Saturday, November 25, 2006

College Football Week 13 Wrap: USC Glendale bound

Another day, another slew of championship game wannabes getting flushed out of the BCS picture. Two one-loss teams, West Virginia & Notre Dame, kissed their slim shot at championship glory goodbye with losses to USF & USC, respectively, and with USC's victory they all but wrapped up a date with Ohio State on January 8th in the BCS Championship Game. If the Trojans knock off intra-city rival UCLA next week they will be the Buckeyes opponent, you can mark that down.
That's because all the other contenders have really turned out to be pretenders in an end-of-the-season bloodbath that has seen 9 teams suffer title-crushing losses in the past 3 weeks. Don't believe me? here's the 9 Not Ready for Primetime Players: Louisville, Auburn, Cal, Texas (2x), Michigan, Rutgers, West Virginia, Notre Dame & Arkansas. All of them had a chance to get a piece of the BCS pie if they could just win out, but alas none of them could.
So what went down today to further narrow the field? Lets review.

- Trojans trounce Irish, 44-24, to creep one step closer to the title game

Petey Carroll has got his Trojans headed back to the title game

It was supposed to be an all-out battle between two stellar offenses & two stout defenses that would resemble a heavyweight fight, 4 quarters to decide who should face Ohio State for the championship.

Too bad someone forgot to tell Notre Dame that the game started at 5PM Pacific time, because while they were recovering from their jet lag the Trojans were jumping out to a 21-3 lead that the Irish never recovered from.

The Trojans got the lead on their first drive, marching 71 yards in 8 plays capped by a touchdown pass from John David Booty to Dwayne Jarrett. It was the first of a number of spectacular catches Jarrett (7 recs, 132yds, 3TDs) made on the night, including a one-handed-while-falling -out-of-bounds masterpiece that is a sure Play of the Year candidate; he was the thorn in Notre Dame's side that they just could not get rid of. After holding the Irish to 3& out the Trojans got a a 43 yard punt return to the ND 26; 3 plays later Booty(17-28, 265, 3TDs, 2INTs) found Jarrett for touchdown #2, and it was 14-0 USC halfway thru the first quarter. ND got on the board late in the quarter when Brady Quinn(22-45, 74, 3TDs) directed a 70-yard dive that ended in a field goal, but when Booty ran one in from 1 yard out to make it 21-3, even die hard Irish fans knew what was in store for their team on this night.

The Irish did have some hope in a sloppy second quarter. First they blocked a USC punt that Quinn turned into a 7-yard touchdown pass on the very next play, then they intercepted a shaky Booty (wink wink) twice within a 3:00 span. But as was the case for the Irish all night, they just weren't lucky (or good) enough to cash in on those gifts. The teams traded TDs in the third, USC scoring on a yard run from Chauncey Washington (6 carries for 24 yards), who saw little action due to the play of freshman CJ Gable (20 carries, 107 yards) and Notre Dame getting a yard reception from Rhema McNight (6 recs, 109yds, TD.) But even though the Irish were in striking distance to begin the 4th at 28-17, the Trojans quickly put the game out of reach with 2 quick scores, a 32 yard field goal and then a 43-yard gem from Jarrett to make it 37-17, and the pollsters were already penciling USC into the #2 slot.

So it looks like the Trojans will met Ohio State if they can just get past the Bruins (they've won 7 straight against their crosstown rivals.) Meanwhile the Irish lost a lot on this night. Quinn lost the Heisman for sure- he can play caddy to Troy Smith in Manhattan in 3 weeks- and Notre Dame lost their slim chance at a title bout. Oh yeah, and they also lost 4 out of 6 times when trying to go for it on 4th down. Nice play calling, Hooded Genius, Jr.-mix in a kicker on that team, will ya Charlie. ?

-Gators win ain't pretty, 21-14, but for Noles it's another ugly loss

"Dadgummitt Urbie, y'all are just better'n us right now"

In a game that could have been an audition tape for a new reality show- Who Wants to Be a D-1 Quarterback?- Florida's Chris Leak played well enough to keep Tim Tebow on the sidelines and the Gators slapped back their hated rivals behind 3 spectacular plays and a lot of hanging on. Trouble is, the Noles offense is so anemic holding on against this team means the defense barely needs to take the field. Seriously this Florida State offense is so pathetic, such a disgrace to the great Nole offenses of the past, that I think a team could play about 9 guys and still prevent them from scoring.

The win did nothing to boost the star power of the Gators in the eys of the BCS voters; in fact, it may have hurt them. Remember, the Demon Deacons came into Doak 2 weeks ago and put a 30-0 whipping on this same team. Basically Florida, which has a spastic, occasionally dramatic offense, won the game because of 3 big scoring plays: a 66-yard touchdown from Chris Leak (21-34, 283yds,2TDs) to Andre Caldwell in the first quarter; a 41-yard run by electric freshman Percy Harvin (who was on his way to a big day with 4 carries for 86yds & a TD when he went out of the game after a vicious hit in the 2nd ) near halftime; and the backbreaker, a 25-yd TD from Leak to Dallas Baker n the 4th, just minutes after the Noles had tied the game at 14 on a 5-yard TD from Drew Weatherford to Gregg Carr (3recs, 42yds, TD.)

That's it. That's all the Gators could muster against one of the weakest defenses in the NCAA. Granted their 2 running backs went out of the game with injuries (after Harvin went down, DeShawn Wynn left in the 3rd with a shoulder injury), but to only score 21 when they needed to put up about 40 speaks more about the Gators than it does the Noles. Florida State tried to bring in Xavier Lee to spark the troops, but he was ineffective (who isn't?) in his brief appearance, going -6 for 8 yards. Problem is Weatherford (16-37, 183 yds, 1TD, 3INTs)was no better- he either threw the ball to the wrong team, couldn't hit wide open receivers, or had his passes dropped by receivers who were surprised to find a ball in their hands.

So the Gators have now won 3 straight against the Noles, and Leak ran his record to an impressive 3-1 vs. the enemy. In fact he played so well that Urbie decided to curtail his secret weapon, frosh QB Tim Tebow, who only got in for 5 snaps. They appear out of the national title hunt, but will play in the SEC Championship game next week and possible a major BCS bowl. Florida State, meanwhile, has (hopefully) hit rock bottom, because it doesn't get much worse for a Bobby Bowden coached team. A 6-6 record, his first non-winning campaign since his first year on campus (1976), an offense that couldn't score with a fistful of $100's at the Bunny Ranch, a new offensive coordinator (whoever that may be), and not much help on the horizon: they have the 100th rated recruiting class, with only 1 of the top 100 player committed to play for the Garnet & Gold. Lean times, indeed. But with a little help, another year of experience under Weatherford's belt, and hopefully someone who can run the ball, they'll be back. It's just a question of when, and will Bobby still be there to see it?

Now we are left with 3 possible opponents for Ohio State. We can all but rule out the Wolverines, because with USC's win over the Irish they will jump ahead of them in the polls and virtually ensure Michigan of a Rose Bowl berth. Florida is the other candidate, but with a lackluster win over a mediocre Florida State squad, coming on the heels of a beating up Western Carolina, they aren't about to impress the voters, or sponsors, enough to head to Arizona. Which leaves the Trojans, pending their beatdown of the Bruins, to head to Glendale and take on the Buckeyes in what could be a championship game for the ages.


College Football Week 13 Preview: Pride & Poll Positions

It's the penultimate weekend of the season and most everything has been decided now. Oh yeah, except for the little issue of who Ohio State is going to play in the BCS National Championship Game January 8th.

Two main courses today will go a long way to determining who the Buckeye's opponent will be. Both are heated rivalry games that have been very one-sided as of late. But both games could go either way because of what's at stake for all 4 schools. Let's dig in.

- 4Florida (10-1) @ Florida State (6-5) High Noon, ABC
The Hatfields & The McCoys. The Stankees & the Red Sox. Britney & K-Fed. Like those famous feuders these two schools just plain don't like each other. They may be separated by only 150 miles but they are worlds apart as far as playing style & fanbase; many of the kids were recruited by both schools and/or went to high school with someone on the other team, like childhood buddies UF LB Brandon Siler & FSU QB Xavier Lee . Despite that fact, or maybe because of it, these guys just don't get along. The rivalry was born in the 1990's, when Steve Spurrier's Fun-n-Gun Gators took on Papa Bowden's high-scoring Seminoles with a possible championship game berth up for grabs for one team or the other for 11 consecutive years (1991-2001.)

Lately the importance of the game has waned due to alternating tough times for both schools, but the hatred and the desire by the kids to win this game never fades. For Florida State they have nothing to play for but pride. This has been a long, lost, disappointing season that has seen losses to son Tommy in the Bowden Bowl, to NC St. & protege Chuck Amato, and that embarrassing 30-0 Debacle at Doak last week against Wake Forest. That game led to offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden to step down and put a depressing exclamation point on a tough rebuilding season in Tally. The only way to redeem a shred of respect this year is to knock of the Gators, who still harbor BCS Title game aspirations.

Florida has had a shaky season despite thier stellar record. Included in those 10 wins are nail biters over Georgia, Vandy & South Carolina (by a total of 4 points against teams that comprise the bottom 3 in the SEC East) and less-than-impressive victories over UCF, Southern Miss & Western Carolina. What in the hell are they doing even playing Western Carolina at the tail end of the SEC season anyway? That 62-0 shellacking actually hurt their BCS standings as USC jumped over them in the BCS poll on the strength of their win over #17 Cal. Nice scheduling, Urbie. The Gators have knocked off some quality opponents in the highly overrated SEC (talk about parity-I think everybody beat everybody at least once this year) like Tennessee & LSU, but they lost to Auburn, who turned around and got spanked by the Bulldogs. so what does that win say?

I'll tell you what it says, it says that the Gators are overrated. If Meyer could have chosen a QB, either Leak or Tebow, and stuck with him, maybe the offense would have been a little bit smoother, more in sync. It's obvious that the team runs much better with the gritty, moblile Tebow under center, but Meyer wanted to stick with his heralded senior for his final season. That choice may have cost him his shot at the championship as much as his shitty scheduling. Tebow has led the Gators to a total of 11 touchdowns in limited action and threw a staggering line up last week against the Broncos: 10-12, 200 yards, 2 TDs passing, 6 carries, 47 yards, 2 TDs rushing. Nice. Hopefully Urbie will stick with the QB carousel long enough to let Leak throw a killer INT to Tony Carter blow the game.

The Noles have a bit of a QB carousel as well. Lee took over for an injured Drew Weatherford and played well in a close loss to Maryland and a win over Virginia. But after suffering the loss in the Wake pounding Bowden went back to Weatherford against Western Michigan (Nice Scheduling II). But he played Lee as well. So who will it be against the Gators? I say Bobby gives 'em a taste of their own medicine and runs both QBs out there, confusing Meyer so much he'll think he's back in Utah. That plus a healthy dose of Florida State defense, led by Bruising Buster Davis and CB Carter, will spell the end of the Noles 2 game losing streak in the series, and put an end to the Gators' title hopes, too.
MY PICK: Noles 22, Gators 21

- 6Notre Dame @ 3USC 8P EST, ABC

It will be an awesome atmosphere at the old Coliseum tonight

Another week, another Game of the Year on the schedule. Ho-hum. This time the storied rivalry between the slick West Coast school and the Midwestern Irish Catholic boys has national title implications on the line as BCS #3 USC can help themselves lock up a date with Ohio State by knocking off the Irish. This game features some of the most exciting offensive players in college, and it should be a high-scoring, old West-style shootout in the dusk at the Coliseum. Oh if only Keith Jackson were still broadcasting. I can ALMOST hear him : "Whoa doctor we've got a doozy on our hands tonight, as the stubborn Irish led by Heisman hopeful Brady Quinn take on the flashy Trojans, led by first year phenom quarterback John David Booty. It should be an old-fashioned eardrum breaker here in L.A., and we'll tip it off as soon as they clean Traveler's dung off the carpet."

This game means so much to both teams that it could come down to the final minute, much like last year's classic in South Bend. That game is known forever as "The Push by (Reggie) Bush" because of the way the Heisman winner pushed QB Matt Leinart into the end zone on the Trojan's final play of the game to pull off the miraculous 34-31 win. You can be sure that QB Brady Quinn, WR Jeff Samardzija and Co. won't forget that loss when they take the field tonight. Quinn (3004yds, 32TDs) has shot his way back into Heisman contention after the debacle against Michigan, when he was 24-48 for 234 yards with 3TDs & 3 picks in the Irish's 47-21 beatdown. with a big game against the Trojans he should close the gap between he & Troy Smith, but he won't overtake the scintillating Buckeye QB. More importantly the Irish have an iota of a chance to play Ohio State in the Championship game if the smack USC in the mouth. Since the Trojans are the 3rd BCS team, a win by ND would probably catapult them into that spot, although most experts doubt they would pass Michigan because of that embarrassing loss to the Wolverines.
USC has rode the arm of first-year starter Booty (2417yds, 22TDs) to a terrific follow-up season to their championship game loss to Texas in January. He has had plenty of help from 2 stud receivers, Steve Smith(874yds, 8TDs) & Dwayne Jarrett (610yds, 6TDs), and two quality running backs, Chauncey Washington (703yds,8TDs) & Emmanuel Moody (459yds, 2TDs.) They have firepower from all angels and their balanced attack poses problems for most teams they face.

The Trojans are averaging 31 PPG. But the Irish average 33. All signs point to a shootout, but with a 32-game winning streak at the Coliseum and a BCS title berth on the line for USC, it should be a crazy night of partying in LA after this win.
MY PICK: Trojans 34, Irish 31

Other games:
- USF (7-4) @ 7West Virginia (9-1) Noon
The Bulls travel to Morgantown to learn a hard lesson about what it's like to play a high-powered team on the road during crunch time of the season. WVU still has an outside shot at the title game (who doesn't?), so you know the two-headed tandem of RB Steve Slaton (1578yds, 14TDs) & QB Pat White (2403 tot yds, 26 tot TDs) will be geared up for this. USF has had a surprisingly good season thanks to freshman phenom QB Matt Grothe. Grothe leads all NCAA freshman in passing (2216yds, 13TDs) and has sparked an offense that had gone stagnant under incumbent starter Pat Julmiste. But the Bulls should be overwhelmed by both the atmosphere (although they have played big venues, like Beaver Stadium, they haven't been in a playoff environment like the Couch Burning Capitol will be today.) Two Heisman candidates in the backfield will make this game too much for a frosh to handle. it could get ugly.
MY PICK: West Virginia 37, USF 17

-8 Louisville (9-1) @ Pitt (6-5)
The Cards still have plenty to play for, although a National Championship probably won't be one of them. But they can inch closer to a BCS bowl by beating the wounded Panthers. Pitt has dropped 4 straight, all bad losses, including last week's humbling 45-27 beatdown by West Virginia at Heinz Field. They can salvage some dignity and give hope to Dave Wannstedt's supporters by knocking off Louisville. The Panthers once boasted of a top-rated defense & offense with QB Tyler Palko (2564yds, 24Tds)carving up the Big East. But now the high-scoring Cards, led by QB Brian Brohm & electrifying receiver Mario Urrutia, are the big kids on the block, and Pitt stands in their way of owning the neighborhood.
MY PICK: Louisville 34, Pitt 20

-12 Boise State (11-0) @ Nevada (8-3)
Why is this game important? Because Boise is the last unbeaten team outside of Ohio State and with a win today could crash the party by securing a BCS bid for the tiny Mountain West Conference. Too bad the Wolf pack, which has won 11 straight games at home, is not going to be so accommodating. Look for the last unbeaten to go down, and the power conferences to rule the BCS again.
MY PICK: Boise loses


Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday: Arkansas & Texas lose, Coker canned

While women around the country, my wife, stepdaughter, mother-in-law & sister-in-law included, were scurrying around from mall to mall & sale to sale, men were at home gorging themselves on leftover turkey & tradition-rich college football. I love this day.

But some people didn't enjoy the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year as much as I did.

-Larry Coker gets the boot immediately after Miami's season ends
So that's why Miami won that game against BC last night. Coach Coker was fired so quickly following the Canes disastrous '06 campaign that word had to have gotten out last night that he was as good as gone, win or lose. At least his kids sent him out on a high note after a season filled with low notes both on & off the field. Coker took over the Canes in 2001 and guided them to a National Championship in January of 2002 with a victory over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. He won 59 games against 15 losses, but it was widely known that the team he won with, and that ripped off a 25 game win streak to start Coker's tenure, was recruited by outgoing coach Butch Davis.
Once those players left for the NFL, Coker could not bring in the blue chip recruits to replace them. His last 2 years, when the team compiled 9 of Coker's 15 losses, were marred by melees & mediocrity on the field and histrionics & tragedy off of it: they were involved in two nasty on-field brawls, one after last year's Peach Bowl vs. LSU and the infamous one against FIU in October; had one player shot in the buttocks while another returned fire this past July; their top receiver, Ryan Moore, was suspended for half the season after choking a woman; and suffered the death of teammate Bryan Pata, who was shot to death outside his off-campus apartment in early November.
Put it all together, and with influential boosters all but calling the shots down there, Miami decided to cut the ties with the man who started his Hurricane career with such promise and ended it with such disappointment. They will likely look in a new direction; here's an idea- go for someone who doesn't look like Uncle Fester's grandfather and can bring in some of the local talent. Does the name Greg Schiano come to mind? You'll hear the former Miami assistant & current Rutgers head coach's name mentioned about a gazillion times between now and the time they hire someone, and Schiano would be a perfect fit. It will take a lot to lure him out of his cushy gig at Rutgers, but cash + championship-caliber school= goodbye Piscataway, hello South Beach (sorry Scarlet nation.)

- 5Arkansas' BCS dreams go up in flames, lose 31-26 to 9LSU
MY PICK: Arkansas 24-20
Woooopigsooooey indeed. The Hogs championship hopes were blindsided by a hungry Tiger team that was hell-bent on not allowing Arkansas to celebrate a possible BCS title berth by winning the Golden Boot. That trophy, which symbolizes the union of the two neighboring states, is coveted by the players from both schools, no time more so than today when the winner of the trophy would have a great chance for a BCS bowl bid, and Arkansas still had an outside shot at the BCS title.
But LSU QB Jamarcus Russel was man amongst boys today (well with the exception of Arkansas' Darren McFadden) when he put the team on his shoulders and guided them to the win. Russell finished 14-22 for 210 yards, 2TDs & no INTs, and it was his poise that helped LSU survive an early Arkansas onslaught. After driving 80 yards capped by a 1-yd McFadden TD run, they missed the PAT, but the defense was swarming Russell like crazy. No problem. he settled into a rhythm and guided two scoring drives, one near the end of the first quarter and one to begin the second. The lead ballooned to 24-12 after Russell connected with Early Doucette (great name) for a 2-yard score after a Casey Dick (not a great name) INT early in the 4th. The game hinged on the 2-play sequence that followed. McFadden boosted his Heisman chances with a herculean day-21 carries for 182 yards & 2 TDs, completed 2 passes for 33 yards and caught a ball-and he broke off an 80-yard touchdown run 5 minutes into the quarter that gave the Hogs hope, cutting the score to 24-19 LSU. But the backbreaking, season-wrecking play came right after, when LSU's Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for the soul-crushing score. Game, set, Boot. Arkansas still has the SEC Championship game next week against the Gators to console them, but with their title hopes gone there will be no "pigsooey" chant in Arizona this January (thank God.)

- 11Texas loses game, quarterback, & Big 12 title all in one day, fall to A&M, 12-7
MY PICK: Texas 27-19
In another one of those "how the f- did that happen" games, Texas A&M rushed for 244 yards against the nation's top-ranked rushing defense, held the high-scoring Longhorns to points and 30 total yards, and battered & bruised QB Colt McCoy so much he had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. It was that kind of day for the defending National Champs as they suffered their 3rd defeat of the season, and they have lost consecutive games for the first time since 1999, a span of 87 games. The Aggies bludgeoned Mack Brown's team on the ground all day as the trio of QB Stephen McGee & RBs Mike Goodson & Javorski Lane (great name #2) combined for 41 yards rushing. Meanwhile the Texas stars, McCoy (7-28, 160yds, no TDs, 3INTs), Limus Sweed (1 rec, 20yds) and RBs Charles & Young (80yds, 1TD) all had their worst possible game at the worst possible time. Texas had plans on being in the Big 12 Championship game next week against Nebraska, with a BCS bowl berth on the line. Now they will settle for a minor bowl and the indignity that has befallen many champions in all sports over the last few years. As they say, repeating is a bitch, especially when you got a green quarterback playing in his first intense rivalry game with a hungry Aggie squad. McCoy was rouged up on many hits all day, wounding his already injured shoulder. One play late in the 4th, a late hit that got an Aggie tossed from the game, was especially painful. But the next one that followed sent the cart out and out went Texas' Big 12 title chance with him. A&M coach Dennis Franchione has a lot to be proud about with this win to cap a 9-3 season. But the Longhorns will have to live with the memories of last season, and hope that they can get back to the promised land next year.

Other games:
-The Big 12 Championship game-bound Cornhuskers dispatched the pesky-but-putrid Buffaloes 37-14 (MY PICK: Nebraska 33-6) in Lincoln to wrap up the Big 12 North. The Huskers head to the title game for the first time since 1999, and coach Callahan is doing it with some un-Husker like plays. Gone are the days of the power running game & the option and in place is a NFL-style West Coast passing attack and enough trick plays to make Bobby Bowden envious. Nebraska pulled 4 tricks in this one, the killer a 29-yard TD catch by defensive end Barry Turner on a fake field goal, and QB Zac Taylor tied the great Tommie Frazier's school record with his 43rd TD pass and set the record with 2,789 yards passing. This is not your grandfather's Nebraska team, and they might be fun to watch in a BCS game this year.

-I was remiss earlier by not including one of the great rivalry games in my preview of today's action: The Civil War between Oregon & Oregon State. Ducks vs. Beavers for supremacy in the Pacific Northwest, in the rain & sleet with those hideous Oregon unis causing thousands of fans to go blind- it doesn't get any better than that. But seriously, this game is always a bloodbath- 'civil' my ass- and the 110th edition was no different. The Beavers were enjoying a comfortable 27-14 lead late in the game when Oregon got a touchdown run from Johnathan Stewart, his 3rd of the game, that cut the lead to 27-20 (the PAT was missed) with about 6:00 to play. After holding OSU to a 3 & out, Oregon QB Brady Leaf (yes he's related) hit Jordan Kent for a 26-yard TD and then ran in the two point conversion (gutsy call right there) to give the Ducks a 28-27 lead. Not to be outdone beaver QB Matt Moore charged his team downfield behind 2 passes for 53 yards to Slammin' Sammie Straughter, which set up Alex Cerna's game-winning 40-yard FG. Just another nail-biter in the Civil War, one of the most exciting rivalries in college football. Minus the unis.

Well the final game of the day just ended with Fresno State knocking off La Tech 34-27 in a game that featured a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD and a last second touchdown by the Bulldogs to secure the upset. Just another terrific, wild, and unexplainable day in college football. And it's just about 12 hours away from starting all over again.


A Day Filled with Turkey, both on & off the field

Well I certainly got my fill of turkey yesterday, and some of it was even on my plate.

To say that the games on TV were actually bigger birds than the ones served for dinner around the country would not be an understatement.

I shouldn't include all the games in that statement. Just the two biggest. The night game on NFL Network appeared to be a decent one, except nobody saw it. And the BC/Miami tilt turned out to be pretty decent, if you're a Miami fan & you like excruciatingly painful offense.
Here's a rundown of all the turkey digested yesterday, complete with the dressings:

-Dolphins 27, Lions 10
MY PICK: Lions 23-20
Okay, remember that caveat about never betting against Detroit on Turkey Day? Fahgeddaboudit. Now that Detroit absolutely, positively, unequivocally SUCKS, and it has lost 5 of the last 6 Thanksgiving Day games, that rule of thumb is out the door. The new rule has been changed to "never bet ON Detroit on Turkey Day until it gets its heads out of its ass and stops embarrassing the city & the franchise where the 'football on Thanksgiving' tradition started.
The Lions actually had the nerve to come out playing well, giving fans & gamblers hope. They took a 10-0 lead just 9:00 into the game and looked like they might turn the losing tradition around. Then Miami woke up. Former Detroit & current Miami QB Joey Harrington (19-29, 213, 3TDs, 1INT) accomplished something that he never could while he was a Lion: throw a touchdown pass on Turkey Day (he was 1-3 on Thanksgiving with no TDs in 112 pass attempts in his 4 seasons in Detroit.) Harrington tossed 3 TDs, Miami out-rushed Detroit 186-21, and the rout was on when Marty Booker caught a 19-yd TD pass near the end of the 3rd quarter to make it 24-10 heading into the 4th. By that time many of the fans who came to boo Harrington had left, and there were plenty of them. It got ridiculous at one point. I mean was he alone the reason the Lions have sucked for so many years? He's gone now and they still suck, so who they gonna boo now? Oh yeah, they turned their ire towards team pres Matt Millen. Talk about an f'd up organization. Poor Rod Marinelli. He wanted to be a head coach so bad, but he should have just waited for Chucky to get booted in Tampa. It was an ugly way to start Turkey Day. I think fans should start a petition to take the Lions off Thanksgiving until they decide to be good again; all that turkey + watching those turkeys= a lot of indigestion.

-Cowboys 38, Bucs 10
MY PICK: Cowboys 31-13
Speaking of indigestion, we had plenty of it from the second game. What could be more sickening than watching the Bucs get sliced like a Butterball, Terrell Owens celebrating after a touchdown, and new Dallas cult hero Tony Romo breaking a record that neither Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach had held? Answer for Bucs fans & Cowboy haters: nothing. The Bucs, like the Lions, started off strong, giving their fans and fans around the country who were praying for a decent game (false)hope. Alas it didn't last long. The Bucs drove the length of the field on their opening drive on the strength of short Cadillac runs sandwiched around a 53 yard pass from Gradkowski to Galloway. By the time Alstott rumbled in from the one for a 7-0 lead just thru the 1st quarter, people in Tampa Bay were spitting out their stuffing in shock that the Bucs scored on their first drive. Too bad it would be the only time all day that the Bucs crossed midfield.
By the time halftime rolled around Romo had thrown 3 TDs, the Cowboys led 21-10, and the rout was on. Although Tampa Bay ran the ball (101yds) much better than most had expected against Dallas' stingy run defense, Gradkowski continues to be a mystery at the QB position. He cannot get his timing with Galloway down. Many times the former Cowboy receiver had broken open downfield, only to have to stop or backtrack to catch up to Gradkowski's lame pass. He's just too fast for the Rocket to catch up to. Granted Gradkowski did make some plays with his legs, but if a QB can't hit his top target on fly patters deep down the field, then what the hell is the use? Too bad they couldn't graft Chris Simms' arm onto Gradkowski's body to create a Super QB. The second half was all Dallas. Romo (22-29, 306, 5TDs) continued his assault on the record books, and when the smoke cleared (from TB's secondary getting burned more than a blunt at a Snoop Dogg party), he owned a record that no Dallas QB in the storied history of the franchise had accomplished: he ended with 5 touchdown passes on Turkey Day, tying a Dallas overall record, but the only one to do it on Thanksgiving Day. Oh great, another reason for the fans & media to go nuts over him. Look I like the kid- he's got talent, smarts, and it appears he can make most any type of pass (lord knows he made all kinds against the Bucs),but they're already anointing this kid as the Second Coming after 5 games. Wait 'til he's played a full season in the NFL, when defenses gear up to stop him, to decide if he's the best thing ever.
One thing's for sure: this edition of the Bucs might be one of their worst ever. Now that's an accomplishment.

-Miami 17, Boston College 14
MY PICK: Miami 27-26
I might have had the score a bit high, but I had the outcome pegged. There were just too many things working against BC for them to win this game. As if it wasn't bad enough that this was the 22nd Anniversary of the Miracle in Miami Flutie-to-Phelan game, but to shove it down Miami's throats by having Flutie in the booth, Phelan on the phone, and showing the replay of the Catch about a zillion times leading up to the game was just playing with fire. it's bad enough to lose a game like that; it might be worse to be reminded of it ad nauseaum for a week leading up to the anniversary game. By the time the game rolled around the Canes wanted to toss Fltie into the Atlantic, put Phelan on a non-stop trip to Uganda, and burn all tapes of that classic contest. On top of all of that you had Miami playing the game for their recently killed senior leader, Bryan Pata, who was slain outside his apartment last month, and for coah Larry Coker, who was all but assured of being canned right after the season ends. A lot of karma going against BC, and then Miami came out and played defense like the Canes of old, holding the Eagles to 193 total yards-just 24 rushing- and QB Matt Ryan (7-34, 169, INT) all night long. BC took the lead first on an Andre Callender 5-yard TD run, and added to their lead when stud DB Dejuan Tribble returned the first of his 3 interceptions for a touchdown after a horrendous throwaway near his own end zone by Miami QB Kirby Freeman.
But the Canes dug deep in the second half and found the will to win this one for the Coker. One can only suspect what his halftime speech sounded like: "look, everyone knows I'm a goner as soon as the season ends, If you guys have any pride yo will go out there and win this game. Don't worry about me- I have a lucrative career as an Uncle Fester impersonator awaiting me after I leave here. But do this for Bryan, for yourselves, and to stop all those blasted replays of the Catch." Or something like that. Whatever it was, it worked, because Freeman (13-26, 181, 1TD, 3INTs) bounced back and ed a long drive in the 3rd quarter that turned out to be the winning points. It was an emotional victory for Miami, and a crushing defeat for the Eagles; they now are out of the running for BCS bowl, and it's all because of karma, baby.

Lesson learned: don't rub a monumental loss in the face of a team that has faced tragedy & adversity all year. It's called extra incentive, and Miami rode it to an emotional win.

-Chiefs 19, Broncos 10
MY PICK: Chiefs 24-21
I'm not going to say much about this game because, well I'm pissed that there is NFL action on Thanksgiving night and I can't watch it, that's why. It seemed like an exciting, hard-hitting rivalry game. The Chiefs (7-4) continued their resurgence by pounding their Hammer of God (sorry, Gears of War reference-that game is addicting. By the way, that add campaign, where they show a humongous creature crawling out of the ground as the haunting Donnie Darko song "Mad World" by Michael Andrews plays? it works) Larry Johnson a ground-breaking 34 times for 157 yards as KC won for the 5th time in their last 6 games. Johnson also scored a TD and he has been carrying the load offensively during this streak; he now leads the NFL with 202 yards. Jake Plummer (25-39, 16yds, 1TD, 1INT) did nothing to prove that he should keep his job, leading to even more speculation that rookie Jay Cutler will take the helm for Denver when they play Seattle a week from Sunday. And the vaunted Bronco running game? How 'bout a puny 8 yards on the ground, to a staggering 23 for KC. Yikes. The AFC West is now a complete dogfight, with San Diego leading at 8-3, but KC & Denver nipping at their heels at 7-4. And both of these teams travel to San Diego, on Dec. 10th (Den) & 17th(KC.)
Okay, so now that I've digested all that horrible football, and all of my wife's awesome turkey, dressing and desserts (she made a mean pumpkin pie this year), it's time to dig in to Day 2, Post Turkey Day aftermath. Plenty of action on tap, and plenty of leftovers waiting to be consumed.

-Texas A&M (8-3) @ Texas (9-2) High Noon EST ABC
Colt McCoy is back and he will get his first taste of this annual post-holiday rivalry as the Longhorns try to get to a major BCS bowl despite their stunning 2nd loss to K-State a couple of weeks ago. This game used to be a battle of Big 12 heavyweights, but with one team owning a National Championship and the other coming out of years of mediocrity, it goes back to being a plain old hate-filled rivalry game. Should be close, but Texas is too strong with Colt 45 (27TDs, 2100 yds), RBs Jamaal Charles & Selvin Young (301 yds, 12 TDs combined) and WR Limas Sweed (17 yds, 11 TDs) for A&M to handle.
MY PICK: Texas 27-19

-LSU (9-2) @ Arkansas (10-1) 2:30 CBS
This should be the game of the day and possible one of the best games of the weekend. Two SEC heavyweights go at it with BCS implications on the line for the Hogs and the hopes of spoiling that bid for LSU. Arkansas, which has not lost since their season opener to USC, has already secured a spot in the SEC Championship game next week against Florida. But with a win today over a good LSU team and next week over the Gators the Hogs still have a small chance at making it to Glendale for the BCS title game. They need about 45 other things to happen for them to get there, but they have a shot and they will be playing with an extra fire today. LSU has won the past 3 meetings, and talented QB Jamarcus Russel will be a tough test for the Razorback's defense. But Arkansas also has a guy that not many teams can handle, RB Darren McFadden, who is suddenly on the Heisamn watch with 303 yards & 12 TDs. If he has a big game today he will be in the hunt for the Heisman, the Hogs will be in ther hunt for the SEC & National title, and they will be shouting "wooooopigsooooeeeyyyy" till the cows come home down in Hogland.
MY PICK: Razorbacks 24-20

-Colorado (2-9) @ 23Nebraska (8-3) 3:30 ABC
The Buffs truly suck, having fallen into the abyss after the Gary Barnett Era scarred the program for life. Nebraska has had a decent season under former Raider whipping boy Coach Bill Callahan and will head to the Big 12 Championship game next week. So there isn't much to play for in this rivalry game other than pride & bragging rights. This game dates back to the heated days of the old Big 8, when the contest decided the conference champion each of the final 7 years. Now since the game moved to the day after Thanksgiving in 1996 Nebraska has won 7 of 10. No matter, it's a post-Turkey day tradition that is usually fun to watch, and I hope there is snow blowing around and someone gets their helmet knocked off.
MY PICK: Nebraska 33-6


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks on Turkey Day

The best holiday of the year is upon us (gorging on food & football, how can you top that?), so I thought it would be a good time to go over the Top 10 things a sports fan has to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day 2006:

10.) Terrel Owens is playing football on the biggest day for turkeys in all the land

9.) The Red Sox turning into the Little Empire, tossing around $50 mil of the Nation's money just to talk to a Japanese pitcher. Like that great Alice in Chains song goes, "No Excuses"

8.) Tiger Woods racking up tournament wins like Michael Richards racks up racial epithets. Folks, we are witnessing the one of if not the greatest player ever in his prime. Don't take him for granted. Even if he is a robotic jackass(but his wife's smokin')

7.) That the players involved in that horrific on campus shooting at Duquesne two months ago are now all recovering nicely, including the one with bullet fragments in his brain

6.) That TomKat finally got married. Maybe now we can stop hearing about that Sine-O Freakshow for a while

5.) That Indiana football head coach Terry Hoeppner recovered enough from his second brain surgery to return to the sidelines and guide his team to a respectable 5-7 season, including wins over #15 Iowa & Michigan State

4.) That we have had more great college football games in one season than the past 6 years combined (Ohio St./Texas, Louisville/West Virginia, Louisville/Rutgers, Ohio State/Michigan)and there's still plenty to come

3.) That we get to see LaDanianTomlinson play on a weekly basis (see #8)

2.) That the Stankees went another season without winning a World Series (new Bronx cheer: "Stuck on 26, stuck on 26...")

1.) That because of our superhuman troops I am able to spend the holidays with my family in a comfortable environment. We love you guys and give thanks every day for what you are doing for our country. Be safe and come home soon.

If I could add an 11th entry it would be that we get a healthy dose of pigskin on the day we stuff ourselves with turkey. Of course the Lions & Cowboys are playing (when that tradition ends will truly be the sign of the apocalypse), but this year we have an added treat: a rematch of the classic 1984 Thanksgiving Day tilt, Boston College/Miami, 22 years ago to the day. Growing up in Beantown that game, where BC won on a last-second Hail Mary pass from Flutie to Phelan, was one of my earliest college football memories of the greatest game ever played at that time.
Let's take a look at the games and break them down, Turkey Day style:

-Miami Dolphins(4-6) @ Detroit Lions(2-8) 12:30 CBS
The team that started the tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day takes the field against the quarterback they had high hopes for but who was unceremoniously dumped after last season, his 4th with the team. When Detroit took Joey Harrington with the 3rd overall pick in the 2002 draft they envisioned him as a leader of a high powered offense for a decade to come. Despite drafting high-flying wide receivers as his targets three years in a row, Harrington & the offense never material materialized as any kind of force, let alone a potent one. In the off season the Lions granted Harrington's request to be let out of th personal hell he was in and the Fins picked him up as insurance for gimpy Duante Culpepper. Wouldn't you know it Culpepper went down in the 3rd game and Harrington has guided Miami to 3 straight wins to get the disappointing team back into playoff contention. So the game has that acrimonious backdrop: Harrington desperately wants to show Detroit they were wrong for hanging him out to dry for all of the teams woes, and Detroit will want to smack down the QB who couldn't get the job done and then asked to be let out of Motown. One thing's for sure: although Miami is streaking and disappointing Detroit is slumping (losses to San Fran & Arizona), jst like Samuel L. Jackson said "never bet against black", you NEVER bet against the Lions on Turkey Day (even though they've lost 4 of the last 5 on the holiday.), no matter how horrible they are. I mean they invented the freakin' tradition for crying out loud. You can't f- with that kind of karma. MY WISHBONE PICK: Lions 23, Fins 20

-Tampa Bay Bucs (3-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
All I can think about is how much better this day would be if the Bucs were actually good enough to win this game. They finally get a chance to play on Turkey Day and they are the ones playing the role of gobblers. Although they are coming off that "awesome" victory over the hapless Redskins Sunday they are currently finishing their mind-boggling journey of 3 games in 11 days. Whoever made this schedule should be taken outside and forced to watch T.O.D. press conferences for 72 hours straight. The Bucs come limping into this game as well, with Simeon Rice being placed on injured reserve, ending his season, and fellow defensive players Shelton Quarles, Juron Bolden and Ellis Wyms inactive for the game. On the offense TE Alex Smith will also miss the game after injuring his ankle in the Skins game. Meanwhile, four weeks ago Dallas was floundering under the guidance of Drew Bledsoe, who never met an interception he couldn't throw. Romo has come in to guide the team to wins in 3 of the last 4 games, and his one loss was that crazy last-second FG game against the Skins. There is legitimate ROMO Fever taking over Big D, and there might be legitimate reason to get excite. The kid is smart, mobile, accurate, and efficient and his teammates, especially Owens, have embraced him as the true leader of the team. With him and receivers Owens & Terry Glenn carving up the Bucs horrendous secondary like birds it could be an ugly holiday for the Boys from the Bay. Caddy won't be able to run against the tough Cowboy running D, which will force Rocket Gradkowski to throw like 50 times again. MAYBE, if Dallas has a hangover from handing Indy its first loss of the season Sunday, the Bucs can keep it close. IF Caddy can duplicate his 100+ yard performance of last week, and IF Gradkowski can hit Galloway on a deep pass or 2, and IF A-Train rumbles around Texas Stadium like the A-Train of old, and IF Bucs DB's Cox, Phillips and Will Allen don't get burned like Grandma's stuffing, then MAYBE they have a chance to steal this one.
Just in case perhaps Dallas can re-sign Leon Lett.
MY PICK: Dallas 31, Tampa Bay 13

- 18 Boston College (9-2) @ Miami (5-6) 7:30, ESPN
Like I said up top this game is a rematch of one of the greatest college football game ever played, known simply as "The Miracle in Miami." On that night 22 years ago today the Boston College Eagles, led by Heisman Trophy winner-to-be Doug Fluite, staged a last-second comeback on the strength of a Hail Mary pass to pull off what was truly a miraculous win. But the fact that goes unnoticed about the game is that the entire game was awesome, not just the ending. Two great schools led by two great quarterbacks (the Canes had a kid named Bernie Kosar behind center) went toe-to-toe for 60 minutes, back & forth exchanging leads until that final play. The Eagles have not beaten Miami since that game.
In an ironic twist Flutie will be in the broadcast booth for ESPN tonight, the exact anniversary date of the Game, and his nephew Billy will be on the Eagles' bench. Also, BC has a chance to become the first team to win 10 games since that 1984 squad (cue the Twilight Zone music now please.) Miami is reeling from the shock of the death of senior DE Bryan Pata last month and an ugly brawl against FIU in mid-October. And their starting QB, Kyle Wright, was lost for the season 2 weeks ago, so sophomore Kirby Freeman will make his third career start tonight. Coach Larry Coker is all but a dead man walking as he is expected to be canned immediately following this disappointing & tragic season. The Canes have absolutely nothing to play for except pride, the love of their coach, and revenge for heartbreaking loss suffered 22 years ago tonight. Good enough for me.
MY PICK: Canes 27, Eagles 26 (Miracle in Miami II?)

-Denver Broncos (7-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) 8PM NFL NETWORK
A new tradition begins as the NFL Network will broadcast its first live NFL game since its inception 3 years ago. Too bad only about 457 people in the US will be able to watch it because half of the country doesn't get the satellite-only channel. That includes #1 media market New York, and yours truly as well.
So in my eyes this game doesn't exist. I surely am not going to be able to drag myself off the couch and head to the local sports tavern to catch the game, although it should be an old AFC West style doozy. Denver needs the win to keep pace with San Diego in the division, but KC is rolling, thanks to the improved play of RB Larry Johnson, who has run for an average of 136 YPG over his last 5 games,and the return of team leader QB Trent Green, who missed 8 games while recovering from the effects of a concussion. But Denver is one of the staunchest teams against the run, allowing just over 90 yards/game, so it will be a test of each team's strengths to decide who will come out on top. If anybody's watching.
Little bit of advice: Never go against KC at home in November & December.
MY PICK: Chiefs 24, Broncos 21


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hot Stove from chilly Florida

The temps have finally dropped from our normal high of 75-85 to a crisp 65, dipping as low as...wait for it...52 degrees as I type right now, with a brisk wind. (quit laughing)

So I'm going to fire up the hot stove, mainly because the stories going on in baseball now are more interesting than anything else; I mean if I hear the words "Michigan" & "Ohio State" again I'm going to pull a new Bond on somebody(it won't be pretty.)

There are all kinds of crazy goings on in the M-L-B, from post-Awards fallout to ludicrous free agent signings. Oh, plus Shaughnessy's column in the Globe today declaring Manny quit on the team & the fans and should be run out of The Hub on a rail, pronto.

-Matsuzaka wined & dined by Sox brass in Malibu
Like an episode of a cheesy game show, call it The Bachelor: Asian Edition, (not so) free agent Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was given the royal treatment by Red Sox ownership over the weekend. He was flown to Boston chairman Tom Werner's (as in Carsey-Warner, married television moguls) Malibu mansion where he had dinner with Warner, owner John Henry, CEO Larry The Liar Lucchino, GM Theo the Wonder Boy and manager Tito Francona. And of course Matsuzaka's pimp, errr agent, Scott Boras was present, just to make sure nobody tried to slip his client the tongue during all the heavy courting.

After the dinner Friday Boras took the wunderkid to a Lakers game Sunday night, where they had courtside seats. For some reason I don't think these two would have made the cut for an Entourage episode.

The pitcher was reportedly impressed that all the principals in the organization took the time to fly in from around the country for the sit-down. Little does he know that the fate of all of their jobs as well as the direction of the organization for the next decade was driving their appearances. The Sox have 23 days left to close a deal with Matsuzaka or he will return to his Japanese team. Word now is that Boras might play hardball (surprise, surprise) and demand a 4yr, $40 mil deal, which would put the imports total price tag at $91.1 freakin' million.

Blow this deal and heads will roll. Worse yet, don't get the kid signed now and risk losing the faith of the Nation for a long time.

How the f- are these guys getting this kind of money?
That should be the title of a major expose on because the free agent deals being inked this winter resemble the organization-crushing mega contracts owners vowed were ruining the game less than 10 years ago. Take a gander at some of these outrageous deals and you'll see what I mean

- Alfonso Soriano, IF/OF, Chicago Cubs: 8years, $136 million dollars ($17mil/yr)
You read that right. The Cubs (well, the Tribune Company, which is supposed to be selling the team) dished out that kind of cache to a 31-year-old head case who is an offensive whiz but is not the type of player who will win you a championship. Right now the guy is making almost as much as Manny Ramirez, whose supposed ungodly contract is the reason why he couldn't be traded these past few years. No excuses now, because if someone whose career numbers pale in comparison to Man Ram's (HRs: 470-208; RBI: 1516- 961; SLG %: .600-.510; OBP: .411- .325) can make just about a mil less a year, then there is no such thing as too big of a contract now. Not counting E-Rod of course.
The Cubbies were really flashing the dough because earlier last week they signed slugging 3B Aramis Ramirez to a 5-year, 75 million deal. That equals out to $211 million given to 2 players for the next 5-8 years. Yikes. No collusion here.

-Gary Matthews, Jr. OF LA of A Angels: 5 years, $50 million
Okay this kid is talented. He hit .313 for the Rangers last year with 19 homers & 79 RBI, but his on base percentage was a lowly .371 for a leadoff hitter. He did smack 44 doubles and hit for the cycle in September. A nice player. Defensively he is a whiz. He roams the outfield like a cheetah chasing his prey. And it was one defensive play he made last year that got him his humongous deal. In a game against Houston in Arlington on July 1st, the Astros' Mike Lamb hit a blast to deep left center that Matthews tracked all the way. When he caught up to the flight path of the ball at the wall, he leaped, his glove went about 5 feet over the top of the wall, and he pulled the ball back from beyond the fence. It was a catch for the ages. Highlight shows had a field day. Polls and pundits were calling it the greatest catch they'd ever seen (hello, a July game with the Rangers & Astros? What about Mays or Dewey Evans' basket catches in playoff games? jeez.) Well it may or may not have been the greatest catch ever, but it certainly did land Gary, a career .249 hitter entering the 2006 season, an $8 million per year raise (he made a little over $2mil last year) and a whopping $10 mil/year for the next 5. Nice catch, indeed.

- Juan Pierre, LA Dodgers: 5 years, $44 million ($8.8mil/yr)
The Dodgers must have fallen off the money tree and struck every branch as well. They just gave Nomah almost $10 mil/year for the next 2 years and Pierre, a leadoff man, will displace last winters' high-priced free agent signee, Raphael Furcal. They now have two $8+ mil leadoff men and a $9+ mil injury prone first basemen. And they don't want to pay JD Drew?

All these huge deals for guys that aren't even the biggest names on the market -Zito, Bonds, Suppan, Maddux, Carlos Lee, Drew and Jason Schmidt. 27 free agents have signed deals worth $402.86 million with an average of $6.6 million per year.
Free agency has never been more costly.

Globe columnist blasts ManRam
In today's Boston Globe long time columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a scathing piece calling for Manny Ramirez to be traded from the team once and for all. He cites team sources in saying that everyone associated with the organization, from GM Theo Epstein, who has tried to unload the mercurial slugger for years, to Tito knows he quit on the team when he basically shut it down for the final month of thew season, citing a balky knee.
It has long been known that ManRam plays when he wants to play, and vice versa. But for Shaughnessy to just call him out like that and throw the names of Sox management in there says to me that the team called the shot in an effort to push Ramirez out the door. How else do you explain it? Would those guys allow a piece like that to be published, stating that they know for a fact that Manny quit on his team if A. it weren't true and B. they didn't want it known? No this was an intentional device used to hammer home the point that everyone wants Manny to go now. He has past his usefulness to a team when his own personal idiosyncrasies take over his will to want to play the game every day. Nobody may be able to replace his Hall of Fame numbers, but no one will have his baggage, either.
Unless they sign Bonds.

Side notes: Boston let one-year defensive wonder SS Alex Gonzalez leave to sign a 3-year deal with the Reds. Boston is reportedly interested in former Devil Ray Julio Lugo. Second baseman Mark Loretta also appears to be headed out of Beantown."They haven't made an offer," Loretta, who hit .285 in his only season in Boston, said. "Everything we've heard is that they're going with [Dustin Pedroia], that they don't want to retard his development." Okay then.
And last but not least the rumour mill is cranking out the 'Rocket back to Boston' tidbit again. This time there's a twist: could he return to where it all started as a reliever? Probably just a fantasy, but how 'bout a staff consisting of Schilling, Beckett, Matasuzaka, Paps, Wake and the Rocket as the closer? Frightening.

Hey, the Hot Stove is the place for dreams.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

AL MVP: out with the old, in with Morneau

AL MVP: Justin Morneau, Minnesota (320 points)
.321, 34 HRs, 130 RBIs, .375 OBP, .559 SLG, 97R

2nd) Derek Jeter (306 pts)
3rd) David Ortiz (193 pts)

This just in from the "You've got to be Kidding Me" Dept: Minnesota Twins right fielder Justin Morneau captured the American league MVP Award today, beating out Stankee shortstop Derek Jeter and Red Sox DH David Ortiz.

In other news hell has just frozen over.

In what will probably go down as one of the worst injustices in the history of the award the voters elected to go with a 1-year wonder who just completed his second full big league season over much more deserving vets like Jeter & Papi. Hell, most observers don't even feel that Morneau was the MVP of his own team, let alone the entire league. That honor has been given to AL batting champ C Joe Mauer, whose OBP was .54 points higher than his teammate's, and/or AL Cy Young Johan Cy-tana.

But perhaps due to New York backlash (believe it or not there are people out there who hate all things Gotham, and they're not all from Boston) Jeter was snubbed in his attempt to win his first MVP trophy. Although Morneau's numbers were decent, and he did help spur the second have surge the Twins rode to the AL Central title, Jeter put up fantastic stats (.343 avg, 118 R, .417OBP, 97 RBI) while providing the leadership to keep the injury-riddled Stankees in the playoff race.

If those candidates weren't good enough then what about the contributions of Big Papi, who slugged 54 homers, knocked in 139 runs and had a slugging percentage of .636 with an on base percentage of .413. All while missing 11 games in September due to an irregular heartbeat. And for that he finishes 127 points out of the running. Ridiculous.

It's clear that the purpose of the voting this year was to send a message to all MLB players & fans. Brandon Webb(NL CY), Ryan Howard (NL MVP) and Morneau are all players with less than 4 full years of major league experience, yet they beat out established star veterans for the trophies. Some have speculated that Pujols was passed over in the NL due to the rumors of steroid use that cropped up this year, Webb was rewarded over vets like Chris Carpenter & Roy Oswalt, and now Morneau over Jeter & Papi.

Message sent: MLB wants to steer their image away from anything even remotely related to steroids, and what better way to do it than honor a bunch of fresh new faces to usher the league into the post-'roid era.

I know they have succeeded at one thing for sure: people will be talking about this season's winners for a long time- almost as much as they will be talking about the losers.

"Last night even I was saying I don't expect to get it. I might have given myself maybe a 50-50 chance. I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment if I didn't get it." Guess who?


Kramer & Mel, together in Hell

Perhaps you've heard by now about Michael Richards' terrible, offensive, hate-filled rant against some African-American patrons watching his comedy act at LA comedy club The Laugh Factory(might want to change that name.)

While doing his schtick, whatever that may be now that he has been irrelevant for years since his Seinfeld aura faded, he was interrupted by the men and launched into an obscenity-filled tirade, dropping numerous F-bombs while interspersing the 'N-word' quite freely. Guests thought it was part of the act at first, but after the 10th N-word or so they began to respond by walking out. The whole time the men who were the objects of the diatribe were yelling back "that's uncalled for, that's f-ing uncalled for."

Most disturbing is that much like Malicious Mel, Richards could not stop his diarrhea of the mouth after it was clear he had gone too far. He just kept fueling the fire by browbeating the men as they exited the club. The whole scene can be accessed here at, but be warned it is pretty ugly.

So another celeb goes down in flames after allowing his private views to become public knowledge. Richards appeared on Letterman last night, with a disappointed Seinfeld himself attempting to help his buddy extricate himself from this PR disaster, but no amounting of apologizing will make this nasty incident go away.

Richards doesn't have near the clout as Mel, so you can bet that the mostly unemployed comedian will no longer be making the talk show circuit or be handed another miserable sitcom script ever again after his worldwide apology tour ends. My bet is that he goes into hiding for the rest of his life while trying to escape from the shame and embarrassment his comments have caused.

But the one thing that gets me about these guys is how incredibly stupid they are. It's one thing to have feelings like this- almost everyone possesses some kind of unpleasant thoughts about others- but it's quite another to vent them publicly when you are in the spotlight. Learn how to monitor yourselves, or else don't go out in public. You guys should just hide in your basements with your KKK literature and swastikas and enjoy your vile hatred in the privacy of your own mansions.

I know I'll never be able to watch those Seinfeld DVDs the same way again.


Monday, November 20, 2006

NL MVP goes to New Kid on the Block

Philly's slugger Ryan Howard wins the award, beating out Cardinal 1B Albert Pujols

NL MVP:Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia(388 pts)
.313 AVG, 58 HRs, 149 RBI
2nd: Pujols (347 pts)
3rd: Andruw Jones, ATL (230 pts)
MY PICK: Howard

Although I picked the sensational second-year slugger to win I truly though the vote would go to the safe choice, the established veteran Pujols. But much like the NL Cy went to newbie Brandon Webb, the senior circuit continued to think towards the future by naming Howard the winner after just his first full season in the majors.

Howard single-handedly carried the Phils down the stretch when he hit 25 homers and knocked in 61 runs in August & September, keeping the Phillies in the playoff race until mid-September. His homer total was the highest in the majors since Barry Bighead's record-setting 73 in 2001, and the nightly watch to see if he hit a HR that day conjured up memories of the Sosa/McGuire duel of 1998.

Still many experts believed that the mega-star Pujols, who won his 1st MVP last year, would take home his 2nd consecutive trophy. And if it weren't for a 3-week absence due to a muscle pull Phat Albert might have taken home the hardware. Despite the fact that he played 15 fewer games than Howard, Pujols put up strikingly similar numbers: .331 avg, 49 HRs, 137 RBIs. He bested the kid in OBP (.425-.431) & slugging (.671-.659), and you gotta think that had he played a full season his power numbers would have been nearly identical, and the normally safe voters would have chosen the established star over the new phenom.

But to Ryan's delight he took home the award despite having played only 266 games in his career. It was just one year ago that the Phils jettisoned aging & injured 1B Jim Thome to Chicago so that Howard could play full-time. Even though Thome went on to have a Comeback Player of the Year season, the New Kid on the Block will be mashing longballs for many more years to come, perhaps fueling a nice duel with Pujols every year.

The final award of the interminable award season is announced tomorrow, and it is the one sure to stir the most controversy long into the winter.
There are no fewer than 4 worthy candidates for the AL MVP, but only 2 with a legitamte shot at winning it. Lets' break it down:

-Stankee SS Derek Jeter
Many camps believe that the backbone of the current NY squad deserves to win his first AL trophy due to the fact that he kept the Empire in the chase after Hideki Matsui & Gary Sheffield went down with injuries early in the season. Giambi, Demon & Cano played big roles too, but Jeter has long been considered the glue that holds that team together, and his performance this year (.344, 14HRs, 97RBI, 118R, 214 hits, 39 doubles, .417 OBP) confirms that status.

-Twins 1B Justin Morneau
At first his candidacy seemed like a cute joke: the nobody from the small-market Twins giving big-time players like Jeter, Papi & teammates Joe Mauer & Johan Cytana a run for the money. But when Morneau kept getting big hit after big hit, including many game-winning bombs (just ask the Sox) he kept getting more serious consideration. His numbers are not shabby at all (.321 avg, 34HRs, 130 RBI, 37 doubles, 97 runs, .557 SLG), but something tells me that he will get cancelled out by his teammates, which is a notorious problem when you get 2 candidates on 1 team

MY PICK: Big Papi, DH, BoSox
Okay, call me a homer ("HOMER!") but I really believe the big fella deserves the award, for 2 reasons:
1.) Despite missing 11 games down the stretch when he had an irregular heartbeat/ sore back from carrying the team, Papi still finished with eye-popping numbers: 54 HRs, 137 RBI, 115 runs, 119 BBs, .636 SLG. His HR, RBI walk & total base numbers led the AL and he was in the top 10 of every major offensive category.

2.) Everyone & their brother knows that the fun-loving Dominican was robbed of the award last season when he put up similar stats but was denied the win because he was a DH. What kind of F'd up rule says that just because you don't play the field you can't win the award? I mean if a pitcher who plays every 5 days can win it, why not a DH who plays every day?

Others will point to the fact that the Sawx didn't make the playoffs, and the winner has to come from a playoff team. I say balderdash. What, it means more because Jeter's team got embarrassed by the Tigers & Morneau's got bitchslapped by the A's in the first round than Boston not making it at all? That was no fault of Big Papi's, who put the team on his back by slugging 24 HRs & 51 RBIs in July & August as Boston lost it's grip on the AL East after numerous injuries, and the Boston Massacre II, crippled their season. Plus the NL went for a winner from a non-playoff team, so there is a recent precedent for them to consider.

In my opinion the award should be a reward for everything Papi has done for the game, both on & off the field, for the past 3 seasons. Other nominees get the "dedicated service" vote all the time. It's Papi's turn to be rewarded for his ambassador-like good deeds, mesmerizing home runs and galvanizing game-winning hits these past few years.

But Jeter will win it.