The dark clouds hovering over Major League Baseball refuse to dissipate when it comes to PED's (performance enhancing drugs). David "Big Papi" Ortiz is the latest big name player implicated testing positive back in 2003. Add teammate Manny Ramirez inclusion today as for failed '03 in addition to receiving a 50 game suspension this season for another positive test of a banned substance.
PED stories and accusations will not go away. For those of us sick and tired of hearing, blogging, reading and listening to petty lying denials, MLB will never escape this tainted era. Not then, not now and certainly not when juicing cheaters of this generation come up for Hall of Fame consideration. No player implicated in this pathetic scandal should ever be allowed admittance into HOF. It's up to the BBWAA to make sure each and every suspected thug is locked out.
No penalties were handed down as testing in 2003 was sheepishly used to determine if there was a problem brewing in MLB. The players union (MLBPA) and MLB had an understanding all tests were to be conducted anonymously and no names were ever to be publicly released. Penalties for PED use began in 2004, suspensions in '05. As I've said numerous times, players are the public's red meat running cover for owners and a Commissioner who were all in the know well before baseball was shamed into beginning testing.
The Mitchell Report was half farce, half distraction to the true problem of how deeply steroids were being used. Releasing players names was mostly fodder and cover for general managers and owners who often conducted trades by discussing which players were juicing (and not). One of the most biased reports ever to be published, The Mitchell Report (investigated and written by former Senator George Mitchell), was a sham from the beginning. His "independent" report cannot be taken at face value when one considers Mitchell was a Boston Red Sox executive. So baseball trumpeted out one of their own full of commendations to investigate their own league. What came from this report was a half-assed assertion that there was a problem. Most players named in his report involved former players who had played on New York teams. Funny as to how Mitchell omitted star athletes who were currently under contract with his team (Boston). Neither Ortiz or Ramirez names were ever suggested by Mitchell as dopers. In 2004 Boston won their first World Series since 1918 breaking a streak known throughout baseball as "The Curse".
We can all kick and scream as loud as we want. Baseball has always run a sideshow to cover up their erroneous acts. Not one owner, general manager, field manager, coaches or team doctor has ever been implicated or suspended for conspiring to cover up PED use by players when they knew full well a problem was brewing in each and every major league clubhouse. Commissioner Selig has somehow remained unscathed throughout this tortuous mess by publicly living in denial and acting surprised of various reports which surfaced well before and after 2003.
PED's have completely tainted baseball records from the 1990's thru today. Remember how baseball came alive when McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris' single season home run record? Now proven to be a sham. Remember Barry Bonds breaking McGwire's record soon thereafter? A sham! Bonds then breaking Hank Aaron's all time home run record? A sham! The list of stars who were juicing and climbing up baseball's record books forever tarnished previous accomplishments by non-cheating players. Remember how Bud Selig proudly testified how "... baseball has been setting record revenues..." A sham! The bottom line was for as long as players were knocking the ball out of stadiums, re-writing records, striking out hitters etc... fans packed stadiums, television contracts exploded and owners profited. Greed played a very instrumental part of MLB baseball executives turning a blind eye to a well known problem which invaded the sport and to which they contributed.
Nowadays players names are slowly leaking out by an individual who managed to get their hands on 2003's anonymous testing results. Current players will take their lumps bur not for long. Steroids never fully investigated story will not go away any time soon. I remain miffed at how sports reporters nationwide have yet to call for Selig's head on a platter for allowing PED's to run rapid throughout MLB. This owner turned commissioner has rarely been an independent impartial figure. He's a joke in a world where cronyism prevails in sports and politics. If the owners had nothing to hide, then Selig would have been canned a long time ago. It's time for him to either step aside or be forcibly removed.
Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were officially inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame representing the Class of 2009. Both players had distinguished and celebrated careers. Over 21,000 fans attended the induction ceremonies. Focus is now shifting towards players eligible for 2010.
The Baseball Writers Association of America decides who gets in and who does not. We're entering the era of how this group will handle the steroids generation of players eligible for consideration. My personal feelings is to keep each and everyone out. This is a subject to be debated intensely in years to come. In some cases, a handful of players have been suspected of doping without any concrete evidence. How the BBWAA handles suspected players remains to be seen. Observing how Mark McGwire receives only a few token votes then it's safe to say most suspected players will be on the outside looking in as those who played within the rules, or with stricter moral's, earn their stripes. Writers can select up to 10 players on their ballots. Players need to be named on 75% of ballots to get in. Any player receiving less than 5% is dropped from future ballots.
2010 class includes returning players and a few new one's for consideration. Here's the list:
(First time players on ballot) - Paul Abbott, Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Danny Bautista, Brian Boehringer, Darren Bragg, Dave Burba, Ellis Burks, Greg Colbrunn, Mike Fetters, Brook Fordyce, Andrés Galarraga, Karim Garcia, Tom Goodwin, Ricky Gutierrez, Jimmy Haynes, Pat Hentgen, Sterling Hitchcock, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Barry Larkin, Curt Leskanic, Josias Manzanillo, Edgar Martinez, Brent Mayne, Fred McGriff, Mark McLemore, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Scott Service, Chris Stynes, Scott Sullivan, Todd Van Poppel, John Vander Wal, Robin Ventura, Fernando Viña, Turk Wendell and Todd Zeile.
(Returning players) - Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell.
As you can see 2010 is a loaded ballot. Plenty of deserving players on this ballot. Whether or not they gain entrance as first timer is yet to be seen. Here are my picks for the Class of 2010:
Official BBWAA results will be announced in November. Debates will soon start raging on blogs around the country.
Dawson (493 career HR) played hurt throughout his career. He was a class act on and off the field. His stats speak for themselves. Not sure what's holding up his nomination.
Blyleven has been a controversial nominee for years. He pitched admirably for many subpar teams and ranks 5th all time in strikeouts. He's eligibility has been denied for years. Many point to his 287 wins being less than the "auto" nomination of 300. Those nay-sayers fail to appreciate he pitched many years for poor teams.
Alomar was a tremendous talent who helped revolutionize how 2B was played. Outstanding fielder, clutch hitter and perrenial All Star. Might become one of the few 1st timers elected.
McGriff was steady as they come. His 493 home runs seem most impressive considering he played clean while others around him were juicing up. A true model of consistency. Deserving 1st timer will get many votes.
Martinez was DH extraordinaire. He may have to wait since DH became his primary position but there's little arguing with his hitting prowess. He'll probably have to wait a few years to get in. He's another 1st timer on my hypothetical ballot.
Let the debate begin. Who would get your vote from this 2010 ballot?
2009 has been an excruciating year for New York Mets baseball fans. This was to be a new season filled with hope and high expectations. Their front office had a busy off season solidifying a once horrid bullpen with big names such as single season saves record holder Francisco Rodriguez, solid closer turned set-up man JJ Putz and rubber armed long reliever Sean Green accompanying left handed specialist Pedro Feliciano. Their lineup was to be a run scoring machine led by David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Shea Stadium was torn down and replaced by state of the art Citi Field. New excitement, better team, deep minor league organization. And then.....
At first, Citi Field opened to rave reviews for its' presentation of Jackie Robinson Rotundra. Thousands of fans quickly soured on the new park for varying reasons beginning with ownership's lack of homage towards team history. Many season ticket holders soon complained of obstructed views from their expensive seats. The field itself is so expansive we all quickly realized it would never be thought of as a hitters paradise. During the seasons first month, New York talk radio was filled with irate phone callers agitated claiming Citi Field was built for Dodgers fans instead of our hometown Mets ball club. It wasn't the beginning ownership had hoped for their $800 million dollar stadium debut.
Things quickly worsened on the field as the Mets began with a losing record in April dropping 12 of 21 contests. Rumors of ownership losing hundreds of millions in the well publicized Madoff scandal didn't help matters either. New York was able to rebound nicely in May claiming a two game NL East lead sporting a 19-15 record before the wheels started falling off. Mets players began dropping like flies. Disabled list casualties began mounting. Key players Delgado, Schneider, Reyes, Beltran, Pagan, Maine, Castillo, Church and Putz were lost. Replacement players offered little to no help. GM Minaya has been peppered relentlessly by media types questioning when the team would make a deal to secure quality and "talented" players to fill gaping voids. No trades were completed, no free agents in waiting were signed. It was very evident to everyone paying attention... New York Mets franchise was in deep trouble both financially and by a lack of minor league talent.
Stars out of action created a circus-like atmosphere on the field resembling the Bad News Bears. Fielders booted the most simple of plays. Sure handed second sacker Luis Castillo's dropped game ending non-catch vs cross town rival Yankees is still being replayed. I attended a home game at Citi when the Mets made 3 errors in one inning without a ball leaving the infield (unless it was thrown away). There's next to no power coming from any hitters... certainly none on a consistent basis. Clutch hits are far and few between. Scouts league wide have suggested it's nearly impossible to trade with the Mets based on an overall lack of minors talent. Desperately needing a boost from somewhere, the front office refused to re-sign free agent Pedro Martinez. Albeit, Pedro was a multi-million dollar bust. But, this is a team in need and they passed only to watch arch rival Philadelphia sign him two weeks ago. As of right now, Mets trail first place Phillies by 10.5 games.
It hasn't been any better in the Mets farm system. New York's top farm clubs are flirting with last place. Bernazard was just fired after the New York Daily News ran an investigative story detailing how he ripped off his shirt and challenged members of the Mets' Double-A Binghamton affiliate to a brawl during a postgame tirade this month. Binhamton players were not performing and often spotted partying hard on nights before games. He also had run-ins with Mets closer Rodriguez. Rumors cited excutive Tony Bernazard had actively lobbied for Willie Randolph's firing last year. Bernazard was said to be very adament in pressuring management to can Randolph until they finally did midway through last season. Finally, after this was all made public, something had to be done. Minaya canned the temperamental Bernazard.
The firing of Bernazard was expected. However, during the press conference announcing his dismissal Minaya seemed to self implode too. Instead of sticking with the plan of announcing the firing, Minaya went sideways implying NY Daily News reporter Adam Rubin had ulterior motives. Here are a few excerpts of what transpired at Monday's press briefing concerning Rubin who first broke the Bernazard fight challenge story.
"You got to understand this: Adam for the past couple of years has lobbied for a player development position. He has lobbied myself, he has lobbied Tony," Minaya said.
Rubin was in attendance and jumped on Minaya's comments which seemed to question his motives. Minaya tripped over his own words a bit. "No, I'm not saying that," Minaya said. "I am saying, in the past, you have lobbied for a job."
"Over the years he said a number of times that he would like ... he asked me personally ... to work in the front office," Minaya said, "in my front office. Not only me, but he's asked others."
I think it's safe to say this is a side story ready to explode. I watched reports from ESPN's nightly telecast and read a story on their site posted early this morning which quotes Rubin being "flabbergasted" and NY Daily News standing behind their reporter, and his story, "1000%". No one has refuted the article detailing Bernazard or the Mets minor league system in shambles. No one. So, it leaves me wondering why Minaya would offer up a side show against a NY reporter?
This is the Mets team "Minaya" built. It's the Mets team known as "Magic-less" after back to back September chokes. It's the injury riddled team currently sitting in fourth place without any help in sight. It's the team getting beaten often on the field (18-30 since June 1), pounded by fans and hounded by reporters all season long. It's a team not only losing games. Management has completely imploded by missteps, miscommunication and complete failure to resemble any sort of professionalisim within their organization. I can't wait to turn on sports talk radio stations later this morning. It's going to be a blast. Mets back to back wins have been overshadowed by last night's Minaya outburst. What a shame for a team which hasn't won more than two in a row since the end of May!
Guess what fans? Good news is to be had between all this negativity brewing in Flushing. The most positive event bestowed on fans is there will be no September collapse this season! Second most positive event comes from the Bronx. New York Yankees are looking stronger by the day as they try tightening their grip on the AL East lead.
Seattle Seahawks receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh isn't a happy camper when it comes to his rating by EA Sports Madden '10. The Madden series video games have been one of the biggest sellers in video gaming history. It's popularity has spawned players of all ages, including NFLers.
TJ was so miffed by his 91 rating (99 is best) he sounded off. Sounds like he's crying over spilt milk since 91 is considered upper echelon. TJ was not a league leader in any receiving category last season. His 92 catches for a pathetic Cincinnati club was very impressive which warranted Madden's 91 rating as one of the games (Madden '10) top receivers.
Last season, TJ played for a lowly infighting 4 win Cincinnati team. He recorded only 4 touchdown receptions in '08. That stat is way down from 12 in 2007. Who do you think is most upset? 2008 Fantasy football coaches banking on TJ's previous season stats. The same coaches who were visibly upset on fantasy message boards sounding off on his lowly 4 TD total? I doubt many fans have any sympathy for an NFL vet just because his feelings are hurt by a lower than wanted video game ranking.
Houshmandzadeh losing it publicly over a Madden rating is laughable. He did pull in 92 passes successfully last year garnering a top ranking. TJ's will be playing in Seattle this season. Wonder what his motivation will be? Playing for better Madden ratings? Or, trying to help lead his new team to a Super Bowl title?
That's right. Strange but true. A Gorillas linebacker has been lost for the season after a zebra attack. According to a published report by The Wichita Eagle, Pittsburgh State Gorillas LB Joe Windscheffel was painting a fence when he was suddenly attacked and dragged by a zebra.
Windscheffel suffered a compound fracture of his right arm requiring a plate and six pins to reset. He had just moved three female zebra's and one male to paint a pasture fence. The male took exception and decided to move Windscheffel. Talk about a freakish injury. This kid's college career is now in jeopardy before it began. Last season he missed time and was red-shirted due to an achilles injury.
Ok, who has the video of this episode? Sounds too bizarre to be true. Then again, who could make up such a story? Hope he has a good sense of humor or plenty of meds to help him crack up. This one's for the ages.
A new generation of American Football is getting ready for its' inaugural season. Has anyone heard of the United Football League? The UFL attempts to do what previously has not been done by leagues attempting to rival the NFL, become a success. USFL, XFL, WFL & WLAF were short lived leagues. One wonders how a four team UFL can survive playing a six game schedule? Perhaps it's best to begin small and build for the future.
The four teams will represent cities from New York/Hartford, Orlando, Las Vegas/Los Angeles and San Francisco/Sacramento. In a couple of weeks, UFL is expected to announce team nicknames for the four franchises and unveil the new uniforms for each organization. Yes, New York/Hartford is a single franchise even though it sports a dual city name (same for Las Vegas/LA & SF/Sacramento).
I'm hoping UFL can make a serious run at respectability. At the same time, I'm amazed at the lack of marketing for the new league. With little or no fanfare, UFL held it's first draft last month. Very few recognizable names come from the draft. UFL is hoping to add some star power after NFL teams make their final cuts. Players cut from pro teams looking for action might jump into the mix. Former Buffalo Bills QB JP Losman recently signed with Las Vegas. He's been pinned up as poster child. Not quite the same as USFL signing Steve Young and Hershal Walker types. Not even close.
Remember the USFL (United States Football League)? They had a chance to contend with NFL squads. Big name team owners (Donald Trump). A few big name stars featuring the likes of Walker, Young, Jim Kelly, Jim Smith and Reggie White come to mind. UFL's JP Losman isn't quite the same stature. What this league does have is four recognizable head coaches. Guiding Orlando is ex-Saints coach Jim Haslett. Former Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green will be in San Francisco. Ex-Giants head coach Jim Fassel will coach Las Vegas and long-time NFL coordinator Ted Cotrell is in New York.
Initial UFL investors are Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and former investment banker Bill Hambrecht. Televising one game per week will be the Versus Network (who?). Clearly this is a brand with no product recognition, lack of marketing and a tremendous lack of star power. Four teams, six game schedule, no national exposure, not even team names as of yet. A very conservative approach has been taken getting this league up and running. Perhaps, too conservative to think they'll have a shot at long term success.
UFL's biggest boost might come from suspended NFLer Michael Vick. If he's denied reinstatement to play this year in the NFL, UFL owners hope Vick might opt to play in their new league.. It'll be a longshot to see Vick suit up for UFL even if denied re-entry into NFL for the 2009 season.
The question remains, how can this league survive with a lack of star power?
Boxing's era of truly great fighters has long passed. Muhammad Ali made sure to tell the world "I am the greatest!" Old timers often argue claiming Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano or Sugar Ray Robinson. My youth featured slugfests never to be forgotten - Ali vs Frazier, Leonard vs Hagler and Frazier vs Foreman.
Who was "the" greatest will always be debated. Here's my Top 10 of All Time list:
1 - Sugar Ray Robinson
2 - Joe Louis
3 - Rocky Marciano
4 - Muhammad Ali
5 - Jack Dempsey
6 - Jack Johnson
7 - Gene Tunney
8 - Archie Moore
9 - Joe Frazier
10- Sugar Ray Leonard
Day after day news headlines highlight America's deepening economic struggles, reckless Federal Government debt spending and staggering nationwide unemployment figures.
It's time to shine a spotlight on a potential economic boom for Long Island's Nassau County (NY) residents. The following information quoted below has been copied directly from the official site of the Lighthouse Development Group. Click on the link to their site which illustrates in detail a proposed project geared to create tax revenues, jobs, residences, convention center, recreational facilities, five star hotel, commercial venues and new state of the art revitalized Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Save the Date - A public hearing is scheduled for August 4th, 9:30 am, at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University. I urge my fellow Long Islanders to voice support for Nassau's biggest and most productive venue guaranteed to provide a boost to our local economy for generations to come.
* * * The Lighthouse @ Long Island Project * * *
"Lighthouse Development Group, LLC, a joint venture between Charles Wang, the Founder of the Lighthouse project and owner of the New York Islanders, and RXR, Long Island's largest owner, manager and developer of commercial real estate, has been designated the exclusive developer of the Coliseum site and has entered into a Development Plan Agreement with the County of Nassau. The partnership combines Charles Wang's vision for the revitalization of the aging Coliseum property with RXR's renowned expertise.
The Lighthouse project is the transformation of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum site and surrounding area into a modern 24/7 suburban center. The centerpiece will be a revitalized arena for the New York Islanders, surrounded by exciting residential neighborhoods with a variety of housing options, lifestyle retail and entertainment venues, Class A office space including an incubator for the sports technology industry, multi-purpose athletic complex, state-of-the-art conference and exhibition facilities, a minor league ballpark, and the first 5-star hotel on Long Island. The estimated $3.74 billion project is expected to generate $71 million of annual tax revenues. An expected 75,000 construction and construction related jobs will be created over the 8-to-10 year build out of the project. Once completed, 19,000 thousand permanent jobs and many new businesses will provide the opportunities and careers Long Islanders need and want. A transformed coliseum will ensure the New York Islanders have a state-of-the-art home for decades to come. The Lighthouse at Long Island, in the backyard of America's first suburb, will create a destination for future generations of Long Islanders."
"The Lighthouse at Long Island Top Ten Facts:
1. The Lighthouse project will transform the 150-acres at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum site and the surrounding area into Long Island’s signature destination.
2. The Lighthouse is approximately 5.5 million square feet of new mixed-use development and will be designed and developed to be Long Island’s largest LEED, environmentally friendly, project.
3. The Coliseum will be transformed into a state-of-the-art arena providing a premier entertainment experience. With additional and expanded concourses, all new restrooms, VIP suites, larger seats, and first class concessions and restaurants, the arena will comfortably accommodate 17,500 for hockey, 18,500 for basketball and 20,000 fans for concerts.
4. The Sports Complex will be the region’s preferred sports and entertainment facility. It will house four sheets of ice for local teams and clubs, as well as be capable of hosting regional and national events. The facility will also include basketball courts and a state-of-the-art health club.
5. The Lighthouse’s central landscaped park, Celebration Plaza, will be larger than New York City’s Bryant Park, and will soon become Long Island’s favorite meeting place for family concerts, or just relaxing with a friend.
6. The project’s 2,300 residences will include next generation, luxury, active adult and multi-family housing types. There will be a mix of lofts, condominiums, and town houses set amidst quiet neighborhoods or above vibrant retail streetscapes.
7. Long Island’s first five-star hotel will contain 300 rooms, meeting and banquet facilities, and luxury full-service condominiums.
8. The project will have more than 250,000 square feet of Convention, Conference and Exhibition space and will establish Long Island as a preferred destination for national and international programs while giving local companies a place to host their events.
9. One million square feet of new class A office space, including a sports technology center, will attract new industries and create jobs and career opportunities as well as allow local companies to expand in the heart of Nassau County.
10. The project’s approximately 500,000 square feet of complementary retail, restaurants, and cafes will provide great places to dine and shop for residents and visitors alike."
I will provide personalized periodic updated blogs on this project once more information is made public by Nassau County. Stay tuned!
National League 2009 races aren't packing the same punch as their AL counterparts (current standings). Philadelphia and Los Angeles appear to be locks in their respective divisions. NL Central is up for grabs as only 8.5 games separate six teams. Here's how I see NL play shaping up:
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - World Champs have begun distancing themselves from the pack. Pitching is their weak spot and could be readily exposed in playoff competition. Philly would like to believe they're front runners for Toronto's ace Halladay. They'll need a closer as last seasons success story (Lidge) has been erratic. Phillies can put up runs in bunches. Rollins finally woke up after a miserable first half. East leaders by six games will finish the season ahead by no less than 10.
FLORIDA MARLINS - Marlins continue to churn out great young talent. Low budget squad proves year after year organizations do not need to spend hundreds of millions to win. Hanley Ramirez is one of MLB's best even when battling nagging minor injuries all year long. Plenty of talent to make a run at the wild card. It's been one month on then one month off thus far (April 14-8, May 9-20, June 17-11). They're not expected to win and this makes for one dangerous sleeper team. Keep an eye on these guys.
ATLANTA BRAVES - Bobby Cox has proven he's one of the games best field generals. Braves will probably finish somewhere around .500 unless they enter the trade market for instant upgrades as they fight for a wild card birth. Even if they do manage landing a gem it'll be tough trying to leapfrog stronger Central teams. Chipper Jones continues to be the heart and soul of this franchise.
NEW YORK METS - Everything has gone wrong in New York. First, their new ballpark has been absolutely panned by local media/fans for failing to recognize past and current heroes of Mets baseball. Second, their major stars (Beltran, Delgado, Reyes, Maine) have been lost to the disabled list. Third, ownership lost hundreds of millions in Madoff scandal. Fourth, replacement players have performed miserably. Mets are absolutely embarrassing to watch. The good news... Mets can't finish last while playing in same division with Washington.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS - On pace for back to back 100+ loss seasons. Only 3 bright spots for this team (Zimmerman, Johnson & Dunn). Pitching is pathetic. Already 25 games behind division leading Philadelphia. I'd bet they'll end the year out by 40. One of baseball's worst front offices for evaluating talent. Little to no future hopes in sight unless they were to play all remaining games vs Mets.
ST LOUIS CARDINALS - Tony LaRussa has done a masterful job this season in the dugout. On the field, it's been the Albert Pujols show. Pujols should be a lock to win NL MVP. Cards are showing other teams how to win when regulars miss time or underperform. Pitching has been the key so far. Franklin has been great as team closer behind gutsy performances from starting rotation. Central might not be decided until game 162. Cards prevail.
CHICAGO CUBS - Central's best team on paper. Most experts picked Piniella's squad to runaway with division. It's been anything but a smooth ride. Not bringing back 2B Mark DeRosa has been the difference. Up the middle defense hasn't been good (they can't hit either). Soriano & Bradley haven't done their share. Soto struggling through sophmore jinx is now disabled. 3B Ramirez return from DL might have come just at the right time as Cubs are beginning to show some life (July 10-5) after barely surviving first three months. Don't count them out from winning the division.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS - Hit or miss Brewers loaded with powerful bats. Huge problem is alarming strikeout totals. If this lineup was able to put baseball's in play on a regular basis ... ? Six players on pace to wiff more than 100 times each. Terrible baserunning team with no speed. Brewers short changing themselves from a ton of runs. Starting pitchers extremely erratic. Not a good combination. Halladay rumors beginning to take hold in Milwaukee. Talented team outclassed by St. Louis and Chicago. If Milwaukee finally realizes fundamentals of baseball win games regularly then they're the team to beat. It hasn't happened yet.
HOUSTON ASTROS - Look out Central. Left for dead Astros have been playing very well lately after starting out 20-29. Winners in 26 of 42 since June 1st. Bats are starting to wake up after sleepwalking much of the first half. They're one starting pitcher and one middle reliever away from making a serious 2nd half challenge. Don't count them out... but, don't go placing any bets either.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES - Current roster is more than miffed at front office for trading key players yet again. Bucs are only 8.5 games out of first place. Not too shabby for a last place team. Solid up the middle defense. Very good young talented lineup. OF Garrett Jones has been on fire since becoming a starter (7 HR in 13 games). Take away Snell's terrible season (2-8, 5.36) and closer Capps (5.81 ERA), add some pop at 3B, and they'd be challenging. Instead, it's been a disappointing season for Pittsburgh fans. Good news... Steelers set to defend NFL title in September.
CINCINNATI REDS - I was hoping Cincy would make a serious run. Injuries have sucked the life out of the Reds. Starting pitchers might surrender 30 round trippers each. Terrible ballpark offers no home field advantages especially when sporting a punchless lineup. Back to the drawing board. They slip into cellar by end of July.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS - Joe Torre's team has played strong all season long (NL best 57-34). They hit, pitch, run, play defense and win. Patient hitters keep opposing pitchers on the ropes. Manny Ramirez is back from 50 game bonehead suspension. Rotation is a bit banged up right now. Adding a quality starter will make these guys tough to beat in short playoff series. Dodgers control their own destiny and are hungry for a World Series crown. Tinseltown's best team in ages.
COLORADO ROCKIES - Rockies are back from the dead after winning 21 of 28 in June. Can they keep it up long enough to win a wild card birth? Never say never with these guys especially after their incredible run to close out 2007. Middle relief has been their achillies heel. Rotation has begun to gell and nearly everyone is hitting these days. Mile High baseball has become exciting to watch. Central division teams killing each other off in a wild pennant race offers Rockies chance to finish a few games ahead of next closest wild card challenger.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS - Giants have been baseball's surprise team. Not many figured this squad would put up enough runs to win games. Lincecum and Cain have been a superb 1-2 rotation punch. Both are Cy Young candidates. 3-5 in rotation is very erratic. Bullpen has been excellent. .309 team on base percentage is not good at all. Lack of punch will result in Giants falling off the pace quickly as LA & Colorado remain hot.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS - It's over in Arizona. A few bright spots (Haren, Reynolds, Upton). Snakes will have to shake up this roster before returning to respectability. Dismal bullpen blowing late leads has been the difference. Look out below! Lowly Padres only 2 games behind.
SAN DIEGO PADRES - 1B Adrian Gonzalez was one hot hitter in April and May smacking 20 homers in 49 games. Seems like a distant memory now after hitting only 4 in past 41 and batting only .132 in July. Team batting average of .233 sums up their season. Padres have solidified themselves as cellar dwellar challengers for at least the next five seasons. Future looks mighty dim.
Projected Award Winners:
MVP - Albert Pujols (STL)
CY YOUNG - Dan Haren (AZ)
ROOKIE - J.A. Happ (PHA)
MANAGER - Joe Torre (LA)
Today's segment features the American League.
2009 has been a wild ride for many Major League teams (current standings). A couple of teams began this season on fire (Kansas City, Texas) while others hit road bumps early on (Angels, Yankees). MLB's 2nd half promises to be filled with action packed rivalries as teams jockey for playoff contention. Lets get right to my 2nd half AL forecast:
BOSTON RED SOX - Boston, like so many teams this year, has battled injuries all season long to key players. Their resiliency to play through tough times is a testament to how well these guys pick up the slack when key players are missing or underperforming. Perennial slugger David Ortiz was horrendous for most of the first half. Injuries to Dice K, Smoltz, Lugo and Lowell threatened to derail their playoff chances in a very tough division. Manager Terry Francona has been masterful filling the holes and motivating players. Red Sox have completely dominated arch rival Yankees (9-0). "The Curse" is long gone.
NEW YORK YANKEES - Baseball's biggest payroll had a very tough April. New Yankee Stadium has given up home runs at an alarming rate and is no longer a home field advantage. The billion dollar taxpayer funded spectacle has been ridiculed all season long by local press and fans. New star pitchers Sabathia & Burnett were shelled early on and have yet to live up to their billing. Fan favorite Andy Pettitte has been getting shelled in home games. Defense was suspect and star home run hitter Alex Rodriguez was demonized after the public found out he was a one time steroid junkie. Yankees seem to have overcome these obstacles and are now coming on strong thanks to powerful hitting. The only difference between 1st & 2nd place has been their inability to beat Boston. It's going to be a real dog fight to the finish for both teams trying to capture the AL East. Experience should net Yanks a wild card birth... unless Texas Rangers finally figure out how to win in summer months.
TAMPA BAY RAYS - They stunned the baseball world in '08. Rough road in '09 until recent times. They're now in a position to challenge for AL East crown. Very balanced and talented team could stun the world again if they're able to successfully trade for Toronto's ace Roy Halladay. Tampa's name has not been mentioned in rumors. Pitching inconsistency, a strength last year, will doom them unless a deal or second half surge comes to light.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES - Young players and improved pitching finally shed a glimmer of hope for future success. Baltimore was one of the better franchises until Angelos took over. A perennial challenging team quickly hit rock bottom. They're finally on the verge of rising if young talent continues to improve. O's can play spoilers against teams taking them for granted. Key players to watch: Bergeren, Scott, Roberts, Huff (trade bait), Markakis & Wieters.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS - Cito Gaston's club was 15-9 in April. They haven't had a winning month since. Jays seem willing to ditch their season by announcing readiness to trade ace Halladay. Once they do, last place is guaranteed. If he remains, Toronto has a shot at 4th place. Lack of game to game clutch hitting has sucked life from East's early season leaders.
DETROIT TIGERS - Leyland is a no nonsence manager. He has no problems benching underperformering million dollar stars (Ordonez, Willis) which is a trait seldom seen anymore. Kudos to Leyland. Tigers play great at home (27-13) but haven't been as fortunate on the road (21-26). Verlander, Jackson and Porcello have been steady hurlers. Finding another starting pitcher would distance Detroit from challengers Chicago & Minnesota. If ownership financial status is sound then they should do whatever they can to get Halladay or another bonified starting pitcher or proven reliever. These guys can hit, run & field. They're most balanced team in Central. How far they go in playoffs boils down to how hot they are when post-season play begins.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX - Sox fans are waiting for a hot streak. Guillen's team looks good one day, horrific the next. Starting pitching hasn't been up to snuff. Hitters not coming through in clutch situations. Combined, this is a bad formula. Star slugger Quentin should be coming off of DL soon which should help energize their attack even though he had a miserable first half. Difference between winning and losing has been a terrible team on base percentage. Hitters wild swings and lack of plate discipline allows opposing starters to be well rested deep into games. Their best move might be to find a new hitting coach.
MINNESOTA TWINS - Twins only shot is if starting rotation turns it around. Alarming ERA's and home run rates produced thus far would've had most teams clawing to get out of the cellar. Timely hitting and one of baseball's best managers has kept this team afloat. For how long? Final year in Metrodome. Twins would like to go out in style. Sometimes, we don't always get what we want. Twins should never be underestimated... however, this particular squad can't be counted on either. In my book, their only shot at Central crown is if Detroit falls apart.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS - Came out of spring training ready to rumble racing to the division lead through 29 games (18-11). Injuries to key hot players sent these guys on a tailspin (Soria, Crisp). KC is another lacking plate discipline. I had hoped they were to become 2009's version of Tampa's 2008 success story. Close the book, these guys are cooked.
CLEVELAND INDIANS - Many predicted '09 was to be Cleveland's year. Not quite. Indians pitching staff is one of baseball's worst from top to bottom showing no signs of hope for remaining games. Cleveland's lone highlight was a 22-4 demolition of New York in Yankee Stadium.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS - Patience has been key for LA. Scoscia is one of games best field generals. Early season injuries to key players might have led to many teams imploding. Not these guys. 20-8 in last 28 after treading water in seasons first month. Angels will be a force to be reckoned with in playoffs. These guys are good. Very deep and talented in all facets of the game. Rumored to be in the Halladay sweepstakes. Could be unstoppable if they get their man.
TEXAS RANGERS - Texas can slug it out with any team. Heavy hitting lineup with power from top to bottom. Deep bench. One key fundamental element which has never been preached and needs to be now if Rangers want to play in post-season. Patience at the plate during scorching 100+ degree home games in Arlington. Rangers have baseball's best home field advantage. Heat! It's quite simple. Make opposing pitchers throw pitches and they'll wilt in the Texas oven. No question about it. Work the count. Create hitters counts, wear down hurlers and win. It's a recipe for success. For the most part, their bullpen has been very effective. Starters strikingly more consistent than recent past campaigns. Texas has dominated division foes so far. Rangers have a very good shot at a wild card birth if they can stay hot. If LA slips, these guys might surprise. As the saying goes... "Don't mess with Texas"
SEATTLE MARINERS - Rollercoaster season. Win a few, lose a few. Starting pitchers rebounded from a disasterous '08 keeping M's in games. Ichiro continues to get on base batting .360 but has only scored 45 runs. A clear sign clutch hitting is still lacking. They're in the spoilers seat for key September matchups vs LA & Texas. If they can stay close, which I seriously doubt, then perhaps they can sneak into the playoffs. I have them pegged for a distant third.
OAKLAND A's - At one point in time, during spring training, I thought Oakland had a legit shot at winning this division. Unfortunately for Bay area fans, these guys have been flat all season long. They'll probably look to unload high salary players. However, since very few have played up to their price tag coupled with most MLB teams in spending lockdown modes.. this will become a difficult task.
Projected Award Winners:
MVP - Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
CY YOUNG - Josh Beckett (BOS)
ROOKIE - Andrew Bailey (OAK)
MANAGER - Jim Leyland (DET)
Stay tuned for NL 2nd half forecast.......
It might not be long before the Major League Baseball Players Association files a formal grievance against baseball owners. Once again, the union is expected to claim owners collectively conspired against free agents after last season.
Former Milwaukee Brewers owner turned Commissioner Bud Selig responded. "That's fine. They're entitled to their opinion," Selig said Tuesday at a meeting of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "Given the world we live in and what's happened in the last 18 months, I think this is one sport where I can't even fathom that anybody could think that."
Who is he kidding? Selig has been an embarassment. Scandal after scandal has emerged throughout Selig's tenure as commissioner. Owners colluding is something Selig knows all too well. It's not the first time MLBPA has accused owners of conspiring against players. It won't be the last either.
Owners paid MLBPA a $280 million settlement after an independant arbitrator ruled in favor of the players following the 1985-87 seasons. Selig was the current Brewers owner at the time. The union filed again after 2002-03 seasons and owners settled with no admission of guilt for $12 million.
Drug abuse, gambling charges, steroids, conspiracy, collusion, juiced baseballs, taxpayer funded billion dollar stadiums and umpires. Pick your topic, they've all disgraced America's greatest pastime.. Selig is nothing more than a talking head for baseball's greed driven boys club, formally called baseball owners. These guys have operated free and clear to do just about anything they've wanted in absence of an impartial commissioner. Common sense dictates a former owner turned commissioner cannot be impartial.
New union chief Michael Weiner is gearing up to take the helm at one of our nations strongest unions (MLBPA) replacing retiring Don Fehr. According to various reports, players agents are pushing the union to take action based on owners lack of offering contracts to big name free agents. In addition, with the current season at the halfway point, NO players eligible to file for free agency at seasons end has received contract extensions. Uh-oh, something smells pretty fishy again. No players offered extensions is a clear indicator owners are in a lock down mode financially. Oddly curious since Selig often boasts of record revenues and receipts. Can anyone name the last time baseball owners, specifically in NY, LA or Boston, failed to extend contracts for their top players?
"The investigation is ongoing but not complete because of things to review," Weiner said Monday before the All-Star Home Run Derby. "We've had some discussions with the commissioner's office. I'll know more I think by the end of the month."
Let there be no mistake, our current economic downturn will or has hit owners hard. Texas is rumored to have borrowed $15 million to cover current payroll requirements. Mets owner Fred Wilpon lost hundreds of millions in the Madoff scandal. Teams will be taking lumps due to decreasing attendance figures. The days of wild spending on free agents could be, or should be, dwindling downwards. No one being offered extensions is an entirely different scenario.
What I'm waiting to finally hear is MLBPA demanding Selig's resignation as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. After the 1919 Chicago Black Sox betting scandal baseball owner's selected Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to restore confidence to the integrity of baseball jeopardized by scandal. Isn't it high time another independent commish is named to bring back public confidence?
Major League Baseball's All Star week is here. Get ready for a couple of days of All Star fun. Futures game, home run hitting contest, celebrity softball and the Mid Summer Classic. St. Louis will play host to this years game.
Every season fan voting determines the All Star starters. The American League has dominated play in recent years. They've won every game since 1997 except for a 7-7 tie game in 2002. Here's my list of most deserving All Star starters top 1st half performers of 2009):
1B - Justin Morneau (MIN)
2B - Aaron Hill (TOR)
3B - Evan Longoria (TB)
SS - Derek Jeter (NYY)
OF - Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
OF - Carl Crawford (TB)
OF - Torii Hunter (LAA)
C - Joe Mauer (MIN)
DH - Adam Lind (TOR)
SP - Zack Greinke (KC)
CL - Joe Nathan (MIN)
MGR- Don Wakamatsu (SEA)
1B - Albert Pujols (STL)
2B - Chase Utley (PHI)
3B - Pablo Sandoval (SF)
SS - Hanley Ramirez (FLA)
OF - Raul Ibanez (PHI)
OF - Ryan Braun (MIL)
OF - Adam Dunn (WAS)
C - Benji Molina (SF)
SP - Tim Lincecum (SF)
CL - Ryan Franklin (STL)
MGR- Joe Torre (LAD)
Has there ever been a player not dunked on in the NBA? Dunking the ball for easy baskets is one of basketball's oldest moves. Nearly every player has given up a dunk in either practice, pre-season, regular season or post-season. So why did Nike confiscate video of LeBron James giving up a two handed slam to Xavier sophmore James Crawford?
LeBron is one of basketball's current greats. He's reigning NBA MVP, recipient of a mega contract, major endorsement deals, sneakers bearing his name and subject of free agency rumors. "King James" & "Chosen One" are two nicknames often used to describe one of the NBA's biggest stars.
Nowadays, LJ has shown us all a glimpse of his tempermental side. After favored Cleveland was beaten by Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals LJ stormed off the court without shaking hands with the victors. Now, he's being accused of asking Nike to confiscate video tapes showing James Crawford emphatic two handed slam dunk from a one on one game at Nike-run LeBron James Skills Academy.
Is his personality so fragile to prohibit a video from airing on YouTube? Come on LeBron, grow up! Isn't it ironic how coverups become bigger news than what is actually being covered up? Sports, politics, amateur vids... doesn't matter. Covering something up publicly only invites criticism and curiousity. "LeBron James gets dunked on video" was the fifth-most popular search on Google as of Thursday afternoon. So, what made this so embarrassing for James? You know what they say... if you can't make fun of yourself...
The ball is in Nike's court now. Release or not to release. Time will tell.
Dallas Cowboys have been one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. Some of football's greatest moments involved Dallas. Five time Super Bowl winners, 11 Hall of Fame players, a legendary Ring of Honor and two ownership groups dedicated to winning. The Cowboys will be playing in a new billion dollar stadium opening this season. It's been described as the jewel of the NFL.
Dallas has had their share of negativity too. Add up all of their players in legal troubles over the years (enough to fill a cell block), coaching carousel, Tony Romo drama's, Keyshawn Johnson's attitude, Terrell Owens mouth, practice facility collapse, drug usage, Jerry Jones and a host of other items creating a circus-like atmosphere. It's no wonder the Cowboys haven't won another Super Bowl since 1996.
The latest news being reported by ESPN is quite shocking too. Apparently, All Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware would hide from coaches so teammate Greg Ellis could enter games. This is not how Champions compete. Their best defensive player "hiding" from coaches on the sidelines during games? Is it any wonder this team falls apart in December year after year?
Ellis was released after last season and signed with Oakland for '09. Quoting from Wednesday's interview on ESPN's 103.3 "Michael Irvin Show", Ellis chirped: "It's a disgrace when DeMarcus Ware comes off the field just so I can get in the game and when the coaches tell him to come on the field, he tries to hide so I can play," Ellis said on Irvin's show. "And you're telling me we're trying to win the Super Bowl?"
So, it wasn't only Terrell Owens causing a commotion last year. Owens paranoia led to public finger pointing thinking Romo and TE Jason Witten were conspiring against him. Surprise, surprise... defensive players were dismayed with coaches too. This is where the Cowboys everyday problems begin.. their coaches. Ever since Jimmy Johnson abruptly quit following their 2003 championship, Cowboys coaches have been puppets to team owner Jones (all except Bill Parcell's)... and the players know it. Most of their turmoil stems from players lack of respect for Dallas coaches. Players have been publicly vocal stating displeasures with staff members and other players. Some skip or show up late to practices, team meetings, flights before/after games, or act in a manner detrimental to team chemistry. It doesn't help when Jerry Jones rushes to sign players in legal trouble and players with off field issues.
It's only a matter of time before the Cowboys circus kicks into full swing as opening day approaches. Ellis' parting shot interview will certainly open eyes with ownership and coaches. Players must already be questioning Ware's motives when teammates were busting butts attempting to win their division. Dallas is a team desperate for a leader.
Diamonds to dust. Our economy has begun to take it's toll on Major League Baseball. As expected, attendance figures are down (roughly 5%). Rumors are swirling claiming at least two teams are facing financial downturns, Texas Rangers and New York Mets.
Rumors suggest Texas was unable to meet it's payroll obligations. Major League Baseball stepped in with a $15,000,000 loan. Team owner Tom Hicks financial situation has been a subject of bloggers for years. Nothing has been confirmed relating to his personal finances. His company has sold its' shares in various ventures. Now, he's trying to sell the Rangers ballclub. When he first took over Hicks spent wildly on free agents. He made headlines and turned baseball's free agent markets on its' head when rewarding Alex Rodriguez with the games richest contract valued over $250M. If he's unable to sell, and if future payroll concerns aren't remedied, then it's my guess MLB will step in and take control of Texas. Neither MLB or Rangers has publicly commented one way or the other on any of these rumors. Speculation suggests these claims cay contain truths... especially since there have been no denials.
In New York, there's definitely a situation brewing even though Mets staff deny problems. Various unconfirmed reports state team owner Fred Wilpon lost $300M in the famous Madoff scandal. 2009 was supposed to bring pennant fever back to Flushing after two consecutive September chokes. The Mets star players have dropped like flies. Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, John Maine, Oliver Perez have missed time. Perez returns this weekend, the others are out until at least mid to late August. Normally, Wilpon would have made a deal to help ride the tide. Especially with top producing players sidelined for extended periods. Not this year. Mets appear to be cash strapped. No moves were made and GM stated don't expect any. Mets are fading fast in the standings. They can't hit or field these days. Their death spiral continues. They've lost 4 straight, 7 of 10, shutout in consecutive games, 3 runs in last 36 innings. Their starting lineup is filled with unproven rookies or journeymen clearly not up to the task. Lack of moves suggests big trouble brewing. Only unconfirmed rumors. Fans can sense something is clearly wrong.
The trading deadline will offer insight into how deeply econimic woes have touched baseball. It's usually when losing teams start unloading high salaried players. Teams in pennant races try doing whatever it takes to win. 2009 could be very different. I'd bet most teams are not willing to take on additional payroll restraints. A few teams will make trades. Missing will be the mad scrambles or counter moves when division rivals stock up. If a flurry of moves do take place then it will most likely contain mid-level salaried players.
Time will tell if all is well or if diamonds are turning to dust.
Fantasy football coaches often argue running back is the key position for winning. Two healthy star backs can carry a team. In my eyes it boils down to which type of league fantasy owners choose to play. In head to head competition, upper echelon RB's rule the day. In rotisserie style games, this isn't always true. Here's my short list of top NFL RB's based on fantasy scoring. Top 10:
1- Michael Turner (ATL) - MT exploded on the scene is his first year as starting RB. Previously played in shadow of SD's Tomlinson. He'll prove '08 was no fluke (1697 yds, 17 TD). Should be in top 2 or 3 in fantasy scoring in '09. Might challenge for 200 yards. Projection: 1800+ yards, 16+ TD.
2- LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) - 2008 was first time in LT's career below 300 carries. He was a bit banged up and fell victim to coach Norv Turner's pass first offense. Turner is nuts not utilizing one of football's best ever backs. This will change in '09 as LT returns to form. Projection: 1500+, 15+ TD.
3- Adrian Pederson (MIN) - This kid keeps improving. Tagged as games best RB. What hurts AP's production from week to week is lack of a bonified QB in Minnesota. Without a solid QB all D's will continue to key on Pederson. Even with D's formulated to stop his running game he managed 1760 yards in '08. He'll have good weeks and not so good as Vikings struggle to score. Projection: 1600+, 13+ TD.
4- Brandon Jacobs (NYG) - Don't expect Jacobs to challenge for rushing title. Might not even come close. However, he could be top TD producing RB in '09. Giants ball control offense and Jacobs punishing style makes him the go to guy inside oppositions 10 yard line. 15 TD's last year in only 13 games. Projection: 1200+, 18+.
5- DeAngelo Williams (CAR) - Was 2008 a career year or a sign of things to come? Had a tremendous 2nd half last year (8 games, 993 yds, 15 TD's). Part of two headed monster running attack (James Stewart) which scored combined 28 TD's. Might be risky ranking Williams this high as the hotter runner will earn bulk of carries. He deserves benefit of any doubts heading into camp. Projection: 1400+, 15+.
6- Matt Forte (CHI) - Bears fans have been waiting for a solid QB to lead offense. Acquiring scrambling QB Jay Cutler in off season will open up running & passing lanes. Forte will be beneficiary of increased production. 3 and outs killed Chicago last year. 2009 affords Forte his chance for a big 2nd year. Projection: 1400+, 10+.
7- Steven Jackson (STL) - Jackson rushed for his 4th consecutive 1000+ season in only 12 games. Injuries might cause fantasy owners to take pause. Skies the limit if he can play a full season. Might wreck fantasy team chances if injured early on. Projection: 1500+, 10+.
8- Ryan Grant (GB) - Packers need to start feeding Grant the ball inside red zones (only 4 TD in '08). Future is bright in GB with young RB and QB. Should have plenty of opportunities to shine in '09. 1200+, 10+.
9- Clinton Portis (WAS) - My 2nd favorite current NFL RB (Jacob's 1st). Opposing D's have keyed on CP throughout his 5 year Redskin tenure and he keeps producing. Sooner or later, Washington will finally chase after a strong armed QB to give this squad a shot at scoring. Unfortunately, this may not happen until Portis moves on or retires. Strong yardage gainer, not enough shots to score. Projection: 1500+, 8+.
10- Willie Parker (PIT) - Steelers featured back was banged and bruised in '09 missing 5 games. However, he rebounded nicely to help lead Pittsburgh to another title. He's a perfect backfield fit to ball control scheme. Expecting big numbers if he can stay on the field. A big "IF". Projection: 1300+, 10+.
NFL training camps are getting ready for action. Shrewd fantasy football players are busy scouting players for their drafts. Here's my quick top to bottom rankings for 2009 QB's based on potential fantasy value...
1- Tom Brady (NE) - He's back after getting hurt in 1st game of '08. Plenty of weapons. Top notch coaching staff. If sound, Brady should be good for 4000+ yards and at least 30 td's (40+ possible).
2- Phillip Rivers (SD) - Plays for throw heavy scheme coupled with NFL top back Tomlinson is a deadly combo. Sluggish beginning to '08 season must not repeat in '09. 3800+ yards and 30+ TD's within reach once again.
3- Drew Brees (NO) - 5069 yards passing nearly eclipsed Dan Marino's NFL record (5084). Wide open attack will have Brees throwing at will again in '09. 4500+ yards, 30+ TD's. Watch out for costly interceptions.
4- Matt Ryan (ATL) - 2008 Rookie of the Year has a new weapon in record setting TE Tony Gonzalez. Acquiring Gonzo will open up deep passing lanes, gaps for running game and keep Ryan from any hints of a sophmore jinx. 3500+ yards, 25+ TD's.
5- Peyton Manning (IND) - Manning enters 13th pro season. A strong Indy running game is needed to keep opposition from focusing on passing attack. Crafty vet is hungry for another title. 4000+, 27+.
6- Aaron Rodgers (GB) - Great future in store for Rodgers if he becomes consistent from game to game. It's still a learning experience in progress. He'll make great strides in '09. 3500+ yards, 25+ TD's, 5+ rushing TD.
7- Jake Delhomme (CAR) - I like Delhomme here. He's a winner and gutsy competitor. Defenses will try clamping down on Panthers running attack after 28 rushing TD's from DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in '08. Carolina's arsenal is full for '09. Delhomme comes through with Pro Bowl type season. 3600+, 25+.
8- Tony Romo (DAL) - Warning... draft a solid backup for December games! Romo is a great 3/4 season QB with well documented end of season failures. Perhaps Cowboys will have a change of fortune down the stretch without team drag Terrell Owens mucking up team chemistry? Romo must get on same page with speedy young wideouts. Needs to drastically cut down on INT's and fumbles. 3300+, 25+. Beware of turnovers on mis-executed routes to young wr's.
9- Kurt Warner (AZ) - Risky ranking Warner this high as he's always one play away from injury. Had a terrific fantasy stat year during Cardinals '08 Super Bowl chase. Can he get it done again in '09 minus WR Boldin and Offensive Coordinator Haley (now KC Head Coach)? Arizona figures to test opposing secondaries early and often. 4000+, 30+ if healthy and winning! Buyer beware.
10- Carson Palmer (CIN) - Will Cincy have NFL's worst team chemistry again this season? Self destructing turmoil followed this team every step of the way last year before season began. Palmer might put up great numbers if infighting has subsided. Playing catchup football late in games will pad fantasy stats. If healthy, he's good for 3500+, 23+.
11- Eli Manning (NYG) - The great unknown... will any Giants WR step up as a major NFL threat in '09? New York's devastating running game will open up many play action opportunities for Eli. Stern task master Coughlin hopes for no more off field fiasco's in '09. 3200+, 23+
12- Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) - Plain a simple, a pure winner. One of NFL's strongest field generals and clutch performers. Big Ben's winning ways do not necessarily translate into solid game to game fantasy stats. One of my favorite NFL signal callers. 3100+, 20+.
13- Donovan McNabb (PHI) - Tough to rank McNabb as one never knows which QB will show up from week to week. Rebounded nicely after subpar beginning in '08. Led team to NFC Championship game with precision passing in December. Eagles fans are hoping for an encore. An enhanced WR corps should help. 3300, 20+, and a few scrambles for added yardage.
14- Jay Cutler (CHI) - Da Bears fans are hoping new arrival Cutler can jumpstart an enemic offense. He finally teamed up with a good running game and swarming defense as supporting cast. Put up nice fantasy numbers in Denver last year. Chicago needs a creative scheme to get him outside the pocket. He's my pick for 2009's anything can happen QB. Potential 3600+, 25+ and 400+ yards rushing. Also potential for 20+ INT's learning a new system.
15- Chad Pennington (MIA) - 2008 Comeback Player of the Year play action pass specialist has deep threats to compliment a wide open running attack. Excellent protector of the pigskin, usually makes smart throws and throwaways. 3300+, 19+.
16- Joe Flacco (BAL) - Upside appears to be poise under pressure. Led Ravens to 11-5 record as a rookie. Don't count on big numbers from a QB ranked this deep. But, don't be surprised to be the recipient of a few big totals when Ravens win field position battles. 3000+, 17+ and maybe a few goal line bursts from one of NFL's physically stronger QB's.
17- Matt Schaub (HOU) - At first glance, you'd better have great point producers from RB/WR is Schaub ends up being your starting QB. Then again he did complete 66.1% in 11 starts for 3,043 yards. Looks great on paper but not great scoring wise from week to week. Has great WR and spirited running attack. Defense must win battle of field position for offense to excel. Could be a great sleeper pick overlooked in most leagues. 3300+, 20+.
18- David Garrard (JAX) - One year removed from a masterful 2007 campaign. Team turmoil and injuries derailed everyone in '08. Garrard will be given a chance to rebound. 3000+, 19+ if regains old form. You're in trouble if he faulters.
19- Matt Hasselbeck (SEA) - Is his arm sound? If so, he's only one year removed from 3,966 and 28 TD's. A good sleeper pick and/or compliment to Tony Romo, Kurt Warner & Flacco if you're lucky enough to nab 2 solid starters. Another anything can happen QB. Good arm will net 3000+, 20+. Bad arm 2800+, 17+, 20 INT or worse (benching)! Training camp will determine his true value heading into '09. Keep an eye on pre-season games. They'll actually mean something for Hasselbeck.
20- Matt Cassel (KC) - Cassel's 2009 value is unknown. Downside: New QB for rebuilding franchise coming off 2-14 2008 & no future Hall of Fame target TE Tony Gonzalez. Upside: Creative new Head Coach was Arizona's Offensive Coordinator last year (Todd Haley). No doubt Haley will transform an underachieving offense. BIG question: Is Cassel a bonified NFL starting QB? He played for a talent rich Patriots team. How will he do for a less talented roster expecting miracles? 2800+, 15+. Numbers will significantly increase if KC trails by large margins and faces prevent defenses (including interceptions).
21- Trent Edwards (BUF) - Buffalo's man of the future. That's what they're hoping to get with Edwards. Bills went out and signed outspoken Terrell Owens. Whether or not TO's talent helps this team on the field or disrupts from the sidelines remains to be seen. Solid progression by Edwards is expected by fans in northwestern New York. 2800+, 17+.
22- Kerry Collins (TEN) - It's a very thin and uncertain pool of remaining QB's. No need to worry unless you play in large leagues. Collins could be a decent spot starter/backup on fantasy teams. Main advantage is an outstanding coaching staff creating solid game plans. Turnovers were always a big concern earlier in his career. Don't expect more than token points with Collins at QB. 3000+, 15+. Be wary of interceptions and sack fumbles.
No QB rankings representing 23-32 as remaining teams starters have yet to be finalized. Redskins, Jets, Browns, Lions, Bucs, Raiders, Vikings, 49ers, Rams and Broncos starting nods will be won in training camp.
Big time players from Babe Ruth to current stars like Derek Jeter are household names in baseball country. There's also a long list of players not well known beyond the city hosting their team. They were lesser known players who electrified crowds when called into action. Some were reserves, late season call-ups or deadline beating trades.
So, I decided to have a little fun compiling a position by position list of players from my lifetime who had huge moments when it counted most. A few went onto enjoy great careers. Others had very brief golden moments. Here they are:
1B- Don Clendenon - (1969) Expos traded DC to Mets mid-season for Bill Carden, Dave Colon, Devin Collins & Steve Renko. Helped spark an enemic New York offense on their way to becoming the "Amazin' Mets" after over taking a Cubs 10 game lead to become run away winners of NL East. 12 HR in 72 games. Named World Series MVP.
2B- Brian Doyle - (1978) Filled in after popular Willie Randolph was lost for the playoffs due to injury. Batted only .192 in 54 late season AB's. Played exceptional defense earning loud ovations in Yankee Stadium. Forever remembered as helping Yanks win World Series over LA when he batted .438. Short career ended soon thereafter.
3B- Evan Longoria - (2008) An instant Tampa sensation and Rookie of the Year winner. Helped Rays to 1st ever winning season and division title. 27 regular season homers. Lead Tampa into World Series with 4 HR in ALCS. Shining star enjoying a superb 2009.
SS- Bucky Dent - (1978) Initially a popular players player but over shadowed in fans eyes by star names until his infamous homer over "The Green Monster" to win a one game winner take all game in Fenway Park vs the Red Sox. Instrumental player for NY team that trailed Boston by 14 games earlier in the year. Forever referred to by Boston fans as "Bucky F------ Dent!" Named World Series MVP in victory over Dodgers.
LF- Miguel Cabrera - (2003) June 20th call-up homered in first Marlins game becoming an instant South Florida favorite. Later homered in 1st two NLCS games and batted 10-30, 3 HR overall. A star was born vs Roger Clemens in the World Series. Clemens knocked him down with a high hard head hunting fastball. Cabrera homered on the very next pitch. Marlins eventually won Series. He's currently an MVP candidate in '09 for Detroit.
CF- Del Unser (1980) Semi-journeyman had already been a local favorite for previous teams. He was a pinch hitter extraordinaire toward the end of his career in Philadelphia beginning in '80 season. Had key PH AB in come from behind Game 5 WS win vs Royals (Phillies won in 6). Batted .455 with three doubles in 1980 post-season competition.
RF- Shane Spencer (1998) Late season call-up electrified New York by crushing everything in sight. In 73 plate appearances he nailed 10 homers, 27 RBI, .373 BA, 1.321 OPS. Had fans standing on their feat with every at bat. 8 September HR's, 21 RBI in 10 starts. Homered in both starts during ALDS vs Toronto (3-6, 2 HR, 2B). Yanks fan favorite and platoon player until the magic wore off in '02.
C- Eddie Perez - (1999) Braves super sub backstop came through with big hit after big hit. Became personal catcher for Steve Avery pitched games in '96. In '97, he was preferred by Greg Maddux who went 19-4, 2.20. Destroyed Mets pitching in '99 NLCS filling in for injured Javy Lopez. Won NLCS MVP batting 10-20, 2 HR.
DH- Edgar Martinez (1987-2004) Probably Seattle's 2nd All Time favorite player behind Ken Griffey, Jr. A pure hitting talent and potential Hall of Fame inductee. He burst onto the scene in '87 batting .372 with 7 of his 16 hits going for extra bases. Two time American League batting champ played in 7 All Star Games. Martinez was as hot as a hitter can be during Seattle's first playoff appearance ('95) vs Yankees. In a best of five series, he guided Seattle to victory by batting .571 (12-21, 6 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI). His Game 5 bottom of the 11th inning lined shot double to LF was the game winning walk off hit. Finished career with a .312 BA in 2055 games.
SP- Don Larsen - (1956) He was hero for a day after pitching the only perfect game in World Series history mowing down 27 cross town rival Brooklyn Dodgers. Not bad for a guy who lost 21 games two years prior.
CL- Adam Wainwright - (2006) 33 save closer Jason Isringhausen got hurt at the end of '08 season. Mgr LaRussa thrust first year pitcher Wainwright into closer role for playoffs. He was absolutely stellar. Biggest highlight was striking out Carlos Beltran with bases loaded to save NLCS Game 7 vs Mets. Cardinals eventually won World Series. Wainwright was an instant sensation and playoff hero. 9 games, 9 IP, 0 runs, 15 K, 4 Saves. Currently a Cards starting pitcher.
Manager- Don Zimmer - (1965-2009) Beloved former player, fiery manager/coach spent his entire adult life in professional baseball. High's and low's throughout career. One of baseball's most colorful figures. Managed two cursed teams: Boston Red Sox & Chicago Cubs. His 1978 Red Sox blew a large late season lead and one game playoff to New York Yankees. Guided Cubs to 1989 NL East title but they lost NLCS. Joe Torre's bench coach during World Series hey-day. Yankees have not won a Series since Zimmer stormed out of NY after fueding with team owner George Steinbrenner.
Honarable mention: Rusty Staub (1973 NYM), Cesar Cedeno (1985 STL), Joe Charboneau (1980 CLE), Pat Borders (1992 TOR), Kerry Wood (1998 CHI), Tug McGraw (1973 NYM, 1980 PHI), Joba Chamberlain (2007 NYY), Bernie Carbo (1975 BOS).
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