Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Commercialization of Christmas

There's always a lot of talk around Christmas about how the holiday has been commercialized, and how people are missing the true meaning of Christmas, and how people should have a stronger appreciation for the religious basis for the holiday. If that's important to you, that's fine. I don't have a problem with anyone's priorities on any subject, as long as it doesn't affect my day.

I'm not religious. Like, at all. And I like Christmas. Is it wrong for me to enjoy the "bastardization" of a holiday that I don't celebrate as it was originally designed? I don't think so; I certainly don't feel bad about it.

When I buy a video game for my sister, or mittens for my mom, or a poster for my brother, I don't feel like I'm disparaging anyone's religious beliefs. I'm not trying to spit in the face of anyone who has a different view on Christmas. I'm just trying to make them happy, and let them know that I care about them. Is it wrong to try to make people happy by spending money on them? We do it all the time:
  • Buying a beer for a buddy
  • Giving money to a charity
  • Paying for dinner on a date
From the other side, do I like getting stuff for Christmas? Yes. Obviously yes. I always like getting stuff. And part of it is the acquisition of new things, usually some kind of toy that I can enjoy. But another part of it is the understanding that these people who gave me gifts care about me.

And that's the other aspect of Christmas, the part that me and the pious can get together on. Christmas is a time to appreciate each other. It's a time when families come together, kids come home from college, people from out of town fly in to spend a few days with their cousins/siblings/parents/children. Commercialized or not, we all still recognize Christmas as a time of year to spend with the people who matter the most to us. And on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, we sit around a table with our family and closest friends. We break bread with the people who've shaped our lives, these people for whom we've expressed love, through words and actions and, yes, gifts.

Sounds pretty meaningful to me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dead Rising 2 Review - Part One

As you may or may not remember, Dead Rising was my personal game of the year for 2009. I poured hours and hours of time into the game, beating it in six different ways, and it's actually snuck back into my rotation on occasion this summer.

Right up until August 31st. On August 31st, Xbox Live released a Dead Rising 2 prequel game for 400 Microsoft points ($5.00), called Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. To an average gamer, I don't know what they would think of the game. But to me, a big fan of the original game and someone who was jacked for the sequel, I thought the prequel game was a lot of fun. To me, it accomplished everything that Capcom could've wanted:
  • It gave players an opportunity to preview the new game in a method that was more interesting than a simple gameplay demo.
  • It offered a preview of the new features of the game, specifically the crafting system where you use duct tape to combine two items into awesome weapons, like the paddlesaw or boomstick.
  • It bridged some of the plot gap between the original and its sequel, and helped to develop the two new main characters.
  • It gave players the chance to get a jump start on the real game, allowing them to carry over a couple levels and some cash from the prequel.
  • It generated buzz for the actual game, and brought in money.
Of course, the game had its limitations. It only allowed you to get to level 5, and only had a handful of create-able items. But it offered plenty of zombie-killing ferocity, especially once you find the moose-head (hint: it's in the hunting shack on the wall...okay, not really a hint, it's the answer, but whatever, go get it).

Part 2 of my Dead Rising 2 review will discuss the actual, full-sized game. And I have no idea when I'll post it, so don't ask.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Poetry?

I've never really understood poetry.

I don't mean to say that I don't understand what poetry is; I think I've at least got a grasp on that. I mean that I don't understand what's appealing about poetry over regular writing. What's the advantage of communicating using less forthright means? How does it serve anyone to try to convey your message using innuendo and metaphors, when actual discussion is more complete and easier for the average person to understand?

Let me qualify my standpoint here for a moment. There is poetry out there that isn't bad. There's poetry that, while still more vague than regular conversation, has its own value, by eliciting an emotional response, or offering a general starting point, rather than trying to actually make a point. But these pieces of poetry are few and far between, and aren't the poetry you encounter from day to day.

That poetry is written by some boner friend of yours who thinks he's complex. Or by some girl who thinks her poetry tells you how she's got all these layers. Or, overwhelmingly, by a random internet person, full of doubt and angst, like the rest of us, but "able" to express themselves through twitchy, broken phrases.

So who is it that actually likes all this poetry that's out there?

I ask that question, but I know the answer. I haven't met a single person who likes poetry that doesn't also write their own poetry. And they get their poetry-writing skills reinforced by other people who like poetry and write their own poetry. It's like there's some kind of quietly understood agreement that if you appreciate my poetry, I'll appreciate yours, and we can both seem profound.

It's a clever little way to seem like an artist, which we all want to be (me included). We'd all like to be able to create something that outlives us, some work that people look at/listen to/read and say, "What an amazing piece of work." Poets just seem to have figured out how to accomplish that, without having to actually, you know, be talented.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 8 vs. Detroit Lions

Lions 37, Redskins 25

I'm not sure we could've seen something worse than this happening on the way into the bye week. Really, really terrible. And I don't just mean the loss.

Offense: R

As in, vulgar. Donovan McNabb really did have a terrible game. His two big pass completions to Anthony Armstrong seemed like mistakes, where Armstrong had to adjust his route to the errant pass by McNabb (kudos to Armstrong on that, by the way). The biggest problem was an inability to string together positive plays to extend drives. The Redskins punted nine times on Sunday, way too much. You need more of those drives to end in scores.

The offensive line seemed overwhelmed a lot of the time, though, so you can't put it all on McNabb. You can't give up six sacks just from the QB taking too long to get rid of the ball; some of those are on line play. We knew coming into this season that the Redskins' offensive line was going to be a point of concern, and we're reaping what we sow. First round pick Trent Williams still has some work to do to become the blind side tackle that Mike Shanahan foresaw when he drafted him.

Speaking of, I also have to put a little of the blame here on the shoulders of Shanahan. He had only two running backs on the active roster, so when Ryan Torain suffered a hamstring injury, the Redskins had Keiland Williams. Period. I don't like the idea of Larry Johnson or Willy Parker in the backfield, but it would've been nice to have somebody. My friend was right when she said, "We're going to miss Rock Cartwright," but who knew it would be as a running back?

The lack of a running game and the constant sacks put the Redskins into a lot of bad 3rd down situations, which is probably why they went just two of fourteen on third down conversions. This problem hasn't gone away, and I hope the coaching staff does some research into how to resolve it, because it's killing the team's chances at victory.

Defense: B

I don't blame the defense for this week's loss. Could they have played better? Sure. But when your offense goes three-and-out on seven different drives, you're not being put in a position to win. The Redskins' longest drives were two that went three minutes, twenty-eight seconds. When you're constantly being sent back onto the field in no better shape than where you left, you get tired, and you get disheartened.

Furthermore, something that may have been lost in the heartbreak is that the Redskins actually held the Lions to just 4.3 yards per play, less than even our own pitiful offense. Add to that a big interception deep in Redskins territory by DeAngelo Hall, and you can't really fault the defense for the way this game played out.

Overall: C-

I really wish Shanahan hadn't benched McNabb at the very end of the game. Is it possible that Grossman gave the Redskins a better chance to win the game at that point? Sure, it's possible. I don't know the extent of McNabb's hamstring injuries, and I don't honestly know very much about Grossman's skill set or comfort level with this offense.

But by pulling McNabb, you've ensured that the next two weeks will be marred with quarterback talk, which is like poison to a town's football fans. Now we hear that the Redskins have brought in JaMarcus Russell for a workout, and in our minds, we're wondering if he might be a starter for Washington sometime this season. One of the things that McNabb's presence was supposed to provide was stability, the knowledge that, no matter what, if he's healthy, he's the quarterback. Now? Who knows.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010 MLB Awards

Joe and Joe Sports is proud to announce our award winners for the 2010 Major League Baseball season:

AL Most Valuable Player
  1. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
  2. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
Others receiving votes: Carl Crawford, Vladimir Guerrero, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez

NL Most Valuable Player
  1. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
  2. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
  3. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
Others receiving votes: Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitzki

AL Cy Young
  1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
  2. David Price, SP, Rays
  3. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
Others receiving votes: Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander

NL Cy Young
  1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
  2. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
  3. Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins
Others receiving votes: Ubaldo Jimenez, Billy Wagner, Brian Wilson

AL Rookie of the Year
  1. Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers
  2. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers
  3. Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles
Others receiving votes: Brennan Boesch, Danny Valencia

NL Rookie of the Year
  1. Buster Posey, C, Giants
  2. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
  3. Jamie Garcia, SP, Cardinals
Others receiving votes: Mike Stanton, Neil Walker

AL Manager of the Year
  1. Ron Washington, Rangers
  2. Joe Maddon, Rays
  3. Ron Gardenhire, Twins
Others receiving votes: Terry Francona, Buck Showalter, Cito Gaston

NL Manager of the Year
  1. Bobby Cox, Braves
  2. Bruce Bochy, Giants
  3. Bud Black, Padres
Others receiving votes: Dusty Baker, Charlie Manuel

Comments? Arguments? Outrage? Let's hear it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 7 vs. Chicago Bears

Redskins 17, Bears 14

I feel dirty.

Offense: C

It seems like the Redskins are going backwards when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness on offense. Rather than moving towards crisp passing plays, the team is dropping passes, Donovan McNabb is still throwing balls into the ground, and the offensive line is still inconsistent.

Meanwhile, it looks like Ryan Torain is proving why he drew the affection of Mike Shanahan for all these years. He's a hard runner who, while he'll never break one for 60 yards, looks like he can get hard yards, which is one of the most valuable things for a running back in the NFL. Chris Johnson is obviously great, but there are circumstances in which I'd rather have Marion Barber. I like that "the All-Torain Vehicle" is on Washington.

But two interceptions and SIX FUMBLES (only one lost) don't bode well for the future. You can't put the ball on the turf that frequently and expect to win football games.

Defense: B??

This was the hardest defensive game to grade since I started the Redskins Report Card. They held the Bears to 66 yards rushing...but gave up 4.1 yards per carry. They intercepted Jay Cutler four times (all by DeAngelo Hall)...but allowed four drives of 59 yards or more. This hasn't historically been a "big play defense," so I worry that these were just fortunate circumstances, but hey, who knows. Maybe Jim Haslett has transformed the defense, but it's still got a long way before they can be counted on to win games.

Overall: W

Really, the only grade I can give this team for Sunday's game is a win. They won the game, inexplicably, and that's great, but other than that, I don't think you can take away any information going forward. Most wide receivers aren't going to bail on their routes like Johnny Knox did. Most teams aren't going to ignore a fairly productive running game in a close ballgame. And it's pretty rare that you'll have a pick six by the other team negated by a delay of game penalty.

But our boys are 4-3, and that ain't bad.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 6 vs. Indianapolis Colts

Colts 27, Redskins 24

Offense: C+

It's hard to get too down on the offense, when this was the first time all season we've seen some balance, yardage-wise. Ryan Torain ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and the ground game was effective start to finish. Alleged "MVP candidate" Donovan McNabb passed for 246 yards and a touchdown, but the Colts' defense made two good plays to get interceptions (one in the final seconds) that quelled the Redskins.

Defense: D+

The defense let us down this week. You knew you were going to give up the yards to Peyton Manning. That passing offense is too crisp and too strong to have any notions of stifling them, especially on a warm October evening. But 7.5 yards per carry for Joseph Addai is unacceptable.

All of the talk on local sports radio has been about whether or not Albert Haynesworth, a healthy scratch on Sunday, would have made a difference in this game. Honestly, I don't see how he couldn't have helped. There's a reason he warranted the kind of contract he got from the Redskins two years ago. He's an elite defensive tackle, and I don't care if he's awkward in a 3-4 defense, or if he doesn't have the whole scheme down; he's huge, powerful, and any defense is better with him than without him.

Overall: C-

Honestly, coming into this week, I'd have had no problem with the Redskins losing this game. I've always seen Manning as an outrageous talent, and I've always seen the Redskins as a team that has trouble overcoming outrageous talents (see Steven Jackson, Andre Johnson, and Bill Belichick). The Redskins went into halftime down 17-7, and I was able to accept my favorite team's fate.

Then, of course, the sack/fumble of Manning by Brian Orakpo (who appears to be even better than we could've expected) and subsequent touchdown by Torain got my hopes up. With 2:13 left and the Redskins down just a field goal, starting their drive at their own 38, I was honestly expecting them to at least push the game to overtime. Four inept plays later, I was sour and frustrated, partly at the loss, but mostly at the fact that I had let myself get excited again. I keep forgetting how many times this team has let me down. I guess that's football, though.

Tomorrow is always another day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A New Feature?

As you may remember, I have a distinct sentiment when it comes to Lavar Arrington and his suitability as a radio host. If you don't remember, and choose not to click the link because you're lazy, let me sum it up for you: I think he's terrible.

What's kind of amazing is how frequently he says something irrational, obnoxious, or downright wrong. So amazing, in fact, that I'm debating adding a new feature to our blog here, where I listen to the Lavar Arrington Show for 30-60 minutes a day, and coming on here to offer you my analysis. I could use an outlet for relieving some stress, so I'm going to consider it.

And, at least for right now, I'm going to offer you another of their gems; and yes, I'm lumping in his co-host Chad Dukes, who stood by Arrington's argument that, wait for it...

"...Donovan McNabb deserves consideration as NFL MVP."

I pride myself on having pretty intelligent readers, so I'm sure you don't need me to outline why this is ludicrous, but on the off chance you're unsure, or aren't much of a football fan, or are Lavar Arrington, let me give you all the data you'll need.

The first point Arrington brought up was that McNabb has offered leadership that the Redskins haven't seen in a long time. I agree. That doesn't make a player the league MVP; that can make him the team's MVP. Furthermore, I think you'd be hard-pressed to say LaRon Landry hasn't been at least as important to the Redskins' success as McNabb.

Which brings me to Lavar's second point: the Redskins' "success." The team is 3-2. We're all glad they're 3-2, somewhere between glad and ecstatic, but still, they're a single game above .500, and they haven't played in a game yet that we didn't have to watch to the very end, except for the beating we saw our team get in St. Louis. Let's not talk about McNabb leading the team to the promised land just yet.

I will give Arrington a little bit of credit, though. The one point he was halfway willing to concede was that McNabb's stats aren't the best in football. Well, thanks for almost yielding that point, Lavar, but because it's the strongest evidence out there for why someone else should be the league MVP, let's have another look at those pesky "statistics." And, for kicks, we'll only look at quarterbacks, even though there are players at other positions who warrant more consideration than McNabb.

The quarterbacks whose teams have the best records in the league:
  • T1 - Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (4-1)
  • T1 - Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
  • T1 - Jay Cutler/Todd Collins, Chicago Bears (4-1)
  • T1 - Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, (4-1)
  • T5 - Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)
  • T5 - Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
  • T5 - Tom Brady, New England Patriots (3-1)
  • T5 - Ben Roethlisberger/Charlie Batch/Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
Then there are ten more teams tied for 9th at 3-2, a group that includes McNabb as well as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, and Vince Young, as well as the two-headed monster of Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb.

The quarterbacks with the highest passer ratings in the NFL:
  1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots - 109.0
  2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles - 108.8
  3. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - 105.4
  4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - 102.6
  5. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - 102.2
  6. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills - 99.9
  7. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - 97.8
  8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - 95.7
  9. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans - 95.1
  10. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - 92.7
I could keep going until we got to McNabb, but for two reasons, I won't. First, I'd have to go all the way down to twenty-first, which puts him in the bottom half of eligible quarterbacks. Second, I'd have to put Seneca Wallace on the list ahead of McNabb, and I made a blood oath to never make a list that highlights Seneca Wallace as a good football player.

Is McNabb doing well? I have to say yes. He's opened up the long ball like we haven't seen here since we were dabbling with Jeff freakin' George. Redskins football has become more exciting than it's been in a long time, the team looks like they can play with most other teams, and there's no doubting that McNabb is a valuable locker room and press room guy. But an MVP? God no.

My biggest problem with his performance this year is that the Redskins aren't scoring points. They have the ninth-worst scoring offense and the second worst third down conversion rate in football, despite having the seventh-most prolific passing attack in the league. That means they're never marching down the field (which any fellow Skins fan knows as well as I do just from watching the games); they make a couple big passes downfield each game, and get a touchdown or two off of them. But mostly, they come up short.

Here's some interesting information. As I said, the Redskins have the seventh highest pass output per game in the NFL. The Redskins average 88.6 yards per game on the ground; the six teams ahead of them in passing output average 84.4 rushing yards per game. But here's the remarkable stat: Washington converts just 26.2% of their third down attempts, yet none of the other six teams has a conversion rate below FORTY PERCENT. But sure, that's an offense that deserves an MVP candidate.

To be fair, here are my personal top ten MVP candidates today:
  1. Peyton Manning, Colts - 1609 passing yards, 11 TD, 2 INT
  2. Tom Brady, Patriots - 911 passing yards, 9 TD, 2 INT
  3. Mark Sanchez, Jets - 902 passing yards, 8 TD, 0 INT
  4. Clay Matthews, Packers - 21 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 1 FF
  5. Arian Foster, Texans - 718 total yards, 5 TD
  6. Philip Rivers, Chargers - 1759 passing yards, 11 TD, 4 INT
  7. Osi Umenyiora, Giants - 13 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 5 FF
  8. Kyle Orton, Broncos - 1733 passing yards, 8 TD, 3 INT
  9. Michael Vick, Eagles - 799 passing yards, 6 TD, 0 INT, 187 rushing yards, 1 TD
  10. Adrian Peterson, Vikings - 585 total yards, 3 TD
Donovan McNabb would be somewhere around 25.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 5 vs. Green Bay Packers

Redskins 16, Packers 13

I still don't believe it.

Offense: B-

It'd be interesting to see what this offense would look like if it ever got the ground and air attacks synced up. As it is, we still only get to see one or the other on any given Sunday. I'm still not wild about Donovan McNabb's accuracy (which in Sunday's game was at least partially a result of rampant pressure), but 357 yards is indicative of a high-caliber (get it?) passing attack.

The ground game was absolutely nowhere, though. Washington averaged a measly 2.4 yards per carry, with a long run of a whopping eight yards. Graham Gano hit three of four field goals to account for more than half of Washington's scoring, and while he missed a 51-yarder that would've put the Redskins in a position to win the game in regulation, I still like him a lot going forward.

Defense: B

It feels weird to be saying that the defense did better than the offense, but when you look at the numbers, it makes sense. The Redskins allowed a pretty large amount of offense out of the Packers: 293 passing yards, 157 rushing yards, 6.4 yards per play. So how do you hold that kind of offense to only 13 points?

Third downs. Green Bay was just 2 of 13 on third downs, meaning almost every time the Redskins had a chance to make a stop, they did. Partner that with the pair of turnovers that Washington forced, including a beautiful interception by burgeoning superstar LeRon Landry, and you've got a defense that has given your team a chance to win.

One thing I will say is that I don't know why the Redskins' corners play so far off of wide receivers. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must have a lot of faith in his linebackers' ability to close slant gaps and seal off WR screens, because the cushion they gave yesterday was tremendous.

Overall: B+

This was a circumstance where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The Packers were one of the strongest-looking teams coming into 2010, and that hasn't really changed. But the Redskins played smart, physical football, and were able to pull out a win. Next week is a Sunday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, which should offer a window into the rest of the Redskins' season. If they can somehow find a way to win that game, I'll probably have red lips the next time you see me...because I'll be drinking the Kool-Aid.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 4 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Redskins 17, Eagles 12

We all knew Donovan McNabb's return to Philadelphia was going to be a game to watch. We knew it'd be hotly contested, and we knew it would be emotional for the fans and the players. We didn't know if the Redskins could win the game, and it was nice to find out that, yes, in fact, they could.

Offense: C+

The story after the game was about how McNabb went into Philadelphia and beat his old team, but that's not really what happened. Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain combined for 125 yards on 29 carries, and as a team the Redskins averaged 4.8 yards per rush. That was the story for the offense, the sudden emergence of a running game.

McNabb wasn't awful, but he wasn't very good either. He completed just eight passes all game for 125 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The most you can say about the Redskins' offense is that they were much more effective on third down this game than they have been all season, converting five of eleven chances. But overall, not an exciting performance.

Defense: B

Alright, honestly, this was probably destined to be an Eagles win, and a C- rating for the Redskins' defense. But late in the first quarter, when two Redskins defenders sandwiched Michael Vick and put him out of the game, they created an opportunity for success, and they took advantage of Kevin Kolb's inability to get the ball down the field.

Most importantly, they stifled drives when the team really needed stops. Though they gave up 353 total yards, they held a still potent Eagles' offense to only twelve points. DeSean Jackson had just three catches for 19 yards, possibly offering a blueprint for containing his big play ability by jamming him hard at the line. LeSean McCoy was by far the Eagles most effective player, but when Kolb zeroed in on him later in the game, the Redskins were up to the task.

Special Teams: N/A

Talking about special teams is boring. I'm not going to do it anymore.

Overall: B-

Listen, this wasn't a game where the Redskins overmatched their opponents. They fought tooth and nail, they played physical football, and they got a couple of crucial big plays. It was nice to come out with a win, and to be 2-2 at this point, especially after the debacle in St. Louis last week, is completely acceptable. Green Bay next week could make things look a lot bleaker going forward, though.




Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 MLB Playoff Predictions

I put out the call to friends and partners of Joe and Joe Sports for MLB playoff predictions, and here are the results. There's always one guy (Beemiller this time) who lets his predictions take on a life of their own, and we're the beneficiaries, because we get to read them.

Enjoy.

Josh Beemiller, friend of Joe and Joe Sports

Rays/Rangers - Cliff Lee shuts down the Rays in game one, but the Rays remember they are good and pound the snot out of the Rangers for the rest of the series. Rays in 4.

Yankees/Twins - Minnesota's groundball-happy pitching staff causes Jeter to hit into an ALDS record 17 double plays. New acquisition Randy Moss, batting cleanup for the concussed Justin Morneau, only has 4 hits in the series, all for homeruns.

Reds/Phils - Joey Votto continues to be awesome, hitting .500 with a pair of homeruns. However, after winning game one, Dusty "Destroyer of Arms" Baker has Volquez start games 2 and 3 as well. Phils in 5.

Braves/Giants - Giants pitch their way to a sweep. Huff, Burrell, and Posey each have a game winning homerun in the trio of 1-0 contests.

ALCS Rays/Twins - Down 3-1 in game 5 (and in the series), Joe Mauer hits a go-ahead 3-run homer. Twins go on to win the series in 7 games.

NLCS Phils/Giants - Giants continue their shutout streak in games 1 and 2. Cole F****** Hamels pitches brilliantly to put his team back in the series, and the Phils remember how to hit. The Giants don't. Phils in 6

World Series Twins/Phils - In one of the best World Series in recent memory, the two teams alternate wins for the first 6 games. In the 5th inning of game 7, with Randy Moss on 3rd, Jason Kubel fails to get the bunt down on the suicide squeeze. It doesn't matter, however, as Moss had just walked off the field. In the postgame press conference, he would later say he figured Kubel would hit a sac fly, so he didn't really need to "hustle" on that play. Later, with the score tied at 4, Ryan Howard hits his first homer of the series. The score remains 5-4 in the top of the ninth, until Joe Mauer hits a game tying shot with 2 outs. Matt Capps comes on to keep the tie in place in the bottom of the 9th, and does so, but not before three balls reach the warning track. In the top of the 11th, Denard span hits a leadoff triple, and later scores on a Mauer sac fly. After exhausting his bullpen, both in the series and in this game, Minnesota is forced to bring in Carl "The Mustach" Pavano to close it out. Phils get two runners on with one out, before Raul Ibanez hits into the series-ending double play.

Twins in 7. Total runs scored in WS - 63.


Alex Hardin, Beltway Braves

Divisional Round

MIN over NYY
TB over TEX
SF over ATL
PHI over CIN

League Championship Series

TB over MIN
SF over PHI

World Series

SF over TB in 6 games


Chip Hart, friend of Joe and Joe Sports

ALDS

Rays over Rangers
Yankees over Twins

NLDS

Phillies over Reds
Giants over Braves

ALCS

Rays over Yankees

NLCS

Phillies over Giants

WORLD SERIES

Phillies over Rays in 6
45 total runs


Joe Mandi, Joe and Joe Sports

AL

Yankees over Twins
Rays over Rangers

Rays over Yankees

NL

Giants over Braves
Phillies over Reds

Giants over Phillies

World Series

Giants over Rays (in 6 games)
42 total runs


Ed Mattingly, friend of Joe and Joe Sports

Twins over Yankees
Rays over Rangers
Phillies over Reds
Braves over Giants

Twins over Rays
Phillies over Braves

Phillies over Twins (5 games)
36 total runs


Joe Mattingly, Joe and Joe Sports

Round 1

Rangers over Rays - Cliff Lee and Josh Hamilton will be shaky, but Ian Kinsler and Neftali Feliz will steady the ship.
Yankees over Twins - I wish the Twins would win, and everything I read says the Twins are a bad matchup for the Yankees...but they're the Yankees. Bastards.
Phillies over Reds - I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball.
Braves over Giants - Bobby Cox's magic could bring one more playoff series victory to Atlanta.

Round 2

Yankees over Rangers - I just don't see the Rangers in the World Series this year. But I do think they're headed in the right direction.
Phillies over Braves - I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball.

World Series

Phillies over Yankees (in 5) - You guessed it. I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball.
50 total runs.


Mike Mattingly, Opinionated Truths

Rays over Rangers
Yankees over Twins

Phillies over Reds
Giants over Braves

Rays over Yankees
Phillies over Giants

Phillies over Rays in 6

(43 total runs)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 26

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (.471, 6 R, 5 HR, 10 RBI) - Encarnacion is one of six everyday players in the Blue Jays' 2010 lineup who is a threat to hit 25 homers going forward. Honestly, if they keep this group together and shore up their bullpen, the Jays could be scary next season.
  • NL Hitter: Ben Francisco, OF, Phillies (.412, 4 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB) - I would have liked to have picked Matt Kemp, the longtime Rider who homered in each of the last five games of the season, but the batting average and the power/speed combo from Francisco has a lot of value.
  • AL Pitcher: David Price, SP, Rays (1 W, 9 K, 0.00/0.67) - Price has had a great year, which was not wholly unpredictable, either. The guy has top-tier stuff. Honorable mention for Neftali Feliz, who had a win and two saves in three scoreless innings of relief.
  • NL Pitcher: Nelson Figueroa, SP, Astros (2 W, 13 K, 0.00/1.34) - Kind of a high WHIP, but he's one of only three guys with two wins over the past seven days. And 13 strikeouts is nothing to sneeze at.

Upcoming Posts

Over the next couple of days, I should have a few different posts for you, including:
  • MLB playoff predictions
  • My end-of-season awards ballot
  • This week's Redskins Report Card
So, look forward to that.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 25

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Mike Aviles, 2B/SS, Royals (.313, 9 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB) - It was so nice of Aviles to stop by again. His 2009 was horrible, but he seems to have put that behind him, and he's having a nice season. Wouldn't count on many multi-homer weeks out of him, though.
  • NL Hitter: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates (.481, 6 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI) - Between Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates have a couple of young guys talented enough to have long, productive careers...for the Red Sox and Angels.
  • AL Pitcher: Matt Thornton, RP, White Sox (2 W, 1 SV, 8 K, 0.00/0.20) - I relish the rare opportunity to highlight a reliever in this feature, particularly when it's not a true closer. Thornton is one of baseball's best relievers, and he's having a great season...again. I'd be surprised if he didn't at least get a chance at the closer's gig next year in Chicago, or elsewhere.
  • NL Pitcher: Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (2 W, 9 K, 1.69/0.69) - Halladay has been the most consistently effective pitcher this season. We've seen bursts out of Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Carlos Zambrano, and Max Scherzer, but all season long, it's been Halladay. I'm glad he'll finally get a chance to pitch in the postseason.
Preliminary Keeper Lists

As a favor to all of my fellow owners, I've decided to put together my personal assessment of each team's top 8 players, in order. Granted, this can change over the course of an offseason, based on team changes and just changes in my opinions, but this is my current evaluation. Use this information as you will.

Those Guys
  1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
  2. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres
  3. Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins
  4. Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins
  5. Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies
  6. Jonathan Sanchez, SP, Giants
  7. Daniel Hudson, SP, Diamondbacks
  8. Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels
Columbus DamKnights
  1. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
  2. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
  3. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
  4. Michael Young, 3B, Rangers
  5. Torii Hunter, OF, Angels
  6. Corey Hart, OF, Brewers
  7. Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians
  8. Travis Wood, SP, Reds
Akron Pronks
  1. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
  2. Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians
  4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox
  5. Chris B. Young, OF, Diamondbacks
  6. Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox
  7. Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles
  8. Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds
Cleveland Enforcers
  1. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
  2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
  3. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets
  4. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies
  5. Davis Price, SP, Rays
  6. Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins
  7. Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers
  8. Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
Mercer AutoWreckers
  1. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
  2. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
  3. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
  4. Hunter Pence, OF, Astros
  5. Heath Bell, RP, Padres
  6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
  7. Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals
  8. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
Vandelay Industries
  1. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
  2. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
  3. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners
  4. Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees
  5. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers
  6. Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays
  7. Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees
  8. J.A. Happ, SP, Astros
Huber Heights Heroes
  1. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
  2. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies
  3. Matt Cain, SP, Giants
  4. Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
  6. Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros
  7. Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers
  8. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
Stewies SexyParties
  1. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins
  2. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
  3. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
  4. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
  5. Cliff Lee, SP, Rangers
  6. Roy Oswalt, SP, Phillies
  7. Tim Hudson, SP, Braves
  8. Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals
Feisty Mosquitoes
  1. Carl Crawford, OF, Rays
  2. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
  3. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
  4. Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks
  5. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
  6. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
  7. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
  8. Trevor Cahill, SP, Athletics
Riders of Rohan
  1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
  2. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
  3. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
  4. Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
  5. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
  6. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
  7. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays
  8. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers
Dunedain Rangers
  1. Buster Posey, C, Giants
  2. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
  3. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers
  4. Dan Haren, SP, Angels
  5. Andrew Bailey, RP, Athletics
  6. Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers
  7. Brian McCann, C, Braves
  8. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox
The Usual Suspects
  1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
  2. David Wright, 3B, Mets
  3. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
  4. Mat Latos, SP, Padres
  5. Johan Santana, SP, Mets
  6. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies
  7. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
  8. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers

Parachute Express



Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 3 vs. St. Louis Rams

Rams 30, Redskins 16

This will be a tough one to write.

Offense: D+

Donovan McNabb didn't have a terrible game, though there was more than one instance where his accuracy left something to be desired. The interception he threw was a stupid pass, and he deserves all the credit for that one. His passing touchdown to Santana Moss, though, was also mostly a McNabb feature, so at least there's that.

Maybe the most frustrating thing about Sunday's offense was that the run/pass split was so pronounced. Last week, I could understand it; the Redskins' passing offense was clicking. But this week, with the passing game kind of hit-or-miss, and the running backs (Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain) pretty much kicking ass, why did the team continue to ignore the ground game? There were 17 rushes versus 33 passes, and one of those rushes was a scramble by McNabb. So the play-calling provided more than double the number of pass plays as run plays. I worry that Mike Shanahan might establish a potentially effective gameplan during the week, but not react to game-day circumstances.

Defense: F

They gave up 30 points to the Rams, including 16 points in the second half, when Steven Jackson was injured. There's no excuse for that.

Special Teams: C+

Devin Thomas was again an effective kickoff returner, offering a lot of the consistency that Rock Cartwright provided in the same capacity last year and for several years. But the story of the special teams was the injury to Josh Bidwell in warmups that forced Graham Gano into punter duties. One of his punts was blocked, and he seemed to outkick his coverage on more than one occasion. I don't blame Gano for that; I blame the NFL.

I understand that there's a motivation to have a limited roster size, but 45 people on game day means that you only have room for one backup at each position, even though those backups also play on special teams. In such an injury-laden sport as football, doesn't it behoove the NFL to make sure that we're not stuck in situations where we watch ineptitude? I'm not necessarily saying that Gano was inept, but he certainly wasn't good. I think they should expand overall rosters to 65, and expand game day rosters to 55. Let each team have a 3rd string QB and a backup K/P, every day.

Overall: D

The Redskins seem to always find a way to sucker-punch their fans. Last year we got a couple, the worst of which was their crumble against the Saints. This year, after beating Dallas and putting up an offensive display against Houston that we haven't seen in years, they barely show up against the Rams.

It is definitely not easy to be a Washington sports fan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 24

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians (.458, 8 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB) - This is the kind of across-the-board production you expected out of Choo when you drafted him. Granted, three of his home runs and seven of his RBI were in one game, but hey, you started him, right? Right?
  • NL Hitter: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (.381, 8 R, 5 HR, 14 RBI) - In all honesty, I might take Jayson Werth's week (.417, 9 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 2 SB) over Tulowitzki's, but it's at least a tie with Tulo at shortstop. Plus, I wanted to mention that Tulowitzki has 34 RBI in September...with over a week to go. Ridickydonk.
  • AL Pitchers: Ervin Santana (1 W, 13 K, 1.06/0.76) and Jered Weaver (2 W, 9 K, 1.98/0.88), SPs, Angels - It's nice to see that, even though the Angels are all but eliminated from the playoff hunt, these guys are pitching their asses off. And they're both under the control of the Angels until 2013, so there's plenty of reason for optimism going forward.
  • NL Pitcher: Matt Cain, SP, Giants (1 W, 7 K, 0.00/0.46) - Cain offered a couple of fantastic starts as the Giants head into the home stretch towards the playoffs. They're a game up in the division, and they'll need their stacked pitching staff (Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito) to lead the way. Lord knows their offense can't do it.
2010's Biggest Disappointments (Non-Injury)

As you may remember from last week's post, I talked about the players who've come out of nowhere to be fantasy forces this season. But just as often, players are highly rated at the beginning of the season, but end up being very disappointing. Some of those have been due to injury (Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury...gosh, no wonder Boston is gonna miss the playoffs), and I won't be talking about them. Let's focus on the guys who appear to have let us down for no good reason.

Once again, I'll be mentioning where these players were drafted in our keeper league (though a lot of them just rate as "keepers," which can only really mean they were viewed as being roughly among the top 96 players).
  • Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays (.209, 64 R, 24 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB), keeper - Hill was a huge surprise in 2009, posting career-highs nearly across the board. This year, he's been able to hold onto his power, but his batting average and on-base percentage have plummeted, resulting in considerably lessened run production. No idea what to think of him next year.
  • Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs/Braves, (.258, 77 R, 18 HR, 73 RBI, 1 SB), keeper - The most shocking part of Lee's 2010 swoon is that his batting average dropped so much. He came in as a .284 career hitter, and hadn't dropped below .270 in a decade. Lee can blame Aramis Ramirez a little bit, but he's also in his 14th major league season. It's possible he's just slowing down.
  • Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays (.234, 54 R, 22 HR, 71 RBI), keeper - Lind has played mostly designated hitter this year, but he's been more of a designated fly-outter, perhaps due to reduced plate discipline. He passed last year's strikeout total in mid-August, and he's on pace for 17 fewer walks than last year. I'll say this, though: if Toronto can ever get their offense firing on all cylinders, they're going to be scary.
  • Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Diamondbacks (.203, 77 R, 32 HR, 84 RBI, 7 SB), keeper - Reynolds was a huge producer in 2009, posting big numbers in HR, RBI, SB, and K. Yes, strikeouts. And today, that seems like his undoing. Because when you can't pick out good pitches from bad, you end up costing both your real life team and your fantasy team. Reynolds' 2010 has been a reminder of the risk you run when you punt batting average.
  • Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (.241, 58 R, 23 HR, 76 RBI), keeper - Ramirez was particularly awful before the All-Star break, hitting .207 in 237 at-bats, dragging your average to the bottom of a well. What's particularly heart-breaking about that is that his batting average was a big part of why you draft Ramirez in the first place; he hadn't been below .289 since 2003 (the year before we started our keeper league). Ramirez does have two Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League titles...maybe he's getting lazy.
  • Pablo Sandoval, 1B/3B, Giants (.264, 59 R, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 3 SB), keeper - Sandoval was looking like the next...well, I don't know, but the next something good. He hit .330 with pop in 2009, his first full season, and a lot of us thought he might be very good. I do remember thinking that, even though I liked him, he was overrated in drafts, always going well before I'd have taken him. I certainly didn't expect this kind of drop off, though. Here's hoping he turns it around next year.
  • Javier Vazquez, SP, Yankees (10 W, 118 K, 5.05/1.37), 1st round - I don't know why I'm saying this was a surprise. We all knew that, with a return to the AL, Vazquez would be back to his old ways. The one thing we can say we're surprised about is that his strikeout rate is way down. He's got the worst K/BB ratio of his career, and the worst K/IP since, wait for it...his other season with the Yankees.
  • Matt Wieters, C, Orioles (.256, 37 R, 11 HR, 53 RBI), keeper - Wieters had shown enough flash last season that he warranted being kept, based on pedigree and potential. This year, his future is a little more in doubt. He started the year particularly awful, and though he's bounced back a little in the second half, he's not hitting at nearly the clip we'd expect out of a keeper quality catcher.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card - Week 2 vs. Houston Texans

Texans 30, Redskins 27

At halftime, with the Redskins up 20-7, I was on cloud nine. Neil Rackers hit a field goal to bring the Texans within 10, then Donovan McNabb answered right back with a great passing touchdown to Chris Cooley. I was giddy. Then I watched in horror as the Redskins gave the game back to the Texans. Could I take some positive things away from the game? Sure, and I'm sure the team will. But...damn it.

Offense: B+

The passing offense was tremendous. McNabb looked extremely comfortable, the offensive line did a good job of holding a pocket for him, and the receivers generally did well to get open and make plays. Four different players had at least 60 receiving yards, and six players had receptions of at least 20 yards.

However, there's still room for improvement, specifically with the run game. Four different players had rushing attempts, and Mike Sellers, who had zero yards on one rush, was the second best runner on the day. Clinton Portis averaged just 2.5 yards on his 13 carries, though he did manage to get into the end zone twice. With just three rushing first downs, the Redskins were unable to pound the ball forward late in the game, when they needed to kill clock. That opened the door for the disappointment that was to follow.

Defense: C

In terms of big plays, this Redskins defense was better than any we've seen in a decade. Five sacks, one interception, and several more big tackles, and it seemed like everyone on the defense made at least one important play, from Adam Carriker to Brian Orakpo to Carlos Rogers. LaRon Landry in particular was flying around the field, causing problems for the Houston offense. The problem was that Houston found ways to get passes completed to make up for all those sacks.

They did a pretty good job stifling Arian Foster, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week last week, and they did generate a lot of big plays. If they can combine their bend-don't-break performance from week 1 with their sack-happy performance in week 2, they'll be a force.

Special Teams: C

I'm not going to blame Graham Gano for his two misses. The first one was blocked on an outstanding play by a Texans defender, the second one was a 52-yarder that he actually hit the first time, but was negated because of a Texans timeout. I don't know how I feel about the rule that allows for these last-second timeouts on field goals, but I know that I was frustrated when I saw it happen, even before I saw the ball go through the uprights on the first attempt.

The return game was fine, not exceptional, but fine. Coverage was very good on kickoffs (particularly on kickoffs that Steve Slaton elected to take out of bounds at his own 1 yard line), so-so on punts.

Overall: B

While I'm obviously disappointed that the Texans came back to win, this game offered Redskins fans a lot of things to feel encouraged about. McNabb looked fantastic, and Jim Haslett might have finally figured out what to do with Landry. Next week's game in St. Louis becomes very important, because the Redskins have to show they can beat the teams they're supposed to beat...since a lot of their games this season are going to be against teams they're not supposed to beat.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 NFL Wrap Up - Week 1

This will basically be the same thing that I did much of last year as part of my Redskins Report Card. I'm splitting it off from that because...well, I could tell you it's so that my content is properly organized, but it's really just so that I have posts more frequently.

Around the League
  • Minnesota did not look like the same team that took New Orleans to the brink in the NFC Championship game last season. Do we attribute it to the absence of Sidney Rice, or to the fact that Brett Favre had a practice and a half before the game?
  • I can't believe the referees stole that touchdown from Calvin Johnson and the Lions. This whole "process of the catch" concept is asinine.
  • The Dolphins won 15-10 over the Bills. A win is a win, but it's the Bills...
  • Green Bay's Mason Crosby kicked the longest field goal in franchise history in a 27-20 victory, but the story here is that Kevin Kolb, the anointed heir to Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, was ineffective, and is now hurt and unlikely to play in week 2. So, Michael Vick is a starting QB in the NFL again.
  • Eight catches, 64 yards, two TDs. Yeah, Wes Welker is back.
  • Seattle laid the lumber to San Francisco. I get the impression that Mike Singletary would be a good coordinator, or a nice interim option, but might not have the knack for being a head coach for the long haul. Just an impression; the 49ers will probably win nine straight now.
  • Peyton Manning was 40/57 for 433 yards and three TDs, and he wasn't the story on offense on Sunday's loss to the Texans. Arian Foster ran for 231 yards and three scores. See ya, Steve Slaton.
  • Baltimore's offense was erratic, but generated twenty first downs. On the other side of the football, they allowed just six first downs in a tight win over the Jets. If they can learn to hold onto the football, there's no reason the Ravens can't go to the Super Bowl.
  • For me, the big question after week one is this: are the Chiefs legit, or are the Chargers in trouble? One thing is certain, though. If you own Jamaal Charles in your fantasy league, no need to worry about that handcuff.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Buck

Eddie Trash Talk

Rock Band 3 Setlist

The Rock Band 3 soundtrack has been released (view it here). When compared with my Ultimate Rock Band 3 Setlist, there are two overlaps: Cold as Ice by Foreigner, and Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon. I also managed a few band overlaps (David Bowie, Steve Miller Band, Dire Straits, etc), which may not "count" when it comes to predictions, but definitely make me look forward to the game.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 23

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics (.389, 6 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 9 SB) - Yes, you read that correctly. Nine stolen bases for Crisp over the past seven days. He's got 27 steals since the All-Star break, and he's likely made a difference for some team in your fantasy league. I know I sure wish I had grabbed him.
  • NL Hitter: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (.346, 9 R, 6 HR, 11 RBI) - Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are powering another late-season charge by Colorado. Can you imagine how good the Rockies would be if they could win games in April and May?
  • AL Pitcher: Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers (2-0, 18 K, 1.80/0.80) - If Verlander could bump his April (1-2, 5.53 ERA), both he and the Tigers would be looking good. As it is, the Tigers are destined for .500, and Verlander will just be another very good pitcher.
  • NL Pitcher: Brett Myers, SP, Astros (2-0, 18 K, 0.64/0.79) - If you're looking for the best pitcher since the All-Star break, you have to consider Myers. He's having a career year in a low pressure situation in Houston. He'll be virtually impossible to value in next year's draft.
I often try to find a way to choose players who aren't also Yahoo's highest ranked players over the past week, but this week, that was impossible. These four guys were a cut above.

2010's Biggest Surprise Performers

Every year, players come out of nowhere to have career years, and help carry their fantasy owners to victory. Vinny Castilla's 131 RBI in 2004, Esteban Loaiza's insane 2003 (21-9, 207 K, 2.90/1.11), and Brett Myers this year, they all came out of nowhere to provide substantial assistance to fantasy teams. Here are a few more guys who've had unexpected explosions this season, along with where they were drafted in our super keeper league:
  • Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays (.262, 96 R, 46 HR, 110 RBI, 7 SB), undrafted - In four full seasons (three in Pittsburgh, one in Toronto), he topped out at 16 HR, 63 RBI, and a .254 average. This year, he leads the American League in home runs, and is second in RBI and walks. Not bad for a four-time castoff.
  • Trevor Cahill, SP, Athletics (16 W, 98 K, 2.61/1.05), 22nd round - Cahill was the fifth-to-last player drafted, which means that almost every team had 14 chances to nab him. Then, Cahill was waived early, so everyone had another chance to nab him. So...we're all pretty stupid for having not done so.
  • Tim Hudson, SP, Braves (15 W, 122 K, 2.62/1.13), 18th round - I still see Hudson as a guy who's unreliable from year to year, and doesn't produce the kinds of strikeouts you'd like out of a starter. But with those wins and ratios, you learn to love the minimal strikeout production.
  • Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, Giants (.294, 90 R, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 6 SB), undrafted - Remember back in 2004, when Huff was the next big thing, a hotshot third baseman for the Rays? Or in 2008, when he was a great comeback player for the Orioles? Well, nobody in our league did, where Huff was undrafted, and remained a free agent until June 21st. The Pronks can't justify keeping him, but he's been a solid producer.
  • Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (.322, 85 R, 36 HR, 104 RBI), undrafted - Is Konerko's power production surprising? Not overwhelming so, he's got two 40-homer campaigns on his resume. But him posting a career-high batting average at 34, after three mediocre years, that's surprising. Still, it's also surprising that the guy keeps going undrafted, when he's shown year after year that he can be a useful source of power.
  • Mat Latos, SP, Padres (14 W, 174 K, 2.43/0.99), 18th round - Latos was actually a guy that fantasy experts projected to do pretty well this year (as you can tell by the fact that he was drafted in our league), but nobody expected this kind of performance. He's Yahoo's fourth-rated pitcher, and twelfth-rated player overall. Wowie zowie.
  • Angel Pagan, OF, Mets (.287, 73 R, 10 HR, 60 RBI, 33 SB), undrafted - I know, for my part, I looked at Pagan several times early this summer, because I needed speed, but my outfield was too heavy for me to justify adding a guy who I'd have trouble starting. Turns out, I probably should've made room. Pagan has been a consistent if not flashy producer, and speed can be tough to acquire.
  • Carl Pavano, SP, Twins (16 W, 111 K, 3.47/1.14), undrafted - Perhaps the most insane part of Pavano's very solid season is that the Twins seem to have expected it. They traded for him last season, then made him a reasonable arbitration offer and brought him back for another season. How did they see what apparently nobody else saw...or at least remembered, from his mastery of the Yankees in the 2003 World Series?
  • Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (.313, 97 R, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB), undrafted - Prado was interesting to a lot of teams because of his position eligibility, and he was nabbed up in April. That eligibility, along with his consistent production at the top of the Braves' lineup, has made him a valuable part of the AutoWreckers' charge towards the top 3.

Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 Redskins Report Card: Week 1 vs. Dallas Cowboys

Redskins 13, Cowboys 7

It's a fine morning, isn't it? Any morning after a Redskins win is pretty good, but after a win against Dallas, the air smells a little sweeter, the traffic moves a little quicker, the coffee is a little more Irish...err, that might just be me. Was it a pretty win? No sir. But a win is a win is a win.

Offense: D+

Donovan McNabb's first game as a Redskin wasn't exactly a huge performance. He had more incompletions than completions, averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt, and didn't lead the team on any touchdown drives. But for his first game, I wasn't too disappointed. I mean, he definitely put some passes in the grass that could've been completed, and his longest pass was just 24 yards. But he seemed more comfortable and confident than Jason Campbell ever was for Washington. Part of that is experience, but part of that is also just the raw knowledge that you can make the plays you want to make.

The running game, however, was atrocious. Take out McNabb's 17-yard scramble, and the team rushed for 72 yards on 21 carries, a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. Clinton Portis had a crucial 18-yard run late in the game to help set up Graham Gano's second field goal of the game, but other than that, he and Larry Johnson were utterly useless. It's a new offensive line, so hopefully the development of chemistry is the only hangup here, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking that we might be watching the decline of Portis.

Defense: A-

I don't think you can say enough about how well the Redskins' defense played. The Cowboys are one of the most vaunted offenses in the NFC, and deservedly so. The talent is all there for this team to score fifty points on any given Sunday. Holding that offense to seven points is reason to be excited. Moreover, the defense just looked good. They had pressure on Tony Romo for much of the game. The stat sheet reflects only one sack, but of the twelve penalties called on the Cowboys, several were holds and false starts, forced by the constant pressure that Jim Haslett's defense was putting on Dallas.

Also worth mentioning is that Dallas made a series of bonehead mistakes at the end of the first half, and Washington's defense capitalized. With eleven seconds left, and on their own 36 yard line, the Cowboys elected not to take a knee and go into halftime down 3-0. Romo dropped back, but as his pocket crumbled (a regular occurrence last night), he scrambled and made a swing pass to Tashard Choice. Choice was immediately wrapped up, but rather than go to the ground, he tried to fight his way free. Redskins defenders swarmed to the spot, and DeAngelo Hall ripped the ball out of Choice's hands, then picked it up and returned it all the way to the house.

Last year's Redskins would've found a way to kick that ball out of bounds...

Special Teams: B

There was a botched field goal attempt that looked like it might have been the difference in the game, but thankfully it wasn't. Obviously you don't want that to happen again, but with the first new long-snapper in like a decade, a little bit of growing pain isn't completely unforeseeable. Furthermore, the kicking team did convert on a 49-yarder in the fourth quarter, and those are the kinds of kicks you want your kicker to be able to make.

Devin Thomas showed a lot of flash in his kick returns, and he may have found a spot where he can contribute, even if he's not the wide receiver we were all hoping he'd be. Josh Bidwell punted well enough, nothing noteworthy.

Overall: B+

I feel okay about this season's prospects. Again, stifling these Cowboys is an impressive feat by this defense, and if the offense can catch up, the Redskins could challenge for a playoff spot. Gotta get that running game moving, though.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 22


Fantasy Players of the Week

  • AL Hitter: Jim Thome, UT, Twins (.455, 5 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI) - Thome is certainly capable of making the most of limited opportunities. With eleven at-bats and just three starts last week, Thome made his presence known. Thome is probably a guy who deserves more consideration as an all-time great than he gets.
  • NL Hitter: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (.567, 6 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB) - Here's some food for thought: in one week, seven days, Gonzalez raised his batting average from .326 to .340. He was 17/30 in the past week. Ridiculous.
  • AL Pitcher: Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (1-0, 17 K, 0.00/0.73) - A pair of scoreless outings put Felix in the discussion, and the 17 strikeouts sealed the deal. In a season of disappointments for Seattle, it's nice to know that their ace is as good as advertised.
  • NL Pitcher: Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves (1-1, 7 K, 1.38/0.62) - In a crowded field, I'll take Hanson as my pitcher of the week. He had a phenomenal game against the Mets, and pitched well enough to win against the Pirates most nights. Others who merit distinction: Brian Wilson (5 SV, 0.00/0.60), Roy Oswalt (2-0, 13 K, 2.70/1.05), and Ian Kennedy (1-0, 11 K, 1.80/0.87).
Projected Final Standings

Yes, we here at Joe & Joe do occasionally pay attention to baseball in a non-fantasy capacity. In that spirit, here are my projected final standings (my preseason predictions are here for your reference/humiliating remarks, and the current MLB standings are here):
  • AL East: New York Yankees - I'm standing by my pick...mostly because, I mean, come on. They're going to win the East.
  • AL Central: Chicago White Sox - I feel like speed is a little more useful in September against rookie pitchers who don't know how to deal with it, and the White Sox have some scary speed.
  • AL West: Texas Rangers - Shockingly, the Rangers have a balanced team, and have for all intents and purposes wrapped up the West.
  • AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays - A near career year by Crawford and the emergence of Longoria as an elite hitter have the Rays sniffing the division title.
  • NL East: Philadelphia Phillies - Now that they've caught up with the Braves, I really don't see any way they don't take the crown.
  • NL Central: Cincinnati Reds - Six games up on the Cardinals, I don't think they'll collapse. But if anyone would...the Reds would.
  • NL West: San Francisco Giants - Maybe pitching still wins championships?
  • NL Wild Card: San Diego Padres - And maybe it also wins wild card berths?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 21

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Marcus Thames, OF, Yankees (.429, 7 R, 6 HR, 11 RBI) - I would have liked to have given the award to my very own Alex Rios (.367, 8 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB), but those six home runs are too much to ignore. Thank goodness, by the way. We'd all hate for the Yankees to suffer a power outage with Alex Rodriguez on the shelf.
  • NL Hitter: Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (.536, 9 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB) - It's rare that you find such a no-brainer pick for the player of the week, and it's particularly surprising when you consider some of the other weeks people have had. Stephen Drew (.500, 11 R, 4 HR, 9 RB) and Carlos Gonzalez (.478, 8 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI) both have been outstanding, but Hanley's obscene batting average and his speed contribution put him a cut above everyone else.
  • AL Pitcher: Gi0 Gonzalez, SP, Athletics (2-0, 11 K, 1.38/0.92) - It was kind of a tough week to pick the best AL pitcher, because nobody really had crazy strikeouts, which is usually my tie-breaker. Gonzalez was at least second in K's this week, and had a pair of wins and an excellent ERA and WHIP. Kudos must be extended, however, to Rick Porcello, who gave up just one run and just six base-runners over 14 innings in a pair of wins. His paltry 8 strikeouts, though, means you're just pleased, not super-pleased.
  • NL Pitcher: Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs (2-0, 15 K, 0.71/1.11) - Remember when Big Z was yanked from the starting rotation? Now, do you remember when he was a top 10 starting pitcher in fantasy baseball? We're closer to that now than the other thing...well, okay, maybe not. But Zambrano has definitely bounced back from his rough spring.

Riders, Ranked

I had an idea for a different feature this week, but it's better suited for closer to the end of the season. So, for kicks, I'm going to rank my entire team, top to bottom. Obviously this is subject to fluctuations, and should only be used for entertainment purposes.
  1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.342, 94 R, 33 HR, 107 RBI, 3 SB) - Arguably the best hitter in baseball. Notice I said hitter, to eliminate the stolen base aspect of his opponents.
  2. Matt Kemp, OF (.253, 68 R, 22 HR, 74 RBI, 18 SB) - I'm holding onto the idea that Kemp can be the 30/30 guy I need, but it does seem like discipline may be a problem, plate and otherwise.
  3. Jon Lester, SP (14 W, 176 K, 3.12/1.18) - Trading for Lester was maybe the most excited I've ever been about acquiring any player. I was jazzed when I traded for Miguel Cabrera, but Lester is the apple of my eye.
  4. Alex Rios, OF (.295, 78 R, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 28 SB) - I'm glad that, even though I tried my damnedest to get the Pronks to draft Rios, he ignored me.
  5. Clayton Kershaw, SP (11 W, 180 K, 3.01/1.24) - It looks like pitch count continues to be a problem for Kershaw, because he's stifling opponents, but he can't stay on the mound long enough to pick up wins. I hope he'll find a way to keep striking guys out, but doing so more quickly.
  6. Prince Fielder, 1B (.269, 80 R, 28 HR, 68 RBI, 1 SB) - The problem with Fielder has always been that, historically, heavy guys are hard to trust. Mo Vaughn, David Wells, Papa Fielder, they all seem to fluctuate a lot in their performances. So yes, this season does worry me some.
  7. Ian Kinsler, 2B (.298, 55 R, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 10 SB) - Kinsler is hurt every year. Kinsler is good every year. These are the facts.
  8. Zack Greinke, SP (8 W, 152 K, 3.81/1.21) - Greinke has come way back down to Earth after last year's Cy Young campaign. But the strikeout rate is still good, and he's got free agency coming up soon...which is a good thing as long as he doesn't go to the AL East. I don't want him having a break down when Yankees fans start booing him.
  9. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF (.266, 88 R, 42 HR, 99 RBI, 6 SB) - A trade deadline acquisition that was supposed to help me try to make up some points going towards the end of the year. The thing is, he's really been killing the ball all year, and I watched him on TV this weekend. He looks like can hit. Which means it looks like I have to start thinking about whether or not I can keep him.
  10. Phil Hughes, SP (15 W, 122 K, 4.12/1.25) - He's been the best source of wins on my team, but he's so up and down it kills me. Literally. Figuratively.
  11. Carlos Lee, OF (.251, 56 R, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 3 SB) - One of my more disappointing players this year (though Chris Davis will take the #1 slot on that list), Lee has finally started to show flashes of what made him a keeper for me in the first place. Too little, too late brother.
  12. Alexei Ramirez, SS (.287, 70 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB) - I can't see a scenario in which I keep him, but he's been rocket hot recently, and his numbers at shortstop could be intriguing.
  13. Ian Kennedy, SP (8 W, 140 K, 4.22/1.25) - Initially, he was supposed to just be someone I grabbed for a few starts then waived. Three months later, he's still on my team. I know he doesn't look like a keeper today, but if you add two good starts to his current numbers, he's suddenly very interesting.
  14. Omar Infante, 2B/3B/SS/OF (.343, 53 R, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 6 SB) - So, Charlie Manuel is apparently pretty smart. The most controversial All-Star pick of my lifetime could, if he gets enough plate appearances, earn himself a batting crown. Another I could never keep, but I can't argue how well he's performed for my team.
  15. Rajai Davis, OF (.272, 49 R, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 39 SB) - A fairly meaningless trade at the deadline sent Vernon Wells to the Heroes for Davis. It should be of comfort to you, Heroes, that this right where Wells would fit on these rankings today, too.
  16. David Aardsma, RP (0 W, 25 SV, 46 K, 3.95/1.20) - I could've seen a scenario where I put some blame on Aardsma's shoulders for my disappointing 4th or 5th place finish this year, but really, he's been as good as I should have expected. No, Trevor Hoffman is my villain, and appropriately so.
  17. Hong-Chih Kuo, RP (3 W, 7 SV, 57 K, 1.29/0.80) - The throw-in on a trade with the Mosquitoes, Kuo is in line for some saves down the stretch as Jonathan Broxton has hit a rocky patch. He's been insanely good in middle-relief, and if he's able to translate that to 9th inning work, look out.
  18. Matt Thornton, RP (3 W, 5 SV, 64 K, 2.66/1.10) - Thornton may be on the DL, and he's had a couple of rough outings, but overall he's been excellent. I was excited to be able to acquire him mid-season, and guys like him and Benoit have reminded me of the value of elite middle relievers.
  19. Kevin Gregg, RP (1 W, 30 SV, 52 K, 3.35/1.32) - I picked up Gregg back when I thought I had an outside shot at the title this year. Oh well.
  20. Stephen Drew, SS (.276, 70 R, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 6 SB) - Drew literally joined my team today. He's been on fire, so that's cool, but he's basically just a guy to sit on for the rest of the season.
  21. Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS (.290, 63 R, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 18 SB) - Theriot had been a target of mine all season as a potential trade acquisition. The trade never happened, but Theriot had a terrible stretch mid-season and became available on waivers. He's not been awesome, but he's been fairly productive when I've had him in my lineup, so that'll do.
  22. Joel Hanrahan, RP (3 W, 2 SV, 79 K, 3.81/1.11) - With his numbers, you wouldn't have thought he'd be available after being designated the closer for the Pirates. But he had a couple of terrible outings, and the league got scared off. Having been essentially eliminated from contention, I know no fear. Get out there, Hanrahan.
  23. Joaquin Benoit, RP (0 W, 1 SV, 64 K, 1.49/0.68) - Just a very good middle reliever who's been on at least one or two other teams, as is often the case with very good middle relievers. You always wish they'd have been on your team all season, though. That kind of production over a season is a dream.
  24. Jake Westbrook, SP (7 W, 107 K, 4.51/1.33) - Yes, I was excited to grab him when he got traded to the Cardinals. And yes, I've started him every time his turn in the rotation has come around. But I know he's worthless long-term. I'm not stupid...well, not that stupid.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 20

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (.385, 8 R, 4 HR, 14 RBI) - Cano is putting together a nice little season here. His run production has been outstanding all season, but 14 RBI in a week? Obscene.
  • NL Hitter: Omar Infante, all positions, Braves (.452, 8 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB) - I'm not even kidding; Infante has started at least five games at three infield positions and two outfield positions this year. He was maybe the most controversial All-Star selection ever, but since the break he's hitting .379 with 4 HR, 11 RBI, and 20 R.
  • AL Pitcher: CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees (2-0, 17 K, 1.38/0.85) - Sabathia continues his fantastic run as a home Yankee, chalking up two more wins and improving his Cy Young resume. I'd have to say he's the front-runner right now, but nobody has been overwhelming in the American League. This looks like a classic RACE TO THE FINISH!
  • NL Pitcher: Roy Oswalt, SP, Phillies (2-0, 15 K, 1.93/0.86) - Oswalt seems to be trying to remind people that, before the Astros went into the crapper, he was a pretty damn good pitcher. It's nice to see him able to thrive in a pennant race again, and between him, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has got a pretty daunting rotation to throw at anybody this postseason...if they can just get past the Braves.
No bonus coverage this week, folks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Completing the Circle?

The Dream Team was honored at the Hall of Fame last week. Only two of the members of the 1992 Olympic basketball team are not already in the Hall as individuals: Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner. (Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen were inducted this year.) Should Laettner and Mullin be in the basketball Hall of Fame as well? Let's have a look.

Christian Laettner

Laettner had a nice NBA career, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds per game over his first five seasons. But he played on some really bad teams, including the near-expansion Timberwolves and the donkey ass Wizards of the early 2000's. His only sniff of a championship caliber team came with the 2004-2005 Heat as a role player, his final NBA season. The team lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Pistons.

But if Laettner were to be considered for the Hall of Fame, it would be based on his college performance less than his NBA career. He was the best player on the best team of his era, hitting clutch shots, and frustrating fans of the Michigan Wolverines and their "Fab Five" superstar recruiting class. He's the only player ever to start in four consecutive Final Fours. He holds the record for most points scored in NCAA Tournament play.

The logical comparison case is Bill Walton. Walton's NBA career bore a resemblance to Laettner's, featuring averaging about 16 points per game in his first five seasons, but he was definitely a better defensive player. Walton pulled down 12+ rebounds per game in each of his first four seasons, and had 2.5+ blocks per game in three of those four campaigns. Perhaps most importantly, his teams were a lot better than the Timberwolves ever were.

Walton also had a more illustrious college career, being the centerpiece of the unreal 88-game winning streak by UCLA in the mid-70s. And there's the main difference between Walton (a HOFer) and Laettner: hardware. Walton managed to garner an NBA MVP trophy in 1978 (not sure how, with just 19 points and 13 rebounds per game, and only playing in 58 games). He's also got two each of NCAA championships and NBA championships, and he was named Finals MVP in 1977 for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The reality is that Christian Laettner doesn't come close to Walton in terms of overall performance; Walton was a better college player, and a far better professional player than Laettner. Perhaps a better comparison to Laettner would be Vin Baker (who by the way was my favorite player in Electronic Arts' Live '95 game for Super Nintendo).

Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer.

Chris Mullin

I chose to review Mullin second because he's basically Laettner, except better. Mullin was a superstar at St. John's, winning Big East Player of the Year honors three times in his four years, as well as being named an All-American three times. Additionally, he won Olympic gold in 1984, eight years before he did it again with the Dream Team.

Mullin was drafted seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 1985 NBA Draft, in a draft that saw power forwards or centers get drafted with 15 of the first 17 picks. He contributed immediately, sliding into the starting lineup by the middle of his rookie season, and 14 points per game. His scoring average increased over his first four years, up to a career high of 26.5 in 1988-89. He scored at least 25 points per game over the next four seasons as well, guiding the Warriors to five consecutive playoff appearances. He also made better than 50% of his field goals, remarkable for a spot-up shooter.

His performance over this period earned him his spot on the 1992 Olympic team, and he took full advantage. He may not have provided any memorable highlight reel dunks or passes, but Mullin was the 4th leading scorer on a team of legends, despite starting only two of the team's eight games.

Unfortunately, injuries took away parts of four seasons, as Mullin missed 140 games over that period, preventing him from building on his Olympic success. By the time he was fully healthy and able to play a full season's worth of games, he was 33, and his skills had begun to fade. He'd never again break 15 points per game, and his career faded out of memory.

So how do we judge him? Comparing him to Walton is pretty fair; he was a dominant college player who had success in the pros. Walton picked up an MVP trophy, but I'd say Mullin was more productive, so we'll call their NBA careers, production-wise, a wash. So the question is this: Does Mullin's Olympic and college success measure up to Walton's college dominance, and the NBA title he pulled in?

Answer: Almost. Walton's NBA championship is impressive, and he was clearly an integral part of the team, rating second in scoring and first in rebounds and blocks on that Trail Blazer team. But I can't give top credit to Mullin for either of his two Olympic golds, for the same reason I don't assign much value to Walton's second title with the Celtics in 1986. Mullin was important to his two gold medal teams, more important than Walton was to those Celtics, but not nearly as important as Walton was to the Portland team.

The final piece of the puzzle is this: While Mullin was a prolific scorer, he never led the league in scoring. Granted, this was during Michael Jordan's heyday, but if a player is going to be elected to the Hall of Fame as a prolific scorer who never won a title (in the NBA or college), he'll have to have led the league in scoring at some point. If Dominique Wilkins can't get in, neither can Mullin.

Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer

I think it's important to note that, specifically with Chris Mullin, this isn't a slouch we're talking about. He's one of the all-time greats, maybe the second-best player in Warrior history behind Wilt Chamberlain, and certainly their best player since moving out west. But the Hall of Fame isn't (and shouldn't be) about being a good player, or being the best player over a short period for one time. It's about being a legend. And we should reserve that for the elite.

And yes, I'm looking at you, baseball.

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...