Sunday, December 30, 2007

Playoffs? Let's Talk About Playoffs!

Wondering which religion is the true path? Pray to the Super Best Friends, and you'll get the results you want! I know I did: Washington Redskins 27, Dallas Cowboys 6 (Box score | Article)

Win our 4th straight game and we're in the playoffs? No problem!

Doesn't matter if the #2 offense in the league decides to give its starters a lot more playing time than expected.

Doesn't matter if the Redskins are on the wrong side of 4 instant replay challenges in the first half.

We got the hottest QB in the league (Todd Collins), we got C.P. running well again, we got Santana Moss burnin' it up (8 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD), we got our defense clickin' (holding the Cowgirls to 1 [ONE] yard rushing and no touchdowns.)

Congrats to St. Joe and the 'Skins, we're going to the playoffs, and we EARNED it!

Todd Collins leads 'Skins to 4th straight victory, hasn't turned the ball over this season

Clinton Portis has 4th straight game with 100+ combined yards

Gregg Williams appeals to Iowa caucus voters because he is a Washington insider who is strong on defense.

Next Saturday's wild-card playoff matchup: Redskins at Seahawks!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Super Mario's Revenge

Super Mario and his brother Luigi sack Jay Cutler. (, what a dumb graphic.)

Two years ago the Houston Texans shocked the sports world with a stunning display of idiocy when they used their #1 overall draft pick to select not superstar USC running back Reggie Bush but rather, a UNC defensive end named Mario Williams.

The general consensus was that the multi-talented offensive threat Bush was the greatest thing since sliced bread and swimsuit calendars. I'm happy to note that I sounded the cautionary alarm well before the draft, saying then:

"I'm just not sure he's going to be the huge-impact player in the NFL that he's projected to be. NFL defenses are a lot faster and stronger than any Bush has run against, and with him being a speed runner as opposed to a power runner, that could cause problems. Splitting carries with [LenDale] White at USC, Bush hasn't really had to be a workhorse before...I think [drafting Bush is] a risk and not in Houston's best interest."
Of course, at the time I advocated they draft Vince Young to satisfy their QB need, but a year later they have found both Matt Schaub and backup Sage Rosenfels can win games for their team. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush isn't Reggie Bust yet, but this guy was like Herschel Walker in college. While HW's pro career was a let-down, I think Reggie would be happy to wind up with numbers like that guy's.

This season, Mario Williams is second in the league wtih 13 sacks. He's forced a couple fumbles and scored a TD. His Texans, despite playing in the most difficult division in the NFL (two games each against the Colts, Jaguars, and Titans), are still 7-7.

Reggie Bush has struggled this year, especially with the loss of his power-running complement Deuce McAllister to injury, and Saints fans are wondering whether Aaron Stecker might be a more effective option. Bush himself may be done for the year with his own injury, and the numbers he put up were not impressive: 581 rushing yards on a 3.7 avg (though he did have 417 receiving yards), 7 fumbles, and a then-league-high 10 drops.

So far, advantage: Texans.

Remember Shaun Hill?

QB Shaun Hill led my Maryland Terrapins to an ACC Championship and a BCS berth in the January 2002 Orange Bowl. (Scott McBrien after him was even better, but since then the QB position has been a talent vacuum.) Post-UMD, Hill went missing like Jimmy Hoffa, his entire pro career consisting of two kneeldowns in garbage-time for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2005 NFL season.

Hill finally got his break last week when he replaced injured 49ers QB Trent Dilfer (himself in for an injured Alex Smith) mid-game, going 22-of-28 for 181 yards and a TD. He also lost a couple fumbles, but hey, who's counting?

He will be starting for the 49ers in a Saturday night matchup against the Bengals which no one will be watching. (Because it's on the NFL Network, not because both teams really suck, though that's another good reason not to watch.) Nonetheless, congrats, dude!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mitchell Report - Graphic Summary

Yesterday, the much-anticipated Mitchell Report investigation into steroids use in baseball came out, excoriating dozens of players. In case you've been in a coma for the past 24 hours, here's what you missed out on (hat tip to Microsoft Paint):

Still role models: Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., Greg Maddux, et al.

Coming to a Petco Near You...

An overlooked part of disgraced Falcons QB Michael Vick's recent 23-month jail sentence was the steps he would need to take to repair his image.

A guy who killed dogs with his bare hands is going to have a hard time convincing people he is a changed man, but his latest endorsement deal with Purina is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Will Gil Return? Should He?

Last week, Tim Duncan signed a contract extension with the Spurs that will keep him through team at least until 2011, likely ensuring that he finishes his career in the same place he has started and where he has won four NBA championships. What's notable about the deal is that San Antonio offered Duncan a maximum-level deal for two years, $51 million, but he instead agreed to take $40 million so that the team could have more long-term salary cap flexibility.

Say what you want about the guy, but it's nice to see him
A) likely play his whole career with one team
B) leave some money on the table to help his team stay competitive.

Closer to home, we face a suspenseful decision involving our star Gilbert Arenas, who has declared his intention to opt out of his current contract at the end of the season and seek a new max deal. He says he wants to return to the Wizards, but will we be able to outbid the Lakers and others to keep him? How much room will that leave the team to improve itself? And, I hate to raise a sacrilegious question, but should Gilbert Arenas even be a Wizard next year?

Gil likes playing here, has become a superstar here, and management wants him back here. What he hasn't demonstrated here, though, is that he is more than just a one-dimensional prolific scoring talent combined with a remarkable aptitude for self-promotion. Don't get me wrong, I love Gilbert Arenas. He's made the Wizards a relevant pro basketball team in the aftermath of the Michael Jordan debacle, and he's probably the most likable superstar in his sports. I even have an autographed Arenas jersey, which he signed "To Jay" for me, hanging in a frame on my bedroom wall.

But my highest loyalty is to team, not player. And I'm unconvinced that the current formulation of the team is what will bring a championship to D.C. The same deficiencies plague the Wizards year after year, and merely re-signing Arenas isn't going to change that. Which is why I mentioned Tim Duncan. I don't begrudge Arenas or any other athlete trying to make as much money as possible (hey, it's a business), but I think this offseason Gil has a unique opportunity to push his team in the right direction.

He should make a serious threat to walk if the team doesn't make at least one or two of the following significant moves this offseason: acquiring a star big man (just tossing out names, but Jermaine O'Neal or Elton Brand sound nice), a quality three-point shooter, a serious defender or two, and even, depending on how this season pans out, a new coach (though I have long been an Eddie Jordan fan, I'm worried he might have reached his peak).

If the Wizards can prove that they are serious about winning, then it would be great if Arenas could return (preferably leaving some money on the table). Otherwise, it might not even be worth it to give him a max deal if it's just going to yield the same fringe-playoff-team results.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Torre Dons Dodger Blue...A-Rod Next?

Make no mistake, Joe Torre was a great manager for the Yankees. He should be good for the Dodgers, too, but he walks into a much more competitive division than his previous situation. Back in pinstripes, Torre just had to outduel the Red Sox, while the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays fought to salvage their dignity.

In Los Angeles, Torre inherits a team that doesn't have the Yanks' super-talent, and the Dodgers are roughly evenly matched with the Padres, division-winning Diamondbacks, and defending N.L. champion Rockies. In fact, those other three teams were in the top four for winning percentages in the N.L. last year. Luckily for L.A., the Giants still suck.

Now that the Dodgers have made their first big splash by landing Joe Torre, the question is whether they will choose to make another splash by landing Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod opted out of the remainder of his contract with the Yankees, and is looking for a new deal that will again make him the richest man in baseball. Most speculation has him landing with the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, or Red Sox (haha). Baseball Prospectus ranks every team in the league's chances from worst (Devil Rays, Royals) to best (L.A.) here.

The Angels seem to be the chic pick, and undoubtedly having A-Rod there would be good for their team and their market. On the other hand, I hope they at least think twice before going after him. Yes, A-Rod is the best hitter in the game, but the boys in Anaheim already have a future Hall of Famer in Vladimir Guerrero, whom they want to keep forever. Their best chance to win with him then might not be to sink $350 million into A-Rod, but rather make several more incremental upgrades across the board and at a lower price.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, could get their identifiable superstar in A-Rod, pay him the big money, and make him the face of their franchise. But is there significant bad blood between A-Rod and Joe Torre?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tonight, We Were All Colts Fans

I don't have any particular affinity for Indianapolis, but man, oh man, I wanted to see New England lose tonight. The matchup between the undefeated Colts and Patriots was the most highly anticipated regular season game in years, and this "Hype Bowl" lived up to the billing. That was an old-school clash between two titans playing hard-nosed, slugfest football at its best.

I thought the play of the game in what would be a glorious Colts victory was Gary Brackett's ridiculously controlled interception of Tom Brady early in the 4th quarter, which quickly led to a Peyton Manning TD and a 10-point Colts lead.

It wouldn't last. The $%!$ing Patriots turned things around pretty quickly. Brady was ruthless down the stretch, not afraid to air it out. He threw two TDs in less than five minutes to put the Pats' back on top. Then, when it came turn for the defense to hold the Colts, they were as good as gold: the Colts' would-be comeback drive ended with Manning being stripped of the football.

Patriots 24, Colts 20. Gift wrap the rest of this season and let them have it.

* * *

Now let's pay homage to some stud performance from elsewhere around the league:

- Minnesota's ADRIAN PETERSON had the most epic game of his fledgling career. The rookie set the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the Chargers today, including TD runs of 64, 46, and 1 yards. Since I have both Peterson and Tom Brady on my fantasy team this year, is it any wonder I'm in first place with a soon-to-be 8-1 record? Peterson video highlights.

- In that same game, San Diego CB ANTONIO CROMARTIE set the record for the longest play in NFL history when he returned a missed FG by Ryan Longwell 109 yards for a TD. Just last week against the Texans, Cromartie returned both a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. This dude, a first-round pick in 2006, is exciting.


- The DETROIT LIONS deserve some dap. Am I dreaming, or are they actually 6-2? Today they absolutely mauled the Denver Broncos, jumping out to a 44-0 lead before surrendering a garbage-time TD. (Eerily reminiscent of last week's 'Skins-Pats, no?) I still don't believe that either the Lions or the 7-1 Packers are as good as their records indicate, but they stand in the top tier of the NFC right now. Don't miss 340-lb. DT Shaun Roger's hilarious 66-yard TD return:


- While a 4-4 record might not seem that impressive, you gotta be impressed by the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS' play of late. After starting the season 0-4 and getting people ready to call them the 'Aints again, they have now rifled off four consecutive victories. Look out, Brees and Colston are heating up, and this could be the team to watch out for in the second half of the season.

Redskins-Jets Live

12:40pm - I will try and record my observations of the Redskins-Jets game live...unless we start losing badly, in which case I usually am too occupied throwing things at my TV. (People wonder why our screen is cracked...)

12:54 - The FOX pregame show had a video showing Michael Strahan's recent sightseeing trip around London, during which he gave his best attempt at something that vaguely resembled a British accent. I loved when he stoped random passers-by near Big Ben to ask "Excuse me governor, can you direct me to the nearest loo?" Of course, when Strahan came to the Underground and saw the famous "Mind the Gap" sign, I wonder if he thought they were talking about his teeth?

1:03 - Jesus. It doesn't matter that the Jets are giving QB Kellen Clemens his 2nd-ever start and that WR Laveranues Coles is out with injury. The 'Skins will find way to give up points...Leon Washington just took the opening kickoff all the way. Jets 7, Redskins 0.

1:13 - Shaun Suisham just nailed a 46-yard field goal. A few plays earlier, Jason Campbell did a great job avoiding two Jets rushers, scrambled, and appeared to hit Santana Moss on the left sideline. Unfortunately, Moss didn't get his second foot down in bounds, and the drive sputtered out. I'm not too disappointed, because this is the first time all season that we scored on our opening drive. Jets 7, Redskins 3.

1:22 - Wow. Simply wow. Game Break lets us know that LaDainian Tomlinson just scored the 107th rushing touchdown of his career. He just passed Jim freaking Brown for 4th on the all-time list. G.O.A.T.?

1:23 - LaRon Landry just came in on a safety blitz and absolutely decked Clemens. Unfortunately, Clemens had already gotten rid of the ball, and Landry put his helmet in the other guy's face. Cue the yellow flag.

1:28 - The defense finally stepped up, sacking Clemens on 3rd-and-goal to force the field goal. Unfortunately for us, Clemens looked surprisingly good (6-for-8 so far) on the Jets' 15-plsu ftibr. I'm disturbed that he's been comfortable in the pocket and had a lot of time to make his throws. We gotta put more heat on him.

1:44 - Just saw an NFL commercial for Pro Bowl voting. I know that's well under way but, uh, we're only halfway through the season. Seems a bit early to decide who's deserving.

1:45. - EGREGIOUS! 3rd-and-7, Clemens is pressured and takes off running downfield for 18 yards, sliding to a stop. London Fletcher comes in and whacks him. Another idiotic, avoidable yellow flag and 15 more yards gifted to Gang Green.

1:52 - Short TD pass from Clemens to his fullback. Yet another long drive where the Redskins defense just couldn't get off the field. 3rd-and-13, Clemens is chased, buys time, and finds Jerrico Cotchery for 30 yards to put 'em in the red zone. Did we forget that, until New England hit us last week, we were a league-leading defense? Jets 17, Redskins 3.

2:02 - Another Suisham field goal, this time from 40 yards out. Chris Cooley had a nice 21-yard catch-and-run on the drive, but this game is starting to feel like it's slipping away from us. We need a turnover or quick defensive stop to get some Mo back. Jets 17, Redskins 6.

2:05 - Now THERE is what gets us our Mo back! Onside kick by Suisham--didn't go ten yards, but a Jets player touched it, couldn't control it, and Rock Cartwright pounces on it. Let's make something happen!

2:18 - God damnit. 'Skins get to the Jets 4 but can't get any further, and Suisham comes in to kick yet another FG. On this drive, Campbell finally got his first completion to a WR, swinging it to Moss at the line of scrimmage and letting #89 pick up 12 yards. I'd still like to see us get away from this dink-and-dunk and stretch the field. Jets 17, Redskins 9.

2:22 - While Campbell can only throw to Cooley and Sellers (6 of his 7 completions), Clemens is 11-for-15 (98 yards, TD) with completions to 7 different guys. J.C., take note: Moss, Randle El, McCardell, etc.--those guys can catch, get the ball to them!

2:46 - Shaun Suisham's gonna get a sore foot; he just knocked in a 40-yard FG, his 4th. At least Campbell finally started to open up the field on this drive, getting the receivers involved, throwing three first downs to Randle El and Moss. Two potential TD passes, long attempts to Thrash and Randle El, were knocked incomplete due to good Jets' defensive plays, but this is what we should be doing. Now we just have to hold them on D. Jets 17, Redskins 12.

2:51 - Phew, we just dodged a bullet. Clemens found RB Leon Washington streaking down the sideline, 10 yards past our nearest defender. It should have been an easy 68-yard TD, but Washington dropped it.

3:01 - And now J.C. shows you the legs! After we held the Jets to their first three-and-out, Campbell takes off on 3rd-and-14. Not content to slide at the marker, he keeps going for 29 yards, and gets the biggest Redskins run this season. On the next play, Clinton Portis crosses the 100-yard mark for the day, the first time he's done that this season. Now we're rolling!

3:02 - Uh, scratch that. Campbell hit, Jets LB Eric Barton intercepts. @#$%.

3:18 - Potentially game-deciding play with the Jets in FG-range. 'Skins just forced a fumble on a Jerrico Cotchery catch, with Landry recovering. Jets stands! 'Skins ball on our 36, 13:55 left in the game.

3:27 - TOUCHDOWN, Portis! Redskins football has officially taken over. A steady diet of Portis and Ladell Betts, highlighted by a 32-yard Portis run, and punctuated by a 1-yard Portis dive over the top. Campbell to Randle El for the 2-pt conversion means the 'Skins have scored 17 unanswered points and have the lead for the first time today. Redskins 20, Jets 17.

3:45 - After we punt, Jets take over on their 25 and 5:13 left to play. Let's see what we got.

3:56 - Well, we put our defense out there to win the game for us, but Clemens' scrambling and clutch passes almost won the game for the Jets instead. But they stalled at our 11, and Mike "Ted" Nugent kicks the game-tying FG with 10 seconds left. Redskins 20, Jets 20.

4:02 - We're headed to OT!

4:03 - Jets just won the toss, but I'm distracted because I quickly flipped to CBS only to see Chad Johnson strapped to a gurney and being carried off the field, surrounded by both Bengals and Bills players. I hope you're ok, Ocho Cinco!

4:06 - Bleh. Jets' first play, 39 yard strike to Cotchery. Gang Green is in Redskins territory...

4:09 - Man, this game will stop and start your heart a few times. 3rd-and-7, Clemens find Washington (I think?) on the left but the pass is a little low and he can't pull it in. Jets punt, our turn to try, from our own 10.

4:12 - Ahhhhhh...on a play action, Campbell has Moss open running down the middle of the field and bombs it for him. Too strong though, the pass lands a couple yards ahead of Moss on what would have been a sure TD.

4:14 - 17 yard run by Portis, and we're in Jets territory. Portis has been an absolute beast, today, and on this drive. He's six yards shy of 200 on the ground for the game.

4:18 - Refs give a tough spot to Clinton Portis, spotting the ball just shy of the 28 yard line. 4th and inches...looks like we'll bring out Suisham (4-for-4 today) to give us the game.

4:18 - [Insert dramatic timeout called by the defense right before the snap.]

4:19 - It's over. We win! Suisham ties a franchise record by going 5-for-5, this last one from 46 yards out. Redskins 23, Jets 20.

Time to switch the channel over to the Hype Bowl...Patriots-Colts!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wiz Drop to 0-3

Thank God I was out Friday night and missed seeing the Wizards get blown out by the new, badass Boston Celtics. K.G., Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce put the Eastern Conference on notice by manhandling the Wizards in a game that was never close. Not even close to close. The Wizards trailed 22 points at halftime, but perhaps they can take consolation in the fact they set an NBA record in this game. Not a good record though: the team missed all 16 of its 3-point attempts.

Tonight's game was an improvement, in that the team's play in this loss to Orlando was merely frustrating instead of outright humiliating. The Wizards were competitive for large segments of the game, though it seemed like every time they got on a mini-run, the Magic responded with a bigger counter-run. Our "Big Three" (whom I must refer to now as the "Little 3" out of deference to the Celtics trio listed above) continued their mediocre play. Caron (23 points) was decent, but Jamison and Arenas shot a combined 11-for-36. Agent Zero had just 10 points.

After the game, word leaked out that Arenas' surgically repaired knee isn't feeling too good. Maybe that's just an excuse for the Wizards' poor play (the last time they started 0-3 was 1992, en route to a 22-60 record). But it's symptomatic of the aura surrounding the team just now. Earlier today, the club announced that 2006 first-round pick Oleksiy Pecherov, who was supposed to be out just 1-2 weeks with a broken ankle, will be out six weeks instead.

The only bright spot thus far has been the play of Brendan Haywood, who has been the only guy on the floor wearing "Wizards" to show up ready to play in all three games. He has double-doubles in each of those games, the first time in his career he has done so in three consecutive games. Tonight against Orlando, he had an absolutely monster first quarter, scoring six points, grabbing seven boards, and blocking three shots. I hope his steady play keeps up--it's come just as I'd finally given up hope that the guy was ever gonna make productive use out of his seven feet of God-given height.

Anyway, next up for the Wizards is New Jersey on Thursday. A few days to lick our wounds and regroup. Gotta get that first win!

Friday, November 02, 2007

My One Concession to the Cowboys... that the Diet Pepsi Max commercial with Jones/Romo/Phillips is pretty cool:

Why's Tony Romo yawning? He was probably up all night counting his money. Getting lapdances from Britney Spears and taking Sophia Bush out must be pretty tiring too.

@#$%ing lucky guy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hibachi Warm, Wizards Cold in Opener

The Wizards dropped their season opener in a 119-110 overtime loss to Indiana on the road. We did not, unfortunately, look very good, as several parts of our game let us down. Poor shooting, a common culprit for this team, hurt us again: the Wiz shot 36% from the field. We bricked too many 3's (6 for 20) and let the Pacers make too many (13 for 29). Worst of all was our performance from the charity stripe: 13 missed free throws.

But despite their poor play, I don't think the Wizards play was Halloween-frightful. There were some things to be pleased about, foremost among them Gilbert Arenas' first crowd-pleasing moment of the year. Agent Zero buried a 3-pointer from deep downtown as time expired to send the game into OT. (See video here. Ignore the fact that the Wizards then failed to show up during the extra period.) This was Arenas' first regular season game in almost 7 months, and it looks like his hard work in rehabbing his knee have paid off. Although he didn't dominate the floor this game, and he only made 1 of 8 3-pointers, he certainly looked like he had his wind. 34 points is not a bad welcome back.

Like Arenas, Caron Butler also had his last season curtailed abruptly due to injury. This was also his first game back, and he looked a lot more rusty. He did lead the team in minutes in this game and I'm sure he's going to get better, but tonight his shot was rusty and he was turnover-prone (8!). He also missed 3 free throws in the deciding seconds of regulation that could have turned the game our way. C'mon Tuff Juice!

I don't want to overanalyze the team from just one game, so I'll leave off by complimenting two players who had good games for us. Antawn Jamison, the other member of our Big Three (though maybe we should be the Little Three now since Boston has K.G./Allen/Pierce) had an off-shooting night (17 missed FGs) but still scored 27 points. More importantly, he was a beast on the boards, leading all players with 16. 'Tawn is a streaky shooter, but I'm sure once Caron and others put up more points, he won't have to attempt 25 shots in a game.

Lastly, props to Brendan Haywood, who I usually malign, for putting up a solid double-double (10 pts., 13 rebounds). He didn't have to deal with Jermaine O'Neal (sat out this game) so he actually looked like a decent big man tonight.

Next up: much-anticipated game against Boston on the road Friday night!

J. Camp's Growing Pains

The D.C. Sports Bog by the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg takes a look at Jason Campbell's performance this season as compared to the other 16 quarterbacks who have started every game for their team. The verdict? Not great.

Campbell is dead last (17th of 17) in completions, passing yards, yards per game, and QB rating. Only Eli Manning has a worse completion percentage, and only Matt Schaub (who has missed time recently due to injury) has thrown fewer touchdowns.

Cause for concern? Certainly a little is warranted, given the offense's struggles to move the football and score points the past few weeks. The complete absence of a running game has both underscored the need for Campbell to play better, and made it harder for him to do so. The offensive line being ravaged by injury is hugely responsible for the offense's struggle through the air and on the ground, but the Redskins need and should get more production from J. Camp.

(Btw, what is a good nickname for Jason Campbell? "J. Camp" or some variant thereof seems to most common, but it, like his play, has not been "M'm m'm good". If he is able to resurrect this team and become the Redskins' messiah, then I think it's fair to call him Our Savior J.C. But we're not there yet.)

Most of the time, when you watch Campbell, you see a guy with tremendous potential: he has a huge arm, looks comfortable in the pocket, and exudes leadership like a veteran. But too often we (still) see his passes sailing way over the heads of receivers, or him making questionable reads, or (in last weekend's debacle against the Patriots) doing a poor job just holding onto the football. While I still think this guy is going to be a terrific QB for us, it's not unreasonable to fear that he might be a Jeff George-type: strong arm, poor accuracy.

Honestly, I think the patchwork offensive line will limit Campbell's growth this year. The running game is not scaring any defenses, and he needs more time to throw in the pocket. I think the most shocking statistic for the Redskins (who, despite all the gloom surrounding this team in the aftermath of The-Game-Which-Must-Not-Be-Referenced, are still 4-3 and very much alive) is that none of the WRs has a TD, and big-play Santana Moss (only 20 catches so far) is on pace to post another season decline in output after 84 catches in 2005, 55 last year.

So for Redskins fans looking for Jason Campbell to breakout and affirm his status as the future face of the franchise, the answer is one they've heard before: wait till next year.


Well, maybe this is more of a re-introduction then something completely brand new. While DSA was on hiatus, logging one post in the past six months, it missed out on a plethora of fun-for-blogging topics, including Barry Bonds setting the all-time HR record, the Tim Donaghy NBA fixing scandal, Mike Vick's dogfighting downfall, Bill Belichick cheating, short-lived Beckhamania in the States, and half of the current NFL season.

Also missing, an expose on how someone must have put steroids in the Boston-area tap water, because that region is winning everything right now. The Red Sox just swept the World Series. The 8-0 Patriots are running up scores and looking like an all-time-great team. #2 Boston College is undefeated and gunning for a national title. And the Celtics are about to start play with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining Paul Pierce in hopes of dominating a weak Eastern Conference.

On top of all that--yes, maybe I'm just jealous--Red Sox fans must be the most annoying in all of sports! Memo to you people: the Red Sox are the new Evil Empire. You may think of yourselves as the anti-Yankees, but everyone in the U.S. outside of New England can't tell you and "big money" NYY apart. In fact, it looks like the Yankees might be headed for a rebuilding mode (if their team ever has such a thing), so enjoy polishing your World Series trophy and being the new bad guys on the block.

Anyway, I hope to be back on the blog on a regular basis now, until whenever I next run out of steam. The site's layout has been revamped in the past week, but I'm most pleased that the URL has been officially converted to (but no worries, the old still works). Let's have some fun!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

On the surface, it could be argued that there is little that currently distinguishes the Baltimore Orioles from the Washington Nationals (nee Expos). Both are bottom-dwelling teams that haven’t won many hearts or ballgames in years. This year, the O’s are 29-40 and just fired their manager Sam Perlozzo. As for the Nats, at an almost-identical 30-40, they have a roster comprised almost entirely of no-names and has-beens—and only a handful of fans could likely name an active starter on the pitching staff.

But, as I keep telling my Oriole-loving brethren, it’s not where you’re at, it’s where you’re going. The Orioles have languished for the past decade under the Angelos Era, and nothing indicates they’ll be able to turn around their underachieving ways anytime soon. Meanwhile, back in March many people predicted the Nationals would lose 120+ games this season, and that rookie manager Manny Acta would find it impossible to motivate his players to slog through this dismal season. Instead, so far he’s got a loose, fun club that has defied all expectations. Consider the difference between Washington and Baltimore, as Tom Boswell noted today:

Last month, Sam Perlozzo watched as his Orioles batted in the ninth inning against the Nats at RFK Stadium, trailing 4-3. On the top step of the opposite dugout, the entire Washington team was leaning over the railing, rooting for its reliever to get three outs to avoid a sweep by Baltimore. Every Nationals player and coach, as well as several Nats who were in uniform despite being on the disabled list, were all shoulder-to-shoulder, yelling, laughing and analyzing.

Across the field, in dismal contrast, only one Orioles player, Nick Markakis, stood on the top step of the Baltimore dugout -- the only Bird on the rail, the lone player who cared enough to leave his seat to yell for a rally. The Orioles lost.

"I saw it. It wasn't the first time this season," Perlozzo said yesterday. Once, according to a coach, he told his staff, "Let's all get up on the top step and see if they'll follow us." That didn't work, either. But then, in the Orioles' 10th straight losing season, what has worked in Baltimore, except turning down the heat temporarily by firing the manager?
If I were an O’s fan, I’d be embarrassed at what the once-proud franchise of Robinson and Ripken has been reduced to. (And by the way, what’s up with Javy Lopez making like Bobby Baccalieri in the article? Weird.) I’d love to suggest that, under a new manager and new front-office personnel, Baltimore will finally be able to turn things around—but I’m not confident about it.

The city with optimism right now is Washington, a team with good clubhouse chemistry, dedicated owners, smart front-office personnel, some promising young talent, a few useful trade bait veterans, and a no-quit attitude. How about that near 9th-inning comeback in an inconsequential June game last night against the big, bad Detroit Tigers?

The Nats’ also have a new ballpark on the way for next year, with the promise of a rapidly expanded payroll. My bet is Washington’s going to be winning a lot more hearts and ballgames in the next few years. Don’t get too jealous, Baltimore!

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Quest for...Lil Jon's Cup

Is there anything better than Lil Jon's fan page on Yeah, just about everything is better than that, but nothing else has pictures like this:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lead? What's a Lead?

Going into tonight's game against Atlanta, the 1-7 Washington Nationals (with the worst record in baseball), have a big problem. Well, they have several, but of major immediate concern is the team's penchant to fall into a big hole almost immediately in every game they've played.

The AP reports:

After an 8-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, Washington has now been outscored 53-18 this season. Forget that the team has fallen behind by at least 3-0 in every game and hasn't scored in the first three innings in every game.

The fact that is perhaps most surprising is that in eight games, Washington (1-7) has never led at the time of any pitch -- their only win came on a game-ending RBI single by Dmitri Young against Florida last Wednesday.

"We're still waiting for that lead," Washington manager Manny Acta said. "We haven't gotten a lead yet."
I know this is supposed to be a season full of taking baby steps, but...damn, nonetheless!

Redskins 2007 Schedule

It's out.

Immediate observations...early bye week (4), MNF against the Eagles in Week 2, Thu. against the Bears 12/6, Sun. against the Giants 12/16, both Cowboys games late in the season.

Home finale against Dallas is gonna be a must-attend game, since the 'Skins are gonna be making playoff noise this year!

The non-divisional schedule seems pretty favorable. Weeks 5-7 (Lions, Packers, Cardinals) should be a nice soft stretch to get some momentum going. In December, we face the Bills, who probably aren't going to be very good, and the Vikings, who definitely won't be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don't Mess With Roger

New NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is making his presence felt in a big way. The league announced today its disciplinary actions against Titans' CB Adam "Pacman" Jones and Bengals WR Chris "I get arrested a lot" Henry. And it looks like neither are going to be collecting paychecks for quite some time.

No slap-on-the-wrist. Pacman is gone for the entire season, Henry for 8 games. (I guess appeals could reduce the length, but not by much.) That's a major punishment, and yet most commentators have reacted favorably. After all, both players are definitely not Boy Scouts, and their behavior has been embarassing for the league. Pacman has been interviewed 10 times by police recently and was involved in a fight and shooting in Vegas; Henry has been arrested 4 times in the past 14 months.

Interestingly enough though, I was watching Comcast's excellent new sports talk show Washington Post Live, and one of the commentators--I forget who--brought up an excellent point. How many games did Ray Lewis have to miss when he faced murder charges and wound up copping a plea? Answer: none.

So while Pacman and Henry have not actually been convicted of any crimes, it looks like Goodell is making examples out of those two. He's the new guy in charge, and I guess I support him. In general, NFL players enjoy a much better reputation than NBA players. Goodell clearly wants to make sure his players don't get stuck with the "thug" label attached to a number of basketball players.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


In the span of a few short days, things have gone from really bad to unbelievably worse. Sunday, Caron Butler broke his hand, and is out until at least the deeper rounds of the playoffs. It was going to be very difficult getting that far anyway, and then tonight at home against Charlotte, Agent Zero went down. Arenas collided with Gerald Wallace, spraining his left knee. The AP report uses the phrase "weeks, not days" in describing the likely severity of the injury.

Caron gone? A heartbreaker. Arenas out too? To use the phrase most associated with him, dagger! Call it unbelievable, unreal, a nightmare, it's a dagger in the final leg of our season.

Eight games left to limp through, and the Wizards have already fallen a game behind Miami for the division lead. We're still 5.5 games ahead of Orlando, so missing the playoffs is unlikely, but even so it feels like the season is over already. No Caron, no Gil, and we have to find a way to win a first-round series against either Miami or Toronto.

Someone tell me this is a bad dream.

Meat Hook with the Walkoff, Nats Win!

I turned on the TV this afternoon just in time to see the Marlins take a 6-1 lead over the Nationals in the 5th inning. Another Nats' starter (this time Matt Chico, in his first appearance above AA-ball) was done after a short outing. Coming off 9-2 and 9-3 losses the past two days, the Nats might well have easily quit on this series.

Instead, a monster 3-run HR to right-center by Ryan Church--the Nats' first HR this year--in the bottom of the 6th kept hope alive. Then a litany of Nats' relievers--Bowie, Colome, Wagner, King, and Rauch--held the Marlins to 1 hit and 0 runs in the last 4 frames. Still, the Nats' were down 6-4 going into the bottom of the 9th inning, looking for the first victory of the season.

Ronnie Belliard, our third starting SS in as many games, led off with a double. Fick scored him on a single and moved to second on a sacrifce by Lopez. Luck interceded next, when Casto hit a hard shot right to shortstop that bounced off the Marlins' Ramirez--Fick scored, tie game. A Zimmerman single and a 4-pitch walk of cleanup hitter Kearns set the stage for Dmitri Young.

Bases loaded for The Meat Hook. He hit a deep fly ball right along the left field line, all the way into the corner. Marlins' OF Willingham had no choice but to let it go and hope it would drop foul, because if he caught it the runner on third was sure to tag up and go home for the winning run. So he let it go, and it landed fair by a couple of inches.

Nats win. Ensue wild celebration and pile in the infield.

So yeah, this team may still mostly be a ragtag collection of minor leaguers and other washed up players, but they can still scrap out a great win. And if Dmitri Young wants to be our Big Papi, I have no complaints. Bring on Arizona.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Disaster (Nats' Opener...)

Yesterday was a glorious sunny afternoon in the mid-70s with a gentle breeze, and the perfect day for me and a couple friends to go down to RFK Stadium for the Nationals' season opener. Of course, it was pretty much all downhill from there, as the Florida Marlins embarassed us 9-2 in a game that saw plenty of insult and injury.

Two players, CF Nook Logan and SS Cristian Guzman, left with injuries. Our only supposedly "good" starting pitcher, John Patterson, didn't finish the 4th inning and had 6 earned runs. Meanwhile, Florida's reigning Rookie of the Year, Hanley Ramirez, had 4 hits and scored 4 times. Fellow stud sophomore Dan Uggla jacked a monster HR, and star Miguel Cabrera had a HR and 4 RBIs.

There were a couple bright spots, such as Dmitri "Meat Hook" Young hitting a pair of doubles. (As opposed to his usual, say, hitting a pair of buffets.) A much better symbol of hope was the play of our hero Ryan Zimmerman. The Post's Tom Boswell, while shaking his head at yesterday's carnage, stops to admire Zimm:

Ryan Zimmerman continued to play in his own tiny, uncontaminated universe. He tripled, singled, was robbed of another hit and, finally, with his team seven runs behind, refused to give up on a wind-blown foul pop that appeared headed several rows into the stands until he suddenly snagged it backhanded out of the photographers' bay.

"You want to win and show the crowd how it's going to be all year or make them think that's how it's going to be," Zimmerman said. "But we can still win the series."
You gotta love that guy.

But if the Nationals' play in the opener is any indication of what the season is going to be like (and nothing says it will be different), we're looking at 100+ losses for sure. Zimm aside, there's not going to be all that much to love this year.

Opening Day's Best Moment

The most exciting performance on Opening Day yesterday had to have been Seattle's Felix Hernandez. Remember him? The hype around "King" Felix has faded after his mediocre 2006 season, but last night he threw 8 shutout innings and struck out 12 Athletics. Maybe the King is back.

The other standout moment from yesterday had to be the emotional opening ceremony before the New York Yankees game to honor the late Cory Lidle (the pitcher who died in a plane crash in October). This photo of his young son throwing out the first pitch is incredibly touching.

Florida Repeats, Noah Has "No Idea"

As predicted by yours truly in his Facebook bracket, the University of Florida has repeated as national champions, the first team to do so since Duke in 1991-1992. The game didn't seem very exciting and I didn't pay attention for most of it.

What I found more interesting, however, was Joakim Noah's post-game speech. Cicero he's not, and sure he's a kid who is excited at having just won a (second) national championship, but man he sure sounded stupid in his "You have no idea" speech.

The YouTube video above misses the first few seconds of Noah's remarks, but you get the idea. Was it too hard to put together a few perfunctory sentences for the cameras, something about it being a hard season, his teammates sticking together, a good job by Billy Donovan, a nod to Ohio State, the thrill of repeating, anything? Thankfully Donovan cut him off before he could go on for too long.

Ok, it's not really a big deal, but still kind of disappointing. Fellow college stars Durant and Oden, who like Noah are probably headed for the NBA, seem much more intelligent and mature by comparison.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Disaster (No, Not an April Fool's Joke)

Caron Butler broke his hand today.

From the AP report:

Butler wasn't optimistic about returning this season.

"Second round, third round (of the playoffs), a possibility," Butler said after the game, his hand in a cast. "But right now, I probably won't have a jersey on until next year."

Butler said the accident happened when he was going up to challenge a shot by Ruben Patterson and his right hand hit the backboard.

"My hand caught under the rim, and it popped out of place," said Butler, who was playing his third game since missing six games with a left knee contusion. "I see a hand specialist tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll get the opportunity to come back as soon as possible."

He entered the game averaging 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

"Caron is going to out for a long time," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.
This is terrible news and even worse timing for the Wizards, who are 2-8 without Caron this season. Just when the Wiz had got him and Jamison back in the lineup and ready to close the season strong, this happens. His replacement in the starting lineup (will it be Hayes or Songaila, I'm not sure--I prefer the latter), as well as the rest of the bench, is going to need to pick up the slack.

Washington's road to somewhere past the first round of the playoffs just got a lot more bunpy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Search for the Next Terps QB

From 2001-2003, Ralph Friedgen's Terrapins football team were on the rise, with three consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins. Then, setbacks. Two 5-6 seasons in 2004 and 2005, before a minor resurgence last year. But even though the Terps returned to postseason play (a win over Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl), it was hard to overlook the fact that they were outgained by every single one of their 11 Division 1-A opponents.

The primary reason for recent struggles? It's not for lack of talented players (think E.J. Henderson, Shawne Merriman, Vernon Davis, Darius Howard-Bey, to name just a few of late). No, it's been the lack of a good QB to lead Friedgen's offense. Since senior Scott McBrien graduated at the end of the 2003 season, the position has not been filled by anyone capable.

Terps fans have had to struggle through a terrible season by Joel Statham, then maddeningly inconsistent play by the talented-on-paper Sam Hollenbach. Jordan Steffy made cameo experiences every now and then, but was never able to prove himself.

Now it's Steffy, a junior now (he redshirted in 2005), who goes into spring practice for the first time as the Terps' starter. His grasp on the job may not last long though, as the transfer of highly regarded sophomore Josh Portis (the Skins' RB's cousin) from the University of Florida has created a bona fide QB competition. Despite Portis's career statistics of 6-for-11, 1 INT, that last name has people excited.

Today's D'back poll shows that Terps fans are in favor of change--66% want Portis. Should be interesting to follow.

Nationals: Rational Exuberance?

Amidst all the naysayers talking gloom-and-doom about the season the Washington Nationals are certain to have this year, the Post's Tom Boswell stands out for his unbridled enthusiasm about the team's future. Make that near future.

His column opens by declaring that starting next year, the Nats will be the new Yankees, with loads of money to spend to acquire top talent. "Now, the Nats are pitied. Soon, they will be feared. That's not a prediction as much as it is a virtual baseball certainty. The reason is simple: money, tons and tons of money."

In the next three to five years, he says, we can outspend the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs (as hard as that is to believe) and rival the Yankees in their ability to attract free agents. This year, the Nationals will field the 3rd lowest payroll in all of baseball, having dumped an astonishing 19 of their top 25 most expensive salaries from last year. Soriano isn't the only one gone--adios Livan, Vidro, Guillen, Armas, and almost everyone else making a substantial paycheck.

Maybe Boswell's drinking a little too much of the Kool-Aid by the end of his column, when he starts fantasizing about our current roster not being too bad. Shawn Hill, he notes, has a 0.96 ERA in five starts, and Cristian Guzman is looking a different man from the .219 hitter he was in 2005.

Uhh...I'm not sure if I'm ready to expect anything good from this year's Nationals team, and even Boz seems a little doubtful that the Nats won't lose 100 games this year. Nonetheless, his comparison of our team to the Tigers a few years ago is exciting. That was a 43-119 team that got a new ballpark, groomed young talent, and steadily stockpiled veteran free agents. In three years, they won a championship.

Is that what's in store for the Nationals? I'm starting to feel a bit rationally exuberant myself!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Reassessment: NBA Playoff Hunt West

A few days back I looked at what I picked in the East, and that was at least respectable. The West? Apparently not as predictable.

Current Standings
1. Dallas Mavericks

1. Dallas (58-11)
2. San Antonio Spurs

2. Phoenix (53-17)
3. Phoenix Suns

3. San Antonio (50-20), 8.5 GB Mavs
4. Denver Nuggets

4. Utah (46-24)
5. Houston Rockets

5. Houston (45-26), 14 GB Mavs
6. L.A. Clippers

6. L.A. Lakers (38-32), 15 GB Suns
7. Memphis Grizzlies

7. Denver (35-34), 10.5 GB Jazz
8. N.O/O.K.C. Hornets

8. L.A. Clippers (34-36), 19 GB Suns

Yeah. About that Memphis pick... and the Nuggets winning the Northwest... and completely missing the boat on the Utah Jazz... what can I say? I completely underestimated the development of Deron Williams, and Boozer, Kirilenko, and Okur have all been inexplicably healthy this season.

I thought Memphis would be bad with Gasol out (note: this pick was made before he got injured at the WBC's), but what I didn't guess was that they would be a bad team even when Gasol got back. 17-54? Wow.

The Iverson trade set back the gelling of the Nuggets team around two superstars as opposed to one, and dropped them in the standings, but I think it will help them more in the long run.

Injuries are the main story so far of this season, and props go to one team that has overcome them with more aplomb than any other, the L.A. Lakers. Think about who they have had get hurt: Luke Walton, Lamar Odom (twice), Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, Vladamir "Super Jump" Radmanovic--basically their entire rotation at the start of the season with the exception of Kobe and Smush Parker.

Despite this, however, the Lakers are still 38-32 and second in the Pacific, a dangerous first series opponent that nobody wants to play because of Mr. 24 and his suddenly healthy teammates.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Nationals Park Rising

If you weren't already thrilled about how cool the Nationals new stadium (due April 2008) is going to be, this article from our neighbors up north (Baltimore) should have you feeling giddy. Methinks they might be just a little jealous now that the 90's era ballparks that Camden Yards spawned is over.


If all goes according to plan (and of course, in D.C., that's always a big IF), we'll have:

- Views of the don't get that at any other ballpark.

- Cherry trees in a plaza beyond the outfield...reminds of me how back in San Diego, the Padres played in a park with palm trees behind the HR fence, a nice differentiating touch to include a city icon.

- Dimensions aren't rigged...this is going to be the Goldilocks stadium, not a pitcher's park (too big) or a hitter's park (too small).

- Much smaller than Camden Yards...Baltimore's park seats 48,000 while ours will only seat 41,000. Hopefully that means that seats throughout the park are closer to the field, the atmosphere will be cozy, and we will sell games out!

I am dying to go down to D.C. in the next couple weeks and check out how the construction is going. I'll have pics up first chance I get!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Impossible is Zero

Gilbert Arenas getting some national exposure in a terrific new spot for Adidas' "Impossible is Nothing" campaign:

The song in the background, by the way, is "Tourist" by Athlete (2005).

Peyton Manning on SNL (United Way video)

Peyton Manning was the host of SNL last night. While he generally played it pretty safe, he had a couple of really funny moments. One was during his monologue, after he introduced his famous NFL father (Archie) and brother (Eli) in the audience. He then introduced his mother and proceeded to rip on her because she “didn’t make the NFL."

"She was cut by the Dolphins," be explained, adding "she tried in Canada for a while but didn’t make it there either. She’s kind of a disappointment to the family but we love her anyway.”

His funniest bit was this parody of the NFL/United Way commercials about players helping their community. There's just something deeply gratifying about seeing Peyton abuse a group of kids, talk about snitching, and drop the F-bomb a few times. Check it:

(If it doesn't work, it's because NBC is warring with YouTube and is planning to start its own rival online video service, so they keep taking down the SNL clips. Nothing I can do about it.)

Stop the Proliferation of Dickie V

Dear Advertising Executives,

Rumor has it that there are actually a couple of people on this planet who find Dick Vitale entertaining or endearing in an odd or eccentric way. I'm not one of those people. I can't stand him.

But until now it's been easy to avoid him by changing the channel away from ESPN everytime an irritating old man starts blathering about Duke. I say "until now" because someone had the horrid idea of having this man make TV commercials.

First there was that execrable spot he did for Hooters, which has had the effect of ensuring I will never, ever go there. Just now, while watching Georgetown come back against UNC (side note: the Tar Heels made their first FG in overtime with 5 secs left...their first in ~15 minutes!), I saw Vitale's ad for DiGiornio pizza. At least that's another product I wouldn't ever actually buy.

But we are at a critical, Chamberlain-at-Munich junction. Someone has to stand up and put an end to this before people get hurt. Please. Please stop making ads with Dickie V.

Thank you for your consideration.



Saturday, March 24, 2007

NBA Reaps Payoff from Making HS Kids Wait

Last year, the NBA instituted a rule change that meant that high schoolers could no longer make the jump straight to the pros. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, from the 2006 draft on, players must be at least one year out of HS before they can play in the NBA. This meant that guys like Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would spend a year in college.

This year, those two became not just the poster boys for college basketball with their spectacular play, they've demonstrated how the NBA's new rule actually helps the league. Should they turn pro this year (and I have to think it's likely), Durant and Oden are expected to be the top two picks in the draft.

They would enter the draft not just as spectacularly talented basketball players, but by virtue of their time in college, they would enter as immediately marketable superstars. Both are nice, hard-working, mature kids who haven't just polished their game a little, they've developed national name recognition and legions of fans.

Instead of being prospects not well known by the mainstream, Oden and Durant are going to be able to sell a lot of seats and jerseys and put their team's games on TV. So the league gets more money, the kids get to ease their transition to the pros. So far, so good. Here's hoping O.J. Mayo doesn't screw that up (either by injury or with his ego) next year.

Kobe's 50: Quality Shots

Yep, Kobe did it again. Last night he dropped 50 on the Hyphenated-Location Hornets. That's four straight games with at least 50 points, the longest streak since Wilt (who did seven!). Check out this highlight video below showing Kobe's scoring plays yesterday. (Skip forward 30 seconds to get to last night's game.)

What amazes me is that virtually all of them are mid- and long-range shots, or shots where he is double-teamed, or both--and he is stroking them. I recently voiced how impressed I was that he was shooting 54% through the first three games of his hot streak. Last night against Okla-NO he was even better, going 16-for-29 (55%) from the field.

So how long can he keep this up for? Obviously the conventional wisdom says to bet against him, because it's rather unlikely he or anyone else scores 50 points in a game, let alone several games in a row where every defense is focused on him. And yet, it's hard to doubt him right now, since he's shooting so well regardless of how defenses play him.

Furthermore, he faces two more soft defenses next: Golden State on Sunday night, and Memphis again on Tuesday. Golden State gives up more points per game than any team in the NBA (128 to the Wizards last night). Memphis, whom Kobe already hung 60 on, gives up the 2nd most points in the league. Bryant's first real challenge, then, comes on Friday when the Lakers take on Houston. The Rockets have the #2 defense in the league, allowing a meager 90.9 points per game.

I'd love to see Kobe keep his streak alive against GS and Memphis, but at that point he'll be at 6 in a row, and I don't see him doing it to Houston. Regardless, I can't wait to see what happens!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hoyas Live!

#2 Georgetown was down by one with 14 seconds left, but Jeff Green drove, dropped the ball, picked it up, pivoted, shot over two Vandy defenders, and kissed the ball off the backboard for the game-winner with 2.5 ticks left. Great comeback by the Hoyas, who were surprised by Vandy in the first half and went into the break down eight points.

(The official, better-quality CBS video is here--they disabled embedding so I couldn't put it up.)

By the way, some people are already complaining about how Green traveled on his game-winning shot. He did. The refs didn't call it. That's how basketball goes--dozens of times during a game, you're going to have a call overlooked. Props to Vandy coach Kevin Stallings, who said afterward, "I'm certainly not going to take away from the dignity of this game [by complaining]...Don't care to. He made a great shot."

Fantasy Advice: Don't Stress About Closers

Baseball's Opening Day is only a week and a half away (yes!), and for many fans, the next 8 or 9 days are going to be chock full of fantasy baseball drafts. Strategy-wise, one of the most debated issues is how to go after a closer.

Plenty of people are going to tell you that you might as well try and lock in two top-flite closers (a Mariano, Hoffman, Jenks, Ryan, et al.). The idea is you won't have to worry about the closer position for the rest of the year.

Assuming your golden boys stay healthy, that idea has merit. But it may not be the smartest move, given that by going early for those closers, you're sacrificing the chance of going after other positions that could help your team much more across the board. Besides, saves can be found for a lot cheaper later on.

Probably a dozen major league teams, at least, make a signficant change in their closer situation during the season due to injury or ineptitude. Below are as many examples I could think of from last season of free agents in most leagues who saw significant save duty:

- Justin Duchscherer
- Joe Nelson
- Salomon Torres
- Armando Benitez
- Mike Stanton
- Dan Wheeler
- Akinori Otsuka
- Francisco Cordero
- Jose Valverde
- Jorge Julio
- Eddie Guardado
- Todd Coffey

Most of these guys were only good for a month or so at a time, but they're exactly the ones you want to make a move on in order to dominate the saves category. If it means you can focus on more important areas in the draft, and still be competitive in saves through a bit of recycling, then why not?

Instead of spending high draft picks on two or three of those A-list closers, I would go for one, and pick up a second mid-level closers (projected for 20-30 saves, a Cordero or Fuentes or Dempster) much later in the draft. Your third closer will be a rotation position, which you fill whenever opportunity strikes during the season when someone gets newly anointed with a closer's job.

Whether he's filling in for injury or ineptitude, he'll help you win games for a few weeks. If he doesn't hold onto the job, get rid of him and wait for the next opportunity. As the list above demonstrates, there will be plenty of chances!

Tom Brady, Trading Up

Last year Tom Brady didn't have anyone to throw to, and his New England Patriots still made the AFC Championship. It was a rare non-Super Bowl season for Brady. So if this offseason is any indication, he's shaking up his professional and personal life to ensure he gets back on top.

New England has spent money on bringing in two very good receivers: Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker. Both are serious upgrades to last year's unit, which had only Reche Caldwell, he who seemed to have more drops than receptions. Last year Brady had his lowest passing total since 2001. Next year, he is going to top 4,000 yards, guaranteed.

In his personal life, it could also be argued that Brady's overcome a few speedbumps. He split from longtime gal pal Bridget Moynahan (the hottie from I, Robot), and even news that she was pregnant with his kid didn't seem to derail him. A month later, he was getting with this:

("This" being Gisele.)

In short, Tom Brady is having a better offseason than you. Look out AFC, Brady's better than ever!

Nationals: Bad Now, But Maybe Good Soon?

Yesterday, Yahoo's Jeff Passan raised the spectre of what all of us Washington Nationals fans are dreading: an epically bad season. It's not far-fetched to think so. The Nats are coming off three consecutive last place finishes, and this year are without our only superstar, Alfonso Soriano. (You broke my heart when you left, you bastard!) We are minus our cleanup hitter, Nick Johnson, out with a broken leg indefinitely. But worst of all, we are without a pitching rotation.

I'd give $10 to anyone who can name a Nationals starter besides John Patterson (our putative #1, he would make a decent #3 on a good team). Manager Manny Acta would match my offer, because it's not like he knows either. We opened camp with the goal of sorting through 37 pitchers in the hopes of finding some warm bodies to eat innings this year.

Ok, so everyone knows we're in for a long, difficult year. But are we making progress toward rebuilding into a quality team? One thing we have going for us is that we don't have the Orioles' ownership--the Lerners have got Stan Kasten (architect of the '90s Braves) and I trust Kasten to do a terrific job.

My favorite column on the Nationals was Tom Boswell's comparison of the Nats right now to Kasten's early Braves teams--and apparently we're on track, even ahead of schedule. Yeah, the rotation's still lacking, but at least the lineup is coming together nicely.

All indications are that Ryan Zimmerman is going to become one of the league's next superstars, and he's going to be with us for years to come. A healthy Nick Johnson brings more power to the lineup. Last year's trades for Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez also fill key positions with competent players. Then there's Brian Schneider, who Nats fans love. I wish he hit better, but he is a good defensive catcher and the perfect guy to manage a pitching staff.

Boswell also identifies Chad Cordero, our solid closer, and Patterson as the remaining core Nationals players this team will be built around. There's also a host of young players on this squad that have a lot of potential. Also, with the new stadium on pace to open next year (check out this sweet site tracking the progress), the Nats have money to spend on attracting quality free agents.

This team is just two good starters away from being a competitive team, and only a few more pieces beyond that from being a top-flite contender. The Nationals bandwagon hasn't started rolling yet, but I'm fully confident in a couple years everyone's going to want a piece of that curly 'W'!

It's Kobe's World...

...we're just living in it.

Kobe Bryant dropped 60 on the Grizzlies tonight, joining Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Michael Jordan as the only players in history to score at least 50 points in three consecutive games. For those keeping track at home:

Mar. 16 against Portland - 23-of-39 FGs, 65 pts.
Mar. 18 against Minnesota - 17-of-35 FGs, 50 pts.
Mar. 22 against Memphis - 20-of-37 FGs, 60 pts.

Yeah, those are three teams not well regarded for their defense, but that doesn't dilute the spectacular nature of Kobe's current scoring binge. With the Lakers having just recently lost 7 straight--the longest drought in coach Phil Jackson's career--Kobe has put this team on his shoulder and carried them.

As weird as this sounds, Kobe hasn't even had to throw up shot after shot to score. Yeah, he's averaging 37 shots a game over the past three, but he's hitting 54% overall, and a very nice 15-of-28 from beyond the arc. Hot!

I'm one of those guys who hated Kobe all those years that the Lakers had the Shaq-Kobe-Phil dynasty. Only last year did I come around and start appreciating him, and only because he started playing a more team-oriented ball on a depleted Lakers team. This year though, with the Lake Show struggling through injuries, #24's had to go back to being The Man. For some reason--maybe it's becuase he's a mature Kobe now--this time around, he's not annoying, he's exhilirating.

For my money, Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA right now. What remains to be seen is whether that's good enough to carry L.A. past the first round of the playoffs.