Monday, June 28, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 12

Apologies for the late post. Luckily, I retrieved the information on Monday, so the stats are all correctly from last week. No need to thank me.

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Chone Figgins, 2B/3B, Mariners (.190, 3 R, 1 RBI, 7 SB) - I know, ridiculous right? Well, I normally go with the most balanced performance, someone who put up good all-around stats, and while that's generally true, it's not much fun. Seven steals in one week is outstanding, so just this once, I'm going to give the award to a one-category player. Sue me. (Please don't sue me, I don't have any money.)
  • NL Hitter: Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers (.435, 7 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI) - It was neck and neck between Weeks and David Wright (.500, 7 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB), so I opted for the 2B over the 3B. I did notice that, if you look out there and compare 2B versus 3B, the overall performance is actually pretty similar. I'll stand by my position that 2B is harder to fill, though.
  • AL Pitcher: Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees (2-0, 1 SV, 8 K, 0.00/0.80) - Closers getting wins has often been the bane of my fantasy existence, but there's no denying the value it brings. Getting a pair of wins in just five innings from Rivera this week was a boon for all of his owners. Jon Lester was in the mix with a pair of one-run games and 15 strikeouts, but he wen 1-1, and fantasy owners need those decisions.
  • NL Pitcher: Jamie Moyer, SP, Phillies (2-0, 12 K, 1.80/0.60) - The news may have been that Moyer gave up his 506th career home run, setting the all-time mark, but just as newsworthy is Moyer's 2010 performance thus far. He's 9-6 with an ERA of 4.30 and a WHIP of 1.05. His strikeouts are low (of course), but with every quality start, he becomes more and more rosterable. Yovani Gallardo's 5-hit, 12-strikeout shutout put him in the conversation as well.
At this time, instead of offering some fairly witty but overall boring baseball information, I'm going to recommend all of you check out Grooveshark. You can listen to pretty much whatever music you want, in whatever order you want, without commercials. Some of you who visit my personal blog have already seen Grooveshark in action, but I recommend all of you go to the site, make an account, and see what it's got to offer. It's the second site ever that I've considered paying money to use, despite its free nature (the Sports-Reference suite of sites is the other).

I haven't actually paid for a VIP membership yet. Just saying, it's a sweet site.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 11

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (.522, 9 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 SB) - It's pretty amazing when a guy like Josh Hamilton can hit .593 (16/27) and not be my pick of the week. The reason is Hamilton only matched Pedroia in home runs, and Pedroia had double the steals. Nice week for both, though.
  • NL Hitter: Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals (.435, 6 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI) - Apparently Holliday is much more comfortable playing against Oakland than he was playing for them. He went 8/12 with 4 R, 4 HR, and 8 RBI in this past weekend's series against the Athletics.
  • AL Pitcher: Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers (0-0, 4 SV, 7 K, 0.00/0.00) - Four perfect saves is about as much as you can ask for out of a reliever, or any pitcher for that matter. CC Sabathia, Max Scherzer, and Carl Pavano (?!?) received consideration for their 2-win weeks. But I'm giving the nod to the Rangers' elite young closer.
  • NL Pitcher: Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins (1-0, 16 K, 1.20/0.73) - A pair of dominant performances against a couple of high-caliber offenses (Tampa Bay and Texas) are just the two most recent gems tossed by Johnson. He has quietly been creeping up on Ubaldo Jimenez in this year's NL Cy Young race, and it might not be too long before we've got a real fight on our hands.
Wait, What? (Pitchers)

There are some players out there doing far better than you realize. Most of them are on teams, and you're aware that they're ownable right now, but you probably don't know just how good their numbers are. I'll try to fix that.
  • Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox (10-4, 62 K, 2.47/1.24) - Buchholz is tied for the AL lead in wins, his ERA is .02 higher than David Price, and his WHIP is .01 higher. But Price has gotten most of the ink thus far. Buchholz may not be the most talented starter in Boston, but he's been at least as productive as anybody else on the Sawx.
  • Tim Hudson, SP, Braves (7-2, 41 K, 2.34/1.16) - Hudson is one of the guys that people told you what to expect out of in the preseason, and then you said, "Yeah, if I can get him cheap, I should grab him," but then someone took him a little earlier than you were going to, and you said, "Oh well, he can be their two-strikeout-a-game pitcher." And he is a two-strikeout-a-game pitcher, but he's been awful good. You can't afford to have him, Livan Hernandez, and Carlos Silva on the same team, but they're all worth owning.
  • Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers (1-1, 16 SV, 27 K, 0.59/0.73) - Remember when Valverde couldn't find work over the offseason? He didn't get signed until late January, but the Tigers seem to have gotten a steal. And if you, like me, have it in your head that Valverde is a wild card, look at his career stats. Since 2007, he's been a lights out closer.
Wait, What? (Hitters)
  • Troy Glaus, 1B, Braves (.280, 38 R, 14 HR, 55 RBI) - Guess who's got the most RBI in the NL right now? It's not a difficult question, given that I'm obviously talking about Glaus. He's been a steady source of power for his entire career, so it's not that surprising that he's rediscovered his home run stroke in Atlanta. He is, however, unlikely to keep up the .280 batting average, as he's only hit higher than that once in his 13-year career. He's doing great...sell high if you can.
  • Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (.333, 42 R, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 1 SB) - This is twice that Ordonez has scared us with paltry power numbers, only to bounce back with a great batting average and solid pop once again. Maybe the best thing about Ordonez, though, is that getting a .300 average out of him is a lock.
  • Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (.339, 51 R, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB) - While he doesn't flash anywhere near elite speed, his ability to get on base and score has made him a reasonable #1 or #2 hitter, where he's spent most of the season in the Braves' lineup. Combine that with his fantastic position eligibility, and he's one of the more valuable waiver-wire-available fantasy commodities so far this season. He's not available on the waiver wire any more. I'm saying he's one of the best guys you could have already picked up off waivers.
  • Chris B. Young, OF, Diamondbacks (.278, 35 R, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 12 SB) - After three years of him flashing his power-speed combo with an abysmal batting average, Young seems to have steadied himself a little bit. I still wouldn't ever expect a .300 season, and it's not outrageous to think he'll dip a little bit down to around .260, but if you can get .260 out of a guy who gives you 40-60 combined HR and SB, you take it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back to Bullets? Not So Fast.

Ted Leonsis recently took formal control of the Washington Wizards, a move that excited many around town, myself included. I've watched the Washington Capitals benefit from the stability of Leonsis' leadership, and his willingness to put his team in the hands of hockey people. He's got two longtime basketball people in place with the Wizards in head coach Flip Saunders and general manager Ernie Grunfeld, and Leonsis has already indicated that he'll be sticking with both of them moving forward.

Leonsis has always been one of the most accessible owners in sports, and his accessibility has provided basketball fans with the opportunity to give input on their favorite team. The issue that most fans have brought to his attention is their desire to return to the old team name and colors, the Bullets. I've hinted at this as well, specifically the use of red in the uniforms to try to generate some synergy with the Capitals. The "Rock the Red" campaign for the Caps has been hugely successful, and making the transition from "hockey fan" to "basketball fan" smoother, even by just a little bit, is always a good thing.

But I don't see the team going back to the Bullets, and in fact I'd oppose such a change. I'll explain.

"Bullets" is the name that longtime Washington basketball fans associate with the town's team. And I can appreciate the history that comes along with the name. But the reason the name was changed was because of the association with gun violence that it had, and because then-owner Abe Pollin did not want his team to have any association with the epidemic of crime that was enveloping Washington, DC. Many sports fans in town thought it was unnecessary, but it was at least a noble gesture by a giant in this city.

Do we really think that Leonsis would be willing to say, "Abe Pollin was wrong. This guy, who helped build the NBA and was a custodian of this city, didn't know what he was talking about. Let's undo what he did." I just don't see it.

Moreover, I think Leonsis has a better mentality than that. Living in the past, particularly with the Wizards/Bullets who haven't been to the NBA finals in 30 years and who've won 2 championships in their 50+ year existence, doesn't offer all that much to get excited about. The idea here should be moving forward.

The name shouldn't be the Wizards, but it shouldn't be the Bullets either. There are tens of thousands of potential names; there's no reason we can't find one that isn't Bullets that still helps us feel better about our team, and gives us an opportunity to change the team colors (which I'm still in favor of). I look forward to a name change. Just not back to the Bullets.

That name ran its course. Straight into the ground.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 10

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (.370, 7 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI) - I was shocked to find out that Hamilton is today the 12th-ranked player in Yahoo's fantasy baseball. After a slow April, he ramped up his production in May, and so far in June has just been pulverizing the ball. His lefty-righty splits are still problematic, but he's playing too well right now to even consider benching him, regardless of opponent.
  • NL Hitter: Chris B. Young, OF, Diamondbacks (.333, 6 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 3 SB) - While Adam Dunn's four home run week deserved consideration, Young's 3/3 week offered more fantasy value. Young is quietly having a resurgence of sorts, hitting .277 with double-digit home runs and stolen bases. He still strikes out too much, but that's not a fantasy category. And he's doing fine in all of those.
  • AL Pitcher: Colby Lewis, SP, Rangers (2-0, 15 Ks, 1.80/0.73) - It looks like it's time for the doubters to step up and admit that Lewis might just be a pretty good pitcher. He was abysmal for Oakland in 2007, and it took him two years to get back to the majors. I watched some of his game against the Brewers yesterday, and he's just pitching his ass off.
  • NL Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals (2-0, 22 Ks, 2.19/0.89) - Ted Lilly had two great starts, including a near no-hitter last night against the White Sox, but Strasburg is my pick. He had double the strikeouts that Lilly did, and double the wins as well. It's a pretty exciting time in Nats Town, whatever the hell that is.
Hard Luck Losers

We all know about Zack Greinke (2-8, 3.94/1.22) and his inability to buy a win. He's given up zero or one run in three different games, and he's 0-2 in those games. But he's not the only guy who's had a good season but has trouble catching W's.
  • Doug Fister, Mariners (3-3, 2.45/0.96) - Fister has given up three or fewer runs in all but one of his ten starts this season. He's currently on the DL with shoulder fatigue, but I think "broken heart" might be the real explanation. And it's not just David Aardsma's vendetta; the offense has averaged only 3.6 runs per game in support of Fister. That's what a "defense first" mentality gets you, Seattle.
  • Ted Lilly, Cubs (2-5, 2.90/1.00) - Lilly was three outs away from a no-hitter last night, and the Cubs still almost lost the game due to anemic offense (and Carlos Marmol's love-hate relationship with the strike zone). He was fantastic last year, and has actually been better this season. Outside of the wins, of course.
  • Jonathan Sanchez, Giants (4-5, 2.82/1.15) - Sanchez's trouble grabbing wins is actually a little more predictable when you know more about him as a pitcher. He tends to walk a lot of hitters, and strike out a lot of hitters, and that gets his pitch count up in a hurry. But here's a number for you: ten. That's the total number of runs given up by Sanchez in his five losses, including a pair of 1-0 losses.
The Orioles are Terrible

There's nothing else here. They're just terrible.

Friday, June 11, 2010

3 MLB debuts in 3 days in Baltimore/Washington

The past 3 days in the Baltimore/Washington DC baseball world have offered up 3 pitching debuts. I was lucky enough to attend the Stephen Strasburg debut on Tuesday evening vs. the Pirates. The next night, Brad Lincoln debuted for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Washington Nationals. And last night, Jake Arrieta debuted for the Baltimore Orioles against the New York Yankees. Here are the stats from each of their debuts:
  • Stephen Strasburg, 6/8/10 vs. the Pirates: 7.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 0.57 WHIP (with no walks), 14 Ks. Result: Win
  • Brad Lincoln, 6/9/10 vs. the Nationals: 6.0 IP, 7.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3 Ks. Result: Loss
  • Jake Arrieta, 6/10/10 vs. the Yankees: 6.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6 Ks. Result: Win
So, who preformed the best? Well, let's be honest, Brad Lincoln was just tossed in to make more of a comparison of things. He held up alright, but didn't match what Strasburg or Arrieta did.

A lot of people have been mentioning that Strasburg only faced the Pirates. Arrieta handled the World Series Champion New York Yankees, a pretty insurmountable task for a major league debut. I know the attitude in Baltimore was that he was going to have to face the Yankees eventually; might as well just get it over with.

Strasburg's stats are obviously superior to Arrieta's stats. And despite each pitchers' competition, Strasburg still has the upper hand here. A major league line-up is a major league line-up. If the Pirates can win a major league baseball game, then they should be capable of putting up a good effort against any pitcher. Don't get me wrong, Arrieta put up a valiant effort against MLB's best and getting a win there should give Baltimore more hope than they've had all year, but, based on debuts alone, Strasburg is looking like gold.

Rock Band 3 Setlist....of my Dreams

A friend linked me to this article that outlines some of the new features for Rock Band 3, including the introduction of the keyboard as an instrument, and the use of the harmonized vocals that were featured in The Beatles: Rock Band. Also, they reaffirmed their intention to try to bridge the gap between rhythm games and real instruments, which is a neat idea. There was no mention of incorporating any of the ideas from my Rock Band RPG article from a while ago, but I never really held out much hope for that.

So how about a setlist? The article above named the 22 songs listed below:

Dio - "Rainbow in the Dark"
Huey Lewis and the News - "The Power of Love"
Ida Maria - "Oh My God"
Jane's Addiction - "Been Caught Stealing"
Jimi Hendrix - "Crosstown Traffic"
Joan Jett - "I Love Rock and Roll"
Juanes - "Me Enamora"
Metric - "Combat Baby"
Night Ranger - "Sister Christian"
Ozzy Osbourne - "Crazy Train"
Phoenix - "Lasso"
Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Rilo Kiley - "Portions of Foxes"
Smash Mouth - "Walkin' on the Sun"
Spacehog - "In the Meantime"
Stone Temple Pilots - "Plush"
The Cure - "Just Like Heaven"
The Doors - "Break On Through"
The Vines - "Get Free"
The White Stripes - "The Hardest Button to Button"
Them Crooked Vultures - "Dead End Friends"
Whitesnake - "Here I Go Again"

Definitely some good songs in there, but that's only 22 of a likely 80+ song tracklist. So what will the other 60-odd songs be? Well, ten to fifteen of them will be bogus-ass songs selected by the game designers that nobody's ever heard of (although they've occasionally found some good stuff). Regarding the other 45-50 songs, I don't have any legitimate guesses, but here are my suggestions/wishes/demands.

Please note that I'm aware that many of these songs don't take advantage of the keyboard. Tough. I did what I could to try to include songs with piano or keyboard, and songs with multiple vocal parts, and songs from different eras and genres. But in the end, it is Rock Band. The focus isn't going to be on hip-hop.

Alabama - "Mountain Music"
Big and Rich - "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy"
Bruce Springsteen - "Glory Days"
Clutch - "The Elephant Riders"
Counting Crows - "Hanginaround"
Cracker - "Low"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Born on the Bayou"
Dave Matthews Band - "Stay"
David Bowie - "Young Americans"
Deep Purple - "Perfect Strangers"
Dire Straits - "Money For Nothing"
Dishwalla - "Counting Blue Cars"
Doobie Brothers - "Takin' It To The Streets"
Eagles - "Already Gone"
Electric Light Orchestra - "Evil Woman"
Fiona Apple - "Criminal"
Five Finger Death Punch - "Hard To See"
Foreigner - "Cold As Ice"
Hard-Fi - "Gotta Reason"
Hoobastank - "The Reason"
Jackson Browne - "Doctor My Eyes"
Jason Mraz - "I'm Yours"
Jethro Tull - "Locomotive Breath"
Jonny Lang - "Still Rainin'"
Journey - "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Call Me The Breeze"
Maroon 5 - "This Love"
Matthew Good Band - "Indestructible"
Matthew Sweet - "Sick of Myself"
Modest Mouse - "Dashboard"
Muse - "Knights of Cydonia"
New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"
Santana featuring Chad Kroeger - "Into the Night"
School of Fish - "3 Strange Days"
Semisonic - "Closing Time"
Shinedown - "Heroes"
Sponge - "Wax Ecstatic"
Squirrel Nut Zippers - "Hell"
Steve Miller Band - "Jungle Love"
Styx - "Lady"
The Kinks - "Lola"
The Strokes - "Last Nite"
Toto - "Hold The Line"
Train - "Drops of Jupiter"
Van Halen - "Right Now"
Warren Zevon - "Werewolves of London"
Wolfmother - "Colossal"

By the way, Green Day: Rock Band? Really? We couldn't do better than that? What about Dave Matthews Band, or Electric Light Orchestra? Pearl Jam? Maybe pony up the ten million, or whatever it takes to get Led Zeppelin to release their master tracks. Zeppelin is the ultimate rock band of all time. There's got to be some amount at which they'd cave in.

In the words of a great hero of mine, "Everybody's got a price."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Robbie Lawler Faces Off Against Babalu Sobral to Headline Strikeforce Live - by Alexia Krause

With Strikeforce Live only weeks away, the heat is getting turned up for a showdown between two hard-hitting opponents. "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler will take on former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato "Babalu" Sobral for a fight that is bound to go beyond the octagon and strike at the hearts of the two fighters. In fact, Sobral was quoted as saying that he has "hate in his heart” leading up to the fight and his trainer is making it clear that his hate will be taken out in the ring against Lawler. This type of bad blood will make the upcoming Strikeforce Live a MMA event to remember. The two will face each off in a 195-pound catch-weight bout on June 16 in Los Angeles.

This is an interesting turn of events, as Sobral wasn't initially slated to fight against Lawler. The main card had originally been Mike "Mayhem" Miller vs. "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler, but after being rebuked by Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, Mayhem was later pulled from the card. Miller is under review for a possible suspension due to the brawl that had broken out following a post-fight interview with Jake Shields at Strikeforce Nashville.

The next Strikeforce event (Wednesday June 16th in Los Angeles) will be the first ever to be scheduled during the middle of the week (in order to correspond with the video game expo, E3, and the subsequent release of EA Sports MMA). Most fans are going to the event to see the main fight between Sobral and Lawler. The main card is bound to set the tone for the evening and possibly the rest of Strikeforce MMA.

"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler is considered by most to be somewhat of a quiet figure outside of the ring, but once inside the octagon he's as merciless as his nickname. Lawler is known for completely annihilating his opponents by means of his all-or-nothing fighting style. This type of intensity will be a large part of his upcoming fight. This 5-foot-11 middleweight may be a reckless fighter inside the cage, but his fans love him for exactly that reason.

Renato "Babalu" Sobral, on the other hand, is a complete technician within the squared circle. Widely known for his amazing grappling and submission moves, Babalu doesn't need to be ruthless in order to dominate. This type of process has helped Sobral rack up victories over such fighters as Kiyoshi Tamura, Mauricio Rua, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou on his way to becoming the light heavyweight champion. It has also made him one of the hardest fighters to defeat in all of Strikeforce MMA.

Many fans seem to think that if Lawler can keep the fight on his feet, he will have the advantage. Robbie Lawler has a history of being smart on his feet, throwing calculated punches. However, if the fight shifts towards more grappling, and Babalu is careful, he could use his superior BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) skills to his advantage. Over half of Sobral's wins have stemmed from his masterful use of submission fighting.

Other matches for the evening feature Marius Zaromskis vs. Evangelista Cyborg and Trevor Prangley vs. Tim Kennedy. Both fights are bound to have their fair share of attention at the event, but nothing will compare to when ruthlessness meets technical dominance via Lawler/Sobral. Then we shall see exactly how much hate is flowing through the veins of these two fighters at Strikeforce Live on the 16th.
Alexia is a self-described sports-nut. She particularly enjoys martial arts. Recently, she joined up with MMA Industries - retailers of highly popular MMA training equipment and shirts. Alexia has been blogging about the latest trends in MMA gear for the past few years, and continues to provide you with the latest news in the MMA universe.


Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 9

Alright, partly because I think it's time, and partly because I was too distracted by Stephen Strasburg Day (say it with a German accent) to get weekly stats this past week, we're going to do a "Year To Date" evaluation. We'll treat this like an AL/NL fantasy MVP & Cy Young award winners right now. Here goes:

AL MVP: Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (.370, 43 R, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 2 SB) - His production is among the best in baseball at any position, but when you add in the fact that he's gotten you all those numbers at second base, Cano gets the nod. Worth mentioning, though, are two Riders: Miguel Cabrera (.344, 17 HR, 52 RBI) and Alex Rios (.317, 38 R, 12 HR, 18 SB). Cabrera's performance is completely predictable; Rios is a nice surprise after a very down year in 2009.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (.306, 34 R, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 6 SB) - Honestly, we don't even have to look at numbers any more, do we? Just chalk up another award to Pujols and move on. The NL is actually a lot weaker than the AL right now, and in fact, Pujols probably wouldn't be my pick if Andre Ethier hadn't gotten hurt...because either Ethier or Matt Kemp would likely have the numbers to warrant being picked above Pujols. For now.

AL Cy Young: Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees (8-1, 68 Ks, 2.71/1.09) - Amazingly, the choice was between Hughes and another Rider, Jon Lester (7-2, 81 Ks, 2.73/1.13), but I went with the extra win and the slightly better averages. Additionally, Hughes' strikeout rate is actually almost identical to Lester's. Naturally, despite their 15 combined wins, I've managed to garner only ten of them, and both players have been on my roster all season.

NL Cy Young: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies (11-1, 78 Ks, 0.93/0.93) - There's been some great pitching in the National League this season (Roy Halladay's perfect game comes to mind), but no one has been as good as Ubaldo in every single outing. His one loss? A seven inning, one run "debacle" against the Dodgers. Oh, and he also threw a no-hitter.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quick Thoughts Through The First Two Innings of Stephen Strasburg's First Major League Start

  • The kid's got heat. He's been 96+ on every fastball so far, and he tickled 99 once.
  • The ump is calling high strikes, not giving low ones.
  • Jeff Karstens is not an attractive man.
  • Rob Dibble is the worst.


LOST Series Finale and Beyond - Part 2

In case you were wondering, yes, I totally forgot about this. But I do remember most of what I was going to say, so let's jump right in. This post will be about the show itself, and not so much the "beyond" part.

I thought the Lost series finale was entertaining. I wouldn't say it was as good as the show's best episodes (mostly first and second season episodes), but it was satisfying, and more than anything else, it gave us a fairly gratifying wrap on the entire series. I did have one idea, though, regarding the "alternate reality" portion, which we ended up learning was a kind of limbo/afterlife deal.

Couldn't that whole storyline have been made into a movie? Certainly Lost has enough viewers to at least justify releasing a full-length feature; you'd get at least ten million people easy, which translates to at least $80 million. Moreover, that whole path was kind of a stand-alone storyline; it didn't depend on anything happening on the island. The value it brought to this final season was in the questions it brought up, the kind of second-season questions we all had about, "What exactly is going on here?" As far as stories go, it could have been just as effective on its own.

In the end, though, I do think it was ultimately necessary to include that storyline alongside the final season. The reason showed up at the end of the final episode; while the bookend of the close-up Jack's eye was a great move by the show, the finale needed emotionally powerful scenes to satisfy long-time viewers. The confrontation between Jack and Samuel (the man-in-black's apparent name) was good, the farewell between Jack and Kate was good, the bestowal of the island's caretaker role to Hurley was good, but for pure emotion, nothing came close to the final meeting between Jack and his father. The finale needed that emotion, so it had to have the other-dimensional sequence.

Are there still questions? Of course. I don't think any of us realistically expected the show to resolve all of our questions. And leaving Hurley's reign on the island open-ended leaves open the possibility for a future movie; we'd all like a little more Lost. In that regard, I think Lost's writers did a great job. You know the old saying...

...always leave them wanting more.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Whole Mess of #1 Picks

Tonight, the Washington Nationals have the #1 overall pick in the MLB Amateur Draft for the second consecutive year. Last year, they drafted super-prospect Stephen Strasburg, and this year a similarly hyped prospect, Bryce Harper, will likely go number one.

But that's just the beginning of the story when it comes to local #1 picks. The Wizards also have the #1 overall pick in this year's draft, and will likely be drafting Kentucky's John Wall. And the Capitals are led by a #1 overall pick themselves, Alexander Ovechkin. I have to think this is a rare situation in sports, to find four recent #1 overall picks playing in the same city.

And it's exciting. For all the hubbub surrounding the Redskins, I'm more excited about the Capitals than I've been about the 'Skins in a while. I've liked how Ted Leonsis runs his team, and I look forward to him putting his mark on the Wizards. Word around town is that they're looking at changing the uniforms (thank heavens), and specifically re-incorporating red to match the Capitals. I think the whole town should embrace the red, white, and blue color scheme, but people around here are irrationally attached to the burgundy and gold. I'm not sure why...it's not like they've given us anything to cheer about in fifteen years.

Anyways, get excited kids. Strasburg debuts tomorrow, and we'll have two #1 picks in town by the end of the month. And if you absolutely must focus on the Redskins, Donovan McNabb was a pretty high pick as well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 World Cup Brackets/Pools/Picks

Have you read over my previews? Think you'll do a better job picking who comes out of the group stage and who makes it through the knock-out round?

I've created a group on ESPN Soccernet's Bracket Predictor, which is a simple/quick predictor. You pick the top 2 out of each group and, based on those picks, choose your winners through the knock-out round to the championship.

The ESPN Soccernet group is a public group and is located here: http://games.espn.go.com/bpredictor/en-us/group?groupID=29193

The Yahoo! predictor is a lot more intricate. You predict each game result. I've turned off predicted scores to make things a little simpler. These predictions can be changed up to 5 minutes before the predicted games' kick-off. I believe the knock-out predictions will be available after the knock-out round has been finalized.

The Yahoo! Sports World Soccer 2010 group is a public group and is located here: http://us.wc.fantasysports.yahoo.com/world-cup/register/join-private-group-assign-team?GID=18055

Watch me be right!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

2010 World Cup Preview - Group G & H

On the last day of the 2010 World Cup Preview, I'll introduce to you Groups G & H. In my opinion, Group G stands out as my "Group of Death," but its not nearly has harsh as previous years. If you're just tuning in, here are the links to the Group A & B, Group C & D, and Group E & F previews.

Group G
Brazil - World Ranking: #1. Everyone's favorite, the "Yankees" of the World Cup is searching for their 6th World Cup Title. Their roster is an all-star list of players including Kaka, Robinho, and Luis Fabiano.

Portugal
- World Ranking: #3. Despite Cristiano Ronaldo's goal drought throughout qualifying, I see these guys putting up a fight. I highly recommend watching their matchup with Brazil (for obvious reasons). Ricardo Carvalho will be working the back line, too.

Ivory Coast
- World Ranking: #27. A late pick-up of a Sven-Goran Eriksson to manage and hopefully save this team after it has already qualified could be risky. It doesn't help that Didier Drogba has a hernia injury that he won't have operated on until after the World Cup, so Eriksson might have his hands full. Other players that should stand out include Salomon Kalou, striker, and, Emmanuel Eboue in the midfield.

North Korea
- World Ranking: #105. This team is a long shot. In this Group, all they have is a prayer. If you end up watching these guys, I assume its really to watch Brazil, Portugal, or Ivory Coast, but Hong Yong-Jo might stick out.

PICKS: Its hard to not have Brazil and Portugal coming out of this group. Brazil #1, Portugal #2, thanks to the goal differential tie-breaker.

Group H
Spain - World Ranking: #2. Despite being ranked #1, this team did lose to the US during semifinals of the Confederations cup last year. Fernando Torres has a nagging knee injury, Cesc Fabregas is also nicked up. I'll probably keep an eye on Xavi feeding crisp passes to David Villa up front.

Switzerland
- World Ranking: #24. If the Swiss play their cards right, they could be heading into the knock-out stage. Watch out for midfielder, Tranquillo Barnetta.

Honduras
- World Ranking: #38. Nabbing the 3rd spot out of CONCACAF, they'll have a tough time if their star striker, David Suazo, doesn't recover from a muscle injury in his right leg.

Chile
- World Ranking: #18. Despite getting hit by a devastating earthquake at the end of February 2010 and a little drama between FIFA and the Chilean league, it looks like they'll be there, though I can't see them going far. Player to watch: Humberto Suazo, Striker.

PICKS: Spain will be the clear front-runner out of Group H. Who follows them is a tough call. I see a lot of the world hoping that Chile makes, but this isn't a fairy tale. The Swiss is my pick. Spain #1, Switzerland #2.

Friday, June 4, 2010

2010 World Cup Preview - Group E & F

The World Cup Preview continues with Groups E & F. These groups should bring some exciting match-ups. Here are links to Groups A & B and Groups C & D, if you need to catch-up or want a recap.

Group E
Netherlands - World Ranking: #4. Oranje has been my adopted World Cup team for the past few tournaments after the USA blows it and I'm not exactly sure why. Regardless, these guys are good. Some say the best national team to never have won the World Cup. They should finish first in this group and be a hassle for everyone in the knock-out stages. They are loaded with overlooked players from the world's best leagues like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, and Robin van Persie (assuming he can stay healthy long enough).

Cameroon
- World Ranking: #19. This team has every reason to be excited. They're in a competitive, but manageable group. It's easy to see how Cameroon makes it to the knock-out round; however, it's also easy to see how they won't. Samuel Eto'o leads this team in scoring and is a force at Inter Milan.

Japan
- World Ranking: #45. They finished 2nd in the Asian Football Confederation's Group 1 behind Australia, but these guys will have an uphill battle the entire group stage. Team captain Yuji Nakazawa will have his hands full on the back line with the strikers in this group.

Denmark
- World Ranking: #36. The Danish have high hopes, and for good reason. They finished 1st in the UEFA Group 1 World Cup Qualification above powerhouse Portugal. This team will need to rely on Arsenal striker, Nicklas Bendtner, for success. Hopefully that is a good thing.

PICKS: The Netherlands are money and they should be able to take the #1 spot here. Cameroon will have the "home continent" support, but I'm taking Denmark to finish 2nd. Netherlands #1, Denmark #2.

Group F
Italy - World Ranking: #5. Come on, its Italy. They're the defending World Cup champions. If you're going to watch any World Cup, it'll probably include these guys or Brazil at some point. They're good and they've got 4 World Cup Titles. Gianluigi Buffon between the sticks is a great place to start with these stars.

New Zealand
- World Ranking: #78. I came across an interesting article on ESPN Soccernet, which discusses New Zealand's links to US collegiate and MLS teams. It was mentioned that the New Zealand squad could feature more MLS players than the US team, which makes me think watching New Zealand will be a great way to see how far the MLS has grown. The player to watch has to be Ryan Nelson, who played for my hometown DC United before jumping to the EPL.

Paraguay
- World Ranking: #31. This national team is looking young and confident, which is a scary combination. There will be huge disappointment if Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo can't figure out how to get this team to the knock-out round.

Slovakia
- World Ranking: #34. Slovakia won their group coming out of UEFA. This team will probably fly under the radar. Their best player is midfielder Marek Hamsik, who has been described as one of the better young attacking midfielders in the game.

PICKS: The first pick is pretty simple. Yeah, Italy. They'll take 1st in this group. The two-spot is a bit trickier, but with all that youth in Paraguay and Slovakia qualifying out of UEFA, I'm going to lean on Slovakia as the #2 into the knock-out round. Italy #1, Slovakia #2.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 World Cup Preview - Group C & D

Welcome back for day 2. If you need to catch up, here's a link to yesterday's post about Group A & B. Group C is clearly the one I'm most excited about, so lets get into it:

Group C
United States - World Ranking: #14. This is a huge tournament for the USA. It's an international stage to give the individual players a chance at huge transfers to better teams across the pond. It's also a team on the ups. Their Confederations Cup run last summer shocked the international soccer world, beating Spain (then ranked #1 in the world) and losing to Brazil in the finals after having a 2 goal lead on them. It'll be an exciting team to watch this summer and with the draw of England in Group C, it makes things even more fun and exciting. If you haven't been keeping up, here are the players to watch: captain Landon Donovan in midfield/forward, Tim Howard between the posts, locally raised Oguchi Onyewu, Clint Dempsey, forward Jozy Altidore, and personal favorites, midfielders Michael Bradley and Benny Feilhaber.

England
- World Ranking: #8. Ah... the Three Lions... in the same group as the USA. How fun is this going to be? Especially since their game is on Saturday, June 12th. Don't miss that one, it'll be a blast to watch. England likes to be known as the place where soccer was invented. I'm not sure how true that is, but for all the soccer history, they only have one World Cup title, all the way back in 1966. David Beckham is injured, Wayne Rooney is banged up and is on the roster, but questionable about whether he'll have an immediate impact or not. John Terry has stirred up all kinds of controversy with his off-the-field affairs (literally). I could go on and on about this squad, but I'll tell you to keep your eyes on: Rio Ferdinand in the back, Frank Lampard in the middle, and Peter Crouch up front. Oh yeah, and one of my favorite players, Steven Gerrard will also be in the midfield.

Algeria
- World Ranking: #30. The Desert Foxes from Algeria made things happen against their rivals Egypt to take the top spot in the CAF qualifying and a spot in the tournament. They got a difficult draw though, and will need some shock moments against some excellent teams to make the next round. Players to watch: captain and midfielder Yazid Mansouri and forward Karim Ziani.

Slovenia
- World Ranking: #25. Slovenia is the tiniest country participating in this tournament. Add to that they only qualified after beating Russia in a play-off, and you're looking at some solid underdogs. They'll have a tough road, but captain Robert Koren in the midfield and Milivoje Novakovic up front should at least keep them in games.

PICKS: Slovenia and Algeria just won't have enough to overcome England and the USA. England #1, USA #2.

Group D

Germany - World Ranking: #6. Germany took a blow when its captain, Michael Ballack, went down with torn ligaments in his ankle. He was voted to the World Cup all-star teams in 2002 and 2006 and will be unavailable for the tournament. This team is still talented and are trying to get over the heartbreak of not winning the last tournament in 2006 as the host nation. With Ballack down, the others to watch are Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Australia
- World Ranking: #20. The Socceroos are entering their 2nd World Cup in as many tournaments. Before that, their first appearance was in 1974. They made it to the Round of 16 in the previous World Cup. The Everton midfielder, Tim Cahill, returns to help motivate one of the more experienced rosters. The only catch here is that this squad's best players are over the age of 30.

Ghana - World Ranking: #32. Lead by Chelsea's Michael Essien, this team is probably Africa's best bet for making the knock-out round (the other being the Ivory Coast in a tough Group G). This team has a chance if it can get past an aging Australia and a mysterious Serbia.

Serbia
- World Ranking: #15. This nation's World Cup history comes mostly when they were Yugoslavia. This will be their 2nd World Cup appearance as Serbia and they've been playing excellent football. Coming off WC qualifying over France, this team sounds like it has what it takes to progress. I've seen this team described as unspectacular, but efficient. We'll see how Milan Jovanovic and Nemanja Vidic fare with that strategy.

PICKS: Despite the injury to Ballack, its hard to see Germany doing anything less than winning the group. The next spot is a lot harder. Ghana will have a "home team" crowd, Serbia has improved, and Australia has the experience. So, with a shot in the dark, it'll be: Germany #1, Australia #2.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2010 World Cup Preview - Group A & B

It's been 4 years, which means its time for another World Cup. This is probably the only soccer event to which a majority of the United States gives any attention, which probably is part of the reason why it's one of my favorite sporting events. Over the next four days, I'll be posting a quick-hit preview of each team and my predictions for their respective group. Let's start with the hosts in Group A:

Group A
South Africa - World Ranking: #83. The host nation. We'll see how they perform being the home team. Being host, they essentially had a free pass to the tournament, and they have a steep slope ahead of them facing off against some excellent teams in the group. Usually host nations tend to surprise; however, its hard to picture this squad outside the group stage. Their player to watch: Steven Pienaar.

France - World Ranking: #9. Where do we start with the French? They barely qualified for the tournament, stealing a seat at the table from Ireland after a "Hand of God-ish" goal by Thierry Henry. That luck continued with an excellent group stage draw. Recent news of a scandal, where key team players like Franck Ribery were called as a witness, may impact the team's performance on the pitch, but with this group, anything but advancing would be a huge disappointment.

Mexico - World Ranking: #17. Before the firing of their manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, El Tri had a rough time qualifying. Led by the aging forward of the Chicago Fire, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and Barcelona's defender, Rafael Marquez, this team should put up a tough fight.

Uruguay - World Ranking: #16. The Celeste, believe it or not, have two World Cup titles to their name. They hosted and won the first World Cup ever in 1930 and won again in 1950. They did just barely squeeze into the tournament though, winning a play-off against Costa Rica. Atletico Madrid's striker Diego Forlan will have to have his best stuff to move on.

PICKS: It's pretty easy to see France getting over their qualification woes in this group. They won't win all three of their games, but they'll take the group. The second spot will be close, probably another goal differential with Mexico moving on. France #1, Mexico #2.

Group B
Argentina - World Ranking: #7. I'm not sure what to make of this squad. Diego Maradona has somehow coached this talented team into barely qualifying for the tournament. Like all the powerhouses, this team has depth, but if Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world today, can't perform up to those standards, this team will struggle like it did during qualifying.

Greece
- World Ranking: #13. It was only 6 years ago when Greece knocked out the Euro 2004 hosts to win their first major international title. While their two stars, Theofanis Gekas and Georgios Samaras, struggle for playing time with their club teams, you get a sense that this team as a whole is greater than its parts.

South Korea
- World Ranking: #47. The Asian Tigers have already peaked. When they hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002, they made it to the semi-finals and finished 4th in the tournament, beating Portugal, Italy, and Spain during their Cinderella campaign. In Germany, they finished 2nd to last in their group above Togo. This team knows it can compete, which should add drama, but Manchester United's Ji-Sung Park isn't enough to get them out of the group stage.

Nigeria
- World Ranking: #21. Nigeria sounds like they can play, and they'll need to in order to qualify for the next round. Mikel will be required to live up to the big stage hype that he's known for from Chelsea's Champion League matches in order to push this team along.

PICKS: In a bold decision, I'm picking Greece's team philosophy to overtake Argentina's "Lionel Messi show." Argentina has enough skill to qualify, but with Maradona, they won't finish better than the Greeks. Greece #1, Argentina #2.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 8

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (.483, 8 R, 1 HR, 12 RBI) - It was argued once before that Cano should have been the player of the week, but this time there's no debate. Cano has been thriving, and his kind of production at second base is a particular treat.
  • NL Hitter: Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (.483, 8 R, 1 HR, 9 RBI 3 SB) - Nine RBI out of Reyes is wholly unexpected and delightful. The rest of it is more along the lines of what you expect out of Reyes, and it's all positive.
  • AL Pitcher: A.J. Burnett, SP, Yankees (2-0, 13 Ks, 0.69/0.77) - Burnett is very much a feast or famine pitcher, but this week, it's been a buffet of good innings.
  • NL Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies (2-0, 12 Ks, 0.00/0.76) - How crazy is it that Roy Halladay throws a perfect game and Jimenez is the best pick for pitcher of the week? Jimenez and Vladimir Guerrero have been the stories of the year for fantasy owners.
A Look Back

Remember all those guys I've recommended you pick up over this season? It's fun to see how it's all panned out, so that's what we'll do. Color codings for the wolf: green was good, red was bad, and if I leave it black, it's a push.

Week 1
  • J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins: .230, 13 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI
  • Kelly Johnson, 2B, Diamondbacks: .275, 35 R, 12 HR, 25 RBI, 5 SB
  • Kevin Gregg, RP, Blue Jays: 0-1, 14 SVs, 27 Ks, 3.09/1.33
  • Franklin Morales, RP, Rockies: 0-3, 3 SVs, 8 Ks, 4.09/1.64
Week 2
  • Alberto Callaspo, 2B/3B, Royals: .296, 25 R, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 3 SB
  • Ivan Rodriguez, C, Nationals: .325, 13 R, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB
  • Fernando Rodney, RP, Angels: 4-0, 5 SVs, 15 Ks, 3.05/1.45
  • Matt Lindstrom, RP, Astros: 1-1, 11 SVs, 18 Ks, 2.05/1.41
Week 3
  • Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees: .299, 36 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 18 SB
  • Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds: .280, 29 R, 11 HR, 32 RBI
  • Joel Zumaya, RP, Tigers: 2-0, 1 SV, 31 Ks, 1.84/1.02
  • Livan Hernandez, SP, Nationals: 4-3, 27 Ks, 2.15/1.10
Week 4
  • Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: .294, 21 R, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 3 SB
  • Doug Fister, SP, Mariners: 3-3, 32 Ks, 2.45/0.96
  • Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals: 5-2, 51 Ks, 1.32/1.19
If any of those guys in green are still available in your league (which I know is true for at least a couple of you), you should strongly consider acquiring them. Yes, even Kelly Johnson.

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...