It is the most wonderful time of year! No, I am not referring to Christmas. Instead, I am referring to the NFL playoffs which for a handful of teams truly begin this weekend. While I am not going to even attempt to provide an accurate run down of all the potential playoff scenarios it is evident that for the Cardinals, Eagles, Cowboys, Dolphins, Ravens, Bears, Lions, Packers, and Chargers a loss most likely spells a blue, blue Christmas. That is a lot of teams needing a win in the final week or weeks to even have a chance at a wild card appearance. However, out of this assorted group of struggling teams only the Eagles, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, and Bears have a chance to secure a division. Potentially, this means that two 8-8 teams could end up hosting a first round playoff game. This brings me to my point of protest. This season, like the many preceding it, has plenty of teams with better overall records then the certain division winners even if those teams win out. For example, if San Francisco wins out they would have to travel to Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay, Detroit, or Philadelphia even though they posted a better win-loss record by as many as two games. A similar situation can occur to New Orleans or Carolina because the losers of this weekend’s head-to-head inevitably cannot win the division. Meaning that after such an impressive season the Saints would be subject to winning all their remaining games on the road, a task which has recently been a much tougher task than anticipated. Kansas City will also find itself in an eerily similar situation, a frankly I was hoping to see a return of playoff football to Arrowhead! Therefore, the question needs to be asked if the NFL should address its playoff seeding and rid of divisional titles guaranteeing home games for Wild Card teams?
You can probably gather my opinion simply by judging the tone of this post. However, in a more general sense the best of the worst teams should not be rewarded simply because they limped and lucked their way into the playoffs. Is this the NFL’s way of ensuring that all the playoff games remain as close as possible? Is this their way of enlisting more drama as we can occasionally get the improbable upset of a 7-9 Seahawks team vs. an 11-5 Saints team? If so then I suppose the NFL has a minute point, but that does not mean I have to agree or like it. Instead, I feel that the opposite is true a higher percentage of the time. Simply put reward the teams with the best record not the teams who struggle the whole season and end up in the playoffs because they play in a weaker division.
Happy Friday, Gabbers. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I don’t indulge much in mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pies, bread, etc. usually for health reasons, but on Thanksgiving I say “To Hal with it” and indulge for my annual orgy of hideous parades on television, vast quantities of food, and of course football. This week, since I plan to be in a food coma most of the afternoon, I figured I’d get started a little early with the Sports Spectacular this week and have a plan and all that crap. Since I wasted my Thanksgiving rant LAST week, this week I’d switch gears and focus on some free agency and hot stove baseball.
First off, the Dodgers did not take long to get involved. They signed former Oakland/Arizona starting pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year $10 million deal. A lot of cash, but a decent move. No longer a Cy Young pitcher, he is solid (when healthy) and is a good back end of rotation veteran. Courtesy of Jonah Keri of Grantland.com:
In Haren's final 15 starts of 2013 (plus a one-inning save), he threw 87⅔ innings, amassing a tidy 3.29 ERA with 84 strikeouts, 18 walks, nine homers allowed, and an opponent's’ line of just .228/.271/.355.
Of course, that deal looks great when you see the Royals throwing money at back end of the rotation starter Jason Vargas from the Los Angeles/Anaheim/California Angels. Four years and $32 million is a lot of money for a franchise in Kansas City with a lot of holes to fill. Yes, Kansas City got over .500, but Vargas does not buy a championship.
The Royals already made one questionable pitching decision last year when they dealt prospect outfielder Wil Myers to the Tampa Rays for pitcher James Shields. I am usually the first to shout out that stockpiling pitching is a must decision, but not at the expense of young power hitters. In less than a year, Myers has established himself as one of the most exciting young prospects and jumped right into the middle of the Tampa lineup. Shields is a decent third starter.
If the Royals were a contender loaded with young power hitters locked up long term and a starting pitcher away from contending and Myers was in single-A, then maybe (MAYBE!) you make that deal. But that was just an effort to be relevant by the Royals that will hurt for years and years to come as Myers becomes a perennial all-star and Shields remains...Shields….turning 32 years old this season. .
Speaking of the Rays, they kicked off the catching signings with re-signing 39 year old Jose Molina to a two year contract. It amazes me that the catching situation in MLB is so weak that an almost 40 year old catcher with little hitting ability, any inability to actually run the bases (he’d drop dead of a heart attack if he ever hit a triple), but can still call a game gets a multi-year deal. That said, I was hoping Boston would sign him.
Last year in the playoffs, the Red Sox made it clear that the catching position was to be emphasized for defense, receiving skills, and handling the pitching staff. Catching has become such a complex and specialized part of the pitching process, that teams really do not need to chase offense at the position. For Boston, the pitching staff enjoyed having the veteran behind the dish and it showed with great performance after great performance. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had some decent power numbers for a catcher, but Boston did not tender him an offer and made him a free agent in the prime of his career. The only guess there is that the Sox want to find a complementary veteran to split duties with Ross, or believe Salty will be available cheaper later in the winter.
Speaking of catchers, the big move was the Yankees jumping in with big money for Braves catcher Brian McCann. McCann gets what will likely be six years for $100 million. For the Yankees, they filled a black hole they created last year (for no logical reason) with arguably one of the best free agent on the market. Think of it this way: if Joe Mauer or Buster Posey were free agents, what would their market look like? Then look at McCann’s numbers next to theirs...suddenly, McCann looks like a bargain.
McCann’s lefty power makes him a threat at Yankee Stadium (see Curtis Granderson’s inflated home run totals at home) and although he is 30 years old--which is kind of old for a catcher with wear and tear and all--he’s the youngest starter on the roster right now. McCann would be a terrible fit in a market like Boston which is tough on lefties (unless they have David’s Ortiz’s power) with Fenway Park’s 380 ft power alley in right, but no other stadium inflates his power numbers like it will in New York.
Of course, for all the Yankees do in free agency, all eyes are on Robinson Cano and how much he can get out of the Yankees Steinbrenner family vault. One infielder on the move was Jhonny Peralta who went to St. Louis for four years and $52 million. Seeing Peralta in the postseason following his suspension showcased his value, while the Cardinals had a black hole there with Pete Kozma and his automatic out.
To make room, the Cardinals traded David Freese away to the Angels and got back an intriguing center fielder in Peter Bourjos. Bourjos is a great defensive player who has been hampered by injuries. He’s just 27 years old and is still three years from free agency. His bat is the issue (besides those injury issues) but can be dynamic on the basepaths if he finds his way on base.
For the Angels, Bourjos was excess in their high price outfield. David Freese is a good fit for them as a great fit for third base (speaking of black holes!) and since there are no good third basemen available in free agency, this move makes sense for them. Of course, they need pitching first and foremost in Los Angeles/Anaheim/California and with Vargas already lost in free agency they need some help. So the first (of likely many more) is grabbing relief pitcher Joe Smith to help the bullpen (which needs lots of love). Expect the Angels to make some noise in the pitching market throughout the winter.
The big trade of the offseason, of course, was the Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder megadeal. I love those straight-up all-star for all-star trades. The Detroit contingent at the Gab has covered the trade already so I won’t belabor it much, but I like these win-win trades when both teams fill a need and get rid of a player they don’t want. The Tigers dump a player they did not want back and had a huge investment in to a Rangers team desperate to replace some missing power. With that power back, the Rangers also get to play both Elvis Andrus and prospect Jurickson Profar everyday in the middle of the infield.
For the Tigers, it is almost $140 freed up long term getting rid of Fielder after his putrid post-season. Miggy Cabrera moves back to first base (that cheering sound is the Tigers pitchers who do not have to deal with his glove at third base). With Omar Infante a free agent, Kinsler slides into a position where at his worst he is an upgrade over Infante. Now with some extra cash, the Tigers can look to grab an outfielder as well.
That about sums it up for now in free agency. Sorry about the no football this week, but anyone interested in my mad NFL ramblings online this week can check me out here:
MusketFire.com with a preview and look ahead after the Denver game: http://musketfire.com/2013/11/27/new-england-patriots-four-factors-focus-upon-busting-broncos/ and http://musketfire.com/2013/11/24/new-england-patriots-game-plan-defeat-denver/
You can laugh at me talking the NFL each week now on the (Internet) Radio show “NFL Shotgun” Find it every Monday night at 9PM eastern time with the NFL guys from H4TV and feel free to call in and add your thoughts and opinions to the show. Find it here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sportsbar1/2013/11/26/nfl-shotgun
Cover32.com with a Patriots recap and Patriots Thanksgiving:
Look for a New England Patriots Game Preview at H4TV (http://www.h4-entertainment.com/) and a Cleveland Browns game preview at First Stop Fantasy (http://firststopfantasy.com/nfl-teams/cleveland-browns/) this weekend from me and an instant recap of the Patriots game for Sunday afternoon at Musketfire.com.
Thank you as always for indulging me and allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions here with such a great group of sports fans at the Gab. I am certainly thankful for that. Have a great holiday weekend and hope we call get time off to relax and eat vast quantities of leftovers and watch sports all weekend long! Have a great weekend, all.
I know most people don’t talk about NFL Realignment since the teams haven’t changed in a while, but I just think it would make sense. I think there are a lot of fans who end up watching weird games because many of the divisions don’t fit well on the map. I don’t think anyone will listen to me, but I thought it was nice to think about. Let me just start out with a map of how I think it should look, and I’ll have some discussion below.
Each division has its own color, except both of the East divisions are included in the (darker) blue area.
I made a picture of the current divisions to show how silly it is by contrast:http://imgur.com/P0o616N
I also made an alternate version that puts the Texas teams in the same division with the Saints and Falcons while placing the Missouri teams in the NFC West: http://i.imgur.com/QysTKW0.gif
The Saints and Falcons, rivals since the Saints’ first season in 1967 (which was the Falcons’ second season), stay together. It makes a lot of sense to break up the current AFC South. A division stretching from Jacksonville to Houston to Indianapolis for the sake of keeping everyone in the same conference was silly. If it’s not immediately obvious, I’ll explain why the Dolphins were left out below, but I thought at least two of the Florida teams should stay together. Tampa Bay has already been playing in the same division with Atlanta and New Orleans.
I know the first three teams are used to playing the Cowboys, but I think they’ll get over it. It just makes too much sense in my opinion to have Baltimore playing Washington and Philadelphia in particular.
I can only really talk about my own experiences as a Saints fan in how I look at such changes. I did have a bit of nostalgia for the regular 49ers games over the weekend, but it just didn’t have much to it beyond football. Atlanta, on the other hand, goes a lot deeper. If you’re in New Orleans, you probably know people in Atlanta or from Atlanta. There is a lot of overlap of the two fan bases, not only in moving from one city to the other but also in places like Alabama. When the Rams moved to St. Louis, that instantly added a lot of fuel to the rivalry because even though it’s not as close as East Coast cities, St. Louis is still considered a nearby big city and there was a lot of interplay between Rams fans and Saints fans.
Anyway, you get over playing an opponent just because you’re used to it. I think with the logical passions that would develop in the actual geographic area, the Cowboys would be forgotten fairly easily.
As for the Ravens, I think the fact that Cleveland and Cincinnati were not natural rivals added to the intensity of the rivalry with the Steelers. But if you remember, that developed fairly quickly. It hasn’t even been 20 years since football returned to Baltimore.
The NFC North (Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit) should remain the same.
A lot of people in Texas don’t seem to have noticed they have another team yet. Maybe by having the Texans play the Cowboys, people will realize this. I thought it was a really good fit to combine the two Texas teams with the two Mountain time zone teams. The Cardinals are technically in the Mountain time zone all year, but I do realize they’re two hours off for the first couple of months of the season since most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Other than habit, I don’t see how it makes sense to have two teams in Texas and insist they play in two different conferences and also to have two teams in Missouri and insist they play in two different conferences. Since Texas makes a lot more sense with Arizona, I decided to put that pair in this division.
Basically, you have the two Ohio teams, and then you add a team from either side of the state. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati have been playing one another as long as I remember. I clearly remember the Houston Oilers being in that division. Other than trying to break up the AFC East or NFC North, there is no other place that makes sense for the Colts.
I just mentioned the old AFC Central (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston), but I couldn’t think of a better name for this one. St. Louis and Kansas City are naturals, and Tennessee and Carolina are more leftovers, but that could be a good rivalry too. Tennessee does border North Carolina. I also toyed with trying to put everyone but Kansas City in some kind of Southern division, but ultimately either the AFC North or one of the Eastern divisions was going to need a Southeastern team, so I went with the Dolphins since they’re already in the AFC East. They’re all in the in-between zone between the North/Midwest and the Deep South.
Like the NFC North, this one remains the same. I already explained why I decided to leave Miami here. It’s the only spot on the map that doesn’t make any sense, but I couldn’t see any logical way to change this.
The 49ers preceded the AFL by only about 10 years, and the rest were all AFL teams. I know the 49ers have been in the NFC the whole time, but Seattle would be back where they belong, in my opinion. The 49ers and Seahawks are already familiar with each other from recent years, and I think it would be fun seeing the rivalry between the Seahawks and Raiders renewed. Chargers/Seahawks won’t get anyone excited, but San Diego will still be playing Oakland, and San Francisco would be an added bonus. I think that would make up for the loss of Denver (a good ways away from San Diego anyway), and Kansas City was never the best fit with the West Coast teams.
The Fall Classic,
the Red Sox win the World Series Cup!
In the World Series, every game has it’s “Of Goats and Heroes story”
This year is no different
goats…they are not just a farm animal
Goats… the guys who get the blame
WS goats go way back, in Boston we think of Billy Buchner in ‘86
This Worlds Series has had some outstanding pitching from Mike Wacha, Jon Lester, Martinez, Lackey, Uehara, Tom Kelly along with some terrific defense. Yadi Molina shows every night why he's the best catcher in the game. Dustin Pedroia has been the best player on the field with one play after another. It's no wonder he won the gold glove at second base.
Pedroia knows what to do every time he has the ball. field awareness without equal. David Ortiz has been just plain amazing at the plate. The Cardinals choosing to pitch to him has been a mistake that been their undoing.
Game one hero, Jon Lester
Game one goat Pete Kosma 2 errors
Game two hero Michael Wacha ace pitching performance
Game two goats Jarrod Saltalamachia and Craig Breslow
catch the ball Jarrod and that way Breslow can't throw it away
Game three hero Matt Holiday monster shot
Game three goat Jarrod Saltalamachia and John Farrell
don't make that throw Jarrod, Why bat Workman John?
Game four heroes David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes
Game four goat Kolten Wong Wake up Kolten...this is the WS
Game five heroes Jon Lester and David Ortiz
Now that's what the ace of the staff does. David is locked in
Game five goat, Mike Matheny for not walking Ortiz
Game six hero John Lackey
Game six goat none
What does a hero look like?
these guys were heroes
and The Reggie Jackson WS Hero award goes to:
Jon Lester, 2 solid quality starts and wins and MVP David Ortiz,.688 ave 2 dingers and six rbi
The Billy Buchner WS Goat award goes to
no one...what a series
The Cardinals were a worthy opponent
Turning back to the NFL
If the NFL playoffs started today
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. New England Patriots
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Denver Broncos
6. San Diego Chargers
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Detroit Lions
The Patriots and Steelers, two of the most prolific NFL tams of the past 20 years, square off in Foxboro on Sunday and
these two teams continue to struggle to right the ship at the mid way point of this season. The Patriots have managed a 6-2 atop the AFC East, despite TB 12's pedestrian year.
The Steelers are 2-5, still trying to find an identity as they fall 3 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the AFC North. At this point nobody expects to see either of these teams in the SB but that hasn't been the case over the past two decades
Over the past 20 NFL seasons
TOTAL VICTORIES SINCE 1994 (Including Postseason)
New England Patriots ...................... 231
Green Bay Packers ........................ 217
Pittsburgh Steelers .........................211
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIPS SINCE 1994
New England Patriots ....................... 3
Baltimore ........................................ 2
Pittsburgh Steelers........................... 2
Green Bay Packers ........................ 2
Denver Broncos ............................... 2
N.Y. Giants ..................................... 2
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS SINCE 1994
New England Patriots ....................... 6
Pittsburgh Steelers ........................... 4
PLAYOFF VICTORIES SINCE 1994
New England Patriots ....................... 20
Pittsburgh Steelers .......................... 17
DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS SINCE 1994
New England Patriots ....................... 12
Pittsburgh Steelers ........................... 10
Two Irishmen were working for the city public works department. One would dig a hole and the other would follow behind him and fill the hole in. They worked up one side of the street, then down the other, then moved on to the next street, working furiously all day without rest, one man digging a hole, the other filling it in again.
An onlooker was amazed at their hard work, but couldn't understand what they were doing. So he asked the hole digger, "I'm impressed by the effort you two are putting in to your work, but I don't get it - why do you dig a hole, only to have your partner follow behind and fill it up again?"
The hole digger wiped his brow and sighed, "Well, I suppose it probably looks odd because we're normally a three-person team. But today the lad who plants the trees called in sick.'"
thanks for the visit and don't forget to check out Lanz right next door
congrats to my Red Sox, we never get tired of this
Ok, I know it’s been done to death. The obstruction call that ended Game 3 was crap. And it has nothing to do with “intention.” Ignoring the fact that Middlebrooks could not have avoided the situation – any baseball player would say that, and even the umpires, when asked what he could have done, referred the question back to Middlebrooks. That’s a joke, to coin a phrase. Here’s why.
IF you’re going to call it, yes, the umpires got it right. “If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. “ My problem is that Jim Joyce DID not see the collision in question – he followed the ball, and turned back to the situation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WTq1s0aTvc = about 12 seconds in...you see him follow the ball instead of watching the play). When he turned his head around, all he saw was Allen Craig fumbling around on Middlebrooks’ legs. Out of context, it would have been the right call and the umpires followed procedure. Joyce didn’t see how Craig got there. It was a crap way to end a championship game. So, if the umpire determines there’s obstruction it played out to rule. I’m questioning whether Joyce had standing to determine obstruction. The only time that a fielder is not obligated to "get out of the way" of a base runner is when the fielder is fielding or in possession of the ball. The question then is when does the act of fielding the ball end? Sure seemed to me that Middlebrooks was completing the act of fielding the ball – when Craig tripped, he was fielding the ball. Then Joyce turned around.
Rule 2 states that It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the "act of fielding" the ball - Joyce followed the ball, and knew then that Middlebrooks was no longer in the act of fielding, but he also didn’t see the initial contact. In this case, Middlebrooks could only have chosen not to attempt the play…which of course results in a nonsensical result.
The comment to Rule 7.09 adds that obstruction by a fielder attempting to field a ball should be called only in very flagrant and violent cases because the rules give him the right of way, but of course such right of way is not a license to, for example, intentionally trip a runner even though fielding the ball.
Okay, enough hanging onto ancient history. I mean whatever I write here won’t matter – The Cardinals go in the books as having Won Game 3.
Want to know why The Cowboys aren’t going anywhere fast? The same reason Keyshawn Johnson couldn’t get anything done in New York. Dez Bryant spazzed on Tony Romo today because he wasn’t being targeted enough. You can sugar coat that all you want, but the fact is this: when you’re complaining you’re not being targeted enough, it means that you think your teammates, and in particular your onfield leader, aren’t doing it right. Your teammates will brush it off to the reporters, but make no mistake – that’s a virus.
Meanwhile, the Patriots – quite possibly the most mediocre 6-2 team in recent memory – somehow keep pulling it out of their hats week-after-week. Somehow the defense has quietly become dominant. In the Tom Brady era, we’ve come to expect a bludgeoning offense and an opportunistic defense with inflated stats because the opponent’s game has become one dimensional. This year, the D has become the stalwart. It makes for a little more stress, but in a way it’s a more interesting take. You know who would look good in Patriots blue? A veteran receiver not named Branch or Lloyd would have to be a good addition.
Meanwhile, Kansas City is the surprise undefeated team. I was convinced that no one was beating Denver this year – well we all know how that went down –and I was quite sure KC would be good, but 8-0? Wow.
It was the last soccer weekend of the year for the boy…and it just happened to fall on the girls’ homecoming weekend. Do the tourney on day 1, do the college thing on day 2. The boy is just not much the soccer player – he’s got the size and speed, but just not the…instinct. Runs up to the ball and…stops. Makes me a little mental watching him…but then again, he spends more time on the sideline goofing around than he does actually playing.
Be good this week kiddies. We’ll have a World Series Champion by the end of Halloween. Let’s go Red Sox – a Series win in Boston whites would be amazing.