Friday, October 29, 2004


Red Sox Nation rejoice!!

First thing….I do not believe in “The Curse”. I’ve stated my case on that fact before [Why Care About The Red Sox?].  But, going this long without a title….then winning one…is quite a magical thing. And no matter if it is your first title in 86 years or your second in three years [Patriots fans]….a title is special no matter what.

It wasn’t just the fact that the Sox won the World Series….it is how they did in. In effect, they swept their three playoff opponents. They completely annihilated the Anaheim Angels [I should know, I drew the Halos in our playoff pool]. Then, they did the impossible…..coming back from down 0-3 to win the ALCS against the hated New York Yankees. For the finale, they made the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals into a 4-day preparation to the clinching Game which Chowd Nation got to finally let loose.

In that run, Terry Francona….yeah the guy that kept the Phillies in a funk….beat fellow managers Mike Scocia, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa. All three of those guys own World Series rings. The Angels made a big off season splash with the signing of Bartolo Colon and Vlad Gurerrero. The Yanks traded for A-Rod and signed Gary Sheffield. The Cards dealt for Rolen last year and Larry Walker this year. But, it was Boston who got Curt Schilling [who miraculously won Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World Series] and Folke [who closed out all for Series games] that turned out to be the biggest moves.

Not just that. But they waived Manny Ramirez. All 29 other teams had their chance to nab him….and none did. So he stayed a Red Sock, won the World Series MVP and possibly the regular season MVP award. They also dealt Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera which helped shore up their defense and provided some offense as well. They also relied on pitchers Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, who are in their final years of their contracts. You had The Passion Of The Damon in center field. This was a self proclaimed team of “idiots”.

Maybe that attitude worked. The amazing thing about idiots is they have no idea what’s going on around them. And that was a good thing for the BoSox. I mean, the team butchered up the field with errors all season [and postseason] long. They made the easy play hard…then a hard play easy. Going into the year, this was to be the season the Red Sox passed the Yankees….then the Yankees pulled away with the division again. Then, the team made that AMAZING comeback against the Yankees in the ALCS. Then that World Series dominance. All that with the hopes and dreams and “curses” hovering above them.

I’m not a Red Sox fan. In fact, baseball fans who don’t like the Red Sox were on the fence of rooting for them or not. I found myself rooting for them to win….just to see if Y2K would crash the computers, hell freezes over or to see pigs flying around. But then, it would have been funny to see them lose again. No offense, Chowds….but Charlie Brown still has never kicked the football

I will say this…after watching this post season, I GREATLY ADMIRE the Chowd Nation. These fans believed in their team even when it didn’t look good for them. They’ve supported their team when Aaron Boone’s knock sailed over the fence and when Folke tossed that ball to 1st base. I was amazed to see how many of them were in St. Louis cheering the team on.

You guys have much to be proud of. Celebrate this team. Bad history aside, this team was truly a memorable team. Adding back the history, they spit in its face.

Again, congrats!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Ron Zook Is Out At Florida

So Florida apparently has done what most figured it would do:  fire head football coach Ron Zook. 


Zook was on a pretty short leash since the day he came on the scene in Gainsville.  Following local legends aren’t very easy…especially when that local legend still has a lot of coaching left to do.   He is 20-13 in his two-plus seasons with Florida.   He lost more games in the Swamp than Spurrier did in his 12 seasons. 


Losing to 1-5 Mississippi State, who has a home loss to I-AA Maine on their resume doesn’t help, either. 


The Gators three losses [Miss State, Tennessee and LSU] have occurred in the final minutes.  They are 5-6 under Zook in games decided by 7 or less. 


Now, why fire him now??  He will keep coaching the Gators for the rest of the season….and possibly their bowl game.  So, he’s a lame duck coach who the players may end up not even respect much after this week.  Of course, they could rally around him and go out with a bang.   It will be interesting to see which will occur…since they are playing in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” against arch-rival Georgia on Saturday [which Florida has won 13 of the last 14 years].   Not to mention South Carolina and Florida State still left on the docket. 


But, his firing now is basically to end the speculation that would otherwise being a frenzy for the remaining season.  I mean, even during the summer, people were already speculating that Zook could be gone since Steve Spurrier walked away from his $5M a year job as head man of the Washington Redskins.   And just as North Carolina hoops fans quickly turned on Matt Doherty…you could see the Gator Nation turning of Zook.  That’s part of it.  To this day, there are Kentucky Wildcat hoops fans that still don’t like Tubby Smith because he isn’t Rick Pitino….even though both have won National titles with the school. 


While the Mississippi State loss might have been the last straw, it was his football team getting into a fight with a UF fraternity that might have sealed his fate.  After being asked to squash the beef at the fraternity, Zook starting yelling at the students and lost his temper.  Since that incident, his university “friends” have all but left. 


Sure, the timing of the firing may get people whispering about Steve Spurrier returning.  But, Spurrier would be left with fighting against his own legacy PLUS rebuilding someone else’s mess.  He may as well just go to Texas [if Mack Brown is in trouble] and helm a legitimate title contender from the get-go…..or go to North Carolina where he will be given everything to try to resurrect a program that is suddenly in one of the “in-conferences”. 


No, look at Utah’s Urban Meyer.  Florida’s president came from Utah…and is quite fond of what Meyer has been able to do in Salt Lake City in such a sort time.  Also, it is no secret Meyer is aspiring for the big time of NCAA pigskin.   You could even see a guy like Butch Davis [if the Browns can him] taking that job. 

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Now, I’m not a Red Sox fan….and definitely not a Yankee fan.

But that was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

In the three major non-NFL leagues [MLB, NHL, NBA] the team that has won the first 3 games of a best-of-seven series has won 231 of 233 series. The two times that the team down 0-3 and won were in the NHL… in the Stanley Cup Finals. No NBA team. No MLB team. In MLB history, all 25 times a team was up 3-0, they won the series. In fact, 20 of the 25 teams up 3-0 went on to the sweep. And the mother of all stats….no MLB team down 0-3 has even FORCED a Game 7. The Sox did that with their win Tuesday night. So, the probability says that it is pretty much impossibly to come back to win a playoff series down 0-3.

Until tonight.

The Boston Red Sox, defying all odds, came back from down 3-games-to-0 to beat the hated New York Yankees….in Yankee Stadium….to take the American League pennant. Wow.

That fact alone is breathtaking. But, add to that the fact that the Sox were ONE INNING AWAY from being swept. In Game 4, Boston was down in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera, Mr. Automatic, was on the hill for New York.

Another astonishing thing is the way the series went. The Boston Red Sox are the sports example of “choke” [my feeling for the Sacto Kings aside]. Bill Buckner choked away a 1986 World Series. Bucky Dent [who threw the first pitch] and Aaron Boone both came from nowhere to break the Red Sox hearts. I don’t believe in any curse, but Boston does have a sore history with their baseball team. Yet, it was this team that did the thing that only those two NHL teams did….win a series after being down 0-3. Heck, up to this point, the biggest baseball comeback may have been the 1986 Red Sox [and remember the series after that] when the Angels had Boston on the ropes. Still. Of all the franchises….it was the Red Sox.

Derek Lowe pitched in Game 4...then came back on two days rest to throw a one-hitter in 6 innings against the Yanks in Game 7. Curt Schilling pitched Game 6 after pitching horribly in Game 1 with a torn tendon in his ankle…and was reported to be out for the remainder of the series. He pitched with sutures that held his ankle together….and bled thru his socks making him a true “red sock”….and pitched beautifully. One of the gutsiest performances of all time.

Then the Yankees. The most successful pro sports franchise in the American League….MLB….and America. The team that has won 4 of the last 8 World Series…and 6 of the last 8 American League pennants. This team has all the experience in the world. The team with guys with extreme poise. Yet, it was the New York Yankees that couldn’t finish a series after winning the first 3 games. Yes, the Yankees choked.

If everyone in the United States [all 290 million of us] gave $0.70 to the Yankees….it would pay their 2004 salary. It was the Yankees that traded for “baseball’s best player”, Alex Rodriguez, and his $25M per year contract. A-Rod went hitless in Game 7 [he never got the ball out of the infield] and made the “chop” in Game 6 that everyone has bashed him for. They blew saves in Games 4 and 5. The Yankees scored 19 runs in Game 3...but only 13 runs in the 3 games since then. That led to the second season in a row that the Yankees were eliminated in their own Stadium.

We know the Yankees and their 4 titles since 1996. And their 6 pennants since 1996. And they won the last 7 AL East titles….and Boston finished second every one of those years. But, remember this. The Red Sox won the series. And they should have won the last series….if Grady Little could have stood up to Pedro.

So, on to the World Series where Boston could face the Astros or Cardinals…who have their own Game 7 fiesta on Thursday. Since the Sox won their last title in 1918...they’ve been to 4 World Series, losing all 5 of course. Two of them….to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

NFL Darts

Since my beloved Washington Redskins are currently enjoying their bye week, I thought I’d just post some thoughts about what’s going on around the league.

JERRY RICE TO SEATTLE. It was weird to see Rice leave San Francisco. But, in Oakland, he was still in the Bay Area with a glamour franchise. Now, he’ll be up in Seattle….where he won’t be able to wear his customary #80 jersey, since it has been retired in honor of Steve Largent. This is one of those sad deals in sports when it is obvious that a great athlete’s career is coming to a close. Not to say that Rice still can’t play or can’t offer anything to the Seahawks, but that his great career won’t end as gracefully as it could have.

DAUNTE CULPEPPER GOING OFF. Yeah, he’s on pace for 58 touchdown passes this year. Unreal!! Sure, that’s one of those exaggerated stats….but the season is over 25% over for the Vikings. Minnesota has scored 150 points already, only the Colts and Chargers [who’ve played one more game] have scored more. But, the defense has given up 125 points…meaning Minnesota is winning by an average of 5 points per game. Two running backs are hurt and a third is on suspension. THAT’S why Culpepper is having to put up those numbers….and may continue to do so.

THE WINLESS MIAMI DOLPHINS. Ya know, there are good teams with bad records. There are bad teams with good records. Then there are just horrible teams with horrible records. This Dolphin team isn’t “horrible”. They have one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. I mean, despite the record, they really haven’t been picked apart…losing each game by an average of 8 points. But, that offense is freakin’ bad. How bad? Well, bad enough that not even that defense can save them. Miami averages 9 points a game. NINE. The Colts average 32 points, best in the NFL. The next closest “bad offense” is the Redskins who average 14 points per game. So, can they win a game? Sure. In today’s NFL, anyone can beat anyone else. On November 7, they host the Cardinals. Three weeks later, they are in San Francisco. The week after, they host Buffalo. Winnable games. But, they also play at Seattle, Jets, Denver and Baltimore and host the Rams, Patriots and Browns. A 1-15 season is not out of the question.

GOOD TEAMS GONE BAD. Man, there are a lot of teams that had promise that are completely faltering. The Chiefs [1-4] just can’t catch a break. The Titans [2-4] have already lost to the Jags, Colts and Texans…all AFC South rivals….at home in Nashville. The Bengals [1-4] are back to being the Bungles. Carolina [1-4] and Tampa Bay [1-5] are the last two NFC Champions. Green Bay’s [2-4] defense is horrible and is 0-3 at home. Chicago [1-4] has won their lone game there against them. The Joe Gibbs’ era in Washington [2-4] has gotten off to an offensively rocky start. Who amongst these teams can bounce back and be a playoff contender?? Well, the Packers have always done well in the 2nd half of the season….and play in a division with teams that have issues. I’d pick them.

BAD TEAMS GONE GOOD. Yep, Atlanta [5-1] has turned it around. Jacksonville [4-2] are the kings of winning close games. Pittsburgh [5-1] started a rookie QB in Week 3 and haven’t lost since. The Giants [4-1] have seen a rebirth of Kurt Warner and a focused Tiki Barber along with a opportunistic defense. Who can keep this up?? Atlanta can!! They play a last place schedule, and the combined record of their division rivals is 4-13.

WHO’S THE MVP? Right now, I’d pick Culpepper because he’s putting up the numbers and his team has a stellar record. But, Donovan McNabb has led his team to a dominating start.

WHO’S THE TOP ROOKIE?? Easy. Big Ben Rothlesberger.

WHO’S THE BEST NFC TEAM?? The Philadelphia Eagles. My preseason pick has done nothing to dissuade me from keeping them as my favorite. The defense has played great, the offense is stellar, and they’ve won all 5 games by double digits.

WHO’S THE BEST AFC TEAM?? Indianapolis Colts. I know, the Patriots are still undefeated and they did beat the Colts….but the Colts should have easily beaten them. Since that game, the Colts have rolled. New England still hasn’t lost…but they haven’t looked as good as the Colts. But, Indy’s defense needs to get a little better.

ANY SURPRISES ON THE HORIZON?? Look for Green Bay to really keep an eye of Drew Brees this season. They’ll go after him after the season to be Favre’s replacement….If JP Losman gets back healthy, look for him to take Drew Bledsoe’s job in Buffalo…..If the Bengals are thinking about saving their season, they may look at replacing Carson Palmer with John Kitna to see if he can kickstart the team…..Look for a Rich Gannon retirement press conference before the Super Bowl

Monday, October 18, 2004


The NBA season is drawing to celebrate, I've launched my new SPORTZ' Laker Land journal that will feature not only Laker News...but the entire NBA.

Most of the people who know me on here, know that my main expertise is the NBA.  I love football.  I like baseball a lot.  I keep the NHL in an arm's distance.  NCAA hoops and football are loves too.  But the NBA, as a whole, is a league I understand and get into completely.  I get into the stats, player info and entire essence of the game.  So, hopefully you people that follow my Sportz Assassin Journal and my SPORTZ ASSASSIN ON REDSKINS journals will come aboard and check out my new expansion. 

So far, I've put my team-by-team previews for each division.  I'll have more on there shortly.


Friday, October 15, 2004

The Lakers' Triangle

The 2004-2005 season is almost here. Yet, we still got to listen to crap that was left over from the 2003-2004 campaign.

Let it rest.

“The Triangle” to us Laker fans used to mean the type of offense we ran. Now the term means the triumvirate of egotistical superstars who seemed to not be able to get along with each other….yet have to complain about why they all broke up. It’s sort of childish.

The Miami Herald is closely starting to resemble the Sports National Enquirer. If they don’t have a Ricky Williams sound bite….then Shaquille O’Neal isn’t too far away to chime in on something. The day after the Finals ended, Shaq demanded to be traded. Anywhere but LA. Or Indianapolis. Or anywhere that could get cold.

So, he got dealt to Miami. They were a playoff team last year. A nice hotbed of action. A young rising star at the guard position [heard that one before?]. The thing was that Miami really didn’t trade everything to get him. Lamar Odom is really good….and the other guys have their moments. Dwayne Wade, arguably their top player, is still in a Heat uni. It wasn’t the Super Star-for-Shaq trade that the fans, the media or Shaq wanted. For a man that demanded to “pay me” the $30M per season he was wanting, the Lakers were willing to part with Shaq for a guy who’s a level below All Star [Odom], young athletic kid [Caron Butler] and an old cagey veteran big man [Brian Grant].

Shaq got what he wanted. But he still wasn’t happy. He started throwing barbs at the Lakers brass for….gasp…foolishly trading him. I mean, why would they trade a guy who demanded to get traded, demanded $30M a year after his 33rd birthday, hasn’t bothered to care about getting in shape for the season, and could opt out at the end of the season….guaranteeing the Lakers nothing in return. Shaq also had the tell everyone that he didn’t like Kobe….like we didn’t know. Kobe is this, Kobe is that. And to prepare for the upcoming season of revenge….he’s slimmed down and is focused on his game. Wow. So trading you is the way to get you to perform at your highest level?? Why couldn’t you do that in LA? While it shows many people his determination…it shows me his reluctance to prepare himself for the grinds of an 82-game season and 28-game postseason during his last few years in Los Angeles.

The difference with Kobe Bryant and Shaq….is that you find out things about Kobe. It isn’t so obvious. Yeah, it’s obvious how he gets selfish on the court and tries to do too much. None of that surprises us. But, everything that happened after the 4th of July week on 2003 has. The “sexual assault”. The infidelity. How he kept his teammates at a distance. How he and Phil just couldn’t coexist. How he and Shaq really felt about each other. How Kobe felt about anyone that wasn’t Kobe. Aside from the extra-marital activities….none of this is too ground breaking. But the assault on his character since then has.

The one person who’s always been in Kobe’s corner is Lakers owner Rip Taylor….errrr…Dr. Jerry Buss. It is his team…and when the question finally had to be answered, Kobe or Shaq…Buss easily picked Kobe. Which, of course, angered Shaq and set this whole thing off. When this was known, Kobe jumped on his sudden power [which, who wouldn’t]. In order to keep Kobe, Phil wasn’t welcomed back and Shaq was dealt. The Lakers did everything in their power to get Kobe to his court hearings and back to LA with no hassles. This was his team…and he knew it. Now, he gets his wish….a team where he is unequivocally THE star.

He is the most loved and hated player in the NBA. The “lightning rod”. I don’t remember a player so hated by fans. The fuel to the fire was the whole sex assault case. It knocked him off his pedestal, put a huge smear on his spotless image, made him the butt of jokes and put him under a huge microscope. Since then, the case has been dropped….but his chat with the fuzz came out. In there, he drops Shaq’s name as giving “hush money” to women in order to keep his secrets…..secret. Well, that broke the “guy code”. Whether or not you put any value in the “guy code”, the problem lies in the fact that not only he ratted someone out….but that he ratted out Shaq. And Shaq, who apparently has known about this before last season began, chose not to talk to officials about a little incident at his Orlando home a few Thanksgivings ago. Shaq shut his mouth to protect Kobe [and probably himself]….yet Kobe opened his on Shaq. And for no reason. It’s hard to justify Kobe’s position here. Whether it was “off the record”, slip of the tongue or a direct attempt to get Shaq….it was unnecessary.

He’s a prick. I’m a huge Laker fan…he’s the star…and I will root for him all season….but he’s a prick. But, I don’t have to deal with him off the court. I watch him for 2 and a half hours of playing ball…and then on to the next game. And, it is okay to root for the prick, right Barry Bonds’ fans??

Here is my favorite right now. Phil Jackson. He stated that the Shaq-Kobe feud was “juvenile”. So, Phil decides to throw his hat in the ring. He’s wrote a book. And, basically, the book is about how much he couldn’t get along with Kobe. Well, at least that’s what the press release has running. Phil and Kobe were having a “psychological war”….and Phil states he lost. In fact, he says he was seeing a shrink. Classic. This is a guy that had Michael Jordan…one of the kings of mind controlling his teammates. He had Shaquille O’Neal….one of the biggest kids and egos in all of sports. He has Dennis Rodman….who was a basket case before he was in Chicago and after he left Chicago [and sometimes in Chicago]. Yet, Kobe Bryant punked him. A 25-year old broke down the sensei. Not the greatest player in the game, Jordan. Not the dominant player in the game, Shaq. Not the free spirit of the game, Rodman. But a 25-year old. Classic.

Of the three, I’ve been most critical of Phil over the past season. Yeah, Shaq was out of shape…and Kobe was pre-occupied with himself….but Phil just let this all go on. He just did his best coaching move….do nothing…and it backfired on him. The Lakers lucked into getting past the Spurs in the playoffs and somehow slid past the Wolves. But he decided to coach in the Finals against the Pistons. And if it wasn’t for Kobe hitting some big shots in Game 2.…the Pistons would have swept LA. Phil’s substitution patterns were both flawed and obviously guessed. He didn’t play Luke Walton in Game 1...yet played him in Game 2 and rode with him the rest of the series. He put guys out on the floor that had no idea what was going on. Larry Brown out coached Phil by letting Phil do what he was basing his whole theory on….letting Shaq go off. They shut down everyone else…and the Pistons easily handled LA. Don’t blame Kobe or Shaq for that.

So, Phil basically didn’t do his job....not well anyway. He pretty much got paid $6M to mess around with the boss’s daughter…and run Jerry West off to Memphis. He’s slinked up to Montana, wrote a book to keep his name relevant, and is waiting for the Knicks job to open up. And don’t be surprised if he goes after Shaq, who can opt out after this season. And together, they can relive old times and tell some Kobe Bryant jokes.

So, the chips are thrown on the table. Kobe’s got his team. Shaq’s got his. Phil may have a team in the near future. Kobe has the pressure of the Lakers moving the heavens to get him what he wanted. Shaq has the pressure of the Heat needing a short term payoff in their investment. And Phil has the pressure of proving he didn’t piggyback his way into nine championships. Let the games begin.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

NBA May Ban The Three Point Shot

I’ve long been one of the people who thinks that basketball needs some drastic rules changes. And that’s something, since I really don’t like too much tampering with sports. But, right now, basketball is fundamentally wrong.

The players are bigger, stronger, faster, jump higher and more athletic than ever. I mean, when Dr. Naismith invented the game…or when the early forefathers of the NBA…did they actually think they’d have 7-foot guys gazelling around a court like Kevin Garnett?? Or someone as big and quick as Shaq would be around??

Well, when Wilt Chamberlain was around…they did do drastic things…like widen the lane. But that was 40 years ago. Surely there there’s been a big change since then, right??

Well, the 3-point arc was founded. The zone defense was added. Flagrant fouls. Twenty second timeouts. Yet, the court remains the same size. Why? Like I said, the players are so much bigger than they were in the good ol’ days.

I know, the NBA isn’t going to institute any kind of major rules change. Or will they?

Rumor is that the NBA is toying with the idea of eliminating 3-pointers until 5:00 left in the game. They may institute that in their developmental league [the NBDL] this upcoming season. If all goes well, it could be in the NBA in 2005-2006.

Think how drastically the NBA would change.

The NBA hopes it will put more of an effort on players working to get shots closer to the basket…since they are all 2 points for the first 43 minutes of the game. They’re also hoping that players will finish fast breaks with exciting lay-ups or dunks instead of kicking it out to a guys waiting at the arc. It would also stop the ol’ “throw it in to the big guy…wait for the double team…kick it the guy at the arc” play.

Of course, the biggest adjustment would be in the entire way that offenses are built. Every offense has a guy waiting around the arc to provide either an outlet for someone or spacing for the big guys. And the 3-pt line creates spacing for the big guys to do their thing. I also like the fact that it will be available under 5 minutes left in the game. That keeps the real reason the 3-point shot was made anyways….for teams to be able to quickly get back into ball games. Guys like Steve Kerr, Craig Hodges and Jim Paxson would have been the equivalent to a Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne in baseball. Sit all game…then come in at crunch time.

Whatever makes the game better…I’m all for it.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Slamming Sammy!!!

Sammy Sosa was fined one game check….roughly $87,000.…for showing up late and leaving early during Sunday’s Cubs season finale. Now he’s filing a grievance with the players union. Get real.

Let me say this. I neither love nor hate the Cubs. I’m indifferent towards them. But, in my opinion, Sammy Sosa needs to shut up.

For the past two seasons….we’ve heard more whining from Sammy than anything worth screaming about on the field. He’s complained about manager Dusty Baker….corking bats….moving down in the lineup. Actually, this was a Cubs trend all year. Complaining. Word was that Cubs players were “hurt” by criticism from the Cubs television announcers. Sosa also was criticized for hurting his back….sneezing.

Sosa is the face of the Cubs franchise. Not only the face of the Cubs…but one of the faces of baseball. If you ask non-baseball fans to name 5 players….Sosa’s name would come out of a lot of mouths. It is rare that someone with his background becomes so popular. He’s achieved that status as a Dominican-born player who basically came from nothing. He turned that into a contract that will pay him $17M next season and numerous endorsement deals.

He didn’t have a horrible year. In just 126 games…he knocked 35 HR and 80 RBI. But he hit just .253 for the season and was a bad teammate. Not only did he miss time for sneezing…but he also was miffed about dropping down in the batting order to appease the acquisition of Nomar Garciaparra. And, on the final day of the season in which the Cubs had just recently been eliminated…Sosa bolted during the game. Oh, he said he was in the clubhouse. Okay. And that corked bat you used was just an accident, right??

What is that?? Since the Cubs massively underachieved, they’ll have October off. They’ll also be off from November to February too. In March, Sosa will do some light sprints, workouts, and a few swings in spring training. Is it too much to ask to stay just one more day?? After all, you’re getting paid $87,000 that day to be there. Most people don’t make half that in a YEAR!! It’s not worth rooting on your teammates that rooted for you during the season??? It’s not worth it to fans who showed up to the Cubs finale at Wrigley Field to just stick around….maybe tip your cap to them for paying your salary….and just watch the game. I mean, most of them paid $50 to be there. The Cubs are paying you $87K to be there.

Now, Sosa and his agent believe the fine is too severe. Huh??? You were fined one game’s pay. The game that your client didn’t show up for. Why should he get paid?? There are also underlying rumors of possible trade talks. Sosa says he wants to stay….but the Cubs would like to move him. It is highly unlikely since he’s set to make $17M next year. Too much for a slugger on the decline.

This is just another black eye for a Chicago Cubs team that just dumped all over their lofty expectations.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

First Quarter Surprises And Mishaps



New York Giants [3-1].  The Giants have been doing it with running the football, screen passes, opportunistic defense and solid work ethic. 


Atlanta Falcons [4-0].  That defense has greatly improved.  They’ve won twice on the road including a win at Carolina.  Warrick Dunn is having a fine season.  And all this without Michael Vick having that unbelievable offensive game.


New York Jets [3-0].  There is another undefeated team in the AFC East.  While the Jets don’t have the experience or even the talent as New England….they are a tough out.  Pennington plays solid and Curtis Martin is having a very good year.  In reality, they haven’t beaten anyone yet [Bengals, Chargers, Dolphins].  They have the Pats in two weeks. 


Denver Broncos [3-1].  They are a Quentin Griffin fumble away from being undefeated.  And in a division in which the Chargers and Raiders shouldn’t be factors and the Chiefs losing their first 3 games…Denver has a great shot at winning the division.




Carolina Panthers [1-2].  The one game they weren’t supposed to win…they win.  Then they lay two eggs at home.  Their o-line is bad, they have their two biggest offensive weapons out and their defense has under performed.


Tennessee Titans [1-3].  They’ve already lost two home games against divisional foes.  Which means that all they have is Houston twice and at Jacksonville and Indy.  Tough to get back into the race that way.


Washington Redskins [1-3].  The defense has been much better…but the team is turnover prone.  Add to that the fact that the coaching staff has mismanaged games over the past two weeks:  games they could have won if managed well.  They’ve already lost two division games and two road games they were favored to win.  And they haven’t faced Philly yet.


Kansas City Chiefs [1-3].  Big win in Baltimore may have saved season.  They lost to the Jags, Broncos and Panthers with poor 4th quarter play.  They beat the Ravens by playing well in the final period.  Now, they cannot lose many more games this year.  But if any team can explode to a streak…it’s Vermeil’s Chiefs.


Cincinnati Bengals [1-3].  To my surprise, Carson Palmer is playing very well.  Yeah, he’s making rookie mistakes…but that happens to any new QB in there.  But, the defense and running game need to help him out.  If you’re asking Palmer to throw 40 times a game….some are going to get away from him. 


Tampa Bay Buccaneers [0-4].  Just hearing that Chris Sims will be starting just shows that Chuckie is reaching for answers.  Factor in that they are, in reality, the worst team in their division…and they haven’t played any of them yet.

Like My Skins...I Need To Regroup

Okay.  Just like all of those 1-3 teams….I need to regroup.  After Week 4, I am 39-21.  Not bad….but not really great either.  Still, it is a 66% clip….but a coin could at least get you 50%.  So, here I go.


FALCONS E-VICK-T LIONS.  Last week, I said that the Panthers would at least come up with a plan to contain Vick after their bye.  Well, they did….but they forsake everything else.  The Lions are coming off their bye…and maybe learned from Carolina’s mistakes.  One thing to consider, however, is that the Falcons defense has really improved.  They shook up Delhomme after surrendering just 3 the week prior.  That defense will keep the Lions at bay.  Falcons 16-10


PATRIOTS KEEP DOLPHINS DOWN.  The win-streak record will be broken.  Even when the Pats aren’t playing well…they still win.  And of all the teams to break it against….Miami.  What a week for Miami.  Not only are they 0-4…but now Ricky Williams wants to come back and the media is hounding them about it.  That actually may not be a bad thing.  It could rile the Phins up and show that they don’t need Ricky.  Actually, they need an entire offense.  Patriots 27-9


SAINTS SMACK BUCCANEERS.  What has happened to Tampa??  Just two years ago…they rolled in the Super Bowl.  Now, they are 0-4 and have benched their QB.  Their RB is out for the year and they have no receivers to speak of.  N’Awlins defense is nothing to write home to mom about….but they are serviceable against this team.  Saints 24-14


STEELERS WIPE UP BROWNS.  Big Ben has performed quite well…and Maddox may not get his job back.  The Steelers also have a nice system of Staley running all over the field, and the Bus punching it in.  The defense hasn’t been bad either.  As for Cleveland…Garcia is having problems with running the offense.  He’s concentrated on learning the offense…but isn’t reading defenses well.  But, who cares if Lee Suggs and William Green are running the ball well.  Still, Pittsburgh has more weapons and just a better overall team.  Steelers 20-13


VIKINGS ROPE TEXANS.  Houston has had one heck of a few weeks.  However, Minnesota poses some problems.  Namely Moss and Culpepper.  If the Texans can stop the run game, they could force those two to make plays [which they can].  The Vikes run game will be hindered by the loss of Bennett to injury and Smith to suspension.  Moe Williams is an okay replacement.  I don’t think Carr will worry about having to shave anything after a 3rd straight win.  Vikings 23-20


COWBOYS TAME GIANTS.  I love NFC East games, obviously.  And this is a big one.  These two seem like they’ll be in the thick of the wildcard hunt.  The Giants are playing better…but the Cowboys are the better team.  It will be interesting to see which team can force their will on the other.  I think Dallas has better downfield weapons on offense and a quick defense that can hold Tiki Barber.  Cowboys 16-14


COLTS STAMPEDE RAIDERS.  Nothing against the Raiders, but Indy is rolling.  At the RCA Dome….they are a totally explosive team.  Just look at their lone home game thus far.  Oakland struggled against Houston and Collins, himself, turned the ball over FIVE TIMES!!!!  Colts 30-13


CHARGERS EEK BY JAGUARS.  Here, I guess, is my upset pick.  I really have no justification for it.  San Diego is mainly a [good] run team that Brees has enhanced by being able to sling it.  Their defense isn’t that great….and Leftwich can exploit that.  I just think that LT will have a big game and give San Diego their 3rd win.  Chargers 17-13


JETS ASSAULT BILLS.  This is an interesting game.  Buffalo woke up last week only to get beaten down the stretch by New England.  The Jets won a decent game against Miami.  The Bills are consistently inconsistent.  Their defense is good…but not as good as Miami’s…and they tend to make mistakes.  The Jets are at home…and should come out with the win.  Jets 21-16


CARDINALS BEAT NINERS.  In the “Ugly Game Of The Week”…we get this classic matchup.  The Niners have the 12th rated defense….but they allow 27 points per game.  Which means two things:  they give up big scoring plays and their offense leaves the defense hanging.  Arizona has actually played well over the season thus far.  So, I’ll pick them.  Cardinals 24-20


SEAHAWKS SLOW DOWN RAMS.  You know Holmgren will have them ready.  If Seattle wins this game, they’ll have a 2-game buffer against everyone in the division.  That’s big when securing playoff position.  The Rams, in turn, need this game to survive.  Martz hasn’t shown that he can win a game like this.  Especially against a Seattle defense that has only allowed just over 4 points a game.  Seahawks 21-17


BRONCOS OVER PANTHERS.  That Panther offensive line is bad….and that’s killing the run game and Delhomme.  Their defense has under performed as well.  The Broncos defense is one of the NFL’s best.  And they’ll be facing that bad O-line…no Steve Smith and no Stephen Davis.  Bye-bye Carolina.  Broncos 27-10


RAVENS OUTSMART REDSKINS.  This is a “pick-em” game…which means they are pretty even.  Not really.  Statistically, the Skins defense is better.  So is their offense.  But, watching the games…the Ravens just seem better.  As a Redskin fan….I’ll say this:  it will be close, with some sort of mental lapse costing Washington the game.  Sound familiar??  Same story as Weeks 2, 3 and 4.  And you know B-more is angry after their Monday night defensive meltdown.  Ravens 23-17


PACKERS KNOCK DOWN TITANS.  We have no clue who will QB these teams….but I do know Ahman Green will be running against a defense that let LT crap all over them.  Packers 20-10

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

MLB Divisional Series Breakdowns

If the regular season was any indicator, what a postseason we should have in baseball!!

Think about it. The AL West went down to a 3-game series between the Angels and Athletics…..just after the Rangers fell out of the race. In the NL West, if the Giants swept the Dodgers….we’d be playing a one-game playoff Monday. San Fran won Games 1 and 3. They lost Game 2 on a walk off grand slam from Steve Finley. But, the Giants were still alive for that one game playoff if the Astros lost to the Rockies. That’s right…the Astros!!!! Houston won….and the Giants are home.

One of the true adages in postseason baseball is that the hot team usually becomes champ. The last two champions have been Wild-card teams [and 3 of 4 World Series teams]….and the thinking is that the wildcard teams have been playing pressure baseball over the last month just to get in the playoffs. The division winners usually coast into the playoffs. Well, what about this year?? Really, only the Cardinals solidified their spot a while back. The Yankees pretty much knew they were in, but still had to fight back the Red Sox for the East crown [which brings home field]. The Twins and Braves both had a comfortable leads. But the Dodgers and Angels won their divisions on the final Saturday of the season. Houston came out of nowhere to steal the wildcard from the Cubs, Giants, Marlins and Padres.

So, here we are. The postseason. The divisional playoffs. Let’s see what will be in store.

HOUSTON ASTROS VS ATLANTA BRAVES. This is a match up of the two hottest teams in the National League. The Astros were dead around the All Star Game. The Braves were written off as a team on the decline. Oh, how both turned it around. Houston has won 37 of 47...and 18 straight at Minute Maid Park. Atlanta took charge of a murky NL East race and pulled away. These teams have met three times in the postseason in the past 7 years….with the Braves winning all three, including 9 of the 10 games played. Houston is trying to become the 2nd straight World Series champion that had fired a manager mid-season. I’m going to pick the ASTROS to win this series. Mainly because they have better pitching and just a little more pop in their bats.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS ST LOUIS CARDINALS. St. Louis has the better team. Their lineup is solid…with Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds and Walker. Their pitching staff doesn’t have those great names…but they do have four 15-game winners….for the first time since 1944. They play great defense, have a great closer and a playoff-tested coaching staff. But, LA is nothing to sneeze at either. They, too, play great defense. They, too, have a great closer. They are 32-16 in one-run games [best in the majors]. They also house the home run king in Adrian Beltre. As it is in most postseason series…pitching is the major key. And the Cards are a little better there [even without Carpenter]. This could be a classic…but I’ll pick the CARDINALS to advance.

MINNESOTA TWINS VS NEW YORK YANKEES. The classic Big Market vs. Small Market series. The Yanks win with big time players….the Twins win by big time effort. Theory says that NY should win. Their lineup is powerful, with Jeter, Williams, A-Rod, Sheffield, Posada, Olerud, etc. There is NO easy out. The Twins must rely on their advantage, pitching. And, as we saw in last year’s World Series…good pitching can beat good hitting. And the Twins have the best pitcher out there in Johan Santana. He will pitch games 1 and 5. Brad Radke and Carlos Silva are pretty good pitchers in their own right. Add that great pitching to a very good defense….and the Twins could surprise. However, I will have to pick the YANKEES to advance. While the Twins seem to have every advantage in the starting pitching….the bullpen is clearly the Yankees strong suit. They have tons of experience. Just too many bats for the Twins to deal with.

BOSTON RED SOX VS ANAHEIM ANGELS. 1986 anyone?? The early innings will be key, especially for the Red Sox. The Angels have one the best and deepest bullpens in the majors. And it is tough to beat them after the 6th inning….if you are trailing. The Sox have solid starters with Schilling, Pedro and Lowe…and a bruising lineup. Of course, Pedro is up and down. Both teams have MVP candidates, Vlad Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, who are all around great hitters. But, the Sox have better hitters surrounding him. All-in-all…this is the ANGELS series to lose. I think they will win Games 1 and 2 at home…which will break the Sox.

Monday, October 4, 2004

Philly, New England and Atlanta Continue To Roll

Well….I didn’t do so well this week. A mediocre 7-6.….putting my record to 39-20. Not bad….but I’m not fighting Wayne Root for parlay odds advertisements. Oh, well….there were 10 road favorites this week…so some of them had to fall. And the Redskins, Titans and Saints did. Also, the Eagles, Patriots and Falcons each continued their undefeated ways….while the Jags run was stopped.


EAGLES BOUNCE BEARS. Grossman is out and Quinn really didn’t impress. He really won’t impress against that Philly D. They will try to pound it with Thomas Jones…but, maybe, to no avail. The Eagles are the better team here. They’ll win their 14th game in their last 15 tries. Eagles 30-13

The Eagles did bounce those Bears…though Chicago didn’t get blown out necessarily. Of course, Philly only scored the one TD….to TO. And Thomas Jones didn’t make a difference. That Chicago defense is pretty underrated.

PATRIOTS BELT BILLS. Nothing against the Bills…but this Patriot team is on a mission. They will blitz, blitz, blitz poor Drew Bledsoe so that he makes some bad decisions. Of course, remember that one of their two losses last year was a butt-kicking in Buffalo. This will be a defensive struggle….which means a close game. Pats have Brady…the Bills, Bledsoe. Hmmmm. Patriots 16-6

Well, not the defensive struggle I pictured….but the Pats’ Tom Brady got it done in the 4th quarter after a tie game.

TEXANS ROLL RAIDERS. This is one of the most intriguing games on the slate. Neither team has been great…but both have had their moments. Houston is coming off a win IN KC. They are even tougher at home [even though they lost to the Bolts]. However, they will be without Domanick Davis…so David Carr and Andre Johnson will need to come up big. So will their defense. A tight one….but the Raiders will fall a little short. Texans 23-21

Wow, pretty good call. David Carr and Andre Johnson hooked up for a TD score….and the defense played very well…in a “bend don‘t break“ sort of way. They forced FIVE turnovers….one for a touchdown. Wells played well in Davis’ place.

COLTS JOLT JAGUARS. This could be another great game. What a win this would be for the Jags!! If they did win this…that means they’ve beaten the Titans and Colts this year already…and have a 2-game lead in the division. We all know the big matchup is that tough Jag defense against the wild Colt offense. But, will the Jags’ offense wake up against that porous Colts’ D?? Well, not enough to beat Manning and Co. Colts 26-17

Okay….24-17. Jacksonville hung in this game and made quite a comeback. But, when the chips were down, Manning led his team to the winning drive. The Jags’ offense did wake up against that bad Colts defense….something that still keeps them below the Patriots, Eagles and Seahawks right now.

STEELERS BEAT BENGALS. Big Ben showed me a lot….standing in against that Mighty Dolphin Defense during a hurricane and delivering several solid drives. Carson Palmer has looked good too…but has made bad mistakes at bad times. In the end…it will be defense and rushing that wins this game. I just think that the Steelers are a little better at both. Not to mention that the Bengals have struggled shutting down the run game…and they have injuries on their defense to deal with. Steelers 17-13

A little more scoring from the youngsters. Pittsburgh tends to be able to have big things happen with Big Ben out there. Palmer [again I say this] played well…but made very bad decisions at crucial times. Once he gets thru that, which happens to young guys, he will be one heck of a QB. Those Bengals have become a horrible run defense.

JETS DOWN DOLPHINS. The Jets, remember, are 2-0. The Dolphins are 0-3...and have looked horrible. Their O-line is bad….their backs are worse. They’ve [again] changed quarterbacks. And the Jets have had two weeks to prepare for this. I’m sure we will see a heavy dose of Curtis Martin. Jets 21-9

I’ve chronicled the horrors of the Dolphins season. Do you realize that this is the first Sunday afternoon game they’ve played this year?? Tennessee…hurricane forced it to Saturday. Cincinnati….Sunday night. Pittsburgh…hurricane forced it to Sunday night. Not that this means anything…just a little tidbit for a boring game.

RAMS NIX NINERS. The Niners have been game this year, aside from last week’s smack down from Sea-town. The Rams haven’t. Their defense has struggled, they have no run game, and Martz is being exposed. Talent-wise, however, the Rams are much, much better. Add to the fact that San Fran has some injury issues…and the Rams eek this one out. Rams 21-20

The Rams looked awesome…climbing to a 24-0 lead. Their run game was back. Actually, it never left….it was just forgotten. The Niners may be in for a long season.


REDSKINS BURY BROWNS. I guess Sgt. Kellen Winslow II won’t show the Redskins what they’re missin’, huh?? A freak play has landed KW2 on the sidelines for the rest of the year. Garcia’s numbers aren’t very good, especially in their last 2 games. Washington has played better than the Giants and Cowboys….but lost both games because of mistakes, both on the field and mentally. This is pretty much a must game for the Skins…especially in a division where Philly is off to a fast start. So expect to see Portis with the ball a lot. Redskins 24-17

Ah, my Redskins continue to disappoint! The Browns did a nice job in containing the Skins run game…and the Skins, again, imploded. Portis and Coles each lost fumbles…and a big 1 of 11 on 3rd-down conversions. Not to mention the Browns methodically drove down the field for the game winning drive.  Brunell only completed 17 of his 38 passes [UGH!]....all with the Redskin coaches headsets and phones malfunctioning.  The Browns OWN the Redskins, winning 33 of the 43 lifetime matchups.

PACKERS GAG GIANTS. After that lightning quick game last week, the Packers will calm down a little this go around. The Giants want to run the ball. If the Pack can stop that…they can get pressure on Warner. Turnovers will be a big key, since the G-men have thrived on them. Packers 20-10

Again, wrong in the outcome. But, the Pack did calm down a little [errrr….a lot]. And, since the Pack couldn’t stop the run [the Giants gained 245 yards on the ground] they couldn’t get pressure on Warner. And, turnovers were the key. Green Bay turned it over 3 times.

SAINTS CLAMP CARDINALS. As much as things change….the more they stay the same. Arizona still sucks. Not that it is entirely their fault. But, most of it was. The Saints have shown an ability to come back in games….beating the Niners and Rams with key 4th quarter drives. They shouldn’t have to worry about that here. Saints 28-17

Not only did the Saints not win…they were demolished. Sadly, it was Emmitt Smith that did them in. He ran for 127 yards….ran in a touchdown…and even threw a TD pass. The Cards have played tough this year. They don’t suck. Sorry Arizona. Close losses to the Rams and Falcons plus a good showing against the Patriots. Nothing to be ashamed of. Those teams are a combined 10-2 this year.

PANTHERS FLOG FALCONS. This is one of those times that an early bye worked out. Last year, Vick killed the Panthers in Atlanta for an overtime win. This time, John Fox and the Panthers have had two weeks to prepare for Vick….who really hasn’t looked all that great yet. Well, this won’t be the week he gets off. Vick is looking to be 4-0 against Carolina. Panthers 21-13

Vick STILL kills the Panthers. This is almost like Jordan against the Cavaliers. He owns them. Well, actually, Vick still didn’t look good. But he didn’t have to. Dunn and Duckett did. That vaunted front four for the Panthers didn’t look like it. The Panthers offensive line is a big problem. They cannot run the ball and they cannot protect Delhomme. Remember, Carolina dominated a BAD Chiefs defensive line.

BUCCANEERS SWASH BRONCOS. For some reason, I like Tampa here. The Broncos haven’t looked good yet…and their opening win over the Chiefs doesn’t look as great anymore [since everyone else is beating them too]. For as hopeless as the Tampa situation looks….they lost a very close game to Washington….a close game to the Seahawks….and weren’t totally out of the Raider game. I think they can get the job done here…if they don’t do anything stupid. 14-6

I guess I can say this….Tampa Bay sucks!! The defense is still pretty good….but cannot punish opponents the way they used to. Right now, the Broncos defense does that. Really, neither offense looks good.

TITANS CLOBBER CHARGERS. Scary thing….the Titans couldn’t stop Edgerrin James or Fred Taylor. Now they gotta face Tomlinson!!! The Titans’ Chris Brown will be key here…as with a dinged up McNair makes him all the more valuable. The Titans NEED this game. Fish has them ready to rumble. Titans 26-23

I was pretty correct up until the word “Fish”. The Titans COULDN’T stop LT. Chris Brown WAS key [he didn’t play well]. McNair WAS dinged up [DNP]. The Titans NEEDED this game. But, they weren’t ready to rumble….they just took a big tumble. Think about it….the Chargers ROLLED them!!!


RAVENS SCALP CHIEFS. The Ravens defense has been playing so well…and their offense hasn’t been that bad either. The Chiefs are struggling at both. They have no receivers to take the pressure off of Gonzo and Holmes….and now Dante Hall may not play. For a team that has so much offense a year ago….what happened?? Baltimore should have a field day here….especially because Jamal Lewis will have a big game. Ravens 27-13

Saturday, October 2, 2004

NIPPON!!! Cha-cha-cha!!

Congrats to Ichiro!!!

His new record is one of the most amazing feats I have seen. No, I don’t rate it with Mark McGwire chasing down Roger Maris or Barry Bonds eclipsing that mark a few years later. It definitely isn’t in the realm of Cal Ripken Jr’s Streak.

But, the fact that you can topple an 84 year record is something very special.

Coming into this season, only 20 times has anyone had at least 235 hits in a season. Only FIVE of those seasons took place after 1937. One of those five belonged to Ichiro [2001]…..which he had more hits in a season than anyone since 1930 [Bill Terry and Chuck Klein]. Ichiro has bested them all with his 259 [and counting] hit season of 2004. That broke a record set by George Sisler in 1920 when he played for the St. Louis Browns.

These numbers are absurd!! In baseball, records that were built in the early part of the 1900s tend to stay records. It was a different game then. That is like someone eclipsing Rogers Hornsby’s batting average record of .424 in 1924. The closest a modern player has gotten was Tony Gwynn in the strike shortened 1994 season where he hit .394. Or Babe Ruth’s total base record of 457 bases in 1921. Sammy Sosa had 425 total bases in 2001.…good enough for 7th on the all-time list. Nobody has even sniffed Hack Wilson’s RBI mark of 191 set way back in 1930. Man Ram netted 165 RBI back in 1999.

Jeff Bagwell is one of only two players in the top 20 in runs scored in a season that did it after 1937. The other was Ted Williams in 1949. Bagwell was still 25 back of Babe Ruth’s record of 177 runs scored in that magical 1921 season.

Some of those old timey numbers have fallen. Babe Ruth’s walk record fell to Barry Bonds THREE STRAIGHT YEARS!!! Babe’s mark of 170 walks in the 1923 season has been crushed by Bonds in 2001...the topped in 2002.…and topped again this year. Bonds, Todd Helton and Sammy Sosa have all come close to Ruth’s extra base hit record. Bonds’ slugging percentage numbers are up there with Ruth’s.

But, some Japanese guy who could never know who Sisler was [like any of us did] has come over here and shot down that record. He did it on a team that wasn’t even created until 57 years after he set the record. Since 1920, the world has seen some amazing things. But since then, no one has had more hits in a season than Sisler.

Until now. Congrats Ichiro!