Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hmmmm.....Which Hat To Wear?

Almost time for the Fall Classic as Major League Baseball's postseason draws near.

Just a few days to go until the end of the season and the rebuilding A's have left me without a team to root for in October.

But, being a baseball fan, I need a team to rally behind for the month. Let's take a look at the candidates:

American League

Los Angeles (don't call us Anaheim) Angels - I've hated this club since I was a kid, ever since the team got into a brawl against the A's when Jim Todd drilled Bruce Bochte in the coconut when Bochte was crowding the plate. A longtime AL West division rival, I won't root for this team.

Tampa Bay Rays - A true Cinderella story. Probably the team to rally behind just for the rags to riches story. Outside of fantasy league players, it is hard to name more than a handful of players from this perennial doormat.

Boston Red Sox - Never.

I did marry into a Red Sox family, but I'll only go so far to suck up to the in-laws. They ruined my 1975 when they beat the A's in the AL Playoffs, ending the three-year World Series run of my childhood heroes.

Chicago White Sox - Ozzie Guillen is annoying, but the White Sox are a contender to become my team of the month. The fans are nuts and the team plays in some exciting games.

Minnesota Twins - Another nice story unfolding here as the Twinkies are somehow contending, even after trading Johan Santana in the offseason. Great stories are nice, especially with a small market team. With Mauer and Morneau, this is a fun team to watch and definitely an overachiever.

National League

Philadelphia Phillies - Another fun team to watch. They have plenty of offense with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and could do some damage in the postseason. Not sure about the depth of their staff, but they could make some noise. Biggest problem with the Phils, living in the northeast, is the 9-6 games they tend to play. A long postseason run by Philly could interfere with my beauty sleep, and I need all the help I can get.

New York Mets - As of this writing, they are tied for the Wild Card so I'll include them and Milwaukee. Straight to the point, I hope they miss the playoffs. I have access to the Mets' games here and I never watch them. For all the marquee players, they bore me. Do me a personal favor and stay home for the playoffs.

Chicago Cubs - No World Series wins in 100 years. Hard not to root for. I was behind the lovable losers in '03 when Steve Bartman became Public Enemy #1 in the Windy City. The Cubbies have all the ingredients to finally win. A great offense, stud starting pitching and a solid bullpen. Lou Piniella has won a title as a player and a manager. If only fate could break their way.

Milwaukee Brewers - Being just a hair on the heavy side and possessing a liking for a few cold brews from time to time, I can relate to a club from Beer Town that has Prince Fielder and CC Sabathia on the roster. This town hasn't seen a playoff team since Harvey's Wallbangers hit the postseason in '82. Let's hope they get hot over the next few days and crash the postseason party.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Good for Joe Torre. I agreed that his time in New York had run its course, but the way he was dismissed for all his efforts and results were shoddy. Manny Ramirez is still a quitter, but he can hit when motivated and he is motivated.

And the winner is...............

Chicago Cubs

As much as I'd like to root for the Cinderella Rays, their fans were not selling out games late in the season so they lose my support.

How can you not root for a team who's fans are starved for a title?

I've been to Wrigley Field and it was like going to a cathedral, complete with the rowdy, shirtless party-goers in the Bleachers.

I'll put my A's cap down until spring training. For now, let's go Cubs!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Raiders win! So Why Am I Not Happy?

Smash-mouth football at its best, baby.

If the Raiders are going to be successful (on the field) this year, the running game has to lead the way as JaMarcus Russell grows and matures.

That scenario occurred Sunday in Kansas City.

Darren McFadden was the stud everyone hoped he would be. Michael Bush picked up the tough yards in the fourth quarter and finished with 90 yards rushing. In all, the Raiders ran for 300 yards in the win.

The only sour note from the offensive standpoint was the groin injury to Justin Fargas. Depth isn't a problem, but Fargas has been a hard working, loyal player for many years now.

The defense was solid. True, the Chiefs are a JV team with no QB's, even if Brodie Croyle had played. He stinks, so does Damon Huard and the rest.

The LB's, led by Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard, were terrfic. Derrick Burgess made plays. No complaints.

Seabass was dropping bombs all over Arrowhead. His 56-yarder early in the game is a new Raiders record.

I should be happy, and part of me is. But I'm not.

There was an ESPN report prior to the game that Lane Kiffin was going to get fired Monday, win or lose. I hope that happens.

I've been a huge supporter of the 33-year old coach, but I've had enough of the garbage that has been coming from his mouth.

The head coach is supposed to provide leadership to a team, among other things. The final straw came during the week when he distanced himself from the defensive effort last Monday night, saying that d coordinator Rob Ryan put together the game plan with assistance from Al Davis.
The head coach, a mature one, would accept all blame for the game plan. It comes with the territory.

Lane Kiffin should have known the day he was hired that this was a dysfunctional organization. It drives the most loyal members of the Raider Nation nuts sometimes, but this is what it is.
For me, I root for the jersey, not the name. If you don't like it hear, hit the road pal and good luck finding another job any time soon.

Lane Kiffin should have been grateful for being given a chance to be a head coach in the NFL at the age of 32. Instead, he has come off and immature, arrogant, and insubordinate for most of his tenure. Pretty bold for a guy with a 5-13 career record

When describing an employee and those three terms come into the conversation, you can usually add the term "stupid" to the mix.

I want to root for Lane Kiffin. But I also want a head coach who wants to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

That said, we are 1-1 with a tough road trip coming to Western New York to play the 2-0 Bills.

Whether it is Lane Kiffin, Rob Ryan, or James Lofton, I hope the head coach that leads the team on the field is as committed as he is asking his players to be.

Monday, September 1, 2008

NFL Forecast - 2008

It seems like yesterday that the Giants were putting the finishing touches on the Upset of the Century in Super Bowl XLII.

Summer has come and gone and it is time to strap on the shoulder pads and buckle up the chinstraps.

As I kick up the feet on this Labor Day, here is how the season should play out:

AFC East
The Patriots were less than three minutes from perfection but didn't get it done when it mattered most. Although they will drop a few notches, the Pats are the class of the division, which isn't saying much. Buffalo has improved, the Jets should be slightly better and Miami is still Miami.

1. New England Patriots
2. Buffalo Bills
3. New York Jets
4. Miami Dolphins
AFC Central

Cleveland is the trendy pick this year as the Browns seem capable of averaging close to 30 points a game on offense. The problem is, the loyal fans of the Dawg Pound support a defense that is more than capable of giving it all right back. Cincinnati is a mess with GM Mike Brown overriding coach Marvin Lewis and the Ravens are deep in rebuilding mode. With Ben Roethlisberger emerging as the best QB in the league not named Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, the Steelers will coast to the division crown.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Baltimore Ravens
AFC South

Jacksonville is another trendy pick. Sooner or later, the Colts stranglehold on the division has to end, right? Wrong. The Colts win the division and will have the best record in the conference. Houston continues to make strides and, after making the playoffs in '07, Tennessee nosedives down the standings as Vince Young gets exposed as a bust.

1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Houston Texans
4. Tennessee Titans
AFC West

The window of opportunity is closing fast on San Diego. LT will get his yards but the Chargers need Philip Rivers to mature and blossom into a leader. Shawne Merriman's health is a serious question mark but the 'Bolts have the luxury of playing in the West. Oakland will get better and with a favorable schedule, the Raiders should be a .500 team or better. The Broncos have been getting worse over the last few years and it is clear that Mike Shanahan has lost his fastball. Herm Edwards has guided the Chiefs to the depths of the league.

1. San Diego Chargers
2. Oakland Raiders
3. Denver Broncos
4. Kansas City Chiefs
NFC East

Things will be tougher for the defending champion Giants this year. Michael Strahan has retired and Osi Umenyiora is out for the year with a knee injury. Hope they enjoyed last year, 'cuz every year is different. Dallas is the class of the division but hasn't won a playoff game since the Clinton administration. Washington will improve and the Eagles continue to avoid picking up skill positions players in the offseason.

1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Washington Redskins
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. New York Giants
NFC Central
Ugly, uglier, ugliest and Matt Millen's Lions. Why are people so hot on Minnesota? Tavaris Jackson scares nobody. Until he develops, opposing defenses will put eight men in the box to stop Adrian Peterson, who should suffer another injury sometime around early November. Green Bay blew it when it ran Brett Favre out of town and the Lions will muddle through another six win season. That leaves the Bears who should be recovered from the Super Bowl-hangover that plagued them last year.
1. Chicago Bears
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Detroit Lions
NFC South

Has anyone noticed that the four-division format in each conference has led to some bad divisions? New Orleans is the class of the South this year, look for Drew Brees to be the best QB in the NFC. Carolina could win 10 games, or lose 10 games. Tampa Bay is average at best while the Falcons will battle Kansas City for the top pick of the 2009 draft.

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Atlanta Falcons
NFC West
Yes, I saved the worst for last. The only thing stopping Seattle from winning the division again would be a massive injury outbreak. Arizona seems to never fulfill its promise and San Francisco isn't close to becoming a threat. I'm not sure St. Louis is still in the league.

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. St. Louis Rams
Postseason Awards
NFL MVP - Peyton Manning, Indianapolis
Offensive Player of the Year - Peyton Manning, Indianapolis
Defensive Player of the Year - Mario Williams, Houston
Offensive Rookie of the Year - Darren McFadden, Oakland
Defensive Rookie of the Year - Jerod Mayo, New England

Playoff Predictions
AFC Wild Card Playoff
San Diego over Oakland
Jacksonville over New England
NFC Wild Card Playoff
Seattle over Philadelphia
Washington over Chicago
AFC Divisional Playoff
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Pittsburgh over San Diego
NFC Divisional Playoff
Dallas over Washington
New Orleans over Seattle
AFC Championship
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
NFC Championship
Dallas over New Orleans
Super Bowl XLIII

Indianapolis 33, Dallas 28

-Three in a row for Archie Manning's boys