Thursday, August 30, 2007

Seattle Superbad

Idiocy Revisited

Looks like someone didn't learn a lesson...

Situation:
Tonight your team plays a make-up away game against the Cleveland Indians. Earlier the New York Yankees finished off a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Soxs. The Yanks now lead the Wild Card by .5 a game. Your team has just suffered a crippling three-straight losses against division rivals Los Angeles Angels. Another defeat tonight extends the overall losing streak to six.

...

Cleveland takes the early lead, but your team scratches its way back on top. Momentum swings back and forth.

...

You're tied. Bottom of the ninth. One out. Your reliever has just hit a batter on an 0-2 pitch, leaving runners on first and second. He's only gotten one out and is having issues with control.

You've used three relievers in 2.2 innings, leaving two options remaining in the bullpen. The first is closer J.J. Putz, already established as the best arm on the roster. He hasn't pitched in nearly a week. The other choice is Rick White, who imploded two days ago in a pressure-packed outing.

Once again, the situation. A chance to stay tied for the Wild Card and gain half a game on the idle Angels.

So you can stick with the usually reliable (but currently struggling) Eric O'Flaherty... or choose between the super-dominant Putz or the craptastic White.

What do you do again, John McLaren?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An IQ Comparison

Situation:
You're the manager of a professional baseball team. It's late in the season and your team is in the thick of a pennant race. Up two games in the Wild Card standings, the team behind you -- the New York Yankees -- has already beaten its bitter rivals (also the best team in baseball), the Boston Red Soxs. Tonight your team must win to maintain a two-game lead over the Yanks.

Meanwhile, your team hosts the second game of a three-game set against the Los Angels Angels. LA dismantled you 6-0 last night, increasing its lead in the division to three games.

...

A back and forth contest. Your offense manages to wallop the Angels starter in the first inning for five runs. Slowly but surely LA crawls its way back and makes it a competitive match.

...

You're down 6-7. Top of the seventh. Bases loaded. Two outs. Vladimir Guerrero, the most imposing batter in baseball, steps to the plate. Your hotshot rookie reliever still has the stuff to keep pitching, but does he have the nerves?

In the bullpen you have three options. First off is George Sherrill. Right-handed batters are hitting .212 against him all year. He's been an elite reliever this season. As luck would have it your second option is even better than your first. J.J. Putz is hands down the best bullpen arm in baseball. Right-handed batters have hit an anemic .149 against the All-Star closer, striking out in more than a third of their at-bats. In fact, the last time Vlad was here Putz dominated him with three consecutive heaters. Your third option is Rick White. Recently acquired from the Houston Astros, White has been successfully hit 32% of the time against righties. Rick was so terrible a last-place team deemed him expendable.

Once again, the situation. A chance to gain a game against the division leader. An opportunity to keep the charging Yankees at bay. One of the game's greatest hitters at the plate with the sacks full. Make no mistake, this is the most important at-bat of the season up to this point.

So you can stick with the explosive yet untested Morrow... or choose between the dominant Sherrill, the super-dominant Putz or the craptastic White.

What do you do, John McLaren?

Friday, August 24, 2007

College Football's Top Teams and Heisman Hopefuls: Preseason

Hard to believe kickoff is less than a week away. How time flies. Anyway, this is my preseason look at the best teams and players in college football.

Most pundits expect USC to dominate this year. While the Trojans are certainly loaded there remain questions at the RB, WR and PK positions. I attended the Trojan scrimmage on Wednesday, where the team emphatically answered all my concerns. But practice is practice and games are games.

Rating these teams is arbitrary at this point, based more on perception than production. Until they play a few contests it's impossible to rationally conclude Team A is better than Team B. That being said, I'm certain the teams I've list are talented, well-coached and will have success this season. But each squad has questions that need to be addressed.

Michigan, for example, despite losing key defensive players possesses an awesome offense led by QB Chad Henne and RB Michael Hart. Can the once-dominant D catch up with the offense? The same can be said about reigning champs Florida. QB Tim Tebow takes over full-time in the huddle to lead an explosive spread offense. But can the Gators replace S Reggie Nelson and DE Jarvis Moss? Can a redshirt freshman QB lead the Sooners to the BCS title game? And what about LSU? QB Matt Flynn played so well for the Tigers in the 2005 Peach Bowl. Will the road to this year's championship be paved in the state of Louisiana -- from Death Valley to New Orleans?

All the top ten teams have the potential to contend for a championship. They are also susceptible to a loss or two. Should be a fun four and a half months.


Top Ten Teams
College Last Year
1) Southern California 7
2) Louisiana State
5
3) West Virginia
8
4) Michigan
9
5) Louisville
2
6) Florida
1
7) Texas
-
8) Wisconsin
5
9) Oklahoma
10
10) California
-

Dropped out: #3 Ohio State, #6 Boise State

McFadden, following his second-place finish in last year's Heisman voting, leads the pack. A record-setting gunslinger is followed by the leader at what has recently been Quarterback U. Two dynamic running backs wrap up the top five. But with established stars like Ray Rice, Henne and DeSean Jackson and darkhorse candidates like Chase Daniel excelling across the nation, no player is guaranteed a December seat in New York.


Heisman Hopefuls

Name Position Year College
Darren McFadden RB Jr. Arkansas
Colt Brennan QB Sr. Hawaii
John David Booty QB Sr. Southern California
Steve Slaton RB Jr. West Virginia
Michael Hart
RB Sr. Michigan

Dropped out: Troy Smith, Brady Quinn

Thursday, August 23, 2007

USC Football Scrimmage Report

Wednesday night the USC Trojans held an open scrimmage in preparation for next Saturday's home opener against the Idaho Vandals. The first-unit Cardinal squad manhandled the second-unit White team 42-10.


Excitement was in the air from the get-go as Chauncey Washington opened the scrimmage with a 63-yard dash. C-Dub then bulldozed into the endzone from one yard out. In the blink of an eye the Cardinal team was up 7-0. It was a lead that was never threatened.

C-Dub looked noticeably slimmer than he did last year and without any nagging injuries Washington showed early on what Trojan fans can expect from him in 2007. Later in the second half Chauncey crumpled to the ground after a run. Many in attendance (including yours truly) screamed expletives as it appeared Washington had severely been hurt on the play. Luckily, C-Dub quickly rose to his feet and scampered off the playing field with an apparent stinger to his arm.

The running game, which was inconsistent at best in 2006, seems primed to take off this year. The offensive line was stout and for the first time in a long time there was a healthy fullback to clear the lanes.

Stafon Johnson picked up where Chauncey left off, busting through the left side for a 67-yard jaunt. He fought and clawed for the final ten yards, fending off tenacious would-be tacklers. It was the type of explosive play that clearly demonstrated why Johnson has been climbing the loaded depth chart at RB. Stafon barreled in from a yard out on the ensuing play for a touchdown. He later scored on a 14-yard scamper. Stafon also had a couple tries returning punts. The first kick he let bounce to the 5-yard line. The second kick he fumbled, enabling the kicking team to regain possession. Stafon did not return punts again.

Allen Bradford started for the White team and carried ten times for 56 yards. It was an impressive feat considering how ferocious the Cardinal defense was all night. CB Terrell Thomas did a fine job locking onto the White receivers. QB Michael McDonald and Mitch Mustain threw into narrow passing windows the entire game.

Ronald Johnson was the star of the show. After initially muffing a kickoff RoJo burned through the coverage and sliced his way across the field. Every time RoJo touched the ball there was a palpable excitement coming from the 18,000 in the Coliseum. The true freshman is poised to become a playmaker at SC and will be one to watch this fall.


John David Booty threw crisp, short passes during his first-half stint. In the second half true freshman Aaron Corp ran the Cardinal offense. He finished the scrimmage by finding a diving Vidal Hazelton in the left corner of the endzone.


Other Notes

* During the Trojan Walk (when fans greet the players arriving into the Coliseum), K David Buehler stopped to hug a woman wearing #18 jersey with “BUEHLER” emblazoned across the back – presumably his mother. That was nice to see.

* Joe McKnight, the heralded speedster from Louisiana who’s been drawing comparisons to a former USC superstar now playing in that state, did not play due to a minor leg injury.

* Redshirt freshman WR David Ausberry is a beast. He possesses a blend of size, strength and speed that can’t help but draw comparisons to Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. With Ausberry, Patrick Turner, RoJo and Hazelton, the depth at WR is not a concern.

* Another talented true freshman, DE Everson Griffen, recorded a half-sack against White team QB Mike McDonald.

* Mark Sanchez, the second-string QB, tossed the football during warm-ups with his left hand. Mark suffered a broken thumb to his throwing right hand will not be available for the Idaho game. Suffice to say, he did not play in the scrimmage.

UPDATE: Chauncey is getting X-rays for a shoulder sprain. He says it's not a big deal.

UPDATE 8/24/07: Uhh, turns out the injury is significant. Chauncey may not be available for the Idaho game, which could pave the way for Stafon to start.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Maybe the NBA Needs More Dancing

Courtesy of the always excellent Sports Media Watch:
The Disney Channel drew 17.2 million viewers to its premiere telecast of High School Musical 2 on Friday night. To put that in perspective, the 17.2 million viewers is more than the amount of viewers for four of the five games of the 2006 World Series and every game of the 2007 NBA Finals.
Not a good sign when a made-for-cable TV movie (albeit one with enormous marketing potential) is seen more than an entire championship series for a major American sport. This is one of the reasons why I don't feel the Tim Donaghy issue will seriously impact the NBA. The league operates as a niche product. There is no such thing as the casual NBA fan. Only real basketball fans watch and follow the games with regularity. An exciting Suns-Mavs matchup will entice more viewers, but since the post-Jordan era the NBA has continued to slip from public awareness as the NFL, MLB and even NASCAR have thrived.

An unsatisfying playoff system, mediocre play on the court, (epitomized by the near-extinction of the midrange jumper and the rise of zone defense) , the perceived notion that players are thugs and a miserable TV presentation (courtesy of ABC/ESPN) are all far bigger obstacles for Commissioner David Stern than "one rogue official."

Of course, if Donaghy does implicate up to twenty other NBA referees as gamblers then the league may have to reevaluate its priorities.

EDIT: No sooner do I publish this post there emerges a report about a gun battle at DeShawn Stevenson's home.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Have You Seen This Man?


Rewards include an invigorated offense and possible playoff berth.

UPDATE 8/8/07:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

You Say Tomato...

* Both are considered the greatest ever in their respective sports.
* Both dominated their sports during the same period of time (late 90's to 2005).
* Both have been accused of using performance enhancing drugs.
* Both have had colleagues implicate them to performance enhancement.
* Both have been the subjects of books alleging performance enhancement.
* One has been championed as a hero and role model. The other has been vilified as a liar and fraud.
* One is considered to be have been clean in a sport riddled with dirty participants. The other is considered the poster child of a sport plagued with cheats.
* One is celebrated for accomplishing a record that will almost certainly never be approached. The other is criticized for breaking the greatest record in American athletics.
*One is a likable white cancer survivor. The other is a contentious black athlete.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

God Created Rats So Rats Don't Hurt

Ever wonder how Angels owner Arte Moreno was able to discount hot dog prices?

County health officials say they're stepping up enforcement at Angel Stadium, where they've found 118 vermin violations at stadium kiosks and restaurants over the last 2 1/2 years.

Thirty-three of those reports represent "major" violations, in which "rodent activity" was observed by health inspectors in a "critical area" of 18 stadium food venues, the Orange County Register reported Sunday.

Meanwhile the Texas Rangers are reporting a lame duck has been hung out to dry in the manager's office.