Archive for April, 2009

Shiver my timbers: The Pirates are taking no prisoners.

April 27, 2009

It might be early in the season, but there can be no bigger shock in the ranks of Major League Baseball than the overall success of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Currently 11-7, and sitting in second place in what should end up being a hotly contested NL Central, the Bucs have been the talk of analysts and fans alike, displaying a determination that can only be described as inspiring.

Pitchers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm both have three wins so far, with Duke already pitching a complete game (a four hit shutout of Houston on April 13th). Closer Matt Capps’ five saves rank him fourth in MLB.

Offensively, the Pirates have several players getting the job done, day in and day out.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez leads the team with 26 hits, trailed just barely by Nyjer Morgan who has 25. those stats place the 14th and 15th respectively in the league. In addition, Sanchez leads the team with a .351 batting average. His nine doubles tie him with two other players for the major league lead.

Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth lead the team in power numbers with five and four homers respectively. Both players have 14 RBIs, which leads the team.

Playing a true team, Pittsburgh first garnered real attention this season when they swept the now-sliding Marlins, before taking two of three from San Diego. The last game, a 8-3 victory, was at the expense of stud pitcher Jake Peavy.

However, the news is not all good for Pittsburgh and their long suffering fans.

Catcher Ryan Doumit and “Captain” Jack Wilson are currently on the disabled list, while budding superstar McLouth is currently out of action as well, but has not been placed on the DL.

Doumit had surgery to repair a fractured bone in his wrist last Thursday, and isn’t expected to be back in action until at least mid-June.

Wilson was placed on the 15 day-DL on Saturday because of a sprained left middle finger which occurred in the Pirates home opener on April 13. The injury has gotten worse since then, prompting his being sidelined.

McLouth sustained an oblique injury on Friday during batting practice, and sat out the Bucs weekend series with the Padres. It is unclear when he will return.

So, Bucs fans, batten down the hatches. The immediate future doesn’t seem to promising offensively.

However, you’re in good shape when it comes to the guys on the mound, and that could carry your team until the big bats return.

Either way, a lot more eyes than normal will be focused on the Pirates. Let’s see if they can weather the storm and continue their hot play.

MLB Status Report- 4/27/09

April 27, 2009

AMERICAN LEAGUE:

East:

Toronto Blue Jays (14-6): The Jays just keep winning, I’m not entirely sure how.

I mean, Roy Halladay is being his normal dominant self (4-0, 32 strikeouts), but the rest of the staff is also doing well, and that makes the Jays dangerous.

Second baseman Aaron Hill has already eclipsed his homerun total from last season (two last year versus five thus far) and is two RBIs away from equaling last seasons total. He is also hitting .367.

In addition, shortstop Marco Scutaro is on pace to eclipse all of his career bests, hitting four homers and driving in 13 runs as of press time (his career highs are 9 and 60).

Boston Red Sox (11-6): The Sox have now won ten games in a row (yes, that’s right), and have to be considered the team to beat in this division.

Kevin Youkilis is leading MLB in batting average, hitting .444. There is not an aspect of his game that I can honestly find fault with. He does it all, offensively and defensively, and is also an excellent clubhouse presence I’m told.

The pitching staff needs to get completely on track to make this team truly great, but they are doing a good job thus far.

New York Yankees (9-8): The team spent about a quarter of a billion dollars to bring in AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia, and that’s paid of to a point. They are a combined 3-1, but have a combined ERA of 5.14. Something tells me Yankee fans won’t like that.

Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher have all been pounding the ball, and that’s good news for the Bronx Bombers. The bad news is that bonus baby Mark Texiera is hitting .218.

Baltimore Orioles (9-10): There’s a few guys hitting in Maryland (Aubrey Huff, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis), but the pitching staff is flat. That is the reason Baltimore will reside near or at the bottom of the division for the remainder of the season.

Tampa Bay Rays (7-12): The defending AL champs gotta get it together, plain and simple.

Noteworthy however, is 1B Carlos Pena leading MLB in home runs with eight.

CENTRAL:

Detroit Tigers (10-8) : No one expected the tigers to be here. Yes, they have a lot of young hungry pitchers, but this was to be a rebuilding year in my eyes. A year to get those guys on track to make a big run next year.

Curtis Granderson (6 homers 12 RBIs) and Brandon Inge (.323, 7 homers, 17 RBIs) have eclipsed Miguel Cabrera as the offensive spark plugs of this team, which is pretty shocking to say the least.

On the hill, Armando Galarraga has been a revelation, going 3-0 over 24.1 innings with an enemic 1.85 ERA. Things are looking up for this Tigers staff, and that bodes badly for the rest of the Central.

Chicago White Sox (9-9): The Pale Hosers are holding onto this spot by the skin of their teeth at the moment, They did not have a good week, going 2-4, and really need to get back on track.

Carlos Questin and Jermaine Dye are having good seasons thus far, and that will need to continue. Quentin will need to put together a 35 HR, 130 RBI season for his effort to be considered worthwhile.

Mark Buerhle (3-0) and John Danks (2-0, 0.95 ERA) have looked excellent, and that is a great sign for the Sox. If those two can put together decent seasons, then Chicago has a legitimate shot at winning this division.

Kansas City Royals (9-9): I stand by last week’s assertion that the Royals would be serious contenders. Zack Greinke is flat out the best pitcher in MLB right now, and he is showing everyone that the Royals are for real, and not to be taken lightly.

Greinke, currently 4-0 with a 0.00 (yes, that’s right) ERA is dominating opposing batters, leading the Al in strikeouts with 36.

First baseman and DH Mike Jacobs is contributing a lot offensiely, hitting four homers and driving in 12 runs. however, like his former Marlins teammate Dan Uggla, Jacobs has a low batting average (.246) and needs to get that on track before he can be considered an elite player.

Minnesota Twins (9-10): Oh, the Twins. What will Minnesota do with them?

As usual, Justin Morneau is putting together an excellent campaign, but it has been the play of OF Jason Kubel (.328, 4 homers, 15 RBIs) that has people talking positively about the Twins. And any talk about the Twins isn’t usually positive these days, so that’s a huge plus.

Everyone expected Francisco Liriano to be a stud pitcher this season. So far he’s 0-4, and doesn’t seem that way. Conversely, young Kevin Slowey is 3-0 and is looking pretty good.

Cleveland Indians (7-12): I really counted on the Indians to be dominant this season. I’m not entirely sure what’s gone wrong.

Grazy Sizemore and Victor Martinez are killing the ball, but the Tribe’s pitching staff just can’t seem to get it together enough to aid in the Indians winning games.

They’re not too far out of it yet, but do need to put together a couple of good weeks in order to gain some ground on Detroit and Chicago, who I believe will fall off eventually.

However, the schedule does not favor the Indians, who play Boston, Detroit and Toronto over the course of the next week and a half.

WEST:

Seattle Mariners (12-7): A good week for the Mariners as they go 4-2 to stay atop the West. Ichiro has been magnificent since returning from the DL, hitting .333, and is putting up decent power numbers thus far, already hitting two dingers. Second baseman Jose Lopez leads the team with 12 RBIs, while Russell Branyan is tops with four homers.

The Mariners pitching staff has been a revelation thus far, with Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn both racking up three wins apiece, while Erik Bedard is currently ranked second in the AL with 29 strikeouts, two more than Hernandez.

Texas Rangers (8-10): The Rangers are staying afloat so far, but just barely. After leading the league in runs scored last season, the Rangers have scored three or more runs in all but three games this season. Second baseman Ian Kinsler has been a big reason why.

Currently batting .559, and ranked second in the AL with seven homers, and ranked third in RBIs, with 20, Kinsler is off to the hot start that Rangers fans had hoped he would be. If he keeps up these numbers, he alone makes the Rangers competitive. Add in the way that Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Hank Blaylock have been hitting, and Texas could be very dangerous.

Oakland Athletics (7-10): No offense to A’s fans, but this is not gonna be your year. Sure, Oakland can put together a good game or two everyone once and awhile, but they will likely finish in the cellar come season’s end.

Only one everyday position player is hitting above .500 (C Kurt Suzuki, .333), and no player has more than two homers. The offense on this team is non-existent, and they have been lucky to pull off seven wins, especially with no help coming from their pitching staff, which is currently a disaster.

Los Angeles Angels (7-11): There’s is still a ton of hope for the Angels, and no one should give up on them yet. Vlad’s still hurt, and though the pitching situation seems dire, it should right itself shortly with Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders shaking off the rust, and ace Ervin Santana returning from the DL soon.

Torii Hunter has put up great numbers thus far, hitting .338 with seven homers and 14 RBIs, which in Guerrero’s absence, is a complete necessity. Second baseman Howie Kendrick is coming along slowly, but should break out within the next couple of weeks with a major surge.

————————————————————————————————————————-

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

EAST:

Florida Marlins (11-7): It was bound to happen, at it has already begun. The Marlins, who started the season blisteringly hot, have begun their steady fall to the middle, losing six straight, being swept by the Pirates and Phillies. Sure, they’re atop the NL East, but for how long? Philly have been hot lately, and the Mets aren’t going to stay down forever.

I chalk this up to inexperience, especially among the young pitchers. I expected a fall around mid-season, but it seems to be happening far earlier than that.

Second baseman Dan Uggla could be an elite player in MLB, since his offensive numbers (4 homers and 16 RBIs) are very impressive. However, what’s really offensive is his .231 batting average.

Philadelphia Phillies (9-8): This team had a good week, going 4-2 overall. Offensively, it’s surprising free agent Raul Ibanez leading the way for the Phillies, batting .324 with 5 homers and 12 RBIs. The usual suspects (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino) have 40 RBIs between them. However, superstar SS Jimmy Rollins is batting .162 thus far, which should be a major concern for Philadelphia.

Forget Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, guys who are known to have pretty big numbers, it’s all about seemingly 77-year old Jamie Moyer (he’s really 46) and reliever Clay Condrey. Moyer is currently 3-1 while Condrey is 3-0 in 10 appearances for Philly.

Atlanta Braves (9-9): Atlanta is holding on right now, but can they keep it up?

No one has been very impressive at the plate for the Braves, and the same can be said about their pitching staff. Derrick Lowe was brought in to save this team, but he’s only human. He’ll need help from Javier Vasquez and Jair Jurrgens if this team has any hopes of making a real run.

New York Mets (8-10): A perennial disappointment it seems. the Mets are hardly out of it at this point, but seriously, weren’t they supposed to be far better than this?

Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo are first and second respectively in the NL in batting average, but that has not translated to success for New York. This teams gets a lot of hits, but also leaves a small army on the bases each and every inning. That needs to change, and quickly.

As usual, Johan Santana has been brilliant, but he can’t carry this pitching staff alone. he needs help, so the Mets arms had better wake up.

Washington Nationals (4-13): What else can really be said about the Nationals at this point? They’re an absolutely abysmal team. I don’t think that I’ve ever advocated a fire-sale before, but I’d recommend one now….but what does Washington have that’s worth buying?

CENTRAL:

St. Louis Cardinals (13-6): The Cards have been on fire this week, finishing it 5-1. This division will likely come down to the Cards and Cubs, and right now it certainly seems like St. Louis has the huge advantage.

Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick have combined to sock 12 dingers and 44 runs batted in while hitting .338. They are first and third respectively in the NL in RBIs.

The pitching staff has been excellent, led by the rejuvenated Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro, who are a combined 6-0.

Pittsburgh Pirates (11-7): Wow is all that I can say here. The Bucs have gone 5-1 this week, and have put a look of disbelief on the faces of opponents and fans alike.

Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth have looked fantastic at the plate, while Pat Maholm is 3-0 with an ERA just over two. Zach Duke is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA. Shocking, absolutely shocking.

Cincinnati Reds (10-8): The Reds have been turning some heads of late, and with the young pitching staff that they boast, could be doing that for years to come.

Jay Bruce and Joey Votto are two young talented position players that could be All-Stars for many years to come.

Cincy will win a whole lot more games than people think that they will, but still don’t have even a remote shot to win this division.

Chicago Cubs (9-8): They might be a game above .500, but the Cubs are probably one of the biggest disappointments thus far short of the Mets. The Cubs pitching staff, excellent on paper, has been simply mediocre.

Aaron Heilman has been ok so far, but Met fans are salivating awaiting what they hope to be his eventual unraveling, justifying their team trading him away.

Milwaukee Brewers (8-10): The Brewers looked good this week, but when you really look at them, they, like most of the teams in this division, have no realistic shot at beating the Cardinals or Cubs down the stretch.

Ryan Braun is a quality player, and is a real threat to any team tha the Brewers play. Trade bait perhaps?

Houston Astros (7-12): I’m a little bit surprised that the ‘Tros are in the cellar. They have a very talented batting order, and a decent pitching staff.

The key thus far has been the sub-par play of Lance Berkman, who is hitting just .167.

The pitching staff, supposedly led by Roy Oswalt (0-2, 4.68 ERA), struggles on a nightly basis, and has no real bright spot at the moment (maybe the 2-0 Russ Ortiz, who hasn’t been successful since 2005). That could change once Oswalt and Co. get on track, which for Houston, I hope that they do.

WEST:

Los Angeles Dodgers (13-6): The Dodgers on on top again this week, due in large part to the surprising play of OF Andre Either, who is near the top of NL leaderboard in homers and RBIs. Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez have put together respectable numbers so far, and that should continue.

The pitching staff is lacking an explosive number one guy, but is serviceable, and gets the job done on a regular basis. Chad Billingsley is excellent, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not ready to label him a dominant ace just yet. If he continues his current level of play for a few more weeks, and I might be forced to change my mind.

San Diego Padres (10-8): The Padres had a bad week, going 1-4, but should still be able to hang with the Dodgers for the remainder of the season. This is really anyone’s division, and probably will be the colsest contested come season’s end.

Reliever Cla Meredith ha been a bright spot, earning three victories in only 6.1 innings of work. Jake Peavy has been less than thrilling, but he’ll turn that around. Aces always do.

San Francisco Giants (8-9): With a stellar week, the Giants moved out of the West Cellar, and into the middle of the pack.

The main thing keeping the Giants afloat right now is their pitching, and even that isn’t too great.

Matt Cain has looked pretty good, going 2-0 so far, while Tim Lincecum and Randy Johnson have looked decent. People discount Johnson, saying he can no longer be dominant, but I still say that he could win 10 games and make a huge impact with this team.

Arizona Diamondbacks (7-11): The Dbacks have been a bit of a disappointment this season, but that can be attributed to ace Brandon Webb spending time on the DL and some of the young payers still trying to find their offensive legs.

Third baseman Mark Reynolds is a hot hitter, but still needs to put the ball in play a good deal more in order to really start punishing the other teams in the division. He could be a true superstar if that happens.

Colorado Rockies (6-11): The Rockies aren’t fooling anyone, and I don’t mean that to be complimentary. More than likely, they will sit in the NL West basement collecting dust for the remainder of the season.

Pitcher Jason Marquis has been a bright spot for the Rockies though, going 3-1 while pitching a team high 26.1 innings.

What will/should the Islanders do with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft.

April 23, 2009

It might be two months away, and the playoffs are barely underway, but people are already asking the big question: Who will the New York Islanders select with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft?

The Islanders, notorious for one-sided deals that always seem to favor the team that they are trading with, are the subject of a lot of talk about whose name they will speak into the microphone at the podium on June 26th in Montreal.

Conventional wisdom would point to the Isles selecting one of two players; the OHL’s John Tavares, or Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.

Tavares, who is just 18 years of age, has been playing professional hockey in Canada for four years after gaining “exceptional player” status from the OHL when he was 14. In that time, he has topped 100 points three times, including this past season when he split time between the Oshawa Generals and London Knights.

Even at his young age, Tavares already has an impressive resume. He is a natural scorer, totaling 215 goals including 72 in the 2006-07 season with Oshawa. He has won two gold medals in the World Junior Championships as a member of Team Canada.

Not the most fleet footed of players, the only real criticism of Tavares’ game is his lack of speed. However, the Isle’s possess a lot of speed overall as a team, so that shouldn’t be a huge concern for them.

Hedman, on the other hand, is a strong skater and has good offensive skills for such a large player, though that doesn’t always translate to his point totals (25 points in 82 senior Swedish Elite League games). He plays smart, and doesn’t make the rookie mistakes that other young players tend to make. He has also won two silver medals at the World Juniors with Team Sweden.

From the small town of Ornskoldsvik, he shares the same hometown as the Ranger’s Markus Naslund and Vancouver’s Sedin twins. Former Avalanche superstar Peter Forsberg is also from the town.

At 6’5″ and 230 pounds, Hedman certainly has the size that New York would love to have patrolling their blue line.

But does any of this matter to the Islanders, who are notorious for making, let’s say, terrible deals.

It’s unlikely that they will trade this pick. Either one of these players has the make-up to be a stellar NHL player. Tavares might get the edge here, simply because he is an offensive machine, something the Isles desperately need, while they already have a plethora of young, hungry defensemen.

So expect to see Tavares putting on an Islanders sweater in two months time.

That is, of course, if they don’t repeat their same old mistakes.

Chiefs trade TE Gonzalez to Atlanta for a second round pick

April 23, 2009

The Atlanta Falcons have put the entire NFL on notice that they mean business this coming season, scoring a huge coup in reportedly acquiring tight end Tony Gonzalez from the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2010 second round draft pick.

Gonzalez, one of the league’s elite receiving options over the past decade, had been asking for a trade for some time, and finally got his wish today when he was dealt to the Falcons, automatically making Atlanta a legitimate threat to make a huge playoff run.

The Falcons finished second in the NFC South last season, making the playoffs before losing to the eventual NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.

Rookie QB Matt Ryan exceeded all expectations placed upon him, leading a team that was ranked sixth overall last season in passing yards (361.2 per game). Ryan threw for 3440 yards, and threw 16 TDs.

The focus of the offense however, centered on running back Michael Turner, who as electric after being acquired from San Diego before the outset of last season. Turner rushed for 1,699 yards, and 17 TDs, good enough for second overall among RBs (behind Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams, who had 18).

The receiving corps was adequate, led by Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. White caught 88 passes for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns. Jenkins had 50 receptions, and totaled 777 yards receiving. Three of those receptions were for touchdowns.

Gonzalez, by comparison, had 96 receptions and totaled 1,058 receiving yards. His ten receiving TDs were the most team.

Gonzalez, entering his thirteenth NFL season, has established himself over his career and far more than a typical blocking tight end.

Instead, he was normally played the role of play maker for the Chiefs, who at times have lacked a truly talented receiver. Gonzalez has almost always been the player that has stepped up in lieu of that player.

This deal automatically makes the Falcons the team to beat in the NFC South, if not the entire conference. The offense is now absolutely electric. If the Atlanta defense can get even halfway on track, it is going to be absolutely devastating for all other teams to play against them.

Rose wins NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and deservedly so.

April 23, 2009

For the third time in NBA history, a Chicago Bulls player has been named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.

Point guard Derrick Rose learned that he had won the award on Wednesday, following in the footsteps Michael Jordan and Elton Brand (who was a co-ROY with Houston’s Steve Francis), who won the award in 1985 and 2000 respectively.

And while he might act cool and collected on the court, and not seem to succumb to pressure or media attention, Rose made it clear that winning this award was something he planned to do from the start of his young career.

“When I first came into the season, my biggest thing was to get this award,” Rose said according to the Associated Press. “I was telling you all that I didn’t care, but I did. You really do want this award. There was a lot of talent out there that I had to go against.”

Rose garnered a majority of the first place votes (111) to beat out the likes of Memphis’s OJ Mayo (5), the Net’s Brook Lopez (1) and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (1). The Clipper’s Eric Gordon rounded out the top five.

Mayo made a run of it, ranking first among rookies in points per game (18.5), but the pact that he could not lead his team to a playoff berth might have cost him.

Lopez far exceeded expectations, averaging 13 points and roughly eight rebounds per contest, while Westbrook played for a sub-par (but rapidly improving) Thunder team, and averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

It comes as no hock that Rose was a finalist for the award, but at the beginning of the season, I was under the assumption that the ROY voting would come down to the two top players selected in the NBA draft in 2008, Rose, who went first overall, and now-Heat forward Michael Beasley.

Though he had a very good season, averaging 13.9 points per game, and pulling down 5.4 boards, Beasley was overshadowed by Rose, who notched 16.8 ppg and 6.3 assists.

Both men are currently in the midst of playoff pushes with their respective teams, and both will likely prove to be fine NBA talents. However, the trophy case don’t lie, and now Rose has some more impressive hardware to occupy some more space in it to go along with his 2009 NBA Skills Competition trophy.

Is Boldin on the move? It seems likely

April 22, 2009

As the NFL Draft looms on the horizon, one of the biggest names being floated around in trade rumors is that of disgruntled Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin.

Boldin, one of the elite wide-outs in the NFL, has been displeased with the team, and more importantly the front office for, as he sees it, not following through offering him a new contract, though they allegedly promised him one.

He has vowed to not resign with the team when his contract runs out in two years.

So, that leaves the Cardinals brass with two options:

One, let him play out his remaining time, because although he was unhappy last season, he still put together a Pro Bowl worthy effort.

I like that. That’s rare nowadays in professional sports, an athlete, especially one who is unhappy, actually honoring his contract and playing to the best of his ability.

Or the second option, the more likely of the two, is to trade the talented receiver, and I’ve heard buzz about four teams that are champing at the bit to get him, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and the New York Giants.

Let’s look closer at these teams and their chances of becoming the next prospective home for Boldin, shall we?

Philadelphia:The Eagles are desperate to finally have a dominant receiver. Their brief love affair with TO ended over his attacking the Philly front office and beloved QB Donovan McNabb in the media, and he was released to become someone else’s headache.

The Eagles have a lot of picks in this draft, and would just love to give up some of them for Boldin. Conventional wisdom says it would take at least three picks (a first, and probably a third and fifth rounder). The Eagles have several picks in that fifth round, so this seems to be a good trade-off for both teams.

Baltimore: The Ravens need a number one receiver, plain and simple. Joe Flacco outperformed all expectations that were put on his last season, and led the Ravens to the playoffs. However, their receiving corps was extremely underutilized, mainly because there was no dominant force for Flacco to throw to.

Derrick Mason is good, don’t get me wrong, he did go for over 1,000 yards last season, but he’s a second receiver at best. Boldin would fill the void for a marquee guy, and the Ravens would finally have an offense that didn’t need to revolve around the run quite as often.

Baltimore has the necessary picks, but the three that they would likely need to land Boldin would eat up a majority of them. It could still happen though.

Miami: Seeing Boldin in aqua would be an interesting sight, and I think that it is the least likely of the four teams. Miami’s got the picks to spare, but I just don’t see Boldin as a Dolphin.

New York Giants: This could be an interesting fit. Arizona and New York aren’t exactly bitter rivals, but the games between the two, especially with Kurt Warner at QB for the Cards, makes this situation a little bit more fun.

The Giants are in desperate need of a marquee receiver, having released one-man PR disaster Plaxico Burress, and have been hot on the trail of Cleveland’s Braylon Edwards. Boldin would be a much better choice, and he’d probably love the media frenzy that comes along with playing in New York. The G-Men have a ton of picks in this draft, and are not likely to balk at a demand for a few of them if it means landing a guy like Boldin.

Overall, if I had to hazard a guess as to what uniform Boldin will be wearing come training camp, I’ll say this:

Welcome to New York, Mr. Boldin.

Top of the heap? Not a chance Marlins.

April 22, 2009

I’ve heard a lot of talk about how incredible the Florida Marlins look this year. And I”ll agree, they look pretty good.

Their pitching staff is young and hungry, and their offense has put together some great efforts.

Other than that, I ‘ll say one more thing:

Call me when they learn how to play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Until that time, keep the World Series talk to yourselves.

-a special shout out goes to Tim Walker, the most loyal Bucs fan that I know. Keep living the dream buddy!

What should the Lions do with the No. 1 pick?

April 22, 2009

The day is rapidly approaching my friends.

The clock is ticking down.

T-minus 4 days and counting.

No, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not the apocalypse. It’s an event of far greater importance for many people.

We call it the 2009 NFL Draft, and it means the world to a lot of folks.

And one of the burning questions surrounding the event surrounds the Detroit Lions and their prize possession, the number one overall pick.

Conventional wisdom, and more importantly, the past, says that the Lions will select a wide receiver, and there are a few great ones in this draft class. However, Matt Millen a.k.a Doomsday Matt, is no longer at the helm of the Lions ship, and new GM Martin Mayhew is not likely to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor.

There are five options, as far as I’m concerned, for the Lions to consider:

1. Matt Stafford, QB Georgia: Stafford is a smart player, and that’s not too common these days. He’s got a cannon for an arm, and will be electric if he can get on track with the Lions receivers.

He put up very good numbers at Georgia last season, and respectable ones in 2007. He led the Bulldogs to a Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State in January, and looked excellent in that affair. He’d be a welcome addition for the Lions.

2. Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest: I’m very high on Curry, as are a lot of teams. He’s easily the best defender in this draft, and has explosive speed, and a lot of football sense. He’s viewed as “the safest pick” in the draft, and no one would blame the Lions if they embraced that idea.

3. Jason Smith, OT Baylor: Smith is great run-blocker, and decent protection wise. Scouts compare him to Denver’s Ryan Clady, not a bad comparison considering Clady was a stud for the Broncos last season, finishing third overall in the Rookie of the Year voting (behind Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson). I doubt that Detroit will wander down this road, though he is going to be a great lineman in the NFL one day. The Rams will snatch him at pick number two; that’s almost a certainty.

4. Drew Henson, QB…oh, wait, he’s already fizzled several times. In two sports, no less.

And he’s also already on the Lions roster.

5. Trade the pick.

-there are several teams who would salivate at the opportunity to select first in this draft. However, I don’t think that Mayhew is likely to trade away his first pick as GM.

If I were the Lions, I’d go with Stafford. I know, it’s a cliched pick, taking the high profile QB, but the Lions are in desperate need of a signal caller, and there’s few out there who are better than Stafford, at least in this draft class. I think that Smith is extraordinarily talented, but hey, you’ve got to have a QB that needs protecting if you’re going to draft an OT.

Sorry Daunte Culpepper.

Now that they have started, what are my NBA Playoff predictions?

April 20, 2009

Yes, I’m quite aware that the NBA playoffs have already begun, but hey, like any informed customer, I wanted to get a taste for how things would shape up before I made any picks in terms of winners and losers.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Cleveland vs. Detroit (Cavs ahead 1-0): Is this Lebron’s year? No.  However, he and his teammates will easily handle the Pistons, especially when they’re sans AI. All in all, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Cavs sweep this series.

-Cavs over Detroit 4-0

Boston vs. Chicago (Bulls ahead 1-0): Boston is missing a key compenent, with superstar Kevin Garnett on the shelf with a knee injury. To makes matters worse, the Celtics likely will not have him back for these playoffs, and their are rumors that surgery is on the horizon for Garnett. Elsewhere, the Bulls looked greatin Game 1, and have obviously gained a ton of confidence through their win in the first game. That confidence could be a lot of trouble for Boston.

-Bulls over Celtics 4-2

Orlando vs. Philadelphia (Sixers ahead 1-0): Don’t be fooled, the Magic haven’t lost anything. And now they’re mad. Philly’s good, but not that good. Dwight Howard is an absolute superstar, and will prove that in the coming games. Expect the Magic to get things on track on Game 2, and eventually take the series. If Orlando can gain some swagger from this series, they could make a long run in the East, maybe even winning it outright.

Magic over Sixers 4-1

Atlanta vs. Miami (Hawks ahead 1-0): I was actually fairly shocked that the Hawks took Game 1. I know that they’re a higher seed, but I banked on Dwyane Wade being far too much for them to handle. This could go seven games, but six is more likely. However, the Heat will take it in the end.

Heat over Hawks 4-2

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WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Los Angeles vs. Utah (Lakers ahead 1-0): The Lakers are a dynamic group, and now that Andrew Bynum is back, they’re going to close to unstoppable. Kobe and Co. will handle the Jazz, likely sweeping them, and then eventually win the West .

-Lakers over Jazz 4-0

Denver vs. New Orleans (Nuggets ahead 1-0): Don’t get me wrong, I really love the Hornets, and Chris Paul. However, they’re one great player away from being an elite team in the conference, maybe even the NBA. Look for the mto make a big splash come free-agency time. But for the time being, Carmelo Anthony and his merry men will likely win this series, but not without a fight from CP3 and Co.

-Nuggets over Hornets 4-2

San Antonio vs. Dallas (Mavs ahead 1-0): This could end up being the most compelling matchup of the first round. The Spurs without Manu Ginobili are not the Spurs at all. Tim Duncan and Tony “Don’t call me Mr. Longoria” Parker can hold their own to a point, but Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry will prove to be too much for the Spurs to take.

-Mavericks over Spurs 4-2

Portland vs. Houston (Rockets ahead 1-0): If Tracy McGrady were playing in this series, I could probably give the Rockets the edge. However, he is not, nor will he be for the remainder of the playoffs. Aaron Brooks will not score 27 points again in this series, but the Blazers will score a ton. The series could go seven games, but Portland will come out on top.

-Trial Blazers over Rockets 4-3

MLB Status Report- 4/19/09

April 20, 2009

AMERICAN LEAGUE:

East:

Toronto Blue Jays (10-4): The Jays are in first place Puckheads! The Leafs might not have made the NHL playoffs, but Canadians have their baseball team to follow now. Roy Halladay has been his normal dominant self, but the rest of the pitching staff has performed beautifully. Offensively, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Marco Scutaro are outdoing any stats that anyone had them pegged for at this point.

New York Yankees (7-6): Everyone had the Yankees in first place from the outset of this season. they’re opening a new stadium, and spent close to half a billion dollars on free agents in the offseason. Those guys haven’t looked especially sharp and neither have the Bronx Bombers as a whole. Nick Swisher, in addition to being the team’s ERA leader, is dominating opposing pitchers and currently leading the Yankees in home runs and RBIs.

Baltimore Orioles (7-6): Who expected the Orioles to be above .500 even at this point? I did. Nick Markakis is flat out raking, and leads MLB in RBIs (16). Once Rich Hill comes back from the DL, and assuming Adam Eaton, Jeremy Guthrie and Mark Hendrickson can get on track, the O’s pitching staff could really turn some heads.

Boston Red Sox (6-6): Kevin Youkilis is second in the AL in batting average, and shows no signs of letting up. The team as a whole has underperformed thus far, but that will not continue for much longer, especially once Josh Beckett has served his 5-game suspension for throwing at Anaheim’s Bobby Abreu.

Tampa Bay Rays (5-8): Last year’s AL champs are in the AL East cellar, which they were no strangers to up until last season. This young club will climb out of the basement soon, and attempt to prove that 2008 was no fluke.

CENTRAL:

Kansas City Royals (7-5): Mark it down now, the Royals will be contenders this seasons.

I know, that sounds insane, but it will happen. The pitching staff is anchored by Gil Meche, who has been severely underrated for his entire career. Zack Greinke is currently 3-0, and has yet to allow a single run this season. Coco Crisp gives the team a legitimate base-stealing threat, and a genuine athlete to patrol center field. if catcher John Buck keeps up his hot hitting, the Royals will be extremely tough to beat.

Detroit Tigers (7-5) : The Tigers are done. They have a wealth of talent, namely Miguel Cabrera. However, they lack the stamina to put together a full season of good ball, and will drop off shortly, and stay dropped off.

Chicago White Sox (7-5): The Sox have the potential to win this division outright if several things happen; One, Mark Buehrle will need to put together a great season (I’m thinking 17-5ish, 3.30 ERA). Second, John Danks will need to be a decent option to follow Buerhle. An 11-6 campaign would be admirable. And finally, Carlos Quentin will need to prove that his 2008 performance was no fluke, and he’s off to a great start so far (6 homers, 11 RBIs).

Minnesota Twins (7-7): I kind of root for the Twins every season, simply because I was always a Kirby Puckett fan growing up. Even with Francisco Liriano healthy and Justin Morneau crushing the ball, this team has no shot of winning the divison.

Cleveland Indians (4-9): This might be one of the biggest shockers so far for me. I figured that the Indians, having competed last season, and signing a seemingly dominant closer on Kerry Wood, would completely dominate the competition so far. Grady Sizemore and Mark DeRosa have looked excellent thus far, but the rest of the Indian offense has been fairly flat. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee has looked merely “ok,” and will need to step it up like crazy if the Tribe want to win this division from KC or Chicago. Will they? My guess is absolutely.

WEST:

Seattle Mariners (8-5): The case here? Great pitching staff and not much else. Felix Hernandez, should he stay healthy, is among the elite pitchers in the AL. Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn round out a pitching staff that could be one of the best in the AL if everything goes well.

Texas Rangers (5-7): Texas scores a slew of runs. The issue is that their pitching staff can’t keep the opposition from doing the same. Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz are killing the ball though, and that could lead to a lot of W’s for the Rangers.

Oakland Athletics (5-7): We’ll see how things go for the A’s for the remainder of the season. Matt Holliday is expected to drastically pick up the offense, but hasn’t been explosive yet. The pitching staff is pieced together, and has no real dominant player. Truly, I would be shocked if this team did not finish in last place in this division, maybe even the AL.

Los Angeles Angels (4-8): The entire team seems flat, but that’s fine. Vlad Guerrero is hurt at the moment, and the rest of the squad is dealing with the death of a teammate (Nick Adenhart). Overall, none of this can be easy. The Angels will come back from this slump and be at the top of this division at season’s end.

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NATIONAL LEAGUE:

EAST:

Florida Marlins (11-1): The Marlins have looked incredible thus far, I’ll admit it. I’m told that their pitching staff is vastly underrated, but I refuse to buy into it. Josh Johnson and Matt Lindstrom could one day be great starting pitchers. Johnson might get there this season, none of the other hurlers will. Luck eventually runs out, and that will happen here. When will they begin their slide? My guess is just prior to the All-Star break, when these young guys will begin to wear down. Elsewhere, Hanley Ramirez is a dynamic player, and could very well be the NL MVP by the end of 2009.

Atlanta Braves (6-6):The Braves are one of the teams in the league that I’m very anxious to watch. Derrick Lowe made their pitching staff legit the moment that he signed. Javier Vasquez will also add a bunch of wins…if he’s the Javier Vasquez of 2007, not 2008. However, Chipper Jones is aging, and often injured, and is no longer the dynamo that he once was. My guess, the Braves will finish third in the division at the end of things this season.

New York Mets (6-6):Mets fans don’t fret. Not yet at least. Johan’s looked pretty good, so have most of the good position players (Carlos Delgado especially). Wait a few weeks and let John Maine and Ollie Perez shake off the rust. Mike Pelfrey has looked merely ok, but should turn things around. I’d expect the Mets to win this division if the pitching staff can get it togehter, which chronically has been their Achilles’ heel. Offensively, I truly expected Daniel Murphy to be the one to get his playing time cut by the Gary Sheffield deal. Instead, Murphy is proving he belongs in the big leagues, leading the team in runs scored, while batting .286.

Philadelphia Phillies (5-6):The defending champs are playing possum, trust me. This team is for real. Very little has changed since I saw them play last season, and they will be a true threat come playoff time, where they will likely win the wild card. The pitching staff has what it takes to hang with anyone, and the offense boasts Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, certainly three players that NO team wants to face.

Washington Nationals (1-10): The Nats are horrendous. Manny Acta has no business being in charge of a professional sorts franchise after what he pulled concerning Elijah Dukes (https://haastilesports.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/the-ridiculous-ity-has-reached-a-limit/).

CENTRAL:

Chicago Cubs (7-4): This is my pick to win the Central, if they can keep the Cardinals and Astros at bay. On paper, this is the strongest team in the Central, and a top club in the MLB overall. The offense is led by Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot, and Derrick Lee. The pitching staff is completely stacked, boasting Rich Harden, Carlos Zambrano, 17-game winner (2008) Ryan Dempster, and the improving Ted Lilly. The bullpen is also strong, and completely capable of holding down a Cubs lead.

St. Louis Cardinals (8-5): A perennial contender, the Cards might not have it this year. Albert Pujols is always electric, and Ryan Lutwick is severely underrated, and an excellent player. Lutwick is currently top three in the NL in batting average, hitting over .400, and tied with Soriano for the NL lead in homers (5). If the pitching staff can hold it together, the Cards could be pretty dangerous down the stretch.

Cincinnati Reds (6-5): Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are a season or so away from being superstars. The Reds pitching staff is among the best on paper in the majors. However, they have a tendency to get mired down, and hitting slumps. If the Reds can get their pitchers on track, this team could be a whole lot of trouble for the other teams in the Central.

Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6): The Bucs are at .500! Stop the presses. No, forget it, that won’t stay the case for very long. Apologies to my buddy Tim, but this year ain’t their year. However, Nate McLouth is a special kind of player, and will be excellent trade bait quite soon.

Milwaukee Brewers (4-8): The Brew Crew have what it takes to be a real thorn in a teams’ side. However, they rarely do so. Sorry Milwaukee, this won’t be your year.

Houston Astros (4-8): This lingering in the basement will not continue for the ‘Stros.There is far too much talent (Berkman, Tejada, Bourn, Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence) here for them to remain mired in the muck. In fact, this team has a great shot of winning the Central…if they play well against Chicago and St. Louis.

WEST:

Los Angeles Dodgers (10-3): The Dodgers have a real shot at not only winning this division, but of aking a deep run into the playoffs. Any team with Joe Torre at the helm is automatically credible. Add Manny Ramirez to the mix, and you’re in truly good shape. With the exception of Manny, the remiander of the teams has no superstar players. Just a ton of really good ones.

San Diego Padres (9-4): If Jake Peavy can win 20 games, this team will be in good shape. However, the Dodgers and Dbacks are going to make it real fight in this division. I always find this division to be a real firefight, and that won’t change this season.

Colorado Rockies (4-7): There’s a ton of talent on this squad, but I can’t see them coming anywhere near the top of this division this season. Maybe with another top flight starter, but not the staff that they currently have. Brad Hawpe is a true talent, and could put up excellent numbers for the remainder of the season.

Arizona Diamondbacks (4-8): This is a team with endless potential, but little drive. They are young, but not hungry. Brandon Webb (though he’s hurt), Dan Haren, and Jon Garland are as good a trio of hurlers s any team can boast. Offensively, Felipe Lopez is a jack-of-all-trades, and Mark Reynolds is going to be a huge power guy in the future. If he can get his batting average up, we’ll be talking about him for years to come.

San Francisco Giants (4-8): I won’t write off the Giants entirely, because they do have a pitching staff with limitless potential. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum could win 20-plus games, no problem. If Barry Zito can dial in his 12-to-6 curveball again, he’ll be practically unhittable. Randy Johnson adds a nearly 7-foot tall intimidation factor, and is still a very good pitcher, though no longer an ace. It will be certainly be interesting to see how things shape up by the bay.