A Postseason Full of Surprises

January 20, 2009

The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Ok, now on with the blogging. While Pittsburgh was expected by many (including myself) to take the AFC Championship, the Cards were written off at each and every stop, only to “shock the world,” as starting QB Kurt Warner put it.

Limping into the playoffs at 8-8 as the champions of the perenially weak NFC West, Arizona was seen as no match for the rejuvenated Atlanta Falcons and their hotshot rookie QB Matt Ryan.

Guess what? Arizona by a landslide.

The Cardinals were then pitted against the Carolina Panthers, a team with a very strong defense and running game. Certainly, a team that could handle the lowly redbirds.

Guess what? Cards to the NFC Championship.

Most football fans at this point would say that the visiting Philadelphia Eagles, written off at midseason, would complete their juggernaut comeback with a road win to cement their place as this year’s Giants. And they almost did.

But guess what? Arizona is in the Super Bowl.

It is at this point that my nonexpert analysis kicks in. It is obvious that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a superior running game, quarterback, and defense in this matchup. Big Ben Roethlisberger and magician safety Troy Polamalu are proven winners and are unlikely to succumb to the red hot (or is it that they wear hot red?) Arizona Cardinals.

I have to pick the Steelers. Every logical football-loving bone in my body says that Arizona has no chance.

But don’t be surprised to see the Lombardi Trophy making a trek through Phoenix. Now that would truly shock the world.


Coming out of Hiding for some NFL Picks

December 21, 2008

So grad school ended up eating more of my time than I could have ever imagined, but my first semester was a wonderful experience and I learned more in three months than I ever thought possible. Check out some of my student work from the semester on Youtube; I covered New York’s Chinatown neighborhood for Election Day and took a look at some of the services offered to residents.

Anyways, moving on to the NFL. It has been a season full of surprises and disappointments, just like any other season, and playoff time is coming near. Halfway through Sunday’s action, here’s what we know:

  • The Titans are the 1 seed in the AFC; the Steelers and Colts are going to the playoffs as well.
  • The Giants and Cardinals both clinched their divisions, and the Panthers likely will soon.

So six of the twelve playoff teams are still yet to be determined. There are plenty of games left to play and a multitude of things can happen. My predictions:

AFC:

  • Titans and Steelers take 1 and 2 spots and have first-round byes
  • Patriots and Broncos each win their divisions and host first-round games
  • Colts take one wild-card spot
  • There will be a wrestling match between the Jets, Dolphins, Ravens for the last WC spot. Give it to the winner of next week’s Jets-Dolphins game. Call me crazy but I’ll take the Fins.

NFC:

  • Giants take homefield and Panthers take the 2 spot
  • Vikings and Cardinals host first-round games
  • Falcons take one WC spot
  • Final spot comes down to Eagles (who tied a game) and the Cowboys, I’ll take the Boys

I’ll wait for the official playoff seedings to make my official predictions. Based on the baseball predictions, don’t use my picks in Vegas.


No Playoff Baseball for New York

October 1, 2008

Fans have seen the Yankees’ demise coming long enough to still enjoy Mike Mussina’s 20th victory on the last day of the season. But for Mets fans, the 2008 season is just another example of coming so close to the postseason and falling just short.

While not quite as disastrous as last season’s fade into nothingness, the Mets’ inability to fend off the challenging Milwaukee Brewers, bringing a sudden end to Shea Stadium’s history, will leave a stinging feeling in the hearts of Mets fans for quite some time. Just as Ryan Church’s deep drive in the bottom of the 9th against the Marlins gave the Mets a few seconds of hope before being caught by Cameron Maybin, the Mets came into September with strong playoff hopes only to fizzle out.

So who’s left to play for the title of 2008 World Series champion? In the ALDS, the major-league-best Los Angeles Angels take on the AL Wild Card Boston Red Sox and the surprising Tampa Bay Rays do battle with the Chicago White Sox, fresh off an exciting 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff for the AL Central title. The NLDS pits the Chicago Cubs against Joe Torre’s Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Lots of interesting potential World Series matchups this postseason. Boston against Manny’s Dodgers? Freeway Series of Angels and Dodgers? Windy City Showdown of Cubs and White Sox?

Here are my predictions:
ALDS- Angels 3, Red Sox 1: The Sox pitching staff limps into the postseason while the Angels are seemingly unstoppable. Their ability to control all facets of the game gives them my vote.
ALDS- Rays 3, White Sox 1: People forget that the White Sox lost five straight before winning three in a row against three different teams to earn their playoff berth. And they’ve used multiple starters on three days rest. Oh, and the Rays are really good.
NLDS- Cubs 3, Dodgers 2: A day after Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros, Ted Lilly almost did the same. Their starting staff is a serious threat. The Dodgers are no chumps, and this one will go five games to determine a winner. Definitely a series worth watching.
NLDS- Phillies 3, Brewers 2: CC Sabathia can only start 2 games, so the Brewers can only win 2 games. The Phillies are the superior team here.

ALCS- Angels 4, Rays 2: The Angels have been there before while the Rays are mostly untested in the playoffs. This is not the year for Tampa Bay; the Angels are just too good.
NLCS- Cubs 4, Phillies 1: Honestly, whoever wins the Cubs-Dodgers gets the NL Pennant in my opinion. The Cubs are a much deeper team and should be able to sweep the Phillies aside.

WS- Angels 4, Cubs 2- I don’t see this one going all 7. The Angels are the best team in baseball for good reason. They have superior starting pitching, bullpen, defense, hitting, speed, bench. The Cubs will give them a run for their money but I pick the Angels.

This isn’t to say I WANT the Angels to win. I’d love to see the Cubs or Dodgers take it home. Realistically, though, it’s going to be the Angels.


Whoever would’ve thought?

September 5, 2008

First off, my first week as an NYU grad student has been, needless to say, very hectic. After only having one class, my free time has dwindled down to almost nothing. I’ll try to keep this blog updated as often as possible, but school comes first. On with the blogging.

I’m watching the NFL Kickoff game, which has the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants playing against the Washington Redskins. During a commercial break I watched a commercial featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates. Yes, that Bill Gates. The multibillionaire one.

I immediately thought to myself, “Microsoft must really not be doing well these days for Bill Gates to have to make a commercial.” Turns out it was a commerical for Microsoft, but interesting nonetheless.

After an attempt at comedy with Seinfeld, Gates hints that the future of computers will feature delicious cake that people can eat while they work. Then the Windows logo is shown and a voice proclaims something about Microsoft and the future.

The future indeed, because nobody likes WIndows Vista, the Microsoft of the present.

A bit farfetched for the sports theme, but I did see it while watching a football game.


Should MLB have done this to Koufax?

August 26, 2008

In case you haven’t heard, the Youth Baseball League of New Haven has banned 9-year-old Jericho Scott from pitching. Why? He’s too good, apparently. He reportedly throws around 40 mph, which is considered too fast for his fellow 9-year-olds to handle. One team forfeited their game and left as soon as he was put on the mound.

This story irked me on many different levels. As a former youth baseball player, a summer camp counselor, and a baseball fan, I can safely say that this constitutes one of the biggest outrages the sport as a whole has ever seen.

I’ve faced some fast hurlers in my day. Definitely fast enough to hurt me. I even got hit in the arm by one. Was I afraid to step in the box the next time against him? Sure I was. But I did. Cracked a double.

Every little league has one or two players who are far above the rest in terms of ability. There’s the hitter that, no matter what, will get at least 2 extra-base hits against your team every game. And the pitcher who throws so fast you can’t catch up to the ball. They have been blessed with talent and practiced hard to hone their skills. How can you justify banning a player based on his superior ability?

Clearly, some parental complaints must be at work here. Mommy or Daddy doesn’t want little Johnny getting hit with a hard-thrown baseball. Well, then don’t sign the little tyke up for the league. My parents didn’t want me to get hurt playing youth football. Did they sign me up anyway and try to get the hardest hitting linebacker banned? No. They didn’t let me play. Honestly, at that age, I was probably a little undersized for the game anyway.

The bottom line is, let the kid play. If you’re the coach of a team who’s about to face him in a game, that means you better throw your team some extra BP. This is a clear example of encouraging kids to run away from life’s challenges instead of standing up for themselves.

Kid pitches too fast? Choke up on the bat. Speed up your swing.

This, parents, is how you build character.


Breaking Down a Nightmareish Yankee August

August 22, 2008

August has been a happy time over the past decade for Yankee fans. At this point, it has been nothing short of disappointing this season. Coming into tonight’s action the Yankees found themselves 10 games behind Tampa Bay for the AL East and 5.5 out of the AL Wild Card race. It’s easy to say that the Yankees are simply playing inconsistent baseball. But the Yankees have been very busy making roster moves to get something started down the stretch. Let’s take a look at those moves and how they have worked out.

Acquired C Ivan Rodriguez from Detroit for RP Kyle Farnsworth
At first glance, this looked like the move that would save the Yankees’ season. Except that in 13 games Pudge is hitting .229. Andy Pettitte got shelled in his first game throwing to Rodriguez and he and Mike Mussina have both been caught by Jose Molina in every game since. Not to mention that Molina has been swinging a much heavier stick since Pudge came aboard. And that the bullpen has been mostly horrendous since Farnsworth left.

Activated Brian Bruney from the DL
Bruney has been mostly effective since his return from a Lisfranc injury. He is still working his way back but should be able to provide a quality bullpen arm down the stretch.

Placed SP Joba Chamberlain on DL
The Chamberlain injury constitutes a major hit to the Yankees’ starting rotation. He is hoping for a September return but the Yankees are not going to rush back the 22-year-old if they are out of a pennant race. Dan Giese provided a solid option in the rotation until he sustained an injury of his own. The Yankees are almost down to Plan Z for starters, which will be discussed later in this post.

Optioned CF Melky Cabrera to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, recalled OF Brett Gardner
Carbera had provided solid defense in center all season but, outside of a hot streak in April, has been almost an automatic out at the plate. The Yankees named the speedy Gardner their everyday CF and he responded well, including collecting a game-winning extra-inning hit against the KC Royals. How was he rewarded for this clutch performance?

Activated DH Hideki Mastui from the DL, Johnny Damon moved to CF
Yes, Gardner’s stay as the Yankees starting CF lasted precisely 2 games. With Matsui returning from his knee injury unable to play the field, Damon was forced out of the DH spot. Xavier Nady has been playing well in left, so Gardner was the odd man out. He still provides an outstanding pinch-running option off the bench. Matsui adds a veteran bat to the lineup while Damon is a defensive downgrade but an offensive upgrade in center.

Plan Z: Named Carl Pavano the Starting Pitcher for Saturday’s game against Baltimore
No need to read that over again. Or check your sanity. It’s true. Pavano, whose injury-riddled Yankee career has earned him the nickname “American Idle,” will toe the rubber in two days’ time for the Bombers. The only other realistic option was Phil Hughes, but the Yankees seem to want to avoid rushing him back. I suppose it makes sense; after all, for 40 million big ones, they might as well see if there’s anything left in that arm. I say Pavano pitches well enough to keep his spot in the rotation but is forced to call it quits after he stumbles during a curtain call, tearing his Achilles tendon.


MLB Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

August 3, 2008

The non-waiver baseball trade deadline has come and passed, and many talented players now find themselves with new teams. Some of these trades helped contenders strengthen up for the playoff run while some helped cellar-dwellers start anew. Let’s take a look.

CC Sabathia to Milwaukee for Matt LaPorta and 2 minor leaguers
Milwaukee’s rotation greatly improves with the acquisition of Sabathia. He has pitched very well thus far for the Brewers. Whether that’s enough to take the NL Central is yet to be determined. Meanwhile, Cleveland knew they couldn’t afford to sign Sabathia to a long-term extension and got some value back for him. Oh, and Sabathia used the trade as an opportunity to change his first name to “CC” from “C.C.”

Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen, and Jeff Karstens
The Yankees added the right-handed outfield bat (Nady) they needed to replace Hideki Matsui, who is likely out for the year with a knee injury. Marte provides a solid lefty option in Joe Girardi’s bullpen. The Pirates add some promising prospects for their future. Tabata was seen as the top Yankee outfield prospect before personality issues arose this season. Ohlendorf can potentially help Pittsburgh as a starter or out of the bullpen.

Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and a minor leaguer
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim needed a bat, so they added Mark Teixeira of Atlanta. Teixeira is due to become a free agent at the end of the season, so unless the Angels can sign him to an extension, this trade may not work out well. Who exactly is going to play 1B next year?

Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth
The Yankees decided they could not withstand another blow to the catching position, so they instead gave up setup man Farnsworth for two months of Pudge Rodriguez’s services. The bullpen takes a bit of a hit as a result. Farnsworth, however, was pitching at his peak performance and is due to become a free agent, so just being able to trade him for anything more than a bag of baseballs is more than the Yankees could have asked for. Classic “sell high” strategy.

Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to Boston, Andy Laroche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen, and a minor leaguer to the Pirates
Where to start with this one? Manny gets to be Manny for Joe Torre, which should be interesting to watch. Pittsburgh might be building a very solid future with this trade as well as the deal they made with the Yankees. Jason Bay will provide a defensive upgrade in LF for the Red Sox but is not the same presence at the plate as Manny is. I call the loser in this deal the Red Sox. Manny, Moss, Hansen, and cash for Jason Bay? I smell a ripoff. But if Bay plays well then this deal will be well worth it.

Ken Griffey, Jr. to the White Sox for Danny Richar and Nick Masset
The White Sox now have a bit of a crowded lineup with OF/1B Nick Swisher, OF Griffey, and 1B Paul Konerko all competing for playing time. The Sox plan to use Griffey in CF. He had been moved to RF by the Reds previously because of his age and declining defensive skills. Somebody better tell Ozzie Guillen that it’s 2008, not 1998. Griffey may help the lineup, but at what cost defensively?

That’s it for now. Further updates when I feel like it. It’s my blog after all ;-)


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