Get Me the Hell Off This Sunken Ship

Or give me more money to keep punching my timecard at this futile organization. Either way, I don't really care. I'm not exactly sure how much money I'm worth, but it is easily more than the approximately $10 million I was due next year. After all, you'll notice that I hit .291 with 38 homers and 119 RBIs last year, mostly in meaningless games after my team was already hopelessly out of reach of playoff contention. Notice that these numbers are not that different from those of Alex Rodriguez, who hit .290/35/121 last year. You will also notice that I only comitted 13 errors last season, as compared to Mr. Rodriguez's 24 errors.

As Moises Alou once told me as he was peeing on his hands, numbers do not lie. Therefore, I am a player of equal stature to Mr. Rodriguez. I can also verify that I am more well-endowed than Mr. Rodriguez. Hence, I am worth at least as much as Mr. Rodriguez's $21 million per season. Also, during the course of my research, I have found that the girly-man Magglio Ordonez makes $16 million per season. Take one look at his luscious locks and tell me he is worth more than I am. You cannot do it. You cannot do it because he is not. He is in all ways less of a man than me, Aramis.

In closing, I would just like to make it clear that I am not filing for free agency in search of more money. I'm doing it for the fans. The fans of the Chicago Cubs, or whomever decides to hire my services, deserve a more well-compensated Aramis Ramirez. Especially all my fans back in the Dominican, who will never see as much money in their lifetime as I spend on underpants in a weekend: this is for you. I'm working hard to keep the dream alive.




A Dejected Bengals Fan Leaves Sunday's Game

Wait, that's it? We just lost? Throw the red flag Marvin! We need to challenge this shit, because losing is not fucking cool. Don't they realize how early I had to wake up this morning to come tailgate? I'm talking still dark. Three hundred dollars on beer, hamburgers and brats, down the tubes. Seriously, fellas I'm still drunk as a skunk and frankly I'm really fucking confused. Last week, now that was a game. Obviously you heard me screaming my lungs out and responded with a big W. My well placed "Marvin for president!" and "Palmer for president!" cries were undoubtedly the fuel to your fiery fourth quarter rally. This week was no different, trust me. I went to the doctor on Wednesday just to have my vocal cords checked out. Just a milde tweak, but I'm still in game shape. So what the hell happened out there? I even stepped it up a knotch this week. That's right, I know you saw me. Row Q, Seat 7. It took hours to paint half my body black and the other half orange. I had to do that shit last night and sleep in it. One good set of sheets ruined. But you know what? It would have been totally worth it, for the win. Because I'm a team player, that's why. Twelveth man, homeboy!!!! But now I'm just a drunk guy covered in body paint. And seriously, why the fuck didn't I bring a shirt? Look, drunk guy covered in body paint celebrating a win: awesome. Drunk guy covered in body paint looking sad after a tough loss: pathetic. And you know what the worst part is, now I have go home and wash all this shit off. It's quite symbolic, really. I'll be trying to cleanse myself of the shame of this defeat while at the same time trying to figure out how to get paint out of my belly button. Oh yeah, and you know what color black and orange mix to make? That's right, brown. Brown like the big turd you guys laid out there on the field today. Goddamnit, I thought we were a team.

P.S. Michael Vick, you suck.


Gage's Back On The Horse Picks - Week 8

3-1-1 last week, woot woot! I'm back on top baby. Ok, maybe I should temper that reaction just a touch, but I'm feeling good, like I'm fresh off the DL after a couple weeks on the sidelines. No more homoerotic trainer rubbing my hamstring. This is a total jinx, but I'm feeling good about this week's picks. You thinking what I'm thinking? Yeah, I'm screwed.

Indy (+3) over Denver
This line jumped out me right away. Indy is a better team than Denver and they say you get three points just for being at home. That means that, all things being equal, these are equally skilled teams. Does anybody believe that? I'm taking Indy plus points against anybody. Plus, how many times have they absolutely smoked the Broncos in the past few years? (P.S. Jake Plummer)

New Orleans (-1.5) over Baltimore
Drew Brees how do I love thee, let me count the ways: One, you took Purdue to the Rose Bowl. Two, you stayed for your senior season. Three, you made Daunte Culpepper look like a total chump. Sigh.... Anyway, Baltimore is struggling and McNair has some sort of "head injury." Is there a med school textbook entirely on McNair yet?

Carolina (-5) over Dallas
Romo is starting. Carolina has a good defense. The great thing here is that all Dallas games are officially worth watching now, just to see TO lay into Romo. With the right camera angle we'll get to see a tear slide down his cheek while Drew Bledsoe stands in the background trying not to smile. Can't wait.

NY Jets (+2) over Cleveland
The Jets are basically better than the Brown Mistakes on the Lake at every position. And they're not a good team. But, good enough to beat crappy teams. (See last week)

Kansas City (-4) over Seattle
I can't really see me adding much to this one, QB and RB hurt, KC at home blah blah. Seems like a layup with Seattle playing down to the competition every week. I would like to use this opportunity to say how tainted my opinion of Alexander is now. He's a good Kentucky boy who took the college game and the NFL by storm and always seemed like a nice guy. Then he had to go and say that God healed his ankle. Whatever your personal belief system is, I'm pretty sure his holiness isn't in the business of healing certain football players' injuries so that they can go earn their millions of dollars. Oh yeah, and his ankle was - of course - not healed.

Last Week: 3-1-1
Season: 17-16-2

World Series Champs, Bitches

Yo, what up dirtbags. J-Weeve, rightful World Motherfucking Series MVP, here. I haven't washed the champagne and Cuervo outta my sweet motherfucking hair yet, pulled the bitches off my dicks, or finished watching my favorite episode of Silver Spoons, but I needed to take a timeout to give a few shout-outs and get some shit off my chest. So listen up, J-Weeve about to drop some knowledge on all y'alls asses.

First off, most importantly, fuck all y'all who didn't give us redbirds a flying fuck of a chance. Let me tell you this: when you got bad mofos like myself, C-Carp, SOOP, and Rey-Rey trotting out there to throw some nasty junk at an overrated offense (except for Casey, I give that white boy props for his sexy bat and his gimpy running), you gots to know that us redbirds should be favs. I don't wanna hear no sqwuakin about how the Tiggers forgot how to hit or how they beat themselves with crazy stupid defense. It all comes back to throwin the ball. And me and the boys were throwin balls. Liberal media best recognize in the future.

Second, I have nothin but love for the two LA teams. All y'all are stupid as fuck, but I guess that worked out for the best, huh? If you'da pulled your heads outta your asses, kept a little J-Weeve around, maybe y'alld be gettin the sweet ass I'm gettin right now. World Series titles and sweet ass follow J-Weeve around like Big Mac used to eat HGH. Think about it.

Third, Bud Selig, you're death-like face needs to eat a dick. One: you gave my MVP trophy to that little guy that FOX constantly fellates. What's up with that shit? All he ever did was play scrappy. I play balls out, throwin absolute peas at these dumb fucking hitters for 8 innings, only to get pulled so some douche bag closer-poser can almost blow the game. Bullshit. Two: You can't even pronounce "Eck-steen's" name right, you douche, until someone tells you it's "Eck-stine." Everyone knows how to say J-Weeve. And that's for a reason. And that reason is that I'm the rightful goddamned MVP. Now give me that hott yellow car.

Last but not least, I gotta profess my love to the SaintL fans. You's the best. But to that fan with the "Dreamweaver" sign in the crowd last night--what the shit? You's gay. I don't think I gots to say why.

J-Weeve out.


Baseball News and Notes

World Series
Ummmm... yeah... so apparently there is a World Series going on, and it is about to end in 5 games like a lot of folks expected (well, actually, the smart money's on Jeff Weaver to implode tonight and send the series back to Detroit, but whatever). Except it's the Cardinals (who, by the way, were probably the 5th or 6th best team in the inferior National League this year behind NY, Philly, SD, LA, and maybe Houston--making them about the 15th or 16th best team in baseball, right in the middle of the pack) who are about to walk away with that beautiful, beautiful trophy that rightfully belongs to the White Sox....arghaghaghhgehaghaghagh.... yesterday was the anniversary of the Sox winning it all. I still sorta regret not going to a bar and getting trashed out of my mind for that game. But I'll always remember not being able to go to sleep afterward, dumbfoundedly watching all the second-rate Comcast SportsNet coverage. God bless you, beltin' Bill Melton.

Anyway, scanning through Deadspin World Series articles of this year and last, I noticed they commented on how last year's most excellent World Series was the lowest-rated one in history. I can only imagine this one will challenge last year's for that honor. Shit, if The Office and Grey's Anatomy hadn't been re-runs last night, I'd have been checking in on the Series only at commercial breaks. What is it about anti-climactic playoffs? It seems to me that they virtually all are, Super Bowl included (crazy high viewership not withstanding--the way that brings in non-fans is a completely different beast). I know the NBA gets criticized for its ridiculously long playoffs... but I think every sport has the same problem. By the time the end rolls around, as a casual fan I couldn't really give a shit (when your team's involved, it's a whole different story).

According to plenty of sources, Francisco Liriano may opt to have elbow surgery (it's a wonder more than his elbow isn't fucked up... look at that picture, for christ's sake). Goodbye 2007, Twins fans. I look for Boof Bonser to anchor the rotation after Santana goes down with some freak injury (at least taking him out of the rotation for series against the White Sox), swiftly followed by one of Joe Mauer's testicles exploding upon contact with a foul tip (this is why your best player shouldn't be a catcher), and Justin Morneau being deported for his French last name (don't ask--it's a misguided GW Bush policy intended to benefit the lily-white Rangers). At least you still have the decrepit Torii Hunter, Twins fans.

The Sheffield Option
So the Yanks picked up the option on Sheffield, who apparently resents being guaranteed another $13 million. I don't blame him; I'd be incensed if someone guaranteed me that kind of money. The nerve of people these days. If I was Brian Cashman, I'd be wary of getting a shiv in my gut. Apparently Sheffield's put off because he wanted a 3-year contract in the free agent market. I know there are teams out there dumb enough to give a long-term contract to a 38 year old outfielder coming off an injury-riddled year (cough, cough, Cubs), but Jesus, Gary, pull your head out of your ass. Worst Case Scenario: You play 2007 with AMERICA'S TEAM, become life-long friends with A-Rod, pick up some steroids-induced worm from Jason Giambi, and get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. All while making $13 million.

Labor Agreement
This excites me more than anything involving a bunch of fuckers (Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, just to name 2 of the uglier motherfuckers in the room) squabbling over millions of dollars should. But... hooray for baseball! A 5-year deal is huge. Now Bud can focus all his energies on cleaning up the whole steroids/HGH issue, coming up with a coherent and tough policy with some actual teeth that will be an example to other sports (here's looking at you NFL), and all the children--because we do it for the kids, don't we? hahahahahahaha.... sigh....

Diez Veintinueve: Bengals/Falcons Preview

Oh baby, two home games in a row. That makes my giblets tingle. Coming off last weeks victory I'm looking for the crowd to be really hyped up this week for the game (assuming the never-ending midwest rain stops). The Bengals are favored by about a field goal again primarily on the basis of being at home, and I'll take that. Frankly, this is a really interesting matchup of two teams with very contrasting styles. We're gonna break it down for ya, but first I want to say this: I stand by my statement from one of my picks about a dome team playing outdoors on the road: they struggle.

Palmer/Bengals WR's vs. Falcons DB's
Let's stop on this one first. It's been a fun week in the 'Nati with The Real Chad Johnson returning to the fold. He's been banged up and stopped running his mouth but this week he came back with a vengance. Dante Hall is now nicknamed Dante "Fall" and he has nicknamed himself "Ocho Cinco" which is a poor attempt at saying eighty five in Spanish (ochenta y cinco, homie). However, it's almost better that way. I've never really weighed in on CJ here so let me just say this: he's great. Great player, great to the fans, great to the city and has nothing but fun playing the game. But, his biggest asset is that he's so goddamned likeable. Even Joey Porter can't muster up a real hatred for this guy (and I'm pretty sure he hates puppies). So, everybody laughs him off and forgets that he's a badass WR. That said, nobody ever claimed Chad was a genius. Ocho Cinco? Good times.

(Side note: should Henry come back? I say no, even if it's the detriment of the team. He's a dumbfuck. Play Chris Perry at WR, that would throw off some defenses.)

Bengals OL vs. Falcons DL
Best I can tell, there will be no more "shuffling" on the line this week. I guess that's a good thing, but it really just means that everybody is still hurt. I'm still going to stay concerned about this unit until they put together a full game, unlike last week. From a pure matchup perspective, the Falcons (last I played Madden) play a 3-4 so maybe they don't run the risk of getting overpowered. This week they'll just be slow. Does anybody like the idea of a rookie LT trying to block a blitzing Keith Brooking? (Don't answer that) Update: I just checked and according to espn.com the Falcons play a base 4-3. Stupid Madden 2005. Anyway, as luck would have it John Abraham (not the Jewish Abraham, the huge DE one) is out with an injury. Hooray! I fully encourage good players to get injured right before they play the Bengals, in case you were wondering.

Rudi Johnson vs. Falcons LB
Atlanta is middle-of-the-pack against the run giving up 98.5 ypg (look who did some research!) which tells me that they are probably vulnerable but you have to be persistent. I think the coaching staff is smart enough to do this, assuming they're not down by two scores or anything. I mentioned Brooking before, but he's gotta be one of the few badass white dudes in the game today. Basically it's him, Urlacher and Tiki Barber. Anyway, I predict Rudi has 103 yards. I ran the math on that one. It's complicated, just trust me.

Nonexistent Falcons Passing Game vs. Bengals DB's
Let's just say I feel pretty good about this category. By the way, the Falcons are just now starting to use the shotgun more often? Seriously? Are they trying to be the 2005 Texas Longhorns? Is next year the year that they finally pickup a QB in the second round with tons of upside (think Romo) and the fans start calling for Vick's head? Seems imminent.

Falcons OL vs. Bengals DL
Shoot, I don't know anything about other teams' OL. I do see that they have Todd McClure playing center. You may remember him from such football games as: last week AND the week before that, along with such football teams as: the Louisiana State Tigers.

Falcons Running Game vs. Bengals LB/DL/DB
Save the worst for last. Aieee this is scary. The Bengals haven't been able to stop anybody on the ground this year and Atlanta is by far the most proficient team rushing in the entire leaue. There was one moment last week where my inner dialogue took over and I screamed like a girl "tackle goddamnit!!" Too many of those moments and it could be a long day. Sam Adams should "accidentally" fall on Warrick Dunn a couple times. Cruch.

There you have it. I'm predicting another nail-biter. And please, no rain. Tell St. Louis they can keep it.


Brennaman, Brennaman & Brantley

No, it's not a high-powered law firm, it's the new Reds radio announcing crew. "Sources" have leaked that Jeff Brantley will be joining the announcing team next year hoping to provide some actual baseball knowledge to the Brennaman squared team. Of course, we all know that Brantley learned everything he knows from that ladies' man Harold Reynolds, add that to any Steve Lyons that may have rubbed off on Thom Brennaman and we've got quite a crew. Throw Nuxie in to the equation for a few games a year and you've got a party. Only one thing bothers me. This picture of Brantley to the right. He has that same look in every single picture ever taken. I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, my best shot would be "vaguely nefarious, yet utterly confounded". However, if that translates to the booth it could replace Nuxie's "formerly knowledgable, yet utterly incontinent"presence nicely (for the record I love Nuxhall, he's just over the hill). So, let me be the first to congratulate you, Jeff. Bring your lifetime 3.86 ERA to the ballpark every day, convince Marty to call you a "gamer" and maybe you can talk to Eric Milton for us.


Sights and Sounds of PBS - Week 7

Oooohhhhh baby what a game on Sunday. If you're smart enough to be reading this blog, you already know what a big difference there is between 4-2 and 3-3. Especially in what I like to refer to as the "toughest division in football". Argue all you like. Your arguments will surely be flawed in the face of my irrational opinions. Now with the murder's row of Atlanta, Baltimore, San Diego and New Orleans (sigh... Drew Brees is dreamy) coming up this was a must win and they got it done. That's bigtime. But, of course, there's more to the game than just the outcome. Here's what went down, with accompanying ridiculous newspaper-style headlines.

The Bodyguard, Starring Carson Palmer
What a tale of two halves, and nothing typified this more than the play of the offensive line. In the first half Carson was on the run like Chris Henry from the police. When you see your franchise QB who's fresh off major knee surgery throwing off his back foot while his linemen get pushed back into him, you start to worry. As I recall, the offense had 17 total yard and -1 rushing through the first quarter. Not quite the high powered team we came to know. But they got their asses in gear and played extremely well in the second half. Who knows what Marvin said to them but Rudi ended up with over 100 yards and Carson had time to throw. Fantastic job by a banged up unit.

Backer, Back There
Speaking of banged up, my game ball (Nerf) goes to the linebackers. Not only have they lost last year's leading tackler and last year's #1 draft pick, but now Brian Simmons the leader of the defense as a whole has been banged up and didn't start. The rookie MLB, Ahmad Brooks, is a total badass and we just have to keep our fingers crossed that he doesn't go all "Bengals" on us and get arrested. Don't forget about Landon Johnson going all Purdue and knocking heads.

Two Sides of the Same Coin
As I was walking out the tunnel towards the concession stand (mmmmm $4 half-cooked pretzel) I looked up to see one fan in a Steve Smith jersey yelling across the way at a Bengals fan just as Smith himself caught a pass. The Carolina fan "You know who that is! That's Steve Smith" to which the Bengals fan replied "Who?" Incredulous, the man reiterated "Steve SMITH!!" which was only questioned with another "Who?" causing a frustrated turn back to the game. Fantasitic job, anonymous Bengals fan.

What Time Is It? Game Time!
This one is for my neurotic dad who just about had an aneurism convincing himself that I was late meeting him before the game. Needless to say, I had time to make a sandwich, grab a poncho and say hi to my mom and we still got there before kickoff. He did get all confused and forget where we parked because we had to go up a couple levels higher in the garage than usual. Old fart.

Sometimes, the Glass is Completely Empty
Have you ever been to a Halloween party where somebody gets too drunk and things get out of hand? Suddenly a fight breaks out and you realize that you're watching a caveman fighting with a gorilla. It takes a minute for things to die down before you realize how ridiculous the whole situation was. Well, on Sunday it was cold - not freeze your teets off cold, but cold enough that you wished you'd worn another pair of socks. Anyway, the concession stands ran completely out of hot chocolate and suddenly (as I waited for my pretzel) I was confronted with an angry mom of face-painted superfans who were NOT happy about the lack of warm chocolatey beverage. And this poor volunteer behind the counter could do nothing to appease them. I got out of there before things escalated, but I didn't hear of any arrests.

If You Can't Say Something Nice...
As I mentioned above, the offense was nothing short of anemic in the first quarter. There wasn't any booing on successive three-and-outs but there was some grumbling. I turned to the old man and said "the natives are restless." Luckily, they got their shit together and finally got a first in the second quarter. It was a dinky little screen play to their own 30, but the crowd was suddenly to their feet cheering. Unfortunately, it was painfully obvious that 90% of the cheering was sarcastic. That's the kind of shit we used do in the late nineties because there was legitimately nothing better to cheer for. Hopefully that gives you some idea of how bad they looked in the first half.

Now that's a Big Pair of Balls!
Ok, this wouldn't actually be a headline, but I like it anyway. This one is for the 4th and 1 call of the pass to Chad. Had this been incomplete I would have been inconsolable, but it was complete. I actually couldn't even see the catch because of where our seats are, we were concealed by the sideline. They didn't show a replay on the scoreboard, and I'm wondering if that's because it had the potential of being challenged. If so, good work replay director guy.

All in all, a good day and a huge win. I'd be remissed if I didn't mention Kevin K's interception to basically ice the game. Who dey! Somewhere Bootsy Collins is smiling.


Trout's Picks of Contrariety, Week 7

Let me just throw this out there before I begin. It doesn't matter at this point whether or not Gage gets back to basics, asks Bill Simmons who he should pick, or thinks he hears a voice from God, he is destined to lose his picks this week and every week to follow. That Gage should lose has become something of a law of nature--may I suggest we call it "Gage's Law"? It's only a matter of time before said law is written into gambling guides and physics textbooks across the land. On to the picks!

Detroit (+3.5) over NY Jets
Jon Kitna will game manage his way to a 3 point loss to the Jets. I'm envisioning a field goal to cover as time expires. Why Rod Marinelli hates Gage so much, I don't know. Maybe it's just Gage's Law. Anyway, Roy Williams will torch the Jets' secondary for another 150 yard game. This guy has got to be the best receiver on a bad team, right? I mean, he's got Kitna throwing to him all game, he's the only good receiver on the team, and the opponent doesn't exactly have to key on Kevin Jones' running game.

Washington (+8) over Indy
First off, the whole Madden prediction system only picked the Colts to win by one. As if that wasn't enough, let's not forget that the Colts play down to the level of their opponent. I think their strategy this year, after the almost-undefeated season full of blowouts '05, is to play close games all fucking year so that they don't forget what it's like. Here's why: chances are that they won't have to play in New England, and they know that they're making the playoffs anyway. Hence, Colts only win this one by a TD, at most.

Kansas City (+5) over San Diego
Interestingly enough, Larry Johnson has only been slightly less disappointing this year than Shaun Alexander. At least Shaun has his Jesus-healed broken foot as an excuse; LJ only has his offensive line and the lack of Trent Green to point to. I offer the following as LJ's fantasy epitaph "Never, ever, ever underrate the importance of a run-blocking O-line." I'm picking KC in this one solely on the basis of three facts: KC playing at Arrowhead, Gage's Law, and the San Diego bandwagon is getting a little overloaded.

Carolina (+3) over Cincy
Just because I don't want Gage to have a meltdown before Halloween (we have got to see his costume interpretation of the Notorious G.O.D. at all costs), I'm picking Carolina to lose this one by 3 or less, just enough to cover. Betting on your team is pretty dicey, though, when there's Gage's Law to contend with. I would advise against it in the future, Gage.

Pittsburgh (-3) over Hotlanta
P-burgh is back. I'm not necessarily jumping on the Roethlisberger bandwagon (in fact, I'd be willing to say that he'll never have as good a season as he did last year), but the Steelers defense should be enough to stop Vick and the mysteriously perennially sucky Atlanta offense. The only time they've broken 30 this year is against the Cardinals, which is none too impressive considering the Bears defense and special teams almost matched that last week.

Gage's Picks of Redemption (Week 7)

I'm getting ready to head up to the 'Nati for another crucial showdown for the Bengals. I don't really want to talk about how important this game is because I'm really nervous about it. Let's just say "very important." Ok, let me hit you with a hot set of picks. This week is "back to basics" week. I'm revisiting my system from week 1 with the best 2/3 of QB, RB, Def. Watch my money disappear. Woosh....

NY Jets (-3.5) over Detroit
The Lions are just that bad. I can't tell you enough how silly it is to trust your team to Jonny Kitna. On a good team he can get you to 8-8. On this team.... well you can see for yourself. I know the Jets have had some bad games, but they hung in with the Colts and I picked up Leon Washington in fantasy, so he needs to come through.

Indy (-8) over Washington
Manning needs to get a good game in, and they're at home. It's been too long since the Colts hung 45 on somebody. They should win this game by 10 points nine out of ten times. Let's hope today isn't game ten.

San Diego (-5) over Kansas City
My buddy Josh said to me that SD is the best team in the AFC last night. I couldn't argue. Granted, I was half drunk, but this is a good team. This Rivers kid will be solid.

Cincy (-3) over Carolina
Ooooohhhh I told you I didn't want to talk about it. Palmer has to take over this game, that's the only option. Plllleeeaasseeee.

Atlanta (+3) over Pittsburgh
Fear the home underdog. Atlanta plays really well at home. And they're probably tired of people telling them how bad they are. I feel like this game is more or less a push at all three of my key points, so I'm going with the home team playing on turf.


Sit Back, Relax, and Strap it Down

World Series '06 here we come. So I guess Game 7 last night was exciting or something. Exciting in the way that watching... oh, I don't know... the Jets and the Browns playing for the AFC championship could be construed as exciting. The game might be close and the stakes might be high, but the talent leaves a little someting to be desired.

Although I watched most of it, I unfortunately missed the two defining moments of the game: the Endy Chavez catch (taking a piss--got back just in time to see the replay before they went to commercial) and the top of the ninth Molina homer (watching The Office that I had taped earlier in the night). But I did catch the Mets choking away the series in the bottom of the ninth, and the Yadier Molina awkward jumping moment of the season. Seriously, if you're Carlos Beltran, how do you NOT swing at an 0-2 pitch if it's anywhere close? I don't care how good Wainwright's curve ball may or may not be, you don't go down and lose the series looking at strike three. Unconscionable. Pull your head out of your ass, Carlos, and foul some pitches off. Jeebus.

Anyway, looking ahead to the series, everybody's picking the Tigers. And rightly so. They're the better team, by far, and they're on a roll. How will that one week layoff affect them, though? Will Kenny Rogers be adversely affected by a week of whoring in the Motor City? Will Craig Monroe be able to overcome his one-week bender with Dmitri Young? These are the questions that must be answered. A lot of people were squawking about the layoff with the ChiSox last year (remember how their bullpen didn't pitch for something like 10 straight days?), then they came out and swept the Astros. Realistically, that series shouldn't have been a sweep (all of them close games, not to mention that 13-inning nailbiter when I almost committed assault at the suggestion, by a grad school friend, that the Astros should just win it already so that he could go to bed), and I don't think this one will be either.

Even though Carpenter's been off his game, he is still a pitcher that's qualified to pitch against AL hitting (and the Tigers ' lineup is really not that murderous). Combine that with Suppan and/or Weaver potentially pulling out squeakers (I know, they're both pretenders just waiting to implode, but you never know), I think the Cardinals are capable of winning at least two. So there's the winning prediction, kids: Tigers in 6. And don't forget it, because we all know I called the LCS's to a T, sorta. Enjoy it, Detroit, because no matter how good next year may look (see Boston '05, Chicago '06), it ain't easy to repeat.


Hump Day Soccer

With the never-ending NCLS dominating headlines and the NFL in mid-season form, it would be easy to forget about the world of soccer. However, for those of you unemployed or with jobs where you get to watch tv all day (damn, I miss that job) today is a good day to settle in and watch a couple of high profile Champions League group matches.

2:30pm ESPN2 - Chelsea vs. Barcelona. The biggest spending team with the most talent (Chelsea) matched up against last year's Champions league winner (Barcelona). Plus, the best player in the world (Ronaldinho) who basicially dissapeared for Brazil in the World Cup plays for Barca. And he's bound to do something crazy awesome. In addition Peter Cech, who just might be the best keeper in the world went down with some brain injury (his dad says he's lucky to be alive), and they lost their backup in the same game so we're down to the third stringer in net. Could be a disaster.

5:00pm ESPN Classic - Liverpool vs. Bordeaux. The Reds go to France to take on a buch of croissant loving fashionistas. This probably matters more to me because I've been following them, but I'd really like to see them play well. They haven't put together a really good match lately, and suddenly Gerrard is out with a hammy (thanks English national team). Not good, and now they're at the middle of the pack in the Premiership standings. At least there's still Champions League for the '05 champs.


Weekend Roundup OR What The Hell Happened?

Yes, I realize it's Tuesday I'm the last person on the planet to give you a weekend roundup, but screw it. You know you want the good stuff from papa Gage. Plus, I'm just finally sobered up from a weekend of old friends and open bar weddings. All of this meant very little time for watching sports, but I think I'm finally caught up. Hold onto your seats.

The Good
Purdue 31, Northwestern 10. Nobody expects this Purdue team to be world beaters, but they've got five wins now and they should be favored against Illinois and Indiana with a good shot to do to Hawaii and win. Win those games and you're 8-5, not too shabby. And who knows maybe they can squeak out a win over Wisconsin or Penn St. at home. 9-4 and I'd be dancing in the streets. Figuratively of course.

Indiana 31, Iowa 28. A concerned commenter called me this weekend to make sure I gave IU some love. While Purdue and Indiana are rivals I've never been able to muster up a true hatred so I think I can oblige. Indiana is 4-3, that has to make the Hoosier faithful proud. And you can't help but feel great for Terry Hoeppner after all the crap he's been through lately. Now of course they get to see it all wash away as they lose 4/5, finish 5-7 and miss a bowl game. But it was fun while it lasted, right?

Kentucky's Big Blue Madness. I don't think I've talked much about my affection for the Wildcats on this blog yet, but growing up in KY and living in Lexington, there is a certain special relationship between us. This weekend was huge for them in recruiting and they managed to land one top 100 recruit. You don't have to tell me that following recruiting is pointless and kind of stalker-ish, because I know this. At least I can say that I haven't looked up any of their MySpace accounts. Yet.

The Bad
Any of a number of drunk-dials that Trout and I might have made Saturday night. I was told one involved telling a certain friend repeatedly to "make me a frapucciono, bitch!" An egregious error to be sure.

2-3 on my NFL picks for a fourth losing week in a row. Wow I am really awful at this. However, I'm no quitter and I'm certainly a degnerate. We'll keep working on it until I have my foolproof system perfected.

"Pitching" in game four of the NLCS. What's that you say? There was no pitching in that game? Rewind the tape, both teams fielded hurlers for the entire game. This game is why I still think the Mets win the series. Glavine wins tonight, Carpenter wins game six and game seven is another slugfest. (I know I said it would be five games, but I'm a moron.)

The Ugly
Miami/Florida International. Holy crap. Holy crap. There's not much that can be said about this that hasn't already been said. And, in case you didn't know, my opinion doesn't matter. However, Coker should be fired. They have to wipe the slate clean and restore their university's image. Plus, the kid who took off his hemlet and used it as a weapon should be arrested, expelled and never allowed back on an NCAA field. (slowly for emphasis) You could KILL someone doing that. Hit a guy without a helmet on the top of the head like that and he might never wake up. This is the third most fucked up sports fight I've ever seen (next to the Palace brawl and the time those drunken rednecks came out of the stands at Comiskey to go after the KC first base coach).

My dancing at the aforementioned wedding. Just so very white.

And finally.... the Bengals. I said in my Friday post that I didn't want to be reactionary and get all upset over one bad loss. It's the NFL after all. But wow. You really just can't explain how quickly injuries/suspensions can hurt a team. Next week: Panthers at home. Ouch. My old man and I will be at that one, and it seems really important. I'll give you a full update, assuming they don't lose by three scores again.

The Fall of the Buzzsaw and MNF

NFirst off, if you haven't ventured over to Planet Killer lately, you should do yourself a favor and check out what Mark has to say about all things sports and entertainment (though mostly sports) fairly regularly; more often than not he's writing something insightful that makes me wish I had written it first. Which brings me to his recent post about last night's MNF debacle--both on the field and in the booth.

I couldn't agree with Mark more that the Theismann/Tirico/Kornheiser team is a bust. Theismann is a douche, Tirico is vanilla, and Kornheiser is just loud. But I myself had little hope for the crew. I've never liked Kornheiser on PTI; the only reason that show was bearable was Wilbon's intelligence and his cute little obsession with the Cubs. In a sense, Kornheiser and PTI is symptomatic of much that is wrong with ESPN. No longer is the meat of sports coverage at the "worldwide leader" about the event itself (although I have to say that ESPN's baseball coverage remains pretty admirable--and that's saying a lot considering we have to deal with Joe Morgan as much as we do). Instead it's about the hype, the storyline, the script.

Example. Last night's game between the Bears and the Cardinals boiled down to 3 main storylines (give or take), and everything--and I mean EVERYTHING--continually came back to these themes throughout the pre-game/in-game/post-game broadcast:

1. The Bears are good (are they better than the '85 Bears? Please tell us, Coach Ditka, please. America is dying to know how you compare a team that's played 5 games this year--and only one against a legitimate power, Seattle--to a Super Bowl winner. Fucking ludicrous) and that there is no way they will lose because

2. Arizona blows. They have now been labeled a "futile" franchise. If I had a nickel for every time Kornheiser referenced how historically bad Arizona is, I'd probably have a dollar. Maybe even $1.25. But--BUT--(this is where the whole booth got giant erections about midway through the third quarter)--Arizona may be saved because

3. Matt Leinart is GOOD. And he is a Hollywood boy. And had you heard he played at USC? He is SO good that he is capable of marching his historically futile team down the field for the game-winning field goal. Goddamn, he has so much poise, I might have to ignore the Paris Hilton herpes and go blow him myself.

Anyway, my point is not that these aren't valid observations; they are. The Bears have dominated teams this year. Arizona is historically bad. Matt Leinart has looked really good the past two games. But all of this obscured what was actually going on down on the field. Where this particularly baffled me was that final drive when Leinart got the offense into field goal range and then Denny Green immediately decided to run the ball, run out the clock, and kick the field goal for the win. The only problem: the Cards only got close enough to make it a 40 yard field goal; hardly a chip shot by any kicker's standards.

There was absolutely no discussion in the booth about the relative merits or demerits of settling for a 40 yard field goal instead of going for the end zone (or at the very least getting 10 more yards to make it easier on your kicker). Instead, the MNF team was busy fellating Leinart and practically assuming that he had won the game for the Cards. Since when is a 40 yard field goal automatic, particularly for Neil Rackers this year? If Denny Green, Joe Theismann, Mike Tirico, and Tony Kornheiser didn't know that, let's hope they do now. Maybe that'll show up in the MNF script for next week.

Rex Grossman is an Asshole.

Last night was a tough one for me. It was storming out and I lost power for several hours just as the MNF game was about to start. After using the glow of my cell phone to find my flashlight, I called Trout and listened to him describe to me how Arizona was just crushing the Bears in the first half. This was notably dissapointing considering that I had money on Chicago (-11). Additionally, was feeling quite comfortable Monday morning trailing by six points in one fantasy league (team Chad for President) with only Grossman and Berrian left to play for me, and suddenly not so much.
At least - I thought - Chicago will lose to a garbage team and I can rub it in to all my Bears fan friends. But alas, the Bears somehow pull out a miracle win which can only be described as "complete and utter bullshit." I lose my bet which I had given up on early and Grossman comes in with 4 picks and 2 fumbles. Are you fucking kidding me? The grand total on the night: -10 fantasy points. Berrian got all of one point. That's right, I went into a game needing only six points from a QB/WR combo and got -9. We're going to get the fellas out on the field running some windsprints this week after that performance.
The moral of the story is never ever ever support anything from Chicago. Its only mission in life is to screw you over. And if you don't believe me ask a Cubs fan. Good god. New gambling rules: don't take anybody giving up 10 or more points and don't road favorites.
Seriously, get out of my face Rex, before I do something I regret.


Trout's Picks of Contrariety, Week 6

Here comes another Trout winner, boys and girls!

Detroit (+1) over Buffalo
Gage continues to forget his past wisdom. Namely, Jon Kitna is a "game manager." Also, I think the Lions will be hungry to eat some Buffalo after being tamed by ruthless Vikings last week. Goddamnit Roy Williams, catch 2 touchdowns this week. Hasn't anyone told you that 130 yard games are practically worthless to my fantasy team? Christ.

Arizona (+10.5) over Chicago
The Bears will win because they are good and stuff. But this is the game where Lovie Smith decides to make the game close because the Bears could actually benefit from playing a close one before they really get tested. Also, Matt Leinart is handsome. That's good for something, right?

Philadelphia (-3) over New Orleans
Philly could have a letdown after the TO idiocy last week, but to me they look really good. And New Orleans colors are black and gold. These are the same colors as Purdue. Purdue sucks. Hence New Orleans is overrated. This is Ivy League logic. You can't argue with it.

Carolina (+3) over Baltimore
Gage forgets Old Man McNair is the Ravens QB and Carolina has a good D. Carolina wins it. I feel it in my weiner.

Kansas City (+7) over Pittsburgh
Yeah, it's a must-win for Pittsburgh, but that doesn't mean they'll win by more than 7. Also, has anyone noticed that Larry Johnson kinda sucks this year? Too bad for Gage's boners.


Gage's Picks of Shame - Week 6 (plus Bengals Rundown)

Posting might be a little slow this weekend, not only are trout and I both heading out of town but my internet went down at camp Gage last night, meaning this post is 100% on company time. Hooray for my Friday slacker ass.
Before the picks which will surely lead to another losing week, I'd like to discuss the Bengals. I really hope they used their bye week to it's full advantage. Without sounding too much like a Yankees or Red Sox fan and knock on a 3-1 team, they have me a little worried. A quick rundown...
QB: Carson is everybody's favorite player. He's the franchise and he will be fine. But he's still knocking the rust off, hopefully week six is when he'll finally open it up against your grandma's Bucs' defense.
RB: Rudi. Solid. He really should be everybody's favorite player. Always runs hard, never complains. I do worry that Jeremi Johnson is going to get frustrated because he has to go out for the TE on the hurry-up offense.
WR: Chad is the most exciting reciever in the league and TJ has the best hands in the league. Whoops, Chris Henry has the lowest alcohol tolerance in the league. Kelly Washinton is the worst dancer in the league. I'm conflicted.
OL: Banged up, not good. The strengh of the team last year becomes one of it's weak points. Who knew that the ugliest man I've ever seen could be so important? One word every fan hates to hear about their O-line: "shuffling"
DL: I can't complain here. Not the most talented in the league, but they seem to give it their all every week. Sam Adams has been a good change of pace. The QB pressure has been awful, but I don't know if that's the D-line's fault. More of a scheme thing.
LB: Injuries again. Here's hoping Pollock has a full recovery just for his own sake. But, let's see, the leading tackler from last year and the number one draft pick from last year, both gone for the season. That takes its toll. And as loud as I scream every time Landon Johnson (Boilermaker) makes a tackle it doesn't seem to help. Tough situation.
DB: Tory James gets burned now and then, but he's old. Joseph is coming on and Deltha is still solid. The defense defintely needs Dexter Jackson back. He seems to be willing to tackle a running back (earth to Kevin K.) and that way Madeiu Williams (STUD) might not have to lead the team in tackles.
So there you have it. Tampa should be an easy week coming off the bye, but this is the NFL so you never know. I'm looking for an improvement in the run defense and a more consistent pass rush. Othere than that it should be a fun one.

The picks...
Buffalo (-1) over Detroit
Seems like a team on the rise vs. a team counting on Jon Kitna.

Chicago (-10.5) over Arizona
Back on the bandwagon. It's impossible to pick against this team right now, especially with a crap opponent.

New Orleans (+3) over Philidephia
Go get 'em Drew! I told you I wasn't picking against the Saints at home the rest of the season.

Baltimore (-3) over Carolina
The QB/RB combos are tied here so I think the Baltimore defense will make the difference. Chris McAllister can cover Steve Smith.

Pittsburgh (-7) over Kansas City
At 1-3 this is an absolute must win game for the reigning chumps. 2-3 is manageable, 1-4 in possibly the toughest division in footbal could cause Roethlisberger to start going in for elective surgeries just to get off the field.

Lots of favorites this week, I'm tired of drooling over huge point spreads and taking the dog. Here's hoping to get back into the black. I'm now at exactly .500 on the season after my worst week yet, which depresses me to no end. I really thought I had a clue.

Last Week: 1-3-1
Season: 12-12-1
Last 3 Weeks: 5-9-1


Sneaky Fast or Fuzzy Math?

I'm not going to argue with anybody that says Justin Verlander was great last night. I'm not going to argue that he doesn't thow the ball really fucking hard. But, I need to state for the record that there is no way Verlander was throwing as hard as the Fox graphic was reporting. No fucking way. Not only did he regularly hit 100 mph, even in the first inning (must have been one hell of a warmup), but supposedly he hit 103 last night. Impressive. If so, that is tied for the fastest pitch ever recorded. A quick search turned up this article with a nice little sidebar:

Different radar guns can produce different readings for the exact same pitch. Some guns measure velocity just after a pitcher releases the ball; others calculate velocity just before it crosses home plate. According to most estimates, a baseball loses between 3 and 5 mph between these two points. Today, most major-league clubs use devices that take the earlier reading—what scouts call the "fast gun."
Ah ha! So two seperate readings could have two seperate results. So did they use the "fast gun" on Nolan Ryan? Who knows. But wouldn't this be a bigger deal if he was really setting records for speed? It should be, and you know why it's not? Because Fox is inflating their numbers to make the game seem more exciting, that's why. Oh and they even have an awesome little fireball graphic on the scorebar.

Look folks, this isn't a reputable sports network we're talking about here. Just think about in how many different capacities they've employed Joe Buck. They have rendered their NFL pregame completely unwatchable by getting rid of the one bright spot, James Brown and continued loyalty to Terry Bradshaw. They subject us to Jeanie Zelasko and her endless hairstyle changes and useless "analysis" with Kevin Kennedy (a career minor league catcher).

It's a conspiracy and a ratings ploy. During game one Steve Lyons stated that he had never been in the stadium with someone who threw 100 mph. Never!? Then the Tigers run out two fireballers and Steve Lyons is a remade man. Doubt it. I'll be he kept his pants on. Verlander is a fantastic pitcher, but he's no Sidd Finch, and nobody will ever be. Enjoy the games, but don't believe the hype.


White Sox Found in Bed with 7-Eleven, Scorned Stop'n'Go Has No Comment

So according to Feed The Goat sources (read:ESPN.com), the White Sox next year will start games at 7:11 (instead of 7:07) in accordance with a new sponsorship deal from the convenience store chain. Rationalizing this colossal waste of money, 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said that "Every time the media announces the game's start time it will be a gentle reminder of our sponsorship." Someone who actually follows sports failed to notify Chabris, along with those that control the purse strings at America's preeminent convenience store, that few media outlets actively publicize sporting event start times to the minute, and even fewer sporting fans pay attention to such things.

When asked whether or not this change in starting time would affect his pre-game preparation or his on-the-field performance, Mark Buehrle admitted that he "pretty much sucked ass this year no matter what the start time was," later saying that he might use those extra four minutes to conspicuously down a Slurpee during his bullpen routine. Sources close to the White Sox confirm that if Buehrle were to undertake such an action, it would be broadcast on the stadium jumbotron and Buehrle would be encourage to give a thumbs up and a big smile while mouthing the words "7-Eleven is the awesomest!"

Feed the Goat reporters approached Manager Ozzie Guillen for comment on this developing story, only to be rebuffed with a nearly unintelligible string of expletives directed towards rookie centerfielder Brian Anderson. It was unclear as to whether this was related to the 7-Eleven endorsement deal or not.

Counterpoint: Porque Los Cardinals Perden

This post title sponsored by the New York Mets, aka the NYC pro-immigration lobby. I just wanted to get this in before the game started. And I honestly disagree with both of my co-blogger's picks. Here's why the Mets will handle this series:

- Carpenter will win his start(s), but beyond that every game should be a slugfest. And, frankly the Mets have the best lineup left in the playoffs. Bigtime factor.

- I love/hate Pujols. He's the very best hitter in baseball, maybe even the best hitter I've ever seen (Bonds doesn't count for obvious reasons). But, even Wille Randolph can't be stupid enough to pitch to him with a banged up Cards lineup, particularly Rolen who hasn't been completely right since his shoulder surgery.

- Jim Edmonds is OLD. He's got nada left in the tank.

- No more Reggie Sanders this year. If you don't know why I bring this up I can't tell you.

Prediction: Metropolitans in 5
Vamanos Mets!

The Genius of a Pants Dropper

So last night ex-Red and current cripple (as Jason so aptly pointed out) Sean Casey did something to his calf and will miss Game 2; the medical professionals apparently still don't know what he did (although they think maybe it's just a strain). But that didn't stop Steve Lyons from immediately using the FOX super slow-mo camera to diagnose Casey "blowing out his calf." Excuse me? Blowing out his calf? I'm sorry, do muscles "blow out," Steve? Personally, I couldn't tell if a calf muscle normally jiggled like that in super slow-mo or not. But Steve Lyons, bless his heart, was thankfully there to tell us what happened. It's like Bill Frist, in his infinite medical wisdom, declaring Terri Schiavo fit to run a marathon based on some decade-old video, except somehow less idiotic. It also made me sad I couldn't find a picture of Steve Lyons pulling his pants down at second base. Isn't this what the internet is for, people? Somebody needs to get on the ball here.

Lou Piniella, of course, promptly chimed in with something to the effect of, "Yeah, that's not something he'll probably come back from for a while," as Thom Brennaman sat there uncomfortably stuck in the booth with these two jokers trying to fill air. As bad as Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan are, they still don't drag down the booth like Lyons and Piniella. What is the world coming to when we can't even get Bob Costas in the goddamn booth for the playoffs? Baseball needs you, Bob; don't be such a jealous mistress, NBC football.

Here's a kind of strange idea that may have been nixed at one point or another because of contractual issues: why don't playoff games get called by the home team's regular season play-by-play and color guys? I know, I know, the entire nation would have been stuck with Hawk Harrelson's homer-isms and Darrin Jackson's borderline retardation throughout the White Sox' playoff run last year, but at least there would have been variety. At the very least, we'd get to hear several different broadcast teams throughout the playoffs instead of being stuck with likes of McCarver, Lyons, and Piniella throughout. And, there are actually some good TV guys out there, I'm sure; I know the Red Sox team is a good one. So make it fucking happen already, Bud. Oh yeah, nevermind. I forgot that you suck.


Pitching be Damned; or, Predicting the NLCS

They say pitching and defense wins championships. First, let me point out the starting rotations of the remaining NL teams. I'll leave out the 4th and 5th starters, because at this point they don't matter so much anymore. First listed starter is the guy slated to go first tomorrow (and consequently get himself at least 2 starts in the LCS):

St. Louis
1. Jeff Weaver
2. Jeff Suppan
3. Chris Carpenter

New York
1. Tom Glavine
2. John Maine
3. Steve Trachsel

It doesn't take a brilliant man to see where I'm going with this: these pitching staffs blow. Save for Chris Carpenter (the one legitimate ace), not ONE of these guys posted an ERA of under 3.50 this season; Jeff Weaver (!) posted a robust ERA of over 5 since coming to the Cards. And that's pitching in the National League, where an ERA of 3.50 is roughly equivalent to 4.00-4.50 ERA in the NL (this is just a gut feeling on my part--see Bronson Arroyo).

So tell me, oh wise pundits, why the Mets remain such heavy favorites with the media-types without Pedro and El Duque to give them a semblance of a decent pitching staff. Sure, you can natter on about how Tom Glavine had a renaissance year, John Maine is the real deal, and Steve Trachsel has some veteran presence. Blah, blah, blah. I don't want to hear it. Somehow the Mets regular season record (who went 4-2 against the Cardinals, by the way; hardly a large enough sample to mean anything) and their offense is supposed to carry them through this series. Well, over in the AL we saw just how a great offense can be shut down by pitching (Verlander, Rogers, Bonderman). Now, I'm not saying that the Cardinals have the greatest staff in the world (God knows throwing Jeff Weaver in Game 1 seems like series suicide), but throwing Carpenter and Suppan out there (potentially two times each) gives them a fair chance at sending the Mets home.

I would compare offenses and defenses as well, but thinking too much about the eventual World Series loser makes me weary. Cards (because it's about damn time they made it this far) in 7.

Counterpoint: Magglio's Hair Looks Dumb

Oh Trout, you naive AL Central homer. Seriously, you just like to pick teams from the White Sox division and your favorite former Sox players, right? Too bad Carlos Lee isn't in the playoffs because surely you would have picked him to go all the way. Picking Maggs over big Frank is a silly proposition.
First, did you see that ALDS? The Big Hurt comes out of the gates with a two homer game. Magglio had a fine game 4 but games 1-3 he was 2/11 with 0 RBI. Frank hit .500 in their three games and I might remind you that he went 3/4 in the game Santana started.
Next, don't forget the history of it all. Last I checked, Frank had two MVP's to his name. And if you don't care about the history (what kind of baseball fan doesn't care about history?) just look at this year's HR/RBI totals. Magglio: 24/104. Big Hurt: 39/114. Run the math on that one. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Again, Magglio's hair looks dumb. However, in that picture you posted earlier today, he looks kind of fat too. Like "freshman fifteen" fat. Too many late night burrito runs, Magglio? Last minute term paper?
Finally, to touch on the other players. I love the Tigers young starters, but they are just that. Young. Zito and Loaiza have experience and aren't old or preoccupied with beating up cameramen like Kenny Rogers. More math: Huston Street > Todd Jones.
My only concern, the power of Jim Leyland's moustache. Don't underestimate it. I say it's worth at least two games all by itself.
Prediction: Athletics in 7


Frank Thomas v. Magglio Ordonez; Edge: Maggs

OK, so I know a little while back I predicted the Padres vs. the A's for the World Series. And now that one of my horses is gone, it's kinda dumb to jump ship on the other one. But I am. With the way they played against the Yanks, the Tigers convinced me that they're ready for the series. They remind me a lot of the White Sox last year, and that's a good thing.

Both of these teams have really good starting pitching staffs: Zito, Loaiza, Haren, and Harden for the A's; Robertson, Rogers, Verlander, Bonderman for the Tigers. But the Tigers handled a much tougher lineup in the Yanks than did the A's. This isn't to say the A's couldn't have as well, but the Tigers proved they're on their game. Edge: Tigers.

Both teams have outstanding bullpens, too. Even though Todd Jones has ridiculous facial hair and the desire to not strike anyone out, I still give the edge to the Tigers with Zumaya and company. All I can remember of Huston Street is that he gave up a huge homerun to Rob Mackowiak in a White Sox winner I was at earlier this year. That, and he's young and was out with injuries. Strange as it may sound, Todd Jones actually inspires more confidence than Street. Oh, and the Tigers pen also has this guy (a former White Sox, I might add--it's clear to me now why he only stayed one season):

It would be a goddamn shame if those didn't get busted out for another celebration.

Since I'm ignoring defense (I haven't really heard anything about either team and I'm too lazy to look up nebulous defensive stats), that leaves the lineups. Oakland's got Frank Thomas. Detroit's got Maggs. What this means is the following: Oakland's got just another run-of-the-mill shiny head, Detroit's got incredibly greasy "just another Venezuelan piece of shit" flowing mane. I could break down other aspects of this, but I think that's sufficient. Tigers it is! In 6.


Additional Thoughts on the Yankees' Demise

In response to Jim's Son's comment on the preceding post (concerning Bernie Williams' possible unmemorable end as a Yankee), I would say that all the "real" Yankees became obscured by the corporate Yankee monster at least a few seasons ago. Sucks for them, but that's what you get for being a part of such a thing.

That, and for as badly as it may have ended for Bernie Williams, he can at least look back on those titles that he was TRULY a part of. I can't help but think that winning it all this year would mean a little less for him, forced to share at-bats on this All-Star team that startingly resembles all the Olympic basketball teams that continue to get embarassed in international play (no team play? no defense? no role players? sounds familiar).

Bernie's like the guy who used to work at the local hardware store (to use a tired analogy) that everyone would smile at when they went in on Saturday, only to wake up one day and find himself working at Wal-Mart, stuck doing loss prevention. Instead of selling hardware to real people, he's selling video games and makeup to the folks that buy things so they can have some semblance of an identity. The world has changed, the world has changed.

And for as much as I pontificate on the Yankees, it obscures where the focus should really be--on the Tigers. It should be on a city that hasn't had a sliver of the success the Yanks have had in the past two decades (Bernie's got 4 rings in the time that the Tigers haven't even made the playoffs), and a team full of guys (like Kenny Rogers--remember how he punched that cameraman? So adorable...) that deserve, more than any other group I see in the playoffs right now, to be where they are. Did you SEE them celebrate with the fans after winning that game? I couldn't help but smile; it almost made me giddy. I know who my horse is the rest of the way.


There is a God

And He is not a Yankees fan.

Trout's Picks of Contrariety, Week 5

Keep up the good work, Gage. You're makin' me look smart. Now I just need to actually start betting on these games. I know, I know, you'll contend that I have no "strategy," that my picks take no "talent," that I "know little" about football. To that, I say, "whatever." The only strategy, talent, and intelligence I need is the complete opposite of a mediocre-at-best betting man.

The past two weeks I've been 6-4, baby, 6-4. Let me tell you how that projects over a 162-game baseball season: 97 wins. If the White Sox could've won at my pace, they would've just swept the A's in the divisional series instead of Frank Thomas and company trotting on to the ALCS after making the Twinkies' lineup look like they should've looked all year.

This week I make a prediction about my predictions: I will once again post a winning record.

NY Giants (-4.5) over Washington
Has anyone heard that Eli Manning is Peyton Manning's brother? Incredible! This information just crossed my desk this week, as I requested my handsome young page (I think he's 15; I know he likes strawberry ice cream) do some research on the New York football Giants. Thank God he came back with this gem; picking the Giants becomes a foregone conclusion on the strength of Manning juice alone.

Pittsburgh (+3) over San Diego
First, I would like to say to Gage that football teams going to the West Coast is nothing--NOTHING--like baseball teams doing the same thing. The reasons are numerous, but let me just give you one: taking a flight after a 7 PM start (or even a 1 PM start), getting in to the West Coast city in the wee hours, and then playing the next day (all this after playing day after day after day) is not remotely like hopping on a plane on Saturday, spending a leisurely day in town and then playing the next day. To that, I would add that Pittsburgh has a good defense. San Diego has a rookie (sort of) quarterback. Also, Bill Cowher is upset about losing. Pittsburgh not only covers, but wins.

Cleveland (+8) over Carolina
Charlie Frye to Braylon Edwards is the new Montana to Rice. Well, maybe not. But Poop Browns only lose by a TD.

Chicago (-10) over Buffalo
Do coked out hookers jump off bandwagons? I'm confused by Gage's analogy here. Not confused enough to pick Buffalo in this one, though. Chicago made me look dumb last week as they stomped Seattle. Here's a tip, Gage: Seattle (even without Jesus-loving Shaun Alexander) is better than Buffalo. Much better. Chicago by 2 TDs.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) over New Orleans
Everybody's jumping on the New Orleans bandwagon. Not I! A crappy Cadillac Williams and a Bruce Gradkowski (who has had 2 weeks to prepare, mind you--2 weeks!) will only lose by 6. I hope. Gradkowski will be a stellar "game manager," making Chris Simms wish he had had a stronger spleen.

Gage's Picks of Mediocrity (Week 5)

I refuse to speak ill of Mark Brunell for several weeks now. I have bet against him for several weeks and every week he has fucked me over. The record for consecutive completions? What the fuck was that? You got me you silly son of a bitch. At least this week the Bengals are on bye and I won't be tempted to bet on them. Just too emotional.
And, if you're wondering, yes I was at the game Sunday. No, I haven't come to terms with it. Talk about dropping a big turd. I haven't seen them play that bad in a couple of years. I'm surprised Carl Pickens didn't come out of retirement to make some disparaging comments about the organization. It was so bad I spent five minutes in the bathroom after the game listening to some drunk guy give me his thesis on why Marvin is a bad third quarter coach. Anyway, I'm picking games.

Washington (+4.5) over NY Giants
Let's get this out of the way. I'm reversing my fortunes on this one. Better late than never. Also, Clinton Portis is a stud. Everyone's still a little groggy after drinking the kool aid on the Giants and this line seems high.

San Diego (-3) over Pittsburgh
The Chargers lost a heartbreaker last week to Steve McNair and his crotchey old knees. I was standing in the concourse watching this one end last week and the whole crowd was in complete disbelief. Of course my dad began preaching about how great McNair is and would hear none of any argument, making me want to strangle someone. So, this is one they want to get back. And, I'm a firm believer in the trouble east coast teams have going out west for games (see the Reds season-killing west coast road trip) and having a hard time with the travel. I have no stats to back this up.

Carolina (-8) over Cleveland
Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith Steve Smith. Now name a Cleveland defensive back.

Buffalo (+10) over Chicago
Ten points!? Buffalo isn't that bad. I still say Chicago wins, but ten points is a lot. Of course, here is another one of those games that gives me a bad feeling. I've been riding Chicago all season and now I'm jumping off like a coked out hooker. What is wrong with me?

New Orleans (-6.5) over Tampa Bay
My first thought: the Saints are a better team by a touchdown than the Bucs on a neutral field and you gotta give them credit for playing at home. The superdome will be crazy again. I refuse to pick against them at home this year. (Note: after an ill-advised week off, my man crush on Drew Brees makes its triumphant return)

Last Week: 2-3 (again, goddamnit)
Season Record: 11-9

Jon's Picks:
Indy -18
Arizona +3.5
Pittsburgh +3
New England -10
Cleveland +8

Last Week: 2-3
Season Record: 10-9-1


A Long Way From Home Field: Two Months Following Soccer

I had World Cup fever. No idea what brought it on, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. I started watching USA friendlies in the spring and never looked back. Every match (read: game) was on TV, even the standard media outlets were covering the event. The whole thing was easy to get wrapped up in. It all culminated with my being fortunate enough to be in a hotel bar in Europe with a gaggle of 12 year old Italian kids for the final match. They laughed, cried, cheered and sang through the whole game. I was hooked, I was enthralled, I wanted to know more and suddenly it was all over. I was a man without a football club (read: soccer team). So I decided to follow English Premiere League (and the soccer world in general). I get Fox Soccer channel, why not? More specificially I was following Liverpool for the purposes of having a team. They are the Reds so it seemed only natural.

Here's an all-too-wordy rundown of what I've learned:
- It's really fucking hard to learn twenty new teams. As if just learning the players on Liverpool isn't hard enough, I can't even name every team in the Premiership. I'm constantly asking myself "Ok that jersey looks familiar, who is that?" followed by "Why the fuck can't they put their team name on the jersey instead of these goddamned ads?" Plus, the whole jersey situation is an enormous fiasco. In virtually every US sport the home team wears the solid color and the away team wears white. Easy. Not in the EPL. Liverpool wears solid red home jerseys but then wears solid yellow (why??) away jerseys. This leads to some confusion on my part. Take for example Liverpool vs. Chelsea. At Anfield (Liverpool's home field) the game would be a red team vs. a black team. However, switch the home team and you've got a yellow team vs. a blue team. Boggles the mind, no?

- Watching an entire sporting event with only a commercial break at halftime is incredible. You know how when you first get HBO you sit down to watch a show, get totally sucked in and the time just flys by? Episodes of Entourage seem to last only five minutes some weeks. As someone who regularly attends NFL games, I can tell you it can seem like you've seen three plays in the past twenty minutes. My only question is: when do these people take piss breaks?

- I'm having an unreasonably hard time understanding the post-season. Given 10 minutes I believe I could fully explain the playoffs for any major US sport to a reasonable person. Apparently Liverpool is playing in the Champions League. Teams from all over the world qualify and compete. The winner of the Champions League is generally considered the best team in the world. Last year Barcelona won it all. The final is sometime in the spring. But the really odd thing is that the Champions League matches are taking place DURING THE SEASON. This means a team will play a league game in their home country and then might go play in Iran or somewhere equally desolate and then come back to league play. Then there is a UEFA Cup for teams not good enough to qualify for the Champions League. I would guess this is a big deal as well. It seems that a NCAA/NIT comparison would not be accurate in terms of importance but I can't think or a better one. Also, I believe that teams busting out of the Champions League early can still go play in the UEFA Cup. Astounding. Then there's some other league championship in the English system but I'm so spent at this point that I don't have the energy to investigate.

(I realize Trout will chide me for this, but did you ever see Baseketball where the playoffs are this ridiculously drawn out system and Al Michaels and Bob Costas look completely overwhemed? That's how I feel.)

- Liverpool's manager, Rafa Benitez, has used something like 94 straight different starting lineups. Jerry Narron has found his soulmate.

- Arsenal's manager is named Arsene. Did he change that after getting the job? Is it just fate? Kismet? Not sure why, but I really needed to get this off my chest.

- There are about eight billion teams throughout the world, and a lot of them play in various tournaments, etc. What an awesome thing, to have a truly world game be played in a global manner. However, it seems that there are less than ten teams who truly have a chance at winning the Champions League, a few from England, a couple from Spain, a couple French teams and some others sprinkled in. That kind of sucks, but there's no real way to creat parity throughout the entire world. (And don't forget to never, ever mention MLS)

- Other countries take their national teams VERY seriously. It was front page news this week that England is thinking about using a 3-5-2 lineup in their next match. 3-5-2!!! OMFG!!! Seriously, take a deep breath.

- USA still doesn't have a coach and still can't pull their heads out of their asses. It was probably time for Arena to go, but you might want to hire somebody else in the meantime. Plus, they just got invited to play in the South American championship next summer which seems like a good idea but will be hard to do with no coach or team. On a similar note, I'm not the one to come up with this idea, but why not have a North/South America tournament every four years? Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and USA would probably be the top four teams with some scrappy underdogs (assuming the USA doesn't fall off the map). That would be fun to watch and on maybe even on par with the Euro tournament.

Well, that seems like enough for now. If you made it this far, here's your lesson: there's a lot of fucking soccer out there, and it's hard to keep track, but for those of us who are the type to check the MLB standings daily, it can be real fun. And, it's still great to watch.


Ruminations on a Joyless Triple Crown

So the baseball playoffs are here, and that means we get to endure the media fawnings over the Yankees (who, by the way, literally have an All-Star at every position now; it was only a matter of time) and Derek Jeter, his "leadership," his "intangibles," his "clutch performance," and his "smooth balls." Or at least that's what I thought I heard Tim McCarver say. Anyway, since the Sox aren't in it this year (and, surprise, neither is my surrogate team, the Redlegs), I find myself less interested in the games, no matter how spectacularly ridiculous Torii Hunter's defensive hijinks are (By the way, I still hate you Torii Hunter for completely unnecessarily bowling over Jamie Burke two years ago. I hope you look half-retarded in the outfield again tomorrow, hastening your goddamn Twinkies to a swift exit). I think the disinterestedness has to do with the Sox winning it all last year; playoffs used to be exciting no matter who I was watching (the Yanks-Arizona series a few years back comes to mind); now with every game I just think: "Goddamnit, the White Sox would beat this team. ARGHAGHGAGH." Even though I know they wouldn't. I digress.

Since the playoffs are here, that means the fantasy baseball season has drawn to a close, and on Monday morning I celebrated an unprecedented triple crown victory in my three different leagues. I don't know if I can possibly picture a more anticlimactic and somber victory, eating my banana and Cheerios as always, drinking my grapefruit juice, staring at the computer monitor and saying (out loud, I think), "Hey, I won all three leagues," knowing full well that about 85% of the people I was competing against stopped giving half a shit way back in August, if not before. I told my fiancee and she barely grunted. I guess maybe she was desensitized to such information since I said to her nearly every day in July, "Hey, I'm first place in all three of my fantasy leagues! This is crazy!" She didn't even bother to humor me anymore.

So, as I noted earlier, the victory becomes almost sad when I start to reflect on how many hours of my life I devoted over the past six months to figuring out whether or not I should keep Javier Vazquez for his strikeouts while eating his ridiculously high ERA, searching frantically for a trade to scrounge more stolen bases at midseason, pondering when I had built up a big enough lead in saves to start trading for starting pitching. The list could go on and on. And what do I have to show for it? Three more first place trophy icons on my Yahoo Fantasy profile. Which I and I alone check. Wow. It really starts to make one question one's existence. Yeah, I know, I should start up or join a money league so that people actually pay attention for the whole season and I have something to show for my efforts. But to that I say: all my friends are cheap pussies. And not the good kind. That, and I don't have many friends (I wonder why that is?).

So for now I'll have to content myself doing things like dropping Aramis Ramirez with 3 days left in the season because he isn't getting at-bats, checking how many strikeouts I need to catch the guy in front of me (who has been playing Mark Mulder for the past 2 months), and the like--all so, for one brief moment in March next year, I can remind people I was the winner this year.

Don't tell anyone, but I like Ryan Howard with the first pick next year. I can't wait.


Keep Your Self Control...

I love rummaging through old record bins. Sometimes you can't find a damn thing worth paying 50 cents for, and that blows. But, sometimes you find something truly unexpected and wonderful and it's all worthwhile. This was one of those special weeks and I found an album I think I can call... well magical. For your viewing pleasure:

That's right sports fans. This is a Cincinnati Bengals sponsored 12" vinyl of a song creatively titled "Just Say No." The date is listed as 1987. But there'se more! The backside features a picture of three Bengals players (Ira Hillary, Mike Martin and Reggie Williams) who all supposedly actually contributed to this sweet hybrid of music and message. Reggie Williams appears to be the leader of this band of do-gooders. That's right, the Dartmouth educated, Flint MI born Reggie Willams who has the enviable distinction of playing in both Bengals' Super Bowl losses AND even served on Cincinnati's city council for a couple years. How did he find the time!?

Were I more prepared and a little bit less lazy I would have captured this song to an mp3, but frankly it's just as terrible as you can probably imagine. My best description is Hall and Oates meets Lionel Ritchie ("All Night Long," not "Hello") but in a really shitty generic sort of way. Lots of snythesizers and an instrumental break featuring an alarming amount of cowbell. I took the liberty of transcribing the lyrics. And, no, I don't know whether or not they were personally written by Nancy Regan, so don't ask.

I met a girl so sad and lonely
She said her world was incomplete
Her friends tried to persuade her to do bad things
That's when i had to enter scene, I told her...

Just say no
Keep your self control
Then you'll know your mind is free
I've got too far to go
To get to where I want to be

It's really a no win situation
Pollute your mind with chemical things
We must avoid the complications
And find out what we really really need

(Say No!) (I reeeealllly wanna say No)

Don't be afraid to turn away
(Don't be afraid to turn away)
Your destiny is worth a whole lot more
If you just say no

[cowbell, synthesizer, a shit-ton more cowbell]
la da da da da

[Bridge, again for some reason]

Don't be afraid to turn away
(Don't be afraid to turn away)
Your destiny is worth a whole lot more
If you would say (say no no no no no, say no)
Just say it again (no no no no no no no no)
Just really say it!


So there you have it. One of the finest pieces of music ever composed and put to plastic. Frankly, with the current state of the 2006 Bengals it's nice to know that there was somebody actually not doing drugs on the team. Pass you by, glory days....

On another note, a friend of mine who teaches design pointed out that the cover of this album is one of the most poorly designed things he's ever seen and intends to use it in class as a "what not to do" example. Just all around fantastic.