Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2008 MLB Preview

The 2008 Major League Baseball season is finally here. Here is a preview of what to expect from all 30 of your favorite MLB teams, click the links for some extra goodies.

New York Yankees
In his first year at the helm of the Bronx Bombers front office, expect Hank Steinbrenner to dominate the headlines:
Hank on Red Sox Nation: “What a bunch of sh*t that is.”
Hank on Global Warming: “People bitching about better baseball weather? What a bunch of sh*t that is.”
Hank on Toys-for-Tots Charity Drives: “Handouts are for pussies, earn your keep. What a bunch of sh*t that is.”

Boston Red Sox
Solid pitching and a potent offensive lineup combine for what should be another stellah yea for the sawks. Expect Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz to once again be among the league leaders in RBI’s, and expect Dice-K Matsuzaka to once again lead the league in gay coats.

Baltimore Orioles
The potential of the Orioles could very well rest on their oft-injured stars Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts. If only there was some kind of substance they could take in order to speed up the healing process…

Toronto Blue Jays
Their solid pitching staff that includes perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and B.J. Ryan will assure our Canadian fan counterparts of another team that will hold serve on their reign of dominance as the mediocre middle of the division.

Tampa Bay Rays

By removing the “Devil” part of their team nickname, the Rays are hoping people won’t realize they’re the same team. But keep that on the down low, that’s how they managed to sign Troy Percival.

Chicago White Sox
Harkening back to the shameful days of the “Black Sox” scandal, the White Sox players will begin throwing games in order to lose. This time, however, it will not be motivated by money, but by Ozzie Guillen’s promise that he will run naked up Michigan Avenue if the White Sox win the World Series.

Cleveland Indians
In the event that they may need the extra advantage for a late season playoff push, the Indians began cultivating their midge crop a month earlier this year.

Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are looking quite dangerous with the off-season addition of the super-talented youngster Miguel Cabrera, although it did shake up the team a bit when the addition forced them to move Brandon Inge from third base to designated 10 year-old.

Kansas City Royals
The return of their throwback powder blue Uni’s for a few games this year should be fun for the fans. This emasculating apparel almost guarantees some overcompensating outbursts of George Brett proportions.

Minnesota Twins
After saying goodbye to Johan Santana and Torii Hunter this offseason, the Twins front office is confident they will be able to pay for their new stadium by bottling the misery filled tears of the Minnesota faithful and selling it as an industrial solvent.

Seattle Mariners
Adding former Orioles Ace Erik Bedard should give the M’s a nice 1-2 punch in their starting rotation, provided that their ever-growing phenom “King Felix” Hernandez doesn’t continue to rule the buffet with an iron fist.

Los Angeles Angels
Angels coaches are hoping the addition of the consistent bat of Torii Hunter will have a positive effect on the indiscriminant bat of Vlad Guerrero. With Hunter in front of him Guerrero should no longer feel the need to swing at everything including pitches in the dirt and passing birds.

Texas Rangers
In order to reduce the possibility of on-field incidents and curb government spending, Texas governor Rick Perry has granted Milton Bradley the job of personally executing death row inmates using the methods of his choosing; whether he will use buckets of baseballs, blind rage, or otherwise remains to be seen.

Oakland Athletics

The loss of Nick Swisher this off-season could prove detrimental. In watching him go the A’s lost a solid bat, a ton of hustle in the outfield, and one hell of a gorgeous head of hair.

New York Mets

Now with Johan Santana anchoring their rotation, the Mets are confident they will be showering Willie Randolph in champagne this season… rather than being forced once again to douse him in scalding hot water after a massive collapse.

Washington Nationals
When eventually asked why the Nationals are so terrible Paul Lo Duca will continue to use the “Come on bro” defense he used after the Mitchell Report.

Philadelphia Phillies
The American media will prove to be retarded after a widely exposed prank changes Brett Myers image from wife beater to clubhouse funny man. Oh wait… that already happened…. And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m freeeee…

Florida Marlins
On the downside the Marlins have once again managed to trade away their best talent. But on the upside they did secure quite a bit of young potential in return… which they will likely trade in a few years once it becomes legitimate talent.

Atlanta Braves
If you add their ages together, pitchers John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and manager Bobby Cox are older than the game of baseball itself. There’s no joke here. The Braves have a lot of old guys.

Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers’ players have shown up full of promise and team spirit this spring; newly acquired Eric Gagne is sporting beer goggles and Prince Fielder is still boasting his trademark beer gut. Go Brew Crew!

Chicago Cubs
After going 100 years without winning a World Series you’d think the new owners of the Cubbies would be concerned with pleasing the fans, but almost immediately after buying they announced a willingness to sell the naming rights to the beloved Wrigley Field. Why not go the full nine yards and just name it after your new Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome? Because wouldn’t it be a fitting gesture of what you’re saying to the fans if you just went ahead and called it the Fuk-u-dome?

Cincinnati Reds
With a revamped pitching staff and loads of young talent, the Reds should succeed if they can stay healthy. Then again, if Ken Griffey stays healthy for an entire season don’t we all have the apocalypse to worry about? It’s in the book of revelations, look it up.

Houston Astros
The Astros expectations for newly acquired closer Jose Valverde are extremely high. After leading the NL in saves in ’07, the ‘Stros are hopeful Valverde can give them a few good years before his psyche is inevitably shattered by a crushing Albert Pujols post-season bomb.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Some of the lofty goals of the ’08 Pirates include ending their 15 consecutive losing seasons streak, improving game attendance to WNBA-like numbers, and convincing fans they are in fact in the National League, not the Grapefruit League.

St. Louis Cardinals
Will manager Tony LaRussa continue his trend of seemingly endless and irrational pitching changes in ’08? Well, ask yourself what you think of LaRussa’s decision making process overall… and there’s your answer.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger fans, how excited are you really about the acquisition of Andruw Jones? 2 years, $36.2 mil… .222 batting average in 2007……… I’ll take your eerie silence as denial.

San Diego Padres
After falling just a few good innings short of the postseason in ’07, the Pads are hoping new addition Mark Prior can give them those few solid innings before his arm predictably falls off and disappears in a cloud of dust.

San Francisco Giants
Can talented pitching compensate for the loss of offensive production on the post-Barry Giants? With their lineup anchored by Randy Winn… unlikely. That is unless those talented pitchers start doing a little shopping at a certain quaint little Bay Area Laboratory I’ve heard so much about.

Colorado Rockies
Matt Holliday looks poised to keep his stalwart offensive numbers from ’07 on the rise, and looks poised to keep his skin delightfully moisturized by sleeping in the giant Coors Field baseball humidor.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Outfielder Eric Byrnes is super-stoked about the potential of the ’08 Diamondbacks. Then again, Eric Byrnes is also super-stoked about Tuesdays, nachos, pennies, and the possibility of one day colonizing the moon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Workplace madness

Ditch your responsibilities. Take a long lunch. Close your office door. Huddle up in your cubicle and do your best to retrain the jubilant yells that want nothing more than to be freed from your lungs, and free them as an ecstatic and altogether silent fist pump. That’s right; it’s time to waste time again… March Madness is here.

Is it my fault that the greatest sporting event of the year takes place largely during work hours? I think not. So I challenge bosses nationwide to heed my advice… don’t bother. There is no fighting the NCAA Tournament. In just a few short weeks the tournament kills more productivity and motivation than marijuana and paint huffing do yearly… combined! (Statistics pulled from an independent study in which I smoked pot and huffed paint throughout the 2007 Fiscal Year)

Americans are simply enthralled by the madness of it all. It consumes them from the initial moment brackets are available online and does not relinquish its grip until a champion is crowned. It is inevitable. Work will have to take a backseat until we all see the “One Shining Moment” montage. Accept it. When employees aren’t finding a way to watch the games, they’re watching the live action scoreboard in the corner of their monitor tick away, or their reading the detailed breakdown and analysis of each game, of their clutching their bracket in frustration as they move dangerously closer to having a sudden brain aneurysm. Well, that, or they’re spending their time writing up their own analysis at work right now (wink*wink).
Come on. What kind of writer would I be… no, what kind of blogger… no, what kind of American would I be if I didn’t use my designated work time to contribute to the monster of March Madness? So here are a few tips from me before the tournament kicks off. Agree with them, disagree with them, I don’t really care. Just as long as you’re reading at work like the rest of us hard-working, red-blooded Americans.

The Dark Horse- Pitt
The Panthers looked monstrous in the Big East tournament and appear poised to go on a big run. After a year in which they lacked consistency and faced injury, the Panthers looked just fined as they handily disposed of Georgetown in the Big East finals. Now, they stand as the team with the best chance of ousting a 1 seed early. Look for Pitt to really test Memphis if they reach the sweet 16, and if my dreams are at all foretelling look for Lavance Fields to put down the winning dunk from atop Dajuan Blair’s shoulders.

The Big Flop- Duke
Maybe this is too obvious because the Dookies are so easy to hate, but they look to me as the highest seed that could flop very quickly (not unlike their defensive tactics). The undersized Blue Devils are going to run into problems against any team with a remote inside force, and if they aren’t hitting from 3-land their offense tends to run dry in the second half. With the task of facing West Virginia or Arizona in only the 2nd round, the possibility that Greg Paulus will never get the chance to get dunked on in a Championship game has become a very real one.

The Cinderella- Bulldogs
It happens every year, a team who no one expects much from makes a deep run into the tourney. This year’s pick is easy, take the Bulldogs. Walk around preaching to all of your friends about how no one realizes just how talented this Bulldogs squad is. They’re scrappy. They’ve got heart. Trust me, bet everyone you meet that you will see the Bulldogs in the sweet 16. Just avoid admission that Butler, Gonzaga, Mississippi State, Drake, and Georgia are all in the tournament, and are all nicknamed the Bulldogs. There’s got to be at least one sucker who won’t notice.

The Favorite- UNC
The Tarheels have been among the nation’s best for the entire year, even while enduring a stretch without their star point guard and floor general Ty Lawson. Now, after winning the ACC regular season title and the ACC tournament the Heels come to the field of 65 as the number 1 overall seed and won’t even have to leave their home state until the Final Four. With several tough opponents lined up in the East bracket UNC’s trip will certainly not be a cakewalk, but the odds of witnessing another awkward, flailing Tyler Hansbrough celebration come April 7th are looking pretty fair indeed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What to watch this week

After enduring the last week of the sporting world treating Brett Favre’s retirement like it was the death of Superman, I figure it’s time to get back into the swing of things. So here are the top three stories to check out this week that don’t involve the tragic departure of a hero we will always have in our hearts and on our minds.

When will the Rockets come back down to Earth?
This week the Yao-less Houston Rockets extended their win streak to 19 straight, a franchise best and third best all time for the NBA. For a team that was almost immediately written off by most once their big man went down, the Rockets certainly don’t seem to suffer from a lack of confidence. Since their 7’6” centerpiece Yao Ming went down for the season with a stress fracture in his foot (rumor has it that a fan dropped a penny from the observation deck atop his head and the speed it picked up on the way to landing on his foot is what caused the break) the Rockets have not shown any signs of slowing. Winning 6 straight with a combination of suffocating defense and a faster moving offense, Houston has made all of their doubters think twice before dismissing them without Yao. His absence has led to more minutes for rookie big man Carl Landry along with an unexpected boost from the always staunch defense of the ageless Dikembe Mutombo. In spite of being upwards of 75 years old, Dikembe has proven he can still be a defensive stopper, as well as the fact that no matter how crucial the game situation may be he will always stay backcourt for his trademark finger-wag after a block.
The “role players” on this team seem out to prove that the Rockets are not just Tracy McGrady and a bunch of drill cones he can use for screens. And going into games this week against Atlanta and Charlotte, they have a legitimate chance to push their streak to 21, which would leave them in second place all time to the ’71-’72 Lakers 33-game win streak. The true test should come on Sunday when they face off with the Lakers. So if they are able to beat the Lakers and extend the streak to 22 games, will we believe in them then? Nahhh, they got Boston after that.

The Yankees showing pre-season panic?
The New York Yankees of the last decade or so have gained a reputation for signing one-time superstars at the tail end of their career, and it hasn’t exactly always worked out in their favor; Randy Johnson, Jason Giambi, Rondell White, Roger Clemens, and now… Billy Crystal. That’s right, the New York Yankees have signed the actor/comedian and long-time Yankee fanatic to a one day minor league contract that he will fulfill on Thursday, March 13, one day before he turns 60!
“I’ve been waiting 50 years for this call,” Crystal said in a statement released by the team. “I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of the Yankees and commissioner Selig. I know this’ll be tougher than the Broadway Softball League, but I’m looking forward to helping the younger players, which by the way is all of them. Oops, I have to go, Scott Boras is on the phone.”
So are the Yankees doing this as a friendly publicity gag for the fans to enjoy? Or, are they so worried about their recent lack of playoff success that they’re willing to see what anyone out there has to offer? Crystal is clearly passed his prime in any regard. The closest he has been to baseball since high school was when he directed the Yankee-based movie “61*”. Sure, this is only a one day contract, but if he performs well will the Bombers consider giving him a shot at the opening day roster? Only time will tell, but the possibility of Crystal looking like he truly belongs out there is definitely in the cards… his one day contract will be fulfilled against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

UNC-Duke rubber match?
One of my favorite weeks of the year, NCAA basketball conference tournament week is upon. This week has already provided several upsets that will vault more mid-majors into the tourney, but like most I am looking forward to the weekend and the big conference play it has to offer. Especially the ACC tournament.
Consistently one of the most fun conferences to watch, the ACC tournament offers entertaining and competitive games year in and year out. And once again, the focal points of that tournament will be UNC and Duke. With both teams a part of the nation’s elite this season, and a split regular reason record, a third match-up in the ACC tourney could provide us with the game of the year.
One of the greatest rivalries in sports, Tarheels-Blue Devils is always a knock-down, drag out competition with all of the weight of Tobacco Road resting in the balance. And this year, a tiff between the coaches has added an extra little bit of drama into the mix. UNC coach Roy Williams didn’t take to kindly to coach K’s words that he felt were a shot at his team. With UNC suffering injuries throughout the year, Williams couldn’t help but think Krzyzewski’s little “unlike other teams, we don’t talk about all of our injuries” comment was directed at the Heels. And after a radio tirade that had the generally gentlemanly Williams spouting “gosh darn its” and “dadgums”, things seemed to get a little personal.
So if both teams advance far enough in the tourney to face off again, expect a war. Will Duke take the season series with another barrage of three pointers? Or will UNC win the year with another stellar defensive showing? Who knows? One thing is for sure though; you won’t hear coach K talking to the media about the injury his point guard sustained taking a vicious tea-bagging to the face.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

But what about Brett Fav-ruh?

The day has finally come. It is time to say goodbye to everyone’s favorite fun-lovin’, gun-slingin’, Wrangler wearin’, 5’o clock shadow-havin’, burger eatin’, just another regular guy like you or me (except for the money, rugged good looks, and talent) quarterback. The announcement came early this morning around 7:30am Eastern Time: Brett Favre is officially retiring… probably.

The announcement came by way of a voicemail that sounded strangely like an apologetic break-up on ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen’s cell phone, but at least this time it came straight from the horse’s mouth. Favre has finally said it: “It’s over.”

It seems he is doing what far too many athletes are not smart enough to do, and that’s going out on top. And by top I mean almost leading his team to the Super Bowl. Sure he didn’t win the big one, but Favre did in 2007 what many said he was no longer capable of doing. Enjoying the best completion percentage of his career, along with his best passer rating and most passing yards since the late nineties, and once again leading the league in manly stubble, Favre proved he still had what it takes to compete. So after a season in which he was seemingly revitalized, most fans and media assumed the oft-fickle Favre would undoubtedly stick around for one more year. But Brett has decided last season’s success was enough, and now he is doing the right thing; He’s saying goodbye.

Beginning his career as a first round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, Favre was immediately relegated to the bench behind Chris Miller (don’t worry… I don’t know who that is either). But only a year later, thanks to Falcons’ coach Jerry Glanville’s staunch belief in Miller, Favre was traded to the Green Bay Packers. From the ’92 season on, Favre made 275 consecutive starts and won a Super Bowl. Chris Miller played in a grand total of 40 more games, and Falcons fans were forever stuck with the haunting nightmare of what Brett Favre might have looked like doing the “Dirty Bird.” Former coach Jerry Glanville was discovered dead in his home in early 1997, his body was bloated and hanging from the ceiling fan by a belt… he was wearing a foam cheese-head (not really, but he probably should have).

Over the course of his career Brett Favre became known as many things. As one of the league’s most fierce competitors, he was the guy who always wanted the ball in crunch time (even if it meant he had to carry the guy who actually had the ball). He’d become known as a clutch passer with a penchant for turning out extraordinary performances that we’ll all treasure for a lifetime. Whether it was his victory in Super Bowl XXXI, his 3 MVP seasons, his Monday Night Miracle (throwing for 4 TD’s and 399 yards one day after the passing of his father), or my personal preference, the unforgettable show he put on in 1998, Brett Favre has dominated the highlight reels for the better part of 15 years. He owns nearly every passing record in the book. His jersey is the only Wisconsin sports jersey you will EVER see outside of the Badger State. To put it simply, he will be missed by many.

Sportscenter will seem a bit empty next season. The Lambeau cheese heads will be a bit less raucous. John Madden will cry himself to sleep each night and wake just a little bit less alive each morning. For we as football fans will not forget what Brett Favre was. He was without a doubt one of the greatest to ever play this game we love so much. And he played it with just that… love. The entertainment and joy he has provided us over the years has truly been a gift.

I, for one, thank you Mr. Favre. It’s been a pleasure. And I very much look forward to writing my “Welcome back Brett Favre” column six weeks from now.