Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog Status will be temporarily on hold -- or at very least, used just a handful of times -- while I study abroad in Rome for the semester. I return May 10, just in time for some NBA playoffs and MLB early-season action. Thanks for reading. Please check back in May.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why Bill and I are Thankful for the Suns

I could open with a paragraph gloating about my pre-season NBA rankings right now, about which so many people laughed because I picked the Phoenix Suns as top dog. But instead, I'll try to make you see why I picked them and why everyone who ever picked up a basketball or watched basketball or heard the word "basketball" aloud should love this team. And by "I," of course I mean "Bill Simmons" will try to convince you. Take it away, Sports Guy.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend Picks

I remember one office-pool story during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament a couple years ago. The winner was a middle-aged woman who picked teams according to the colors of the team's uniforms. If she liked them, they advanced. And since I'm slowly easing myself into becoming a football fan, following a sport which no one else in my family seems to enjoy, I will be doing just that. I just happen to like the colors AND know a few things about football, that's all.


Indianapolis at Baltimore:

Two things scare me if I'm Peyton Manning: (1) I've never won that elusive big game, (2) that cocky Baltimore D can feed off the energy of the home crowd. If Manning was at home, where the Colts were 8-0 this season (compared to 4-4 on the road), then the Ravens' defensive maniacs might not have that extra adrenaline boost to compensate for over-confidence. No such luck here. Baltimore wins, 21-17.

Philadelphia at New Orleans:

Here's where the color thing comes into play. Only I'm not picking the Saints because of their gold and black threads. Instead, I'm picking them because of the red, white and blue. So essentially, I'm being cliche and taking the better story, despite Philly's six-game winning streak. Surprisingly, New Orleans was just 4-4 at home this season, while Philly managed a 5-3 road record. In the game with the most potential to become a classic, the high-scoring offense of Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and company will put up just enough to cool off the Eagles, 34-31.


Seattle at Chicago:

I think Seattle (9-7 during the regular season), playing in a hostile environment against a staunch Bears defense, is just happy to be in the playoffs. Sure, Shaun Alexander is still capable of getting into the endzone, but the Bears have two ways to win this game -- winning big if Rex Grossman plays well, or winning small if he doesn't. Either way, it'll be the Bears who come out on top. With Grossman putting up 190 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, Chicago will win, 20-14.

New England at San Diego:

Here's a game for the ages, pitting Tom Brady and the playoff-tested Patriots against the young gun Philip Rivers and the MVP, LaDainian Tomlinson. A resident New Englander, I can't pick against the Pats without some hesitation, since I've seen Tom Brady each week march up the field when it counts the most. But with a so-so group of receivers and without Rodney Harrison to put the big hit on LT after his 6, 7, 8 yard runs, Marty Schottenheimer will finally get that playoff monkey off his back. Chargers will win, 28-24.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Gold Glover, a Familiar Face and a Japanese Import Join the Yanks

(For my loyal Tabor-related readers)

While I wait patiently to see the top teams in football square off this weekend, and since (A) UConn has met my expectations of their young squad, losing their first three games against above-average teams (West Virginia, LSU and Marquette) and (B) the Knicks have far surpassed my expectations of them (and writing anything positive about them might jinx that), I turned to the Yankees' offseason moves for fun. (My reasoning and free time sometimes amaze me.)

The only acquisition the Yanks have made thus far that I am completely happy with is the free agent signing of first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. A more reliable hitter (at .270 for his career) than Andy Phillips (.228), and a former Gold Glove winner, Mientkiewicz (who we can just call Doug) will save errant A-Rod throws while hitting in the bottom third of the order. That sigh of relief you hear is three million Yanks fans relaxing about A-Rod, even if for a moment.

Aside from the slew of young talent acquired in the Big Unit and Gary Sheffield trades (and for the record, Sheff's return to the Stadium scares me more than global warming right now), the Yanks brought back an old friend in Andy Pettitte. Not only do I get the renewed pleasures of watching him pitch and having my mother pronounce his name with 34 extra "itte's" in it, but the Bombers get a veteran lefty. If his elbow and age don't become factors, then I'll love this signing.

Tons of new names have joined the team, from Josh Phelps, the former Toronto and Tampa Bay DH, to young pitchers Humberto Sanchez and top prospect Philip Hughes. None are more intriguing, however, than the Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa. (I can't wait to see the first fan sitting upperdeck, front row with strikeout signs that read "Kei Kei Kei Kei.") Not only is he lefthanded and experienced, the 27-year-old Igawa won't feel the pressure of being The Man like Red Sox righty Daisuke Matsuzaka in his first season in the US. Instead, Igawa will contend for the fourth and fifth positions in the rotation with Hughes, Sanchez, Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner and (knock on every piece of wood this side of Yellowstone) Carl Pavano. And if the Pettitte-Clemens connection remains strong enough, perhaps the Rocket will rejoin the Yanks.

And if that happens, it's safe to say, Doug will no longer be my favorite acquisition.

Monday, January 08, 2007

First Trimester Awards

As the NBA season leaves the first third of its games behind, here are a few award winners produced during the first 810 games (give or take):

Best Worst Shot -- Kevin Martin, Kings. Defying all logical odds, his jerky jumper (from beginning to its strange, twisting end) has helped the second year guard average a career-best 21.2 points on 50% shooting. It's not pretty, but it gets the job done. Somehow.
Runners Up: Tayshaun Prince, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa

The Balls Award -- David Stern. No matter which way you look at this award, the commish has earned it. He finally grew a pair and admitted that the old-new ball, with its synthetic material and odd panels, was his mistake. The players cried for the new-old ball, the leather version used for years by the league, and Stern finally granted their wish. I'd say he handled the ball problem in the best possible way -- meeting it head-on with balls (leather, or otherwise).
Runners Up: Nuggets G.M. Mark Warkenstein, Spalding

The Home Away from Home Award -- NO/OK Hornets. These guys can't wait until the Sonics move full-time to Oklahoma City. With the recent success of the Saints, Byron Scott's Hornets (12-21) can probably rest assured that they'll wind up back in their original city of New Orleans. But until then, they have to split their home games between both cities. With their three leading scorers all plagued by injuries (Peja Stojakovic, back surgery; David West, right elbow problems; Chris Paul, right ankle sprain), this team needs a home to make them feel welcome.
Runners Up: Allen Iverson in Denver, Spurs on the road (12-5)

Best Defensive Game -- Suns at Nets, 12/7/06. Final Score: 161-157, Suns, in double-overtime. Enough said.
Runner Up: Nate Robinson vs. Nuggets

Most Ironic Statement -- "I'd like to thank Allen Iverson for the last 11 years." -Sixers GM Billy King. Are you like me? Can you picture AI's "you're welcome" coming in the form of a one-fingered salute? Here's a GM who wasted the prime of one of the best players ever. Say what you will about Iverson, but he can flat out score, busts his butt (during games, 'cuz we're not talking about practice), and never has issues with teammates. King is pretty much thanking Iverson for keeping his franchise afloat after he made so many bad mistakes and failed to build a consistent winner in the past 11 years.
Runner Up: "That Wade kid, I think we'll keep him."-- Interim Heat coach Ron Rothstein. With a roster full of 40-yr-olds ... they better.