Monday, October 22, 2007

Cleveland Does Not Rock Tonight

I'm imagining Cleveland fans feel much like I did in 2003 - disheartened, angry, confused, stunned, and just generally not sure that it's really all over. After Aaron Boone hit that Tim Wakefield pitch into the left field seats at Yankee Stadium, I sat on my couch, crushed. Unable to move. I stared blankly at the television, then went to bed, then woke up ... and moved right back to the couch, where I sat nearly catatonic until evening rolled around.

It all feels very unfair and unjust and wrong.

From 2004 and now, in 2007, I can tell you it feels very much right when you're on the other side.

An enjoyable series. Can't believe the Sox are back in the World Series. They'd only been once in my memory pre-2004 and now they've been there twice in four years.

Here's the final Useless Countdown update for the all-time LCS records:

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 6.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 21 (0)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 46 (1)
Kenny Lofton, 45 (1)
Derek Jeter, 4

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 81 (1)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (0)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 23 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25 & Manny Ramirez, 25 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
Kenny Lofton, 34 (1)
Bernie Williams, 33
Derek Jeter, 31 & Manny Ramirez, 31 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (0)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (0)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 70 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 60 (1)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New #7 Channels Old #7 For A Night

JD Drew steps up and acts the hero for a night.

Bottom of the first. Bases loaded. No outs. Manny and Lowell coming up. Manny and Lowell sitting down without producing a run. JD Drew steps in. Everyone expects him to do what he's done all year, which is disappoint.

But he doesn't.

He doesn't.

Truth be told, I was happy that he made solid contact. I was hoping it'd find a gap, or catch the wall. Just get us a run. Two would be great. But four? Crazy game.

And Schilling, whose probably barely 80% of what he used to be on the mound, came up huge. Again. Sure, the abundance of runs by the offense helped, but when he was in it bad in the second (two on, no outs), he pitched his way out of it. Gutsy.

So we get a game 7 and we only have to wait until tonight to get it. If nothing else, the Sox and Cleveland have given us a series with some drama - the first of the entire post-season. The "big inning" has been key to this series.

Should be a fun Sunday night.

Here's the Useless Countdown Update.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 6.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 21 (1)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 45 (0)
Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (0)

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 80 (0)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (0)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 22 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 24 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33 & Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 30 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (0)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (0)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 68 (1)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 59 (0)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hype This

I understand why everyone hates the Red Sox. Believe me, I do. In the past several years the Sox have elevated themselves to join the Yanks as Empire clubs who can spend whatever they want to sign whomever they want. It's bad for the game to have an uneven financial playing field - I'd rather the Royals and Pirates had just as solid a chance at making the postseason every year as the Sox and Yanks. That they don't ... well, I'm just glad I grew up in New England, I guess.

I do think, though, that what's led the Sox to become the second Empire Club is having the Yankees as their primeval rival. If it were the Dodgers, and not the Yankees that had sat atop the financial landscape for the past twenty years then it would now be the Giants, and not the Red Sox, that stepped up into the financial P2 slot. Or if Steinbrenner had bought the Mets it would be the Phillies, or the Cardinals if he'd bought the Cubs, and so on. It's one thing to have hated the Yankees while they've been on this run, but when it's your rival doing it ... it stings a bit more and it blends that sting with a shot o' jealousy that almost demands a reaction.

Having sat on that side I can understand now how people look at Sox with hatred and jealousy and want to see the little guys (Cleveland's 2007 payroll is less than half of Boston's) win the Series for a Feel Good Series against the Rockies. FOX does tilt the way they sell the games towards Boston because they're a network interested in ratings and, frankly, just like any professional sports network they'd prefer teams from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston to be prominent. Part of that is the size of the television market and part is a club's history. It's annoying, and ultimately I think it hurts the sport.

Going into Game 5 of the LCS last night, with Cleveland up 3-1 and looking to clinch, most sports fans wanted the Sox to lose. Even if they don't hate the Red Sox they understand the economics and they sense the hype and the East Coast Bias (which you can't really understand the depths of, I don't think, unless you've lived west of Philly) and, frankly, the fans that make up the Red Sox Nation, and they'd just rather not have to deal with it anymore. Better to have the Smiling Racists in.

Especially since they look like the better team.

Fitting that they would have clinched last night and sent the latest Annointed One, Josh Beckett, home with the loss.

Beckett wasn't having any of it.

Not even the Smiling Racists hiring one of Beckett's ex-"galpals," Danielle Peck, to sing the National Anthem and "God Bless America," seemed to cause him a problem. I don't believe the Happy Racists did it purposely, but given they found out about the Peck/Beckett connection prior to the game, it was a cheap move to not make a switch ... if it was a regular season game, fine. But in the playoffs?

Tacky.

That said, it wasn't like Beckett and Peck had either a long-term or dramatic relationship, so I'm not sure it would even be something that could cause a problem. And, really, you can't blame the Racists for not knowing Peck and Beckett dated a few times last year. I mean, she's Danielle Peck. However popular she may be in country music circles she has yet to crossover to a mainstream audience.

Beckett was so locked in last night, though, you probably could've shown his parents having sex on the jumbotron with alien robots and he wouldn't have been flustered. With all the hype about him from the media I half expected him to come out and get bombed. Or lose a 4-3 game where he was good but not great. Wrong. He was epic, again, as he continued to make his case as the best big game pitcher of the moment and CC Sabathia continued to make his case as the next great pitcher to be playoff-challenged (see: Clemens, Roger).

Beckett's line: 8 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks. Pretty good for a guy making less than Gil Meche.

The offense is still way too reliant on Papi-Manny-Lowell, so it was good to see Pedroia and Youk get into the act last night.

Because of Beckett and Youk, we get another game and Schilling gets another crack at beefing up his Hall of Fame resume - which is only going to be considered because of his post-season performance. If Schilling can get the Sox past Fausto Carmona then it comes down to Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game 7 and he can earn his paycheck with that one game.

Here's the Useless Countdown Update. Manny jumps both Jeter and Lofton in Hits and Jeter in RBI.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 5.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 20 (0)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
Manny Ramirez, 45 (2)
Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (1)

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 80 (3)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (1)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Manny, 21 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Lofton, 15 (2)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 30 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 15 (1)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 67 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 59 (1)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Game 5: The Last Red Sox At-Bats for Manny, Lowell, Soggy, Lugo, & Drew?

Let's play the bad analogy game.

Having your team be down 3-1 in a series is a bit like hoping you hit the match on a pinball game so you can get a free credit to keep playing - it's not really likely to happen, but that doesn't mean you don't stand at the machine and wait expectantly for the set of numbers to roll on by. Every once in a while, you get a match and get to keep playing.

Usually, though, you get nothing.

The Sox, unfortunately, have played the last two games like they're waiting around for something to happen for them instead of going out and taking it. They team either looks inept (Lugo, Crisp, Drew), frustrated (Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, Varitek), or just flat-out despondent (Papi). And the pitchers look dazed, helpless. Only Manny, really, seems like his typical self.

And, really, enough with these "Manny doesn't know what's going on" stories. The guy is the second-best right-handed hitter of his generation - he knows perfectly well what's going on. The idea that he's some simple-minded idiot savant is so over-played and insulting. The guy's a bit of a goof but he's not exactly clueless; time and again he gets written and talked about like he's some Baseball Rain Man, up at the plate mumbling "Wapner" and swinging and connecting without realizing he's doing it. Please.

The Sox have to win tonight or the season's over, obviously. Speculation about next season will begin ... well, it's already begun, I suppose. For a team that won 96 games and finished with the best record in baseball, you get the feeling that massive changes are coming.

Or, at least, that everyone would like to see massive changes coming but there's not a whole lot of flexibility - yeah, the Sox have enough money to outspend their problems, but they've been hesitant to pay other teams to take their players. It's possible, even with as bad as the bottom-half of the line-up has been, that the only change we see in the starting 9 (if Lowell is re-signed) is Coco Crisp sent packing. Who the hell is going to be dumb enough to take JD Drew and his 4 years and $60 million remaining? Or Lugo and his 3 years and $27 million?

There will always be trade rumors about Manny, but I think this is the first year in a long time that the team doesn't actively seek to trade him - he's only got 1 guaranteed year left, and unless they somehow acquire another huge bat (by foolishly getting into the A-Rod Auction) there's no reason to move him unless you're going to try and sell the fans on 2008 being a rebuilding year. Which doesn't really seem all that possible, especially with the apparent vulnerability in the Bronx.

Can you tell I really have nothing to say about Game 5? What's there to say? They've got to play better. They've got to get Ellsbury into the line-up. I'm all for loyalty but when Crisp and Drew are giving you nothing ... start the kid. At the very worst he'll inject some life into the line-up.

Here's the Useless Countdown update following Game 4

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 4.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 24 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 20 (1)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44 & Kenny Lofton, 44 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 43 (2)


TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 77 (5)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 10 (1)
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20 & Manny, 20 (1)
Lofton, 15 (2)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (0)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 33 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 29 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 14 (1)
Derek Jeter, 13
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
Manny Ramirez, 66 (2)
Derek Jeter, 64
Kenny Lofton, 58 (1)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wrong Question? Beckett. Right Question? Ellsbury.


Game 3 was one of those dreadful Red Sox games where you knew the game was over the second Coco Soggy (clever! witty! huzzah!) grounded into that double play to end the second inning. (Can Coco Crisp do anything at the plate other than ground out to shortstop?) Bases loaded, no outs, then Tek pops up and Crisp gets doubled up and the game is over.

There's a lot to get angry about but the most glaring problem is that the entire bottom of the line-up is filled with dead men walking: Drew (who can only ground out to first), Tek, Crisp, Lugo. Horrendous. There's no energy, no life. Just frustration on our part watching guys who are too comfortable go out and suck up the night.

So of course what ESPN wants to talk about to lead off SportsCenter is whether Terry Francona is making a mistake in not starting Beckett tonight on three day's rest. Three days rest almost never works and yet the media always wants to talk about it. It's silly and stupid. Beckett can, at most, only pitch you to two more wins, so you're going to need Wake or Schil or Matsuzaka to win a game. Wake's rested. Start him. If he's not a guy you can trust to win this game for you (he did win 17 games this season) then he shouldn't be on the playoff roster.
Obviously, Wake's not as good as Beckett (there's a reason he's the #4 starter), but better to take the chance he can outpitch Paul Byrd than outpitch Sabathia or Carmona.

No, the real question people should be asking is why is the team's second best OF sitting on the bench when Coco Crisp and JD Drew are out there looking hapless and hopeless. Neither of them even looks like they want to play and while you can't read too much into body language, you can read plenty into .227.

Which they're both hitting this postseason.

They've combined for only:

1) 10 hits - all singles except for one double by Soggy, which means Drew, the team's #6 hitter, has a slugging percentage that's NO HIGHER than his batting average. That's the very definition of suckage.

2) 5 RBIs (3 for Drew).

3) 1 walk (Soggy).

They're not alone in their postseason steamer, either. Tek and Pedroia are hitting .160. Lugo's at .238.

Yeah, how is this team still playing?

Get Ellsbury in the line-up. He'll add some life to a lifeless bottom half of the line-up.

Here's the post-Game 3 Useless Countdown update. Jeter held off Manny and Lofton everywhere except in Times on Base, where Manny caught him, but is vulnerable to be passed tonight in Runs, Hits, and RBIs. The good news for Jeter, though, is that he apparently still leads the league in postseason threesomes.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated in Game 3.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 23 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 19 (0)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44
Kenny Lofton, 43 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 41 (1)


TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 72 (1)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9 & Manny Ramirez, 9 (0)

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
Manny, 19 (0)
Lofton, 15 (2)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 22 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 14 (1)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 32 (0)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 28 (1)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter & Manny Ramirez, 13 (0)
Kenny Lofton, 11 (1)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
4th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 64 & Manny Ramirez, 64 (2)
Kenny Lofton, 57 (1)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Only Stupid People Will Vote The Ohio State #1 This Week

College football polls in October are next to meaningless. There's no reason to get excited or blow a vessel because your favorite team is ranked higher or lower than where you think it should be or could be or would be if this or that one play could be changed.

If CFB has proven anything this year it's that everything is going to get mangled. The #1 and #2 teams both lost this week - LSU to Kentucky and Cal to Oregon State. Which means the top 3 teams next week are likely to be Ohio State, Boston College, and South Florida.

The pollsters have done a good job this year reorganizing and reevaluating their polls each week
and this week provides another opportunity. If the AP simply slides winning teams up in the position they're in, the Buckeyes are going to be #1, the Eagles will be #2, and the Bulls will be #3.

That would be wrong outcome.

In looking at what TOSU, BC, and USF have done this season, I don't see how anyone can honestly vote Ohio State #1 this week over South Florida. Here's who the Buckeyes have beat: Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, and Kent State. I'll give them credit for going on the road and beating the Huskies and Boilermakers, but both of those teams are average, at best.

South Florida, on the other hand, has beat Elon, Auburn, North Carolina, West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, and Central Florida. Auburn was 17th at the time and WVU 5th.

You might not like that South Florida has only been around for just over a decade but they've got the better resume. Ohio State hasn't done anything to warrant being ranked ahead of South Florida. Maybe they will when it's all said and done, but right now, USF should be the #1 ranked team in the country.

Weird.

Ugly One Gets Away

What an awful game. Cleveland 13, Sox 6. Few losses are more aggravating for me than an extra-innings blowout. Especially an American League playoff game that's 34 hours long to begin with and ends with team fan whipping gnome Eric Gagne digging the hole that former fan favorite Trot Nixon fills in.

Oh yeah, and it takes place after one in the frigging morning.

I'm going to love watching Scott Boras try to sell teams on Eric Gagne this off-season.

Here's the Useless Countdown update after Game Two. Manny passed Jeter in Total Bases and Walks. moved into a tie with him in extra base hits, and tied Bernie for first on the all-time LCS HR list. Lofton tagged him a bit of Jeter's hide, as well, passing him on the singles list.

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Bernie. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated Friday night in Game 1.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 22 (0)
Manny Ramirez, 19 (1)


HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44
Kenny Lofton, 42 (1)
Manny Ramirez, 40 (1)


TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
Manny Ramierez, 71 (4)
Derek Jeter, 68

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9 & Manny Ramirez, 9 (1)

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
Manny, 19 (3)
Lofton, 13 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
Manny Ramirez, 21 (1)
Derek Jeter, 20
Kenny Lofton, 13 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
Kenny Lofton, 32 (1)
Derek Jeter, 31
Manny Ramirez, 27 (0)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter & Manny Ramirez, 13 (1)
Kenny Lofton, 10 (0)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
4th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 64
Manny Ramirez, 62 (2)
Kenny Lofton, 56 (1)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Josh Beckett is Not Remotely Interested in Being Average

Sox 10, Smiling Racists 3. The game was the fun kind of boring once Mike Lowell doubled Youk and Papi in - not too much suspense but Beckett's big-time performance and the offensive attack (all starters managed a hit) kept my attention without keeping me riveted.

I'll take that every night.

Two big stories emerge from the game: Beckett and the Papi/Manny Show.

Tom Verducci has a great slurp-job on Josh Beckett up at SI.com that I'm not going to compete with; you want the historical skinny on Beckett, check it out.

Here's what I think about Beckett: in the context of Red Sox pitchers, he's not as dominant as Clemens and he's not as dazzling as Pedro, but he's quickly, efficiently making the case that he's a better big game pitcher than either of them. Clemens' post-season failures are well-documented, and Petey was great so long as he didn't have to face the Yankees, but Beckett is something different. With Clemens I waited for something bad to happen and with Petey it was the same when the Sox played the Yanks. Both guys inspired confidence in the regular season but they weren't able to translate that into the playoffs.

The post-game didn't change things. Clemens always seemed on the verge of going crackers and always had an excuse (hamstring, usually). Pedro always seemed like the game was an interlude in the crazy-ass party that was his life. Beckett? Focused. He's not interested in whatever games the media wants to play, he's not interested in patting himself on the back, he doesn't come across like he's on his way to the bars. Heck, he doesn't even sound like he's having fun; it's business and he's completely locked in.

One of the most overused phrases in baseball is "professional hitter," which always gets slapped on guys like Matt Stairs and Harold Baines but Papi and Manny were professional hitters all night. They displayed the kind of discipline that makes them who they are as hitters - they make you come to them, make you throw the pitch they want to hit. If you don't give in to them, they'll take the walk, get on base, and let the guys behind them do the damage.

Hell, Manny picked up two RBIs on the night on bases loaded walks after getting down 0-2 in both counts. If I'm a Cleveland fan, I'm screaming "Throw a strike!" at my television set during those at-bats.

10-for-10.

Manny and Papi came up ten times on the night and they reached base all ten times.

People love to overstate things come playoff time but it's just one game. Cleveland's still going to throw Sabathia and Carmona three more times in this series (if it goes 7) so Friday was a great start. But anyone thinking this series is over is just wrong.

Hard to have a better opening game, though.

The Useless Countdown Juego Uno Update: 12 Balls for Manny

Here's the current update on the quests of Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez to unseat Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams on the All-Time LCS records list. It was a big night for Manny - 2 hits, 3 walks, 2 runs, 3 RBIs. He moved into a tie with Jeter on the all-time walks list

Red signifies a failure to pass Jeter or Berine. Blue signifies moving into a tie. Green signifies a pass achieved in this series. Parenthetical indicates the stats accumulated Friday night in Game 1.

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
Kenny Lofton, 22 (0) Manny Ramirez, 18 (2)

HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44
Kenny Lofton, 41 (2) Manny Ramirez, 39 (2)

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 68
Manny Ramierez, 67 (2)

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 8 (0)

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
Manny, 16 (3) Lofton, 13 (0)

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
7th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20 & Manny Ramirez, 20 (3)
Kenny Lofton, 13 (0)

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
3rd place all-time: Jeter & Lofton, 31
Manny Ramirez, 27 (2)

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 13
Manny Ramirez, 12 (0)
Kenny Lofton, 10 (2)


TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
4th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 64
Manny Ramirez, 60 (5)
Kenny Lofton, 55 (2)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Useless Countdown Targets Bernie Williams & Derek Jeter

As a Red Sox fan I've seen way too much of Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter over the years. I've got a lot of respect for the two guys, and looking through the all-time LCS records it's not hard to see the impact they had on all those Yankees' titles and title-runs.

Still, they are Yankees and with the possible end to the Torre Era, it'll be a bit of cheezy fun to watch them possibly slide down the all-time rankings list. Part of the reason they're on the list, of course, is that they were/are on a dominant team with the most LCS opportunities. The LCS originated in 1969 as a five-game series and expanded to seven games in 1985, giving Bernie, Jeter, and the Yanks an advantage here over previous generations. (I'm not taking anything away from them, though - they earned their chances be being so darn good for so darn long.)

The two prime assailants of Bernie & Jeter's rankings are Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez. Here are the categories and the relative rankings:

RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 31
2nd all-time: Derek Jeter, 25
4th place all-time: Kenny Lofton, 22
out of top 10: Manny Ramirez, 16

If Kenny Lofton scores 10 runs in this series, well, that would be a whole lot. Bernie, again, seems safe, but Jeter is in jeopardy. Three to tie, four to pass; if Lofton starts every game he should achieve these goals. Manny is pretty doubtful.

HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 52
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 44
6th place all-time: Kenny Lofton, 39
8th place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 37

Are you starting to realize just how good Bernie Williams was for the Yankees? Bernie's safety seems assured here, as well, but Jeter is certainly in range of both players.

TOTAL BASES
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 89
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 68
4th place all-time: Manny Ramierez, 65

Twenty-five total bases in 7 games seems less than easy. Manny will not only have to have a monster series against the Smiling Racists to catch Bernie, he'll need the series to go seven games. He can pass Jeter with one single little home run. So get on that, Manny.

Here's the rest of the categories sans comment:

HOME RUNS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 9
3rd place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 8

RBI
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
6th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
out of top 10: Manny & Lofton, 13

WALKS
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 25
7th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 20
9th place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 17
out of top 10: Kenny Lofton, 13

SINGLES
2nd place all-time: Bernie Williams, 33
3rd place all-time: Jeter & Lofton, 31
10th place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 25

EXTRA-BASE HITS
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 19
3rd place all-time: Derek Jeter, 13
6th place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 12
out of top 10: Kenny Lofton, 8

TIMES ON BASE
1st place all-time: Bernie Williams, 78
4th place all-time: Derek Jeter, 64
6th place all-time: Manny Ramirez, 55
9th place all-time: Kenny Lofton, 53

The Useless Countdown is going all out because it's the playoffs. And we're trying it's trying to wash out the taste of Orlando Cabrera's relenting pursuit of Tim McCarver.

Have the Playoffs Started Yet?

Well, that was a disappointing first round of the playoffs. What looked like four intriguing series turned into four routs, so while an individual game here or there had some drama there was none in any series.

There shouldn't be a sweep in either Championship series - the Rockies and Diamondbacks and the Indians and Red Sox seem well-matched to deliver two tight series. Arizona has the edge in pitching and the Rockies in hitting; I think Zona is the more consistent team but Colorado the more explosive team. In a 7-game series that should favor the Diamondbacks but would you bet against the Rockies right now? I'll be rooting for Colorado because it's always fun to see a new team in the World Series. And a Colorado WS appearance is the only thing that's going to save us from FOX totally overblowing their coverage of either Cleveland or Boston.

Because the DBacks are a pretty dull team. There's not a lot of storylines FOX can sell with Arizona:

"Hey, did you know Tony Clark is STILL PLAYING?"

"Brandon Webb! How long until the Yankees buy him?"

"Come watch the Drew brother that doesn't suck!"

So that means we'll get a 100 stories of that wacky Eric Byrnes. Do you want that? Because I don't. As much fun as it is watching Byrnes play the game, it's equally as irritating watching him do anything off the baseball field. He's one of these "personalities" (like Warren Sapp, Jeremy Roenick, and Michaels Waltrip, Irvin, and Strahan) that gets shoved down our collective television-throats because they're projected to be TV commentators as soon as they're done playing.

Because they're colorful. And they'll "say anything." And they make people who like Jeannie Zelasko and Stuart Scott giggle.

So, yeah, go Rockies. (Of course, it's really too bad that the Rockies couldn't have done this last year before the Colts won the Super Bowl just for all the humor that could have been derived wondering if an ex-Tennessee QB was finally going to win something that mattered ...)

By the way, I think TBS' game coverage has been pretty good, so far (with the exception of the embarrassment that is Frank Thomas in the studio) but if they give us Wacky Byrnes as a means of selling the NLCS I'm going to deduct points.

I think the ALCS sets up for some damn good baseball. Both teams can pitch, hit for power, run, play defense ... we shouldn't see too many 8-2 games. There's no great insight here but I think the series is going to come down to how well Sabathia and Carmona pitch to Ortiz and Lowell. If the Indians' two big starters can put the clamps on Papi and Manny then the Indians should win; if they can't then the Sox should take the series. I think it's really that simple - for that not to hold we'd either need to see an offensive explosion by the Indians to off-set the Papi-Manny attack, or someone else in the Sox line-up would have to step up.

Other than Mike Lowell, I don't think that man exists in the Sox line-up. After what Papi and Manny did to the Angels, though, you have to wonder if the Indians will simply by-pass them to pitch to Lowell. It'd be a high-risk strategy - putting more men on base for a guy who hit .324 and drove in 120 runs (more than either Papi or Manny) but common sense says you'd rather pitch to Mike Lowell than Manny Ramirez, right?

Francona has moved Schilling up to pitch Game 2 of the series and I think it's a panic move. Yeah, Schilling is the better pitcher, but the way things line up now Schil would pitch Game 6 and not Game 7 and Matsuzaka would pitch Game 7. Even before that, I'd rather have Schilling as the back-stop in Game 3, the first game in Cleveland. I'd like Schilling in the match-up against Jake Westbrook and if the Sox are down 0-2, Schil can put the Sox back in the series; if they're tied 1-1 or up 2-0 he can put them in charge.

Should be two fun series. I think predictions are pretty meaningless, but I'm thinking Rockies in 6 and Sox in 7.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Orlando Cabrera Defies the Useless Countdown

Orlando Cabrera did not pass Tim McCarver on the all-time Home Run List. No, instead of breaking the record, Cabrera decides to hold us all hostage until next year. Good job, O. Maybe we won't even remember your silly little pursuit next year.

Or maybe you'll rub it in everyone's face and hit a HR a game in the playoffs.

In a weird occurrence of statistical convergence, both Chase Utley and David Wright ended the season with 97 career HRs, tied with Cabrera, McCarver, Cap Anson, and John Vander Wal.

Maybe we'll follow their pursuit of Orlando Cabrera next season. Bet they don't go over a month without knocking one out.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Poll Busting Saturday

How many top 13 teams can possibly lose in a weekend of college football?

Seven, apparently.

Oklahoma (3), Florida (4), West Virginia (5), Texas (7), Rutgers (10), Oregon (11), and Clemson (13) all fell this past weekend, meaning your CFB Poll this week could very well see Kentucky and South Florida in the top 10. Of course, all those losses will probably allow the ridiculous SEC and Big-12 sympathizers to keep UF and Oklahoma in the top 10 ... I'm sure there will be countless ballots turned in this week that have Oklahoma still ranked over Colorado, Florida over Auburn, West Virginia over South Florida, Texas over Kansas State, Rutgers over Maryland, and Clemson over Georgia Tech. A large block of voters will probably hammer Oregon, even though the Duckies lost to 6th ranked Cal. Instead of breaking down the games, then, I thought I'd take a look at the above pairings to see if their expected poll outcomes will be justified.

1. Oklahoma over Colorado. Yes, but it's closer than you might think. The Sooners are now 4-1 and the Buffs 3-2, but Colorado has the bigger win and their losses were to Arizona State and Florida State, both of whom are likely to be ranked in the top 25 this week, and Oklahoma's wins are over North Texas, Miami, Utah State, and Tulsa.

2. Florida over Auburn. Yes, but again, it's closer than what AU will likely get credit for. They're now 3-2 to Florida's 4-1, but one of their losses was a 3-point OT defeat to South Florida, a team that just took out the 5th ranked team in the nation, and they do have a victory over Kansas State, who just pumped the 7th ranked Longhorns in Austin.

3. West Virginia over South Florida. No. Any voter who doesn't jump South Florida into the top 10 this week is a moron. They deserve to be ranked ahead of every one-loss team in the country.

4. Texas over Kansas State. No. K State's non-UT wins are admittedly weak (San Jose State and Missouri State) but their one loss is on the road to Auburn. UT, meanwhile, has not played well most of the season, struggling against Arkansas State and Central Florida, though they do have a Top 25 win over TCU. Still, beating Texas by 20 on the road is more impressive than beating TCU by 21 at home, so the Wildcats deserve to be ranked ahead of Texas.

5. Rutgers over Maryland. Push. Look, Rutgers is going to get absolutely hammered in the polls this week because they're Rutgers and most voters are old boy traditionalists who don't like new teams messing up traditional looking polls. Honestly, though, even though few of them will take it into account, they'll be right to hammer Rutgers. Victories over Buffalo, Navy, and Norfolk State and a loss at home to a two-loss Maryland do not a top 25 team make. Maryland's other two victories are against Florida International and Villanova, which doesn't count for anything, but their two losses are to West Virginia and Wake Forest. Neither Rutgers or Maryland should be ranked next week.

6. Cal over Oregon. Of course, but the Ducks should be rewarded in the polls by not being unfairly hammered. They lost to a top 6 team. There's no reason they shouldn't remain among the top one-loss teams in the country.

7. Clemson over Georgia Tech. Yes. Ga Tech hasn't beat anyone, and Clemson, at least, has beat Florida State. Clemson should probably just remain inside the top 25 - at least until they lose to Va Tech next week.

If I had a vote in a poll this week, I'd submit the following top ten ballot:

1. Cal
2. LSU
3. USC
4. South Florida
5. The Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Boston College
8. Kentucky
9. Florida
10. Oklahoma

Orlando Cabrera's Last Chance to Not Let the Useless Countdown Down

Today is the final day of the 2007 MLB regular season.*

Orlando Cabrera has stood on the brink of history for 39 days, needing only one HR to pass Tim McCarver on the all-time HR list.

Orlando, hit a home run. By all that's holy, hit a home run today so we can put this ridiculously contrived countdown to bed. Because I'll be honest, we starting a new ridiculously contrived countdown as soon as your season is finished. You can be with us, or against us.

Your call.

*In the American League, at least. Depending on what happens in the NL today they could be playing until Wednesday to figure out who makes the playoffs.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Not That It's Not Worth Popping Some Bubbly ...

... but how can anyone really get excited about winning the division?

The Sox have been in first place every day since April. Is winning the AL East suddenly a surprise?

Yeah, the Sox clinched the AL East for the first time in 12 years but they did win a World Series a few years ago from the Wild Card slot. In the era of the Wild Card I'm not sure winning a division really means anything except a chance to hawk a few extra t-shirts. All that matters is you get into the playoffs.

They've known they were in the playoffs for a few days and I'm OK with the team blowing off some steam and all, but is anyone going to think this is enough?

On winning the division, John Henry said, "It's as good as it gets."

No, it's really not.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

59 is the New 107

Syracuse has jumped up to #59 in the latest SI.com rankings.

Not exactly a reason to dance on the ceiling or anything, but when you've been ranked in triple digits and you almost half the chart in one week ... a little celebrating ain't a bad thing.

I'm still pretty stunned by the victory - maybe not as stunned as the Jose Mourinho sacking/resigning/mutually agreed divorce but certainly more surprised than seeing Manny back in the starting line-up tonight and batting second.

The thing about big upsets is that you never really know which team it says more about - the team that pulled the upset or the team that took it on the chin. I know it will sound pessimistic but
don't we have to think this was more about Louisville being awful than Syracuse being good give what had happened the previous two weekends?

The Ville (the dumbest self-appointed nickname of a college in history) was beaten by Kentucky and allowed 40-something points to Middle Tennessee State. The Cuse (okay, this might actually only sound better than "the Ville" because I went there ...) got rolled by Illinois and Iowa, two middle-of-the-road teams in a middle-of-the-road conference.

That's not to say there isn't reason for optimism on the Hill. Andrew Robinson finally got some protection from his offensive line and the WRs finally did some catching.

Amazing what happens when people actually do their job.

Robinson had his best game of his short career and proved, I think, that he's a QB you can build a winning team around.

What I liked best about the game, however, is that it finally looked like the coaching staff came up with a game plan to win a game instead of a game plan to not lose. I'd much rather see these guys go down swinging than playing everything cautious. Next up is the Ohio version of Miami on Saturday, which should allow this team to continue to improve offensively.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

C'mon, Get Happy

Despite playing like a team that had been eliminated back in July the past few weeks the Red Sox became the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff spot Saturday night after coming back to win a game in the 9th that they blew in the 7th.

It's good to know the team didn't do much celebrating over clinching a playoff spot because anything short of making the World Series is going to be seen as a disappointment.

If the AL shakes out like it almost certainly will, with the Sox, Yanks, Smiling Racists, and Angels making the playoffs there's no clear cut favorite so it's there for any of them. Cleveland might be happy to just be back in the playoffs but none of the other three are going to be happy with anything less than a World Series appearance.

The Sox are the first in the playoffs - here's hoping they're not the first out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I Think It's Fair to Say No One Saw This Coming

Syracuse 38.
Louisville 35.


Yeah, I think I'll just let that soak in for a while.

A Trick of Hats!

When the top team in the league and the second-to-bottom team in the league square off, you expect just what Arsenal and Derby County delivered on Saturday - a 5-0 thrashing by the Gunners. Emmanuel Adebayor had a hat trick as Arsenal thoroughly dominated the overmatched Rams at the Emirates.

Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas added the additional goals, and Theo Walcott was highly impressive as he logged his most minutes of the Premiership season. At least, Walcott was 75% impressive - his dribbling, his speed, his moves ... all good. His finishing? Not good.

Arsenal plays next on Tuesday night in a third round Carling Cup match against Newcastle United at the Emirates. Because, apparently, Arsenal gets to play all of their matches at home this year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Now That's How You Start a Competition

In one of the more interesting opening matches in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Sevilla 3-0 behind goals from Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, and Eduardo at Emirates Stadium. (Which can't be called Emirates Stadium during Champions League matches because Emirates isn't a UEFA sponsor but an Arsenal sponsor. Silly.)

Fabregas is playing out of his mind right now. After a brilliant offensive performance on Saturday against Tottenham, Fabregas was the beneficiary of a bit of luck on his goal. His shot struck a defender on the way towards goal and was misdirected past the Sevilla keeper. Fabregas contributed to the second goal, as well, sending a free-kick into the box that was deflected by Sagna and kicked home by van Persie.

Though it's not something that shows up in the scoring table, Alexander Hleb continues to pass the ball extremely well in the midfield.

-- And in late-breaking news (meaning, I'm just seeing it as I write this) Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has quit the club. Chelsea's been struggling in the Premiership this season; they currently reside in 5th place, though they're only 2 points off league-leading Arsenal.

Eric Gagne Sucks at His Job

When people thought the Eric Gagne acquisition was the MLB trading deadline deal that would have the biggest impact on the season, I don't think anyone meant that it would turn out like this.

Eric Gagne has fallen. Unquestionably, unmistakably, epically.

From "Guy Who Clinches World Series for Red Sox" to "Guy Who Will Be Lucky to Make Post-Season Roster."

Eric Gagne has flat-out sucked since coming over from Texas and real consideration has to now be given to whether he deserves a place on the playoff roster. (Of course, that assumes he's not going to choke away a total collapse that keeps the Sox out of the playoffs.) Last night Gagne was up to his red-socked tricks, blowing a 2-1 lead as the Sox lost 4-3 to the Blue Jays in Toronto. Everyone blows leads, of course, but it's how Gagne does it that's infuriating. After getting the first two batters out, Gagne walked Frank Thomas, gave up a single to Aaron Hill, walked Matt Stairs (after having him 0-2), walked Greg Zaun (Greg Frickin' Zaun) to let in the game-tying run, and then allowed a double to Russ Adams to let in Toronto's two final runs.

Last night was a try-out for Gagne. From Gordon Edes piece in today's Boston Globe:

"There were a lot of reasons to keep [Gagne] out there and pitch and have success," said Francona, explaining why he took the long view and stayed with Gagné even as the wheels came off, and even though he had Jonathan Papelbon warming up. "If it doesn't work, it hurts. It hurts all of us. I think it's the right thing to do. That doesn't make it easier." Moments later, the manager reflected on the same theme. "That's why we stay with him," said Francona. "We believe, even when other people don't or it's hard to believe. I think that's part of why we are successful. It certainly doesn't feel like it tonight."

Is he going to get a spot in the playoff bullpen? I think it depends on just how many pitchers the Sox take into October with them. Here are the nine automatics: Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Wakefield, Papelbon, Okajima, Timlin, Tavarez, Delcarmen. That leaves likely two spots for Buchholz, Corey, Gagne, Hansack, Lester, Lopez, and Snyder. One of the spots is likely going to Lopez - he's left-handed, which helps, and he's been quietly consistent though not spectacular this season (his 3.05 & 25 Ks are solid, but his 17 walks in 38 innings is disturbing). I'd guess Lester is out because they won't need a 5th starter. It's going to come down to Buchholz, Snyder, and Gagne - and likely in that order.

I just can't see putting a guy on the post-season roster that you don't have any faith in. Gagne hadn't pitched with a lead in a month before last night and if you can't trust a guy with a lead you don't need him around. If there is any mop-up duty to do in the post-season the Sox have Wakefield, Tavarez, and Snyder to do it.

Gagne's got two weeks to get it together, but I can't see Francona putting him back in a game to protect a lead until a playoff spot is clinched. (Magic number is 4, by the way, though that's in regards to the Tigers and the Wild Card spot and not to the Yanks and the division.) Putting Gagne on the playoff roster at this point would look like the team trying to protect its image in making the deal in the first place, which would be silly.

Trading for Gagne was the right move. Leaving him off the playoff roster would be the right move, too.

Embrace It

I'll be honest - you wouldn't have wanted to watch the Sunday Night game between the Pats and Chargers with me this past week. Besides what was sure to have been a mind-warping display of channel flipping between the Pats game on NBC and the Sox game on ESPN during commercials, I didn't see much use for playful banter and idle chit-chat during the game.

There was a fist pump or two, a solitary clap here or there, but for the bulk of the night it was eyes locked on screen, absorbing the meaningful (the blitz pick-ups by the Pats O-Line and backs) and the meaningless (body language), the serious (Randy Moss' route-running) and the silly (Shawne Merriman's Shawne Merriman-ness).

The idea that Sunday Night was a referendum on the whole of New England's last seven years was absurd, and yet because the national media are such small-thinking donkeys there was an element of that in the build-up to the game. The Pats were going to be the #1 sports story on Monday no matter how they performed and reactions would be drawn to sharply based on one game.

Because that's all it was. One game. In week two.

What did we learn? We learned that two weeks into the season the Patriots are worlds better than the San Diego Not-So-Super Chargers.

Beyond that? Not much.

You can say we learned there are still two great superpowers in the NFL and they play in Indianapolis and Foxboro, but deep down you already knew that as much as you might have not wanted to admit it. There are plenty of teams that can beat either of those teams. But beat them back-to-back in January? With both games likely on the road?

Not bloody likely.

What we learned about the Patriots Sunday Night is that they're not going to turn on their coach. That, instead, they are going to rally around him. You're going to hear lots of "We don't get the respect we deserve" and "We don't care what anyone outside this locker room thinks" over the next five months. Say what you want about the Patriots but ever since the Brady/Bledsoe Dust settled this team has been consistently on the same page.

They're still there. It's the right attitude, too; instead of trying to run from their newfound "bad-boy" image, the Patriots continue to use anything and everything to their emotional bonding with one another. You get the feeling that they can take even the smallest hint of a gentle breeze and turn it into a hurricane sent by God to destroy them.

And what's most encouraging is that you already see Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas and Wes Welker speaking in Patriot Dialect.

There's a long way to go, however, so I wish people would stop awarding the Pats the Lombardi Trophy.

Enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sports Illustrated Refuses to Acknowledge the Great Pumpkin Reality

I really don't know what to say about this other than to just say it.

SI.com has kept the Orange ranked #107 for the second week in a row, despite getting pumped by Illinois.

Maybe Cuse has hit the bottom of their personal barrel. Maybe SI.com simply refuses to rank a BCS conference team any lower. Maybe people are just looking at the final scores and nothing more.

If you are a fan of Tulane, Louisiana Lafayette, San Jose State, Army, Toledo, Louisiana Monroe, North Texas, Rice, Northern Illinois, Temple, Florida International, or Utah State, I'm sorry. Cuse has certainly performed worse than at least half of you and yet, no drop in the rankings. At very least Cuse should drop below Northern Illinois simply because of the uniforms and Army just because of patriotism.

Maybe that's the bigger question - Why does Sports Illustrated hate America?

We Pose the Ridiculous Question. You Decide.

In other Pumpkin news, the Cuse is a 37-point underdog to Louisville this week. THIRTY. SEVEN. POINT. DOG. To a team that has so far showed it is completely incapable of playing defense.

What's the most frustrating (and this took a few minutes to decide because there are so many frustrating things going on with the Pumpkins this season) is that, as Dave Rahme so excellently pointed out in the Post-Standard, G-Rob is STILL playing the final Paul Pasqualoni recruits more than he's playing his own recruits:

"It is time to end the debate. The Syracuse University football team, featuring a starting lineup with 16 players recruited by Paul Pasqualoni's staff (before the injury to center Marvin McCall) and only six recruited by Greg Robinson's staff, is ranked No. 116 in the nation in offense among the 119 teams that play Division I-A football. [...] It is time for him to begin to work the players he has recruited into the lineup. Yes, there is the delicate matter of team chemistry. Juniors and seniors who paid their dues should not be thrown under the bus. But they must move over - especially on the offensive line and at linebacker but everywhere, really - and allow their younger teammates to gain significant game experience in some kind of rotation."

There's no way to know just how good G-Rob is doing at recruiting than to actually allow these players onto the field. Andrew Robinson is not a bad QB, but the pieces that have surrounded him so far this season (with the slight exception of Curtis Brinkley) have let him down. Get the kids on the field - it's not like things could get worse.

Orlando Cabrera Tells the Useless Countdown to Kiss His What?


Orlando Cabrera has 12 games to hit one home run to pass Tim McCarver on the all-time list. Cabrera, for those paying attention, is taking his sweet ass time getting this monumental achievement accomplished. He hasn't hit a home run in any of his last 24 games.

Since Cabrera's last home run, Hillary Clinton has announced how to fix the U.S. Healthcare system, Fred Thompson has announced he's running for President, Cristiano Ronaldo went on a hooker binge, the VMAs become officially irrelevant, Bill Belichick's entire coaching history has been put under a dark cloud, Notre Dame has trotted out 3 QBs who all suck because the O-Line couldn't block a group of extras from Friday Night Lights, and sliced bread was, in fact, invented.

The Angels have 12 games left. Get it done, Orlando. We have plenty of meaningless football non-records to follow and you're mucking up the works.

And He Thinks, "Why Not?"

Here's visual evidence of Emmanuel Adebayor's goal from Arsenal Saturday's derby against Tottenham. I think what makes it even better is the call from the announcers. Wouldn't it be nice, just once, to hear Dick Vitale talk with this kind of understated awe?



Adebayor's goal shouldn't make anyone overlook how poorly the defense played, which will need to step up big against Sevilla tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Know It Meant More to the Yankees, But Did You Have to Play Like It?

What to make of this weekend's Pilgrims v. Highlanders series at the Fens that saw the Yanks take 2-of-3 from the Sox and pull to within 4 1/2 games of the AL East lead?

The positive: the Sox lost two games by one run without having Manny Ramirez in the line-up.

The negative: The Yanks' bullpen looks like it's solidifying with the addition of Joba Chamberlain, while the Sox bullpen looks cooked with a gassed Okajima, an aging Timlin, and a lost-in-plain-sight Eric Gagne.

The positive: Josh Beckett embraces the challenge of the big game and looks ready to be the team's #1 starter in the post-season.

The negative: Daisuke Matsuzaka has hit the wall and might as well be shut down until the post-season gets here.

The positive: Lots of runs on Saturday and lots of working the count all three nights.

The negative: Without Manny in the Middle this team is going to struggle to score runs against the top pitchers they're going to face in October. Heck, even with Manny this isn't a team (like the Yanks are) that can count on going out and bludgeoning teams.

The positive: Forget 2008, Jacoby Ellsbury should be starting in CF or RF right now.

The negative: JD Drew, JD Drew, JD Drew, JD Drew, and Jason Varitek's bat. Drew and Tek came up countless times with men on this weekend and it seemed that neither was able to do anything more at grounding out to first base. Varitek shouldn't play more than every other day for the rest of the regular season.

In all, it was a blah weekend at the Fens. The Sox could have put the Yanks away, but they didn't, and now the Yanks seem just as likely to make the playoffs. And honestly, it doesn't look like the Sox want any part of the Yankees again this season.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A National Joke

No disrespect to Illinois, who truly looks like they've got things headed in the right direction, but Syracuse football is officially the worst team in college football.

The Pumpkins probably had it locked up with their 41-20 loss to the Illini (the Cuse scored 10 meaningless points to end the game), but with Duke's 20-14 victory over Northwestern, there's little doubt that Syracuse University fields the most irrelevant BCS football squad in the country.

You have to be careful to not read too much into score totals, but here are the facts. Last year Syracuse lost to Iowa 20-13, this year they lost 35-0. Last year they beat Illinois 31-21, this year they lost by 21. You can't spell "going in the wrong direction" without "G-R-E-G R-O-B-I-N-S-O-N."

Oh yeah, and Iowa lost to Iowa State last night - the same Iowa State team that was ranked 106th last week by Si.com.

So if you're paying attention - the team ranked 106th (Iowa State) won this week, and the team ranked 108th (Duke) won this week, but the team ranked 107th played like being ranked 107th was generous.

Worse, there were references and snide remarks all over the college map (from ESPN and CBS) announcers that Syracuse was the worst team in D-1 football. So in case you were wondering, Daryl Gross, if people were paying attention to this joke of a squad you run out on the field each week, the answer is yes.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

High Flying Derby Act


Arsenal traveled to White Hart Lane to take on rival Tottenham in the season's first north London derby and came away with a 3-1 victory in a wild match against the Spurs.

The Gunners created as many opportunities for themselves on offense as they gave up on defense. Trailing 1-0 after a gorgeous free kick-goal by Gareth Bale, Arsenal sent wave after wave at Tottenham using crisp passing to create scoring opportunities.

The stars of the game for Arsenal were Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas, who not only scored the three goals but dominated the offensive end. Adebayor's first goal was headed in off a Fabregas free-kick in the 65th minute. It was the next two goals that were true highlight material. In the 80th minute Fabregas drilled home a goal from 30 yards out and then in stoppage time Adebayor added his second goal of the day, teeing up a pass then turning and blasting it past Paul Robinson.

Defensively, though, Arsenal gave up far too many chances. Robbie Keane and Darren Bent both failed to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities against keeper Manuel Almunia.

The win keeps Arsenal atop the standings with 13 points.

Next up: the opening Champions League Group stage match against Sevilla out of La Liga on Wednesday. Sevilla is the favorites to win of Group H, but it is a home match for Arsenal. ESPN 2 will have the FC Porto v. Liverpool match on Tuesday afternoon (2:30) and the Manchester Utd. v. Sporting Lisbon match on Wednesday (2:30) Arsenal v. Sevilla will be on ESPN Deportes, if you get that. Which I don't.

Baloo on Belichick


Special to BtC by BALOO

When I first heard this story about the Patriots stealing signals, I thought it wasn't that big of a deal. In fact, I found it amusing. However, as more information (mostly rumors, to be honest) comes out, it makes the cheating seem worse than it initially did. Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the possible implications of the cheating, let's look at surface details that indicate a wimpy punishment. As I've stated in comments on this blog, Wade Wilson was given a 5 game suspension for buying HGH to deal with his erectile dysfunction. There's no impact on the game if that's the real reason for buying the HGH and let's be honest, most men would admit to cheating before they admitted to ED. Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson were suspended for off-field conduct that had no impact on the game, but gave the league a blackeye. Vick may get a lifetime suspension for associating with gamblers in his dog fights. If you read Vick's statement, he tries to deny gambling on the fights. So he's either a sadistic guy who likes to watch dogs rip each other apart, or he's lying to get back into the league. Concern over gambling does appear to be the bigger issue for the NFL. However, betting on dog fights won't lead to problems for the NFL unless Vick gets in deep to those gambling interests. Now Belichick's behavior was on-field misconduct that may have directly affected the outcome of games. So the lack of a suspension doesn't make much sense. My guess is that the league knew that suspending a head coach wouldn't work since they can't monitor all communication between the coach and his assistants. Anyone remember when Steinbrenner was banned from working with the Yankees' front office. I'm pretty certain he contacted them.

Bias disclaimer: As a Raiders fan, I should have bitterness about the Pats, but I don't. I blame the refs for making the wrong call.* Brady's non-passing hand touches the ball prior to the fumble and there's no passing motion in the world where your non-passing hand touches the ball while you're throwing arm is moving forward. So now that I've come clean on any potential biases, I should state that I've watched most Patriot games over the last few seasons and I enjoy watching their games. After the Raiders and Colts, I'd put the Pats as my third favorite team.

*(Editorial Cheap Shot Intervention: The Refs did make the wrong call - they failed to flag Woodson for an illegal blow to the head.)

Initially I figured the cheating would help them win a game here or there. However, after thinking about this for awhile I realized that one or two games a season would make a huge difference in playoff position and there's nothing more important than that in the NFL. I can't believe that the Patriots would continue to do this if it didn't help in some way. Also, if it didn't help, then you wouldn't do it against the Jets, who know you do it. So if it helped them win close games and it gets them simply one game in the season, that could be difference between a road game or a home game in the playoffs. Think of the extra cash that Kraft would make with a home game. Think of the money lost by other teams that may have missed the playoffs or a home game because of the cheating. On top of that, homefield advantage is huge in the NFL. So if you get homefield advantage that's likely to be one more win in the playoffs.

So I figured I'd go over the last 3 seasons to see if the cheating would help their playoff position. I need to mention that my decision to only look at close final scores may hide some games where it was close and the Patriots ran away with it at the end or may include games that weren't close until late in the game. Let's start with the close games from 2006:

(Note: I'm defining close games as 7 pts or less to keep it simple.)

Week: Date / Game
1: 10-Sep / BUF 17 @ NE 19
2: 17-Sep / NE 24 @ NYJ 17
12: 26-Nov / CHI 13 @ NE 17
13: 3-Dec / DET 21 @ NE 28
16: 24-Dec / NE 24 @ JAC 21

So in 2006, there are at most 5 games where cheating may have helped. While there are rumors surrounding communications gear going down in the Lions game (on multiple occasions), let's assume that the Pats would beat the Lions. I mean, come on. The main games of interest here are Jacksonville, Buffalo, and Chicago. Based on these outcomes, only Jacksonville seems to matter for the playoffs. If Jacksonville gets the win, they go 9-7 and make the playoffs instead of the Chiefs. If the Pats cheated during that game, and it helped (these may be very big ifs) the Pats cheated the Jags out of playoff shares for the players and gate revenues for the team. On the other side, the Chiefs should send the Pats a present. If it helped in the Bills and Bears games, then the Bills still miss the playoffs and the Bears would still have homefield advantage. Now for any impact on the Patriots, in 2006, the cheating would most likely have had to help them win 2 games. If that's the case, then their record would be 10-6 and tied with the Jets (unless the Jets win the 9/17 game then the Jets win the division) and depending on tie-breakers could've made the Pats a wildcard team. If the Jets win their 9/17 game, then they are both 11-5. Add in any one other game, and the Jets win the division. Instead the Pats get to host the Jets. So again, that's pretty big, but you'd have to believe it helped them win more than one game or the Jets game and the Jets get the tiebreaker (which I'm not sure if they would). In the playoffs, the Chargers lost a close one to the Pats, but I want to stick to a discussion of playoff position. In summary, if the Jags win the 12/24 game against the Pats they make the playoffs and that's money that was stolen from them. If the Pats lose two games that they won, then they may have been a wildcard team and that's money that's stolen from the Jets.

Now let's turn to 2005:

Week: Date / Game
3: 25-Sep / NE 23 @ PIT 20
5: 9-Oct / NE 31 @ ATL 28
8: 30-Oct / BUF 16 @ NE 21
10: 13-Nov / NE 23 @ MIA 16
11: 20-Nov / NO 17 @ NE 24

Once again, there are 5 possible games that matter. The Patriots were only 10-6 that year (as a Raiders fan, I wish I could say the Raiders were only 10-6), so one of those games turning to a loss may have cost them the playoffs (the Dolphins were 9-7) based on tiebreakers. If they lose 2 of those games, they miss the playoffs even if they still win the Miami game. The game of particular interest to me, is the Steelers game. If cheating helped them win that game, the Steelers win the division and don't have to go on the road for a wildcard game. That's huge. The Steelers would have been 12-4 would have played one home game in the wildcard round instead of the Bengals. Miami and the Steelers may have been negatively affected in those seasons. And for Miami, it may have been the difference between a playoff game and going home.

So what about 2004?

Week: Date / Game
1: 9-Sep / IND 24 @ NE 27
7: 24-Oct / NYJ 7 @ NE 13
14: 12-Dec / CIN 28 @ NE 35

Only 3 games ended in close games. So even if the Patriots lose all 3 games, they'd be 11-5 and tied with the Jets at 11-5 (Jets were 10-6, but they were in one of the games above). It seems unlikely that a team as talented as the Patriots would lose all 3 games. Cincy misses the playoffs regardless of the outcome of their game. However, if Indy wins the 9/9 game, then Indy and NE are tied for the best record in the AFC and I believe Indy would win the tie-breaker since they would have won the first meeting. Once again, that's pretty big if cheating helped.

Now this is merely speculation, but I think it shows that even getting one game here or there, is a big deal. If the cheating helped, and as I stated above it must have or they wouldn't keep it up, then getting a game here or there could very well have helped them get homefield advantage or at least one more home game than they deserved. While at the same time, maybe screwing Jacksonville and Miami out of a playoff spots and quite possibly homefield advantage for the Colts in 2004. If the Pats and Colts play in Indy in 2004 and it's a level playing field, the Colts might win that game and go to a Super Bowl. I'd still argue that the Pats had the better all around team, but playing at home in the NFL is huge.

So after thinking about this for awhile, I think the penalty for Belichick was way too small considering that it may have cost other teams money and playoff position while adding money to the Kraft's pockets. Add in that it's a blackeye for the game. The fact that people are questioning Brady's play and that I'm writing this post indicate that people are questioning the integrity of the game. That's the same exact reason the NFL doesn't allow gambling. Now I realize a lifetime ban wasn't going to happen, but it should've been on the table. However, I think the best solution would be to simply give the Patriots a loss in week 1. The Jets lost the game fair and square since they caught video-boy early in the game. So they get to keep the loss. So now the Patriots and Jets should be 0-1. That would hurt the current team without hurting future teams. You'd send a message that cheating is taken seriously and that might deter others from doing the same. The current penalty says cheat all you want, we won't take too much from you. Unless you're a player of course, then we'll take gamechecks, suspend you, and publicly declare you a cheater (say hi Merriman, you steroid using loser). The Pats fine was essentially a rookie minimum salary. That's really weak.

I think the media has ignored the implications for playoff positioning. And that's the real crime here, imo. Maybe it helped them win a playoff game or two, but I think the major impact is getting home games they may not have deserved and taking away spots from deserving teams. So while the Raiders fan in me finds Billy's behavior amusing, the criminal justice professor in my finds the rewards too great for the small penalty the Pats received. Now I know a coach can only be fined $500,000, so that's fine, but the team should've lost home playoff game revenue for each season they believe the videotaping happened. Though, to be honest, I prefer my simple solution of giving the Pats a loss in week 1. It's simple and could cost them playoff position which is what the cheating was for in the first place.