, and I'm not mad about the way it turned out. But I felt like I was under-utilizing the options the game gives for customizing characters. Then, while visiting the other Joe (from Joe & Joe Sports), he told me his band would be called Donnybrooks, and the members of his band would be assorted trouble-making baseball players.

I liked the idea of having a themed band, and since I've recently been reading about and watching a lot of old wrestlers, I decided it was as valid a theme as any. I was a little worried about how well I'd be able to execute the idea at first, so I started with perhaps the most recognizable face in wrestling history, Hulk Hogan. And I've got to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to craft the Hulkster. The key was the bald top/long around the sides hairstyle. I combined that with a chopper mustache, and I'm looking forward to hearing what people think of it when they see him.

Second on the list was "Macho Man" Randy Savage. I used the same haircut for Savage, but a full beard instead, and made it all black. Savage is also shorter and leaner, and when I get some money together from touring, I'll buy him some sunglasses and a hot pink outfit with a hot pink cowboy hat. It's gonna kick ass.

I've added three more band members for now: Ric Flair, Honky Tonk Man, and UltimateWarrior (so named because I didn't have enough characters to put a space in between the words). I've got face paint on the warrior, as well as tattoos that sort of look like the streamers he'd wear around his biceps.

The band name: The Ring Ropes. See you at the show.

Redskins Report Card: Week 4 vs. Dallas Cowboys

Redskins 26, Cowboys 24

Offense: B+

It's still not a dominant offense, but the more frequently you score enough points to win, the better it looks. And, the longer this win streak lasts, the more (justifiably) confident Jason Campbell will be. There's something special about knowing you can make a pass, as opposed to thinking you can make a pass. Knowers: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre. Thinkers: Jon Kitna, Derek Anderson, Gus Frerotte. To be fair, however, Tarvaris Jackson is also a knower, and Eli Manning is a thinker. But generally, I'd rather my quarterback were overconfident than a quivering mass of indecision. I'm looking your way, David Carr.

This marked the fourth game (out of four) in which the offense had no turnovers. I know, it's not like I expect to go all season without a fumble or interception, but Jacksonville showed us last year that if you hold onto the football and play good defense, you can put yourself into a position to win a lot of games. And Jacksonville didn't have any wide receiver play as well as Santana Moss is playing right now. So it's not unreasonable to be a little optimistic about how this season might go.

I probably owe an apology to Clinton Portis. I've been loathe to give him praise because I don't care for his attitude, and because he doesn't seem to have the breakaway ability we see in some of the elite backs around the league. But Portis is a workhorse, picking up 21+ carries in each game this season, and he dashed for 121 yards in the Cowboys game. He's still not an elite back, but he's plenty effective for what the 'Skins want to do on offense.

And good lord, Santana Moss is playing like he wants to smack me in the face for saying he wasn't a #1 receiver. He's getting open all over the place, snagging everything within his reach, and just generally playing like a superstar. Maybe I should start bashing Antwaan Randle El, see if we can get some legitimate production out of him.

By the way, the Skins' first touchdown, a pass to James Thrash, was one of the most entertaining plays I've seen in a while, and most of the action was before the snap. Thrash went in motion, followed by his man-to-man cover on the defense. Thrash tried to switch directions quickly but slipped, so the defender was able to stay with him. Then Thrash switched directions again and the defender slipped this time. Campbell hiked the ball and Thrash was wide open for a touchdown. It was beautiful.

The offense did get stifled four times inside the red zone and had to settle for field goals, which can be frustrating. But it really seems like this team accepts that field goals aren't exactly a failure, since you're still getting points, and this Washington group seems much less deflated than teams in the past had when they had to settle for 3. Points are points; you'd like more if you could get them, but adding any points to your total is always a good thing.

Defense: B+

Here's the deal. I'm giving the Redskins a bump on their defensive rating because they were able to keep the potent Cowboys offense in check for most of the game. However, I still have concerns. For some reason, Dallas only ran the ball 11 times, while passing the ball 47 times. The game was competitive throughout, but the Cowboys stayed predictably pass-heavy, and seemed to pay the price. It's not like the 'Skins have some crazy offense that forces opponents into constant passing situations. Someone is going to figure out that the run defense is suspect, and they'll be in for a fight.

Chris Horton picked up another interception, and this one wasn't a lucky bounce; he made a great read and jumped in front of the pattern to make a play. I like Reed Doughty as well, and I think instead of trying to make a thing about which one should start, they should both get plenty of snaps. With the cornerbacks constantly getting injured, working in a third safety instead of an extra corner might be the best way to have your top talent on the field. (I think the Redskins already do this, I believe it's called their "Cobra" package).

Special Teams: B

Shaun Suisham hit four field goals under 40 yards, which you could say is easy, but that's what he's supposed to do. He didn't miss any field goals, so he did all you can ask for. The return game was still unimpressive, but Randle El looked better this week than he's looked all season, so maybe there's reason to be optimistic. Kickoff coverage was very good, except for the one where they seemed to intentionally kick it high and short. But they seemed to learn from that mistake (which Troy Aikman happily pointed out multiple times; fuckin' Cowboys), and kicked it deep each time after that.

Overall: A-

How does the team get an A- when they didn't have any rankings that high in any of the different categories? Because they beat Dallas. The Redskins played well, definitely well enough to win, and although it was still a close game, they came out on top. They were 11.5 point underdogs, and they've historically had a lot of trouble in Texas Stadium. It was a huge victory, and for that they get bonus points.

I'm trying to temper my excitement, but the reality is that this Washington team is starting to look very good. They play a very good Philadelphia team next Sunday, but after that they've got St. Louis, Cleveland, and Detroit. A 6-2 start to the season is definitely reasonable, and 7-1 isn't out of the question. Things get tougher after that, but if you can win at Dallas, you can win anywhere, anytime.

Player of the Game: Jason Campbell, 20/31 for 231 yards, 2 TD, 0 turnovers (again)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ravens @ Steelers - Flacco Do or Die

It's only the beginning of an incredibly young QB career for the Ravens rookie QB. However, this evening's Monday Night Football showdown will be the foreshadowing of Joe Flacco's career with the Ravens, and quite possibly as an NFL quarterback.

Up to this point, Joe Flacco has been tossed into the quarterback position sooner than his coaches would have liked. He has not been incredibly spectacular with 28 completions with 48 attempts (58.3%) for 258 yards and 2 interceptions. Don't be deceived by the INTs though. One was a ball tipped by his wide receiver, and the other was a well-defensed trick play. On a quick side note, he was an idiot for even throwing the flea-flicker bomb. It was a poorly drawn up trick play with only one option (that was triple covered) that didn't work. He has been managing the game, getting first downs, and minimizing turnovers. This is a big reason why the Ravens are currently 2-0 going into tonight's game. The other reason is because they played teams that are currently a combined 1-7 (Cleveland and Cincinnati).

Now to the Rite of Passage part:

The Ravens have only won at Pittsburgh twice since they won the Super Bowl in 2000. One of those wins was in the 2000-2001 season. Randall Cunningham (remember him?) squeeked by with a 13-10 victory, 14/22 passing for 158 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. Not exactly a great game. Cunningham was the backup for the great Elvis Grbac. It was a semi-successful season for the Ravens though. They entered the play-offs with a wild card bid, beat Miami that first weekend, just to lose at Pittsburgh in the divisional round. The second victory came in the 2005-2006 season. This was during Steve McNair's first year with the team, where the Ravens managed a 13-3 season. McNair threw 2 INTs, but that was the only low point. The Ravens blew the Steelers away 31-7 to help them earn a bye for the first week of the play-offs. McNair couldn't repeat the performance though. The next year, Pittsburgh returned the whooping with a 38-7 victory. McNair's 63 yards on 13/22 attempts and an INT led a floundering offense that couldn't get anything going.

Ravens quarterbacks have been known to have a hard time in Pittsburgh, and I don't see this time being any different. I will be closely watching Flacco's play tonight. If he plays well enough to win the game, it will not only be a rare feat, but it will hopefully give everyone an idea as to where this kid is going as an NFL quarterback. If he falls apart, then we can all chalk this up as another blown Ravens 1st round pick.

Its an early test, but if Flacco wants to be the Ravens' starting quarterback, he's going to have to get used to playing in Pittsburgh and he's going to have to perform. You can't transfer from Pittsburgh every year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wild Card Weekend

The Mets are in a rain delay. It's reasonable to think that, should the game be played today, it will be starting between now and 2:00, or perhaps 2:05, when the Brewers game starts. Coincidence? Maybe. But having those two games come into the late innings at the same time is about the only way regular-season baseball could compete with an NFL Sunday.

Well played, baseball.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So I've Been Playing.... - Animal Crossing (GameCube)

I tweaked the title of the new feature a little bit to accommodate games that I've played in the past (and thus would not have "just started" playing), but have given renewed attention. The main reason is that this game, Animal Crossing, is one such game.

First of all, it's ridiculous. The game is ridiculous. Your character is a human with some kind of horns or something, maybe a demon? I don't know, but you're like a little kid and not evil at all. Anyways, you move to a new town and get a house and get to know your neighbors. Not like that, sicko, it's rated E. Your neighbors, of course, are different kinds of animals, from elephants to alligators to dragons, as well as the more pedestrian cats, dogs, and chickens.

Your character spends the majority of his/her time running around doing errands, like delivering items for the various animals of your town, fishing, catching bugs, picking up seashells, etc. You can sell most items at the local mart, and use that money to buy furniture for your pad. There's also a museum that houses local fauna, priceless art, and fossils. To dig up fossils, you need a shovel. To catch fish or bugs, you need a fishing pole or a net, respectively. And to acquire art, you just have to buy it or get it from someone for doing one of their errands.

The game sounds a bit simplistic, and truth be told, it is pretty simple. But there's something about the small sense of accomplishment you get when you pay off your mortgage, or complete a T-Rex skeleton, or catch a rare fish, that keeps me going back to the game over and over.

While there's no true multiplayer option, you can have up to four characters living in your village, and there are a number of small, fun ways your characters can interact. You can make posts on the local bulletin board, place signs in the ground and write on them, write letters to each other, and put items in your "gyroid" (a helper robot that manages the business related to your house) to make them available for other players to purchase. Additionally, the animals in the town will gossip about other characters ("Where has player B been?", "Check out this letter Player D sent me!", etc). A little personality gets added to the game when other people live in your town.

It's a pretty cheap game these days, so if you've already got a GameCube or a Wii and it sounds interesting, it's worth checking out. Also, there's this story, which tugs at the heart-strings just a little bit. It probably won't (and shouldn't) affect whether or not you want to play the game; it's just something for you mushes out there.

Buffalo Wings & Beer

First, let me start by saying that the combination of eating buffalo wings and drinking beer is solid. I have no issue with the combination of food and drink, and I like buffalo wings, and I enjoy the occasional beer.

My issue is with the Gaithersburg bar/restaurant that goes by the name, "Buffalo Wings & Beer." I say specifically the Gaithersburg one because I haven't been to any of the others, but my guess is they all suffer from the same weaknesses. The most amazing part is that their weakness is not food quality or service, the two most likely culprits when a meal is ruined. The weakness is in their policies, policies that make you feel like they're really out to get you. And it's not a stretch to think that they might actually be out to get you.

First off, they don't offer free refills on sodas. This has become such a convention in restaurants that it's literally shocking for a place to not have that feature. And the sodas are fountain sodas, not bottles, so it's even more puzzling. Normally this would be bad but not unbearable, as you can just get a water. But at BWB, they also don't offer water at no charge. The only water they make available to customers is bottled water, at a cool $1 apiece. Feel like you're getting screwed yet? Sit tight, we're just getting started.

Their menu says the following phrase word-for-word underneath the wing prices and flavors:
  • Wings are served with either Blue Cheese or Ranch Dressing, Two Celery Sticks and Two Carrot Sticks
  • Extras.......................... .75
My brother and I went in on Tuesday and got FOUR orders of wings, and we each got 1 small cup of ranch dressing, and we were charged $0.75 apiece for those two small cups. And not by mistake. That's just how these guys do business.

Speaking of Tuesday, we went in because they have a "deal" (you'll understand the reason for the quotes in a second) where you buy one pound of wings and get a second pound free. The second pound has to be the same flavor, and I have no problem with that. You can't get them boxed up, and I suppose I understand that; I'm sure their hope is that the deal brings people in who will buy drinks. But here's the kicker: you can't share. So if you want to take advantage of the deal, you have to get two pounds of wings yourself, or not get any. They're kind enough to let you share if everyone at the table gets their own double-order; what a bunch of sweethearts.

One last issue that didn't affect me personally but I found laughable was their list of lunchtime specials. You can get an order of a number of appetizers for about half of the normal price. Of course, these orders only contain about half of the food as the regular orders (5 cheese sticks vs. 10, 2 chicken tenders vs. 5, 4 broccoli cheese balls vs. 7). Also, there's a two drink minimum. FOR LUNCH. I'm fully convinced that the only people who can go to this place and not get pissed off are alcoholics.

It's a shame they have such an awful sense of customer relations, because the food is good. The wings are large and flavorful, and despite all of my nay-saying, it's still a valid place to grab some carryout wings from. But don't let them suck you into their den of deceit. You'll walk away angry, or walk away with blood on your hands. Or both. Probably both.

However, in my magnanimity, I've decided to come up with a new marketing strategy for BWB. I like to help even the most villainous of restaurants. So here you go:

Buffalo Wings & Beer: A place that sucks.

Short, catchy, effective. Lock it up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Redskins Report Card - Week 3 vs. Arizona Cardinals

Redskins 24, Cardinals 17

Offense: B-

I got some criticism on my B+ rating for the Skins' offense last week, so I spent this week's game really trying to be critical. I wanted to make sure I wasn't skewing my opinion based on the happiness I was feeling in seeing Washington win. So I made sure to take note of offensive miscues. Problem is, of course, that the Redskins had zero turnovers on Sunday. Jason Campbell had a play where he tripped over his lineman and he just bailed on the play instead of getting up and trying to make a play, but hell, that goes wrong half the time anyways, so I can't be mad about him playing it safe.

Well, that's not entirely true. In the second Joe Gibbs era in Washington, they played it too safe too often. So in that period, I would've been mad about Campbell playing it safe, because the whole offensive strategy was "play it safe." In the Jim Zorn offense, however, the play-calling has been aggressive and confident, so the occasional conservative play isn't a tragedy.

I've been assured by a former football player that this isn't the case, but Clinton Portis looked slow on Sunday. He averaged only 3.2 yards per carry, and didn't have a rush for 10 or more yards. He was able to punch in a touchdown from three yards out, but I'm starting to think more and more that the offensive line he was so quick to throw under the bus is the reason he's getting any yards at all. And more and more I'm thinking that Marcus Mason probably should've made the team. Still, the Skins picked up 11 first downs on the ground, so they're doing what they need to do to keep drives going.

The passing game was good, not great. The Skins still seem to be missing that wild card receiver who randomly gets 50-yard catches. Devin Thomas could be that guy if he can ever get his head on straight, but it's a shame that their first pick in the 2008 draft couldn't figure more into the offense than one seven-yard catch. Eventually people are going to realize that Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are the only receiving threats on this team, and they'll be in trouble, but until then, I say keep going to the well.

The best part of the game? The two kneel-downs at the end. I forgot how much I like seeing my favorite team kneel at the end of a game.

Defense: B

For the second time in two weeks, the Redskins defense has faced a prolific offense and held them just low enough to get the victory. The real key was keeping the Cardinals' passing game in check, which they did by holding Kurt Warner to 53% completions. They got an interception and a fumble recovery, and those two turnovers led to 10 points. The interception in particular was a huge momentum shift, giving the Skins the ball on Arizona's 15 yard line, and letting Moss score on a screen pass two plays later.

I'm still worried about Washington's rushing defense, though. The Skins gave up 5 yards a carry to Edgerrin James and rookie Tim Hightower, the second game out of three in which the opposition's running backs averaged 5 yards a carry. If they're to have any chance against Dallas next weekend, they'll have to tighten up that rushing defense. Otherwise, the thunder and lightning combination of Marion Barber and the explosive Felix Jones might allow Tony Romo to never throw a pass.

Special Teams: C

Shaun Suisham hit a 48-yard field goal, missed a 52-yarder. He also failed to force a touchback on any kickoffs, something of a disappointment after last week's fantastic kickoffs. The coverage teams, however, made up for it. The Cardinals started six different drives inside their own 20-yard line. Anytime you can force your opponent to drive 80+ yards, you're putting your defense in a good position to be successful.

The return game was unimpressive, specifically on punts, which has been an issue all season. They even tried Moss on a punt return to jump start the return game, though it ended up being a fair catch. At least they're trying something. When your offense isn't a powerhouse, and your defense has holes, you've got to make some plays in special teams, so I like that they're trying out some different personnel to see what they can do.

Overall: B

Am I terrified about the trip to Dallas next week? Yes, a little bit terrified. But at least my guys will be going in there 2-1 and with some confidence that they can beat this team. If they can handle themselves on the rushing defense, I think Romo is mistake-prone enough that the Skins can capitalize and make a game of it. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch.

Player of the Game: Jason Campbell, 22/30, 193 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers

Friday, September 19, 2008

So I Just Started Playing... - Crysis

I've decided to make a new feature for this blog (since it seemed like a good idea for my other blog). This feature will highlight some game that I've started to play a lot recently, or CD I've started to listen to, or movie I've watched. It won't be isolated to new products, mostly because I generally don't see movies in the theater, don't like new music, and don't buy games new. But that means that you'll mostly see me comment on things that you've heard of or tried out yourself, so hopefully it'll result in a little more discussion.

If you're worried that this will replace the halls of fame, you're right to be worried. This will replace the halls of fame. The reality is that, without a gallery and bronze busts of the inductees (or at least a list somewhere), there's just not much reason to keep it up. I could make the lists or fashion the busts, but we both know I have neither the motivation nor the tendency to succumb to modest peer pressure to do that.

So anyways, let's get to work. Crysis. When the game first came out, it was highly thought of for being an exceptional work of programming, specifically when it comes to graphics. Unfortunately for many PC gamers at the time of Crysis' release, the hardware demands made by this game prevented many from playing it at all, and prevented most from being able to really enjoy the full capacity of graphics that the game offers. But I just got a brand new computer with high-level components, so I've been able to see the game as it was intended, and let me tell you; it's spectacular.

All of the character models are solid, but you find solid character models in a lot of games. The explosions are very good, but again, not unique to Crysis. Yes, you can fell trees and blow up shacks, but the most impressive part visually is actually the terrain. The entire wilderness moves all the time, leaves rustling, seagulls scampering, and water running. This might seem small, but I assure you, it's huge. In most games up until now, you could find your enemies simply by scanning the horizon for movement or waiting to hear anything other than music. But when every bush and blade of grass is moving, and when there are fluctuations in environmental sound based on wind and wild animals, it's a much more difficult (and realistic) task to stay alive.

The gameplay is fun, similar to Halo in a lot of ways, but a little more realistic. Your character is a super soldier from a couple decades into the future, rather than a couple centuries. The actual tasks are relatively similar; you have to travel through the jungle, picking off or eliminating patrols, making your way to some landmark where you get information or take out a target. But it's such a beautiful terrain, and the game is pretty tough, so each leg of your journey is a new challenge.

The most unique part of the gameplay is the ability to gear your nanosuit to allow you to do different things. The default setting is for it to act as armor, giving you an extra health bar. You can also set it to stealth (cloaking you from your enemies), speed (giving you extraordinary running speed, useful for escaping), and strength (increasing the power of your melee attacks and giving you the ability to jump high in the air).

You can also customize your weapons, adding silencers, sights, and scopes, and switching between different kinds of ammunition. You can carry two rifle-class weapons, so you can have one long-range, non-silenced, scoped weapon, and one with normal sights and a silencer for eliminating enemies with a bit of discretion. Coupling a silenced submachine gun with the stealth nanosuit option makes for some enjoyable, movie-style assaults.

I like the game a lot. I'm not going to break it down into different categories, because different games will have different relevant categories. So I'll just give it a base-100 rating (and I'll do this for all of these kinds of posts).

Final Score: 93

Ed Hochuli - Human?

Joe & Joe Sports is excited to offer yet another piece of breaking sports news. We have confirmed with sources familiar with the situation that NFL referee Ed Hochuli is in fact a human being, and not a cyborg, built for melee combat and roughing the passer calls, as has been suggested in the past. Turns out, he requires calories for sustenance, breathes Earth air, and has virtually no interest in storing electricity in his legs and abdomen.

Jesus Christ, people. The guy is a referee who made a bad call. We've seen hundreds of them. You'll see five or six a game, and a few more no calls. People talked about it on Monday, that's understandable. People talked about it on Tuesday, which was a little weird because of how explosive a game we had on Monday night, but fans will be fans, I guess. But it's Friday. There are some fantastic matchups coming up this weekend, including Steelers/Eagles, Cowboys/Packers, and a Vikings team that needs a win more than anybody taking on Carolina, who's 2-0 and is about to get their best player back in Steve Smith.

But if you go to ESPN.com (which I try not to do; what a jumbled up mess that page is), Hochuli being "devastated" is the second story under "news." What is wrong with sports fans where they won't just let a regular season referee mistake get chalked up as exactly that? It was a blown call, and it happens. Getting crazy and demanding recourse is just stupid.

Even stupider, however, are the comments that people have made this week. Chip told me that Michael Wilbon suggested that the whistle not be the end of a play anymore. What? Are you insane? If you don't use the whistle as the end of a play, then everyone will get hurt every week, because nobody will stop playing. The whistle has to be the end of the play. The only thing you can do is tell your referees, "Don't blow the whistle unless you're sure." Seems reasonable, right? Seems like a way to be sure that you get every call correct, right? And isn't that what we're all really interested in anyways, getting the calls right and letting the game be settled by the players' abilities to succeed within the rules?

The real problem here isn't Hochuli. It isn't even the situation with the whistle, not directly at least. The reason you have to blow the whistle as soon as you're ready to make a call is the flawed replay system in football. Coaches make challenges? They get two opportunities to challenge a play, and if they're right on both, they get a third. So we know that there are never more than 3 close plays in a game? Oh, and they're tied to timeouts, so if you burn your timeouts early, then you could get screwed at the 6-minute mark and have no recourse. A wrong call is upheld because of a technicality. Americans hate technicalities, they often vote in elections based on which candidate says he'll eliminate more loopholes.

I don't understand the bogus idea that the decision to review plays should be in the hands of a coaching staff. They took the concept from the American legal system, where the lawyers make objections and the judge interprets the law. But in a courtroom, there's no limit on the number of objections a lawyer can make, even if you get a few overruled. The instant replay system was implemented because fans wanted to see more plays called correctly. The limitation is supposed to prevent the game from going on too long, but I honestly don't think fans would care if the game was a half hour longer and they got every call right. With the current system, challenges give both fans and commentators a chance to catch up, and give them something to discuss. Reviews are good television.

Here's the deal. Replays should be completely out of the hands of the coaching staffs. The NFL makes enough money that they should be able to hire a couple more referees for each game who review every play as it happens and signal down if the play needs to be reviewed. I've thought this was the system they should use since they started using instant replay; I was right then, and I'm right now. Getting the calls correct has to be the #1 priority.

Back to the earlier point, the reason referees have to make a call on a fumble or an incomplete pass is that they can't just not make a call and force a review every time, because you'll have coaches burning their challenges and timeouts early, and that changes the complexion of the game. The way to keep football clean is to give the league control over the review process, as it should always have been.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Steelers Report Card - Week 2 - Browns

Final Score: Steelers 10, Browns 6

Same old Cleveland Browns? Maybe, maybe not. The Steelers were able to squeak out a victory to improve to 2-0 on the season and sit alone on top of the division with Baltimore still having to play their second game. Ben Roethlisberger was able to muster enough strength out of his injured shoulder (i highly doubt he has an A-C separation) to lead the Steelers to the win and threw the game's only TD pass to Hines Ward in the first half. Willy Parker continued his dominance against the Brownies with another 100+ yard rushing effort and the defense made big stops when they had to and held the Browns to only two field goals. This game might have been more about missed opportunities and costly turnovers by Cleveland than it was about Pittsburgh's efforts, but a win is a win. Here's the breakdown.

Offense: B

As stated, Parker led the attack with 105 yards on the night and had two key runs late in the game for first-downs that put the game on ice. Roethlisberger was good, not great... but very efficient in sloppy, windy conditions that made it difficult to throw the ball down field. He was 12/19 for 186 yards and 1 TD. The key is that he did not turn the ball over, which in inclement weather will usually win you football games. Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward each turned in nice performances catching the ball and the offensive line looked solid for the majority of the game.

Defense: B

The defense performed admirably, only giving up 6 points in the game. They were able to force 2 crucial turnovers which were basically the difference in the game. Troy Polamalu played a particularly spirited game and seemed to be all over the field. He was able to keep Kellen Winslow Jr. in check throughout the game, obviously frustrating him at times. Polamalu also made the game-changing interception in the redzone at the end of the first-half on what was a terrible decision by Browns' QB Derek Anderson. The Steelers completely shut down Jamal Lewis who only managed 38 yards on 19 carries in weather than was far more conducive to running the football than it was for throwing. Aaron Smith sacked Anderson twice during the game and seemed to play the whole game on Cleveland's side of the line of scrimmage.

Special Teams: A-

The best player on the field last season for Cleveland versus the Steelers was Josh Cribbs. The Steelers punt/kickoff cover teams did a fantastic job in not letting Cribbs get anything going all night. The Steelers won the field-position battle all night and Jeff Reed made a long field-goal in swirling winds that put the steelers up by 10 points. They still have not had any good returns, but the wind was such a factor that staying away from the ball on punt returns may have been the best strategy to avoid fumbles.

Overall Grade: B

The Steelers play the toughest schedule in the NFL this year and the sexy pick to win the division this preseason was Cleveland. The Steelers have a very early 2-game lead on the Browns in the division and a tremendously important head-to-head win tie-breaker. The two teams don't meet again until week 17 in Pittsburgh in what assuredly will be a snowy and blistery day. Next week the Steelers travel to Philadelphia to play a good Eagles team coming off of a tough loss in the MNF thriller to the Dallas Cowboys.

Player of the Game: Troy Polamalu with 4 tackles, a huge INT and great coverage on Kellen Winslow Jr.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Redskins Report Card - Week 2 vs. New Orleans Saints

Redskins 29, Saints 24

Offense: B+

What a difference a a game makes. A week after the Redskins almost went an entire half without completing a pass, Washington puts together three scoring drives in the first half, and scores three touchdowns in the second half to come from behind and pick up Jim Zorn's first win as a head coach. Shaun Suisham also missed two field goals, so they managed to have 8 scoring opportunities, far beyond the sort of offensive output anybody expected from them.

The first half still had Redskins fans worried, as the team had five field goal attempts, but couldn't punch it in. We also learned in this game that Jason Campbell is simply not mobile at all. He was sacked twice and two other times was cut off on a scrambling attempt and tackled at or behind the line. Many quarterbacks can pick up crucial yardage on a run when the middle of the field opens up, but it doesn't look like Campbell has the instincts or running ability to offer that. Still, can't complain too much about his performance. He had his third career 300 yard passing game, and the first one in which the Skins were able to pick up a victory. He looked poised, his throws were generally on the mark, and he managed to avoid any turnovers.

The real superstar of this game, though, was Santana Moss (7 catches, 164 yards, TD). He seemed to take the criticisms of last week and play like a man possessed. He caught everything thrown his way, made the first guy miss every time, and altogether played like a number 1 receiver, despite the analysis of many Washington area commentators (including myself). The Redskins still didn't get much production out of the rest of their receiving corps, but they got Cooley involved to the tune of five catches for 72 yards.

It's worth pointing out that most of Washington's big plays came after the injury to substitute starter Aaron Glenn, when rookie cornerback Tracy Porter was forced into action. Washington consistently exploited Porter, and you can say that sullies the victory, but my feeling is that you're supposed to beat who you're supposed to beat. I'd venture to say the Redskins of 2007 wouldn't have been able to take advantage of that matchup, so they've progressed a little bit.

The running game was effective again, but seemed to move better this week with a legitimate complement in the passing game. Maybe Clinton Portis will keep his mouth shut this week and accept that football is imprecise, and complaining about the blocking when you pick up 80+ yards (as he did in week 1) seems whiny. And is whiny.

Defense: B

The defense looked as good in week 2 as they did in week 1, but against a better opposing offense. Additionally, rookie Chris Horton picked up three turnovers (a fumble and two interceptions) on his way to inevitably bumping injured starter Reed Doughty down on the depth chart. None of the plays were tremendous athletic feats by Horton; both interceptions resulted from batted balls. Still, being in the right place at the right time is something, and when you get three turnovers, you're doing something right. Jason Taylor also picked up his first sack as a Redskin.

If Deuce McAllister were fully healthy and productive, I think this game might've gone the other way, because the Skins' rush defense is still suspect. But Reggie Bush isn't a premier running back, Pierre Thomas is inexperienced, and Deuce is still recovering from last year's season-ending knee surgery, so the Saints had to rely more heavily on the passing game. And with Shawn Springs healthy for this week's game, the Skins were up to the task on the pass defense. With Arizona on the schedule next week, they'd better not let up, or Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin will embarrass another group of defensive backs.

Special Teams: C+

The special teams grade slips this week, but it's no fault of Rock Cartwright's. He had three good kickoff returns and another solid tackle on a return. No, the first culprit here is "return specialist" Antwaan Randle El, who fumbled a punt return and was unable to make anything happen on his other three returns. Additionally, a bad snap and hold cost the 'Skins three points, and the team gave up a punt return for a touchdown to Reggie Bush.

The one saving grace for the special teams unit was that kicker Shaun Suisham seems to have a hammer for a foot, forcing touchbacks on several kickoffs. After a few years of John Hall giving opponents the ball at the 35 every time, this is a welcome upgrade.

Overall: B

It was a great game, lots of back and forth with a number of big plays. I remember thinking in the first half that, even if Washington lost (and as a fatalist Redskins fan, I assumed they would), the game would serve as a reason to be hopeful going forward this season. Getting the win, though, makes me think maybe, just maybe, the Skins can play their way into playoff contention. As long as they're playing relevant games in December, I'll be happy.

Player of the Game: Chris Horton, 2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions, 2 pass deflections

Friday, September 12, 2008

Guitar Hero: World Tour

As I'm sure many of you know, Guitar Hero: World Tour comes out October 26, 2008. It will follow the Rock Band precedence by including microphone, drums, and the two guitars. I just got a glimpse of the set list (currently 86 songs) that will be included with it... and it does not disappoint:

30 Seconds To Mars--The Kill
311--Beautiful Disaster
Airbourne--Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
The Allman Brothers Band--Ramblin' Man
Anouk--Good God
The Answer--Never Too Late
At the Drive-In--One Armed Scissor
Beastie Boys--No Sleep Till Brooklyn
Beatsteaks--Hail To The Freaks
Billy Idol--Rebel Yell
Black Label Society--Stillborn
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club--Weapon of Choice
blink-182--Dammit
Blondie--One Way or Another
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band--Hollywood Nights
Bon Jovi--Livin' on a Prayer
Bullet for My Valentine--Scream Aim Fire
Coldplay--Shiver
Creedence Clearwater Revival--Up Around the Bend
The Cult--Love Removal Machine
Dinosaur Jr.--Feel the Pain
The Doors--Love Me Two Times
Dream Theater--Pull Me Under
The Eagles--Hotel California
The Enemy--Aggro
Filter--Hey Man, Nice Shot
Fleetwood Mac--Go Your Own Way
Foo Fighters--Everlong
The Guess Who--American Woman
HushPuppies--You're Gonna Say Yeah!
Interpol--Obstacle 1
Jane's Addiction--Mountain Song
Jimi Hendrix--The Wind Cries Mary
Jimi Hendrix--Purple Haze (Live)
Jimmy Eat World--The Middle
Joe Satriani--Satch Boogie
Kent--Vinternoll2
Korn--Freak on a Leash
Lacuna Coil--Our Truth
Lenny Kravitz--Are You Gonna Go My Way
Linkin Park--What I've Done
The Living End--Prisoner of Society
Los Lobos--La Bamba
Lostprophets--Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)
Lynyrd Skynyrd--Sweet Home Alabama (Live)
The Mars Volta--L'Via L'Viaquez
MC5's Wayne Kramer--Kick Out the Jams
Metallica--Trapped Under Ice
Michael Jackson--Beat It
Modest Mouse--Float On
Motorhead--Overkill
Muse--Assassin
Negramaro--Nuvole e Lenzuola
Nirvana--About A Girl [Unplugged]
No Doubt--Spiderwebs
NOFX--Soul Doubt
Oasis--Some Might Say
Ozzy Osbourne--Crazy Train
Ozzy Osbourne--Mr. Crowley
Paramore--Misery Business
Pat Benatar--Heartbreaker
Radio Futura--Escuela De Calor
R.E.M.--The One I Love
Rise Against--Re-Education Through Labor
Sex Pistols--Pretty Vacant
Silversun Pickups--Lazy Eye
Smashing Pumpkins--Today
Steely Dan--Do It Again
Steve Miller Band--The Joker
Sting--Demolition Man (Live)
The Stone Roses--Love Spreads
Stuck in the Sound--Toy Boy
Sublime--Santeria
Survivor--Eye of the Tiger
System Of A Down--B.Y.O.B.
Ted Nugent--Stranglehold
Ted Nugent--Original Guitar Duel Recording
Tokio Hotel--Monsoon
Tool--Parabola
Tool--Schism
Tool--Vicarious
Trust--Antisocial
Van Halen--Hot For Teacher
Willie Nelson--On The Road Again
Wings--Band on the Run
Zakk Wylde--Original Guitar Duel Recording

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Steelers Report Card - Week 1 - Texans

Ok, with the special invitation from Joe Mattingly, I will be logging the Steelers week 1 report card and hopefully (with frequent reminders from Joe) be keeping up with this throughout the season. Here we go, the skinny on today's solid victory.

Offense: A -

More specifically I can break this down into a few categories.
Running Game: A
Willy Parker had a terrific week 1 showing, scoring more touchdowns (3) than he tallied all of last season (2) and let's keep in mind that when he broke his leg in late December, he was leading the league in rushing. The offensive line had a good push all day and the Steelers punished Houston in the second half by keeping the ball on the ground.

Passing Game: A
I'd say that 13 completions out of 14 attempts is a pretty darn good statistic for a starting QB. Throw in there the fact that he had 2 touchdowns and a 60+ yard completion that was negated by penalty and you can see that Roethlisberger pretty much had his way with the Texans and did whatever he wanted all afternoon. He only threw for 137 yards but playing with a huge lead all game, there was no reason to throw the ball for the most part. Ben looked to be on the same page with his receivers all afternoon. He was replaced in the 4th quarter by Byron Leftwich who did not complete a pass and seemed to be mistiming routes with his receivers (mostly backups) but considering he was brought into the fold half-way through camp this year, it's not unreasonable that the timing isn't there yet.

Offensive Line: B
The run blocking was very good, but they did let up 2 sacks to Mario Williams (who is a beast). One let to a fumble by Roethlisberger which led to the only legitamate points the Texans scored all game. The rest of their points were pretty much during garbage time. As the Patriots game proved today, one hit on a QBs knee can F up your season, so the two free shots by Williams on Ben Roethlisberger were somewhat concerning.

Defense: A
The Steelers defense was dominating today. The outside linebacker duo of James Harrison and new starter Lamar Woodley were all over the field and between them tallied 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and 1 recovered fumble. The Texans offensive line simply could not keep them in check all afternoon.

The defense held Houston Running backs to a mere 71 yards on the afternoon. They did give up two late touchdowns, but the game was well over by that point in time. The defense totaled 5 sacks on the afternoon and 3 turnovers total. They looked the part of the defending "leagues #1 overall defense" from last season.

Special Teams: B

Jeff Reed connected on his only Field Goal attempt, a 44 yarder into the closed end of the stadium. He also was true on 4/4 PATs on the afternoon. The Steelers kick coverage did not give up any long returns on punt/kick returns and reserve DB William Gay made two terrific open-field tackles of return men that stood out.

The Steelers kick return and punt return teams did not do anything distinctive all afternoon and the duo of Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall still seem to be lackluster when it comes to both. Special teams could be a real problem for the Steelers once again this season as nobody grabbed a hold of the return man job this preseason and they gave up a touchdown in kick coverage to the Buffalo Bills. On this day, however, they couldn't seem to do anything wrong and the special teams were no different.

Overall: A-

The Steelers play the toughest schedule in the NFL this season and if they are to repeat as AFC North champions must win every game in which they are supposed to. This was definately a game that they were supposed to win and it was a great opening week win where they seemed to fire on all cylinders for 45 minutes. The fourth quarter was mostly the first-team Houston Texans playing against the 2nd-team Pittsburgh Steelers. The offensive line is the big question mark coming into the season and for one week they looked like a cohesive unit. The 2 sacks were dissapointing, but Mario Williams was 2nd team All-Pro last season and made two very good indivual plays. They head to the Dawg-pound next week to play a hungry Browns squad that was embarressed at home today. The Browns are the biggest competition for the AFC North this season and hopefully the Steelers will match this week's effort and make a statement versus the Browns in Cleveland.

Player of the Game: Willy Parker, 25 carries, 138 yds, 3 TDs

Friday, September 5, 2008

Redskins Report Card - Week 1 vs. New York Giants

After a few years in central Pennsylvania, I'm finally back in Maryland, and able to watch every Redskins game. So, to take full advantage of that fact, I'm going to try to do this new weekly feature and review the Redskins game for that week. We'll use a report card system with some analysis. You'll love it.

Offense: D

The offense looked pitiful for 28 of the 30 first-half minutes. They put together a solid scoring drive at the end of the half which included Jason Campbell's first completion of the game. For 28 minutes, Campbell was 0-fer. The second half was much better, but the team seemed to have trouble stringing together multiple positive plays, which was a problem last year as well. The Skins would get one or two nice plays, but be unable to sustain drives.

The thing that was most noticeably lacking, though, was management. There were at least five occasions where the Redskins completed a pass on 3rd down that came up a yard or two shy of the first down marker. That's either bad play-calling (thus Jim Zorn's fault) or bad passing decisions (thus Jason Campbell's fault...and in turn, Zorn's fault). Additionally, there was virtually no sense of urgency on the offensive side of the ball at the end of the half or the end of the game. The end of the half was forgivable, the end of the game was not. Down 9 points, you need to be focused on getting to the sideline or throwing the ball out of bounds when you're inside 5 minutes left. Dumping off 4 yard passes to the middle of the field is a surefire way to lose the game, and lo and behold, that's what they did.

Jim Zorn is a first time head coach, and it was reasonable to expect that this kind of thing might be a problem. But it would have been a nice surprise to see the 2 minute offense work fluidly in week one. Even in a loss, I'd have felt good about the team if we'd have picked up that last touchdown and looked good doing it. As is, I'm predicting losses every week until they show me they're worth something. An 0-5 start is within this team's grasp.

Defense: C-

While better than the offense, the defense still showed some of the same problems they had last year. They still have trouble stopping the run, although I do think Brandon Jacobs is going to make a lot of defenses look bad this year. They got picked apart by Eli Manning in the first series of the game, and Coughlin showed what he can do with a lot of preparation time. It seemed like every play on that first drive was the right call. Still the Skins had opportunities to shut down some of those early scoring drives before they turned into field goals, and they came up short.

It is worth pointing out, though, that the team was missing a starting cornerback in Shawn Springs, and that both Jason Taylor and LaRon Landry have been battling injuries. And the Giants' plan all night was to run right at Jason Taylor, who even healthy isn't a tremendous run stopper. Hopefully with the extra time in between games, Washington can get healthy and we can see what this defense looks like when at full strength.

Special Teams: B

I wasn't of the opinion that Rock Cartwright was anything special. But as I said, I was living in Altoona for the past three years, so I didn't get to see him in action much. He shined on a few different plays last night, churning out a 50-yard kickoff return and picking up a huge tackle on punt coverage. The kicking and punting was fine, not exceptional, but nothing to be ashamed of.

Overall: D+

The special teams weren't difference-making, and so they make no difference in the final overall score. This was a bad offensive performance by a team that didn't have a lot to be excited about on offense anyways. The one saving grace is that with as bad as they were, they were able to stay in the game. Hopefully we can get a little more moving on offense and prevent the defense from having to play with their backs to the wall all game again. Of course, next week is New Orleans, which could be a slap in the face. See you next time.

Player of the Game: Rock Cartwright

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Matt Ryan: The Right Guy, Next Year

You've read some good reasons for Matt Ryan to be the opening day starter for the Atlanta Falcons and most of them are listed here. However, I'm of the strong opinion that the best way to handle a rookie quarterback is to get him very familiar with a headset and a clipboard.

The quarterback position is by far the most difficult transition from the college game to the pros. While all position players have to adjust to the unbelievable speed and intensity of the NFL, a quarterback has the added responsibility of learning thousands of additional plays (including knowing where all 10 of his teammates need to be on each play) and adjusting to much more complex defenses. Additionally, but not the least of a rookie quarterback's responsibilities, is earning the respect and trust of his teammates. While that might sound ridiculous, imagine if a 23 year old kid came into your office, fresh off signing a contract that paid him between 2 and 20 times more than you, and started bossing you around. Might be a problem.

Ok, those are the things that are tough to quantify, but here at Joe and Joe Sports we love numbers, so let's break it down. Since 1998, 28 quarterbacks have been taken in the first round, but I'm going to throw out Patrick Ramsey, who was selected 32nd overall in 2002. Of the other 27 first round QBs, I looked at guys that started more than 9 games in their rookie season versus those that waited until season two to become the starter (note: 9 games was chosen since it represents more than half the regular season).

Ten first-round QBs started more than 9 games in their rookie season and they are (draft number in parenthesis): Vince Young (3), Matt Leinart (10), Ben Roethlisberger (11), Byron Leftwich (7), Kyle Boller (9), David Carr (1), Joey Harrington (3), Tim Couch (1), Payton Manning (1) and Ryan Leaf (2). Of those ten, only three are currently starting NFL quarterbacks. Of the three starters, two can be described as a "franchise quarterback". Of the remaining seven non-starters, five are colossal failures (Boller, Carr, Harrington, Couch and Leaf) and the other two (Leinart and Leftwich) have had their opportunities and have been replaced by their respective teams. Over the last ten years, the success rate of first round quarterbacks that started in their first season is, at best, 30%. Not good.

Now let's look at the guys that waited until year two to reach the 9 start mark: Jay Cutler (11), Alex Smith (1), Eli Manning (1), Carson Palmer (1), Michael Vick (1), Cade McNown (12), Daunte Culpepper (11), Akili Smith (3) and Donovan McNabb (2). While there are still some failures on that list (McNown, Akili Smith and possibly Alex Smith), four of the nine are still starters (Cutler, Manning, Palmer and McNabb) and a fifth would be starting if he weren't, let's just say, in jail. Also, while Daunte Culpepper is currently out of the league, he was a three time Pro Bowler. So of these 9 QBs, six can be considered successful NFL quarterbacks, a ratio that won't have GMs rushing to nab the best available play-caller with their first round pick next May, but certainly better than the 30% success rate we saw out of the guys that started in year 1.

For completeness, the guys that had to wait more than one season to take over as the starter is mostly a mixed bag of success or don't really have a track record yet. They are: Chad Pennington (18), Rex Grossman (22), Philip Rivers (4), JP Losman (22), Aaron Rogers (24), Jason Campbell (25) and Brady Quinn (22). The success or failure of this group lies in with Rivers, Rogers, Campbell and Quinn, so check back in a few years to get my feelings on whether it's a good idea to keep your stud QB in the stable for more than one season.

So what does it all mean? The success rate of "franchise quarterbacks" that were rushed onto the field only months after leaving college indicates that, for whatever reason, rookie starting quarterbacks have less chance of becoming a long-term solution for their team than a guy that spends a year learning in a less stressful back-up role. So why would a team start a rookie when the past indicates that they double their player's chance to be successful by simply playing someone else for a year? The answer is "I don't know". If you are looking for someone to be the "face of your franchise", isn't it best if the fans are still seeing that face five or ten years down the line rather than lamenting the lost years of Joey Harrington or David Carr or Tim Couch or Kyle Boller? I think so and I think most Lions, Texans, Browns and Ravens fans will agree with me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Congrats Cliff Lee

A hearty Joe and Joe Sports congratulations out to Cleveland Indians lefty Cliff Lee. With a dominant 5 hit, complete game shutout on Labor Day, Lee became the first Indians pitcher to win 20 games since Gaylord Perry in 1974.

A couple of interesting notes on Cliff Lee's accomplishment:

The 34 year dry spell had been the longest active streak among MLB teams (obviously the expansion teams that have never had a 20 game winner don't count).

Gaylord Perry also won his 20th game on a 5 hit, complete game shutout. Weird.

Lee's 20th win came exactly one year to the day from the day he was recalled to the majors. After struggling with ineffectiveness and injury in the first half on 2007, Lee (who, at the time, was the owner of a 6.38 ERA) was sent to AAA Buffalo. On September 1st he was recalled when rosters expanded and pitched exclusively in mop up duty. Today, he is a 20 game winner and nearly a lock to win the American League Cy Young. Lee is leading the majors in wins and ERA. He is the owner of a win/loss percentage that has only been topped twice since 1959. Cliff Lee is having a truly remarkable season and his 20th win is an exclamation point, the 20th win coming exactly one year from his recall to the majors is a pleasant coincidence that reminds us that redemption can always be found the next time the rubber is toed.

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...