Archives for: 2009, week 34


MLB MVP Races Enter Final Month

Permalink 06:47:52 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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-Digger's Daily-

Pennant fever is in full swing. Each year a handful of players turn it on during baseball's final month. Determining MVP winners brings about many philosophical considerations and one never knows how a votes will be cast. What does MVP mean has been subject of many debates. Will the player with best statistics win? Will the award go to a player who helps his team win the most games? How will personal popularity (or negativity) figure into things? Ted Williams once lost out on MVP honors due to a sportswriter from his home town refusing to vote for him. Talk about being spiteful.

Here's my short list of National League candidates heading into baseball's final month. All have their merits.

Pablo Sandoval (SF) - Sandoval has carried San Francisco's offense this season. .336 BA, 37 2B, 21 HR, 75 RBI, .953 OPS. Not too shabby for a player with only 41 Major League games on his resume before this season started. He's a major reason why SF is challenging for the playoffs. Sandoval's career is off to a tremendous beginning.

Hanley Ramirez (FLA) - Marlins biggest star is enjoying another fine season. They seem to win when he hits. This year he's batting 3rd as opposed to prior years leading off. Stats: NL leading .359 BA, 37 2B, 19 HR, 85 RBI, .984 OPS, 24 SB. This guy does it all and is one of baseball's elite shortstops. Imagine how incredible he'd be with a stronger supporting cast.

Ryan Howard (PHI) - Philadelphia began separating themselves from NL East foes as soon as Howard started pouring it on. One of the games most feared power hitters has been batting at a .300 clip since the All Star break. Overall, .271 BA, 37 RH, 111 RBI, .921 OPS. He strikes out way too many times for my liking (155) leaving runners stranded and negates opposing managers issuing intentional walks (3). He could walk away with MVP with a red hot September.

Albert Pujols (STL) - Pujols is undoubtably one of the greatest hitters baseball has ever seen. This 9 year vet has belted over 30 HR, 100 RBI, .300+ BA every single year. His 2009 line reads: .320 BA, 102 R, 41 HR, 111 RBI, 1.112 OPS and he's far from finished. Pujols has been a one man wrecking crew for St. Louis. Check out these stats when the bases are loaded. 8-12 (.667), 5 HR, 27 RBI. NL's most complete and feared hitter.

As of this moment, these four represent my odds on favorites. If voting was held today, my pick for MVP goes to Albert Pujols. Other candidates worth keeping an eye on throughout September are: Prince Fielder (MIL), Andre Ethier (LAD), Matt Kemp (LAD) & Ryan Zimmerman (WAS).

Stay tuned this week for my AL MVP & Cy Young candidates. Final selections will be made once the 2009 season has completed.

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Random NFL Thoughts

Permalink 02:14:50 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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-Digger's Daily-

NFL kicks off regular season play Thursday, September 10, when Tennessee visits defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh. There's been a ton of football news lately. Here's a glimpse of my random thoughts regarding what's taken place in recent days.

Dallas Cowboys can't seem to sidestep controversy. The latest chatter has to do with a mega sized super video screen which hangs over the field. When Tennessee played Dallas in the pre-season opening of Cowboys Stadium their punters aimed for the huge screen during warmups and successfully nailed it. During the game, a punted ball hit the screen and play was halted so refs could figure out what to do. According to league rules, nothing can hang less than 85 feet above playing surfaces. Jerry Jones knew of the rule and instructed crews installing the massive video screen to hang it 90 feet. NFL just decided if a ball hit it during games then refs will order a do over. A do over? That's right, a do over. It's probably the best way to handle it for now, but a do over just sounds lame on its' surface. Hearing fans and others talk of this incredible screen has been two fold. Most admire it. Perhaps the biggest complaint is it's too big and will take fans attention away from the live action 90 feet below. With a little luck, I'll venture back down to Texas this year to check it out for myself.

Brett Favre is back again! He's taken a media sacking not to be believed. Ok, 2008 was a trying season for him in Jets green. I've written extensively of how poorly New York handled play calling, how players seemed to quit, yada yada. Minnesota has a great young team needing a strong veteran leader to help these guys mature on the field. Speedy WR's, one of NFL's top running backs, tough defense and a great head coach. Immediately after Favre un-retired, he was bombarded with negative press from New York to Green Bay. Locker room "schisms" seems to be Minnesota's theme this week. Come on fellas. Be professional football players. Favre could be the answer. He's certainly better than any QB the Vikes have sent under center recently. If his arm is sound, this team has a legit shot at qualifying for NFC Championship Game. Settle down, play football and leave the rest up to the coaching staff.

Tom Brady got his shoulder slammed Friday after missing 99.9% of 2008 season. No news yet on severity of his golden arm. If it's serious, then New England is in deep trouble before the regular season begins. It'll be good news for Miami Dolphins fans and no love will be lost coming out of New York. Fantasy coaches who already drafted TB must be shaking right now (especially those of you in money leagues). Brady quickly became a Montana-esque type of NFL star QB due to his Super Bowl successes. Patriots fans are keeping an ear out for good news.

Denver Broncos suspended disgruntled All Pro WR Brandon Marshall for the remainder of preseason. Marshall wants out of Denver. He's become a distraction to his team. First, he wanted a new contract. Now, he wants out and has been publicly trashing the Broncos. Bad move Brandon. Denver has capable backups ready to earn their stripes. Going public never helps salary negotiations and his poor on field practice behaviour is probably sending negative warning signs to potentially interested teams. He's swatted at passed balls, kicked balls, publicly verbally abused Denver and ignored all calls for rational conduct leading to his suspension. Outspoken WR's often get nicknames, sometimes self imposed. Terrell Owens is called "T.O." - Chad Johnson changed his name to Ocho Cinco - If Marshall keeps this up fans and teammates might start calling him "BM" based on his crap(py) attitude.

So, who's your pick for NFL MVP this year? I really haven't given this subject too much thought until recently. On the AFC side this race appears wide open. Perhaps someone like San Diego's LT? Pittsburgh's Willie Parker comes to mind. Pats Tom Brady or Randy Moss? Indy's Peyton Manning? NFC it could be nearly anyone. Many great teams gearing up. The list is too long. I'll get busy doing some of my own analysis this weekend before posting predictions. Many names to review and team situations to scrutinize. Stay tuned.....

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NAACP to March at Lincoln Field for Vick

Permalink 03:00:00 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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-Digger's Daily-

ESPN ran a story Wednesday stating the NAACP, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and other local civil rights groups are planning to march around Lincoln Field on Thursday in support of recently signed QB Michael Vick. Say it isn't so!

Eagles management tried avoiding an "ugly scene" by phoning representatives of the various groups trying to get this event canceled. The main thrust behind this event, if taken at face value, is as follows (quoted from ESPN's Sal Paolantonio article 08/26/09):

"We believe Michael Vick has served his time, paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance and the animal rights groups want to hold him hostage for the rest of his life," J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, said Wednesday. "We think that's patently unfair. It denies Michael Vick's basic civil rights, denies him his ability to make a living."

So what's wrong with this picture? Many things. Too many, too obvious. Here are a few simple questions for my readers to ponder. Didn't Michael Vick receive a second chance from the NFL? Yes. Did he or didn't he sign an employment contract to be a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles? Yes. Was he or was he not named as starting QB for tonight's pre-season football game? Yes. Has Vick's civil rights been violated due to being incarcerated for running an illegal dog fighting ring? No.

So why is the NAACP and other civil rights groups planning to march tonight? To what end? Vick has been reinstated by the NFL giving him a right to play football (earn a living). Vick's debt to society has been served (jail term). He's a free man. While I'm certain many NFL teams did not want to take on a public image nightmare, Philadelphia took their chances. Now what? Civil rights groups will protest in contrast to the above Mondesire quote.

ESPN's story points out animal rights groups have used Vick as somewhat of a poster child attempting to garner support and awareness for abused animals. Everything from raising awareness, trying to find abused animals homes and seeking donations for helping animals subjected to cruelty. Local animal groups are trying to get the Eagles to match Vick's contract with a donation to their cause. How does this violate MV's civil rights? They have not called for any formal protests against the Eagles. Filed no petitions to have Vick terminated. Paolantonio wrote: "Local animal advocates seem to be keeping their distance. Rather than protest Vick or work with him, they prefer to use the public debate about his return to the NFL to raise money and awareness of animal cruelty issues." So what's the problem?

I fail to understand how a civil rights march outside Lincoln Field dedicated to "...(Vick) denied the ability to make a living" is supposed to help a person currently employed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Quite obviously, Vick's ability to earn a living has not been denied. How many other convicted felons sign a $1.6million contract in such a short time after being released from prison? This smells of something much deeper which I will address at a later date after tapping resources close to the situation at hand.

Let me take this one step further. What happens, who will be held responsible and accountable, if an innocent person(s) heading to the game suffers an injury if this protest turns ugly? Who will be responsible for any vandalism, property damage or civil injustices (which accompanies most large protests)? Afterall, we're talking about Philadelphia. It's one tough city and has been subject of many indecencies by unruly fans towards others. Remember hearing of temporary jails being set up at old Veterans Stadium in years past after drunken idiots started fighting or throwing objects during Phillies and Eagles games?

There are far better ways for the NAACP to bring positive attention to whatever cause they claim to be fighting. Engaging a protest in this manner, based on lack of "ability to earn a living", is a political sham devoid of fact and created for another purpose. If animal rights advocates have in any way, shape or form prevented Michael Vick from earning a living in the NFL or earning endorsements... then, NAACP should take up their cause directly with those they deem responsible by way of litigation or any other civil manner in which even the remote possibility of injury to others is not possible.

I'm curious why Paolantonio didn't interview Michael Vick for this news story? Is Vick for or against this march? How do Philadelphia Eagles players feel about it? Philadelphia police? Let's hope nothing bad comes from the march. It would be very unsettling should anyone get physically hurt or impared. In my opinion, far better venues for airing grievences can be found.

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NFL Power Rankings 2009

Permalink 04:00:00 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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-Digger's Daily-

Football gets underway in a couple of weeks. I can't wait. Fans have been treated to great football games this decade. Week after week highlight reels shine great moments from acrobatic plays to infamous football follies. Here's my own version of Power Rankings. No statistical information used, just my gut instincts used to rank teams (will be updated every 4 weeks of '09 season).

1- Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) Super Bowl Champs get early recognition. Smart play calling offensive scheme and punishing in your face defense. Repeat? Could be.

2- New England Patriots (11-5) Brady is back. Fantasy owners load up on Brady, Welker, Moss and perhaps RB Maroney. Defense is only question mark right now. Belichick one of NFL's best game day planners. Pats itching to return to Super status. 14-2 is not out of the question.

3- New York Giants (12-4) Manning signed a mega deal and wants to prove he's worth every penny. Punishing ball control running game and sack happy defenses will give opposing coordinators plenty to handle. WR remains teams biggest question mark. I'm miffed they passed on a few veteran WR's to help settle young & unproven corps. Manning needs to get these guys on the same page.

4- San Diego Chargers (8-8) Chargers biggest enemy has been terrible play calling and lack of sustained ball control. LT should be given 30 chances per game to work his magic. Rivers just signed a new deal. This team wants to win badly. Should've been 12-4 last season but lost tough games. Defense was impatient and gave up too many big plays in '08. These guys should easily record 11 wins in weak division.

5- Baltimore Ravens (11-5) I really like how this team is shaping up. Ravens remind me of Parcell's Giants teams. Ball control offense and bruising defense will be tough to beat. Strong contenders might play for AFC Championship.

6- Carolina Panthers (12-4) Great execution has been key to their success. Running game was unstoppable in '08 might be better in '09. Defense needs to set up field position. Divisional games never loomed larger.

7- Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) As usual, everyone seems to be on Phidelphia's bandwagon. McNabb was never sharper than he was down the stretch last season. WR's should be better which might propel this squad from a should be good team to a bonified winner. Health is always a concern. Westbrook, McNabb and lineman must stay injury free. Execution on offense in key situations has always haunted Philly. Defense will have plenty of tough matchups in divisional games. It'll be an anything can happen season. They do look very strong on paper.

8- Indianapolis Colts (12-4) Indy has been written off as an over the hill team. You can bet Peyton Manning isn't going down without a fight. Big play offense and big play defense. Manning needs to open up the offense after a conservative '08. Let the chips fall where they may. Colts are far from done.

9- Tennessee Titans (13-3) Tennessee's running game played huge during their 13 win '08. Collins returns as their main signal caller. Great coaching staff. Stingy defense. Collins has to make big passes when called on. Titans looking tough but I expect defenses to be ready for them this year.

10 - Chicago Bears (9-7) Welcome Jay Cutler. Who knows how far the Bears can go. If D gives them field position and Cutler can lead this offense then skies the limit. Bears are dangerous because no one, not even themselves, know how good they can be. WR's have tremendous speed. Hands? We'll soon find out. Offensive line will be creative opening running lanes and out of pocket pass protection.

11- Minnesota Vikings (10-6) Hopefully, Minnesota learned something the Jets refused to do last year. Call plays Favre has worked on in practice. Another dangerous NFC North team will give Chicago a run for division honors. Favre has something to prove after various outspoken persons denounced his '09 return. Vikings have super talent on offense with slippery dynamo Peterson and a slew of speed burning receivers. Favre has plenty of weapons. Defensively, this unit is on the rise via speed and power. Look out... if Favre is effective Minnesota will quickly become one of NFC's top squads.

12- Atlanta Falcons (11-5) I really can't explain why Atlanta remains relatively low on my list. Ryan, Turner, Tony Gonzalez and talented WR's. I guess it's because I remain skeptical of their D. Offense should put up big numbers. Not sure what to expect from defense. A wild card challenger and exciting to watch. Wins might be tough to come by this year.

13- Seattle Seahawks (4-12) Yep, that's right. Forget about Seattle's dismal injury plagued '08. It's a new season for a team with greater potential. Not many give Seattle a fighting chance. A healthy Hasselback will have plenty of weapons. Defense will not spend nearly as much time on the field as Hawks return to ball control team. They'll win the NFC West.

14- Dallas Cowboys (9-7) Why can't Cowboys win in September? Play calling? Bickering? I'm calling it lack of leadership. New Cowboys Stadium may inspire these guys. NFL rules committee may need to address looming issue of punters hitting the overhead scoreboard. 'Boys offense should thrive but seems to stall due to bad penalties. Defense has it's moments. Special teams has unmatched breakaway play speed. NFC is toughest. Dallas will need to be in top form every play.

15- Miami Dolphins (11-5) Miami stunned AFC East teams by winning 11 after a 1 win year in '08. Pennington remains one of NFL's best play action passers. WR's huge question mark and should see plenty of single coverages early on. It's all about running setting up passing plays. Wildcat offense kept opposing D's off balance. Dolphins D remains solid. Can't see them catching a Brady-led Pats team but these guys have an outside shot at challenging for wild card.

16-32 A few good teams with enough talent to challenge. Saints, Packers, Texans & Cards will have their moments. Not much to be said in positive light for remaining teams facing long, hard, losing seasons.

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MLB Power Rankings

Permalink 08:31:17 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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-Digger's Daily-

It's been a busy few weeks in MLB. The strong keep getting stronger. Not too long ago, all six divisions were very close. As I type, now there's only two divisions with second place teams within 5 games of the leaders. Wild Card races had important battles this weekend and remains wide open as August winds down. Here's my two cents and personal power rankings.

1- New York Yankees (78-46) Red hot. Lineup is firing on all cylinders. Starting pitchers perfoming well. Best record in baseball.

2- Los Angeles Angels (74-48) Survived key injuries to pitchers and hitters. A complete team. Only one player in lineup batting below .290.

3- Los Angeles Dodgers (74-41) Very balanced team in all facets. Colorado is charging hard after LA had rushed out to a big lead.

4- St Louis Cardinals (72-54) I didn't give StL too much credit heading out of spring training. They're looking very strong right now. Matt Holliday was a key deadline deal solidifying an increasingly dangerous lineup.

5- Philadelphia Phillies (71-50) Streaking Phils running away with NL East (as of now). Glaring weakness is bullpen. Starters going strong. Ryan Howard has finally awaken. Haven't played any strong teams lately.

6- Colorado Rockies (70-54) NL Wild Card leaders closing in on NL division leading LA. One of MLB's hottest teams is looking very strong. Starting pitchers playing their hearts out.

7- Texas Rangers (69-54) In a seesaw wild card battle with Boston. Rangers pitching has been a pleasant surprise. Only 5-5 in past 10 is raising a few question marks.

8- Boston Red Sox (70-53) Pitching is a major problem in Boston. Once hot hitting lineup only getting it done in spurts. Tough 2 of 3 loss to Yanks this weekend exposed a few flaws.

9- Tampa Bay Rays (67-56) Great home record (42-21), terrible away (25-35). They need a hot streak.

10- Detroit Tigers (62-58) Not really a top 10 team but they get this mark by me for being AL Central division leaders. Strong team beginning to struggle. Rest of division has not taken advantage when Tigers stumble.

11- Atlanta Braves (66-58) Braves have been playing well even though they've lost ground to Phils. Atlanta needs a hot streak to keep pace with both Philly & Colorado.

12- SF Giants (67-57) Fell off the pace for NL West title. Remains very much in wild card picture. Lincecum hasn't won in his past 4 starts.

13- Florida Marlins (65-59) They're beginning to drop back and will have to turn it around to keep pace with hotter NL teams. More conistency needed from lineup... quickly.

14- Chicago White Sox (63-61) Fiery Ozzie Guillen will be gone after this season. Team can't find a way to score runs. Underachievers should be in AL Cetral drivers seat. There's still hope even though these guys haven't awaken from sleep walking thru 2009 season.

15-30: Does it really matter? Not many bright spots here. Major disappointments or train wreck seasons continue to haunt these teams. Most notably... Chicago Cubs.

Stay tuned for my NFL power rankings due later this week.

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