"Whoa... It's 2007 and not 1999? Damn. Why Did We Sign Sammy Sosa, Again?": Texas Rangers 2007 Season Preview

This ain't Dubya's Texas Rangers, but the biggest names they added in the offseason are guys whose better days are a lot closer to 1998 when Bush cashed out than they are to today. Case in point: Eric Gagne, Kenny Lofton, and the aforementioned Sammy Sosa. OK, Gagne's stretching that a bit, but you have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the dominant, uninjured Gagne. It's a good thing they've got Akinori Otsuka ready to take over the closer's role if Gagne goes down. Kenny Lofton's nearly on the wrong side of 40. So is Sammy Sosa, who is also most definitely on the wrong side of that pesky performance-enhancing drugs rule. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2007 Texas Rangers!

Of course, the Rangers also have Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, and Hank Blalock, all of whom had significant drops in production last year. They better hope those guys bounce back and have better years this year (let's all take note if Michael Young balloons to 250 pounds of veiny muscle), because it's going to be the same old story for the Rangers otherwise: not enough hitting to make up for crappy pitching. They're on the Yankees plan, except with a lineup that's roughly half as good.

The rotation is craptacular, headed by Kevin Millwood and headhunter Vicente Padilla (fuck you, Vicente Padilla!). Brandon McCarthy goes from fighting for a fifth spot in the White Sox rotation to securely holding down the third spot on the Rangers. That should tell you something. With last year's beanball hijinks and the apparent bad blood between McCarthy and the Sox, the couple series between these two teams should at least be interesting. Cubs fans seem to like the idea of Kenny Williams stealing B-Mac's woman. Whatever. As if Kenny couldn't do better than that.

My money's on Ozzie getting tossed in any game Padilla starts. I also look for AJ Pierzynski to play some mind games with Brandon McCarthy when he's at the plate, TNA wrestling style. Or maybe they'll just take a cue from Donald Trump and set up a friendly wager that the loser of the battle (AJ if he strikes out, B-Mac if he gives up an extra base hit) will shave his head. Can't wait. Or maybe I can.

So since I'm taking a big crap on the Rangers season and picking them to finish last, behind even the Mariners, what do they have going for them? Two words: Ron Washington. This man is apparently some sort of baseball Jesus (at least compared to Buck Showalter), who's got ex-Athletics from Jermaine Dye to Barry Zito (well, that didn't pan out... but whatever) wanting to play for him. Of course, all that talk is just talk--but I think we do know that Ron Washington is a good, if somewhat goofy lookin' guy. Rangers fans better hope he's some sort of magician, though, if they want to see the plus side of 81 wins this year.

"And The Award Goes To": 2007 Los Angeles Dodgers Season Preview

In honor of last night's annual Hollywood circle jerk, aka the Oscars, here's a few awards of my own to those men of the Tinseltown diamond, the Dodgers...

Best terrible story I just made up about the origin of the team's name:
Did you know that the original Dodgers were made up of a rag-tag bunch of WWI draft dodgers? They traveled around and played semi-pro teams for whatever money they could get. Constantly on the run from the authorities, not only did they not have names on the back of their jerseys, but they all wore the number 12 in order to preserve anonymity. The players traveled by the light of the moon often riding in train cars posing as hobos and winos until the war ended and the team just so happened to be in Brooklyn. A franchise was born. Jeff Kent still wears the number 12 as an homage to the original team. Jeff Kent has a real respect for the game like that because Jeff Kent loves baseball.

Best part of a deal nobody is talking about
This has to go to the deal for Jason Schmidt. The Dodgers decided to give Schmidt, who's 34, a three-year deal worth $47 million and "lost" in the Barry Zito derby when he got seven years and a ridiculous $126 million from the Giants. Now, Zito is a perfectly good pitcher, but I don't know how much money I want riding on the left arm of a soft throwing curveball pitcher. Schmidt, on the other hand is more of a power pitcher and averages over a strikeout per nine innings better than Zito over his career (7.96 vs. 6.90) and in 2004 averaged over 10 K/9, numbers Zito could never imagine touching, even in his Cy Young Award year. Now that we agree that Schmidt is more of a power pitcher, I guess I'm saying look around at the pitchers who stick around after they're over the hill: Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro, Smoltz are all power pitchers. The only guy who comes to mind (sorry if I'm missing somebody, my research department is out today) that doesn't throw hard is Maddux, and nobody is like Maddux. I just think I'd rather have the 34 year old who can still throw hard for three years over the 28 year old who never threw hard for seven years. Okay, my acceptance speech is dragging, let's move on...

Best "Holy Crap, that's impresive" moment
I've been saving this one for the Dodgers rotation featuring Schmidt, Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Randy Wolf (followed by "wait and see"). Now that's a rotation to be proud of. Wolf is somewhat of a wildcard here, but he's on his second year back after surgery so I'd say there's room for optimism. I'd say you can pencil in somewhere in the 40 wins range for the top three combined (last year 43). That's a solid foundation to build a season on. I like this staff.

Rip down the "No Pepper" sign award
Boy, this team better be practicing their bunting and hit-and-run scenarios. There is NO power to be seen in this lineup. Let me put that another way: Nomar Garciparra and JD Drew (now gone) led the team in homers last year with 20 each. Twenty! And that's out of your formerly-athletic-now-first-baseman. And with their aquisition of Luis Gonzalez the outfield goes like this: Gonzalez, Juan Pierre and Andre Ethier. And this is coming from me, a lifelong NL fan who loves the "small ball" style. But, if you're going to have Nomar and Kent hitting 3-4, I'm going to be a little more nervous if you need a run in the bottom of the ninth. Maybe that's just me. Probably not though.

managerial job of not being noticed
That's right Grady Little. I have to give you some credit. After your quasi-disastrous stretch with the Red Sox, you've done a nice job of keeping a low profile and staying out of Bill Simmons columns, for the most part. I had even forgotten that you still had this job. Plus, I'm really happy you and Mr. Hamm get to spend some more QT together in the locker room. So cute, you two.

Prediction performance by a terrible gambler
That's right, I'm giving this one to myself. Gosh, this is a tough division to predict. Could be another one down to the wire. But, since I've committed to making a prediction I'm going to say that the Dodgers finish second in the division and are in the Wild Card race. I haven't decided who wins that one yet. Jeeze, I'm only on my third team, cut a guy some slack.

Well, that lasted less than four hours, so I hope it wasn't too painful.

(Update: I've changed my prediction in my San Diego post. Sorry for the confusion readers.)


Wednesday Wrap-Up

It was the best of times... it was the worst of times. Or it was just a Wednesday with some interesting sports happenings. First, Liverpool at Barcelona. This Champions League clash was a pretty big deal to me and the rest of the world who care about soccer. Frankly, I don't think a lot of people were giving the Reds much chance in the knockout stage of the competition after this tough draw. Plus there was this ridiculous story about Craig Bellamy going all Office Space copier on John Arne Riise with a golf club during a recent training session. Of course, the whole thing turned out to be not true and both started yesterday in what turned out to be a HUGE 2-1 victory for Liverpool. All in all, it was a game played with moments of brilliance and moments of stupidity by both teams, there were some bad calls both ways. And, it just so happened that the two goal scorers were Bellamy (who celebrated with a big golf swing) and Riise.

For anyone not familiar with Champions League format, in the knockout stage each team in the matchup plays a home game and the team with the most total goals moves on. The really interesting thing is that the first tiebreaker is goals scored on the road. So, if Barcelona comes to Liverpool in a couple of weeks and wins 1-0, it would still not be enough due to the 2 to 1 advantage in away goals. After what has been a moderately successful season (at best) with the Reds never really competitive for the Premiership title, this is a bigtime victory and I'm officially excited again.

Elsewhere, in yet another game that wasn't on TV in my area, Purdue got their asses handed to them at Iowa. You just can't afford to lose by 19 at this point in the season if you want to make the tournament. With three games remaining, I'm thinking they have to win them all or really impress everybody in the Big Ten tournament. At least those aren't technically road games, because this team continues to roll over like a dog getting its belly scratched away from Mackey. Ugh. Not much more to say about this game, but I don't think today that Purdue is a tournament-worthy team. Maybe in a week I'll feel differently. I hope.


"Pass Me My Inhaler": 2007 Colorado Rockies Season Preview

That's right intrepid reader, we're firmly rooted in the NL West. So, climb on the back of my Vespa and hold on tight because we're taking a trip up into the mountains of one of our nation's squarest states Colorado. Woosh!

Welcome to Denver, home of the only team in the league that has a built in excuse for losing. Lucky bastards. Surely you're all aware that I'm talking about the "thin air." Supposedly, two things happen at a mile above sea level, the ball travels farther and breaking balls don't, well break (science time: both due to less air resistance). Now, I've got the solution to the whole problem but we'll get to that in a second. The truth of the matter is that you can't really blame a condition that happens to affect both teams equally as being a disadvantage. Sorry. Now, the argument becomes that they can't get pitchers to come there because the park will hurt their stats. This is ridiculous for two reasons. Anybody who looks around the league sees the good teams developing their own pitching. Unless you have a problem convincing players to move from AAA to the majors, this avoids any problems. Plus, players (and especially slimeball agents) will follow the money. If the Rockies offered Gil Meche $56 million (god knows he deserves it) he would already own a chalet on the slopes.

I guess what I'm saying here is they need to stop complaining and put a competitive team on the field. Of course, if you're not willing to quit crying and are looking for the quick and dirty solution to the whole problem, you've come to the right place. It's oh so simple. You want the air to be a little thicker, put a nice big polluting factory or two next to the stadium. Before you know it, it's going to be like pitching in a sandstorm. That'll put some snap on your slider. Just be sure to hold your breath until you can get back to the oxygen machine in the dugout.

Taking an actual look at the team... well... it's pretty simple. The mountain men have some real studs in the field. Your Matt Hollidays and Garrett Atkinses of the world are going to produce as you'd expect and develop nicely. Plus, they somehow managed not to trade Todd Helton this off-season for whatever reason. So, the lineup is not half bad, minus a few holes that everybody but the Yankees has. But, let's look at the starting pitching. Here's the projected five starters' stats from last year:

Player        ERA    Record
A. Cook 4.23 9-15
J. Francis 4.16 13-11
R. Lopez 5.90 9-18
B.H. Kim 5.57 8-12
T. Buchholz 5.89 6-10
I admit, the top two aren't terrible. But, honestly, if you're a Rockies fan do you want to be cheering for the team trying to resurrect the careers of both Rodrigo Lopez and Bhung-Hyun Kim? Talk about a pitching coach's nightmare. Oh and if you look a little closer at the numbers you'll surely be asking the same question I am: "How the hell did Rodrigo Lopez get 26 starts last year?" No wonder the Orioles were crappy last year. Good luck seeing a resurrection out of him in Colorado.

Prediction: I can see Helton really starting to wear down and missing some games this year. They can't afford to lose any offense so I'm going to say they'll end up even worse than last year and finish at the bottom of the division.


"Wait, I Forgot They Had Bobby Abreu. Wow": New York Yankees 2007 Season Preview

It seemed appropriate to go more or less from the least talented (Royals) to the most talented (Yankees) in my team-by-team AL preview. And when I started brainstorming ideas about things to say, the title of this post is honestly the first thing that came to me. Bobby Abreu. Jesus. But for some reason, when I look at their lineup this year, I'm not as floored as I was in years past. Maybe that's just what happens when you don't see the Yankees in the series for awhile.

That said, I'll still partake in the time-honored practice of quickly running down the Yanks' lineup and marveling how murderous it is. Following is rough guesstimate of how Joe Torre will bat his guys:

1. Johnny Damon
2. Derek Jeter
3. Bobby Abreu
4. Jason Giambi
5. A-Rod
6. Hideki Matsui
7. Robinson Cano
8. Jorge Posada
9. Doug Mintkiewicz

I think it's pretty self-evident that when you're almost forced to bat Cano 7th--a guy who, despite missing significant time with injury, ended up batting .342/15/78--your lineup is absolutely stacked (insert steroids joke here if you like).

But it's not going to be about the lineup for the Yanks, nor has it been the past several years now. While their lineup is aging fast, I think you'd be hard-pressed to deny that, in terms of sheer talent, it's by far the most dominant in all of baseball. The real issues for the Yanks are two-fold: the pitching staff and the pressure of living up to expectations.

The bullpen shapes up pretty well ahead of Rivera, with Kyle Farnsworth, Luis Vizcaino, Scott Proctor, and Mike Myers likely to see most of the work. But man, when I look at that starting rotation, all I see are question marks.

Is Wang really going to be as good as he was last year, or will hitters figure him out? Can Mussina and Pettitte squeeze the most out of their aging arms for yet another season? Has it really been 2 years since Carl Pavano pitched? Wow. Will Kei Igawa live up to the billing? I wouldn't be surprised if there was mass chaos in the rotation by June. Of course, if Clemens decides to come back, he's very capable of righting that ship. Note to Clemens: get over yourself. Note to ESPN and other major media outlets: get over Clemens.

But the pitching staff may be the least of the Yankees worries. There seems to be this inescapable unhealthy, self-defeating, distracting, anxiety-ridden aura about the Yankees anymore. It's as if the whole team has succumbed to the intense scrutiny of the media (which, of course, the media won't let us forget... how many times are we going to see stories about how the pressure of playing in New York is getting to players)? A-Rod, naturally, is the center of the focus, and maybe he brought this pox upon the Yankees, but it seems to have, perhaps inevitably, spread far beyond his own personal hang-ups.

Everybody on this team is forced to deal with the A-Rod cloud. And if that wasn't bad enough, A-Rod seem hellbent on perpetuating the media scrutiny by bringing up distracting bullshit about him and Jeter just as Spring Training gets under way. Randy Johnson has to be glad the Yanks soured on him. If I was on this team, I'd be doing some combination of rolling my eyes, groaning, dreading a season full of this shit, and contemplating beating A-Rod with a soap-bar laden sock, Apocalypse Now style. And, speaking as a White Sox fan, a baseball fan, and a fan of everything right and good in the world, there's something very appealing in the image of Joe Torre, shaven head, rocking in a dark corner, murmuring "the horror... the horror..." at the end of another season of expectations unmet.


"Unit's Gonna Need More Ben Gay!"; Diamondbacks 2007 Season Preview

We're starting things off with a bang. That's right the Arizona Diamondbacks. At first glance, it's really hard to find anything remarkable about this team. One thing I've never understood (bear with me): why the Arizona Diamondbacks? Who would choose the whole state over the city of Phoenix? First of all, you already have a mascot built in and who doesn't think this...

is more badass than this...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not about to fuck with a rattlesnake, but come on. A Phoenix is MADE OF FIRE for Christ sake. And just think about the "rising from the ashes" metaphors that Joe Buck could spew forth instead of talking about baseball (this just in: Joe Buck is offended by the word "spew"). An unforgivable oversight, if you ask me. That said why don't I hear "Brandon Webb's splitter is positively venomous tonight!" more often?

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, on to this generally unremarkable team. They have a handful of solid young (to young-ish) players like Orlando Hudson, Chad Tracy, and Conor Jackson around the infield, but the real star for this team in the future has to be Eric Byrnes (see photo from fall '06 Baseball Tonight appearance) in center field. Of course every Diamondbacks fan lives in constant fear of a freak hair-gel mishap. That stuff soaks right into your brain, you know. And, frankly I'm a little put off by anyone who refuses to bend the bill of his cap. That's right, I'm talking to you, Grandpa. Give me a just a little bow in there. You'll thank me later.

Of course, I'm avoiding the Diamondbacks only real move of the off season. They pulled the 40-year old changeroo on our asses letting Luis Gonzalez go to the Dodgers of Los Angeles (where he will be making 7.5 million this year, egads) and trading for the Randy Johnson Experience: Round Two. There's two problems with this scenario. There's nobody to replace Gonzo in LF with any level of experience. There's nobody playing in right either, for that matter. Not an encouraging scenario. The other problem here is that the fans in the desert are going to look up from their cactus and sand dinners and expect the Big Unit (still possibly the best nickname ever) from 3 years ago, and it just may not happen. He's fucking old, fyi.

Other reasons to not hate the Diamondbacks: 1. Webb. His sinker is really nasty and he's from Kentucky so that's bonus points. 2. The 2001 World Series. Seeing the Yankees lose that one was the most excited I've been for a game not involving one of my favorite teams.

I think these guys improve their record, but finish near .500 and miss the playoffs again.


"This Man is Worth $55 Million": Kansas City Royals 2007 Season Preview

There's a special reason I start with the Royals in FTG's team-by-team preview, and it's not the poster boy of free agent market absurdity Gil Meche. But you'll have to read on to find out what that is...

These are heady times in Surprise, Arizona, where the Kansas City Royals broke camp this past week. And why shouldn't they be? Just look at the laundry list of coveted superstars the Royals have brought on board this year: Octavio Dotel (he was great in 2004! snatch him up on your fantasy team! I'm actually kinda serious...), David Riske (fast becoming a journeyman), Jason LaRue (Gage sheds a solitary tear), someone named Joakim Soria (not to be confused with the catfighting Noah), Ross (I'll fucking kill you if you keep calling me Choad while consistently relegating me to role player status--I bat .300, goddamnit!) Gload, and of course, everyone's favorite $55 million 4.65 career ERA (it's 4.82 the past 3 years!) man, Gilbert Allen Meche.

Yeah. That's the best they could do. In a word, the Royals are fucked. They'd be fucked even if they didn't have to play the White Sox and Tigers a total of 36 times this year. They'd be fucked even if they had not desperately inflated the free agent pitching market by throwing an obscene amount of cash at a mediocre-at-best middle-of-the-rotation won-a-career-high-15-games-back-in-2003 starting pitcher. They'd be fucked even if Mike Sweeney decided it was time to man up and stay off the DL this year. Why, you ask? Because they're just not that good.

A quick glance at their depth chart shows below-average and not necessarily up-and-coming players at every single position. Sure, Reggie Sanders is seemingly ageless and "is one handsome man" as Hawk would say as DJ sits there uncomfortably, but he's 39. If the Royals had any talent in the farm system at all, why in God's name are they wasting their time on Sanders when this team obviously isn't competing for anything this year? His veteran leadership, I suppose? Maybe, but Christ, you gotta think the Royals have a better option than Reggie Sanders. The only bright spot I can see is their third baseman Mark Teahen, who's still only 25 and showed a hell of a lot of improvement last year. The rotation doesn't need much analysis when your top two pitchers are Meche and Odalis Perez. Suck.

So with no hope save for the delusional variety hovering around Royals camp this year and many years past, how's the season being spun by the fans, you ask? Well, the bloggers are already bracing for disappointment. Which is odd, because when the Royals have sucked as long and as bad as they have, how can you be disappointed? You have to expect everyone to tank, right? I guess not. But at least they don't buy into the delusional optimism you see on the official Royals site, where Gil Meche is determined to earn his $11 million/year and Octavio Dotel is on the comeback trail.

But the main reason I wanted to kick off the team-by-team previews by disparaging the Royals is because I detest Rob Neyer, Royals superfan #whatever-the-fuck. Your team doesn't even have a player good enough to be a superfan of. I can't remember exactly why I detest you, Rob, but I think it has something to do with your holier-than-thou fancy-pants statistical analysis, your shit-eating grin and plaid shirt in your old ESPN headshot, the fact that you have disappeared behind the elitist Insider curtain, and that I vaguely recall you once making disparaging remarks about my White Sox. Yeah, it's becoming pretty clear to me now.

So enjoy another season of the Royals getting their asses handed to them, you cockjob.

OK, so this does not start the MLB team-by-team preview

but I felt compelled to post this picture from White Sox spring training camp so that I could say.... holy shit, where did the rest of Jose Contreras go? I read that he had done some intense off-season workouts, but this man is svelte.


It's About Time to Sit Back, Relax, and Strap it Down...

... because pitchers and catchers report tomorrow to Tucson Electric Park to commence the drive to become the 2007 World Series champion White Sox (oh yeah, the Red Legs report tomorrow too...whatever).

It's an exciting time around here at FTG because it'll be the first full season of baseball we'll be up and running for. And as Kissing Suzy Kolber is to football, FTG is to baseball (at least for me... I guess I should let Gage speak for himself). That means you're all in for a lot of posts--on everything from Jeter and A-Rod's manlove to the finer points of Joe Morgan's borderline retardation--from March through October.

And we'll be kicking off baseball madness in grand style with team-by-team previews of all 30 teams, culminating with previews of the Red Legs and White Sox--two teams I think we can all agree are the teams to beat in their respective leagues. With key players like Bubba Crosby and Darin Erstad finally on board (respectively), how could they not be?

Gage will handle the NL because he has a special interest in pitchers running the bases with ridiculously bulky warm-up jackets. I'll handle the AL, naturally, because that's where real men play.

So bate your breath and work up an erection--baseball's about to be covered as only FTG can cover it.

Purdue Wins. Fuck yeah, or some shit.

Yeah, I used two curse words in the title for this post. Mom would be proud. Anyway, big night for the Boilers as David Teague poured in 32 points in an 81-68 victory. Stick that down your striped pants, Sampson. Everybody agreed this would be a big win going in and I still feel that way, particularly after winning in such a decisive manner.

Sounds like Mackey was rocking last night which is always encouraging. Mackey is never going to be Cameron Indoor or anything like that but people forget the sheer size of the student body and alumni we have. Having a home court advantage is nice because your fans at least get to see some wins. I've been watching Kentucky play all season and they seem to get intimidated playing at home. Probably too many of the boosters threatening to stop the handouts watching from the stands. Assuming this team can win 20 games and get into the tourney, the question becomes: how will they play on a neutral court? If the Maui Invitational (2-1 with wins over Oklahoma and DePaul) is any indication, I'm considering possibly almost becoming sort-of optimistic about their chances. Check back in a few weeks. Go Boilers!


Tony Romo is a Better Snap Holder than Singer

thanks to Tittle500 for the tip

We must protect this leafy green wall-crawling plant!

Well, I guess this is what you get. The Cubs went out and spent a shitload of money bringing in players this off season, so you knew something had to give. Well it did. The franchise has officially spit in the face of every Cubs' fan who loves Wrigley and the tradition by putting advertisements in with the outfield ivy. And this is no ad for Wrigley's chewing gum either. Shoot, who needs tradition when you have Alfonso Soriano? The best part about this is that the bleacher bums probably won't even notice until it's pointed out that a game is going on, by which point they'll be drunk enough to believe that it's some fancy new gardening technique. The upside is this could help Kerry Wood land an endorsement deal: "I always rehab in my Under Armor!"


At Least Somebody Will Be Wearing Red

Tonight, it's a night for lovers. And truly there is no love like that between the Purdue and Indiana basketball teams. It's not quite Keady vs. Knight, but this game still matters, but mostly just inside the state. There are, however, some important implications for both. First, for me personally, I have decided that Kelvin Sampson is a douche and should be given a beatdown every time possible. Way to go with those recruiting violations, K-man. Nice to see the four top 100 recruits from Indiana going to play for Matt Painter next year, isn't it? Second, and probably more importantly, the Boilers really need a few more wins if they want to have a shot at an NCAA appearance. With five games left on the schedule they need to win four to get to the magic 20 win mark before the Big Ten tourney. Every game after this one is winnable, but this team plays road games like they're all on vicodin so I'm not going to count on anything.

The truth of the matter is I really want to hate IU. They should be Purdue's biggest rival, but I can't say a bad thing about anybody I know who went there or Bloomington which is generally a really cool town. I can't even hate them for wearing red due to my baseball and EPL allegiances. I do hate the bookstore for selling warm-up pants for $145. Yeah, that's a thought. Screw them! Maybe tonight we can tell the whole Purdue team that the IU players slept with all their girlfriends. Drama! And on Valentines Day no less. This may be a day of love, but come on, let's build up some real animosity in this rivalry. It deserves it. Screw you opposing large in-state rival!

(Update: well, I started this post before I found out the game had been moved to tomorrow. Oh well, fuck it. I'm posting anyway)


Yikes! Streak-buster post.

Trout and I both know a thing or two about dry spells, and it's been a week, so it's probably time for another post here. Any day now. But, with any real baseball news still a few weeks away and my complete lack of interest in the NBA (does anybody sit down and watch full games?) it's been hard to find anything worth writing about. So, here's what's on my mind...

Soccer is fun to watch. While the majority of the English-speaking population was watching Duke/UNC last Wednesday, my amigos and I were watching the USA/Mexico friendly. I knew I was excited for this game when they first announced it and I wasn't sure why. It's just a friendly, so it counts for nothing. That is, if you only consider tournaments and trophies to be something. This one was about pride and that got me even more fired up. In what is becoming a (shockingly) regular occurrence, the MNT beat a Mexico team 2-0 full of their top players in a Phoenix stadium with far more fans cheering against the gringos. This one was really fun to watch, particularly the second half after the first goal when Mexico got super aggressive, but the defense was able to hold on. Now's the time to build that fence and really break their spirit.

Soccer is not that different from American sports. See: basically every league in the world. The degree to which money rules the sport is really killing my interest in the end of the season. Manchester United is running away with the EPL and the only actually competitive top league in the world is in Spain where Barcelona could blow their lead, but probably won't. Thank goodness Champions League play starts back up next week.

Should it really be so hard to get opening day tickets? In Cincinnati, opening day is a huge deal. They have a parade, celebrate the clubs history, and occasionally even win. Sadly I've only been once (2005) and it's one of my favorite sports memories. We got drunk, we ate Skyline, and the Redlegs hit walk off homers off the incomparable Braden Looper to win the ball game. The problem is, it's so hard to get tickets that you have to a) buy season tickets, b) camp out all night or c) get really lucky if you don't want to pay a scalper. Tickets are going to go on sale pretty soon, and we're gonna do what we can this year, but jeez, couldn't it be easier? I just want to go to a baseball game.

Martyballs, castrated. There's gonna be a lot written about Schottenheimer getting fired, but at the end of the day it's really fucking hard to win 14 games in the NFL. I'll put good money down that they don't win that many next year. I hope this doesn't dampen Marty and LT's love affair.


Here Come Those Redlegs!

It's a two-pronged attack today with some hard-hitting Reds coverage. You know you've been itching for it. (Super Bowl schmuper bowl, it's almost time for pitchers and catchers!) Let's start off with a little something I'd like to take complete credit for. As many of you had noticed from the sidebar, I'd been praying to the ghosts of Pete Rose's reputation for Aaron Harang to get signed to a long term contract. And, by the grace of the baseball gods today it came true. Harang gets $36.5 million over four years with an option for the fifth. By all real-world standards this is a ridiculous sum of money, but when you recall your Gil Meches of the world this is a great deal for the Reds and I couldn't be happier. The rotation has some promise for the future now, for the first time in a long time (don't give me Eric Milton).

Now, onto my second point. Thanks to a Rob Neyer (who Trout seems to hate now, but I still hold no particular animosity for) article, I started thinking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). To the best of my knowledge (and I'm mostly clueless) VORP represents the percentage better than an average replacement a player is. By all indications "better" and "value" are determined by someone in a studio apartment with MLB extra innings. Anyway, if you check out those stats, you'll notice that there was one Reds batter in the top 100 last season. That was Rich Aurilia and, oh yeah, he's long gone. Dunner was 104 (I guess his K's are what hurts him) and Dave Ross was 109 despite splitting time with LaRue who would have been cut loose two years ago. Brandon Phillips came in right behind him at 110. This is what really scares me about this team in '07. Their only chance to be truly competitive is one of two ways: 1) Harang and Arroyo (12th and 6th pitching VORP, respectively) don't fall off and some pitching fills in behind them, or 2) the batters way outperform the projected. Anyway, just thought it was interesting. Look for your favorite players and see where they rank.


This Is It: Super Bowl Picks and Predictions

Well here we are. Less than 6 hours until gametime. Less than 6 hours until the tiny little players trot out of the giant inflatable helmets and try to look cool for the cameras. And despite running the risk of jinxing my team, I decided I'd better PONY up (ha!) and offer my pick and predictions for the big game.

First off, if the over-under on the number of Manning faces Peyton will give us tonight is 2, I'll take the over. That doesn't mean I think the Colts will lose, it just means I think Peyton might shit himself with fear and throw a pick or two.

Second, the rain's not going to affect anything. Both teams can run, both teams can throw underneath passes. It might change the gameplan, but it won't change the outcome.

Third, Rex Grossman WILL crumble under the pressure. But you know he won't give you a Manning face. Sexy Rexy's a gunslinger all the way, baby, and he can't let interceptions and fumbles keep him down. He's a baller.

Prince will be better than the Stones and Paul McCartney. Naturally. Although nothing can top Michael Jackson appearing on top of the scoreboard back in the day. THAT was fucking awesome.

Devin Hester will make the Colts special teams look ridiculous. And he may completely change the face of the game. Dungy may tell Vinatieri and Smith to just kick everything out of bounds. Even on kick-offs.

Joseph Addai (and, to a lesser extent, Dominic Rhodes) will have a huge game, prompting Edgerrin James to go double-check his bank account to calm his rage.

I could go on with these inanities, but I think it's past time to wrap up:

MVP: Reggie Wayne
Final: Colts 34, Bears 30


No Wonder Indigent Foreign Countries Don't Know Their American History

I remember a friend who spent a couple years in the Peace Corps in Guinea telling me that one of the textbooks they used said that the United States--the best country on the face of this goddamn planet. Ever. Unless the band Coldplay becomes a country--had fifty-two states. They probably all think that the Bengals won Super Bowl XXIII behind MVP Ickey Woods (sorry I had to go there, Gage--too irresistible).

According to a New York Times article, all those misprinted T-shirts, caps, and other gear (Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XL champions!) will get shipped by World Vision to a host of "developing" countries including Niger, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem a little patronizing to give such novelty clothing, deemed unfit for consumption in the U.S., to the foreign needy? Do they get T-shirts proclaiming the correct Super Bowl champion? Probably not. Those are reserved for American consumers to drop $30 apiece on and contribute to the NFL's already ridiculously rich coffers.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for charitable donations of clothing to these countries. And the NFL most certainly does charitable work besides the donation of a couple hundred T-shirts per year. Donating them, after all, is a hell of a lot better than simply destroying them as Major League Baseball does. (Yet another wise move, Bud! The world loves your cold, cold heart!) It just seems a little odd to me--as it always does, I guess--to read a story like that which essentially reduces the act of charity donation to a quirky act in the American context instead of exhibiting an awareness of how truly fucked up the global disparity of wealth is.

Anyway... that's probably enough in the way of social critique leading up to the Super Bowl... I hope a bunch of Ugandans find themselves wearing Bears shirts pretty soon...


MLB Tries To Be Cool; Winds Up Disturbing

Maybe I'm late to the party on this, and pardon me because I'm no UniWatch, but look at this new bullshit MLB series of hats that are being sold this year. I own several New Era caps. They are my favorite hats, especially next to my Bengals cap that has never quite fit right (thanks, Reebok). I've grown tolerant of the pink and orange hats for every team. I can even look past a camouflage hat, begrudgingly, at this point. But, this is off-the-charts fucking lunacy. If I see someone wearing this at a Reds game this year I may have to hurl myself off the upper deck. I'm at a loss. What is it supposed to be? Someone threw a wet team logo against the wall and it's dripping down? Hard to imagine that scenario. A crooked logo is bleeding? Some morbid fantasy elements there, guys. Is it really necessary to tarnish every traditional element of the game? Does Bud Selig know these hats exist? I'll tell you what, if I see a picture of Commissioner Skeletor wearing one of these, I'll go out and buy the whole set. Ugh. The fucktard that dreamed this up should maybe watch a baseball game occasionally.