Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Masters, Tiger, and me.

The Tiger phenomena has taken on a new level this past week. Tiger has re-entered the public eye, and most would argue that the public eye is even bigger than it used to be.
It leads me to ask a few questions about this new public Tiger...

1) Will people stop caring about Tiger's personal life now that Tiger is back playing golf?
As the spring fades into the summer the Tiger haters will find someone else to hate. Jesse James or the next ass who thinks he can treat his wife like trash. The world of golf will forgive Tiger, in many circles in golf he has already been forgiven.
So yes, people will stop caring about Tiger. They will realize that rooting against Tiger means they have to watch golf, which means they will realize why they did not watch golf in the first place. They think it is boring.

Woods fans
Tiger signing autographs...whoa...

2) How long will this comfy, cozy, smiley Tiger last?
Tiger is different. Let me rephrase that. Tiger is acting different: not as guarded, not playing 7am practice rounds, and he is even signing autographs! He seems more relaxed and willing to let us in, or make us FEEL like he is letting us in. In truth, he isn't. The probing questions from the media will fade with time. Tiger's behavior this week is not what people should be focused on. It's his behavior in August, when he is not the main story, when the tabloids do not care quite as much as they do now.

Rory McIlroy Hits a Shot
Thie Irish are coming...

3) Will you root for Tiger or won't you?
Isn't this the biggest question? Do you feel like you will be judged if you say openly, "I am rooting for Tiger." Well let me lead the way, I am rooting for Tiger at the Masters. There I said it. Man that feels better.
Does rooting for Tiger mean I condone his actions? I dont think so. I have idolized Tiger as a golfer, AS A GOLFER, for 13 years. He is everyone's benchmark in the game. I was amazed at his ability to push everything aside and focus on golf (now it is actually more impressive).
Clearly people will tune in for the NASCAR effect. The desire to see a crash, to see something bad happen. Foolishly these people think they will see something crazy happen. Foolishly these people will tune in and make The Masters one of the most watched TV events of all time. Foolishly, these people we find that the only thing on the TV is golf. Golf without the TMZ twist. So if you want to root for Tiger, go for it. I will be. If you don't want Tiger to win. Do yourself a favor, don't tune in. Don't feed the monster. Rating don't care about who you are rooting for.

4) What is going to happen to Tiger this week?
I think Tiger is going to have the type of week he always has when he loses a major. He will do something very well (Drive, manage the course well, putt). But something will happen and we will say well if Tiger had (driven the ball better, putted better, or not made one bonehead mistake) he would have won. He will be just close enough on the weekend to have everyone playing scenarios in their head that make him win, but none of them will come through. Tiger's best round will be on Sunday.

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer everyone....is it bad that I know exactly where he is on the course?

5) Who is going to win the Masters?
Well the Masters has a strange tradition, and in the past 10 years there have been 2 types or winners. The guy you expect to win and the guy who you didn't expect. Here are the winner from last decade:

2009 - Angel Cabrera
2008 - Trevor Immelman
2007 - Zach Johnson
2006 - Phil Mickelson
2005 - Tiger Woods
2004 - Phil Mickelson
2003 - Mike Weir
2002 - Tiger Woods
2001 - Tiger Woods
2000 - Vijay Singh

Singh, Woods, and Mickelson were not a surprise, but the others were. I think this year will be a year where the old guard dominates. Els, Tiger, Phil, and even Vijay Singh could pull it out.

Here is my short list:
Padraig Harrington
Ernie Els
Phil Mickelson

Guys I want to see in contention:
Anthony Kim
Sean O'Hair
Martin Kaymer (German 25 year old. Ranked #8 in the world. I have never heard from him until an SI article on him last week).
David Duval

Dark horse (kind of):
Ben Curtis
Oliver Wilson

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Red Sox and the Slap Bet...

Tonight the Red Sox open their season against the Yankees, the defending champs and our hated rivals. Here are some thoughts on the Sox season and also a little story about my adopted team for this season, the Texas Rangers.

The player I am most interested in this season:
Adrian Beltre.
A lot of people are high on this guy. His 2004 season was a aberration. Those 48 homers are a little fishy, however his production in the following years were not terrible. He hit 95 homers from 2005-2008. That is almost 24 homers a year. In that same span he had 87,89,99, and 77 RBI. All of these numbers were in a park that favored pitchers, a lot. His OPB has been above .303 since 2004 also.
Take a look at Beltre's stats from last year

Games: 111
HR: 8
Avg: .265
OBP: .304
Slg: .379

Now take a look at Lowell's stats from his last year at Florida before he was traded to the Sox as a "throw-in."

Games: 150
HR: 8
RBI: 58
Avg: .236
OBP: .298
Slg: .360

Beltre and Lowell had very similar years, however Beltre played in 39 less games.

Defensive star...

Defensively Beltre is special. All those sabermetric stats love Beltre, and so does the eye-ball test. The one thing that scares me is he does not wear a cup while playing the hot corner...

Beltre's will pepper the Green Monster this year. I am looking forward to him having a great year both at the plate and at third base.

Player I am most worried about this year:
John Papelbon.
Last year's performance was concerning. He blew the last game of the year. Do I think he is going to have a terrible year? No. But I am worried because he is not the 3 out closer he was in earlier seasons. He lets guys get on base, he had one out pitch last year. Just like a quarterback controversy, the Sox could have a closer controversy if he has a tough start.
Daniel Bard is in the shadows waiting for his chance. Hopefully he won't get it because Papelbon will be back to his lights out status. A few blown-saves could start the calls for Bard. Could be an interesting season in the bullpen.

Most important player for Sox this season:
Victor Martinez.
VMart is an outstanding clubhouse guy. He has handshakes for everyone and is always smiling. His job this year is two-fold, he has to manage the pitching staff (the most fragile and fickle athletes in sports) and he also has to be the backbone of a line-up that has been revamped for the sake of good defense.
Those two jobs are very difficult in this town, especially when he is replacing Varitek and in some ways he is replacing Jason Bay (who replaced Jason Bay).
I think Martinez is up for the task. He is in a contract year and will need to prove himself. His summer in Boston last year prepared him well for the tough long season ahead. He will have Varitek there to help with pitching calls and learning all he can learn as a catcher.


What is going to happen to the Sox this season?
I think the Sox are going to have a tough season because their offense could go through tough stretches. The rotation is very very solid, but as we have seen, stress on a pitching staff in the summer catches up with you in the fall.
Can this staff handle it? Maybe. Beckett is due for a huge year. Lester is coming into his own. Lackey is a very solid third starter. That leaves us with Wakefield (43 years old), Bucholtz (still waiting for him to break out) and Daisuke (growing into a big baby who does what he wants, not what the Sox want). Can one of these guys come through and can they all stay healthy? That could be a big key to any success this team has.
The Yankees will win the division (kills me to say). Down the stretch the Sox and Rays will be battling for the wildcard with a few other teams.

This Sox team is built for the playoffs, pitching and defense. However, they will need some luck and some career years from some players to get to the playoffs.

Sox win wildcard over Rays and Angels.

The Texas Rangers experiment...
Last year the Texas Rangers were a viable player in the wildcard race up until the last few weeks of the season. With another year under their belts and some new faces I am predicting that they will win the AL West.

Are you ready for this guy? Pedro Martinez comparisons are already being made.

Last week while watching College Hoops with my friend Pat, a die-hard Angels fan from Buffalo, he began bitching that ESPN Magazine simulated the 2010 season 100 times and on average his Angels finished in dead last. He was livid, I was afraid he might break something in the room. I said to him (after a few too many lemonades), "I think the Rangers are going to be really good this year. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if they finish above the Angels."
The wrath of Pat turned toward me, a wager was on.

What did the five fingers say to the face?

For those of you who don't know what a slap bet is, I will enlighten you now. A slap bet is a bet made not with money, but with the right to slap the looser of the bet across the face with an open hand.
Pat and I agreed to a slap bet. If the Rangers finish above the Angels, I slap Pat. If the Angels beat the Rangers, Pat slaps me.
My reasoning for the Angels being weak this season is two-fold, free agency and a stronger division. The Angels lost a great leadoff hitter Chone "I spell my name wrong" Figgins to a divison rival, the Mariners. They lost ace John Lackey to the Red Sox, and they lost Vlad "the corpse" Guerrero.

The AL West is also stronger as a whole. The Oakland A's are the only very weak team. The Rangers added Vlad "the corpse" to the middle of their line-up. Put him with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz and you have a pretty solid group of hitters.

Need a whole lot of this in 2010...

The Mariners added Cliff Lee (who is looking a bit like a lemon..) and Chone Figgins. Seattle has built a team like the Sox. Good pitching and solid defense.

The Angels will not have a lot of easy wins in their division like they did last year. They will have to work for wins. The Rangers will have a hard time in the heat of the summer. The heat makes it tough for the Rangers to finish strong.

I look forward to rooting for the Rangers this season. Of course the Sox come first, but the Rangers will be like my Fantasy team this year. However, if the Rangers lose I will be met with the nightmare of Pat's massive right hand flying toward my defensless face.

Brian Kelly's reign at Notre Dame starts off on a bad note...

A really good podcast. Sports Guy interviewing Phoenix Sun Jared Dudley. He was very funny and well=spoken. I recommend this podcast in general to any sports fan.

Duke haters will love this one...

Vainty Fair Tiger Woods teaser... mag is on stands now...

Masters this week... wanna watch at work... go here...