Thursday, March 31, 2011

Predictions lacking knowledge.

Making predictions is not my strong suit. Sometimes I get one or two right (the Texas Rangers last year and Kentucky this far).

However, my roommate Pat had the idea to go through and choose every division, MVP, and Cy Young winners, culminating in a playoff prediction.

The gambler in me decided to throw in the "over/under" for wins for each team. The gambler in me is what is also holding a year old slap bet over Pat, a forlorn Angles fan.

Without further adieu...


AL EAST (The Most Talent)
1) Red Sox - This kills me to do. The keys: Beckett, Papelbon, and Crawford. (Under 95.5 wins).

2) New York - Offense will have to carry pitching. Keys: Phil Hughes, Bullpen (Over 91.5 wins).

3) Baltimore Orioles - A surprise success. Keys: Vlad G., Adam Jones, pitching. (Over 76.5 wins).

4) Tampa Bay - Lost too much. The Keys: Manny, Damon, Shields (Under 84.5 wins).

5) Toronto - Just a bad team. Keys: Bautista and Ricky Romero (Under 76.5 wins).

AL CENTRAL (The up and coming division)
1) Minnesota- Mauer and Morneau need to stay healthy. Keys: Thome and Liriano (Over 85.5)

2) Detroit - Adding V. Martinez was huge. Keys: Cabrera (duh), Zumaya, Porcello (Over 84.5)

3) Chicago - Lotta Power, lotta K's? Keys: Dunn and Peavy (Under 85.5)

4) Cleveland - Yuck. Keys: Orlando Cabrera (winner), Choo, Fausto (Over 71.5)

5) Kansas City - Double Yuck. Keys: I have nothing. Poor Alex Gordon (Under 68.5)

AL WEST (The Most Mediocre)
1) Oakland - A roster of unknowns. Keys: Matsui's leadership of young talent (Over 83.5)

2) Angles - A team in limbo. Saving for Pujols? Keys: Trumbo and V. Wells ($$!) (Over 83.5)
3) Texas - A letdown year after losing some talent. Keys: Can Beltre fill in for Vlad? (Under 86.5)

4) Seattle - Triple Yuck. Keys: Can they get King Felix to pitch 81 games? 162?? (Over 70.5)

Wild Card: Yankees

AL MVP: Joe Mauer
Cy Young: CC Sabathia (again...)

(Note: I do not know enough about the NL to make any sort of reasonably knowledgeable comments. Honestly? It is pretty painful as you look at what Vegas expects from them.)

NL EAST (The Best division in the NL. Similar to being the tallest "small person" in the circus)

1) Philadelphia -  (Over 97.5)

2) Atlanta - (Over 87.5)

3) New York - (Over 77.5)

4) Florida - (Under 82.5)

5) Washington - (Over 72.5)

NL CENTRAL (The Second Best Division in the NL)

1) St. Louis - (Over 83.5)

2) Milwaukee - (Over 86.5)

3) Cincinnati - Under 85.5)

4) Chicago - (Over 81.5)

5)  Houston - (Over 72.5)

6) Pittsburgh  - (Over 66.5)

NL WEST (The Second Best division in the NL too..)

1) Giants -  (Over 87.5)

2) Dodgers - (Over 83.5)

3) Rockies - (Under 86.5)

4) San Diego - (Under 75.5)

5) Arizona - (Under 72.5)

NL MVP: Prince Fielder
Cy Young: Lincecum (Phillies Four steals votes from one another) 

Wild Card: Brewers 

World Series Matchup:
Red Sox over Phillies in 7

(O= Over and U=Under)

Red Sox (O)
Yankees (O)
Rays (U)
Orioles (U)
Blue Jays (U)

Twins (O)
White Sox (U)
Tigers (U)
Indians (O)
Royals (O)

Rangers (O)
A's (O)
Angels (U)
Mariners (U)

Phillies (U)
Braves (O)
Marlins (U)
Mets (U)
Nationals (U)

Reds (O)
Brewers (O)
Cardinals (O)
Cubs (U)
Astros (U)
Pirates (O)

Rockies (O)
Giants (U)
Dodgers (O)
Padres (U)
Diamondbacks (U)

AL MVP:  Josh Hamilton
AL CY YOUNG:  Jon Lester
NL MVP:  Joey Votto
NL CY YOUNG:  Roy Halladay

ALCS: Red Sox v. Yankees
NLCS: Phillies v. Braves
WORLD SERIES: Red Sox v. Braves
CHAMPS: Red Sox 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

 College Hoops Musings...

While watching all the college basketball this weekend I learned a lot. Here is a list of the things that stuck with me.

1) Billy Donovan lost the Butler game.
I was astounded at how the Gators finished both regular time and overtime. Billy Donovan had 30 seconds and a tie game to work with, and what does he do? He runs an isolation play for Walker, who was 1-10 shooting during the game and 1-7 from 3 point range. Walker got a pick and took a 21 foot jumpshot. Unreal. In overtime Florida came down with 10 seconds left and Walker hoisted a 23 foot three pointer with 8 seconds left.
Unquestionably, Billy Donovan is at fault for these decisions. My buddy Pat put it best, he wondered why every single team doesn't have one bread and butter play. You run it, it works, you score. If it doesn't work, at least you look like you had a prepared team.
Donovan threw his players under the bus a bit by saying that his players didn't get loose balls and missed shots. Florida should still be playing, or at least they should have had a coach who could draw up a play in a timeout rather than turning the end of the game into a pick-up game at your local YMCA.

Erving Walker cannot resist a "Hero Shot."

2) Players are hypnotized by the three point line.
College basketball games can turn on 3 point shooting. Just ask Kansas or VCU. Their game came down to the shots VCU hit from behind the arc the entire game. Jimmer Fredette at the end of the their loss to Florida just started chucking up threes. Sometimes I wonder if a lot of these players see the tournament as a huge tryout. They spend time thinking, "I can show off my range right now and shoot from 5 feet behind the line."
I think the 3 point line is great in college, it gives lesser teams a great chance at an upset and makes leads between 6 and 11 points so much smaller than they seem. However, I am shocked at how fixated a lot of players get on the line.

3) College basketball as a whole is declining.
I am no student of college basketball however when you look at the history of low seeds making deep runs it is getting more and more regular. The counter-point to my belief would be this, "college basketball has more parity, the talent is deeper. Making it possible for an 8 seed to make the Final Four."
I disagree with that. I think the game has taken a different turn. Here is my counter-point:
College basketball has two distinct levels now. One level is the "high level." This level consists of big conference teams. These teams make the money, these teams get the big recruits. These teams are coached by guys whose hair is greasy, can recruit well, and after they leave their wins will be vacated. The "low level" teams are different. They cannot go get big name recruits, they have to depend on grassroots and smart recruiting, values, and longevity (both players and coaches). They need a coach who is going to instill a program and depend on senior leadership. VCU and Butler are the poster children for those programs, Holy Cross is the anti-thesis (bitterness alert!)
How does this lead to a decline in college basketball? I think it is because players are leaving early, the top teams are not as talented, and the level of the "low level" has come up. They have a blueprint, they have patience. The "high level" teams have no patience. They need to win, they need to get players into the NBA.
Kentucky is currently playing UNC as I write this. They have three starting freshman and two sophomores. This is a year removed from a KU team blessed with three freshman who left for the NBA (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe). There is no continuity, the "low level" teams have continuity and patience.

Overall, I have loved watching the tournament. It will be interesting to see if the potential lock-out keeps more players in college next year. Making a better overall product for a season.

Great 60 Minutes piece on Bobby Hurley's dad, the coach at St. Anthony's in Jersey City.
Nicholas Cage losing his mind... (credit to my buddy Pat).
Don't be a bully ...

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Madness can drive me mad!

March Madness is upon us, and I for one am stressed out. I cannot go anywhere without hearing about who the favorites are, who is this year's Cinderella, and who will be this year's flop?

The over saturation of March Madness is getting to be a little ridiculous. The only thing that is more ridiculous is seeing analysts who show up for these three weeks, throw silly upset picks against the wall, then pray that some of them will stick. I just saw some guy on SportsNation choose Oakland, Wofford, and Indiana State to beat Texas, BYU, and Syracuse respectively.

Hear is my issue with all this analyzing, you can choose upsets and claim that certain teams can shoot down a zone, or another team has a lottery pick prospect and we shouldn't ignore them.

I have not looked closely at the bracket yet. I am waiting for these four play-in games to get played before taking the leap into the abyss.

However, I would like to offer one piece of advice. Something that you should think seriously about while filling out your bracket: beware of teams who had to play their asses off to win a conference tournament. I am looking directly at UCONN right now. They played 5 games in 5 days this past week. These games, played late at night and all closely competed, can take a huge toll on a team. The Big East beats the crap out of each other, and UCONN took a big beating. Kemba Walker is great don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to watching him play, he seems to lift his game when the lights are brightest.

 Kemba is the key is UCONN's success...duh...

However, teams like PITT and Marquette (early exits in Big East Tournament) could go deep strictly because they are rested and still very talented.

Think about the logic, take it or leave it.

Good luck with your bracket, and remember, when it doubt pick the mascot who would win in a fight...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts from a REAL hockey fan.

So, like I said last night, I am not a big hockey fan. My friend Pat is, and he took exception to some of what I had to say. I thought he said it well, and asked if I could share it. He said is it:

As a Boston fan and a Chara fan, I’m surprised that he wasn’t suspended. The NHL has consistently suspended people for their actions on the ice if they result in a devastaing injury (except for Matt Cooke hitting Marc Savard, but more on that later), as this clearly was. More so, this injury came on a penalty – not a penalty like Cooke boarding Fyedor Tyutin or head hunting Savard – but none the less a penalty, and if an injury occurs on a penalty then there should be a suspension of some kind. I was expecting no more than 2-3 games. That being said, I understand the NHL’s position, Chara was assessed nothing more than an interference and has no prior history of dirty play like some one like Cooke. Ray Shero, GM of the Penguins, said after Cooke’s four-game suspension for boarding Tyutin, “Cooke got 1 game for boarding, 1 game for not using his head, and 2 games for being Matt Cooke.” In the NHL your reputation precedes you, whether that’s fair or not isn’t the point. It’s just how it is.

After the game, Chara talked about how he pinched in at the same time Pacioretty jumped – as wingers are taught to do – to avoid the pinching d-man. These two combined to have disastrous and devastating results. This was only because of where those two men were on the ice at the time. Opposite side of the ice? Chara gets 2 minutes for interference and it’s over. It was a hockey play that happened at the wrong place on the ice. To try and get into what Chara was thinking as the play was happening or what motivations he had to hit Pacioretty at that time and place is both a waste of time and prose. There’s one person that knows what Chara was thinking and that’s Chara, and he’s not telling.

 In case you were wondering how many teeth Matt Cooke has...

The NHL has come to the same crossroads as the NFL. They are putting a product out for fans that is inherently dangerous. These men are being paid exorbitant sums (in both leagues) because they are being paid to be gladiators. They are paid to use up their bodies for our entertainment. Boston University just released the results of an autopsy on the brain of former enforcer Bob Probert, a 16-year NHL vet, and found that he had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy something similar too, if not the same as has been popping up in the brains of deceased NFLers, and the second case in an NHL player. (CTE is similar to Alzhiemers in that both inhibit the brain from functioning properly.) Both of these leagues need to look long and hard at the games they are playing, the equipment that they are using, and, in the NHL’s case, the arenas that they play in and how they contribute to the danger of the product that they put that they are selling.

Chara’s hit wasn’t dirty – even a friend who’s a Bruins hater agrees. Is it unfortunate? Of course, there’s not doubt that Max Pacioretty’s life will probably never be the same. Having watched Savard’s struggle over the last year, I can’t begin to imagine what lies ahead for Max Pacioretty. However, this is a league that doesn’t “act”, much like the NFL. They didn’t go out of their way to make sweeping rule changes to keep players from hitting the head until Cooke changed Savard’s hockey career, and more importantly, life for the worse. Part of the reason that Chara wasn’t suspended was due to the strict interpretation of the rules by Mike Murphy, the NHL’s Senior VP of operations. There was nothing in the rules that said Chara needed to be suspended beyond the game misconduct he already received. This is no different to the NHL and Colin Campbell deciding that Cooke’s hit on Savard last year merited no suspension. At the time there were no rule outlawing a hit to the head with one’s shoulder as the principle point of contact.  They “react” to incidents like Savard’s, like Pacioretty’s, and make changes to rules – and possibly rink design – based on what HAS happened, not what COULD happen. If the NHL was proactive and “acted” instead of “reacted” it’s possible the Marc Savard is still playing and Max Pacioretty’s head never hits that stanchion.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My brief thoughts on Chara's hit.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a huge hockey fan. I never played it, I do not understand it. I understand how exciting it can be, however, I hate that the regular season is a tune-up for the playoffs.

Hockey has grabbed my attention in the past day due to the hit that Zdeno Chara put on Canadien Max Pacioretty. This hit intensifies the rivalry between these two franchises who are on a huge collision course in the playoffs.

A year ago Marc Savard was hit by Matt Cooke. This hit has damaged Savard forever. Not just his hockey career, but his quality of life has been severely altered. Matt Cooke is a dirty player, if you watch the hit he gets on Savard it is completely against flow of the play. It was a blatant head shot.

Chara's hit had same venom to it too. Chara is not a dirty player, and from what I have heard he is actually a guy who has not played as physical as his size would indicate. If you watch the hit, Chara finishes it. He puts his hands on Pacioretty's head and leads him into that pole.

I remember back in the days of playing NHL video games one of the big goals was to check an opponent over the boards, hit him so hard the glass breaks, or time a check so he runs into the glass just like Pacioretty did. Chara wanted to make that hit, I have no doubt about it. He knew what he was doing.

Can a "clean" hockey player make a dirty hit, yes. It seems like this Chara hit was a bit dirty. He finished the check, and if you look close enough his hands are on Pacioretty's head while it is on the post.

 Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hits Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty into a glass stanchion during the second period of NHL hockey play in Montreal. According to media reports, Pacioretty suffered a broken vertebra and severe concussion on the play.

Between the game last month where there were hundreds of penalty minutes and this hit, there is no way that these two teams are not destined to meet in the playoffs.

Thats about all I can muster up for are some better links:

Canada is PISSED!
Canadians want to file charges against Chara.
Tony Mazz on the hit...