Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking in the Crystal Ball at 2009

Reflecting upon the year in sports that was 2008, there were certainly some watershed moments, huge upsets, and also some disappointments (depending on who and what you root for). The following teams and names are ones that will always be synonymous with 2008 (in no particular order): Michael Phelps, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Celtics, Rocco Mediate, Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Detroit Red Wings, Manchester United, Rafael Nadal. I could go on.

So here are the teams and athletes I predict will make waves in 2009. You might want to bookmark this post, so in a year from now you can either build me a monument for being such a genius, or point and laugh at my stupidity.

First, for my beloved teams (I have more than four, because soccer also exists in my sports world):

NEW YORK JETS - Man, this is tough. I still think Cowher is the frontrunner for the head coaching job, despite all of the conflicting reports about what he wants, but at this point, it's anyone's guess who the Jets will hire. So, I'll just say this: If the Jets hire an established coach with a winning pedigree, they will be competitive next year and will be contenders within 3 seasons. If they hire a rookie, it will be the same sad story with the same sad ending. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is if they hire Steve Spagnuolo.

2009 Record: 9-7, 3rd in AFC East

NEW YORK RANGERS - This is an easy one. The Rangers will make the playoffs, probably as a 4 or 5 seed, and will be eliminated either in the second round or the Eastern Conference Finals. It's a solid team with a world-class goaltender, but it lacks a consistent scoring winger and physical enough defensemen to be considered a true contender.

2009 Record: 44-29-9, 97 pts., 4th in Eastern Conference; Eliminated in 6 games from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals

NEW YORK KNICKS - A team in rebuilding mode, the Knicks will challenge for the 8 seed because the NBA is bad like that. When 2009 hits, we'll only be 18 months or so from the summer of 2010, which is when Knicks fans can truly rejoice!

2009 Record: 35-47, 10th in Eastern Conference

NEW YORK YANKEES - One word: Dominant. Sorry baseball, they're due. And stop whining about the payroll.

2009 Record: 104-58, 1st in American League East; Winners of 2009 World Series over the Chicago Cubs

SOCCER - Fulham FC will finish in the top half of the English Premier Leauge which will be won by Chelsea; Inter Milan will win the UEFA Champions League; The United States Men's National Team will retain it's regional Gold Cup title and will also advance to the knockout phase of the FIFA Confederations Cup (out of a groups containing Brazil and Italy, no less), being held this summer in South Africa as a preview to the 2010 World Cup; The New York Red Bulls will be eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs in the Eastern Conference Final by the Columbus Crew, but MLS Cup 2009 will be won by David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy.


NCAA Football - Oklahoma Sooners - I don't really know College Football, so this is basically like picking out of a hat for me.

NFL - Indianapolis Colts - They're the hottest football team on the planet right now. Will the victory be in a Manning/Manning Super Bowl? It wouldn't shock me.

NCAA Men's Basketball - University of Connecticut - I think they will be one of the most tested teams coming out of the ridiculously stacked Big East.

NHL - Detroit Red Wings - If you appreciate teamwork and dominance in sport, watch the Detroit Red Wings play hockey. It is a thing of absolute beauty because you can't take the puck away from them (which, for those of you not familiar with the game, is ludicrous in a fast sport like hockey). They have enough power to repeat. I suppose the only question is goaltending: Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin? But they have enough scoring to mask that inadequacy.

NBA - Cleveland Cavaliers - Agreed with what The Sherm said in a previous post. They are quietly one of the best teams in the league because all people want to talk about are the Celtics and the Lakers. Feels like it could be Cleveland's and LeBron's year.

MLB - New York Yankees - No analysis or reasoning needed, just read the names and weep silently to yourself: Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Chamberlain, Hughes; Damon, Jeter, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Nady, Posada, Matsui, Cano; and let's not forget Mariano Rivera.

MLS - Los Angeles Galaxy - I HATE Bruce Arena with a passion. But if there's a guy who knows the ins and outs of American soccer both on and off the pitch, it's him. He will build his team around David Beckham, pull a fantastic trade for some good defenders, and the Galaxy will go from a joke to a champion. In MLS, the American sports league with the most parity because of the ridiculously low salary cap, this is possible. I'm actually somewhat rooting for it outside of supporting the Red Bulls, because the league needs Beckham and the Galaxy to WIN, in order to grow.

Sorry for the long-winded post. But those are my predictions for 2009. We'll see how I do 365 days from now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Sherm Says...

-It was another great ending to the NFL season. There was drama, chokes, and some big Week 17 performances. I think the biggest shocker was the Tampa Bay loss. No, they had been playing like garbage the past few weeks. But you would think they could win at home against the Raiders. Mark this one down: I think Jon Gruden coaches his last season for the Bucs in 2009.

-The Jets should fire their coordinators and tell Brett Favre not to come back. There's 20 other QBs I'd rather have then Favre. That was a dismal, dismal performances, and the whole ending to the season is eerily reminiscent to the Mets 2008 season.

-The Cowboys can join the "Fire the Coach" club and get rid of Wade Phillips. I thought he was awful from Day One. If he does get fired, he can put some of the blame on Tony Romo. "Big Game Tony" was a real leader yesterday.

-I think the Lions win eight games next season. I can see them doing what the Falcons/Dolphins did: Bring in a good coach, some veteran players, and improve the defense. The offense isn't that bad (Calvin Johnson is a beast and Kevin Smith had 1,250 total yards).

-I think that all four away teams will win next week. Just look at the matchups. But the home team with the best chance is Minnesota, because I just do not trust the Eagles.

-The Top 3 NBA scorers are Wade/James/Bryant. No surprise there. But what about 5, 6 and 7? That belongs to Danny Granger, Kevin Durant, and Devin Harris. Bet no one thought those three would be near the Top 10.

-Speaking of James, the Cavs are a very quiet 26-4 this season. Everyone is talking "Lakers, Celtics, Lakers, Celtics", but the Cavs have plenty going for them. Mo Williams is at 16 ppg and an astounding 96% from the free-throw line. I have a hunch that this could be Lebron's year.

-But what about the Celtics? Ray Allen is 33. Kevin Garnett is 32. Paul Piece is 31. I just have a weird feeling that they might break down at season's end.

-Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Unofficial Fantasy Football Awards

I took some of the tips from my colleagues, sprinkled in my own opinions, and give to you the unofficial fantasy football awards(Note: I don’t even look at Week 17, as 99% of leagues end after Week 16 anyway

Fantasy MVP - Matt Forte
-Consistency is what comes to mind. When you draft a player, you want him to produce week in and week out. Forte did just that. No matter what type of league you were in, Forte put up yards and TDs. There were no completely dominate players this season, but Forte was someone you plugged in and just knew what he was going to do

"Consistency is what wins in Fantasy and he has been consistently great all season long" –Pods

Honorable Mention: Drew Brees (Gave you stability and a ton of points at the QB position)

Fantasy Bust - Willis McGahee
-When I think of busts, injuries do not count(Sorry, Tom Brady was not considered). You have to play pretty much every Sunday, you have to be drafted in the first two rounds, and you have to stink. Well, McGahee did just that. Look, McGahee did have three good games. But in between, he threw up some clunkers. He had five games of 50 yards or less. He also had the dreaded DNP (He had two decent games in a row, was ruled active for Week 9, and didn’t even register a carry). McGahee was awful in every sense of the word.
Honorable Mention: Braylon Edwards (He played every game and had seven games under 40 yards receiving. I would have put Addai here, but he did sit out three games and DNP’d and was ruled a backup in a fourth, so you could have put in someone else then

Surprise of the Year - DeAngelo Williams
-This guy was probably on many "Do not Draft" lists. But a strong offensive line and the drafting of Jonathan Stewart lit a fire under Williams. I would have put him as the MVP, but he really didn’t pick things up until Week 8. Williams scored 16 of his 20 TDs from Weeks 8 through 16, so he was great when teams needed it the most.

"Couldn’t get on the field last year, DOMINATED this year." –Xavier Hutchinson

Honorable Mention: Antonio Bryant (I didn’t even think of Bryant until my colleague Flying Murino brought him up. But it makes sense, since he wasn’t even that great the first half of the season)

Stumbler of the Year(Player who started off great, but fell off) - Clinton Portis
-He was a beast at the beginning of the year, highlighted by five-straight games of 100+ rushing yards. But I don’t know if it was injuries or just plain being worn down, but Portis turned sour. From Weeks 11 through 16, Portis managed just one game of 100+ rushing yards and only one total TD. I did a double take when I saw those stats. Those who sold high are looking smart
Honorable Mention: Marion Barber(After his 11-catch game in Week 6, he had only 3 total TDs and two 100-yard games the rest of the way. He also had an 8-carry, 2-yard game in Week 15 and a 2-carry, 0-yard game in Week 16. Someone fell off the table rather quickly

Most frustrating player to own - Lee Evans
-He’s on this list every year. Every year he doesn’t disappoint. You will look at his stats and go "Pretty good season" but then you look at the game logs, and it’s ugly. Four games of 30 yards or less and four games of 100+ receiving yards is all that is needed to be said. You have to play him for the potential, but yet, you want to bench him for the duds. What a mess
Honorable Mention: Santana Moss (Here were some of his yardage totals..164, 145, 140…and…0, 14, 28, and 29. Nice work Santana)

Undrafted Player of the Year - Steve Slaton
-Slaton was a Matt Forte Jr. He had 45 receptions through the first 16 weeks and also totaled nine touchdowns. Once Ahman Green was declared out for the season, it was all Slaton, and he responded. Why is he the biggest surprise? Because how many people had him on their team at the beginning of the season? He stepped it up and saved some fantasy teams. Slaton will be a very nice back for years to come
Honorable Mention: Kurt Warner (Remember, Matt Leinart was considered the starter at one point), Antonio Bryant and Lance Moore

Player You Will Never Draft Again
"Lee Evans" - I can’t stand to own someone as inconsistent as he is" – Pods
"McGahee" – Xavier Hutchinson
"David Garrard" – Flying Murino
"Jeremy Shockey" – Turd
"Ryan Grant: He doesn’t catch any balls and I cannot stand seeing 13 carries for 35 yards." – The Sherm

Sleeper for Next Year to Watch
"Tyler Thigpen baby" – Flying Murino
"Deshan Jackson" – Turd Burglar
"Peyton Hillis" – Xavier Hutchinson
"Eddie Royal" – Pods
"I’ll give you three: Matt Schaub, Kevin Smith, and..gulp..Larry Johnson" – The Sherm

No. 1 Pick Next Year - Adrian Peterson
-No matter what league you play in. He is the man.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obscure Athlete Watch: Clint Dempsey

In an attempt to start a series of new articles here on SportsFreakers, I Xavier Hutchinson, frequent blogger of the niche sports, will attempt to introduce you to a great athlete you, the loyal and growing SportsFreakers readership, may never have heard of before. He or she might be a mid-major college basketball player, up and coming hockey player, or a young golfer. But today I will start with an athlete from the most polarizing yet fastest-growing sport in America: soccer.

I'll admit, I had never heard of Texas-born Clint Dempsey until the summer of 2006, when the United States was competing in its fifth straight World Cup. Dempsey was memorable for his goal in the USA's win-or-go-home contest vs. Ghana (they went home after a 2-1 loss due to some horrendous officiating and even worse coaching by Bruce Arena).

In addition to the goal, Dempsey impressed with both hard work and creative play. He's perhaps the most dangerous American-born player in the world when given the ball in open space. He's also willing to track back and defend, even when he's playing forward (ask Cristiano Ronaldo about defending and he will laugh in your face).

These characteristics led to a transfer from the New England Revolution of MLS to Fulham of the English Premier League. The transfer fee of $4 million was, at the time, the largest for an MLS exile.

So let's fast-forward. After a very solid season and a half with Fulham in which he scored numerous big goals and became a fan-favorite, Dempsey had struggled at the start of this season. Fulham's newest coach, Roy Hodgson, was not the man who engineered Dempsey's transfer, so he had begun to restock Fulham with new players in order to improve the Cottagers' chances of finishing higher than 17th place in the 20-team league as they did in 2007-2008 (just one spot above the relegation zone). It seemed that Dempsey did not fit in Hodgson's plans, as he was used mostly as a late-game substitute.

But the last two months have seen a return to form for Dempsey amidst rumors that he would be sold during the January transfer window. He's started in Fulham's last six games and has netted two goals, the latest coming yesterday at home against Middlesbrough in a 3-0 win.

So just like in American-based sports (see, soccer isn't that different!), it's clear that one of two things is happening. Dempsey is either back in the fold and will be a part of Fulham's future plans, or more likely, Fulham are showcasing him in hopes that they will be able to pull in big money by selling him to another club.

Whatever the case, Clint Dempsey has reasserted himself as the best American player plying his trade in Europe (excluding goalkeepers, where several Americans have already excelled and will continue to). Young Jozy Altidore and potentially Landon Donovan may challenge him for that honor, but Dempsey deserves some recognition. And SportsFreakers has given it to him.

Here are some places to go to learn more about Clint Dempsey:

This is American Soccer
Yanks Abroad

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Holiday Sports Wish List

The Holidays are upon us! Here's a sneak peak at my holiday gift list.

1) The Cowboys and Eagles get knocked out early in the playoffs: Is anyone else sick of both of these teams? I am sick of seeing Donovan McNabb do the same thing every single season. Wow, he goes on a midseason tear, only to lose in the playoffs. I am tired of seeing Tony Romo play great when the conditions are perfect, only to do something awful in the playoffs. Please, just get rid of these two fast.

2) Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds positive steroid test results: There are sealed documents somewhere revealing positive steroid tests. Unfortunately, these documents cannot be touched unless some judge allows it. Wouldn’t we all finally be at peace knowing these two truly cheated the game?

3) Manny Ramirez signs with nobody: He doesn’t play the game right. He’s in his upper 30s. He gave up on the Red Sox. Yes, he is a wonderful hitter, but I hate him.

4) Davidson wins the NCAA Tournament: Since my former school (Rutgers) has no chance of sniffing 10 wins this season, I am aboard the Davidson bandwagon. They made a deep run last year, and brought back the same team. Stephen Curry claims the award for “Best outside shot from the past decade.” The perfect scenario would be Davidson to upset UNC in the title game.

5) Tiger Woods comes back healthy: When Tiger plays, everyone watches. When he doesn’t, no one cares. It is unbelievable to watch him, and I pay attention when he is around. Let’s just hope that the most dominant athlete in our modern era comes back the same.

6) Darren McFadden gets 200 carries next year: Did we not forget the hype? He was suppose to be Marshall Faulk Jr. But two toe injuries killed his rookie season. I just hope Oakland doesn’t stick with Justin Fargas come next season. Either way, the Raiders will still stink.

7) That after Oklahoma beats Florida in the BCS title game, the committee creates a playoff system: So let me get this straight. Texas beats Oklahoma, they both have one loss each, and yet Oklahoma makes it? It’s a travesty. College football is so hung up on making money. Hello, a playoff system would double whatever revenue they are currently making. This stubbornness has to stop!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best Bets: Week 16

Hey hey. 3-1 last week! And almost got the Lions score right. Here is three games this week.

Chicago Bears (-4 ½) vs. Green Bay Packers
-I do not understand why this line isn’t more than seven. Maybe it was because Green Bay won by 34 last time against Chicago? Maybe it is because it is a division game? Either way, the Green Bay defense has given up on the season and Chicago needs to win to position itself in the playoff race. If Matt Forte struggles with his health (he suffered a toe injury last week), then this game will be much more even. But, I think Chicago will be too much on their home field.
Prediction: Bears 30, Packers 17

Dallas Cowboys (-5) vs. Baltimore Ravens
-The Cowboys are rolling at the perfect time. Romo is back, Owens is happy again, and they are coming off a big win against the Giants. The Dallas defense has been the biggest surprise, as it hasn’t allowed more then 22 points in the last five weeks. Not all is well in Cowboy land though. Marion Barber has been awful (yes, I know, he’s banged up). And Roy E. Williams has looked lost as well. I think the Cowboys will be too much for the Ravens.
Prediction: Cowboys 37, Ravens 13

San Francisco 49ers (-5) at St. Louis Rams
-I will not watch this game. I am sure nobody will. But, if you like to gamble, then you’ll be interested. I just always go by the thought that if two bad teams are playing, always pick the team getting points. Yes, the Niners have looked a little better of late, but the Rams have been okay at home. They are also a different team when Steven Jackson is healthy, and he is making one of those late “Yes, I will be dominant next year” runs. I think this game will be a three-point game either way.
Prediction: Rams 20, 49ers 17.
*******Bonus Bet*******
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) at Tennessee Titans
-This line is confusing. The Titans are at home, the top seed in the NFL, and are coming off a bad loss. Wouldn't all signs point to a Titans win? Looking further, I see otherwise. I've read reports that Tennessee is looking towards the playoffs, resting key players so that they are healthy. Plus, I have had this secret mancrush on the Steelers for the whole season. I love their defense, and I think at some point, the offense will start to click. Maybe it will start this weekend
Prediction: Steelers 24, Titans 13

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Murino's Musings

• The BSC Championship will be broadcast in 3-D in 80 to 100 movie theaters across the nation. I don’t know what to think about this bit of absurdity. It’s pretty cool, I guess. Maybe a bit intense. I’m not sure what I would do if I saw a 350-pound lineman hurdling towards me, even it was just a hologram in a movie theater.

• Yesterday, I was asked which of my favorite teams, the Knicks, Mets, Jets, or Rangers, would win a championship first. I said the Knicks. It was a quick reaction and one, with adequate thought and reevaluation, I would probably change to the Mets or Rangers. The Mets, Rangers and even the Jets all have way more talent. The reason I instantly said the Knicks? They’re the least frustrating team I root for. They go out hard every single night and Mike D’Antoni is by far the best coach out of the four. The Jets don’t show up every game and neither do the Rangers. The Mets have been a joke the last two years. So, forgive me if I place my hopes in the free agent class of 2010, as irrational as it may be.

• How about those Knicks last night? They hung around with the Lakers. Wow. When Nate Robinson is on, he’s absolute unstoppable and he poured in 33. When it comes down to it, the Knicks just don’t know how to win games at the end, because they don’t have a true go-to guy. That was proven the last two nights, when Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant both took over the game at the end. The Knicks need someone to step up and hit that big shot – and it’ll be between Nate, Al Harrington and Wilson Chandler to see who takes that shot. Eventually, I think Chandler can be a star. But, he’s 21. He needs more seasoning.

• The Rangers played very well. They almost had another let down, giving up a great opportunity only seconds after scoring the game-leading goal with 3:16 left in the third period. But, they did not fold and let me just say – what a tying goal it was. Nigel Dawes has been in the doghouse all year, but it was impressive to see him just place the puck right out of reach of Pronger, then skate to the puck and shoot it in.

• Who’s the NFL MVP this season? It may seem like an open race, but I think Peyton Manning is the only candidate after overcoming a slow start. Drew Brees and Kurt Warner have to be in the conversation, but the Saints are an average team and honestly, so are the Cardinals. Other candidates? Adrian Peterson has to be considered. Matt Ryan, Chad Pennington and Kerry Collins have led their teams to surprising results, but do they have the numbers? I don’t think so. In the end, I think it comes down to Manning or A.P, with Manning winning it.

• How does Brett Favre make the Pro Bowl over Philip Rivers? That’s a joke. The Pro Bowl is an individual honor. Favre certainly made the Jets better this season. He put the Jets on the map, made them a relevant NFL franchise. There’s no way 7 Jets make the Pro Bowl without Favre being one of them. But, Rivers had the highest quarterback rating in the league and when it comes down to it, the Pro Bowl is a stats competition. You have to take Rivers’ 28 TD and 11 INT over Favre’s 21 TD and 17 INT.

• Is Joe Paterno seriously going to keep coaching another three years? Dude, you can’t even speak coherently at your press conferences and you expect me to believe you can still coach? I know Penn State was great this year, but c’mon Joe Pa. Retire. You’re 82. Spend some with the family. See France.

• Rafael Furcal has NOT signed with the Braves. Mike Cameron has NOT been traded to the Yankees. Congratulations, ESPN! Now, you’re even further away from being considered a legitimate news source that practices the principles of good journalism. I can’t just blame ESPN. It’s all about the gotcha moment in sports journalism – every site has their Jon Heyman, their Ken Rosenthal, their Buster Olney. And every site wants to report the news first. Too bad no one seems to care about getting it right. If a deal is simply close to being done, why the hell are you reporting it? It’s not done! That’s like reporting that the Mets lead the Phillies 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Letter to Fantasy Football

Dear Fantasy Football Season,

Why do you have to cause stress, angst, and bring me headaches every single week? I draft a powerhouse team, but look up at the end of the season, and somehow find myself 6-7? I specifically would like to point out these following players.

Joseph Addai: Not only do I make a trade pre-draft to pick you, but I ignore drafting another running back for about six rounds because you will dominant. Now, 16 weeks later, I am begging the fantasy football gods that you are out for Week 16.

Braylon Edwards: So during my trading up to get Joseph Addai, I traded out of the 2nd round spot that I would have chosen you with. Luckily, you stink for half the season. I decide "Hey, lets buy Braylon Edwards while his value is low." So I trade for you. Now I say to myself "Hey, will you please not drop another 10 balls."

Santonio Holmes: Not many people have talked about you, but you have not been good. Should we blame it on your QB who has forgotten how to run? Or should we blame it on the fact that you decided to smoke pot and get caught during the season? No, I blame it on the fact that you have Braylon Edwards syndrome and you have yet to have a 100-yard game this season.

Kellen Winslow: Ahh, I thought you would be a steal. At a position with not much depth, getting you in the later rounds was a gift. How many tight ends can give me 25-point fantasy games? Maybe two? And then you decide to talk out against your organization, hurt your shoulder, sprain your ankle, and pretty much end your season. And to think you would be a model citizen whose injuries were behind him.

Chad Johnson: I think the best thing would be to just not say anything at all about him. "Ocho Cinco" stands for your total fantasy points this season.

You look at this team preseason and go "Hey, there's some potential there." But alas, it was a complete and utter mess. I should have been like 3-10. I won one week on a late touchdown by Wes Welker(one of only two TDs from him all season) and possibly won because my opponent thought that Tony Scheffler was active even though he wasn't. And to top it all off, I lost to my own girlfriend(Yes, she plays fantasy football. I guess you can mark that as a positive)

But somehow, I find myself in the championship. Maybe I will give credit to Welker, Kurt Warner, and Dwayne Bowe for picking my team up. Or for two big games from Dominic Rhodes after the fantasy gods answered my prayers and magically gave Addai further injuries.

In my own arrogant way, I would like to think I made some brilliant decisions and used my fantasy expertize to navigate my way to a championship game(Hey, I've made four straight-fantasy football title games, two with my current league and two with my former league. I left that league after I was never paid my fantasy winnings).

But alas, however you look at it, however much stress you give me, I love fantasy sports. And I hope to get headaches from it for years to come.


Richard Belding(Yes, that is my team name)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bet of the Night: Toronto Raptors over the NJ Nets

It's been a long while since the bet of the night was posted, but here we go again!

Take out some cash from the ATM
Write a check
Barter your clothes

Do whatever you have to do in order to put this bet in:

Toronto Raptors ML -175

The Nets sit at 11-11, currently on a 3 game losing streak. After getting massacred by Toronto on Friday, they blew a nice lead on Saturday to the perennial average Chicago Bulls. After a saddening day off, NJ moseyed on over to Canada for a Monday night matchup. Look for Bosh to go off for about 30 points tonight on a struggling NJ defense. Although the Raptors have their flaws, they love to beat up on weak teams. Even after a tough loss at home last night vs. the Hornets, I see a bounce back game in their sights.

Good luck!

NFL Week 15: What We Learned

• The Jets continue to find new ways to struggle. Now it’s their run defense. Paging Kris Jenkins: How do you go from being an MVP candidate to a player that is no longer doubled on every play? He looks slow and tired and it seems as if he’s trying to do too much and is therefore doing absolutely nothing. The defense as a whole was atrocious. It’s unacceptable to tackle that poorly in Week 15.

• The Jets coaching staff can’t be blamed for everything. The players were dismal yesterday. But they can be blamed for a lot. While leading in the 4th quarter, backed up near their own endzone, Thomas Jones could not get one carry. Leon Washington has an electric touchdown run. He could not get one more carry. The Jets really need to go back to the run-first, play action offense.

• The Giants need Brandon Jacobs back. Not having Plaxico will be tough enough. He just draws so much coverage and even if he wasn’t playing that well this season, his presence on the field was critical. I do think they can live without Plax, but not having two of their top offensive players is crippling. Ward and Bradshaw are very good, but they’re not the players Jacobs is.

• Chad Pennington is just a consummate leader and a great player. He’s leading the Dolphins on a run that reminds me a lot of the run the Jets made two years ago. No one expected the Jets to do a damn thing and Chad comes back from his injury and proves everyone wrong. Unfortunately, I still don’t think he can carry a team very far in the playoffs without an elite team and I just don’t think the Dolphins are very good. He still scares the hell out of me for the Week 17 game at Giants Stadium against the Jets.

• The AFC West is the worst division in football history, because the Chargers, who barely got by the Chiefs yesterday, are still in the playoff hunt.

• The Packers are awful, but don’t blame Aaron Rodgers. That defense has completely fallen apart. Rodgers has been steady all season and I really like what I see out of him. He has a solid enough arm, is very accurate and can run pretty well. He needs to grow up a bit more, but he's a keeper and I think the Packers knew what they were doing. If Favre's there this year, they probably wouldn't be in much better shape.

• My Super Bowl pick is still the Colts versus the Giants, but that is subject to change every week and within the hour.

• The Titans may not get the top seed after all. Kerry Collins just isn’t very good and when their running game isn’t going, then they are ridiculous beatable. Their defense is scary, but now with Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Van Den Bosch both injured, they could be in trouble. Both will be back for the playoffs, but will they be healthy? Plus they may have lost all their momentum by then.

• So, the Chargers really ARE awful?

• Wait, the Falcons really ARE good?

• If Matt Ryan doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, something’s wrong. He just wins games. And Michael Turner has completely proven me wrong. The guy is a beast.

• The Vikings/Cardinals game was a case of two teams going in opposite directions. Vikings are peaking at the right time, while the Cardinals may have peaked too soon.

• The Cowboys may be peaking at the right time, too. For some reason, though, I have a feeling something might go wrong for this team. I don’t know why. That’s one big, harmonious and happy family right there.

• Next week is going to be huge. Not only are the Panthers playing the Giants for home field in the playoffs, but the Steelers are facing the Titans. This season is turning out to be an absolute gem and one of the best in recent memory. I think I say that every year, though.

Where are you Going: MLB Free Agents?

I took a look at some of the big names in free agency. Here's my predictions on where they will go.

1) Mark Teixiera: He is as consistent as you can get. If you can handle his April swoons, Teixiera is a Top-7 First Basement. But is there anyone out there willing to give him the $25 million he wants? I think someone will step up and give him the money. The Red Sox need another big bat with David Ortiz/Mike Lowell starting to fall. The Orioles and (gulp) the Nationals are also in the mix. Maybe even the Yankees even jump in? I think the only logical place is where he was last year, in Los Angeles(or Anaheim, whatever it calls itself).
Prediction: Angels sign him after the holidays.

2) Manny Ramirez: Your guess is as good as mine. No one knows how much he wants, how long he wants it for, or where he wants to play. There's a number of teams who would love to stick Manny in the middle of their order, but could you even trust him? What if he takes a big deal and just stops playing? There is so many ways this situation could play out. I think the Dodgers make the most sense, because the city loved him and he ignited them into a postseason birth last year. It seemed like the situation just fit. But, do they want to give him a long-term deal?
Prediction: Manny signs a three-year deal and ends his career as a Dodger.

3) Adam Dunn: I love Adam Dunn. I know he strikes out a ton and I know the .245 batting average looks ugly, but he gets on base all the time and hits 40 homers every season. What I like about Dunn even more is the fact that he produces when it counts. But there doesn't seem to be much interest in him. He might need to take down his asking price just a tad.
Prediction: Reunites with former GM Jim Bowden and becomes a National

4) Pat Burrell: He's another tough one to gauge and I feel like the down economy has hurt his value. But you can pencil Burrell in for 30 HRs, 90 RBIs every season. It's just a matter of withstanding the streaks and slumps. I think he'll be one of those guys that are the last to sign (It won't be with the Phillies though). Will the Mets step up and grab him? How about the Braves? I'm going to go with a wild card on this one
Prediction: The White Sox pay up for him. They got rid of Griffey, Swisher, and almost Dye. And Ken Williams love big home run hitters.

5) Derek Lowe: Many teams would covet one of the more underrated starters in baseball, but I think it will come down to a battle between the Red Sox, Mets, and Yankees. Ironically, these are the three teams that have the most money in baseball. The Yankees have already spent a ton this offseason, so they might be set at pitching. The Mets are going to have to sign a starter sometime, because they have two spots to fill. But I don't see Lowe going there. I think he goes back to Boston. He won 21 games one year with them! It seems like a good fit at this time.
Prediction: Boston offers a similar contract to the Mets, but Lowe chooses his former team.

Ben Sheets-I think he winds up a Met. But I'm also going to throw the Cubs out there. They always pluck these type of guys from free agency.
Oliver Perez-He'll be one of the last standing. How about the Braves?
Bobby Abreu-White Sox want him, but I am going to go a different direction and say he joins the Braves.
Brian Fuentes-No, he won't be a Met. With the Cubs losing Kerry Wood, I think Fuentes winds up in that bullpen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Best Bets: Week 15

I’m not a gambling man, but if I were, these are my best bets for the NFL games this weekend.

New England (-7) at Oakland

-Patriots need this one. Three weeks left in the season and a three-team tie for first in the NFL East. Matt Cassell is a concern because of his father’s death coupled with some missed practices. I can see him having a bad game. But, Oakland is miserable, and no matter who its QB is, they are done.

Prediction: New England 31, Oakland 10

Miami (-6 ½) vs. San Francisco

-See New England above. Miami needs this one. I like this game because San Francisco is pretty much done, yet has to fly cross country to play. Chad Pennington has been great this year, and Ricky Williams has been a surprise spark. I think the Niners come down from the high of beating the Jets last week. Also, did you know, five of the Dolphins wins have been by nine or more points.

Prediction: Miami 27, San Francisco 13

Tennessee (-3) at Houston

-This game has trap written all over it. How could a one-loss team only give three points? I’ve learned to go against the favorite in these type of games. Plus, the Texans have gone on a late-season run, winning three in a row. Matt Schaub is back too, and the offense is much better with him at the helm. I haven’t like the Titans all season, so maybe there is some bias. I just think they peaked too early and are going to fall apart towards the end.

Prediction: Houston 24, Tennessee 20.

Indianapolis (-17) vs. Detroit

-Detroit still needs a win, and I think they are a different team with Dan Orlovsky starting. From weeks 5 though 9, with Orlovsky under center, Detroit lost four of five games by less than ten points. Clearly he can move the ball, it’s just that the rest of the team is so bad. I think Indy struggles early in this game (Detroit has weird games where they go up early only to blow it). In the end though, Indy wins, Detroit covers.

Prediction: Indianapolis 30, Detroit 20.

Friday, December 12, 2008

An Open Letter to the Content Editors of

To Whom it May Concern:

As a frequent visitor to your website,, I have noticed a disconcerting trend over the course of the last few weeks.

When my web browser loads your homepage, instead of seeing a notable news item, or "top story" in upper left-hand corner of the page, I am instead confronted by a large, nonsensical picture with the words "Mayne Street" scribbled across it. It appears to be a promotional piece of some sort.

Surely, this must be an error. You wouldn't shamelessly promote yourself in the space that is reserved for the most important story of the day, right?

This would, after all, be akin to leading off your flagship news program, "SportsCenter," with an anchor - let's use Stan Verrett as an example - saying: "Our top story tonight on SportsCenter...ESPN is the Worldwide Leader in Sports," wouldn't it?

After all, EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS that you are the Worldwide Leader in Sports. You dominate the sports media landscape. Without doing much research, I can tell you that a large majority of sports fans turn to you first for sports news and information.

My advice, as a concerned customer, is that you fix this "Mayne Street" blunder as soon as possible, at the risk of people not logging onto your website due to the frustration this has caused. I can tell you that personally I will not be visiting your website again until this problem is addressed.

Thank you for your time.

A concerned sports enthusiast,
Xavier Hutchinson

P.S. You suck at covering sports

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Murino's Musings

New York Sports

• As a Mets fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the Putz trade. To have this guy as an 8th inning guy is just spectacular. I guess you have to worry about his injuries, but he should be fine. Putz is a top 3 set-up man. Before an injury-plauged 2008, Putz had 2 seasons of at least 36 saves, an ERA 2.30 or under and a WHIP under 1.00!

• On the other hand, it’s tough to lose the defense of Endy Chavez. It’s extremely valuable to have a 4th outfielder you can go to in the late innings of a game you’re winning who you know will make all the plays in the field. Joe Smith is also a very, very good pitcher. But, this is a risk the Mets had to make.

• As for Sabathia, that’s an interesting deal. The player option after three years makes me nervous, if I’m a Yankee fan. Does C.C. really hate New York THAT much? Is he nervous he’ll just be itching to get out of there in three years? Again, though, I think this is a risk the Yankees had to make. He’s an incredible pitcher, and although many have concerns about his future health because of weight problems, he hasn’t broken down yet.

• Also on the Yankees front, it looks like they are the frontrunners for Burnett. Don’t like the move. He’s a good pitcher, but he’s never on the field. And I don’t consider him elite and therefore not worth the 5 years and $80 million it’s being reported he was offered. Also, even when he is on the field, he is extremely inconsistent.

• I haven’t had this much fun watching the Knicks since Latrell Sprewell was a star on the team. For the first time in years, it seems as if the team genuinely cares about basketball. And even after the trades, which supposedly mailed in the season for the Knicks, and the injuries, which are piling up faster than a Michael Crabtree 40, they have continued to fight hard. David Lee is the latest injury. We’ll see how they respond, but I give all the credit in the world to Mike D’Antoni, who has been even better than anyone could have imagined. He’s the best coach the Knicks have had since Van Gundy and Riley.

National Sports

• Interesting NBA trade. Suns get Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and a 2nd round pick. Bobcats get Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Sean Singletary. Suns improve offensively, while Bobcats improve defensively. I really like Diaw. I think if he is used well, he can be a very good NBA player. He has regressed in recent seasons, but he has definite talent. And Raja Bell is a shutdown-defender, which every championship team needs. Richardson is a scorer. Plain and simple. I think the Bobcats actually get the slightly better end of the deal because they get two useful players. I don’t consider Jared Dudley useful as anything but an 8th man type. Overall, an interesting and pretty even trade.

• I must agree with my colleague, The Sherm, in that Lebron may be the best player in the NBA right now. I argued Kobe last year, and it’s still really close, but Lebron seems to be much more of a team player and is infinitely better at keeping his teammates involved and interested. Lebron’s numbers are slightly down this year because he’s playing five less minutes a game. He doesn’t need to play 40 mins a game anymore, with the addition of Mo Williams, the steady play of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the emergence of Delonte West as a solid 4th option.

• How bout Carmelo pouring in 33 last night for the Nuggets, tying the record for points in a quarter? He can play, too. Right now, the Nuggets are my pick to play the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Chauncey Billups makes that team for real.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top 11…Random Predictions for the rest of the NFL season (and beyond)

The Steelers and Giants will play in the Super Bowl - The Giants are the easiest of the picks. They have been far and away the best team in the NFL this season and have all the tools needed to make the run: Experience, running game, dominant up front, and a QB that knows how to win.Meanwhile, the Steelers are not as obvious. The AFC is wide open, as any one of five teams could make it. But Pittsburgh is on track to gain the No. 2 seed and I wouldn’t want to play them at Heinz Field. The Steelers have the best defense in the league and their offense hasn’t even played all that well. Their wins against the Pats and Cowboys convinced me that Pittsburgh is the AFC pick.

LaDainian Tomlinson stinks, so much that he will be out of the NFL in three seasons - I never really cared for him. I always thought he was a product of fantasy football. When everything is right, he’ll score his four TDs and gain 200 total yards. But bring on a tough defense, cold weather, and the playoffs, and he folds up. This year, age is finally catching up to him. He’s 29 years old! Tack on three years, and he will be 32. By then, the Chargers will have moved on…and no one will want him.

The following coaches will be fired between now and the beginning of next year’s training camp - Norv Turner, Romeo Crennel, Rod Marinelli, Marvin Lewis, Eric Mangini, and the biggest one….Wade Phillips.

Bill Cowher will not coach any of those teams with vacant coaching positions - He's done coaching, so stop convincing him to come back.

Matt Ryan will win Rookie of the Year, with Chris Johnson, Joe Flacco, and Matt Forte following him in that order - I loveeeeeeeeee Matt Ryan. Loved him right out of college. He has everything you need out of a QB: Great arm, outstanding instincts, and a knack for winning. Plus, the Falcons were in the dumpster after Michael Vick was jailed. Ryan deserves the award, and he will be a franchise QB for the next 15 years. Johnson has done more with less time. He’s hit 1,000+ rushing yards on just 222 carries (4.9 average). He’s also given a lift to an otherwise dismal offense. Personally, he’s had a better season then Forte. Yes, Forte has had a billion catches, but when has Forte had a game-clinching or signature run?

Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech will be the best player to come out this year and win the 2009 Rookie of the Year – Sorry Tim Tebow, who won’t even be drafted in the first three rounds, or Sam Bradford, who will be an erratic NFL QB. Crabtree is one of the best open-field receivers to come out in a while. He’s 6’3, can run a 4.4, and catches pretty much anything thrown his way.

I will throw my remote through the television.....if I have to see five-dollar footlongs, hear that loser from UPS, or listen to that irritating Verizon Fios guy again.

The Jets will either not make the playoffs or lose in the first round – They peaked too early. Brett Favre is close to 40. The pass defense looks lost. The receivers look lost. The coaching staff is horrendous. And oh yea, Brett Favre is close to 40.

Matt Cassel will be given a huge contract by the Jets….and fail miserably.

The Texans will finally make the playoffs…next season – I love Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton. I really like Matt Schaub when he is healthy. And don’t look now, but Houston has won three in a row to pull to 6-7. Look, it is going to come down to defense with this team. But Mario Williams is a beast, so they have a starting point. If they can bring in some secondary help, and this team will get there. But, if you ask my friends, I have made that same prediction every season since the Texans existence.

This NFL season has been one of the best in years...and will end with a John Carney game-winning field goal to give the Giants a 20-17 win and a second consecutive championship.

We're Backkkkkk

We pulled a reverse Brett Favre. We said we were returning. We never did.

Expect daily articles and random musings along with our usually unfunny banter. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We Will Be Back

We are temporarily on hiatus. I would love to say it is due to some made up cool and fun reason, but in fact, we are just lazy.

But when we come back, expect big things to come.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cliff Notes: Monday, May 12 2008

The Winners

-The Jazz, Spurs, Penguins, Red Wings

The Important Stuff

-Utah and San Antonio both take two games at home.
My Take: I really like Utah more than San Antonio, because Utah has changed it up a bit and are playing really well. Plus, Kobe Bryant looks pretty hurt, and back spasms tend to linger. San Antonio looked more like a team that took full advantage of being at home. I see New Orleans rebounding and finding a way to take the series.

-Manchester United wins its 10th Premier League title.
My Take: As a decently casual follower of the Premier League, it was pretty intense Sunday. Man U and Chelsea were deadlocked in points with one game to play. Man U held the tiebreaker, so Chelsea needed Man U to falter. Instead, it was Man U coming out on top (thanks to goals by Ronaldo and Giggs) while Chelsea stumbled in the closing minutes. Man U clearly is the most talented team and was also the one that stumbled the least throughout the season.

-The Marlins win their 7th straight.
My Take: Florida clearly has some hitting. Hanley Ramirez is the best player no one talks about while Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida consistently hit. Obviously the biggest question mark is their hitting, but the Marlins are a pesky team. I see them hanging around for a little while, and at best, finish the season in the 70-75 win range(which would be remarkable considering their payroll).

The Stupid Stuff

-O.J. Mayo reportedly accepted gifts and money.
My Take: ESPN did this whole Outside The Lines thing, and can up with these receipts and money exchanges from some agency. You think Mayo is the only one this happens to? I am willing to bet that out of the 60 or so players that are drafted every year, 20-25% of them are involved in similar activity. How do you put a stop to it? I'm really not sure.

-O.J. Simpson reportedly admits to killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend.
My Take: Can someone please lock this guy up for life? Just put him away. Can't America vote to exile him off of the island?

The List

-Rather then do some awards, the demotions of Jason Isringhausen and Eric Gagne got me thinking about the next five closers to lose their jobs (Note: These must be pitchers which started the season as their team's closers)

5) Brad Lidge (Replacement: Tom Gordon)
4) Trevor Hoffman (Replacement: Heath Bell)
3) Kerry Wood (Replacement: Carlos Marmol)
2) Kevin Gregg (Replacement: Matt Lindstrom)
1) Huston Street (Replacement: Santiago Casilla)

What to Watch for

-You have the usual playoffs (I think the Celtics finally win on the road tonight at Cleveland). And I guess you have to keep an eye on Cliff Lee going for 7-0 tonight. Can someone finally hit this guy and shut everyone up about him?

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Irony of a Baseball Brawl...

It was a random summer baseball game in the magical season of 1998. Bernie Williams had just hit one of his billion clutch homeruns. The next batter was one of my favorite all time players, Tino Martinez. Armando Benitez, clearly miffed at the fact that he sucks, drilled Tino square between the shoulder blades with a 98 mph fastball. Tino immediately looked up at Benitez and then it happened; a HUGE fight broke out between the Orioles and the Yankees. Darryl Strawberry jumped into the Baltimore dugout and started throwing punches. Graham Lloyd tackled like 6 players.

I was reminded of this classic Yankees brawl when I woke up this morning to see highlights of Richie Sexson going nuts about pitch the was “too high.” It reminded me that no matter how stupid fights are in baseball, they make incredible highlights. I love baseball brawls.

The moment when the ball leaves the pitchers hand when you know its going to be up and in, the reaction of the player when he’s hit, the hitter charging the mound, the catcher running after him, the pitcher throwing his glove down, clenching his fists, and getting into a stance to brace himself. The five seconds or so between the hitter sprinting and reaching the pitcher are some of the tensest seconds in sports. The dugouts emptying, the bullpen guys running in, random players fighting each other for no reason at all, it’s fantastic!

The fight last night also made me realize the irony in that perhaps the most individualistic of all sports, baseball, has the most team oriented fights…

Hockey by far has the most fights of any professional sport; there are usually at least two a game. The game stops and players look on as two guys punch the crap out of each other until the refs finally stop it. Hockey is a team sport. You can’t win without your teammates and yet rarely do you see other players step in during a fight. Players let the two guys go at it like men; it’s been this way for years. Hockey fights end with each guy going to the penalty box for a few minutes and then playing again.

Basketball is as much of a team, if not more, than hockey, and fights are very rare. The NBA has rules that constitute instant suspensions as soon as a player leaves the bench during a fight. Because of this, even the rare fights that do happen are usually between 2 or 3 guys. For the most part, players would rather let the two guys fight, than lose the money they would get fined for leaving the bench.

Football is the most ironic of all. Football is the roughest, most physical, and the most team oriented of all sports. Yet, there is almost never a fight in football. The NFL has the lowest class of athlete of all sports, but they are satisfied with tackling instead of fighting. There are countless incidences where players “talk shit,” but nothing ever happens.

Baseball doesn’t have fights, they have brawls. This is because if two players do start to scuffle, the dugouts and bullpens empty. EVERY player gets involved. In last night’s fight, why was Felix Hernandez running around like an idiot when he was not involved in the fight at all? In the 1998 Yankees brawl, why was Darryl Strawberry throwing punches in the Orioles dug out? Why do baseball fights always involve every player? Is it because baseball players are bored, and any type of drama excites them? Baseball, the most individualistic of all sports, has the most team oriented fights. Go figure.

Either way, I love to watch baseball brawls. I can’t wait for some random pitcher to throw inside at Melky Cabrera…because you know that Shelley Duncan will power bomb the other team’s left fielder!

Freakout: Richie Sexson

I'm sorry, but if I had my own Clown of the Year article, Richie Sexson wins it hands down. That pitch wasn't even inside! Plus, look at the score Richie! Your team is trailing and putting up another stinker.

I'm glad Sexson was able to hit something when he charged the mound. He has trouble hitting anything else that comes his way.

Cliff Notes: Friday, May 9 2008

If you live on the East Coast, this question will make sense to you: Why does it always rain on Friday and Saturday? And if you watch Lost, this question will always make sense to you: What the hell is going on?

The Winners

-Spurs, Celtics, Red Wings, Haters of Lebron James

The Important Stuff

-Spurs and Celtics start slow, but take care of business in victories.
My Take: The Spurs obviously needed the win. They let Chris Paul do what he wanted, but limited Peja Stojakovic to eight points. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each scored 31. It's a series again. As for the Celtics, they are clearly better than the Cavs. If Lebron is off, Cleveland has no chance (and he's been very off). Game 3 is a must win for the Cavs.

-Brandon Webb improves to 8-0.
My Take: When the game's top pitchers are talked about, I hear names like Santana and Peavy more often than Webb. But with Webb, Arizona has an absolute bull that can go nine innings. With Webb, Haren, Owings, Johnson, and now Scherzer, the Diamondbacks are the team to beat not just in the National League, but in the major leagues.

The Stupid Stuff

-The Dallas Cowboys will be featured on HBO's Hard Knocks, a series that depicts what an NFL Training Camp is like.
My Take: I love this show. It takes you through the difficulties of making it through NFL Training Camp. But if you are the Cowboys, and you've had situations like the Tony Romo/Jessica Simpson and anyhing Terrell Owens does, why put yourselves in the spotlight again? Plus, teams that appear on this show have tended to underachieve(i.e. Last year's Kansas City Chiefs).

The Awards

-The "Most Added Pitchers to Fantasy Teams" award goes to both Edwin Jackson and Daniel Cabrera. The two combined to allow one run in 17 innings. Cabrera allowed only three hits in a complete game victory while Jackson went eight scoreless but didn't get the decision. These two are the same exact pitcher. When they are on, they will dominant, but more often then not, they will walk the ball park.

-The "Cheap Win" award goes to Manny Acosta, who threw all of three pitches and ended up in the victory column. The Braves used six pitchers before him, but somehow, Acosta was the one who came away with the victory.

What to Watch For Tonight

-Utah looks to pull within a game against the Lakers. And I didn't even realize hockey was on, so Flyers/Penguins it is. And of course, the return of Kei Igawa! Yes!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Random Classic WWF Moment...

I know wrestling isn't real, but remember when it was really cool?

Here are some highlights from the late 90's brutal Hell in The Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind...


I will always love basketball more than hockey. Basketball is my favorite sport to play and one of my favorites to watch. So, I never thought I’d be saying this, but:

Thank god the hockey playoffs are starting up again tonight, because the NBA playoffs have been just awful. As for hockey? Incredible.

The Sharks-Stars 4OT masterpiece was probably the best hockey game I’ve ever seen and, logically, Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov put in two of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen. I can’t even imagine going out there for the 4th overtime and being able to walk, let alone ice skate with any urgency!

Yes, my favorite team, the New York Rangers, failed to advance to this round. This definitely puts a damper on the rest of the playoffs, but you have to realize – I haven’t been this big into hockey for about ten years. When the Rangers started going downhill in the late 90s, I lost interest and I was always more of a basketball fan anyway.

But, there’s one thing that can’t be denied. The NHL playoffs this year have blown the NBA playoffs out of the water.

I didn’t see this coming at all, with how competitive the Western Conference was this year. But, the conference's first round was an absolute bore, with the higher seeds toppling the lower ones easily. Same with the Eastern Conference, although surprisingly, the Celtics and Pistons were pushed a bit. The games themselves have been downhill since Game 1 of the Spurs-Suns series, in which players hit a series of clutch shots, including Tim Duncan nailing his first three of the season to put it into a second overtime.

The second round has been more of the same. Every home game has won. Yawnnnnnnn.
Not the case in the NHL.

There was the drama of Sean Avery’s stick-wielding antics in front of nemesis Martin Brodeur. And the brilliant 7 game series between the Flyers and Capitals, decided in overtime no less. And, of course, the valiant comebacks by the Rangers and Sharks, only to fall short. The best part about the NHL playoffs? They’ve been unpredictable.

Look at the first round. The 6th seeded Avalanche beat the 3rd seeded Wilds. The 7th seeded Flames pushed the 2nd seeded Sharks to 7. The 8th seeded Bruins did the same to the top seeded Canadiens. The 6th seeded Flyers toppled the 3rd seeded Capitals.

And now, the Eastern Conference Finals features a 2 vs. a 6 and the Western Conference Finals is a 1 vs.5 matchup. Hardly what anyone saw coming.

My final point is a simple one: nothing beats hockey playoffs. Nothing beats the intensity that comes with one shot of the puck, or one freak play, defining an entire team’s fate.

I’ll still be watching Kobe, Paul and Garnett go at it. But, for some reason, I think Crosby, Franzen and Turco may provide the better entertainment.

When a Video Game is More Than a Video Game

We all played them growing up. Whether it was on Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, Game Gear, Playstation, XBox, whatever. Sports games were a part of our lives. The thrill of rushing home to start up the new release of a game was a feeling like no other. All of us didn't just play the game. We lived the game. There were two in particular that set the video game bar in my life.

The NHL Series (The Sega Genesis):
If you watched the movie Swingers, you have an even better understand of why these games were great (Especially NHL '94 and '96). What was better than playing on ice that was too small and with players that were too quick?

The best features of this game were the little ones. I loved the Spin-O-Rama move that they instituted later on(I think in 1995, dont quote me). I found it hilarious that you can do a little ballerina twirl and get by three players. Best of all, the Spin-O-Rama was the Start button. How stupid is that? Somehow, it worked. And what also worked was the wrap-around goal. You can have a player go behind the net, come around and score. The goalies were always too slow to react to this. They did make it a little harder in NHL '96 to pull the move off, but if you were down 4-3 with 5 minutes left, it was your best bet.

Now I don't know if this was just a glitch or it was just my game, but anytime I popped in my game after a long period of not playing and tried to load up my season as the Rangers, it would always vanish. It was like the game was punishing me for not playing. It was telling me "You ignored me for so long? You will pay for this!"

I just loved getting a quick game with my buddies and just playing to see who allowed the most goals. I can go three years without playing it, pop in my Sega Genesis, and my night is fulfilled. It was simple and to the point. It was money and everyone knew it.

The Madden Series (Any system): You could spend a whole post just on the Madden series by itself. I went from Sega to Playstation, with a little Dreamcast and XBox thrown in there. But Madden was not just a game, it was a franchise. I don't know one male under the age of 25 who did not have a Franchise mode that lasted less than three seasons. Not only could you play a season, but you could draft and scout players, building them up into future superstars. Your team was not just a team, part of your favorite teams.

One of my favorite all-time athletes (Right below Derek Jeter and Patrick Ewing) was my RB in Madden '02, Doug Hamilton. He was an absolute beast and was about 90% of my offense. With Ogden Traylor manning the QB position, my team would dominate any level (Yes, his name was Ogden. A hilarious feature of Madden is the made-up player names, which would just shuffle first and last names of existing players). The Madden series was so amazing that you would feel a little sad getting the game the next year, because that meant you had to start a new franchise.

I was also one of those losers who played online when if first came out (PS2 in 2004 or 2005, forgot the year). You could pop in your game and play against someone from another country. My ultimate goal was to beat the top players. If I lost, it actually affected me for a good half hour. My claim to fame was beating the 20th player in the world. I felt proud of it.

I also loved the players that were great in Madden but awful in real life. I could make a list of guys who had 98 Speed or 95 Throwing Accuracy but were fourth stringers rotting on the bench of a real team. Trung Candidate had the skills of Barry Sanders. Michael Bishop had a cannon of an arm. Jerome Mathis STILL can be put in at WR and go for 1,300 yards in a season.

Were there plenty of bugs? Of course there were. You could run the same curl route with a big WR and he'll catch it 9 out of 10 times. When Michael Vick was on the cover, you could run around with him all day and he'd find a way to get 20 yards. You can kick a 59-yard FG as if you had the leg of Pele. But that's what made the game unique. Madden became its own sport.

This was part of my life growing up. Unfortunately, when you grow up, you are too busy to play video games. But there's always that one rainy Sunday afternoon when you can pop in that old video game and remember the days of your childhood.

Everyone had a franchise that lost the Super Bowl two years in a row or a Jari Curri which scored 65 goals in your season. If you could go back in time to play one more season as the St. Louis Rams, you'd do it in a heartbeat. Everyone has a story.

But now the most pressing question. Do I draft Pete Welker or Hardy Barnes with my first-round pick?

Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee

Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee,
Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee Lee,
We're talkin' f***in' Lee.
I had a friend named Lee,
He cast a spell a spell on me.

Jack Black and Tenacious D sang it, and I am feeling it. Cliff Lee has in fact cast a spell on me! Another seven innings, 0 run, 0 walk performance from the man named Clifton Phifor Lee.

Only this time, it wasn’t against the lowly Twins, the fluky Oakland A’s, or the “can’t hit their way out of a paper bag” Seattle Mariners. It was against my New York Yankees, out-dueling the Taiwanese heart throb, Chien-Ming Wang.

If you’re like me, you picked up Cliff Lee on your Fantasy Baseball team because he pitched a great game or two and you were desperate for pitching. If you’re like me, you also didn’t honestly think he would still be pitching this well. I mean he was pretty good in 2005 with a 18-5 record and an ERA under 4, but he was atrocious the last 2 years, between 2006-2007, he was 19-19 with an ERA well over 5! He was also in the minors as the Indians almost made the World Series last year. I know its still very early, but every pitcher since the divisional era started in the late 60’s that has started 6-0 with an ERA under 1 has gone on to win the Cy Young. By the way, some of the pitchers include Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez.

So herein lies the dilemma…if you currently have Cliff Lee on your Fantasy Baseball team, what do you do with him? The way I see it, you have three options:

1) Trade him: Lee’s value is sky high right now. There has to be someone in your league that is desperate for pitching who believes that Cliff will be, at the very least, an improvement on what they have now. Test the waters and gauge how much confidence the others in your league have that he will continue his dominance. If you have needs, use Lee to fill them.

2) Keep him: What if you trade Lee and he actually does go on to win the AL Cy Young Award? It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The most impressive thing about him early on is the fact that he isn’t walking ANYONE. His K/BB ratio is an absolutely absurd 39/2 through 44.2 innings! His ERA won’t remain under 1 for too much longer, but it appears that Lee can remain a valuable fantasy pitcher for awhile.

3) Drop him: Get rid of him. Forget you ever had him. Let him tease someone else with his amazingness. Forget you and Cliff Lee were ever connected in anyway. Ok, so this is a terrible option, but it is just that, an option.

So, what will you do with Clifton Phifor Lee? What will I do with Clifton Phifor Lee? I guess only time will tell…

Cliff Notes: Thursday, May 8 2008

Time to make some changes to the format. Ch, Ch, Changessssss.

The Winners

-Lakers, Magic

The Important Stuff

-Kobe Bryant scores 34 points as the Lakers in 120-110 over Utah.
My Take: Lakers are clearly the more talented team. They have set themselves up beautifully, as they only need to win one of the next two games at Utah to gain full advantage. Utah can't let Los Angeles jump out to a 15-point first quarter lead. The Lakers are tought o comeback against to begin with, but Utah doesn't strike me as a team that can comeback. 30 personal fouls doesn't help the Jazz's cause.

-The Magic make it a series, defeating the Pistons 111-86.
My Take: Rashard Lewis scores 33 points as Orlando started the game well and closed the game out. Lewis has the ability to put up points and needs to take control like he did last night. It helps to shoot 45% from 3-point land as well. Billups hurts his hammy, and if he is out for any length of time, the advantage has to go to Orlando (especially Game 4 at home).

-Former Patriot employee Matt Walsh sends the NFL video of the Patriots taping other teams' signals between 2000 and 2002.
My Take: I mean, I don't know what the NFL is going to do if it finds anymore wrongdoing. Can you dock more draft picks? Can you fine them anymore money? It's a real bad situation for both the league and the Patriots. They didn't even have to do any of that, because they were clearly the best team in those years.

-Joey Votto homers three times while Carlos Gomez hits for the cycle
My Take: Votto is going to be a big-time power hitter and could even hit 25 HRs this year. Gomez is going to have his up-and-down games. If he develops like the Twins think he could, they have a keeper.

The Stupid Stuff

-Barry Zito falls to 0-7
My Take: Allowing two runs in five innings shouldn't be considered a "step in the right direction." He was still lobbing the ball over the plate. I don't know what you can do with this guy. He's awful.

The Awards

-The "Maybe they are better than we thought" award goes to Cliff Lee, Edinson Volquez, Shaun Marcum, Livan Hernandez, and Zack Grienke, who all dominated in victories last night.

-The "Todd Jones" award goes to Jonathan Papelbon, who suffered a blown save in a 10-9 loss to the Tigers. Detroit blew an 8-4 lead themselves, but find a way to win. Ironically, Jones got the win in the game.

What to Watch For Tonight

-Cleveland and Boston should be good. Hopefully one of these teams can score over 50 points tonight. Beckett/Verlander hook up to see who breaks the radar gun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Today, a source extremely close to Sportsfreakers announced that New York Yankees lead-off man is related to golf champion Trevor Immelman. Both players and every other news source in the world have denied the announcement.

Pick of the Night

Utah Jazz @ Los Angeles Lakers

10:35pm TNT

Lakers -7.5

This bet seems simple to me. The Jazz are perennial road losers, and although they won a couple in the last series, they are now up against, in my opinion, the best team in the NBA. Look for the Lakers to pull away sometime in the 4th quarter for the win, and for Kobe to dominate as usual.

Final Score: 114-102 Lakers

Adios Julio Franco

After 8,000 years playing Major League Baseball, Julio Franco has announced his retirement. Here's a nice little tribute to the man they once called old.

Man Crush of the Week #2 - Sean Avery

From my seat in Row A of Section 414 at Madison Square Garden, I can see almost everything that happens during the course of a Rangers game. Stationed centrally behind the net at the 8th Ave. end (where the Rangers attack in the 1st and 3rd periods), I get a full view of the ice, and most of the time I watch the puck and the play, like most people would.

But when a certain Ranger hits the ice, I’m transfixed on only him.

He’s unpredictable. He’s fast. He’s a good scorer, a deft passer. He’s a hitter and a fighter. He’s annoying as hell.

He’s Sean Avery.

When Avery became a Ranger on February 6th last season, I knew very little about him. Because Avery played in Los Angeles and the NHL has pretty much zero west-coast TV coverage, he was basically an unknown commodity. I think this was the case for a lot of people.

But since his arrival in New York, I have absolutely fallen in love with Sean Avery…in a totally non-sexual way, of course (come on, I’d have no shot anyway, this guy dated Elisha Cuthbert!), and so has most of New York.

Avery actually makes me laugh out loud when I watch the Rangers, partly because of the way he goes about getting under his opponent’s skin (yapping away from behind his infamous black mouth guard, throwing well-timed body checks, and of course face-washing players during post-whistle get-togethers), but mostly because he’s actually a terrific hockey player. It truly is a joy to watch the guy play the game. Most people can’t get past the agitation factor to recognize this, and that quite frankly is their loss.

Avery is the player that everyone – including even some Ranger fans – loves to hate. His language on the ice is crude, he’s brutally honest during interviews (“I guess fatso there forgot to shake my hand…”) and his goal celebrations are a bit over the top (though I think scoring a goal in the NHL would fire anyone up and I like the expression of emotion).

But I also think that the NHL’s resident bad boy fulfills the cliché, “Women want him and men want to be him.” After all, Avery isn’t just a hockey player…he’s a renaissance man. When he’s not at the rink, he claims he really doesn’t pay much attention to the hockey world and would rather talk about art than sports. His interests include high fashion and indie music. This summer, he’s interning at Vogue Magazine. Guy’s got a pretty cool life, no?

What I think a lot of people, especially over at NHL Headquarters on 6th Ave., are missing is that Avery has become one of the league’s most marketable stars. And in typical NHL fashion, Gary Bettman and Co. have shunned him. In a league that is struggling not only to garner more attention but also to promote its stars, Avery is a lightning rod for attention. He plays the part of the villain perfectly.

Now, many hockey pundits would tell me that the league is trying to clean up its image, that a “villain” is the last thing it needs. They’ll say the NHL is sick of the Todd Bertuzzi/Marty McSorely/Chris Simon moments that seem to happen yearly and give hockey an endless stream of bad press.

My argument is this: Sean Avery is not a goon. He doesn’t hit from behind. He doesn’t swing his stick at people’s heads. He doesn’t engage in slew-footing like Evgeni Malkin did in pathetic sore-loser fashion at the end of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Rather, Avery is a modern agitator with an old-school edge. And he’s a good interview because he’s articulate and will say a thing or two that catches everyone off-guard. He also has a personality off the ice.

I watched the Rangers playoffs with a few people who are not hardcore hockey fans like me and even they were interested in Sean Avery. Say what you will about his questionable screening tactics on Martin Brodeur…it made headlines, didn’t it? The national media was talking quite a bit about hockey the next day, weren’t they? I rest my case.

I’ll say this before I go. A lot of people have accused Avery of being selfish, especially when February rolled around and Avery met with the Rangers brass to discuss extending his contract, a one-year deal that expires on June 30th. SHOCKER: Avery asked for too much money. Go figure that…a pro athlete acting like, well, a pro athlete.

The thing is that Avery has proven his worth. The Rangers were 33-14-10 this past season when Avery played and 9-13-3 when he didn’t. And then came this gem from New York Post writer Larry Brooks, who scored an exclusive interview with Avery when he was released from the hospital earlier this week after beginning his recovery from a lacerated spleen.

Avery bleeds Ranger blue.

That’s good enough for me. But even if he leaves the Rangers, I will always have a soft-spot in my heart for Sean Avery, this week’s Sports Freakers Man Crush of the Week.

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