Monday, December 14, 2009

The Triple Crown

The Triple Crown in the era of those born in the 1980s and onward has been non-existent. I speak of the two main triple crowns, Horse Racing, last won by Affirmed in 1978, and baseball, last won by Carl Yazstrzemski in 1967.

I have many problems with this situation. Not "The Situation" from MTV's pasta fest Jersey Shore, but the fact that we cannot celebrate a triple crown achievement. I mean there's three crowns involved. Everyone loves crowns. Its gotta happen more often. Additionally, there are only two celebrated triple crown achievements? Guffaw and pshaw I say to that, and respectfully submit the admission as the third celebrated triple crown: The Triple Crown of Fantasy Football.

Fantasy football is America's number 2 pastime, right behind the actual NFL games themselves (but not by much). Any argument that the NBA or MLB is more popular than fantasy football is silly. Ask yourself, who do you really care about more, impressing your friends and basking in the pride of Suck My Vick, No Romo's victory over Trentitive Edwards, or the Yankees umpteenth "World Championship" in a league where there is no competitive balance?

Accordingly, the Triple Crown of Fantasy Football needs to be recognized. What, you may ask is the triple crown of fantasy football?

10-12 Team Standard Champion---it doesn't matter how you play, whether its a TD heavy, or big play heavy league, whether you use ridiculous bonuses for milestone games, whatever. If you win your league then you are awesome. This is the home runs, or Kentucky Derby leg of the triple crown. It means the most, and makes you remembered in the annals of history no matter what.

Pick Em Champion---again, many ways to do it, confidence points, point spread, etc. Of course the most manly way to do it is to pick with the spread, but if you win one of these leagues you deserve the RBI or Preakness.

Suicide Pool Champion---Like batting average, and the extra long Belmont Stakes, the suicide pool champion may be the most difficult leg of the crown to pull off. If you can get past the Raiders beating the Eagles, Steelers, and Bengals, you still have to defeat the 50-60 plus individuals that are usually involved in such pools.

Any man who pulls this off is a Triple Crown winner and should be lauded by friends. Perhaps Goodell could use Ochocinco's fine money to create a Fantasy Czar who would take applications from potential Triple Crown winners and present an official certificate, with NFL logo, congratulating them on the monumental performance. Let's make this happen!

It should be noted:

The Extraordinary Pahnts! my fantasy football squad (12 teams, standard scoring with defensive players) finished a 3 seed and needs a big game from Antrell Rolle to continue in the playoffs.

My pick em league squad (22 members, point spread, all games, no confidence points): The Bills Make Me Want to Shout! are in second place 3 games down.

My suicide pool picked the Titans this week, and is one of 6 remaining teams. The league started with 62.

I'm dreaming of a Fantasy Football Triple Crown.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NL East Preview

Apparently I am the National League expert around here. That’s probably because I hate the DH and love small-ball. OK, not really. I’m just a Braves fan, so you can make your own assumptions about that.

SO, as a Braves fan, it makes sense for me to the start in NL East. As they say, better late than never. So here goes…

As anyone who knows anything about baseball can tell you, the Mets have out-spent nearly everyone over the past two years and come up one game short of the playoffs in both years. They are hoping the addition of K-Rod will get them a few extra wins and finally push them into the playoffs. The signing of Gary Sheffield could also help, to a lesser extent. The Mets are clearly an offensively talented team, but outside of Johan Santana they don’t really have any reliable pitching. Mike Pelfrey and John Maine are talented young pitchers, but also inconsistent. Livan Hernandez is a reliable workhorse but he hasn’t finished a season with an ERA under 4.50 since 2005.

The defending champion Phillies are a solid team that caught fire at the right time last year. It is hard for any team to defend a title and I don’t expect the Phillies to repeat as World Series Champs this year. However, that doesn’t mean they still can’t win the East. Here are Philadelphia’s win totals over the last six years: 86, 86, 88, 85, 89, 92. Pretty consistent, if you ask me. They may have over-achieved a little bit last season, so I expect them to drop back down into the high 80’s. Raul IbaƱez is a solid addition and probably an improvement over Pat Burrell. If Ryan Howard can keep his average closer to .300 than .250, the Phils offense could be even more potent than last year. Their pitching hasn’t changed too much, other than the addition of Chan Ho Park as a fifth starter. However, with injury questions surrounding Cole Hamels, reliability issues surrounding Joe Blanton, and the fact that Jamie Moyer is about 75 years old, the pitching staff certainly has some risk.

I had high hopes for Atlanta this year, especially considering the inordinate amount of tough-luck losses last year, but it seems that perhaps the Braves are just another .500 team. After starting hot this season (5-1, including two wins at Philly) the Braves proceeded to lose six of their next seven, mostly against Washington and Pittsburgh. Atlanta fields a team of talented young (but also un-interesting) players like Casey Kotchman, Jordan Schafer and Kelly Johnson. I’d be willing to bet that only die-hard fantasy players have heard of all those guys. The pitching staff is solid, if unspectacular, and the additions of Javier Vazquez and Derek Lowe certainly shore up last year’s patchwork rotation. Newly-signed Japanese player Kenshin Kawakami should eat up some innings, but most are not expecting him to dominate. Youngster Jair Jurrjens has great stuff and could end up being the best pitcher out of the group. Atlanta should improve on last year’s relatively dreadful 72-90 finish, but expecting a division title is probably out of the question.

What’s the deal with the Marlins? Are they actually good this year? They currently have the best record in baseball at 11-4. The truth is, the Marlins have quietly been a solid team for the last several years. With everyone usually focusing on the Mets, Phillies, and Braves, the Marlins usually get ignored. They haven’t finished better than third since 2003 (when they won the World Series) but have finished with 83 or 84 wins in three of the five seasons since, including last season. Florida has two great young talents in Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla (with fans hoping that Cameron Maybin soon joins that level of distinction) but the rest of the roster is probably only recognized by family members. Their pitching is also young (and inexperienced) but clearly talented. Ricky Nolasco looks like the real deal, with fellow youngsters Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez also showing promise.

The Nationals suck. That’s all there is to it. As expected, they currently have the worst record in baseball and should continue to maintain that level of ineptitude. According to their depth chart, third basemen Ryan Zimmerman is currently the fifth starter in the pitching rotation. While I’m sure it’s a typo, I wouldn’t really be that surprised if it wasn't. (Update: Typo has been fixed. Apparently Jordan Zimmerman is the fifth starter)

1. Mets
2. Phillies
3. Marlins
4. Braves
5. --vacated--
30. Nationals

If I was more of a risk-taker (like my associate) I would predict the Marlins to win the division, but honestly, at this point it’s a pretty big risk to pick the Mets to win anything. It’s pretty hard to swing a bat and throw strikes when your hands are permanently wrapped around your throat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Indians are Terrible (and AL West Preview)

Holy shit. The Indians, as of now, are 1-7 and heading into the opening series at new Yankee Stadium (aka steal yo' money park) tomorrow. They have the potential of being 1-12 by the time Monday rolls around. I haven't watched any games but I have listened to a few and caught a couple on game cast. I know Eric Wedge's team hates April and starts off slowly every year but this is dangerously close to being the end of the season for them. Let's highlight a few of the problems.

The pitching has been horrendous. I mean Cliff Lee can't control his fastball and hitters are nailing him on everything else. He just can't keep them off balance and honest so they look for the offspeed stuff and crush it. Carmona can't control his pitches at all. They dance around like they have a mind of their own. He's continued the trend from last year of walking more people than striking out. I'm not sure if it is a mechanical problem or if he's just bad. But I'm confident is saying that 2007 was a fluke year for him. Pavano is alright. He looked good in spring training, got knocked out of the 1st by the Rangers, then fanned 8 in 6 innings against the Royals. Not bad. (You know your pitching sucks when you consider Pavano "not bad").

The bullpen can't hold a lead so far and can't even keep the games close. Perez came in last night with the game tied up and gave up 5 runs. Kerry Wood has looked awesome though in his 1 inning of work. They should probably make him a starter.

The hitting has actually been doing pretty well. Hafner is off to a good start with 3 homeruns in the first week and Martinez looks fully recovered from his shoulder problem. Sizemore is the same old Sizemore hitting homeruns and striking out. They need to set a lineup and stick with it. I feel like Wedge tinkers with the lineup too much in April and causes the offense to putter into May. Isn't tinkering what Spring Training is for? I'm not a coach or anything but it would make sense to mess with your lineups when the games DON'T FUCKING MATTER (take heed Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini).

If they can get out of New York with a split in the four game series then they should be in OK shape. Anthony Reyes has looked pretty solid and should get better. Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona can't really do any worse then they already have. And despite the terrible start they are only 4 games from the Central Division leader. But like I said, its going to get late faster for the Indians if they don't start playing up to par.

Also, I'd like to see LaPorta, that catcher prospect from the Dodgers, and the other guy from the Sabathia deal to play in the majors soon. They all hit .500 in the spring and probably warrant a roster spot over Ben Francisco and some of the other bums (Ryan Garko). I like Trevor Crowe in the outfield though. He's like a mini Sizemore and hopefully can get on base more to create havoc.

AL West Preview

I'll keep this short because this division really doesn't change that much from year to year. The Mariners are supposed to be good and they actually might be with Felix Hernandez coming into his own and hopefully Erik Bedard pitching like his past self. I like the Franklin Guiterrez addition from the Indians. He may not look good on paper from last year but he was never consistently in the lineup. His power and speed in center will make him a real offensive threat with consistent at bats.

The Angels are the Angels and should be a solid team again this year. Oakland never really impressed me in spring training and just look to be mediocre. The Rangers have a great offense, especially with Nelson Cruz coming of age. But their pitching, as always, really sucks and they'll be mired in a 70-80 win season.

Prediction: I'm going to go with Seattle to win this division and make the playoffs. They've been on the cusp the past few years and fell short of expectations last year. But with a solid rotation anchored by veteran Jarrod Washburn in the back, they should be ready to take the title this year. Plus the return of Junior Griffey can't hurt.

Monday, April 6, 2009

AL East Preview

The American League East is loaded. There is a good possibility that a 90 win team from this division will be left on the outside looking in in October. The back end of this division isn't bad either with the young Orioles and always consistent mediocre Jays.

AL East

The (Devil) Rays are the defending champs. Interesting to say that but you have to hand it to them. They have quality pitching with Kasmir, Garza, and Shields in the top three spots as well as David Price lurking in the minors. The bullpen was more than solid last year but the trend in the majors has always been that the bullpen takes a hit after good years due to the amount of innings pitched. The Rays obvious strength is their lineup. It is dynamic with speed and power in the form of BJ Upton. Hopefully they can get the Upton who seemingly launched home runs every at bat last post season. Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Pena provide a balanced offensive attack. Throw in Maddon's crazy managing decisions and the Rays can beat you in a variety of ways.

The most likely division winner is the Red Sox. Every year I think these guys are getting older and have to fall apart at some point. However, their roster this season is pretty impressive. The rotation of Beckett, DiceK, Wakefield, and Lester can eat innings and give them a chance to win every day. The wildcards in the rotation are going to be Brad Penny and Clay Bucholtz. The bullpen really staged a coup by getting Smoltz. He's an All Star closer in the setup position. This solidifies the back end of games and can even provide Papelbon with some days off to keep him fresh for the post season. I'm pretty sure I don't have to talk about an offense that boasts Big Papi, MVP Dustin Pedroia (can't hit high and inside), Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youklis.

The Yankees are the Yankees. The keys to their season are CC Sabathia's psyche and the weathering of A-Rod's injury. Sabathia's recent success with the Indians and Brewers stems from his ability to control his emotions. Early in his career he used to get hotheaded in certain situations and just start throwing heat instead of pitching. This led to control trouble and games going from bad to worse. Xavier Nady and Mark Teixera will have to pick up the slack for A-Rod's missing bat. Nady is a good player who has a chance to get into the All Star Game with Rodriguez out. The question for the Yanks is their rotation. While it could be very good, there is no guarantee. Joba was inconsistent at best last year and Pettite is getting old. Burnett is the definition of injury prone and his bad elbow usually costs a month every season.

The Orioles/Blue Jays are in the same boat fighting for fourth place this year. The Orioles have a great young offense but their pitching is a few years from coming out. To be honest I haven't heard of any of the guys behind Jeremy Guthrie in that rotation. But the offense with Huff, Markakis, and Roberts should be solid to compete for mediocrity. The Blue Jays have Roy Halladay and thats about it for starters. Their bullpen is average and BJ Ryan might not even keep his closer job for the season. Reports indicate that his velocity has dropped to about 87 or so for a fastball. That's Joe Borowski territory. I'm glad I drafted him in my fantasy league.

Call: I'm going to go with the Red Sox to win the division and the Rays to pick up the wild card. I'm not sold on the Yankees making it through this competitive season without their best hitter. Jeter is hitting leadoff. He can still get on base but his speed is diminished and his defense has been suffering a lot recently (see WBC). Him and Cano really are a liability up the middle on defense. I don't see Burnett pitching the entire season and Wang is a crapshoot because he's a groundball pitcher with below average defensive middle infielders.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

AL Central Preview

Remember last year? Remember when I predicted that the Tigers would lose 100 games (the almost did!) and that the Rays would win the East (you'll hear this a bunch more, I promise) and that the Red Sox would get the Wild Card? Remember that? You should because they were great predictions. The Rays prediction was probably the greatest prediction of our generation. If Villanova wins the tournament, then The Rays would have to be pushed down to second...but that is a different story for another time.

I'm going to make an admission right now. Baseball predictions are like a crapshoot (obviously a waiver of my potentially shitty picks for the upcoming year). This season seems especially tough seeing that the AL East is stacked, the AL Central is stacked with mediocrity, and the AL West is....well...the AL West. Well, here goes:

AL Central

Well, this division went from being the up and coming powerhouse to the powerhouse of 80 win teams. I'm not sure what is going to happen this year. Obviously I was going to pick the Indians to win this division on pure talent alone, but their starting pitching has been atrocious this spring with Cliff Lee getting lit up almost every start. There's no way he can repeat the success of last year. Carl Pavano...well, whatever. The only bright spot is that Carmona looks like he's ready to return to form after an injury plagued season in 2008. However the bullpen should be better with the addition of Kerry Wood taking pressure off Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis, and Rafael Betancourt. There should be less blown leads this year.

The Twins look mediocre as usual and are probably poised to overacheive as usual. They have Liriano back from elbow injury and he's been looking very good this spring. He should anchor a solid rotation which can hold games for the outstanding bullpen. They also have the best clutch hitter in Joe Mauer and perennial MVP candidate Justin Morneau in the lineup. The keys for the Twins are going to be Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young in the outfield. These guys need to get on base and use their speed to create runs to support that pitching staff.

The Tigers and White Sox don't really concern me because they are getting old and seem to be on the way out. The Tigers will maintain a pretty good offense even though they just cut Gary Sheffield, but their pitching is garbage. I mean Edwin Jackson as your #2? Their season rests on Dontrelle Willis' arm and that's probably not a good bet. The White Sox are too old to do anything this year. I think they'll fall behind early and have too much ground to make up as the saeson goes on. Watch out for Alexei Ramirez though. He reminds me of Alfonso Soriano but better defensively.

The Royals are in the same position the Devil Rays have been in the past few seasons. They are a perennial loser with high draft picks and great prospects just waiting to break out. I mean wasn't Zach Greinke supposed to be a Cy Young winner by now. He's still pretty young considering he's been in the majors since he was 18. But he has great stuff and should be the ace for this rotation this season that includes the dynamic Kyle Davies (finished the season strong last year) and Gil Meche (perennial fantasy add/drop). With Coco Crisp batting leadoff and improving the defense, David Dejesus (.307/12/73 last year) can bat either second or third and make an offensive impact. The key for the Royals is how Teahen, Gordon, and Butler step up. They've been on the cusp for a few seasons now and it remains to be seen whether or not they can live up to the hype.

Call: Kansas City with a breakout season. The Indians and Twins can win 90 games but they are flawed. The division is open for the Royals to surprise.

Tomorrow, I'll look at the AL East and probably pick the Rays to win it again.

Trade Cutler? How about fire McDaniels.

Pat Bowlen undoubtedly would like a do-over.

In a span of a few months his Denver Broncos have gone from one of the most consistently good NFL teams to an absolute circus.

After Bowlen made the surprising move to fire Mike Shanahan, Cutler has been a baby. Cutler has whined about a perceived lack of respect from baby-faced coach Josh McDaniels. It appears the relationship has reached the point of no return and the Broncos have decided to trade Cutler before the draft.

To me, this makes absolutely no sense. Maybe it is my perspective as a Bills fan where since Jim Kelly's retirement the Bills have started the following quarterbacks: Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, Kelly Holcomb, JP Losman, and Trent Edwards. Significant time has also been given to the likes of Travis Brown and Billy Jo Hobert. My point is, a franchise quarterback is more valuable than a head coach. If Cutler is going to be a baby, and McDaniels could not heal the wounds, then Bowlen should have looked at buying out McDaniels and starting over.

I know appeasing the 25 year old baby quarterback would have provided awful precedent for him, but Cutler from all indications seems to be the type of guy you can plug into the quarterback position for the next ten seasons. How many NFL coaches are going to last ten years? My bet is that McDaniels will not be one of them.


I know that after the Raiders quickly fired Mike Shanahan he was hired by the Broncos, led them to two Super Bowls, and made the Raiders life miserable. The difference is the Raiders fired Shanahan because he wouldn't let players sit on their helmets. The Broncos would be letting McDaniels to ensure they retain their franchise quarterback.


Please Broncos don't trade Cutler to the Jets. Trade him far away from the Bills like Tampa Bay, or the Lions, or work out a three-way with the Browns, Cards, or Titans that sends him to some distant play once every four years NFC team.

Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 Cleveland Browns...Rebuilding...Again.

I'm convinced that the Browns are stuck in a spiraling labyrinth of rebuilding, raising expectations, felling said expectations, and rebuilding again. It is an endless cycle which has consumed my life since 1999 and will continued to do so henceforth. Somewhere along this familiar path there are bright spots, coaching changes, GM swaps, and economic downturns. Oh yeah and the era of the "other sports team" in Cleveland. In the Browns' absence it was the Indians. In their new perennial mediocrity, it is the Cavaliers. However, that is life in Cleveland. It's like the mediocre looking girlfriend that you are in love with but aren't currently with because you still love having the flavor of the week. If that makes any sense.

With the trade of Kellen Winslow today, Eric Mangini has signaled that the team is once again in rebuilding mode. This is history repeated. After the 2002 season where the Browns made the playoffs under Butch Davis, they faced heightened expectations and a tougher schedule. That is tailor made for a flop. So what happened? The fans threatened to revolt and the team got another coach and began to rebuild. Two years after making the playoffs in a tough division! Two years! Anyway, this course of events should sound familiar to any of those who care.

I can't really put my finger on what the problem is here. It is unbelievable that one organization is so inept at putting together even a mediocre team. I mean the Redskins throw money at veterans as callously as Pac Man does at strip clubs, but at least they field a team that almost makes the playoffs. The Bills are just wracked by terrible coaching and the Buffalo curse. The Bengals just love to draft and sign criminals. The Browns really don't do anything wrong. They drafted two players who made the pro bowl within their first two seasons and put together an impressive offensive array in 2007. But when it came down to playing good teams that talent doesn't translate?

I mean its not that the better teams shut the Browns offense down or anything. They were just bad on their own. Edwards and Winslow forgot how to catch a ball and Anderson flat out aimed at the ground. What happened to the unstoppable aerial attack of 2007? Who the fuck knows? That's what I'm wondering. Is it a culture of failure and complacency? You'd think that a team at the mercy of its rioting fans would try to build upon a winning season and do better the next go round. No, they come to camp fat and have no full pads practices. They get decimated in the preseason by every team they play and write it off as "just the preseason."

Like I said before on this blog, the Browns need an identity. I don't care if we're the first team in the NFL with an openly gay quarterback. Just give us something that makes us the Browns. That's the only way I can see us breaking out of this sisyphian cycle of achieving mediocrity only to fall back down to sheer incompetence.