Without The BCS There Would Be No Crystal Football

As a Purdue alumnus I really don't have any pipe dreams wherein I see the Boilermakers going to the national championship game...um, ever. Hell, we only win the Big Ten every thirty years or so. Thus, I don't really have a personal interest in any system that's in place. Just thought you should know.

It's getting to be a lonely club; those of us who don't hate the Bowl Championship Series. Now in its ninth year, the system that was supposed to cure the ills of college football's ranking system has become the most convenient whipping boy (with the possible exception of Pete Rose) in all of sports. Of course what people often neglect to mention is that there's only been one split championship (Auburn and USC in 2004) and a lot griping from teams who feel slighted. But surely the entire system can't be dismantled simply due to a bunch of whining, can it? Wouldn't that just be encouraging Jay Mariotti?

Let's get it out of the way: no system is perfect. Whether you favor a four team or eight team (or even the clinically insane 16 team) playoff there still will be unavoidable controversy. There are a lot of people who love the NCAA basketball tournament and have managed to convince themselves that it's the perfect system. Guess what, it's not (more on this later). While the idea of striving for perfection is noble, the BCS has accomplished what everybody wanted and expected. It created a Super Bowl of college football. And, nobody misses that game (except for my mom, but she's more of a pro football fan). The matchups have been complelling and entertaining, and generally more fun to watch than the Super Bowl. Sounds like a system that's working to me.

So, why are people completely obsessed with the concept of a playoff? Best I can tell, we have a playoff in every other American sports league and people don't know any other way. But, hasn't anybody noticed how we've completely undervalued the regular season? The Steelers won the championship from a Wild Card and the Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs in the middle of an almost-epic backslide with a barely better than .500 record. I probably don't even need to mention the NBA, but let me remind you that over half the teams make the postseason. In the NCAA basketball tourney, fourth and fifth place teams from some conferences get in every year.

We've created an atmosphere where it's not the team who plays great all season who is lauded as the best team, but rather the team who gets hot at the right time. I, for one, like the idea of that early fall game between Notre Dame and Michigan having the potential to make or break a season. This is why it's so goddamned exciting. Plus, there's the argument that in the Ohio State and Michigan game this year, both teams would have already qualified for a playoff and thus could have rested players and not had to give 100%. How sad would that be for a game with so much tradition? I kind of like the idea of every game being for all the marbles.

Then, of course there's the money. You've probably heard it all, but basically the current bowl system is insanely profitable for the NCAA, the host cities and particular the participating schools. Fans seem to travel regardless of the status of their team's bowl (for example the Champs Sports Bowl in tropical Orlando, Florida). Everybody is fat and happy right now. Do I think that a playoff could potentially make everybody just as much money? Probably. It's like your one buddy who's been at the same job even though he's had other opportunites that could probably make him more successful. You keep asking him about it and he just shrugs and says "yeah, but I'd have to learn a whole new job and I might even have to move." Hard to argue with, really.

Finally, at the end of the day everybody controls their own fate. Think you deserve to be in the big game, Michigan? Maybe you should have won that game in Columbus. And, there's still the reasonable subjective qualities of the coaches' poll in play. Living in SEC country I get force-fed a lot of Florida games. And, realistically, anybody who has watched the Gators barely edge out South Carolina and a crummy Florida State team in recent weeks cannot reasonably think that they are the second best team in the country. Beat FSU by four touchdowns and then we'll talk. What I'm trying to say here is: if you want to be considered in the top two teams in the country, go out and play like it.

In the end, I'd like to think the designers of the BCS had two (at least somewhat) noble priorities in mind when designing the stystem. One, have one game to determine the national championship. And two, do so without completely dismantling the current system. I'd say they accomplished said goals. Now let's not ruin it Fox by letting Joe Buck announce the game.


Gage's Last Minute Picks - Week 12

Kansas City (-2) over Denver
Yeah I know this one already happened but you'll just have to take my word that I bet it. If someone out there was waiting for my picks to influence their Thanksgiving gambling, I'm sorry but you are a fool. Basically I took the home team vs a struggling quarterback. Boom, that one worked out.

NY Jets (-4.5) over Houston
Did someone say the Jets have an outside shot at the playoffs? Wow. This will be a nice little run for Jets fans where they finish 9-7 and give Chad Pennington a ridiculous contract extention. Anyway, in order to do that they have to beat shitty teams like Houston.

NY Giants (-3) over Tennessee
Bounce back game for the Giants. I hate picking road favorites, but I just can't see Tennessee hanging with the Giants. And, I'm banking on Eli being able to handle the crowd in Nashville. Maybe I should change this one. Aw, fuck it.

Buffalo (+3) over Jacksonville
It's cold in Buffalo this time of year. I keep thinking the Bills have a lot more talent than they're letting on, and they showed a little of that last week. Plus, you know how I love home underdogs. Of course, the Jaguars looked awesome while trouncing the Giants last week which makes me look stupid. But, I'm going to say this is a letdown game. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Baltimore (-3) over Pittsburgh
The Steelers have shown some signs of life of late, but one more loss will make seven and they are officially finished (if not already). Meanwhile Baltimore is looking to get that number two seed in the playoffs and can legitimately start thinking about home field advantage. I'm taking the home team with something to play for.


White Sox Free Agent Wish List

So after starting this post two weeks ago (I kid you not--two weeks), a ton of free-agents have been signed to ridiculously rich contracts. My personal vote for most ridiculous thus far is Gary Matthews Jr.'s 5 year $50 million deal. While the Cubs may regret their borderline absured Soriano contract in 4 years or so, my money's on the Angels regretting the Matthews contract in oh, about 6 or 7 months. Plenty of bloggers have talked about this with more depth and knowledge than I will here, but what it boils down to is that the 32-year-old Matthews cashed in on a career year that far, far, far outpaced his previous production. I could cite a myriad of stats to illustrate this point, but I'll just steal this one from ESPN: "Matthews posted a career-high .313 batting average for the Rangers this year; that's 50 points higher than his career average (.263) and 58 points higher than his 2005 mark (.255)." Enjoy your new outfielder, Angels fans.

Anyway, on to the White Sox. Constructing a free agent wish list is pretty much completely a waste of time in the case of the White Sox, since their acquisitions will almost certainly come by way of trade, particularly of a starting pitcher (I'd rather see Contreras go first, followed by Garcia, Buehrle, Vazquez, and Garland... and most of that has to do with age... Contreras is about 45 now, right?). Anyway, since a free agent wish list is a complete waste of time, it seemed perfect fodder for a blog post.

As I (and virtually all the White Sox blogs I read) see it, the Sox could most benefit by upgrading in the outfield (I'm looking at you Podsednik--I'm giving BA a free pass for last year and I hope Ozzie and Kenny do too), the bullpen, and backup catcher. So now that a bunch of overpaid outfielders are already off the board (oooh, Soriano would have looked good in left and leading off... for the next 4 years, not the next 8), who's left?

JD Drew -- I do NOT want JD Drew on my team. Luckily, there's virtually zero chance of that because Kenny's not gonna throw the kind of money and years at Drew that he's going to get from some idiotic team (here's looking at you, BoSox).

Aubrey Huff -- I'm not thrilled about Huff; he's 30 and he hasn't really been that good since 2004. He may be over the hill, and if he replaces Podsednik there's no one to leadoff. Sorry, Aubrey, you have a girls name anyway.

Raul Mondesi -- Hahaha. I'm just bullshittin'. But that was fun, no? (aside: I hate Raul Mondesi for ruining the value of his Upper Deck die cut platinum plus baseball card that I so coveted when I was 13 years old. I should have sold that fucker when I had the chance).

Kenny Lofton -- Kenny fits the prototype for who the Sox would need to kick Podsednik to the curb. Yeah, he's ancient (he'll turn 40 next season!), but he last year he hit .301 with an OBP of .360 and stole 32 bags, only getting caught 5 times. Compare this to Podsednik, who hit .261 with an OBP of .330, stealing 40 bags and getting caught 19 times (19!!! That floored me; I knew he was bad, but that number is astronomical). Kenny'd also be a relatively cheap, short-term contract. Plus, I like Kenny. He has a pretty smile. And he's from East Chicago.

Dave Roberts -- He's got the edge of 5 years of youth on Kenny, but he'd come at a higher price and a longer-term deal. Last year was pretty much a career year for Roberts, hitting .293 with an OBP of .360, stealing 49 and getting caught 6 times. Red Sox fans can verify that Roberts is capable of coming up with a clutch steal, too. I don't think there's a wrong answer between Roberts and Lofton--we just desperately need to replace Podsednik (I love you for your 2005 early season stealing and postseason homers, Scott, but you just flat out suck ass now. Sorry.)

Well, I think that pretty much does it. I could toss out names for bullpen and catching help, but rest assured that they'd pretty much just be random names that I happened to recognize, without any real concept of if they'd amount to shit or not. This is why I'm not a GM. That said, please sign Dave Roberts or Kenny Lofton, Kenny. Please...


Come On In, Relax. It's Only Cincinnati

Talk about making a spash on the free agent market. Alfonso Soriano be damned! The Redlegs just announced the pickup of two marquee names out of this year's free agent class: Alex Gonzalez and Mike Stanton. Now this is exactly the kind of move that we have grown to expect in the 'Nati. So, fellas, let me be one of the first to welcome you to town.

This is Cincinnati, where we strive not so much to be the Yankees, or even the Cardinals. Think Minnesota Twins. Heck, we even hired our GM from them. Over a decade of lowered expectations should make your stay in the Queen City a pleasant one. Sure, people will call into talk radio shows to complain after miring in fourth place in the division all year, but really their passion will be tempered by realistic expectations. Breakout your new clubhouse slippers and practice your bubble gum and sunflower seed skills. One bit of advice, though: be sure to load up your iPod, I hear Adam Dunn likes to really blast the country music.

Alex, I have to admit I was a little concerned when I read about your pickup. You could easily have been that other Alex Gonzalez. Admittedly, I would like to shake the hand of that guy for how he completely screwed the Cubs and made it look like an accident. But, I'm not sure I want him playing for my team. I have to also confess that I was slightly wary of your less than .300 OBP last season, just me being picky I guess. But those fears were dashed when I was told that you are a fantastic defensive shortstop. Congratulations on your one tool, sir. Surely that is worth the almost $5 million that you will be paid next year. Certainly the Reds could not find a AAA shortshop to not get on base, play solid defense and make the minimum salary. You just might be the final piece to the puzzle.

The final piece, if not for you, Mike Stanton. Checking in at a young 40 years of age (only as old as you feel, right grandpa?) you'll bring that much needed veteran experience and maturity we haven't gotten from Kent Mercker, David Weathers and Chris Hammond in the past few years. Can't get enough good clubhouse guys. And, from what I understand you might just be our opening day closer by default. Way to go champ! Am I worried that you haven't pitched over 80 1/3 innings in your entire career? Of course not. Welcome to the bullpen, help yourself to some geritol and icy-hot. We're stocked up. It's gonna be a big year!


Damn, How About them Cubby Bears?

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous. I'm jealous. Very, very jealous. The Cubs have apparently landed the premier free agent of the offseason, signing Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million contract. I'm sad Kenny Williams doesn't have that kind of cash to play with... but what's up with the Cubs recently? Maybe it was a Dusty Baker sabotage job, or maybe they just really hated the past two years living in the shadow of the White Sox, but whatever the reason is, the Cubs are definitely the biggest mover thus far this offseason.

They've committed over $200 million in the past week, and their lineup is fast becoming one of the scariest in the NL. The combination of Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez is about as good as any in all of baseball. And with Houston apparently close to signing Carlos Lee (according to Buster Olney), the NL central is looking tougher by the day. Too bad, Reds fans.

But who's going to pitch on this offense-oriented Cubs team? Maybe they're just hoping to make it to the playoffs on a janky pitching staff, crossing their fingers that an overworked Zambrano-Prior tandem can stay healthy through October. Foolproof!

Gage's Picks of Wasting My Time (Week 11)

Lookout world! Another 2-3 week means I am still completely useless, but at least the apocalypse isn't upon us. So that's nice. The bad news, as always is that I will provide you no help in your gambling ventures. Yet, for some reason I trudge on.
The Bengals play at New Orleans today, and after I wrote my post declaring them all but dead, I'm having a hard time getting too fired up. If they're not dead already, this game could officially kill their spirit, so I guess we'll see what they're made of. I didn't hear any proclimations by Ocho Cinco declaring himself a "pass catching hurricane" which is encouraging, but we will see. Worst case scenario: my mancrush (now one word!) wins the game. Anyway, onto the picks....

Baltimore (-3.5) over Atlanta
Why does Baltimore keep winning? I have no idea, but they do. And if you don't think their defense can rattle Michael Vick you're crazy. Vick can look great against a paper-thin defense like Cincy, but as soon as he starts rolling out and gets dropped by Ray Lewis one time, he'll start chucking balls into double coverage. Maybe this will be the game you see him doing the old QB slide.

St. Louis (+6.5) over Carolina
This one comes down to past performance for me. The Panthers barely beat a Dallas team that everybody wants to like, but really has shown no evidence of being any good. The Lou has Stephen Jackson who has officially proven himself and should run all over him. On a side note, how about the RB tandem in the state of Missouri? Jackson & Johnson: For All Your Insurance Needs should be keeping those show me staters happy for a long time.

Arizona (-2) over Detroit
This one follow's what I'm going to start referring to as "Gage's Law". Two shitty teams, playing, take the home team. I have nothing more to say about this one.

Indianapolis (+1) over Dallas
Two simple points here. First, do you remember when I said that I'm taking Indy plus points until they prove any reason why not? That was against Denver on the road, and Denver is a FAR better team than Dallas. Um, yeah. And second, I said earlier that I just don't believe in Dallas. The media and pundits want them to be a superbowl team, but they're just not. Parcells' cock must taste like candy the way everybody is bobbing on it. Trust me, you don't want to be in line for that.

San Diego (+2.5) over Denver
I'm biased. Last week's game convinced me that San Diego is in the class of the AFC. This should be a great game, but I just think they have too many weapons and can overcome the Denver defense. The Sunday night national telivision could wipe out any home field advantage. I'll be looking forward to this one.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 24-24-2
(Thank goodness for paying juice so I can't forget than even at .500 I'm still a loser)


This is not Sosa for Bell

The White Sox traded lefty reliever Neal Cotts to the Cubbies today for righty reliever David Aardsma and a minor league pitcher. My, how things change in just a year, particularly in the world of middle relief. I think it's safe to say that the White Sox wouldn't have a World Championship without the likes of guys like Cotts, Cliff Politte, and Dustin Hermanson coming out of the pen in 2005. This year, all three of these guys suffered precipitous falls--Hermanson due to injury, Politte due to injury and general suckiness before he was released, and Cotts due to... well, who the fuck knows. It's middle relief. There are no predicting these things.

From that perspective, this has got to be a good move on the part of the Sox. Cotts had worn out his welcome (although not as much as someone like Damaso Marte did a couple years ago), and he's always made noise about wanting to be a starter. I'll be really interested to see if the Cubs undertake a conversion project with Cotts, especially considering their shaky rotation (after Zambrano, they've got big question marks in Prior, Rich Hill, and Wade Miller).

My uninformed guess is that Don Cooper and Kenny Williams saw something they liked in Aardsma (although it must not have been that roster photo that ESPN has; that motherfucker looks like a pederast) and took the chance to unload Cotts while his value was still moderately high. Coop has had pretty good luck with middle reliever projects in recent history... well, with Matt Thornton at least. That's good enough for me.

It's nice to see Kenny start his offseason acquisitions; I was getting tired of reading stories about the Cubs signing all their shitty and overpaid players back. Keep up the good work, Kenny.


Big Frank the Blue Jay

Well, it looks like Big Frank may be on the move again. And let me tell you, he is flashing his wily brilliance once again. Instead of sticking with the Athletics--or going to some other team with a more realistic shot at the playoffs--he has apparently decided to join the one and only bastion of Canadianness left in MLB, the Toronto Blue Jays. Sure, they might not make the playoffs, but they'll give Frank the $10 million/year he knows he's worth. That's what's really important to a 38-year-old superstar without a World Series ring (*save the one he got for a series in which he didn't bat once), right? Yeah, I thought so.

You know, I'm rooting for the Blue Jays as much as the next guy, but they still have to jump either the Red Sox or the Yankees in that division to even have a shot at the playoffs. Is that gonna happen? Seems like a long shot, even on a team with Halladay, Burnett, BJ Ryan, Troy Glaus, and Vernon Wells. I like what the Blue Jays are doing here, I'm just confused as to where the money's coming from. Does anyone go to Blue Jays games? Isn't baseball season just the Maple Leafs' offseason to these people? I guess it really hasn't been that long since Toronto was a playoff contender and World Series winner. But baseball has changed so much since then (i.e., the Red Sox somehow found $50 million just to negotiate with Matsuzaka--fucking crazy), I'm doubtful the Jays can keep up with the division they're cursed to be in, with or without Frank Thomas.

Too bad the NL hasn't adopted the DH; Frank could journey over to the North Side of Chicago, give a new twist to the rivalry, and have a better chance of sniffing the playoffs. And that's saying something.

Spring in the Desert

Word on the street is that the Dodgers and White Sox may soon share a spring training facility in Glendale, Arizona. Why the White Sox have decided they have to move again, less than a decade after they left Florida, is beyond me. Well, actually it's not. It's probably about the money. It's always about the money.

But I'd like to think that since the White Sox will be divorcing the Diamondbacks, their park-mate of nigh 10 years, there's some beef going on there. Did Juan Uribe accidentally forget and leave his firearms in the complex one day, prompting and ultimatum from D-Backs management? Did Brandon Webb think it was funny to constantly leave a skid-marked jockstrap lying around? Perhaps the Sox were just turned off by the new Diamondbacks logo. Or maybe Luis Gonzalez' Preparation H smelled up the clubhouse. These are the things Peter Gammons and Buster Olney need to spend their Marches researching. OK, enough of my weak stabs at humor.

This is significant for another reason: history. Nah, not that it could spell the end for the Dodgers in lovely Holman Stadium (picture above in all its glory), where they've been almost 60 years. Who cares about the Dodgers? Not I (although it is pretty cool to imagine Jackie Robinson training there). Things change, people. Get over it. Yankee Stadium will soon be no more, going the same way as just about every old stadium except Fenway and shit-tastic Wrigley.

It's significant for my own personal history. Holman Stadium is where Gage and I spent a hot-and-humid-as-balls spring 2003 day eyeing Tommy Lasorda getting approached by dipshit fans all game, watching Ozzie Guillen shoot the shit with fans and players as Marlins third base coach, listening to some Hispanic Miami resident complain about all the immigrants in his city, and watching some country-strong white boy perennial bench player (the name escapes both me and Gage) launch ridiculous homers all batting practice. In fact, I think you can see our seats (free, from the super-nice box office lady! Thanks, lady!) along the 3rd base line in that picture. Sad. I guess I'll just have to mark my calendar for 2008 and make some new memories at a shiny, new character-less stadium in Glendale. Fucking Arizona.


Reds Offseason Primer - Part 1: Cash Money

Look out, suckas. The baseball machine keeps churning. It's time to move on from last year. There might be frost on the bushes, but I'm looking to the future. The future, Gage? That's right, Mr. T, the future. All the way to the year 2007. This past year was a fun one but it's primary worth now is only to help answer the "what went wrong?" questions and to almost daily enrage me that the Cardinals actually won the trophy after 83 wins. Plus, what with all the big name players already out on the FA market, it seems like as good a time as any (read: before my hopes get shot down).

Before I break out the gameplan in the coming days, let's do a little housekeeping and take a look at the payroll situation. There's no real telling what Bob Castellini is going to do here, for sure. He really only started running things right before the season started and all the money was already locked up. However, I'm pretty sure you shouldn't get your hopes up for a $100 million payroll. Looking back, 2004-2006 payrolls were $43 million, $50 million and $60 million, respectively. That's a 16% and a 20% increase over previous years. I've read a couple of educated guesses that the 2007 salary will be around $75 million (25% increase). Not bad, not quite the $200 million that the Yankees will spend though.

Does this mean that they actually have an extra $15 million to spend on bringing in new talent, probably not. The main reason being that players have escalated salaries and will be making more this year than last. While we're here let's not neglect to mention the dead weight. Eric Milton will make a hefty $10.5 million this year which looks mighty ugly next to Ken Griffey Jr.'s $12.5 million (and yes, Griffey is officially dead weight). Throw onto that Adam Dunn's $10.5 million (approximately $50,000 per strikeout) and you're already pushing half the team's salary. I'm starting to think that the primary reason baseball is so fucked up is these guaranteed salaries. A mid-level team like the Reds just can't afford to take a chance on an aging star and run the risk of sabotaging your payroll for years to come.

By now you're sitting there thinking "okay Gage, I see the numbers, but what's it all mean?" As well you should be. What it means is that the Reds just like any other team have some holes to fill and while Wayne Krivsky got a couple of steals last year (Phillips, Ross) he did manage to trade away a .300 hitting shortstop who fit nicely into the salary structure. But, I digress. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it's going to cost some money to plug the multiple holes, and when it comes down to it the Reds just can't afford to put all of their eggs in one basket. I believe I read one report that said Soriano was looking for $17 million/yr. That's just an inconcievably large number for this organization that immediately prices them out of the bidding. In the end we're probably looking at 3-4 midrange role players much like what happened last year. The Scott Hatteburg and Rich Aurilia experiments were a success and Krivsky will try to duplicate those results.

The one wild card: Castellini. He has in one year brought a fresh new attitude to the ownership, openly stating (with no caveats, mind you) that he wants to win and that winning is his top priority. Concievably this is all just talk and the payroll will be right where we expected it. But, this will be Castellini's first real off-season and he may want to make a splash. I could see him bumping the payroll up by $5-10 million and landing that one big free agent. For the record, this is all just speculation and there have been no rumors to that effect. But, it's not even the winter meetings yet, so I'm pretty sure Buster Olney is just making up rumors now to keep himself busy. Just remember you read it here first.

Next installment: Offseason Priorities


RIP: 2006 Bengals Playoff Chances

I've been to my fair share of football games in recent years. I'm no Peter King (thank god) or anything but I've seen some real highs (Purdue over Michigan in 2000 to go to the Rose Bowl) and some serious lows (the infamous Palmer knee injury game in last year's playoffs comes to mind), but I have never, ever seen a game like what transpired yesterday in Cincinnati. To see a team take a game that is so completely in hand and blow it like Hugh Grant on a street corner was not only shocking but heartbreaking. I feel like I've been bent over and I'm still squealing like a pig.

Everybody knows the NFL is a league of ultimate parity. The Colts soundly beat New England on the road last week, then come home and beat the Bills by one point. The only excuse is parity, and that's what makes the Colts such a big story for being 9-0. But, back to the Bengals game. Through a series of - admittely fortunate - events, they managed to stretch their halftime lead to a comfortable 28-7. Let me tell you, my halftime piss was a joyous occasion. This is perfect I told myself, the NFL is too tough for any team to come back from a 21 point deficit. Little did I know what the defense had in store for the second half.

Putting into words the complete lack of playmaking by the defense is difficult. At one point on third and long I turned to my uncle sitting beside me and I could see the dispair on his face. We both just seemed to know there was a far greater chance of the Chargers converting than not. I don't know, nor do I care to know what the stats were. The results speak for themselves. 42 points in the second half. FORTY FUCKING TWO POINTS IN ONE HALF! I hasten to think there is another team in the entire league that could give up that many points in one half if they tried.

Let's say you put a team of random NFL players out on the field and say "play just hard enough not to get cut" for one game. That team would perform better than this defense did in the second half Sunday. And you know what, by the end of that game, nobody I talked to on the way out was shocked. There was no surprise, just outrage. Welcome back to Cincinnati. Maybe, in time, I will come around to find some positives in the offense or Chad's big day, but when I realize how many people spent their time and money to show up and watch a team give up down for an entire half it makes me want to vomit.

Thus bringing me to my final point: the Bengals playoff chances are finished. At 4-5 there suddenly becomes a lot of teams to hurdle. Making some slightly premature assumptions that the Colts, Chargers, Broncos, Ravens and Patriots are in, that leaves only one playoff spot in the AFC. So, they would have to pass Jacksonville, New York and Kansas City (all 5-4). On the surface this doesn't sound impossible, but best case scenario is that it takes 9 wins (more likely 10) to get into the playoffs meaning they would have to go 5-2 down the stretch. With road games against New Orleans, Indy and Denver plus a home meeting with the Ravens, it's hard to imagine this team which is in complete disarray won't take three losses out of those four.

Well, there's always next year. (Right Cubs fans?)


Trout's Hott Games to Watch Sunday

I have nothing against gambling. Really, I don't. Well, except that I don't have the disposable income to gamble without seriously jeopardizing my ability to eat meals on a regular basis. And I hate the fact that Las Vegas exists. And sometimes looking at gambling lines for NFL games gives me headaches. And Pete Rose. I hate that douchebag (you hear me, Gage?). Other than that, gambling is cool by me. In any case, I'm officially done with the whole "Picks of Contrariety" thing; it was fun while it lasted, but I think I'll let Gage continue to play .500 ball on his own. Instead, I'm going to do something wildly different and exciting (read: not that wildly different or exciting): highlight a few Sunday games that have caught my eye--and should be catching your eye too.

San Diego at Cincinnati
This epic matchup of AFC powerhouses features Ryan Leaf battling Jeff Blake. Which quarterback will stake his claim to player of the decade? Tune in and find out. Oh, and in real life the Bengals should probably think about starting to win some games if they feel like making the playoffs this year. Just a thought.

Baltimore at Tennessee
This game will be ugly. But Steve McNair gets to laugh at the shitty team he left behind. That will be fun for him. Note to Vince Young: don't go running around in the middle of the field unless you're wondering what it might feel like to get decapitated by Ray Lewis. Just stay in the pocket, throw your 4 interceptions, and go home happy you're alive.

St. Louis at Seattle
Seattle is playing like they know they'll make the playoffs, they're just treading water until they get Alexander and Hasselbeck back (if they trusted Jesus, Shaun would've been back a month ago--obviously Holmgren is a gambling atheist). St. Louis is a 4-4 enigma that's on the road against their biggest division rival. Do they have enough to pull it out against Seneca Wallace and Maurice Morris? They fucking should, or they have some re-evaluation to do.

New Orleans at Pittsburgh
These teams are roughly in the opposite places that people expected them to be in at the midway point, I think. The Saints and Gage's man-crush, Drew Brees, have looked pretty damn good, but it's never easy playing in Pittsburgh. I think maybe this one has the makings of an upset. If the Saints win it, though, they've won me as a believer.

Chicago at NY Giants
Giants win, Chicago loses. Madden and Michaels fellate Tiki Barber all game. Rex Grossman realizes that neither he nor his receivers are that good. After two straight losses, people finally realize it is goddamned stupid to compare a Bears team to the '85 team, particularly when the season's barely half over. So fucking stop it, already.

Gage's Picks of Winninlygness - Week 10

Here's the drill: every week I win either 2 or 3 games. The utter lack of skill I've shown which has basically proven that winning at football gambling takes some skill that I obviously do not posess. Regardless, gambling is fucking fun and I'm quickly becoming a degenerate.

Look, I'm totally at a loss this week with the Bengals. It's been a week of confusion and withdrawl. Tomorrow against the Lightning Bolts is a large game. I'm concerned because you have to get to Rivers if you want to win this game because you're not going to stop LT. This worries due to the Bengals complete lack of a real pass rush. So, there's two ways to look at this one: a) the team is unraveling and in a complete downward spiral, the season is over (not terribly appealing) and b) the adversity will inspire them to pull their collective heads out of each other's asses to win this game. I'm going with b. Optimism, my friends. The picks....

Cincy (+1) over The Diego
Explained above. This starts a trend....

Tennessess (+7) over Baltimore
Home underdogs. I can't tell you how much I like betting home dogs. Of course VY could come out and throw 4 picks and let Ray Lewis give him a concussion. I'm still sticking to my bet though because I just don't belive the Nevermore Crusaders are a championship caliber team and is vulnerable. (Note that the Bengals would have won that game last week barring a 14 point spot in the first quarter, the Ravens couldn't put them away)

Oakland (+9.5) over Denver
Jeeze, what's wrong with me? Oh well, another home underdog entices me. Basically what I'm hoping for here is an early score from the Radiers and a lot of running the ball out of both teams. Who knows? It could happen. Obviously I have no idea what I'm doing.

Arizona (+6.5) over Dallas
I can only justify this by saying that I'm picking all home underdogs on the board. I think that I will win at least two of them and I'll take that. Maybe Edge and Leinart will find somebody to block for them. Who knows? It could happen.

Kansas City (+1.5 ) over Miami
This one feels like the better team getting points. Plus, I couldn't break from my streak of picking underdogs. Seriously though, aren't the Dolphins primed for a letdown after that win last week? And, I'm thinking that Vegas has overestimated them after that week. Further proof that I'm an idiot.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 22-21-2

Assessing Sheff in the AL central

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Tigers acquired Gary Sheffield yesterday from the Yanks for three pitching prospects. First off, it’s a great move by the Tigers that immediately, I think, makes them the favorite to repeat in the Central (I know, I know, the Twins actually won the division, but they didn’t even sniff the World Series). They’re committed to paying Sheffield $13 million next season and (I guess) $14 million for the two seasons after that (or some structure that adds up to $28 million, anyway). I should also mention that this is a smart move by the Yankees—getting some young pitchers (who, admittedly, I know next to nothing about aside from their numbers looking pretty good) and unloading an aging contract that had nowhere to play anyway. Could this be the beginning of a rational front office in the Bronx? Nah… probably not. But back to the Tigers…

Here’s the drawback for the Tigers: they keep locking themselves into paying a high price for guys that have big question marks—an aging Pudge Rodriguez, an injury-riddled Magglio Ordonez, an aging Kenny Rogers, and now an aging Gary Sheffield. Sheff will be 38 next season, meaning the Tigers are committed to him until he’s almost 41. To be sure, this strategy has worked out for them thus far—no one can argue with Rogers’ pine-tar-aided performance last year, Pudge has been the kind of leader the Tigers needed, and Ordonez—although his production has probably been less than the Tigers hoped for—has been an above-league-average right fielder. How long is it until this strategy backfires, though, and the Tigers are left with a bunch of broken down, overpaid, past-their-prime players? Nobody talks about this, but one shining example of this is them being stuck with Troy Percival for 2005-06, at $6 million per year. What happens when they’re stuck with a more Kevin Brown-like contract? I’m waiting for this to blow up in their faces.

This could really be a problem when guys like Bonderman, Verlander, Zumaya—if they continue on their rise—start costing more money. Verlander’s signed dirt-cheap through 2009 (and I’m not sure what the arbitration situation is there), but Bonderman and Zumaya (and even Robertson and Rodney) are year-to-year contract guys. The more the Tigers commit to guys like Sheffield, the less they’ll be able to lock up the futures of their young pitching staff. Because, in the end, the Tigers will remain a small-market-type team, unable to spend the kind of cash the Yanks or Red Sox do.

Nevertheless, Sheffield remains a smart signing for the Tigers, giving them a proven bat through 2009 in an offense that sputtered in the playoffs (remember how the Tigers made Jeff Weaver and Anthony Reyes looked like Koufax and Drysdale?). And, as a White Sox fan, it makes me cringe to think about seeing Sheffield—backed by the Tigers pitching staff—19 times a season. I have a feeling Sheffield will be more motivated than ever to prove to the Yankees, Brian Cashman, and pretty much anyone who ever mildly slighted him that he’s still a 40 homer/120 RBI guy.

Quick 2007 AL Central prediction as of 11/06 (and lord knows this could change with all the off-season moves yet to come):

  1. Tigers (how do you pick against the AL World Series rep who just got better?)
  2. White Sox (hungry again after sleepwalking through 2006)
  3. Twins (with Liriano, they might have jumped the Sox. But they’ve still got Santana, Mauer, Morneau, and the piranhas)
  4. Indians (where’s the pitching? I just don’t see it. And their young hitters may just be a bit overrated.)
  5. Royals (sigh…)


Picking The Brain Of.... Chris Young

God bless the internet, and god bless professional athlete blogs sponsored by the league's official sites. Today's intrepid blogger is Chris Young, mediocre starter for the mediocre San Diego Padres. Let's take a quick peek inside Chris' head for a moment and break down his latest post.

Quote: "Saturday was another great day here in Tokyo. Today was the first organized sightseeing tour and it was very interesting."

Translation: "Five hours on a tour bus with these assholes? I would never have believed you if you'd told me Bronson Arroyo could spend four hours solely on the topic of cornrows. And seriously Howard, I don't care how many goddamned homers you hit last year. Farting into somebody's pack lunch is not fucking funny."

Quote: "It was a funny sight to see a group of tall and strong MLB players towering over the friendly Japanese people. We got a lot of funny looks and giggles to say the least."

Translation: "GODZILLLLLLAAAAAAA hungry!!!! Flee for your lives you pitiful munchkins!"

Quote: "Standing in the Kannon temple gave me great appreciation for the history of Japan, which dates back much much longer than the United States. America seems like such a new country relative to the ancient history of other places like Japan."

Translation: "...except for all those cities we nuked the hell out of you kamkaze scumbags. Those are pretty new because we leveled them. G.B.A. bitches. God Bless America."

Quote: "When the Japanese pitcher walked [Ryan Howard] on four straight pitches in his third at bat the fans became very upset, voicing their displeasure at the pitcher."

Translation: "Don't be a pussy, even in front of your home crowd. I learned that lesson the hard way from Mike Piazza. HAHAHA, gotcha. Piazza's a fucking pantywaist. I hate that guy."

Quote: "Lyle Overbay provided the finishing touches with a homerun in the top of the 9th to extend our lead and Brian Fuentes closed out the game to earn the save."

Translation: "I have no fucking clue who Lyle Overbay and Brian Fuentes are."

Quote: "The two games against NPB have both been extremely competitive and exciting, exactly what was expected of the series. Fortunately we have come out on the winning end both times."

Translation: "When does the plane leave? What? We have more games? If I have to stay here, will someone at least tell David Wright that no, I do not want to hear about the time he made out with Lindsay Lohan at Butter?"


Al Michaels, King of Understatement

On Manning/Brady Bowl '06:

"Not to overhype this or anything, but this is sort of like Van Gogh and Michaelangelo in a paint-off."

So, Al, was it Van Gogh or Michaelangelo who threw four picks in a game? I can't remember...


Gage's Picks Of Further Evident Mediocrity - Week 9

The depths to which I have been able to demonstrate utterly unremarkable results in picking games is truly astounding. I keep telling myself that I'm accumulating experience that will serve me well at the end of the year, yet I continue to lose. New rule this week: if two shitty teams are playing, pick the home team. See Tennessee and Cleveland last week. See? I'm learning.

Denver (+3) over Pittsburgh
This week's Charlie Batch special. Nothing makes me happier than betting against the Steelers and having it feel like a safe bet. The Bronchos want to atone for last weeks lost. I'm getting points with the better team in this one.

Buffalo (-3) over Green Bay
This one goes back to what I was talking about in the intro. Two craptacular teams playing, take the home team. I feel good about this new rule. Not "I'm going to win this bet" good, just "at least there seems to be some justification" good.

New England (-3) over Indy
The Patriots are a really good team. It pains me to say it, but they seem to have the ability to turn their game up to another level when they have to. Do they have to this week? Probably not. They're already running away with the division. But, I think Belicheck is determined to put Peyton Manning in the crazy house someday.

St Louis (-2) over KC
I don't have any real reason why I like this one. Just felt good. Two middle of the pack teams, take the home team. St. Louis will probably need a couple of turnovers in this one because LJ could have a big day against the Lou's defense. But I think that can happen.

New Orleans (-1) over Tampa Bay
Drew totally gave me the cold shoulder last week with a dismantling at the hands of the dreaded Ravens. I'm going to give him a reprive this week because I think it's distinctly possible that he was just trying to butter up Baltimore and make them over-confident coming into the Bengals game this weekend. And, it all comes back around to Cincinnati in the end.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 19-19-2


What Gage Is Thinking About Today

Here comes another fast paced, quit hitting post, because you know you want it. Here's what's on my mind.

- The Heat lose by 42 to the Bulls. Ok this is why the NBA is a total wasteland. No team in the league is forty points better than another team. The recurring problem is that the players just barely seem to care. Usually teams take turns completely not giving a shit. Team A plays hard for a quarter and builds a big lead. Then they get bored and start thinking about paying those alimony checks to their babies' mamas and how it sucks being famous because you can't get away with being a deadbeat dad, etc. Team B suddenly goes on a streak and so on. Most games wind up close at the end. Last night we just ran into a situation where team H started thinking about the post-game meal before tipoff. Dreadful.

- Liverpool (and soccer in general). The Reds had been playing at the middle of the pack all season and I was starting to think it was just to spite me, but this past weekend they got their shit together. I managed to get up and watch them stick it to Aston Villa 3-1 on Saturday with three beautiful goals, particularly one by Dirk Kuyt. Then, yesterday they played Bordeaux at home in the Champions League group round and basically controlled the entire game winning 3-nil. Steven Gerrard got his first goal of the season, the Reds move on to the knockout round and all is well at Anfield today. In other Champions League news, Chelsea played at Barcelona last night and somehow managed to score a tying goal (friggin Drogba) in the 90th minute. Crazy. But the really wild thing about this game was that Chelsea got five yellow cards. Five in one game?? Miami players, take note.

- Scrabble. That's right, not a sport, I know. But, I read Word Freak after a Simmons reccomendation last year and it's really an engaging, interesting read. Well the author of that book, Stefan Fatsis, wrote this article about a player scoring 830 points in one game, an all time record. I've heard speculation that there was some cheating going on, but I don't feel that way, at least not from this article. Somebody was probably just wearing their lucky rainbow suspenders. The interesting thing here is that this record only came about because neither player in the game was very good. Two better players would have never scored as high. What's a good sports equivalent to this? A free-swinging minor league baseball player hitting 80 home runs?

- MotoGP and Americans actually being good at something. Due to the suggestions of a co-worker I sat down and watch a motorcycle race this weekend. It was the final race of the Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP) circuit which, as I understand, is quite popular in Europe. Without being too long winded about it, going in the five-time defending champ Valentino Rossi (Italian) had a slim lead over the American Nicky Hayden. Anyway, Rossi crashed out of the race in a stunningly unpredictable mistake and Hayden won the points title. This is particularly exciting to me because Hayden is from Kentucky and really had to work his way up to this level. It's nice to see Americans thriving overseas after our basketball/baseball/soccer debacles. This is a big deal to lots of motorcycle racing fans, way to go Nicky.