Postgame Spread
You guys hangin' out? I'll hang out.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New Theory    

Screw Alex Gonzalez... Wells + Gonzalez for O-Cab!  Everybody wins!

to T.O. or not to T.O.    

Ok, I've avoided bringing this up, because I found the press coverage of the whole debacle in Philly this past season to be extremely distasteful. But I came into the office this morning and saw this. T.O. is looking like he might be heading to Denver.

First- a preface- I love T.O.
Yep. He hooked me during my year in the Bay Area, when I got to watch him every week (this was during the extremely short-lived years when Sergio Garcia was a Pro-Bowler). I loved the swagger. I loved the size (oh, what a big man you are!!!). I loved the smile. I loved the shouting at teammates and coaches. The whole "I'm the biggest pimp in the room, and y'all should feel honored to share a field with me, so go get your goddamn shinebox" was amazing. What I loved was the honesty of it. I mean, he might pretend to be a decent guy, but it was ALWAYS with a wink and a roll of the eyes.

So when the Iggles signed him, I was psyched. I mean, here's this team, perennial bridesmaids, who have the worst goddamn wideouts in the league, and a versatile, big-play QB, and they decide to roll the dice and take a shot. Bravo! And it almost paid off big time.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. It gave the city a great ride, and made us all fall in love with Donovan again. Well, everyone except me, but that's another story.

I'm still a T.O. guy. I say if you need a rockstar receiver as badly as the Eagles did to make the leap to the big show, go for it, consequences and team chemistry be damned. You can always say, "Hey... we all know we needed a player with his ability. We took a shot."

So should the Broncos sign T.O.?

I'm of three minds here.
1- They sorely need a rockstar WR. Rod Smith is due for a career-ending back injury any day now, and barring that, he's still due to lose about three steps any time now, given his age. After him, we've got Ashley "Pinkston" Lelie, and Jeb "Don't Call Me" Putzier. Hardly a wrecking crew. Add T.O. to the mix, and whaddya got? Lelie a legit deep threat, cause he'll be ALWAYS in single coverage (much like Greg Lewis/Todd Pinkston were in Philly), and Jeb/whoever else matched against linebackers.

But, before we break out the popsicles (thanks BS)...

2- Is there a worse possible chemistry combination than Jake Plummer and T.O.?
No. I won't even argue this fact. T.O. would treat the Snake like his bitch from day one, and I've never seen a QB lead a team to the superbowl while wearing a gimp suit, whatever your opinion of Trent Dilfer may be.

3- Now... if they were to somehow cut Plummer and trade for Philip Rivers?
Tommy likey.

YES!    

Finally, some non-insane news!  Alex Gonzalez signs a one-year, $3 million contract.  None of this $5 million per year nonsense.  Nice recovery by Team Gorilla Suit.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Re-re-evaluation    

[Edit 1/31 10 AM: removed conditionals relating to Gonzalez]

I know, bo-ring, but it's worth revisiting, since I don't think I've covered the lineup since Jeremy Reed was an option in center field.

Batting Order

CF Coco Crisp
2B Mark Loretta
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Trot Nixon
3B Mike Lowell
CA Jason Varitek
1B Kevin Youkilis
SS Alex Gonzalez

This lineup will be as good as usual.  Crisp may be less than Damon, but Loretta is way, way more than Renteria was.  So while we don't have a one-man wrecking crew atop the lineup, at least we have a two-man wrecking crew.  Might be better that way anyhow.

I'm also starting to come around on Lowell.  He might be cooked, but if not then there's no better place for him to regain his confidence than Fenway.  The Monstah can be somewhat forgiving when it comes to those lazy flies to left.  I bet he'll hit somewhere between 15-20 HR, ultimately just replacing either Billy Mueller or Kevin Millar, but he'll have every opportunity to do more.

Bench
1B J.T. Snow
UT Alex Cora / Willie Harris / Tony Graffanino (Graffanino's a goner though)
OF Dustan Mohr
OF Adam Stern / Harris
CA Josh Bard / John Flaherty

The weak spot.  Injuries at any position besides 2B/SS would spell certain doom for the lineup.  This is where, ohhhh I dunno, Andy Goddamn Marte might have come in handy.  But as role players they're decent.  I'd like to see a pinch-hitting specialist in there at some point, though.  Mohr isn't good enough, Stern's not ready, and the infielders are defense-only.  That, actually, would be an interesting way for Graffanino to stick around... say what you (read: I) will about Gaffe-a-nino as a starter, but he would be the perfect utility infielder.  He's even got a fan cult, just like any good Boston utility guy.  But Cora will probably outplay him.

Rotation
Schilling
Beckett
Wells
Wakefield
Clement

I give the #5 to Clement over Arroyo, only because I think they'll pitch him until his trade value rises.  Arroyo may go anyway, but who knows.  Much as I hate to see the Sox give Paps mere bullpen innings again, Saturn Balls and Clement both have shown little (if any) aptitude as relievers.  So they'll tell Clement he's pitching for his new employers, and that he should press to impress.

Bullpen
Papelbon
Arroyo / Van Buren (if trade happens)
Tavarez
Foulke
Seanez
Riske
Timlin

A real strength.  Short of Papelbon's eventual ascension to the rotation, the part of the season I await the most.  The Red Sox have never, ever had a bullpen this deep.  I mean, pending an Arroyo/Clement trade, Keith Foulke is their worst reliever.  Unreal.  There's plenty of room for disaster (Foulke is a mess, Timlin/Seanez are old, Tavarez is a surprise bag, injuries, and so forth) but even so, there are dangerous, capable arms in Pawtucket ready to step in at a moment's notice.  We may see Craig Hansen closing games by August, no matter how well Foulke recovers.  Who knows.  What I do know is that they have something like 10 arms to choose from (again, pending trades).  The one weakness on paper is they're a little slanted towards short relief.  Paps is the only guy in that pen I'd want to pitch more than an inning, including Saturn Balls, who has a tendency to overthrow as a reliever.  I can't wait to see how this bullpen shakes itself out.

Prognosis
I'm sticking by my previous predictions.  They will win the division.  If Schilling makes 30 starts, this is a 100-win team.

Say Wha?    

?????

Am I really the only person who thinks the trade is retarded?  Nothing against Coco, who I like more now than I do before the trade went down, but the above link is as condescending as a news item should ever get.  You don't need to read past the first sentence to become sick to your stomach:

For those having difficulty understanding why the Indians would give up Coco Crisp -- who is just 26 and posted a better OPS last season than Johnny Damon (.810 to .805) -- to get Andy Marte...

In the words of Sir Jon of Hotlanta... hhhhh-what?!???!?  This is an insult to anyone outside of Massachusetts, and to a lot of people inside it.  People who understand that baseball exists beyond the 495 corridor know who Coco Crisp is, and that he's not worth two prospects.  This fiasco of an article reeks of politicking and spin doctoring, especially if you happen to think this was highway robbery by Cleveland... which I believe it was, based on talent.

Though I'm beginning to get used to the deal.  I certainly think the lineup is in far better shape than it would've been with their alternatives in CF.  Despite knowing that the Indians are getting the better end of this trade, I can empathize with Boston's philosophy... the catcher and third base positions are spoken for through the foreseeable future, so why hold onto prospects at those positions?  Combined with the front office's love affair with Crisp stretching back a year or two, you can see why they were OK with it.  However, one injury to Lowell or Varitek leaves the Sox not just non-optimal, but positively decimated.  Do you turn down a starting player because you're worried about minor league depth?  Apparently not... not if you're trying to win every year.

The thing is, with a ring on my finger, there's no urgency for them to win again this year.  I'd much rather see them stockpile youth.  But much as I'd like to see them build smart, like Oakland but with money and without the perennial choke jobs, it's not gonna happen.  It's the pitfall of running a big-budget team... no matter how many GMs come into a situation like Boston or New York or whatever and say "small-market mentality, big-market budget," they all get lazy and just throw money at veterans in the end.  It never works.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Celtics Trade    

Breaking down the Celts' semi-blockbuster, expanded far beyond the Blount-for-Kandi trade that confused me:

On-Court Product

This will probably help the Celtics, if only because it clears up so many bench spots.  Ricky/Blount for Wally/Kandi is a wash, but Marcus Banks and Justin Reed got spun off for a D-league center project and a #1 pick.  Taking guys who offered the team little, and turning them into future assets, was a good move.

The starting five now looks like Delonte West, Wally Szcerbiak, Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz, and Kendrick Perkins.  Not very good.  LaFrentz will be the starter until Al Jefferson plays up to Doc Rivers' standards, which change nightly because Doc has no idea what he's doing.

Ricky vs. Wally
I like neither of them, particularly.  Wally is overpaid, and will be through 2009.  He doesn't play anything even close to D; he's only good on O because it's so far from D in the alphabet.  And from all accounts I've heard, he's kind of a me-first dick, and a black hole.  But he's also a quality #2 scoring option next to Pierce.  And we know there's no chance he'll explode, like the ticking timebomb that is Ricky Davis.  Getting a guy like Wally for Ricky is probably the peak of Ricky's trade value, so I like that we moved him before he blew up.

Financials
Szcerbiak and Olowokandi are both ridiculously overpaid.  But according to the Globe, the Celts are saving $5 million on the deal, despite taking on Wally's $12 million per season through '08-09.  Kandi's $6 million comes off the books this summer, which is nice, but will ultimately go straight into the pockets of Delonte West, Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson and company, not free agents.  What we're left with is overpaying for Wally, as opposed to overpaying for Blount, who sucks and hates Asians.  So we win that one, though it's not a salary dump exactly.

Draft Picks
The C's get an option for a #1 from Minnesota, likely in 2008.  By then, the Wolves will have been forced to trade KG, so the pick could be a gold mine.  This insures that regardless of the outcome, we have something to look forward to.  The Celts sent two second-rounders to Minnesota, which will mean exactly nothing, though Ainge has been msterful with second-rounders thus far.

Effect On Doc Rivers
It gives him a lot less to be confused about when dealing with substitutions (10 talented players is less than 12), doesn't it?  But it won't change the fact that he's completely fucking incompetent.  Just throwing that out there.  I hope to God he gets fired, so these poor bastards can learn something from their coach.  Is it any surprise that the only guys who are actually developing (West and Greene) play Doc's old position?  Gee whiz.  Maybe we need to hire head coaches for the other four positions; then Jefferson and Perkins could start growing up instead of languishing in atrophy.

Minnesota
They have improved themselves.  I think Blount will play well for them; he's that kind of guy.  Ricky will obviously play well.  Banks will contribute; their PG situation is a disaster.  But they've also downgraded their offense, since Ricky is a feast-or-famine kind of guy.  I doubt this will help them win a playoff spot, but I do think they're better.

Diagnosis

Good trade.  Win-win for both teams.  At worst the C's now have another 20 ppg scorer, some cash to pay for West and Jefferson's raises, and a future #1 pick.  Danny Ainge did well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Executive Of the Year    

So, under normal circumstances, there's nothing funny about sexual harrassment.
When Isiah Thomas is involved, however, the phrase "normal" goes right out the window (along with a proven blue chip post presence in favor of more undersized swingmen).
Yep. Master T is being sued by a former employee for sexual harrassment.

Boo this man!


















I won't get into the arguments to be made about his alleged sexual advances, cause there really isn't much funny there.

But check out this nugget of joy: "The lawsuit also alleges that Thomas told Browne Sanders he was pushing for more home games at noon on Sundays. His plan, according to Browne Sanders, was to have opposing players go to certain clubs, including strip clubs, that Thomas had connections with on Saturday nights and get them drunk so they would be sluggish for the game the next day."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Isiah must be connected with some broke tooth, nappy ass strippers, given the Knicks record of futility with him at the helm.

















"What, I can't get any love from you today?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Luis Polonia?!?    

I've been watching ESPN Deportes on and off tonight, because they're showing a game of the Dominican winter league's finals (or so I gather).  Jose Lima is pitching for Aguilas (not very well), and Wily Mo Pena just knocked in Luis Polonia to tie the game at 3-3.  I had no idea Luis Polonia was still alive!  I have like four rookie cards of his at home.  That's about all I had to say on the subject.

Over The Line    

Anyone see this?  An English tabloid reporter posed as an Arab sheik, and got England national soccer coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to speak candidly about certain players and coaches; as a result of his comments, Eriksson will quit the team after this summer.  This invasion of privacy has been brought to you by the makers of SlaveryTM and ApartheidTM.  Real classy.

It's a good thing American athletes don't deal with this crap.  What if some anonymous reporter slept with, oh I dunno, A-Rod, and got him to open up about things post coitus?  Apparently that sort of thing is okay in England.  Nice folks.

Bruins    

I watched Bruins-Capitals last night, a 3-2 win for Boston.  The Bruins are neither good nor entertaining.  They got one good goal and two shit goals, and nearly blew the lead.  Outside of Patrice Bergeron, David Tanabe and Marco Sturm, none of these players is worth watching.  Samsonov comes and goes.  Brad Boyes is a decent player, but still developing.  The defensemen are collectively OK, but not great... Andrew Alberts was the victim of several bone-crunching hits, which should never happen to a guy that big.  They may have shut down Alex Ovechkin, but they were fortunate to win this game.

They're talking playoffs, given that they have a five-game point streak.  But Jim Mora Sr. said it best when he said calmly, in his dulcet tones, "PLAYOFFS?!?!?"  Their offense suggests one of those "defense-only" playoff teams, except it's paired with a mediocre defense.  The lack of depth is killing them... they have 2/3 of a top line, and three fourth lines.  Their young forwards aren't doing a whole lot, w/ the exception of Bergeron, so there's not a lot to look forward to from them.  Furthermore, the front office has already addressed the free agency problem by trading Thornton, thus assuring any potential free agent that the rosy situation they perceive can be squashed in the blink of an eye.  Nobody with half a brain would ever sign in Boston.

So I'm getting used to the thought that this team is going nowhere.  I've hated this team in the past, but each time I turned against them you could see some development.  Not now.  I have no idea how they could possibly expect to improve this team.  The best-case scenario for this roster, when everyone's healthy and playing well, is the #8 spot in the conference.  Well goll-y, sign me up for season tickets.

Terps, WTF?!?!?!    

Let me take this opportunity to bitch about the plight of Maryland basketball.....

A recent history:
  • Had made the dance for 16 or so straight years
  • Plays in the easily the highest profile conference in the country (ACC), sorry the Big Easy just doesn't cut it.
  • Made the Final Four in 2000
  • Won it all in 2001
  • Sweet 16 in 2002
  • Won the ACC in 2003
  • Has at least 4-5 nationally televised games a year, including 2 matchups against their rival, Duke

In my eyes, this should all translate into smooth runnings when it came to recruiting. With a resume like this, Maryland should be all accounts dominate in recruiting. Looking at the classes following 2000 and 2001....

Incoming class in 2002 consisted of:

  1. PG John Gilcrist - the obviously super talented head-case who was the ONLY one of these idiots to not get in some trouble with the law
  2. PF Nik Caner-Medley - one of the dumbest players in history, got arrested two summers ago for bar-fighting and screaming "I am from Maryland, nobody can beat me". This guy can only drive left and is good for mop up duty on crappy teams and 3-4 boneheaded turns a game.
  3. PF Travis Garrison - The 6'10" Mickey Dees All-American who is afraid to play inside and bang. Once described by the announcers as a "foul waiting to happen". Was charged with sexual assualt at a bar from an incident 2 months ago.
  4. SG Chris McCray - The only saving grace of these morons, played good D, was the least hyped out of high school and could hit the 3. Also, got arrested in October for resisting arrest and then got booted off the team just yesterday for being academically ineligible.

What the hell happened? You take 2 top 50 recruits and 2 top 100 and put them together and you get shit on a basketball court.

So, on the Incoming Class of 2003

  1. F Ekene Ibekwe - Jury is still out. Worst passer in history, but is playing inside quite well this year. I'm coming around to him and he has made significant changes in his style of play this year.
  2. SF/SG Mike Jones - The #2 freaking shooting guard behind King James in his year, only problem is all he can do is hit spot up 3s. His D is laughable and well, his passing is below average.
  3. C Will Bowers - A 7 foot project who didn't pan out.
  4. SG DJ Strawberry - Great on ball defender who was not highly recruited. Probably the only player on the Terps who is playing better than expected.

Leaving me to say, what the hell happened with these 2 classes? I can't complain much about the great things Maryland has done in the past, but I think the blame for these teams clearly lies with Gary Williams. It is his responsibility to recruit smart players and get his players to play well together. Also his responsibility to make sure they know who is in charge and not have them get in trouble. Maryland had it all and was in great position to become another one of THE programs that was always a contender (a la Duke, UNC, Arizona, UConn). They blew it. I sure hope they can recover from this mess of these two classes.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Denver/Pittsburgh    

Summing up my thoughts on the Broncos game yesterday:

ONE WINTER a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. "Oh," cried the Farmer with his last breath, "I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel."

Thanks, Aesop. I couldn't put it better myself.










Would you trust this man with your children?

The only fun I had in this game was musing during halftime about the goings-on in the Denver locker room. I postulated that they had Plummer duct-taped to a bench and were shaving him head to toe. That's what I'd have done.

Heckling the second half with loud shouts of "SHAVE THAT MAN!" was extremely cathartic.

In summation...


















John Lynch "Just can't quit" Jake.

Cuckoo For Coco    

I should be thrilled. Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez are coming to Boston to plug the Sox' remaining holes. The offseason is officially over.

But I'm ticked that Marte is going. I got excited about the idea of having a young positional prospect emerge either this year or next. Now that won't happen. The fact that they got Marte without taking one of our glut of starters (Matt Clement???) as part of the deal really pisses me off.

But that's small potatoes. We're ready to play now. Bring it on.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fat Chronic Blount    

From Simmons' mailbag today.  Man, I'm just all over Simmons' bag when he puts it out there for me!  Seriously though, today's an all-timer, in my humblest of humbles.  The personal highlight, b/c it's both funny and true:

Q: Rumors from Minneapolis say that the Wolves are exploring the possibility of trading former No. 1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi to your Celtics for the legendary Mark Blount. That's like trading herpes for syphilis!
-- Ben Kennedy, Minneapolis

SG: Come on, that's an insult to both herpes and syphilis.


Now that we've had a good chuckle, I cannot f#&^%$g believe Ainge is looking into this.  This is not the deal that solves the problem, though it's possible that Kandi Man's contract is shorter (haven't looked).  But from a basketball standpoint, does anyone honestly believe Doc Rivers will bring anything more out of Olowokandi?  The guy can't even solve The Case Of Who Belongs In The Starting Lineup... how's he gonna solve The Mystery Of The Center Who Only Focused During His Contract Year?  At least Blount plays defense, when he feels like it, regardless of how he hits the boards.  I don't get it, unless it's about money somehow.

Why I Love Theo Epstein    

Let's face it: Theo Epstein is an American hero.  Though he got a little too much credit for the team's successes, and not enough for its failures (Renteria, Clement), I believe he's a hero primarily because the AP was able to submit the following "long story short" paragraph at the front of its story on Theo's return:

Theo Epstein will return to the team he built into a World Series winner, he and the team said Thursday night in a joint statement that did not say what his role would be. His long-rumored return comes 2½ months after he turned down a contract extension and fled Fenway Park in a gorilla suit to avoid the encamped media.

I'm glad he's back and all, but man oh man, reading that sentence was 100 times better than hearing he's back.  Just as Clinton Portis' alter egos were the highlight of the NFL season, Theo's gorilla suit is the unofficial highlight of the MLB offseason.  Personally, I think he should don the suit at his press conference.  Who in their right mind could possibly dislike Theo Epstein if he did that?

(Well, other than this guy.  According to the Midnight Star, they're keeping his brain alive inside a jar.  I wanna know, I wanna knoooooooow...)

Aftermath    

Well, it happened. The Colts choked in a big enough way that no one can really ever blame their failures on much of anything else again. And so, any excuse about the snow or the ingeniousness of Bellicheck ability to get inside the Colts collective head can be discarded. So, whither my relationship with the Colts?

First, the game. I consider the missed field goal karma for the overturning of the Polamalu interception, so I'm not interested in that. I'm mad they even ended up in a field goal situation there to begin with. I think, as I know Jeff does, that it was inexcusable for Peyton not to get a play off before the two minute warning, and I hated the play calling on that drive. Given that fumble, the time left, the timeouts left, and the quantity of options the Colts have at their disposal, I see no reason why that drive couldn't have resulted in a touchdown, except failure. And while that's bad enough, it's obviously not the main problem with the Colts that game, considering that the game should have been over twice already, though they're arguably related.

It goes without saying that Peyton was horrible for most of the entire game, except for a few flashes of brilliance that while great, might have been just as possible for someone like Jake Delhomme as well. However, much as there is to criticize about Peyton's performance, I'm not really sure that was the whole story. There were, as he so eloquently put it, problems with protection, but that's not what I'm talking about either. Watching the first half, it didn't really look to me like Peyton was screwing up, exactly. It looked like there was a good chance that the receivers weren't where they were supposed to be, which doesn't make any sense. You could call them undercoached or something, and (without any ill feeling toward Dungy considering the horrible winter he has had) I think that may be true. Actually it wouldn't be calling out Dungy anyway, because I think the defense did everything you could ask of them, apart from clearly gambling on the Steelers to put it on the ground right away, which was boneheaded but understandable. And I'm not sure how involved Dungy generally is in his offense's preparation.

And none of that explains to me why receivers on the Colts would be in the wrong places in the first place. Chokers, schmokers, isn't this is a well-oiled offensive machine? It's not like Wayne hasn't been on the team for years--how does it come about that he and Peyton are arguing about what the route was, at home, in the playoffs? There was genuine confusion about what was supposed to be happening on that football field. So, I'm not sure, but I feel like more was going on there than Peyton tanking it. I would love to heap everything at Peyton's feet, say I love the team but hate Peyton, protect my sports fan cred, and be done with it. But I think something much more collective happened in that collapse. I don't know if the Colts got cocky, got scared, got complacent, or have started to hate eachother, or what. But they did something along those lines, together, because they stunk, together.

So what now? Apologies for the length of this, but I'm going to reach back a little bit and recreate where I was at before the 16-0 hype and the losses and the playoffs. This is part a post I wrote earlier this fall but didn't put up because I thought it was too long and too introspective and annoying:

The thing that makes [being a Colts fan] a big issue instead of a minor peculiarity of my sports allegiances is the place that the Colts occupy in the NFL right now. I feel like—or perhaps I should say that I'm quite sure that—proclaiming one's status a Colts fan right now, particularly a Colts from with no legitimate ties to the state of Indiana, carries with it certain implications. It implies to some people that you're likely to make excuses for a team of chokers. It implies to some that you value statistical accomplishments more than playoff wins. For some, it implies that you are hopelessly convinced that being a more cerebral quarterback is the same as being a better quarterback. It demonstrates that you're willing to continue to root for a team that has been for multiple seasons the complete and utter bitch of the New England Patriots. Worst, and most fundamentally, it indicates that you're probably a frequent rider of bandwagons.

I do have a demonstrable affinity for also-rans, but I hate the idea that people think of me as a bandwagoner per se, or for people to think that I make excuses for or explain away the utter inability of Peyton and company to defeat Bellicheck's boys (though I’m sure I’ve been a little guilty of that from time to time). There’s just no question that the whole situation demands an explanation. Does it reflect who I am as a sports fan? Should I be trying harder to be a good Seahawks fan?

I usually tell people that the reason I’ve been a Colts fan these past few years is a confluence of having a lot of good will for the franchise left over from the 1995 playoffs, playing them almost exclusively on Madden ‘99 during the fall of 2000, and watching the team improbably reach the playoffs that same fall with a couple of crazy come-from-behind victories and a big upset. But who am I kidding? I can’t remember a single play from the ’95 playoffs and all I did on Madden was throw screen passes to Marshall Faulk and watch him dodge tacklers all the way to the endzone. No, when it comes right down to it, all it took was watching that team 5-6 times during the fall of 2000, and I was hooked.

But now I have the capacity now to root for a team that will likely contend in the NFC West more years over the next decade than they won’t. It has critical flaws, but some exciting defensive players and a running back with a winning smile that’s a perennial fantasy football superstar. What’s missing? Is it just that I allowed another allegiance to sneak up and occupy the space the Seahawks should be holding down? I think people who think that rooting for the home team is the most important part of being a good sports fan or who hate all the Colts and Manning hype would probably say yes. I understand where they’re coming from. They even make me feel uncomfortable enough about my stance that I’m willing to write over a thousand words trying to explain myself.

But here’s the thing. I may love Seattle and Washington, but I just don’t feel any need to root for a team I don’t like just because it’s home. And I have never liked the Seahawks. I feel like I should be working on that now, cultivating my fanship, trying to get excited about Seahawks players, especially since the Colts hype threatens to be truly insufferable if the improved defense can finally dethrone the Pats. But I don't know how. And is there a single player on the Seahawks I like as much as Dwight Freeney or Marvin Harrison? Not even close. Add the excitement of rooting for Edge to have big games in the shadow of Manning’s passing and the bottom line is that I’m still hooked. I may have a burgeoning distaste for Manning himself, but I still have incredible faith in his abilities when the team is behind, which is a pretty powerful drug. And the only reason that I have any self-consciousness about the idea at all is my built in fears about rooting for the team with the most media hype.

So what does this loss mean in light of all that?

Obviously, the whole thing is pretty tarnished, and yet in most important ways it feels just as out of my control as it ever did. Harrison, Freeney, Edge, and Wayne are probably all my favorite players at their respective positions at this point. So, if they stay in Indy, I'm pretty much a goner. And I'm ok with that. Painful as it was, there was also something clarifying in this loss. I no longer have to root for them to prove they were better than New England all along. Even my dumb ass can now accept that this is so obviously untrue that it isn't even worth pining for. All of that playing for history I wrote about a few weeks ago, well, it's officially impossible. So, I can root for them to get over the hump, to finally not choke, and already that doesn't feel like such a bad way to be a fan. I'm an always-the-bridesmaid kind of guy when it comes to sports; these teams suck me in with some consistency. And admitting that to being a fan of a bunch of chokers is the first step to recovery, right?

But what if Edge and Wayne skip town this offseason and Harrison starts making his dissatisfaction with the situation known or something? Then I really only have the Colts as a franchise, Harrison (maybe), Dungy (probably), and Manning. I really like Dungy, and I want good things to happen to him, but I could say the same about a lot of other people in the NFL. The Colts as a franchise have some real pull for me, somehow, beyond the players on the field, but I have to believe that's not all that stable. And I'll always root for Marvin, but one guy is sort of an empty justification for being a fan of a whole team.

Which brings us back to Manning. Manning, Manning, Manning. So what the hell to do with the fact that I've been rooting for this guy for the last 6 years? Having accepted the whole choker thing, I'm even willing to find his choking sort of loveable (though I'm really pissed about the two minute warning). But what about the comments? Selling out his offensive line? Sports commentators everywhere, including on this very site, have all basically said it was totally reprehensible. Proof that he is not a leader, probably proof of narcissistic self-centeredness and all the rest. Simmons even had the balls to say that he wasn't even sure A-Rod would have made that remark. That's potentially true, I suppose, but if so it's only true because he would be too worried, in an equal or even more self-centered way, about what his teammates might say about him.

I'm not defending the comments, just defending A-Rod as king of the sports schmucks. Which team is he on for the WBC again? I can't believe there's still stories about that. Anyway, it's not like Manning has really done all that much preening for the media. After Katrina, when sob stories about Favre's destroyed house were all over TV, Manning was quietly donating money and helping out. I don't really see a lot to dislike about his usual relationship with the media. Not necessarily a whole lot to love, but I don't see a whole lot of quarterbacks out there that have great qualities that I should be worshipping. They're athletes, and barring something truly awful, that's how I'll judge them (which doesn't bode all that well for Manning right now). But what a shame, in retrospect, that McNair had to share his MVP with Manning. That one should have been his.

So, here's what I think of the comments: Yes, they prove he's not a true leader. Yes, they were a horrible thing to point out, especially since they were already obvious--sort of a reverse-psychology media move that could be a textbook definition for the opposite of savvy. But, honestly, I dare anyone to fight off all their disappointment in that situation and not harp on their teammates. The third consecutive year of feeling like this was their year, all after losing 41-0 against the Jets...it would be enough to make an ass out of anybody. He screwed up. I hope he feels bad about it, I hope he apologizes, and I hope he still feels a little bad about it after apologizing. But I'm not going to hold any single postgame interview against anybody. If he's able to keep this team together in the wake of all this disappointment and finally win a superbowl, that'll be evidence enough for me that he rectified his relationships with his teammates and learned from this mistake a little bit about leadership.

So there it is. I'm still a sucker, so be it. We'll see what happens if the team implodes this offseason. And I'll never think they're the best team in the NFL again until they've actually taken the title from somebody. But it feels like I'm still on the bandwagon, for now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sox Pitching Update    

The staff currently looks something like this:

Curt Schilling
Josh Beckett
Tim Wakefield
David Wells
Bronson Arroyo
Jon Papelbon (r)
Julian Tavarez
Rudy Seanez
Guillermo Mota
Keith Foulke
Mike Timlin

* I'm assuming they will trade Matt Clement eventually, given that they are currently negotiating a three-year contract with Saturn Balls.  That's why he's off the list.

* Said contract suggests that the Sox are planning to use Papelbon in the spot-starter/long man role instead of Arroyo, at least on a temporary basis.  If that happens, Paps would become the most frightening long reliever in baseball.

* The team has repeatedly dropped Mota's name in trade talks, but I'd just assume keep him.  If Foulke returns to form, or Hansen breaks through, thus returning Timlin to setup duty, this becomes the best bullpen in baseball.  Anaheim is the only bullpen that could get a whiff.

* Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, fireballing rookie relievers who would be more than capable at the major-league level, will begin the year in Pawtucket according to the team.  They will return though.

* One weakness: there are no lefties, let alone situational lefties, in the bullpen.  But Lenny DiNardo did a fabulous job in long relief last season, so maybe he'll win a job as the lefty specialist.  I don't know much about this, however.

If they pick up a lefty reliever, and plug just one of their holes at SS or CF with a competent leadoff bat (Lugo/Reed respectively) while leaving cannon fodder at the other (Cora/Stern resp.), I think this is a 100-win team.  Johnny Damon's departure will hurt, but look at how much they've improved the pitching staff.  Toronto's emergence will not hurt them, since the generous Orioles have weakened themselves by an equal amount.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pats Lose    

It's time to confess.  I'm really let down that the Patriots lost.

Well, not that they lost, but how they lost.  The turnovers are just killing me.  I can't believe they choked.  It's so out of character.  They never let the home crowd get to them like that.  I would never have predicted they'd choke like that.  I can't believe the guys who won three Super Bowls are capable of playing so badly.  Losing, sure... they lost several times this season when they weren't on their game.  But losing like that???  It's stunning.  Until this weekend, I could count on the Patriots to represent, to play tough regardless of the situation.  Now they're just another football team, albeit a very, very good one.  So the "immortal" Pats team is dead.

Also, I don't want to hear about the weird calls anymore.  The referees blew them, which didn't help, but they can't be counted on to bail out the Pats every time.  The Mile High crowd did more damage than the refs.  While a friend did point out that the phantom pass interference call may have triggered the sloppy play that followed, I'd counter that the Kevin Faulk fumble, which led to the PI call, is what actually did it.  They lost because they didn't play their usual brand of dependable, intelligent football.  The days of being able to count on that from the Pats under any circumstance are over.

But let's get something straight.  Let's cut out this crap about the so-called "dynasty" being over.  The Patriots' window hasn't closed yet.  Nobody's leaving, and both units are still playing at a high level.  They might not be invincible anymore, but that doesn't mean they can't win.  If they'd been moderately healthy over the season, maybe they don't lose quite so many games.  And maybe they're the ones who grab a first-round bye again, thus avoiding the Mile High bloodbath.  (Should be noted that the Pats haven't yet won one w/o a bye.)  My point is not sour grapes, but rather that it's a fine line between an early vacation and a ring... too fine to withstand five dumb turnovers.

yowza    

This just in- that Ovechkin kid is good.











If you didn't see the goal last night, consult your local Sportscenter broadcast.
The Caps come to Philly on Friday, Feb 10.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Best. Story. Ever.    

I just wanted to link to this, the best sports reporting piece of 2005.
That photo alone is priceless.
What would it take to get Vince Young to grow that fro by exhibition season '06?
Also- I can't believe I never thought to make a Globetrotters-themed team in Baseball Stars.

As You Get Older, You Take The Good With The Bad    

Bad News: Julian "Oh, No" Tavarez is in the fold with the Sox.  This is using the liberal interpretation of "bad news."  It's basically a good move, but that will only be true until, ohhh, October 1st.  Or the last Yankee series of the year.  Whichever comes first.

Good news: Kevin Millar is also signed... with Baltimore!  That thud you just heard off in the distance is Miguel Tejada slapping his forehead and yelling "D'oh!"

The Orioles' GM must have a copy of the Baseball Almanac with a typo that shows the 1993 Red Sox winning the division, because he's certainly following the blueprint.  They're having the worst, most pathetic offseason I can remember.  If they'd done nothing at all, not a single free-agent signing, they'd be better off than they are now.  Instead they signed Ramon Hernandez (OK) and a bunch of utter garbage (Oy Vey).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You Can Take The Boston Out Of Joey Bananas...    

...but apparently you can't take out the bananas.  This, my friends, is standard-issue Joe Thornton.  Given a chance to step up and prove himself, he instead does something monstrously childish and irrational.  It's the kind of thing where you can't predict it beforehand, but in retrospect it seems so obvious.

What's weird is that the solution to the problem is so simple... give him a veteran center who can mentor him.  The notion of tough love, of being responsible for one's own development, isn't necessarily wrong, but didn't Joe make it obvious that he wasn't the kind of guy who would grow up on his own?  All the troubles he encountered screamed out for the front office to give him a veteran leadership presence.  It's no coincidence that his most effective season (i.e. the season that disappointed the least) was 1998-99, the season he spent as the #2 pivot behind Jason Allison.  He needed to be second banana, so to speak, to someone better.  That would have cost money, though, so that's the end of that.  (Allison was eventually run out of town for having the nerve to ask for money commensurate to his statistics.  What a jerk, eh?)

But you can't tell me there were NO veteran front-line forwards available between 2000 and 2004 to give him some friggin help.  The only leadership move they made, the mind-boggling Marty Lapointe contract, backfired on them, as Lapointe turned the impetuous, frustration-driven, team-killing penalty (Thornton's most blatant weakness) into an art form.  So Bananaman got some mentoring all right.  No wonder he grew up to be a headcase.

None of this criticism excuses the poor return they got on their investment.  As bad as Joe may be, he's still a franchise player.  You don't give up a franchise center for a defenseman and a flashy European, no matter how inexpensive their contracts are.

Discussion Topic    

I'm curious as to reactions to this piece by Chuck Klosterman.
On one read, I think it's pretty great, and makes me wish I knew Messers. Klosterman and Gladwell. Since I don't, I'll toss to y'all.

One very minor objection I have to it is that Morrison is no where NEAR the range shooter that Bird was. Though I don't know how good Larry was in college from 3- though I assume he was great. Anyone know how to find ex-college stats online?

And on further inspection, Morrison's raised his 3 point shooting % astronomically this year-- up to a very respectable .397... for reference, J.J. Redick's shooting .403.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bruins    

Speaking of Ugh.  I haven't posted much about them since the Joey Bananas trade, mostly because there's nothing to say, really.  They're a last-place team in what has become the toughest division in hockey, and they have no hope of digging out.

The Bananaman trade was a disaster.  Nothing against Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart (and everything against Wayne Primeau, the definition of journeyman), but this trade was a quarter for two dimes.  Solidifying the blue line was a win, as we now actually have talent at each of the top 4 positions on paper with Leetch, Stuart, Tanabe and Boynton.  Having Mr. Hal Gill on the 3rd pair is a good sign.  But we plugged the major hole on defense by creating a chasm on offense.  Sturm is a decent second-line wing, but that's not enough for a bona fide superstar talent like Thornton.  We already had an underachieving, undersized left wing in Samsonov, so why add another one?  Besides, would you pass the puck to this man?  I wouldn't.

The pivot situation is just atrocious.  With Zhamnov injured (again) we're left with no center better than young Patrice Bergeron.  Bergeron is underrated and unheralded given his ability and outlook, but it's too soon for him to be your top-line center.  Look at it this way... the team on opening night had THREE centers who are better centers than Bergeron (Bananaman, Zhamnov, and Dave Scatchard) none of whom are on the ice anymore.  That says it all.

If you look to 2006-07, even the most optimistic fellow ("we're OK at the wings and defense, Andrew Raycroft and Boynton get to take a mulligan and start fresh") has to admit that #1 centers, of the caliber of Thornton, Sakic, Forsberg, Modano et al, don't grow on trees.  We can't count on Bergeron to become a front-line center!!!  So where do we get one?  The best centers due to be UFAs are Jason Arnott, Daniel Briere, and Olli Jokinen... all good players, none of Thornton's caliber.  They cannot fix this without putting in a TON of work.  They also have to convince one of those guys to come to Boston, where not only will they lose but they will also be shat upon for management's mistakes.  Does that sound promising?

Mike O'Connell wanted to send a message to the team, to motivate them... if you don't play up to potential, you get shipped out.  The implicit message, though, is that he's willing to burn the team to the ground out of spite, and then blame you for it.  Thanks, beautiful.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Baseball News: LOL Edition    

Ugh.  Are the Orioles trying to get leapfrogged by Tampa?  This is exactly the kind of move that the early 90s Red Sox would make.  File it with Harry Zimm... "well I gotta tell 'em something!"  If they're doing this just to placate Miggie, and be all like "look at us, we're trying, wow all this trying is really exhausting," that's dumb.  Don't they have like 12 mediocre outfielders already?  Patterson isn't a lost cause, but this trade makes no sense to me.

Football    

Thoughts on the four weekend games:

1. Skins/Bucs
Excellent game, if offensively challenged.  Redskins D came up huuuuuuge.  Chris Simms played pretty well, except for the final drive (INT on first play of drive).  Cadillac Williams didn't, and understandably so.

2. Pats/Jags
Pats are legit, Jags aren't.  Pats are not invincible, though.  They're still vulnerable.

3. Panthers/Giants
I was a little surprised about how awful the Giants played.  They coasted into the playoffs, but that was just a sickening performance, especially from a home team with a solid offensive attack.  That said, the Panthers have been a mixed bag all year, so you can't exactly expect them to play as well as they did.  And DeShaun Foster is locking himself up as a 2nd-round fantasy back playing very well without regard to his statistics, because helping the team win is his #1 priority.  (The first rule of Postgame Spread IS...)

4. Bengals/Steelers
Devastating.  Bad enough that they lose, but to then see Carson Palmer tear two ligaments... immediately after lighting up the Steelers D for a 60-yard pass play, no less.  Elation, followed by a gigantic nutpunch.  Poor Cincinnati.  But honestly, even though you can't blame them for quitting a little bit, they showed an awful lot of immaturity in how they handled themselves after the injury (arguing amongst themselves, lack of confidence, penalties, etc), and Marvin Lewis deserves some blame for how the team was prepared.  But it can be chalked up as growing pains.  Still a great season.  The Steelers played fine, and that end-around/lateral/bomb play to Cedrick Wilson was pretty awesome, but other than that there's not a lot to say.  I hope they enjoy the shellacking they have in store.

Thoughts on this week's games:

1. Seahawks/Redskins
I think the Redskins win this.  It's a mismatch... I think tough, rough D will give Alexander and Hasselbeck fits.  A couple well-placed big plays from Portis and Moss could be enough to do it.  But Seattle will be real, real noisy.  I wouldn't be shocked by any outcome, but I think the Seahawks are ripe.

2. Panthers/Bears
Seriously, is anyone gonna watch this?  I'd rather predict the final score (4-2!) than the winner.  Normally I'd lean towards Carolina, especially with Chicago's shaky QB situation, but between home field, the bye week, and the prospect of two road wild-cards winning, I'm saying Chicago.

3. Colts/Steelers
No contest here.  The Steelers aren't good enough.  This would be a much bigger nightmare than losing to the Pats.

4. Broncos/Pats
Huge, huge game, bigger than any since the Colts/Pats AFC title game two years ago.  These teams are as evenly matched as can be.  The Pats have momentum, but Mile High is the biggest home-field advantage in professional sports.  Pats O vs. Denver D is a slight edge to Pats, but their injured secondary might be recovered.  Pats D vs. Denver O is an edge to the Broncos; Pats' run defense has been huge of late, but if the Broncos do one thing well it's running the ball.  Special teams, coaching, and intangibles go to Pats, but the Broncos' run game and home-field neutralize any perceived advantage for New England.

I think the Pats will put the game in Jake Plummer's hands, one way or the other.  If the Broncos are in a position where Plummer needs to lead them back, start forcing balls into traffic etc., the game will be over.  But they can nip that in the bud pretty easily by establishing a lead early, as they did back in October.  I can't wait for this.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Patriots-Jaguars    

All those naysayers out there who disrespected Tom Brady and the Patriots can shut up!!!  Hehe.  Seriously though, they've covered their asses, and now the rest of the season is gravy.  Next week is gonna be HUGE.

My top ten thoughts on the game:

1. Jacksonville's defense is awesome.
That defense is just sick.  Their cupcake schedule belies their ability in a big way... they'd have made the playoffs no matter who they'd played.  If given just the slightest bit of help from their offense (see below) they'd have had a chance tonight.

2. Jacksonville's offense, however, is putrid.
In the words of Bill Walton, horrible.  I give credit to the Pats stuffing them, but good lord.  Someone make a friggin play!  This should've been a mismatch... excellent pocket-passer, big-game QB in Byron Leftwich, shaky secondary for New England... and it was a mismatch in the exact opposite direction.  I really like Leftwich's game, and I keep hoping for him to emerge as the top-flite QB that I think he is, but he needs help.  Fred Taylor and his groin aren't cutting it at RB, and though their other receivers are OK (Ernest Wilford, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams) none of them really demand attention from a defense.  Jones is the only one of the bunch who has a chance to really emerge.

3. Adam Vinatieri is my friggin hero.
I love that my team is well-prepared enough to pull plays like that pooch-kick out of its arsenal at a moment's notice.

4. Deion Branch made my heart fly out of my ass and knock over my beverage. 
When he dropped that bomb just before halftime, I nearly shat myself.  Good grief.  He would've been down by contact before rolling into the end zone, but still.

5. Michelle Tafoya sucks.
She slapped Bill Belichick's wrist for not participating in her idiotic halftime interview, and fellated Jags coach Jack Del Rio for no reason other than he did talk to her.  Pardon me, but what kind of treatment did you expect from Belichick, the NFL coach least likely to talk to you?  And regardless of Belichick's behavior, do you think it helps your cause to stab him in the back on national television?  Not smart.  Step 1, know your subject... step 2, act professional.  You bitch.

6. I wonder if Del Rio's complaints about the coach-QB helmet are legitimate.
According to Tafoya, the aforementioned cuntbag piece of shit, Leftwich's helmet headset was broken... but only at critical points in the game.  On the one hand, it seems awfully fishy, and I'm not about to put much credence in the words of a frustrated coach who's in the middle of trying to win.  And I have a hard time believing the Pats need that kind of edge.  But I kinda like Del Rio.  I don't think he's just any old schmuck looking for a competitive edge.  That's enough for me to not totally dismiss the comments.  Interesting.

7. Ben Watson makes Todd Heap look like a hobo.
Watson is the balls.  On any other team, Watson is a majorweapon in the passing game, but on the Pats he pops in and out of the gameplan.  That guy is unstoppable when he's used, and when's he's on his game.  If I were an OC, I'd call his number at least eight times a game.

8. There is no greater weapon on the goal-line than effective play-action.
The #1 reason the Pats are so effective inside the 5.  They have so many different variations on the theme that you have no idea whether Brady is handing off or passing.  They've run the same two passing routes on every play-action too: either the mystery FB runs straight to the front pylon, or the TE/WR runs straight to the goalposts.  In both cases, the pass is converted effortlessly, regardless of whether the receiver is a tight end, fullback, linebacker, down lineman, or even an offensive lineman.  If they get cute, and actually run the ball, they slam it in almost every time.  That's the most impressive part of their run in recent years... when they get it down close to the end zone, they almost never screw it up.

9. Congrats to Asante Samuel for getting his shit together.
I was glad to see him have a good game.  My main criticism of Samuel has been a lack of big plays, but he iced this game with an INT/TD.  Good on him.

10. I want Indy.
I think that's probably what will happen, although the Bengals haven't really bought into the whole "defense" thing yet.  Bengals-Stillers tomorrow will be a fun game.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Up with swords!    

Take that, sheaths.

In other news, I watched both the Orange and Rose bowls, and loved both.
I've never liked college football much, but got suckered in a little this year due to my lady friend's allegiance to PSU. WE ARE...

Then I caught the 2nd half of the Fresno St. / USC game a few weeks ago, and was like, "Damn! This is like the NFL without any boring-ass defense!"

Which is exactly how I felt during the second half of last night's Rose Bowl. I don't fault USC's coaches for going for it on 4th down instead of punting- they weren't stopping Texas, no way, no how. And there had to be about a 98% they'd pick up those two yards.
I DO fault USC's coaches for not having a linebacker spy Vince Young. Or hell, three linebackers.
I do know that if Jon Cheney were on the sidelines, someone would have taken out Young's knees early in the third. SWEEP THE LEG!

Another thought I had was that that Vince Young kid is a beast. I wonder though how effective it'll be against NFL defenders, who are just as big as he is. It very much reminded me of when I lived in DC after college, and had the pleasure of watching The Artist Yet to be Named Ron Mexico Godzilla stomp his way through the rank and file of the NCAA. I still hold out that Vick and by extension Young could be great QBs, but it'll take some adaptation in the face of NFL's athletes.

My only other thought was wondering whether the Eagles will be able/should draft that #8 kid on USC when he eventually comes out in the draft (2007?). He's pretty damn good. 16 TDs this year. I loved his TD catch late in the game that left two Texas safeties crumpled motionless on the ground.

Do we know fear in this Dojo?

Michael Vick: Old And Busted    

You know what's weird about Vince Young?  I've watched him play for a couple years now, and never really bought in.  I saw another guy who's just benefitting from a college offense that won't translate well to the pros.  Now I kinda see what the big deal is.  He's the ultimate scrambler.  He makes Mike Vick look like a hobo.  Vick may take your breath away, and break the mold with each new highlight, but Young reshapes the mold in his own image and likeness.  He works within the confines of the game, rather than simply thriving on chaos; there's something to be said for that.  There's also something to be said for Vick's struggles in adapting to the NFL's relative absence of chaos.  He's still dynamic and all, but it's tough to argue that he's struggling right now.  I don't see Young having the same problems.  He's a one-man wrecking crew, but more in the spirit of his mentor, Steve McNair, than guys like Randall Cunningham or Daunte Culpepper.

Regardless, Vince Young has hit the NFL lottery; he gains nothing by staying in school.  He shouldn't present a serious challenge to Reggie Bush as #1 overall, but the Saints' decision at #2 just got a lot more complicated.  Do you take the traditional guy with all the credentials (Leinart) or the creative game-breaker with a higher ceiling (Young)?  Intangibles are a draw; they're both winners, they both have big-time grit, and they both have star quality.  You could probably give the edge to Leinart, seeing as he's more polished and less of a risk, but that doesn't mean the Saints' box office woes wouldn't be better served with a boost from local UT alums.  Either way, you have to imagine Detroit or Arizona would trade up to get the runner-up.  Nobody needs a quarterback more than those two.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Respect    

I just want to say that I feel this blog has been disrespected by the national media.  Nobody gives us a chance to post interesting material, nobody thinks we can do it, but that's OK, because it drives us.  We relish the role of the underdog.  It's us against the world, and we're out to prove something to all the naysayers out there.

oh, get over yourself


I'm sick of this act.  It's one thing to say it privately... whatever drives your team, go right ahead and think it.  But why feed this crap to the rest of us?  It only works when you actually are the underdog.  Jacksonville is friggin 12-4, and playing against a Pats team that has been unreliable all season long... they have the right to come out and talk about a lack of respect.  But Tom Brady?  N***a please.  Though perhaps bitching and moaning about respect until everyone hates you (everyone who didn't already, of course) is just a clever way of turning it into "us against the world" for real.  Either way it's really, really stupid.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Uh O's    

I don't think Miggie will be too thrilled about this.

What the hell happened to Baltimore?  Great facilities, good fans, the most competitive division in baseball, plenty of money to spend... what's the problem?  Something's really rotten down there.

Ichiro    

One of the throwaway comments from Jesse's post had to do with silencing Ichiro's critics.  Does Ichiro have critics?  Who?  And why?!?  Seems pretty clear what he is... an aging table-setter who still wreaks havoc with opposing pitchers, but whose ultimate value is directly dependent on having run-producers elsewhere in the lineup.  There's only so much a guy like that can do.  Is he catching flak for leadership stuff?  That's lame.  I don't think you address that kind of thing by criticizing the guy who isn't leading... you add guys who will lead.  You can't blame Seattle's situation on Ichiro.