Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Aftermath of the Firing of Eddie Jordan

Well, after 5+ seasons, the Eddie Jordan Era has come to a close in Washington. There are two questions to look at here: How did it go, and where will it go from here?

How did it go?

Well, let's start with the good. The Wizards made the playoffs each of the past four seasons, placing second in the Southeast Division each time. They went from something of a laughingstock to a legitimate team, and it's fair to say that free agents are interested in Washington at least on an average level among NBA teams; they're less appealing than the Knicks or Lakers, but more appealing than the Grizzlies or Clippers. While that's not crucially important, it's good to know that Washington is no longer playing from behind when it comes to NBA free agents (though their baseball counterparts are; perhaps a discussion for another time).

However, the Wizards' record consistently hovered around .500 after Jordan's first season in Washington, winning 45, 42, 41, and 43 games. They were also just 8-18 in the playoffs since Jordan's arrival, winning only one of their five playoff series.

This past offseason, owner Abe Pollin locked up Gilbert Arenas (against my wishes) and Antawn Jamison to give Jordan essentially the same squad he's had for his entire tenure with the Wizards. Arenas went down, and so Jordan had more so the team he worked with most of last season, when Arenas was also hurt. And the Wizards were awful. They pulled off a 1-10 start under Eddie Jordan, and a guy who starts that bad will almost always get canned.

Where will it go from here?

The idea behind firing a coach during the season is that the replacement of that coach can make your team better that season. When your coach sets a 1-10 pace, it's difficult for a replacement coach to do worse. Ed Tapscott's job will be to simply steady the ship, and likely get it ready for a bigger name hire in the offseason.

Interestingly, Gilbert Arenas made a good point recently. He said that the team's troubles might not be such a bad thing in the long term, as they'll likely be a lottery team this season. They've lingered at the bottom of the playoff picture, staying out of the lottery but getting wiped by the better Eastern Conference teams (or, just the Cavaliers) in the first round every year. Adding a high pick is a nice way to grab a quality player who comes with a very affordable rookie contract. Ask the aforementioned Cavs if their high pick worked out.

It's worth mentioning that NBA coaches are often worthless. Bringing in a famous seems to have such a minimal impact on the team if the personnel hasn't changed that the value of an NBA head coach is questionable at best. There are certain guys who do seem to be able to make a difference in the win-loss columns like Greg Popovich, Jerry Sloan, and Phil Jackson, but those guys are rare. Most other coaches are simply bosses, and very replaceable. So, whatever possible difference in skill level between Jordan and Tapscott that may have been lost is probably mitigated by the shock of Jordan's firing. The action itself will probably have more impact than the coaching change.

I think it was probably a fine move to make. The risk is minimal; with 10 losses already and Arenas and Brendan Haywood on the shelf, the Wizards aren't looking like a potential playoff team, so you're not too worried about having any transitional difficulties into a new coach's culture and/or system. And it gives the Wizards the opportunity to try to find one of those rare guys who actually can make a difference as head coach. If Arenas can get healthy and the new coach is a gamer, maybe, just maybe, this team can win a playoff series.

Dare to dream.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 12 vs. Seattle Seahawks

Redskins 20, Seahawks 17

Another week, another agonizing game for Redskins fans. I mean, the Steeler game sucked, but at least I could go to bed. I didn't, but I could've.

Offense: B

The 'Skins had good yardage and lots of first downs, getting back to what helped them rattle off four straight wins earlier this season. Clinton Portis carried 29 times for 143 yards, and Jason Campbell had generally another mistake-free day. The passing game wasn't fearsome, but it hasn't been all season, and it got enough done to seal the deal. Additionally, one of the most important offensive plays was a pass interference call against Seattle that resulted in a crucial first down on an eventual touchdown drive.

The Seahawks' defense wasn't exactly stout, but they had good pressure from linebacker blitzes, and it seemed like their defensive backs made a lot of plays on the ball. I'm glad that Washington was able to power through it, but Jason Campbell looked a little frazzled after some of the hits he took. He's still got to work on his poise and composure, but he's obviously a good passer, and I still like where this team could be offensively in two years.

Defense: B+

The secondary played great, getting two important interceptions and sacking Matt Hasselbeck twice. It's plainly clear to see how much of an impact Shawn Springs has on this defense when he's available. Jason Taylor is still a disappointment, but if Springs can stay healthy, I like this group of corners and safeties as much as any in football. The defense did get gashed by Maurice Morris for 7.4 yards a carry, and the Seahawks as a whole averaged 7.0 yards per rushing attempt. Yikes. Nobody tell the Giants, maybe they'll forget to run the ball.

Special Teams: C+

Shaun Suisham missed a very reasonable 43-yard field goal, which didn't end up costing the Redskins, but is the kind of kick you want your kicker to make. Plackemeier's punts weren't as good as they've been in the past few weeks, and as I've said all along, field position is very important to this team. That may be as much of a reason as any that this game came down to the wire.

Speaking of the importance of field position, I'm happy that they put Moss back there for another punt return, even though it only went for 4 yards. It also seems like Randle El has responded to Moss being rotated in on punt returns, picking up 14 yards on his only punt return on Sunday. Cartwright once again was solid on the kickoff returns, but really, wouldn't it be nice to have one of those explosive guys who could take it to the house on any play? If the Redskins are going to make a free agent splash sometime soon, I'd like it to be for someone like Devin Hester or Roscoe Parrish, because I really think one of those guys could've given Washington one or two more wins already.

Overall: B-

It was a hard fought battle against a scrappy team with very little to play for. I worry about how the 'Skins are going to fare against the likes of the Giants and Ravens over the next two weeks, specifically the Giants with their dominant ground game. I could see Eli getting less than 15 pass attempts next week and the Giants winning handily, or Eli getting 40 passing attempts and it being a close game. Either way, I'm not counting on a win here. As long as they can come out the other side of the game without losing anyone to injury, I'd feel alright.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Get Involved!

We'd like to extend an invitation to our readers to put their mark on their favorite sports blog. Unfortunately, we don't have any control over any of the blogs you actually like, so how about the next best thing, and you get to put your mark on this blog?

In our biweekly meeting, we reviewed some of our demographics, and we noticed we've got people from all over the country visiting the blog, and many people are returning over and over again. We want to thank you for your interest, and would like to specifically invite emails from anyone outside of the Baltimore/Washington area. Despite our infatuation with our own favorite teams, both Joe's have a pretty good understanding of all NBA, MLB, and NFL teams, and can offer commentary on most topics.

We'd love to hear what you want us to talk about, so drop us an email at joe.joe.sports@gmail.com, and let us know if you've got an idea for an article, or something you'd like us to discuss. Also, feel free to critique us on our newer features (Redskins Report Card, Is ____ A Keeper?), or anything else. Don't worry, we can take it.

Well, probably.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Mike and Mike Are Both Whiny and Stupid...Today

I listen to Mike and Mike (no relation to Joe & Joe) most mornings on my drive in to work; yes, like my partner in crime, I've got much too glamorous a lifestyle to pay for with just one job. And I like Mike and Mike, generally. They usually keep a pretty good focus on sports and don't stray into pop culture. They don't talk too much about golf (which as you might already know, I think is a waste of time), and they do talk about baseball, which I like.

Anyways, I tuned in this morning, and found them discussing the Detroit Lions. They talked about how bad they are, and they are bad. Are they historically bad? Maybe. There are some positions that you can have an elite player at where he can carry a bad team; quarterback and defensive end come to mind. But as good as Calvin Johnson is, it's virtually impossible for a wide receiver to carry his team. So yes, the Lions are bad.

But that's not what made me talk about my friends Mike and Mike in such a foul way. Mike Greenberg suggested that the NFL was foolish for sticking with the tradition of scheduling the Lions in a Thanksgiving game every year. The two Thanksgiving games are nationally televised and get very high ratings, and Detroit is a terrible team. It was for these two reasons that Greenberg believed the league should schedule a different game. Mike Golic was in immediate agreement, which should've sounded warning bells to Greenberg.

The fact is, those two reasons tell you precisely why Detroit is the perfect team for a Thanksgiving game. Everyone has their own traditions on Thanksgiving, but a common denominator for most sports fans is to watch football. Those sports fans will watch pretty much any NFL game you put in front of them, partly because they like sports, and partly because it's tradition. The number of people who would shut off a Lions game just because it's the Lions is pretty small. So you put your worst teams out there when you know people will watch anyways. It's a simple business decision.

But what's worse is that Mike and Mike should know this already, from firsthand experience. Two years ago, they did the Monday Night Football contest between, wait for it...the Cardinals and the 49ers. This season, they did Denver versus Oakland. They know how it works. The NFL puts some games on national TV that they know involve teams that won't be very good, because they're the biggest dog in sports TV. Everyone watches the NFL, and if there's only one NFL game on, everyone will watch that game. So enough with the whining, whinies.

Oh, and this season, Detroit's Thanksgiving game is against the currently undefeated Tennessee Titans. People will watch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 11 vs. Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 14, Redskins 10

All I know is that the Redskins are in for a fight the rest of the way if they want to play in the postseason. I've decided that, for this and all future games against Dallas, I won't be using letters in the report card. It's just too difficult to separate myself from the emotion of the Dallas game. So, while my analysis will be standard, the grading system will be essentially useless. Sorry. :)

Offense: ?-

I don't know what a suitable grade is for the offense, but I know a "minus" belongs at the end of it. This offense was tough to watch. The Redskins picked up 136 net passing yards (passing yards minus yards lost on sacks), and only 92 rushing yards. Clinton Portis' knee injury can be partially blamed for the imbalance in the playcalling (18 rush, 38 pass), but only partially. That kind of disparity will only favor teams that have an elite group of receivers, like the Cardinals or Patriots. Even the Cowboys, who might have the best set of receivers in football between Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, and Jason Witten, had 28/27 rushing/passing splits.

The 'Skins are precisely the kind of team that needs to be effective running the ball, too. They've got a good bend-don't-break defense that doesn't give up many points, and can really benefit from good punting (which it seems they have now), good return game (still shouldn't be using Randle-El as much...or at all), and a ball-control offense. So when this team passes more than double the number of times they run the ball, don't expect them to win.

Devin Thomas is still not ready to play at the NFL level, but he seems like he's at least got the ability to get open. In reflecting on things, I'm starting to realize that those three 2nd-round picks from the 2008 draft were made with 2009 and 2010 in mind, not so much this season. So while I'd like to see Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis start to light it up on the field, that's not what they were brought in to do. Not yet, at least.

Defense: %-

The defense played worse than they've played in recent weeks. What's that? They got two interceptions and held the Cowboys to under 200 yards passing? Yes, that's true, they did. But they were run over by a strong ground attack, which I predicted when we were reviewing the first Dallas game this season. It seemed like every other play was "Barber Toss," in Madden terms, but the 'Skins just couldn't stop it.

DeAngelo Hall seems like a positive addition to the secondary, especially when Shawn Springs just can't stay healthy. He's as talented as Carlos Rogers and has even better hands, giving Washington one of the better sets of coverage corners in the league. And that's important, since the defensive line can't get a lick of pressure. Romo didn't get sacked once, which is even more embarrassing when you consider that the Cowboys have a pretty crummy offensive line, and Romo was already uncomfortable because of his pinky injury. You've got to think that if Romo hadn't remained unscathed early, he mightn't have had the confidence to throw some of the key passes he made in the second half, specifically the touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.

My point is, there's work to do on the defensive side of the ball as well. We can't be thinking that the Redskins have a set defense and only the offense needs work. Without a pass rush, I have a hard time thinking this is a playoff team.

Special Teams: 6.3

There's a reason for the number. That's how many return yards Randle El has averaged on punts over the course of the season. Enough is enough. DeAngelo Hall is a decent return guy, or could be. Let's give him a shot. When your offense is as low-powered as the Redskins', you've got to take yards where you can get them. Is it the fault of the whole special teams unit? Has the blocking been less than stellar? Maybe. But it certainly doesn't hurt to try a new guy back there. It'd be pretty tough to do worse than Randle El.

The punting was very good, and I still like Suisham. Not much else to say about that.

Overall: C-

Okay, I lied, I'm giving them an overall grade. Their offense played a little bit better than they did against the Steelers, but the defense played a little bit worse, so they get the same overall grade. Springs is obviously going to be of no use to the Redskins this season, which makes it even more important that they acquired Hall. I'm hoping the trio of Hall, Rogers, and Fred Smoot can lock down the passing game so that defensive coordinator Greg Blache can start sending the occasional linebacker or safety on a blitz.

Next week is a return to Seattle for Jim Zorn, and a return to the place where the Redskins' season ended last year. I really don't like Seattle; a blowout would definitely be nice, but just a win would work.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Joe & Joe Sports Radio Show

To all of you fans of the radio show, don't worry, we haven't forgotten about it. We're focusing our efforts on the blog right now, as you may have been able to tell by the dramatic increase in the frequency of posts. All of us here at the blog are excited about what's going on in sports these days, and we've found that we're more effective at getting our excitement out in blog form rather than radio form.

That being said, we're working on topics for future radio shows, and while we still don't have one scheduled for anytime soon, you can rest assured that the radio show will return sometime before the end of the football season. If you've got any specific topics coming up that you'd like to discuss, drop them off in the comments. We've got the staff looking into a couple of segment ideas, sort of like our Stay the Course/Blow 'em Up segment in our NBA Offseason Preview show, as well as reviving some old stuff like the Over-Under segment, and doing some email on the air.

All of this comes together into us saying, "Stay tuned."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why Can't They Grow Grass In Pittsburgh?

So the Pittsburgh Steelers were at home today taking on the San Diego Chargers in a nationally televised match-up of two strong AFC teams. While good defense and loud fans are staples of a Steelers home game, for the past few years absolutely horrible field conditions have also become a constant at Heinz Field. This is a problem.

The NFL is built upon speed and athleticism. We love to see quarterbacks make pinpoint throws, running backs juke and linebackers deliver crushing blows. Nothing compromises the speed of the game like poor field conditions. Suddenly, instead of seeing Philip Rivers hitting Vincent Jackson on a precisely timed out-route, we have Jackson slipping and the ball sailing out of bounds, or even worse, the Chargers abandon the passing game and we have a bunch of guys tip-toeing all over a slippery field. Because quality field conditions are essential to quality football, the NFL should demand that all 32 franchised be able provide an acceptable playing field in all but the worst playing conditions (ie hurricane).

Like I said previously, Pittsburgh has had big time problems with field conditions in the last few years. The most notable occurrence was a 2007 Monday night match up with Miami which was a 3-0 snoozer that didn't come close to displaying the talents and abilities of either team. In that game, standing pools of water changed a fast paced, high impact game into a rugby scrum. Aside from affecting the quality of the game, poor field conditions also endanger players' health which is critical to the NFL game (and if you don't believe me ask a Patroits fan how he is enjoying the Matt Cassel era). Football on a chewed up field with ankle deep water is barely football and the NFL can do better.

So being a part time engineer (hey, Joe & Joe Sports is still growing so some of us are having to do some moonlighting), when I see a problem I try to break it down and propose solutions. So what's the problem here? Clearly (despite the title of this post), as seen in at the terrific PNC Park, they can grow grass in Pittsburgh. The problem is that they play way too many games at Heinz Field. In order to get the support to build Heinz Field, agreements were made that allowed the University of Pittsburgh to play there along with several Pennsylvania state championship games. This basically means that during the football season the field never gets a week off and, in the midst of the season, is hosting multiple games a week. It's just too much.

So we know the problem, now how to fix it. First off, play fewer games at Heinz Field. The high school games have to go. I'm sure it's a thrill for high school players to play on the same field as their NFL favorites, but 99.99% of the merchandise-buying, commercial-watching NFL fans don't care. There are plenty of other facilities in Pennsylvania that could accommodate high school football championships, so it seems ridiculous that they need to play in an NFL caliber stadium. Oh yeah, and if there are agreements that say they can hold the high school championships there, ummm, break them.

If the city of Pittsburgh won't budge on the high school championships, well, there is another alternative. If they insist on playing games every week, Heinz Field could come into the 21st century and install FieldTurf. Rumor has it (umm, Wiki) that the Steelers players don't want Field Turf, and to that I say "who cares". Over 1/3 of the fields in the NFL have FieldTurf, so it is clearly an acceptable playing surface and one that will insure that the game is played at the high level NFL fans expect.

Finally, if the Steelers won't take the lead on bringing their playing surface up to par it's time for the NFL to step in. It's in the league's best interest to have fast, precise, hard hitting games, especially during prime time games. If teams undermine the league with inferior playing surfaces, it hurts advertising (people turn off the games) and general league interest. So I'm suggesting the league come up with a playing field standard. Every field would receive a score for every game and the score would be based upon how the field held up for the weather conditions at the time (so teams wouldn't be penalized if it rained, they would only be penalized if their field fell apart in the rain). If a team's field scored below league standards on two or more occasions in a season they would be put on watch for the next season. If a team on "field watch" then had more than one game the next season in which their playing surface fell below league standards, the NFL would penalize the team a home game for every time they had a sub-par field. After all, why should you have a home game if you can't provide an acceptable field? Also, it will insure that fields are exceptional, since teams can't risk losing a home game and the associated revenue. Better fields will lead to better games and, after all, that's what we are all after.


Your Team vs. Your Fantasy Team

A busy Sunday afternoon. Watching your team on TV, monitoring your Fantasy team on the stat-tracker. The big question comes to mind, where are your priorities? Its the BIG "would you rather" question.

Would you rather see your NFL team of choice win over their most recent opponent? Or would you rather see your Fantasy team bring you one win closer to your own championship?

Its a tough call, but let's breakdown some scenarios...

The biggest factor here (as in most every scenario in life) is $$$Money$$$. If you've invested big dollars into your fantasy team, you are gambling (some leagues, depending on other owners are safer gambles than others, but overall, its a gamble). With all that in consideration, the more money you've invested into your fantasy team, the more important a win for your fantasy team is. The great part about fantasy football is that it brings the NFL right into your backyard.

The negative to fantasy football is the ability to turn you against your NFL team. Its a great way to "hedge" your football Sunday, but overall, being an NFL fan is about cheering for your team. I didn't get into watching football on Sundays because my fantasy team was playing. As a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, I got into the NFL because watching my team gave me a chance to enjoy the company of my family while watching the game, talk trash to my Steeler friends/frat brothers, and got me out of the house on Sundays to the bar to socialize with my other football friends. All in all, its cheering for my team that makes the NFL special to me.

Bottom line... I would take a Ravens win over a Mercer AutoWreckers victory every week. The random weeks when both are winners is a true treat. Even more so, and the point I really want to drive home is... you can't take fantasy league victories into bragging rights of your NFL team's home or (for me...) the away team's stadium. NFL team over Fantasy team every week.

I understand the money aspect to fantasy and why those well-invested into their fantasy teams would always choose a fantasy win, but for me, its hard to take camaraderie over the selfishness of a fantasy league win.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Office - Season 5, Episode 7

The latest episode of The Office has been posted on Hulu. I have not watched it yet, so I can't offer any personal commentary, but my brother was watching it and I heard him laugh out loud, so there's probably at least one good joke.

At least.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/44303/the-office-business-trip#s-p1-so-i0

Is Jacoby Ellsbury A Keeper?

Coming into this past season, if you had asked me to rank the Red Sox three big youngsters as far as how they'll perform in 2008, I'd have probably said something like this:
  1. Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. Clay Buchholz
  3. Dustin Pedroia
Buchholz was generally a fantasy bust (though he's got plenty of time to work it out), and Pedroia is an MVP candidate. Ellsbury, however, falls somewhere in the middle, and thus we ask, is Ellsbury worth keeping?

First things first, let's define what kind of player he is. He's a speed guy, who should also provide a good batting average and solid runs, being on a pretty potent offensive team. You don't expect him to get much in the way of HR or RBI, so he's obviously not going to be an elite player, but if he can post solid AVG, R, and SB numbers, he might be keeper-worthy. So can he?

Ellsbury hit .353 in a brief stint in 2007, but that dropped down to .280 in his first full season. He did, however, post a fantastic 50 steals in 2008, and that may even improve as he gets a better sense of pitchers and fielders. He scored 98 runs, which is good, but somehow you'd think that the guy leading off for the Red Sox would break 100. I expect him to do that next year, with a slightly improved batting average. I also think that, while his RBI totals will probably stay pretty low, he'll show off a little more power.

Even without a bump in his power numbers, though, Ellsbury is a keeper. It's always wise to invest in potent offenses, and Boston's has been among the best for several years now. Ellsbury figures to grow into the leadoff role, which should have him crossing home plate a few more times next year. You'll need to make sure you draft some power to counter a weakish outfield position, but pair up Ellsbury with Uggla and you've got a nice little combo.

Projected stats: .295, 100 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 60 SB


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baltimore Orioles New Jerseys

Not sure there are many people out there that still follow the Birds. Either way, I caught word a couple weeks ago that they were planning to change their logos. Well, it was a lot more than that.

A few minor changes to the team's bird logo has taken place (found on the hat). They say its in more of an "active" position. Its leaning down a little more, the white from the chest as been removed, its looks a little more stout, and its legs/claws are curved. I guess that's the best way to describe it all. Its all pretty minor, though I did not think we needed to tweak it.

On the sleeves of the new uniforms (home and road), the logos have changed. On the right sleeve of the road jersey, there is they typical "Orioles" script in orange, basically matching the home front of the jersey. The home jersey right sleeve does not have a logo that I could tell. On the left sleeve of both jerseys is a new logo. Its a circular logo with an orange circle around the outside. This aspect reminds me of one of the old logos with the orange circle, white lettering in the orange circle and the Oriole Bird swinging his bat.
The big changes here is that the text in the orange circle says "Orioles Baseball" instead of "Baltimore Orioles." Inside the circle, the new logo has the Maryland flag. At first, there was nothing really exciting about the logo. Its slowly growing on me.

The biggest and most exciting change is the re-emerging of "Baltimore" across the road jerseys. This has been a long awaited change. The last time the team had that look was 1972, coincidentally a year after the Senators left Washington DC. Its in the same script as "Orioles" on the home jersey and I really like it a lot.

I know there were reasons for not putting "Baltimore" on the road jerseys... mostly financial. Money talks, as they say. However, I'm glad its finally come back. Its another positive aspect to having the Nationals move to DC. Hopefully the new jerseys will remind the owner and team of the Orioles once-prominent history.

Here's a link to the Baltimore Sun's slideshow of the revealing of the new jerseys. Take a peek. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top 5 Reasons Why Tim Lincecum Won the 2008 NL Cy Young

Approximately 50% of the staff here at Joe & Joe Sports are HUGE Tim Lincecum fans. We watch all his starts, chart his pitches, take road trips to see him on the hill, and are probably going to name our kids Tim Lincecum Jr., regardless of sex or surname. So when the Giants right hander was announced as the 2008 NL Cy Young award winner, we were more than a little excited.

Of course, we can also set aside our personal affinities and be objective. We realize that several NL pitchers had Cy Young caliber seasons, and that the best pitcher doesn't always win. With that in mind, here are the top 5 reasons that Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young.

1) He was really, really good.
Probably goes without saying, but Lincecum had an incredible year. Back in September I made my case for Lincecum winning the Cy Young and I still feel he was the most deserving pitcher. He was first or second among NL starting pitchers in most of the "important" categories (wins, Ks, batting average against, ERA, quality starts). However a strong case can still be made for Brandon Webb (22 wins), Johan Santana (NL leader with 2.53 ERA, no losses from June 28 on) and Brad Lidge (41 for 41 in save opportunities), hence me discussing the other reasons that Lincecum took home the hardware.

2) The Diamondbacks and Mets didn't make the playoffs.
If either of these teams makes the playoffs, Lincecum probably doesn't win the Cy Young. For some reason, making the playoffs works like a stat multiplier. 22 wins suddenly becomes "22 wins for a playoff team", which is apparently a much more accomplished season. It's silly that it works this way, but it does and Lincecum benefited from none of top 3 starters making the playoffs.

3) Nobody really knows how to value a reliever's contribution.
We all know that Brad Lidge had a great season. He went 41-41 in save opportunities and an ERA under 2.0. The problem is that we really don't know how good this is. We know that more than 40 saves is really good, but we also know that saves is a ridiculous stat (i.e. Joe Borowski's 45 saves in 2007). We know that an ERA under 2.00 is also really good, but we don't know how to relate that to a starters ERA. So rather than try to figure out just how good Lidge was this year, it's just easier to disregard him from the conversation.

4) Lince-who?
Outside of super hardcore baseball circles (of which, none of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America reside), nobody had heard of Tim Lincecum 24 months ago. Since nobody had heard of him, he didn't have the expectations of greatness that previous Cy Young winners Webb and Santana had hanging over them. After all, Santana won 19 game with a 2.77 ERA in 2006, so should we really be impressed by 16 wins and 2.53? (The answer is yes)

5) Small, but mighty.
Americans have been trained to root for the underdog. Whether it be 1985 Villanova, the Rocky movies or a kinda goofy looking Senator with a funny name, we love it when the expected champion gets knocked off by a hard-working scrapper. Since most of us aren't 6'3" 230 lb. fireballers, we naturally relate to a 5'7" 170 lb. pitcher who seems completely out of place amongst professional athletes. He makes us think that if we really dedicated ourselves, we could pitch in the majors, or dunk a basketball, or get that associates degree. When we see Lincecum take the hill, we picture ourselves out there, against all the odds, proving all our doubters wrong. And if we are going to vote for someone to win an award, you are damn right we are going to vote for ourselves, ummm, I mean Lincecum.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008-09 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks

While being a few days late in previewing the Detroit Pistons forced me into some re-writing, the delay re-affirmed what I expected from the Atlanta Hawks: they're going to be good. The Hawks' fast start (5-0) is really a carry over from the end of last season. After acquiring Mike Bibby, Atlanta finished the 2007-2008 season 15-17 (yeah, not that great, but this is the Atlanta Hawks we are talking about), including a 10 of their last 17 to grab the last playoff spot in the East (again, not great, but, again, the Hawks). In their first round playoff matchup, Atlanta utilized Bibby's leadership and playoff experience and a whole lot of athleticism to push the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics to seven games. The 2008-09 version of the Hawks is mostly unchanged (except for sixth man Josh Childress bolting for Greece) and should continue to improve. Bibby's steady hand and Joe Johnson's raw scoring ability give Atlanta one of the best backcourts in the East, even if Bibby will be a defensive liability. Of course, if Bibby does get beat off the dribble he has the super athletic Josh Smith guarding the rim and erasing nearly 3 shots per game. Joining Smith in the Hawks frontcourt are Marvin Williams and Al Horford, two guys that are both well positioned for continued improvement. Expect the Hawks youth and lack of bench depth to result in patches of streaky play, but play that should result in a +.500 season (and I think the good people of Atlanta are willing to deal with a little streaky play for that).

Projected record: 45-37

Charlotte Bobcats

The Charlotte Bobcats may be the most frustrating team in the NBA. They have immense raw talent, but basically play like five guys that called "next" at the YMCA. Ray Felton has refused to develop into even a mediocre point guard, turning the ball over way too much. Felton can expect to see minutes slip away to #9 overall pick D.J. Augustin (who will probably frustrate Bobcat fans by being Felton v2.0). Jason Richardson is an elite shooter, but probably only has a year or two left in him and won't be around when this team finally gets straightened out. Gerald Wallace is an absolute wrecking ball and one of my favorite players to watch in the league, but doesn't get much support up front. Oft-injured Sean May and Emeka Okafor hint at the promise this Bobcats team could have, but after a few years of expecting this team to reach their potential, I'm going to make them prove it before I jump on the bandwagon.

Oh yeah, this Bobcats team will probably chase Larry Brown into retirement once and for all.

Projected record: 31-51

Miami Heat

The Miami Heat could be a great team, but just not this year. All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion team up with rookie superstar Michael Beasley and that trio can be expected to score a lot of points. Unfortunately, we'll never get to see this triumvirate at the top of their game. Marion is in a contract year and will probably be looking to become somebody's alpha dog in the off-season. Beasley is absolutely the real deal, but it will take him a couple seasons to reach his full potential. And then there is Wade and his injury issues. Add to the mix a rookie point guard in Mario Chalmers and an under-sized center in Udonis Haslem and the Heat look like a team that could be adding another lottery pick in 2009.

Projected record: 28-54

Orlando Magic

After a 40 win season in 2006-07 and a 50+ win season in 2007-08, the natural question is: Can the Orlando Magic make the leap, become an elite NBA team and win 60 games? The answer is a resounding "No". While Orlando returns much of the same team from last year and upgraded at shooting guard with the athletic Mickael Pietrus, I just don't see this team getting better. Up front there really isn't any way for me to tell you anything about Dwight Howard that you already don't know. Howard is good, really, really good. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis round out an undersized front court that between Howard, Turkoglu and Lewis missed only one game in 2007-08. That's not going to happen again. Turkoglu is also coming off a career year, hard to expect that to happen again. At the point, Jameer Nelson just isn't good enough. He's acceptable, yes, but not good enough to carry the Magic deep into the playoffs. All this adds up to a mildly disappointing season in Orlando.

Projected record: 46-36

Washington Wizards

Well over the summer I told you all the reasons why the Washington Wizards needed to resign Gilbert Arenas. One of those reasons was that Arenas isn't injury prone. So the season starts and sure enough the son of a bitch goes under the knife for the third time in a year and a half, jeez, shows what I know. So Washington's "Big 3" is down to Antawn Jamison and Caron Bulter and the other 3 starters are really, really shaky. Antonio Daniels is more of a "true" point guard than Arenas, but isn't nearly the scoring threat. DeShawn Stevenson is much better at hurling insults at Lebron James than he is at, say, shooting a basketball (38.6% from the field in 2007-08, awful). And finally, it's never a good thing when your starting center is returning from open heart surgery, like Etan Thomas is for Washington (with Brendan Haywood out with a wrist injury). Expect another .500 type season in DC.

Projected record: 40-44

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

I'm always open to new TV shows. I gave Carpoolers a shot. I even watched all six episodes of Cavemen. But sometimes I find out about a show that's simply fantastic.

Enter It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The pilot was filmed by the three main characters on a camcorder, which is just awesome, but more awesome is that the show is actually hilarious. It's depraved and inappropriate, but if that doesn't bother you, this is your kind of show. I'd compare the humor from the show to that of stand-up comedian Daniel Tosh; it's off-the-wall and irreverent, and makes fun of everybody. The show airs on FX every Thursday night, and the episodes get posted on Hulu 8 days after they air.

Here's the link for the show's main page on Hulu, which has links to most of the show's episodes (a few are missing from season 3). I'll post the direct links for new episodes as they come out.

http://www.hulu.com/its-always-sunny-in-philadelphia


Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Dan Uggla A Keeper?

If you're in my fantasy baseball league, you know I sang Dan Uggla's praises before this season, and felt justified when he came out of the gates like a bat out of hell. Then of course, the second half happened, and he became much more of a question mark with regards to whether or not he's a keeper caliber player. Let's discuss.

Uggla has three years of major league experience, and he's averaged 105 R, 30 HR and 90 RBI. His career batting average of .262 is certainly a negative, but at second base, most players have some negatives. Brian Roberts' HR and RBI are very weak. B.J. Upton is a wild card at best when it comes to power numbers, and he's not proven on batting average by any stretch. And both of those guys are likely keepers, albeit lingering on the borderline.

And that's the thing. We're not talking about no-brainer keepers here. You don't need me to tell you that Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler are keepers. At least, you shouldn't need me to tell you that.

You do need me to tell you that Dan Uggla is a keeper, however, and that's exactly what he is. While you can't be all that happy with the likely sub-.275 batting average, the power and run production are great. It's taken a couple years, but I've really come to appreciate anybody who can get 90-90 consistently. A three-year minimum of 97 runs is fantastic. While the Marlins offense will always be in flux, Uggla's good eye and Popeye arms should keep him productive for years to come.

Projected stats: .270, 105 R, 30 HR, 95 RBI

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 9 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers 23, Redskins 6

Offense: F

The offense looked like crap. To be fair, they played at about the same level they've been playing for the past three weeks; they just had to play the Steelers instead of the Rams, Browns, or Lions. But there are literally no offensive numbers you can look at and say, "Well, at least they did that right." Shocking.

After the first quarter, when the 'Skins were up 6-0, you could already tell this game was trouble. The Steelers failed a surprise onside kick attempt, and then threw an interception on their next possession. Washington started on their opponents' 36, and then their 30, and couldn't even muster a first down, let alone get in the end zone. Campbell was sacked or intercepted on every second-half possession. I'll let you sit with that for a moment to let it set in. Every second-half possession, while the game was still within reach, the Redskins allowed a sack or turned the ball over. You won't find many teams that can be successful while posting that kind of performance.

I think this game as much as anything else showed why the Redskins drafted three receivers with their three second-round picks in the 2008 NFL draft. Despite Santana Moss's exceptional play, this is still a team that needs another frontline receiver. Jason Campbell took seven sacks, the most of his professional career, and while some of those were absolutely his fault for not sensing the rush or not throwing the ball away, he would be helped by having one of these rookies actually make some substantive contribution. By the way, did you know that the Redskins took Devin Thomas while DeSean Jackson was still on the board? Oops?

I hope they can use the bye week to get back on track, because this looks like a team that lost itself on Monday night.

Defense: B-

Looking at things objectively, the defense actually didn't play half bad. The offense gave them poor field position through turnovers and ineffectiveness, and they managed to generally stymie a decent Pittsburgh offense. Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich were a combined 12 of 27 for 179 yards, and the Skins picked up five sacks of their own. They also held the vaunted Steelers running game to 2.2 yards per carry, despite a solid game from the returning Willie Parker.

The defense was still far from exceptional, though, as they were exploited for a couple of big plays, and couldn't keep Pittsburgh out of the end zone from close in. Additionally, they were only able to generate one turnover, and as I said last week, if the Redskins are going to win games, they have to win the turnover battle. They didn't, and so they didn't.

Attn: Carlos Rogers. Please learn to catch a goddamn interception.

Special Teams: C+

Let me ask you, does a C+ seem better than a B-? When I look at it, I feel like I have to cite positives, I guess because of the plus sign. Anyways, on to the special teams. I still like Ryan Plackemeier, who's already punting on a 9th grade level. He at least doesn't have the amazing gaffes that Durant Brooks had earlier this season, and Derrick Frost had last season.

But I implore you, Jim Zorn, put Santana Moss back at punt returner. I honestly don't even care if he has to take the first play off of any non-fair-catch drive to catch his breath. The team needs some kind of spark on special teams, and Moss showed last week against the Lions that he can be that spark. Additionally, again, field position is crucial for a team that can't score 40 points, and the Redskins can't score 40 points. Let Moss return punts. I'm begging you.

Overall: C-

It was a bad game, there's no arguing that. I think this is one of those games that, instead of going over film, you completely ignore, and say, "You know what you all did. Let's get back out there and work." The bye week should be nice, specifically for helping some of that depleted defense get healthy. If Washington can go into week 11 against Dallas with Springs, Rogers, and Smoot healthy, and a revitalized Jason Taylor on the pass rush, the defense could finally make some plays to bust up the Cowboys.

I hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2008-09 NBA Preview: Central Division

Chicago Bulls

2007-08 was a disaster for the Chicago Bulls. After finishing 49-33 in 2006-07, last season appeared to be filled with promise for a Bulls team with youth, athleticism and a defensive presence. But instead of continuing to improve, the Bulls had a big time backslide in 2007-08. Kirk Hinrich regressed, Luol Deng was banged up and somebody forgot to replace the timing belt on Ben Wallace. Then, the Bulls fortunes changed on the bounce of a ping-pong ball. Chicago won the draft lottery and selected the electric Derrick Rose. Rose should fit right in and help this years Bulls team get back around .500, but a natural NBA learning curve and a weak frontcourt (Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah, yikes) will keep the Bulls from being much better than that.

Projected record: 40-42

Cleveland Cavaliers

We all know about Lebron, he's a superstar. While there is no doubt about James' immense talent, the Cleveland front office has been unable to find the right pieces to make Cleveland a championship caliber team (and, yes, the 2006-07 Cavs did make the NBA finals, but anybody that watched that series knew they were definitely not championship caliber). Then Danny Ferry was somehow able to swing a trade for Mo Williams, and the Cavs look like a much more complete team. Williams brings one skill that the Cavs have desperately lacked, the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Williams should open up the floor for not only Lebron, but also the rest of the rather slow footed Cavs (Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Sasha Pavlovic and Wally Szczerbiak...and my spell checker just gave up). Look for coach Mike Brown to keep the Cavs playing tough defense, so any improvement on the offensive end should make the Cavs one of the best teams in the East.

Projected record: 51-31

Detroit Pistons

Dammit, part of the problem of not getting my preview finished before the start of the season is that when the season actually starts things change. So when the news broke that the Detroit Pistons traded Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for Allen Iverson, my whole "nothing ever changes with the Pistons" preview went right out the window. Adding a prolific scorer like AI makes Detroit a much sexier pick in the Central division, but in the end it's going to make the Pistons a less effective team. First off, the Pistons didn't really need a guy that can score 25+ points per game, since they had four guys (Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince) that would score 15+. The big loss here is that Billups anchored one of the best defenses in the league. While Iverson isn't a bad defender, he makes the Pistons backcourt very small. This may not be a big problem against contending teams in the East (Boston and Cleveland both have small backcourts), but you can't expect to win a championship if Rip Hamilton has to guard Kobe Bryant, Mo Peterson or Tracy McGrady, match-ups Chauncey Billups could handle. Expect Detroit to have a good regular season, make a strong playoff push and get absolutely hammered late in the post-season.

Projected record: 50-32

Indiana Pacers

Ughhh, do I really have to write something about the Pacers. Umm, they're going to be bad, is that good enough? Ok, ok, Indiana is in a transitional period, with the off-season seeing the Pacers cut ties with Jamaal Tinsley and Jermaine O'Neal, staples in Indiana since 2001. Unfortunately, new GM David Morway is left trying to fill in the gaps left by several years of mismanagement by Donnie Walsh (who's incompetence was great enough to land him the job of president of basketball operations of the New York Knicks. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up). Anyway, Indiana traded O'Neal and his massive contract to Toronto for T.J. Ford, who is at best a mediocre NBA point guard. Marquis Daniels starts at the 2-guard and rounds out a backcourt with no defense and no offensive range, ughhh. On the front line things are equally bad for the Pacers. Rasho Nesterovic and Troy Murphy are both slow footed and defensively challenged. The one bright spot for Indiana is the dynamic Danny Granger, but don't expect him to stay in Indiana long, as he is in the last year of his rookie contract and can expect big, big dollars in the free agent market. So in summary, the Pacers are going to be bad this year and for probably quite a few years to come.

Projected record: 18-64

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are a strange NBA team. They aren't very good (that's pretty common in the NBA), but they appear to be actively trying to get better (not so common). Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson are a good 1-2 scoring threat. Luke Ridnour is a terrible option as the starting point guard, but don't expect him to hold down that position throughout the entire season. Andrew Bogut looks to continue on his progression into becoming one of the top big men in the league. Unfortunately, the Bucks are still pretty terrible defensively and that's not going to stop, but they should score enough to win a few more games than last year.

Projected record: 34-50

Is Jon Lester A Keeper?

I wanted to start this post by clarifying how I go about determining whether a guy is a worthy keeper or not. It's essentially just a matter of projections. I look at how I expect the player to perform next season, and measure each of their five relevant statistics, and whether that player will have a positive, neutral, or negative effect on that statistic.

For example, Juan Pierre projects to have at least 40 steals next year, which is a positive. While he's a career .300 hitter, he's hit .292, .293, and .283 over the past three years, so something more like .285 is reasonable to expect, which makes batting average a neutral statistic. Finally, he averages about 1 HR every 100 games, so home runs is a strongly negative statistic. I take that combination of positives and negatives and weigh it against other options at the same position, and decide if the player warrants being declared one of the 80 best fantasy players (96 players are actually kept, but in order to declare someone a keeper, you should feel better than "just barely made the list").

The very last thing I look for is how I expect them to perform beyond next season. Listen, if you don't think you're going to get anything out of a player this year, they're just not a keeper. The rare exceptions would be if one of the elite young hitters (Pujols, Cabrera, Holliday) were to get injured in the offseason and be expected to miss a majority of the upcoming season. You would keep that player based on future performance, but only after they've proven that they're an elite hitter.

To me, you don't keep a pitcher who's expected to miss major time, regardless of how good they've been. Pitchers are much more susceptible to the "career-threatening injury" than hitters, and it often takes them several years to fully recover and regain their form. Draft them in the middle rounds if you like, but I say let other people have a crack at them first. You don't want a Mark Prior situation crippling your team for years to come. (Trust me, you don't).

Now, on to Jon Lester. First things first, Lester is a cancer survivor. Regardless of his baseball prowess, it's nice to know that sometimes cancer doesn't kill people. I have a friend who has battled cancer and won as well, so it's nice to see that humanity is at least picking up a few wins against the big C. Because the big C is a fucker. Fuck him.

It turns out, though, that Lester actually does have some baseball prowess. He had a nice 2008 season, picking up 16 wins and posting solid averages and a decent strikeout rate in his first full season in the majors. He also had a good enough postseason that all of the baseball media declared him an "ace in the making," shrugging aside Josh Beckett and his absurd postseason numbers. While I don't think Lester is better than Beckett, he's obviously got some skills.

Lester will also be only 25 next season, and could make strides forward again this season. He plays in Boston, which means he should fall backwards into 15 wins every year, even if he doesn't get any better. While you'd like to see better strikeout numbers from a keeper pitcher, Lester's upside is undeniable. I expected to say no when I started this article, but I'm going to say that, although he's borderline, Jon Lester is a keeper going into 2009.

Projected stats: 18-10, 3.30 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 180 Ks

Monday, November 3, 2008

2008-2009 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

I know, I know, it's a week into the season, what are we doing still piddling around with previews? Listen, if you wanted it done fast, you'd be going to ESPN.com. But you want it done right, and with an appropriate level of sass, and so that's why you come to Joe & Joe Sports.

(Please note that we did not link to ESPN.com up there. We don't want you leaving our site and going to that hole.)

Anyways, preview time:

Golden State Warriors

If you watched a Golden State game, chances are you saw 200 points scored. They averaged 111 points per game last year, and allowed an average of nearly 109 per game. They let Baron Davis leave via free agency, and burgeoning star Monta Ellis had a run-in with a moped that will cost him 26 regular-season games. The Warriors acquired swingman Corey Maggette, but they'll be handing point guard duties to rookie DeMarcus Nelson. Even if captain Stephen Jackson (what?) is able to manage the ball-handling for this team, they figure to be in precarious shape without two of their most dynamic players from last year, at least for those first 26 games.

I could see, at the end of this year, looking back at the Warriors and saying, "That team just never got going. They had trouble making things happen offensively without Ellis, and even after he got back, they just seemed to never get in sync." That's what I could see myself saying, and that certainly doesn't suggest they'll be a playoff team.

Projected record: 37-45

Los Angeles Clippers

You know, there's something lovable about the Clippers, something endearing about a team that has been (and likely forever will be) the ugly stepchild of Los Angeles basketball. In a city with the Lakers and the Bruins, there's a lot of successful basketball to be found, which makes it surprising that the Clippers are able to stay financially feasible in the same city. It would seem that folks in this town just like basketball...which is a good reason to not worry about giving them another football team.

Anyways, onto the court. The Clippers made a deal to acquire Marcus Camby from the Nuggets for a pair of loafers (just kidding...the loafers would've been more expensive), which should help replace the defense of Elton Brand, who zipped off to the east coast. Brand's offense will be harder to replace, but the acquisition of Baron Davis, one of the most explosive point guards in basketball, certainly helps. He also gives this franchise a grit and toughness it's lacked since...since I started caring about the Clippers. Danny Manning, maybe?

They'll definitely be better than last year, when Brand was injured, but the playoffs are probably still a little much to ask out of the #3 hoops team in L.A.

Projected record: 40-42

Los Angeles Lakers

The defending Western Conference champions (which, really means absolutely nothing, right?) are looking even better this year. They return four starters: Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, and Vladimir Radmanovic, and the fifth starter from last year, Lamar Odom, becomes one of the NBA's better bench players with the return of Andrew Bynum, the young phenom who missed last year's playoff run due to injury.

I won't lie, I don't like the Lakers at all. I enjoyed seeing them come up short against a Celtics team that was simply superior in every regard last season. But there's no doubt that the Lakers are talented, and as long as Kobe Bryant remains the most prolific scorer in the NBA, they're going to be a force. This year, they'll be more than a force. They're the front-runners for the NBA title.

Projected record: 62-20

Phoenix Suns

I think the Phoenix Suns made a huge mistake. Trading Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal was a stupid, stupid thing to do. O'Neal becomes even more of a liability in this fast-paced offense than he would be in a half-court offense, because he has trouble getting down the court in a timely fashion, and an even harder time doing it under control. When you're Shaq, you're already a target for fouls, and if you're racing upcourt to catch the offense, you're going to pick up bad fouls just trying to get into position. Shawn Marion was a perfect piece to this team; I don't care if he was voicing a displeasure, he was a stud, and the Suns will miss him this year as much as they did last year.

What's that? You're not so sure the Suns missed him last year? Well, we play numbers games here at Joe & Joe Sports, so here you go: the Suns were 35-14 (.714 winning percentage) before trading Shawn Marion, and 20-13 afterwards (.606). The Suns were a great team with Marion, and a good team without him. They caught the Spurs in the first round, the team that was basically the whole reason behind getting Shaq, and the Spurs bounced them in five games. Wow, nice move Steve Kerr.

The starting lineup outside of Shaq includes Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Raja Bell, and Matt Barnes. Is it the stacked lineup they had a few years ago, when they went to the conference finals against Dallas? No, not at all. But Nash and Stoudemire alone are worth 35 wins, and with Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw in the rotation, they should still sniff the playoffs. But expect another early exit.

Projected record: 45-37

Sacramento Kings

Sacramento was 38-44 last year, and showed some brief signs of being a decent basketball team. Then they traded Ron Artest for Donte Greene (a rookie who is exactly that), Bobby Jackson, and a first round pick in 2009, one that figures to be no higher than 20th, as the Rockets have a pretty stacked team this year. Artest may have been something of a trouble-maker, but they knew that when they traded Peja Stojakovic to get him from Indiana. He's been relatively quiet since going out west, and more importantly, he's been the defensive stalwart they expected him to be. Now they've got nobody.

Alright, they've got Kevin Martin, who seems to be a legitimate scorer, and Brad Miller, who's still got the tools that made him among the most efficient centers in the league five years ago. But that was five years ago, and there's literally no one else I'd want in my starting lineup on this team. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the worst team in the Western Conference. And so, here is your Pacific Division last place team. Number five, with a bullet.

Projected record: 19-63


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...