Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for August, 2010

Best Catch Ever

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 30, 2010

I’ve certainly seen some amazing baseball catches in my time, but nothing I’ve ever seen rivals this grab by Masato Akamatsu of the Hiroshima Toyo Carps.  You’ve probably figured out by the names that this isn’t a catch from a Major League game.  This is from Japan.

There are no words that do this catch justice.  The video says it all.

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18 game season? Why not?

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 26, 2010

You’ve probably heard by now that the NFL is targeting 2012 for an expansion of the regular season from 16 to 18 games.  I think ultimately I am on board with the owners on this one, although there are plenty of reasons to hesitate. I so agree with some of the reasons from folks that think this is a bad idea, but I don’t think any of them are a deal breaker.  I think this is a case where the benefits end up outweighing the negatives.

I think the single biggest reason to do it is it would cut down on preseason football.  I don’t think there is any question that preseason football is the biggest rip off in sports.  Season ticket holders across the league are forced into paying full price to attend these useless scrimmages.  No one can say with a straight face that preseason NFL even closely resembles the regular season product.  I’m a football nut, and the only reason I watch every play of the Broncos’ preseason games is because I’m being paid to as part of my job.  An 18-game regular season would also mean a reduction in preseason from four to two games.  This seems like a no brainer that most fans would want to see two more meaningful games as opposed to two extra scrimmages that don’t count and feature many players who ultimately won’t make the team.

Fewer preseason games would also include the benefit for teams and players of less training camp.  Football has evolved considerably from even 15 years ago, for players are now keeping in shape year round, and thus don’t need lengthy training camps to get ready.  This is also another argument for reducing the preseason.  Four games are simply not necessary to get ready.  They don’t play any preseason games in college, and that has never seemed to be a problem in regards to the quality of play in week one.  I’d much rather see more games that count and reflect the true nature of the product as opposed to scrimmages where both teams are openly attempting not to win.

Now, I do acknowledge the problems with this.  The biggest one would be increased risk of injury given two extra regular season games, but to me this argument is voided completely by the removal of two preseason games and a shorter training camp.  Teams can lose guys to injury at any time; preseason, regular season or practice.  Just ask the Broncos about losing Elvis Dumervil for the season in a one on one drill.  It is unavoidable that these things happen, but I don’t believe there is any increased risk with a regular season game over a preseason game for any particular player.

One concern might be that some of the later games could be rendered meaningless if a team clinches too early and elects to rest players.  We’ve already seen cases where teams have sat guys for the last week of the year or even the final two weeks after clinching a division title or home field advantage.  While this is possible, it’s something that’s already a problem now anyway.  It is also equally possible that we could see even more fantastic races down the stretch for playoff positioning.  I think there would be enough excitement down the stretch that this wouldn’t be any bigger deal than it is now.

What about the record books?  This is a problem that baseball experienced when it went from 154 to 162 games.  When Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, he had eight fewer games than when Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961.  Football could have similar issues with records for yards, touchdowns, etc.  For example, a running back would only need to average 59 yards a game to crack the 1,000 yard barrier for the season if it were 18 games.  The flip side of that is that this milestone is already less impressive than it was even 10 years ago.  More and more backs are already hitting that barrier now anyway, so what if more hit it over 18 games?  I say make 1,500 yards the new rushing milestone and this isn’t a big deal.

Of course there is the issue of player salaries.  The players of course would want to get paid for the two extra regular season games.  Their salaries are based on a 16-game schedule, and thus they do not get paid for preseason games.  This would also mean the owners lose one of two preseason home dates where they get full gate receipts and the players don’t see a dime of it.  It is perhaps fitting that the collective bargaining agreement is a really hot topic right now with a lockout perhaps looming in 2011.  If the owners want to push this through, the players are going to sign off on it as part of this agreement.

Despite the issues that come up with an 18-game season, I think more football is never a bad thing.  Two more games that count at the expense of two that don’t is not going to dilute the product.  If you were talking about making it  a year round operation or something like that, then dilution would be a valid argument, but this is a modest enough increase in real games not to be the case.  I think the extra meaningful games will only enhance pro football.  Are you really going to watch every play of your team’s fourth preseason game when all of your key players are going to see little to no action?  Unless you really want to see the guys that are about to get cut, you’re not missing much there.  Will you watch two extra regular season games?  Of course you will.

I think this will ultimately happen, and I think it will ultimately benefit the NFL.

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Updated MLB Power Rankings

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 23, 2010

Back in May, I put a list of MLB power rankings together.  Needless to say, I had some of the teams placed correctly, and some, well…..not so much.  My most egregious errors were putting the Padres and Braves way too low, and I had teams such as the Tigers and Nationals placed too high.  Here is how I see the teams ranked 1-30 as we sit now in late August, and just for fun the ranking from May is in parentheses.

1. (5)  New York Yankeees – The Yankees seem to always have the talent to be up toward the top.  Certainly their payroll has a lot to do with that, but they certainly have the tools to be a major factor in the playoffs as they try to repeat.  The rotation is solid in all five spots, and the bullpen is as good as it gets.  They have to be concerned about the injuries to A-Rod and Lance Berkman, but the rest of the veteran lineup is doing more than enough to pick up the slack.  The team should be money in a short playoff series against virtually anyone.

2. (17)  San Diego Padres – This is without the question the team I misfired most on early in the year.  I thought for sure they would go away.  They haven’t.  Their rotation has been dominant, led by guys many casual fans haven’t heard of.  Even die hard fans are just getting to know Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Wade LeBlanc.  The offense gets the job done with solid fundamentals, and they made a statement that they’re going for it this year by acquiring Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline.  This team is for real, and they are not going away.  They may just win the whole thing.

3. (9) Texas Rangers – The Rangers have the ability to light up the scoreboard offensively on any night.  That ability will get even better once Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler return from the DL.  Their starting pitching has improved greatly over the course of the season, and at the trade deadline they added a true ace in Cliff Lee to anchor it.  There is still a lot of youth on this team, and that could be their downfall against a team with experience, but the talent is definitely there.

4. (1) – Tampa Bay Rays – Tampa Bay is right there with the Yankees at the top of the AL East.  They have more than enough ability offensively with a potent lineup, but their hitting has been very streaky.  While it has been good enough to produce a ton of runs, they have also been no hit on two occasions this season and were one out away from getting no hit a third time.  Fortunately, the starting pitching, especially David Price, and bullpen are terrific.  That is enough most nights, but the Rays had better the lineup doesn’t hit a low streak in the playoffs.

5. (2) Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies’ biggest problem has been injuries, but they are starting to get guys healthy.  They added Roy Oswalt at the trade deadline to join an already potent rotation, and their lineup can score runs like just about anyone.  Their bullpen is very inconsistent, and while I think it won’t be bad enough to prevent them from winning the NL East, it might be bad enough to allow the Braves to catch them.

6. (6) San Francisco Giants – San Francisco has the pitching (Lincecum, Zito and Cain) to win a playoff series just on that.  They also have really beefed up their lineup, thanks to the additions of Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen.  This team does have the talent to be a real player in the playoffs, but they may still have a hard time catching the Padres, so they may need to get the wild card to make it.

7. (20) Atlanta Braves – Another team that I really underestimated.  The starting rotation is among the best in the league, and so is their bullpen.  The offense took a big blow with the season ending injury to Chipper Jones, but the Braves added Derrek Lee via trade to compensate.  Atlanta has a good mix of young and veteran talent, and they will need to keep overachieving to hold off the Phillies in the east.

8. (3) St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for the NL Central after they had a big lead early in the year.  Albert Pujols has certainly done his thing with 33 home runs, but he hasn’t had a lot of help.  Matt Holliday is not playing to his contract level, and the rest of the lineup has struggled to score runs consistently.  The pitching is very good (Adam Wainwright is an easy Cy Young candidate), and that has kept them afloat.  They need to step up the offense though going forward.

9. (14) Cincinnati Reds – I thought in May that the Reds were putting a nice team together that might be able to make a run next year.  They have sped up the timetable with clutch hitting and a rotation that rarely falters with a really bad game.  If St. Louis doesn’t get its hitting together soon, the Reds may just find themselves in the playoffs.  They must however get better outings from Edinson Volquez, who has been terrible since coming off the DL last month.

10. (4) Minnesota Twins – The drop in the rankings isn’t really due to anything the Twins have done, it’s more of a reflection of other teams playing better than expected.  Minnesota has plenty of good hitting, and the bullpen has overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan at the start of the season.  The biggest issue I see for the Twins is their starting pitching doesn’t quite stack up to the other top teams in the American League.  They have a really good shot to hold the White Sox off for the division title, but I don’t think this team is set up well to win in the playoffs.

11. (21) Chicago White Sox – Chicago has actually done a nice job overcoming a terrible start, and while they still trial the Twins by five games in the central, they have managed to put themselves in contention after middling in last place in late May.  The White Sox have managed to get their starting rotation in good shape thanks to major improvement from Edwin Jackson and Gavin Floyd, and their lineup can score.  The problem is the bullpen, which currently has no suitable closer.  This will be their downfall and why they probably won’t win the division ultimately.

12. (16) Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox have been riddled with injuries all season.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia probably won’t be back, and that will hurt their lineup.  The rotation has been very up and down despite all the big names, and even Jonathan Papelbon has blown several saves.  Boston is trying to get Johnny Damon back to help make a late run, but the Yankees and Rays are too good to get caught.

13. (8) Toronto Blue Jays – It really seems unfair to drop the Blue Jays because they have done better this year than anyone expected.  The rotation has been very good even without Roy Halladay, and the lineup has been blasting home runs left and right.  So why the drop?  They just don’t quite have enough to compete in the AL East, and they are too far back in the standings to have a shot at the playoffs.  This however is a team to watch in 2011.

14. (12) Colorado Rockies – I’m sure I have my hometown team ranked too high, but the middle of the pack seems appropriate for them.  The Rockies have had a lot of good (Ubaldo Jimenez, Carlos Gonzalez), but they have a lot of bad to go with it (the now released Brad Hawpe and horrible pitching from Aaron Cook).  The Rockies are just way too inconsistent offensively, especially on the road.  They also will need to cut down the defensive errors next season.  They’ve made late runs before to make the playoffs, but it seems there is too much ground to make up this time.

15. (25) Los Angeles Dodgers – You can’t say they aren’t trying to make a playoff run.  It seemed they brought in everybody at the trade deadline, getting Ryan Theriot, Octavio Dotel and Scott Podsednik.  The problem has been the pitching, usually a strength for this team.  The bullpen has been especially bad with Jonathan Broxton getting removed as the closer for a time.  They’re playing better but are just too far behind to catch the Padres and Giants.

16. (15) Florida Marlins – The Marlins are another team that has way much talent to be hovering around .500.  Josh Johnson is an elite pitcher anchoring the rotation and Hanely Ramirez is an elite player leading the lineup, and while both have been very good most of the season, they haven’t gotten help when they’ve needed it.  This team looks like it’s about to tail off.

17. (11) Oakland Athletics – The A’s don’t have what you would call a sexy lineup, but they have enough to be competitive most nights.  The problem is while they’re competitive, they haven’t been winning consistently enough.  If I could pick a team to finish 81-81, it would be this one.  There is a lot of young talent here, but they seem like they’re going to finish right around .500.

18. (7) Detroit Tigers – I am somewhat at a loss to explain what happened to the Tigers, who nearly made the playoffs last year.  The rotation has really underachieved, and the lineup has been even worse when it comes to run production.  This is mostly the same cast from last year, so it is hard to say why they’ve struggled. Perhaps next year might be different if they keep the team together.

19. (22) Los Angeles Angels – The Angels made a big splash at the deadline acquiring Dan Haren to anchor the rotation, but that hasn’t worked out.  Their lineup has not hit consistently despite being loaded with talent, although losing Kendry Morales to injury was devastating.  This team should rebound next year as well, and could play spoiler to a lot of teams in September.

20. (19) Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers are another team that is not playing near to the level of their talent.  The bullpen has been a big problem, particularly Trevor Hoffman, who may never get to 600 career saves if he keeps blowing opportunities.  The lineup needs to start producing like their talent if this team wants success going forward in future seasons.

21. (27) Houston Astros – Houston strangely enough has played much better since dealing away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman at the deadline.  It appears that there is enough youth here that the rebuilding is well underway.  If Houston fans are patient, the future could be bright down in Texas.

22. (30) Baltimore Orioles – There isn’t much talent here, but they are playing really hard for new manager Buck Showalter.  They have managed to climb out of the cellar in terms of worst record in baseball, and they have beaten several contending teams in recent weeks.  I sense a good September for them, and a bright outlook for 2011.

23. (28) Seattle Mariners – The Cliff Lee acquisition didn’t work out, but now that he’s gone it seems as if this team is pointed at the future.  There are some good hitters in their lineup (I really like Justin Smoak, acquired in the Lee trade to Texas), and there is a lot of potential in the starting pitching.  They’ve got to get better next year or there is something wrong.

24. (13) Washington Nationals – I had them ranked high in May because they were winning a lot of games.  Obviously that’s tailed off, but there still have some talented hitters.  The future also looks really bright with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  I’ll be curious to see if Adam Dunn is still with the club in 2011.

25. (18) Arizona Diamondbacks – Arizona has a lot of talent.  They also don’t have any consistency.  The lineup is potent at times with numerous hitters capable of mashing home runs, but they also strike out a lot.  The bullpen is terrible, and that alone has cost them numerous games.  The prospects acquired in the Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson deals should help going forward.

26. (10) – New York Mets – This ranking has as much to do with what has happened off the field as on it.  Closer Francisco Rodriguez is a complete embarrassment for punching his father in law, and the Mets were right to terminate his contract.  They also have a lot of money tied up in Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay with nothing to show for it.  Even ace Johan Santana has been really up and down.  This team has too many veteran guys who are past their window of opportunity, and they need to blow it up and start over.

27. (24) Chicago Cubs – The rebuilding is well underway.  Gone are Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, and even manager Lou Pinella, who retired.  They would like to unload Aramis Ramirez’ large contract as well, but he is refusing to waive his no trade clause. They will spend September taking a good look at young talent.  Cubs fans have a century’s worth of patience under their belt, and they’ll need it for a few more years before they are good again.

28. (26) – Cleveland Indians – Cleveland is a team that appears to be lacking any kind of direction.  They don’t any names that jump off the page at any position, save for Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, both of whom are so injury riddled they might not have anything left.  They had better hope that help is coming from the farm system soon.

29. (23) – Pittsburgh Pirates – As always, this team has the feel and look of a Triple A club.  They have young talent, but it seems inevitable that all the good players will be traded when ownership can’t afford them or doesn’t want to pay for them.  They have endured 17 consecutive losing seasons.  To put it another way, they have not had a winning season the Rockies and Marlins came into existence in 1993.

30. (29) – Kansas City Royals – I feel really bad for Kansas City fans as well.  The Royals, like Pittsburgh, trade away their best players year after year, and even when they try to keep good talent (Zack Grienke, Joakim Soria), it doesn’t seem to help them.  They have the combined problem of cheap ownership with management that doesn’t know what they’re doing.  Improvement doesn’t seem to be coming soon in either area.

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Is Carmelo the next to leave Denver?

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 20, 2010

It’s pretty obvious that Denver is a football town, especially this time of year, but Carmelo Anthony is doing his best to steal headlines and garner attention, and not in a good way.  In a summer where the country was swept by LeBron mania (or had it shoved down its throat, depending on your level of NBA interest), Anthony has had in front of him a 3-year $65 million extension that he has been sitting on.  He is due to make $17.1 million this coming season and has a player option to make $18.5 million in the 2011-12 season.  Needless to say, the Nuggets are doing everything they can to try and stroke Anthony’s ego and make him feel like the franchise player.  Anthony has so far not signed the extension, which at first didn’t seem like a big deal but has now snowballed to the point where numerous reports say he wants out and will only sign the extension if he is traded to a team of his choice.  Anthony hasn’t said much himself to clarify the situation, save for the following statement from his Twitter account (unedited by me, note the incorrect use of “their”): “Funny how people come up with there (sic) own analysis of a situation,” he tweeted. “I tell you boy … Unbelievable.”

Most NBA experts think it is not a matter of if Anthony will leave Denver, but when.  Much of this is of course based on speculation, and as such there is no consistent theme to the stories.  SI.com is reporting that Anthony would be willing to sign the extension if he is traded to the Knicks, Nets or Rockets.  An ESPN.com story by Ric Bucher talked about toasts at Anthony’s wedding by Chris Paul and Amare Stoudemire, talking openly about joining forces in New York with the Knicks.  The thinking goes that Anthony is an east coast boy, born in Baltimore and a proud Syracuse alumnus.    There are lots of quotes from anonymous sources, usually ones who are “close to the situation”.  There is also the practical evidence that Anthony’s south Denver house is on the market, to the tune of a cool $9.5 million.  There is also a potential lockout looming in 2011, meaning the free agent market next summer may not be as desirable for Anthony is it was this summer for LeBron and his buddies.

This makes the situation tough to predict and dissect because ultimately we don’t know what Anthony is thinking. As it stands now here are the possible ending scenarios for this saga, in no order whatsoever.

– He signs the extension and stays with the Nuggets: For all we know, Anthony could be taking his time to make sure staying in Denver is the right decision for him.  House on the market aside, Anthony could be concerned about the potential lockout and may ultimately decide that the guaranteed money that is on the table for him now is the way to go, even it means he stays in Denver.  It is possible that whatever contract Anthony garners as a free agent could be significantly less than his current offer from the Nuggets.  There is also the possibility that Anthony is waiting to see who the Nuggets hire as their new general manager (Mark Warkentein and Rex Chapman were fired from the front office last month).  If that’s the case, the possibility exists that Anthony could be talked into staying.

– He says he will not sign the extension and the Nuggets trade him: The Nuggets could decide to cut their losses and deal Anthony to avoid losing him as a free agent.  They would explore the best deal among the teams that Anthony wants to be dealt to.  It is possible the Nuggets do this to cut their losses and would also be a signal that they would be starting the rebuilding process.  It is more than likely that the Nuggets would get little more than cap relief in return for their superstar for there is a proven track record of teams not getting equal value for their stars in trade in all sports.

– The Nuggets could decline his trade request and make him play out the final year of his contract: This would obviously be a very risky move, not only because they might then get nothing for Anthony if he leaves after the season, but they could also be dealing with an unhappy superstar.  In a funny way, the looming threat of a lockout could play into Denver’s favor in this scenario because it might ultimately scare Anthony into signing the extension if he feels the market next summer won’t be player friendly.  Then again, it is also possible that this would allow Anthony to bide his time and simply sign with whatever team he wants to play for next July.

I am still hopeful that Anthony will sign the extension and stay in Denver, but the realistic side of me says that is probably unlikely.  After all, even more money didn’t convince LeBron to stay in Cleveland.  I think Anthony feels that he is not viewed in the same class as LeBron, Wade, Kobe, etc.  My response to that is that Anthony has not won the way the others have.  He has only gotten the Nuggets out of the first round of the playoffs once in seven seasons.  If he wants to leave because he feels the Nuggets haven’t been loyal to him, that’s his problem because the Nuggets have done more than enough to show him that he is their franchise player.  If he wants to leave because he feels like another place is his best chance to win a championship, well, it’s not like the Nuggets haven’t tried.  Their payroll is well above the luxury tax because they’ve tried to get Anthony help.  Ultimately, whether it’s in Denver or somewhere else, Anthony will need to prove he is a winner.  Where will it be?  I hope it’s Denver but I don’t have any more of an idea than anyone who isn’t Anthony himself.  Regardless, it has long been clear that players run the show in the NBA, not coaches and executives.

Posted in basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Settle down on Tebow, please!

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 18, 2010

I am extremely sick and tired of hearing about Tim Tebow.  Look, I hope he succeeds.  I really don’t want to see yet another first round pick wasted by the Broncos a la Marcus Nash or George Foster.  I hope Tebow can learn how to play in the NFL.  What I am getting infuriated by are headlines such as the following from supposedly reputable news outlets:

“Tim Tebow will start for Broncos this season” – Orlando Sentinel

“Tebow will start by December” – Miami Herald

“Tim Tebow mania overtaking Broncos” – USA Today

“Orton will have Tebow monkey on his back” – MSNBC.com

Whoa, slow down people!  So far all Tebow has done in the NFL is lead one touchdown drive in a preseason game against a vanilla prevent defense played by third stringers, many of whom will probably be bagging groceries in two weeks and not playing in the NFL.  He has done NOTHING to give even the slightest consideration that he can be an NFL starter.  The fact is way too many people are praising Tebow’s performance Sunday night.  I’ll admit he threw a beautiful pass to Matthew Willis that was dropped and he did show some guts on his touchdown run, but Tebow’s mechanics still need a lot of work.  He still holds the ball too low when he starts his throwing motion.  You think Dwight Freeney wouldn’t knock the ball right out of his hand?  Even on Sunday night against third stringers, Tebow got bailed out by the tuck rule on what otherwise would have been a Bengals’ fumble return TD by virtue of Tebow’s poor throwing mechanics.  He still has a lot to learn about reading NFL defenses, and if he keeps running like he did on Sunday night, someone like Ray Lewis is going to really bust him up.

I’m saying this to bag on Tebow.  He is just like any other rookie at the position.  He has actually had a pretty good camp and seems way ahead of Brady Quinn for the backup spot.  The fact is that Tebow is a project that will need time to transition to the NFL.  I do like his intangibles in terms of locker room presence and leadership, and I do admire his toughness on the field and willingness to do anything to win, but physically he’s got a ways to go before he can be an NFL starter.  This is not a Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco scenario where he is likely to come in and make that kind of impact right away.  Those guys made impact as rookies, but were also much more equipped to make the transition to the NFL because they had the physical tools.

Look folks, Kyle Orton is so far ahead in the race to be the Broncos starting quarterback this season that Tebow can’t even see his tail lights.  Orton has had the best camp of any player on the team.  He is throwing the ball with much more velocity and accuracy than he did last season, and all he did in his first preseason appearance was lead two touchdown drives against a playoff team from a year ago.  Unlike Tebow, who played against many players who are not likely to make the Bengals’ final roster, Orton played against the first team unit.  Oh, and Orton did this without any running game to help him because all of Denver’s running backs are injured.

I feel like people are so blinded by Tebow mania that it has long gotten beyond ridiculous. He is a rookie.  At that, he is a rookie that is a project.  Kyle Orton is playing incredibly well, and I think he may in line for a Pro Bowl type season (yes you read that right: Pro Bowl).  The only way that Tebow starts a game at quarterback for the Broncos at any point this season is if Orton gets injured, or the Broncos’ season has completely fallen off the wagon (say 3-7 or worse).  The only way Josh McDaniels will even think about starting Tebow at quarterback this season is if this season becomes a lost cause and he is looking ahead to next season.

I feel very strongly that this Tebow mania is very unfair to Orton and I feel like no one is acknowledging how well Orton has performed in this training camp.  I will even take it a step further and say that anyone who thinks Tebow should be starter over Orton either doesn’t know much about how football is actually played or is highly delusional.  Tim Tebow may blossom into a starter eventually, or he might not.  Until he does, let’s say off and give him time and a chance to develop.

For now, this is Orton’s team, and I think it should be really obvious that is best for the Broncos in 2010.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , , , | 35 Comments »

MLB Pennant Races

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 12, 2010

With about a month and a half to go in the Major League Baseball season, it seems time to offer some quick predictions on how the rest of the season will go.  I think the races will be exciting and intriguing.

AL East: It’s unfortunate that one team among the trio of the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox will have to miss the playoffs, because all three teams are better than any AL Central offering this year.  Nevertheless, one team will be out here, and I think it will end up being Boston, who currently sits five games behind Tampa Bay, who is currently leading the wild card chase.  Call me crazy, but I think the Rays will overtake the Yankees for the division when it is all said and done.  I still like their pitching, especially David Price, and their lineup, while streaky, is good enough to get runs scored when needed.  The lineup will get even better when Carlos Pena comes off the DL.  The Yankees will easily still make the playoffs as the wild card, for their lineup is especially potent as well.  Their downfall could be bridging from their starters to Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning.

AL Central: We do have a good race here between the White Sox and Twins.  Both teams have solid starting pitching, although I’d give Chicago a slight edge with Mark Buerhle and Gavin Floyd.  I think Minnesota has a better lineup, but they’re finding that hitting home runs at spacious Target Field is a challenge.  Look at Joe Mauer, who has just seven home runs this season after hitting more than 30 last year.  In the end, I think this will come down to the final week.  Two years ago this ended up going to a one game playoff with the White Sox winning the game 1-0.  It could be that close this time as well, but I’ll take Minnesota on a hunch.

AL West: This is over.  Texas has a big enough lead that it would rank as one of the biggest collapses in MLB history if they lost it.  I think the Rangers will be very dangerous in the playoffs because of their potent lineup (about to get even better with the return of Ian Kinsler from the DL).  Their starting pitching has also been surprisingly effective.  If they can keep that up, they might just win the whole thing in October.

NL East: Atlanta has a fairly comfortable lead, although they just got bad news on Chipper Jones, who may have an ACL injury according to reports.  Still, their pitching is outstanding, especially Tim Hudson, and their lineup of young players continues to come through.  Will it be enough to hold of the Philiies?  I still think Philadelphia would be leading the division if they had been able to stay healthy.  With Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in the same rotation, it really shouldn’t be fair.  I think Philadelphia overtakes Atlanta for this division when it’s all said and done, and the Braves will have a hard battle in a crowded wild card race.

NL Central: In light of the brawl earlier this week, we should have an outstanding race down the stretch between the Reds and Cardinals.  Cincinnati to me has been the surprise team this season, but their mix of youth and veterans has been playing well so far.  The key for them will be if they can keep up their surprising pitching.  I think the Cardinals have all the tools to make a run at the World Series, between a lineup that includes Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and a rotation led by Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter.  I think St. Louis will win this race, and they may not even have to sweat it in the final week.  I just don’t see the Reds being able to keep up their pace, particularly after the Cardinals snagged their mojo this week, sweeping them in Cincy after the brawl.

NL West: I think two playoffs teams will come out of this division: San Diego and San Francisco.  It’s only a matter of which one will win the division and which will be the wild card.  I think the Giants are a team that would be a force in the playoffs in a short series because of their rotation, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  The Padres though also have pitching that has been lights out all year, from guys that aren’t big names like Mat Latos and Jon Garland.  The Padres also made big moves at the trade deadline getting Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada to bolster their lineup.  I think the Padres will win this division, and the Giants will get the wild card spot in the NL, holding off the Braves and Reds in a tight race.

I think the Rockies, while having an outstanding season from Ubaldo Jimenez and a coming out party type year from Carlos Gonzalez, just don’t quite have the horses to keep up with the rest of the pack this year.  The rest of the rotation besides Jimenez is just way too inconsistent, and their inability to score runs on the road will ultimately prove to be their downfall.  In the most recent road trip the Rockies endured a string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings over three games, that’s just not going to get it done.  In the offseason they need to add another run producer to help Gonzalez and hope that youngsters Esmil Rogers and Jhoulys Chacin will be ready to take spots in the rotation next season.

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Brawl in Cincinnati

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 11, 2010

This one definitely caught my attention tonight.  This was sparked by comments made by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips about how he hated the Cardinals.  Check out the video courtesy of Fox Sports Net Ohio.  I had a full video embedded here but MLB took it down from YouTube, so here is the link from MLB.  It’s the best I can do.

I do disagree with the Reds’ announcers: This was not started by Yadier Molina.  This was started by Phillips with his comments the night before.  I also think Phillips said something to Molina before the brawl began.  Surely there will be lots of fines and/or suspensions to come once MLB looks at the tape.  I do think it’s interesting that only managers Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker were ejected and no players, but I think this way the umpires didn’t have to worry about sorting it out and the commissioner’s office will take care of it.  Bottom line: Don’t wake up the sleeping giant.  St. Louis has won the first two games of this critical NL Central series and now has plenty of motivation to bury the Reds.  Brandon Phillips may have just cost the Reds a shot at the NL Central.

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Please, stop with the injuries!

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 9, 2010

First of all, my sincere apologies for being a big delinquent and not posting anything for the past three months.  I have slapped a big penalty on myself and promise to post with a lot more regularity.   It is not a coincidence that I am posting on the night of the first NFL preseason game this year between the Cowboys and Bengals.  Honestly I happen to find preseason football completely useless, primarily because it is nothing more than chances for players to get injured.  I am fearful of what this preseason is meaning for the Broncos, because they have already had a dozen players suffer injuries of varying severity during the first week of training camp, and we’re still a week away from the first of Denver’s meaningless four scrimmages.  Of course I realize that players can get hurt at any time, I just get extremely frustrated when they occur during the preseason period during a time in which we’re a long way away from any kind of meaningful football.

The biggest injury of course is that to Elvis Dumervil, who led the Broncos with 17 sacks last year.  No one else on the team had more than four.  You don’t have to be a football expert to see that this is a major blow to the Broncos’ defense.  The Broncos know how important Dumervil is, for they signed him to a $58 million extension over five years just weeks ago.  It appears in a best case scenario that the Broncos MIGHT see Dumervil in December, although it seems like the smart move would be let him have the season ending surgery to repair his torn pectoral muscle and make sure you don’t lose him for more than just this season.  The Broncos will obviously miss his ability to rush the passer.  What makes it worse is the guy they were counting on to replace Dumervil, Jarvis Moss, is out for a couple of weeks at least with a hand injury.  The good news for the linebacking core is that Robert Ayers, last year’s first round pick who had no sacks, has dominated training camp and looks like he is showing great improvement over last season.

While Dumervil is lost for the season, the Broncos are optimistic that most of the other injured players have a chance to ready for week one at Jacksonville.  Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and Correll Buckhalter (back/neck) both suffered injuries on the first day of training camp.  This one day after the Broncos traded J.J. Arrington to the Eagles for special teams ace Joe Mays, a move that made sense at the time given Denver’s desire to upgrade the special teams unit, but made a lot less sense after the running core had been significantly depleted with the injuries.  Denver signed LenDale White to add some depth in that area and give them someone who could run the ball during the preseason besides guys who are sure to get cut, and then White got hurt as well during his first day of practice with the Broncos.  Worse for Denver is that White is facing a four game suspension from the league, so he won’t be available until October anyway.

Then there are the injuries to the wide receivers.  First round pick Demariyus Thomas, who was already dealing with a foot injury suffered before the draft, re-aggrivated the injury while making a spectacular touchdown catch in practice Saturday night.  Third round pick Eric Decker also suffered a foot injury during a goal line drill in Saturday night’s practice.  The good news is the Broncos don’t believe either of these injuries is serious.

The Broncos did cancel their scheduled practice on Sunday, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it was partially because they were concerned other players might get injured.  I do think it’s fair to say that most if not all of these injuries have been fluke in nature and they don’t appear to be the result of anything related to the team’s training or practice regimen.  Of course there are other teams that have had the injury bug bite them during this preseason, but clearly there is no injury around the league that is near as significant as Dumervil’s.  Factor in the other injuries the Broncos have suffered, and Denver has clearly been the most injury riddled team in the league so far in camp.  It needs to stop, or else the Broncos’ season will be stopped dead in its tracks before it even has a chance to get rolling.

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