Fantasy Preview

Well, I can’t say I didn’t warn you. The lack of things I felt like writing about, coupled with the fact that I am a generally lazy person, created a perfect drought of material, resulting in my nearly two month hiatus from blogging. Rest assured though, with the MLB playoffs and the opening of the 11-12 NFL season just around the corner, I should be pretty busy.

To help apologize for my long absence (to the few of you who noticed), I will be doing a lot more work in the coming weeks (read: several columns in the next couple weeks…yeah im shocked too). Hopefully that should keep everyone busy until I decide to start being lazy again. Most of what I will be doing for the foreseeable future will be football related, and I figured I should start off my run of columns with something fantasy* related. And to open things up, I will begin today’s post in the same manner that every single NFL game is opened up, with our national anthem (nevermind that the video takes place at an NBA all-star game).

*I’m just trying to cope with the devastation of being officially eliminated from playoff contention in my fantasy baseball league yesterday. It’s almost like raising a puppy for five months (thats how long the fantasy regular season is). You put in so much work with it, you end up getting a little too attached, and you know that someday its going to be a great dog, once it learns how to stop shitting all over everything. But just when it starts to turn things around, it runs away. And you never see it again. Not quite that intense but something like that.

Now obviously, Whitney’s Super Bowl or Jimi Hendrix’ guitar only anthem may be more iconic. But for me, this just takes the cake without a doubt. From the way he sang it to the way the background music was arranged, Marvin Gaye made this national anthem his bitch, and there is something to be said for that. The way he sings “broad stripes” really just says it all. And can you actually hear some of the people just losing their minds in the background? I mean, if we’re going to talk about cultural impact, this man’s voice is responsible for the existence of tens of thousands of people today (think about that for a second). Now that is impact. But I digress.

As we trudge through the final weeks of the preseason*, that means that we are officially in draft season. And I figured, why not throw a few players out there that present some serious value, serious upside (sleepers), or serious downside (poopers). So on that note we will now begin the first of my two part series, the first part being…

*Crisp Collection‘s own Ryan McCarthy made the brilliant point that watching preseason football is like trying to drink a nonalcoholic beer. There’s just no point.

2011-12 ALL-VALUE TEAM (1 QB, 2 WR, 2RB, 1 TE, 1 DEF, usual scoring, with points per reception as well)

The thing to keep in mind here is that all of these players I’m mentioning are well known commodities to the fantasy universe. More than anything, this is kind of a sleeper list for established stars. Relative to where they are being drafted, I believe all of these players could perform well above the standards set on them by the uncleansed fantasy serfs of the world. Note: doing a FLEX category or a kicker just seemed like more work than I was willing to put in. With kickers, find someone who kicks for a good offense. Rinse, repeat.

QB: Anthony Romo, Dallas Cowboys. Im bullish on pretty much the entire Cowboy team this year (as you will find out in my league-wide season preview coming soon), and Tony Romo is no exception. The field for elite quarterbacks this year is considered seven deep (Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Vick, Manning, Rivers, Romo, and Cassel….kidding on the last one), so why not go for the guy who is usually being drafted last among these 7 giants, when he could easily pace the entire quarterback field? I love this offense, and Jason Garrett proved to us after taking the reins that good things happen when you emphasize the run first and let the pass develop from there. Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee actually put up some solid numbers last year while Romo was hurt. Now imagine the type of stats an above average quarterback can put up getting to play for this team. Obviously, health has to be a major concern. But Romo’s toys are too lethal to ignore. Not too many quarterbacks can boast Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Felix Jones as weapons. Quarterback is a deep field with good secondary choices this year. Drafting Romo and getting some quality insurance from Joe Flacco and the like shouldn’t be too difficult.

Team Reserve: Matt Ryan

RB: Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens. I am a huge RayRay 2.0 believer this year and while this definitely isn’t an under the radar choice, I still believe he is being drafted too low (Yahoo! projects him to have the 4th most points among RB’s, his ADP is 6.4). While those are generous figures, I think he is ready to take the running back crown and pace his position for the season. The exodus of Willis McGahee certainly helps and the addition of Ricky Williams is not as big of a deal as people think. Rice is the man in Baltimore, and he will be seeing a lot more of the goal line this season. And obviously, the amount of receptions he gets in a PPR league is just huge. The offensive line is young in a few spots but I think it’ll patch together quite nicely. But with all of the above, I don’t think it would be enough to push Rice-aroni to the top overall RB spot, which is why I will now present to you my ace-in-the-hole: Vonta Leach. You may not know his name (even though he was voted to the all-pro team last season), but I’m sure you’ve heard of Arian Foster, the man Leach paved all of those gaping holes for last season. I think the additioin of Vonta Leach to the Baltimore Ravens will pay huge dividends for Rice, and he will be ready to take advantage. Don’t think a good blocking fullback is a big deal? Check out Larry Johnson after 2006* or LaDainian Tomlinson after 2007.*

*When Tony Richardson and Lorenzo Neal left their respective teams via free agency. Also look at the statistics of the running backs the year they receive a good blocking fullback to play behind. It’s a big deal folks.

RB: Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys. Another Cowboy here but I couldn’t resist. As I said above, Jason Garrett showed last year that as head coach, his first priority is establishing the run, which would seem to fit Jones’ skill set relatively well (he is a running back). Marion Barber and his touchdown thieving ways are now gone, and Tashard Choice hasn’t done enough in camp to show that he can steal 40% of Felix the Cat’s workload. Make no mistake, Jones is the guy in this backfield, and given the kind of offense he’s playing in and the kind of coaching he’s playing for, his high 80’s ADP (currently 27th among RB’s) seems a bit low for me. If I’m assembling a squad in a 10-12 team league, Felix Jones as a certifiable RB2 stud is absolutely fine with me. If you can put him as a FLEX option every week, its an outright steal.

Team Reserves: Ryan Grant and Steven Jackson

WR: Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers. Like the field for quarterbacks, there is a general consensus on the elite options at wide receiver this year and the list is five deep. It consists of my mancrush, Andre Johnson, Calvin “MegaTron” Johnson, Larrald Fitzgerald (that one was a bit of a stretch), Roddy White, and Hakeem Nicks. That’s fine and dandy, but what to do after that? Look no further than Mike Wallace. His prediction to amass over 2000 yards receiving this season is a little ambitious, but at least we know he’ll be trying. For me, Wallace making this value team is as simple as receivers I don’t like nearly as much (Greg Jennings, Miles Austin, Reggie Wayne) going in front of him. Reggie is starting to get up there and if Peyton’s health situation is even a little iffy, Wayne’s stock should plummet. Even with a totally healthy Manning, I think we’d see some regression in Reginald’s numbers this year regardless. I think Jennings is also a regression candidate. And with Dez Bryant now entrenched as a legit #2 WR for Dallas, Miles Austin will be seeing less looks as the season progresses (I think he’ll put up similar numbers to last year’s campaign). I like the connection Wallace established with Big Ben last season, and of the four second-tier WR’s mentioned in the last few sentences, I think Wallace is easily the best bet to ascend to elite status.

WR: Mario Manningham, New York Giants. I’ve liked this guy since he was in college (probably pulled a groin when the Giants, and not my Chiefs, drafted him a few years ago) and he has shown the ability to be one of the best #2 wideouts in the league. He has already put up some very intriguing numbers in the last two seasons, and with the departure of Steve Smith and the absence of a true pass-catching tight end on the roster, Manningham (and Hakeem Nicks as well) should see a decent spike in the amount of times they are targeted throughout the game. Look for Manningham to assert himself this season as a very solid WR2 (WR3 at the very least…always have to hedge just in case) option in all 10-12 team fantasy leagues. I like him over guys that are going several picks ahead of him such as Sydney Rice or Austin Collie. I also like him over guys that are going several rounds ahead of him such as Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, and Dwayne Bowe.

Team Reserves: Wes Welker and Santonio Holmes

TE: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints. This guy is an absolute freak athlete (played basketball at Miami (FL)) but is still very raw (only 2 seasons of football under his belt, one in college and the other in New Orleans). That aside, he started developing a very nice rapport with Drew Brees towards the end of the season, and if that offense is any indicator, this guy is an easy pick, with high upside, to be a TE1 in all fantasy formats. Sean Payton and Brees love to spread the wealth in their system. And while this philosophy is absolutely a detriment to the wide receivers there (see: Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem), I think it plays right in the soft hands of Jimmy “Moonlight” Graham. I should just stop on the nicknames. Owen Daniels and Dallas Clark are going ahead of this guy in most Yahoo! drafts. But if it came down to those three, I’m going with Graham.

Team Reserve: Kellen Winslow

DEF: San Diego Chargers. This is a squad that finished last year 8th in points allowed, tied for 2nd in sacks (the cheapest way to get a guaranteed couple points every week), 4th in rushing defense, 1st in passing defense, and 1st in total defense (yards allowed per game). They have an improved secondary, spent a first round pick on a defensive lineman, and hopefully have a better special teams unit (at least it can’t get any worse than last year), and yet they are being drafted as the 11th best fantasy defense? Something just doesn’t add up here to me. I think they will exceed that draft day value and then some.

Team Reserve: New York Giants

Again, sorry for the prolonged work stoppage. Going to make it up to you guys over the next few weeks with all of the NFL, Kansas City Chiefs, and fantasy information you could possibly need. I’ll see you guys tomorrow when I go through my ALL-SLEEPER (actual sleepers this time) and ALL-POOPER teams.

Advertisements

It Is Our Choices Harry

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

-Albus Dumbledore


I sat in front of the computer for about 15 minutes trying to come up with some sort of opening line or thought that would jump start my final goodbye to the Harry Potter series. How did it make me feel? That would probably be too corny. A review of the books or the movies? A little bland. And I’m too lazy to try and write some big thesis on the books/movies anyways. I even discussed with a couple buddies a few weeks ago about going through a mock economy of the Wizarding World and seeing how it would have reacted to Lord Voldemort’s rises and falls. Maybe an interesting concept to be addressed sometime in the future. But again, I’m too lazy. And that’s not the kind of crap the 16 of you who come here want to read anyways.  

What can really be said about a journey that has had such a profound affect on a new generation full of people ready to believe in good?* The answer is…not too much. These aren’t exactly books that will be read in english classes throughout schools for the next 50 years. But maybe that’s why they are so beloved by so many people. Unlike The Lord of the Rings (far too difficult/slow of a read for many people), The Chronicles of Narnia (probably a little dated), or Star Wars (unfortunately maybe a little “geeky” for some), these are books that put into the utmost simplicity the triumph of love over evil, of courage over base fear.

*Had to stick a Bruce Wayne/Batman quote in here somewhere

You don’t have to do too much work to get to the core of what these books are trying to say. The themes and the symbols jump out at us. The characters are flawed enough, human enough, that we can relate to them and believe their struggles. The words of Albus Dumbledore and countless others touch us at such a visceral level, that we can understand exactly what is going on, even if we can’t put our feelings completely into words.

These are books for the masses. And I mean that in the best way possible. What other kind of series have we ever seen before where it is literally uncool, no matter what you’re interested in or the hobbies you have or what background you’re from, to have not read even a page? You feel like those people are missing out on a truly essential part of childhood; of something that can help ease the inevitable pain that comes with growing up.

But for all the things that these books and movies do, I don’t think, even then, it is what sets them apart from other stories we’ve heard before. And I don’t think it is their innate simplicity either. We’ve heard different versions of the battle of good vs. evil since the day we were born. Harry Potter isn’t the only story to promote its biggest themes. We have already before seen the courage of the Jedi overcoming the fear at the very core of the Sith (shocker here folks…I don’t have a girlfriend). We have already before seen the indomitable human (elf, hobbit etc.) will fail to ever give up, and in doing so surpass even the most insurmountable of odds (see: everything ever written by J.R.R. Tolkien). In all of the stories and tales we can most easily recall, themes like the bonds of friendship and the beauty of self-sacrifice for others are ever present.

So what then, can explain why we connect so much with the story of Harry above almost all others? In the paragraph above, it is made clear that the messages we get from Harry’s quest to vanquish Voldemort are ones we have heard over and over again, and will continue to hear for a long time after. If I stopped right here, then you would have to ask yourself, “Then why the hell have I been reading all of this stuff if I could just get it from somewhere else?” And the answer of course is that with the Harry Potter books, J. K. Rowling brought something new to the table. Something was in her books that made readers feel different.

You can get the same messages and motifs from a lot of different stories and adventures. But only by turning the pages of Harry Potter’s saga are you made, if for only a few moments, young again. While the book is open, the hands in your internal clock seem to be suspended. With Harry’s greatest adventures, a part of ourselves recalls some of our very own favorite moments in the innocence of our childhood. When I would have to ride my bike everywhere, and beg my parents to let me stay with my friends by the pool for just a few more hours, and when I needed only fireworks to have a good time on the 4th of July.

Now, by no means am I trying to come off as some old hag that the world has passed by. That would be a little melodramatic. I am still very young in the grand scheme of things. But I am also old enough that I can now bring to mind what it was like to be a kid. I can think with wonder how light and carefree it was, but also with a feeling of bittersweet, knowing how those moments have passed me by.  

And the same can be applied to the world we could escape into with these books and movies. I will always look upon them fondly…for all the lessons I learned from them, the ordinary characters I got to see develop into heroes, and the end of the story where all of the struggle and pain and sacrifice is fulfilled with a final and absolute victory. I will go into tonight’s movie with that same kind of lightheartedness I think. For over 2 hours, I will be taken back to an old, familiar place and get to be a clueless little kid one more time. But when the end credits roll, there will also be pangs of sadness, knowing that, for the time being at least, those spellbinding moments have now passed me by.

Editors Note: Well…good thing I didn’t end up writing “some big thesis” on the books or how the series made me feel, right?

NBA Draft Running Diary

Editors Note: Found out just this morning that Simmons also did a run-through of the draft. So apologies in advance if there are any similarities in what you read (apart from writing an entire recap of the draft in the same exact format of course). Had I known in advance he’d be doing this, I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. But times are tough, and this was the last big sporting event I could think of since its just baseball for the rest of summer. And I have no idea what I will be doing with that.

Going into this draft, I tried to figure out what there was to be excited about. It didn’t take me long to realize that this draft was low on talent, low on driving storylines, and very low in the intrigue department. With all that in mind, I naturally assumed this would be a great time to do a running diary.

But there were a few things I wanted to watch out for as the draft commensed.

1. What would the Minnesota Timberwolves do? This is a team that has been truly awful in the draft ever since David Kahn took over most of the personnel decision making. If you think I’m wrong, just look at what they did with their 2009 draft. Going in, they were in desperate need of a point guard. And thankfully they had the 5th, 6th, and 19th overall picks to address it at some point. Great! What do they do? They take Ricky Rubio (averaging single digit points per game in Europe), Johnny Flynn (awful), and Ty Lawson (no longer with the team). Three 1st round picks, three point guards. What?! I’ve been hooked ever since. Before the draft, the consensus was that they would take Derrick Williams, an athletic combo forward (too small to play the 4, not skilled enough to play the 3). Keep that in mind when we get to their pick.

2. I will be on pins and needles hoping Utah sacks up and takes Jimmer with their second 1st round pick (12th overall). If it happens, I will seriously buy NBA league pass to watch all of their games. It’s great the for the fan base…college hero gets drafted by local team. And more importantly, it’s great for me. Gordon Hayward and Jimmer Fredette on the court at the same time? I think my head would explode.

3. The Over/Under on how many times Jay Bilas mentions a players “wingspan.” His hotword used to be upside, but now he concerns himself with how long a players arms are. Let’s see here, I think I’ll set the number at 10.5 and I’m taking the over.

4. Something happening I could actually write about. Not optimistic. With that in mind, lets get to it.

6.30: Commercial for the DVD release of Nic Cage’s movie “Season of the Witch.” No punchline necessary.

6.33: David Stern receiving some very hearty boo’s as he makes his entrance to announce the Cav’s are on the clock. Not a bad start.

6.36: Stu Scott wonders aloud if “There is any pressure being taken with the top overall pick in the draft.” Ummm yeah? This would begin a pattern of some very astute observations from Scott, who may have dropped more random, useless facts on me than anyone ever before. Almost making this draft worth watching. Almost.  

6.37: Fact: If the consensus top two players in this draft, Williams and Kyrie Irving, are “maybe all-stars down the road,” its not a good draft.

6.40: Cleveland takes Duke’s Irving. He’s the best player in the draft, he won’t have to start right away. Good things. He’ll be an adequate starter in the league in 2-3 years. Leave it to Cleveland to get the top pick (and the 4th overall too) in the worst draft in recent memory. The city of Cleveland may now douse its collective self in acid.

6.45: Timberwolves take Derrick Williams. Really just bad luck. He was the best player available, so not very much shame in picking him. The problem is, they already have Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver, Anthony Randolph, and Martell Webster.

6.46: Bilas: “He’s 6’8″ but with a wingspan of 7’1″, so bottoms up everybody.” Not sure what that last part means, but thats 1 for everyone scoring at home.

I would later find out that this was an blatant reference to an NBA draft drinking game, one in which everyone must take a drink every time the term “wingspan” is said. Devastated I didn’t know about it earlier. 40 bro points for Bilas.

6.49: Scott: “Our colleague, Jon Gruden said he could play tight end in the NFL.” That had to be a pretty big factor with how GM’s evaluated him.

6.50: Utah takes Enes Kanter. Like the pick, could use a center of the future to let Al Jefferson get back to his natural position at power forward. Trading stars is tough, but you have to give Kevin O’Connor credit for the Deron Williams trade. Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Kanter, a 2012 1st round pick, and cash? That’s as good as it gets in that situation.

6.52: Scott: “This guy wants to be a WWE wrestler after his basketball days are over.” Thanks for that.

6.56: Cleveland takes Tristan Thompson from Texas. A bit of a surprise here, thought they would take the Lithuanian guy with a big last name. But not really a problem with it, maybe he develops into an all-star down the road. Having watched Texas all year, it wasn’t difficult to tell that this guy has a lot of talent.

7.02: Toronto takes…the Lithuanian guy with a big last name! Don’t know anything about him. Someone says a poor man’s Pau Gasol. Hmmmm. Fran Fraschilla: “If you like Arvydas Sabonas, you have to like this guy.” I’m sold.

7.05: Vladimir Putin is REALLY struggling with his English in this interview. When asked how his game is like Chris Bosh’s (he previously had said he was similar to him), he responded, “I have not so strong body.” Right on the money.

7.05: Stu Scott wonders what type of player Washington should be looking for to “get good, quickly.” There is no such player in this draft.

7.06: Washington takes Jan Vesely. Don’t know anything about this guy either, but he makes out with his girlfriend when his name is called, great stuff. The highlight clip ESPN is showing of him is actually astounding. I’m not kidding. Sideline reporter says many call him the European Blake Griffin, to which he responds, “He is the American Jan Vesely.” The balls on this one!

7.09: Sideline reporter: “We’ll try to get you into a slam dunk contest one of these days.” Vesely: “OK, thank you.”

7.11: Sacramento, picking for Charlotte, selects Bismack Biyombo. Based on name alone, this guy is all sorts of awesome.

7.12: With all these foreign players being taken, Bilas isn’t getting any opportunities to tell me the wingspans of any players. More Americans!

7.14: Bismack is interviewed. Sounds a lot like this…

7.19: Detroit selects Brandon Knight. I don’t know what this means for the franchise. I don’t care.

7.22: Almost fell asleep. BISMACK BIYOMBOOOOOOO! Am now awake.

7.25: Charlotte selects Kemba Walker. I won’t question this guys heart. But not sure if he will ever be a starter in the NBA. Charlotte has made a habit of drafting really good college players with little upside.* For anyone who isn’t sure, thats not how you build a winner in the NBA.

*A few hours later I revised this sentiment and now believe he will be the next Jason Terry. Is it mainly because they are both black, look generally alike, played on college teams that experienced somewhat unlikely success, and are the same body type? Maybe. But who’s to say that 5 years down the road, Kemba doesn’t develop into a knockdown 3 point shooter and irrational confidence guy? Don’t let me down Kemba.

7.28: Milwaukee, picking for Sacramento, selects Jimmer. I may now light myself on fire. Angry with Utah for not trying to trade up.

7.35: Golden State selects Klay Thompson. Apart from spelling his own name incorrectly, I do like the pick. A good body for an NBA 2 guard. On a side note, his father also spells his name incorrectly: Mychal.

7.40: My Mom comes down and tells me to check on Bear’s (yup, we named our dog Bear) scrotum. Not unreasonable since he was neutered a few days ago. A little perturbing nonetheless.

7.41: Utah takes Grandview’s own Alec Burks. Got to love representing the Kansas City area, glad to see him get drafted in the lottery. Utah has to be one of the drafts biggest winners. 12 picks in and Bilas has given me just one wingspan reference. My Over/Under number not looking so great.

7.47-7.55: Phoenix and Houston select Markieff and Marcus Morris back-to-back. An interesting storyline for a night lacking very many. The Morii’s crew make fools of themselves celebrating when they are both drafted.

7.50: Always a source of high comedy, Marcus, when asked how he will deal with having to be away from his brother for the first time ever, notes he will send Markieff, “some flowers or some fruit.” Interesting strategy.

7.57: Marcus notes that the Rockets don’t have a scoring 4. Must have forgotten about the scoring 4 they had last year (Luis Scola).

8.01: Indiana selects Kawhi Leonard. This draft is about as compelling as making sure sure my dog’s scrotum is OK. For those of you who are curious, it looks like a normal dog scrotum right now.

8.02: Bilas notes that his wingspan is 7’3″ despite a height of 6’7″. We’re back on track with our 2nd wingspan call!

8.03: Based on his interview, I’m not sure Leonard didn’t smoke some weed before the draft.

8.07: Philly selects Nikola Vucevic. Just gonna flat out say this guy doesn’t have an overly bright future in the NBA. Scott: “He’s got a foreign name but a USC Trojan game.” Droppin rhymes on our collective ass.

8.09: Scott notes that Vucevic has a considerable wingspan, Bilas seething in the corner that a wingspan call was stolen from him.

8.09: The Knicks are up. Is Spike Lee really at the draft? THIS draft? Really?!?!

8.12: The awkwardness with which Stu Scott is directing this show has to be seen to be believed.

8.13: Knicks take Iman Shumpert. Forgot he was even eligible to be drafted. Spike looks incredulous. The New York Knicks everybody!

8.14: Feeling like an idiot for placing the wingspan number all the way at 10.5, I’m gonna need a miracle. Should I hedge?

8.18: Wizards take Chris Singleton. If a guy plays great defense, he’ll always have something to fall back on. Bilas: “He stands about 6’9″ but with his arms plays 7’1″.” Thats our third one of the night, hoping things pick up. Love the new Wizards logo/jerseys. If it is possible to get better in this draft, I think Washington did it.

8.20: Stu mentions that he has promised his mother he will go back to Florida State to earn his degree. He’s really settled into a nice rhythm now.

8.22: ESPN recaps a 3-way trade between Charlotte, Sacramento, and Milwaukee. Again, I decide that checking my dogs scrotum would be a better use of my time. It looks great. Charlotte takes Tobias Harris. Bilas says he has a 6’11” wingspan. Making a comeback here!

8.30: Minnesota at 20, selects Lapinski Gregorovitch (something like that). The book on this guy is that he needs to get tougher and care more. Sounds like a winner to me.

8.35: Portland selects Duke’s Nolan Smith. A bit of a headscratcher. Not sure I care though. Stuart mentions that he has a tattoo of his father’s face on his arm.

8.42: Denver selects Kenny Faried. Like it a lot. Don’t really see how a pick like this fails. When you’re in the bottom of the first round, you’re usually only looking for a rotation type of player. No one will criticize a team for blowing a late round pick anyways. And I think we learned a few years ago when San Antonio stole DeJuan Blair in the second round, there is always a place in the league for a high-energy, high-motor, bulk rebounding big guy. Good pickup.

8.45: ESPN shows a clip of the lottery-hopefuls banging drum sticks on a make shift drum set (made of pots and pans) to Rolling in the Deep. Are they trying to make these players look like 3 year olds? Does this accomplish anything? What is going on right now?

8.49: Good comedy from listening to David Stern try to pronounce Nikola Mirotic (Houston’s pick at 23) in an Eastern European accent.

8.53: OKC gets Reggie Jackson of Boston College…who has a wingspan of 7 feet according to Jay! Bilas is now on fire and we are almost in range to hitting our number. Celts on the clock.

8.55: Scott: “From Boston College to the Boston Celtics!” Stuart didn’t put any preparation into this draft. I wouldn’t have either.

8.56: Budwieser commercial almost made me cry. Awesome. Celtics pick MarShon Brooks from Providence. Maybe he pans out, but who is going to play center for them next season?

8.57: Bilas observes that Brooks has a 7’1″ wingspan. He is really hitting his stride. For those scoring at home, we have reached 6 wingspan calls. For those playing the game, you’re probably feeling pretty decent by now (depending on the drink of choice and amount of ingestion per “sip” of course).

9.03: Defending champs select Jordan Hamilton. Very talented. They need a future 3, and he could maybe develop into that type of guy.

To finish: New Jersey takes JaJuan Johnson for Boston. Minnesota continues to trade for late 1st round picks and a bunch of 2nd rounders. Not sure how this helps the team. Spurs take an undervalued Cory Joseph. Fans give an especially loud round of boos to Stern, and the Bulls cap off the first round with the selection of Jimmy Butler. As soon as Adam Silver walks out to call the 2nd round, fans erupt and start AD-AM SIL-VER chants, clearly making fun of him right to his face. Which makes sense when you realize he looks like one of the cone heads.

Final thoughts: Very boring draft. Which made it a very bad decision to try and do a running diary on it. Which is my excuse for when you feel like you just wasted 20 minutes of your time reading this.

Also interesting to note that Kansas guard Josh Selby did not get selected in the 1st round (didn’t go until the end of the 2nd). It just illustrates how the NBA’s 1-year rule really needs to go away. College basketball didn’t need him, he didn’t need college basketball, and it ended up costing him millions of dollars in the end. And now, he may not even make an NBA roster next season. If a player can play right out of high school, let him. But if you go to college, it has to be a 2 year commitment. It’s that simple.

Man, what a crappy draft. And Bilas only made 6 wingspan calls? I’m not sure if anybody wins.

Final Grades: Stuart Scott – A

Jay Bilas – C

ESPN – F+

Bear’s Scrotum – a solid B-

What I Learned From The Finals

Editors Note: After finding this gem of a picture, it makes me sad that Dirk didn’t take full advantage of his ability to pull off the sick euro-headband/long hair combo. Would have vaulted him up a few spots in the “greatest of all time” discussion without a doubt.

Late last night, I was laying (probably wrong usage of the word there, I doubt I’ll ever figure that out) in my bed. Maybe lying in my bed? Ok, so last night I laid in my bed trying to figure out why I wasn’t completely satisfied with this year’s NBA finals. I had rationalized all of the pros and cons. I had read great articles from Bill Simmons (completely agree with his theories on LeBron) and Joe Posnanski (completely agree with his confusion about how to feel post-finals), but if they had quenched my thirst for being thoroughly irked no more, then I wouldn’t be typing this column right now.

I knew that I was overjoyed for Dirk finally getting off the shnide. This year’s playoffs had been so trying for him, and we haven’t seen one man carry his team (that is, a one-star team) to a championship in so long. It was the end of the marathon for him and he was absolutely spent. That moment when the game was almost over and he stumbled to the locker room was touching. He just couldn’t hold it back anymore. He was so happy and so tired and had kept everything in check for so long (I didn’t realize up until then just how long the playoffs and the microscopic scrutiny last), that it was time to get rid of all those emotions. Seeing his shot coach tear up during the trophy presentation ceremony almost made me cry. In that one camera shot, you could see all of the emotion, how far they had both come, how much work they had put in, how happy they were for some validation. But I digress.

I knew that I was happy for the rest of the Dallas players and for Mark Cuban, who may be the coolest owner in sports. I was happy that he used “shit” on live television to describe the performance of the Heat fans compared to Mavs fans (totally true). I knew that I was happy for Mario Chalmers, who demonstrated that he has the heart and desire to be a legitimate starting NBA point guard (whether he has the skill remains to be seen).

And despite all of that, it wasn’t this feeling of complete happiness. Yeah there were people and situations to be happy for, but something was missing, drawing my attention away from Dallas. It wasn’t that Miami’s fans were so embarrassing.* It wasn’t that Game 6 was such an anticlimactic ending to the greatest 5 game finals stretch that I can personally remember. It wasn’t that Miami fell so woefully short of the challenge that the second half of Game 6 presented. And it wasn’t that I don’t really have much to look forward to, sports-wise, for the rest of summer, and maybe after that too. It was something else that I couldn’t quite understand yet. And then I was asleep.

*You’d have to be a Sunday regular at Arrowhead Stadium to understand how someone like me can get so mad when fans don’t show up, or marvel at the atmosphere radiated from a great fan base.

So there I was, this morning, in my summer calculus II class. I was complaining that I had to take something that I so clearly will have NO USE for no matter what professional endeavors I pursue. I was upset that I had to take the class from some asian guy who could hardly speak a lick of English.*I was mad that I still couldn’t figured out what about the finals was bothering me, and that it was a distraction to me trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do with hyperbolic functions and hanging cables. More than anything I was mad at myself for so blatantly, systematically wasting a reasonable amount of mathmatical talent to such a degree that what Professor Rhee was writing on the whiteboard looked like a foreign language to me.

*I guess that sentence could be construed as racist/sterotypist/whatever. But the fact of the matter is that the guy is Asian (not a bad thing) and seriously cant speak any English (also not necessarily a bad thing). But when the guy teaches calculus to people in the United States, a job that requires a considerable amount of talking, this is indeed, a bad thing. It shouldn’t take me 45 minutes to figure out what ahkrength is (for the record, he was saying “arc length”). But again, I digress.

And then I realized that LeBron James and I aren’t so different.* I thought about why I didn’t want to take the time to learn this crap. One, because I would have no use for it in the future, no matter the situation. But more than that, I just didn’t really want to. It wasn’t as important to me as wasting a few hours drinking beers, or getting food with friends was. I thought about why LeBron shied away from the moment on Sunday. Why he was with in Miami to begin with. It wasn’t as important.

Admittedly, a more accurate analogy would be comparing his god given basketball talents to the god given logic and reasoning talents of South Boston’s own Will Hunting, rather than my own.

There it was. It wasn’t purely the end result of the finals that had bothered me. It was, like it always seems to be no matter the basketball topic, LeBron James. If there is one thing I, or any sports fan, enjoy, it is all of the debates. Who is better, which team is better, who has the better legacy, who is the greatest. And for as long as LeBron James has been in the league, the central debate surrounding him has been can he match, or even eclipse Michael Jordan as the greatest ever. Even though we should have known the answer to that question a year ago, Sunday night was the final straw for me. Not today, not ever.

Joe Posnanski discussed a sequence towards the end of the game that stuck in my mind. Wade was having an off night. If Miami was going to save the game, it had to be James. He was shooting well (but hadn’t taken very many shots) and had played solid, if uninspired basketball the entire game. It had to be him. And with 4 minutes left in the game, James got the ball on the wing, and it was his time to take over. But he passed it back. He got the ball on the wing again…passed it back. He didn’t penetrate and then kick it out back to the guy. He didn’t even hold the ball up in the air to survey an opening or find a guy with a mismatch. He just passed it back…immediately. Never averted his gaze from the man who had given him the ball, and as soon as it touched his hands, it was sent flying back to the guy at the top of the key.

Well that sure was odd. I had never seen that from LeBron before. I hadn’t seen that from anyone before. That was the moment that cemented the argument for me. Michael would have never done that. He would have been too pissed off that his team had squandered a 2-1 series lead. He would have been too focused and zoned in on not letting his team be the FIRST EVER since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in the NBA Finals to not win a championship after leading 2-1. He would have wanted the win so badly that he would have taken the ball to the hole even if it meant getting clobbered by two 7-footers and falling 10 feet out of the air right on his ass. He would have wanted to stick it to all of his doubters too badly to let his team lose. But calculus isn’t important enough for me, and that game wasn’t important enough for James.

A few games before, Michael would have been too infuriated that a teammate embarrassed him in front of millions of people by calling him out for 10 straight seconds. He would have gone nuts. He would have unleashed his competitive fury and torched the Mavericks. Michael thrived off of the petty slights, he used them as motivation (and Wade’s confrontation of James was a little more than just a petty slight by my estimation). The reason his hall of fame speech sounded so snotty and bitter is the same reason that he was so motivated to be better than everyone. But this paragraph is totally beside the point because Michael would have been the one doing the yelling and the confronting in the first place, not the one being yelled at.

Michael wouldn’t have quit on his team in an elimination game in the Eastern Conference Playoffs like LeBron did last year. And Michael never would have joined up with Karl Malone or Magic Johnson or Charles Barkley or anyone else to win a championship. He wanted to kick their asses too badly.

Bill Simmons wrote that, from what he knows, LeBron James is a good guy who just wants to be liked by everybody. I believe him. But Michael didn’t care about being nice and liked by everybody. He didn’t even care about being liked by his teammates all the time. Hell, it seems he didn’t care about being liked by his own wife (see: divorced)! He was ruthless. He was more than ruthless. He wanted it more than everybody else. Being the best was the most important thing in the world to him.

Im sure being good at basketball is important to LeBron James. But its not THE MOST important. If it was, he wouldn’t be focused on trying to brand himself globally, or trying to please all of the people he pissed off by leaving Cleveland. He would realize that its impossible to please everybody, especially after the stunts he pulled last summer. He would lock himself in a gym and try to harness his incredible talents. He would learn a post-up game. He would learn how to make 3’s. He would learn the Michael/Kobe fadeaway shot so that he could bail himself out of any situation. He would become the most invincible (sounds immature but thats the best way I can describe it) basketball player of all time.

Maybe, as fans, we just care too much. We want someone to succeed so badly, to realize his potential, that we start scrutinizing and critisizing to an unfair degree. Maybe we realize that professional athletes can do things we have only done in our dreams or our backyards, so that when they do something or do not do something, we are all really doing it or not doing it too. Maybe its not our job to decide for LeBron that he needs to be the greatest of all time. Maybe thats just not what he wants (or at least not badly enough).

And I think, to a certain extent, all of that is true. All of the pressure on LeBron for the last 12 months (really, his whole career) has been unfair. And our desire for him to be the greatest has become so great in itself, that it has hindered him in his pursuit of that greatness.

But even then, the evidence can’t be hidden from the light. I probably won’t do well in calculus this summer because its too damn hard and I don’t feel like putting in the time. LeBron James will never be Michael Jordan because its too damn hard and he doesn’t feel like putting in the time. He just isn’t wired the same way Michael is.

No one can tell the future. Maybe this finals lights a fire under LeBron’s ass, and he decides to finally be what he has the capability of being. But I’m betting against it. And somewhere else, Michael Jordan is too, probably with a sneer.

Token LeBron Post

Editors Note: I was just as infuriated by The Decision and the rally that took place in Miami soon after as all of you were. You are more than welcome to ask my friends and they will tell you during that summer and for a good while after it, seeing Miami lose gave me a great deal of pleasure. But I found it in me to move on. I am now indifferent to Miami’s exploits, as I was before they signed LeBron and Chris Bosh. If I have any motivation at all to watch them, it is because I am a fan of the game of basketball, and enjoy watching good games, great defense, and exciting styles of play. What The Decision and its aftermath says about LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and us as fans, should be left for another post entirely.

Thinking about the most polarizing figures in sports and the usual names all come to mind: Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, the entire New York Yankees organization. They get an exceptional amount of coverage in the national press, people talk about them on a daily basis, people argue about them on a daily basis, and for the last year, they have all paled in comparison to the amount of attention, good and bad, LeBron James has received. If you want a fullproof plan to get an interesting conversation going, go up to a random group of people and just say “so how ’bout LeBron?” Thats all you need to do. Half the group will want to punch you in the face, the other half will thank you for giving them an opportunity to salivate over the most tantalizing talent to have ever graced the hardwood.

I was asked by my mom the other day who I was rooting for in the finals and I responded that I was completely indifferent, as I usually am with these things. She got mad at me because I wasn’t rooting against Miami. One year ago, she wouldn’t have been able to tell you if Miami even had an NBA franchise or not. The LeBron effect knows no bounds.

Another prime example: after a fantastic game 3 last night, one in which both sides fought extremely hard, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki exerted superhuman efforts, one which ended in a Miami victory (past statistics showing that the Heat should now be overwhelming favorites to win a championship), and the pervading storyline is what LeBron James didn’t do in the 4th quarter.

The sole focus of the aftermath of that game was how James only scored 2 4th quarter points and how he was seen being barked at by Wade for passing the ball to Mario Chalmers instead of driving to the bucket on a particular play. Let me repeat: Miami WON THE GAME led by a spectacular Wade, and this is what we are talking about? People need to stop worrying about who is going to be the alpha dog on this team or who will be taking the final shot of the game. As far as I’m concerned, Miami possesses 2.5 alpha dogs (including Chris Bosh’s alien body of course). They have the luxury of taking what the defense gives them, they get to use a great player as a decoy to get their other great player a good look. Or as we saw last night, they have the luxury of being able to go to a capable Chris Bosh when both James and Wade are being heavily guarded (LeBron isn’t getting the credit he deserves for the pass that got Bosh the game winning shot).

If Miami can win a championship, none of this stuff should matter. The 2007-2008 Kansas Jayhawks basketball team found itself in a similar predicament when many noticed they didn’t have a prototypical go-to guy like a Tyler Hansbrough, Kevin Love, or Derrick Rose. You know what the team itself thought? That they had 7 go-to guys (which would include Sasha Kaun…probably a mistake), and whoever had the open shot would take it and likely make it. Not a bad recipe based on how their season ended.

So we need to stop worrying over who is going to be the man on this team. Miami is above that. Assuming Miami wins (which is stupid to do this early, but the stats also don’t lie: since the 2-3-2 format has been in play in the NBA Finals, there have been 11 1-1 series ties after the first two games. The team that won game 3 went on to win the series 100% of the time), then they will have put to rest this whole argument.

Chicago and Dallas were both very good teams this season, and more than that, they have a bonafide guy they can go to when the moment matters. That’s great and its more than can be said for the majority of the teams in this league. But (again ASSUMING Miami wins) that doesn’t help when the team you’re playing has 2 guys like that. It’s time to stop using small sample sizes (3 games) to annoint someone the leader of a team and another player as someone who shrinks from the big moment. And I won’t even get into how unfair it is towards James (who is actually shooting 51% from the field and 44% from behind the arc in the finals) for most journalists to use these 3 games to label him as Wade’s sidekick. We could have done the exact same thing to Wade in the conference finals (when LeBron thoroughly dominated Chicago, was the definition of clutch, and just torched this year’s near unanimous league MVP…it didn’t look fair), and yet no one did.

The Decision, and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9BqUBYaHlM&feature=related were clearly very poor decisions. And I think if LeBron could do them over again, or not at all, he probably would. But I also think we are making illogical decisions by using a 3 game sample size to crown Wade as THE guy on his team, when the argument is really just flat out not necessary.

It’s time to stop fretting over who should be taking the last shot or labeled as the leader (Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade will figure that out based on the matchups on the court). Its time to stop worrying about who scored more 4th quarter points or who was more clutch (THEY WON THE GAME…WINNING IS WHAT BROUGHT JAMES TO MIAMI IN THE FIRST PLACE). And it is time to start being very afraid of what this team may accomplish in the next 5 or so years.

One-third of you will love this post. One-third will want to rip my face off. And the last third probably didn’t make it far enough to read this sentence. So how ’bout LeBron?

MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!!….and some power rankings

First order of business, just want to thank everyone out there who has clicked a link to get to this blog via twitter 8 times by accident (you know who you are), or searched “grandview prostitution.” Because of you guys, we here have achieved our first big milestone of 1000 views. Clearly, this number is extremely misleading because of the very reasons stated above, but if it says 1000, damnit I’m saying 1000 too. So, thanks again to the aforementioned people, as well as the 6 of you who have been regular readers. Any traffic we get here is very exciting, and hopefully this continues to build into something that will legitimize the 17 dollars I spent to to get it started.

I really need to get in the habit of not waiting 3-4 weeks between posts. In my defense, I’ve been pretty low on ideas…baseball doesn’t ever give you all that much to talk about (or at least all that much that people want to hear from me) and I don’t care enough about the NBA to give the requisite thought it would take to put out a mediocre column. So that left me with pretty much an empty cupboard of ideas. But when I got home from watching the game with the guys the other night, flipped on the TV, and found Mortal Kombat the movie right in front of me, I figured it was time to get the creative juices flowing. First of all, I hadn’t seen this movie since I was probably 7 or 8 years old, but I think it was even cooler the second time around.

1. It has the iconic Veronica Vaughn from Billy Madison playing Sonya, and the granpda from Johnny Tsunami playing Shang Tsung. If this was all I had known going into it, I still would have watched without a doubt.

2. It features perhaps the greatest head of hair of all time. No typo there folks. This feathery mullet is that transcendantal. It is so incredible that it actually steals a few scenes from the actual guy who is sporting it. That, my friends, is a rarity. And when something like that occurs, notice needs to be taken. If you don’t believe me?

Liu Kang says, “Think again buster, or I will lotus kick your ass back to the Ming Dynasty.”

And 3. This movie would have to rank near the top of any unintentional comedy/awesomeness movie power rankings list. And for me, those 3 reasons are 3 unnecessary ones. I need zero motivation to drop everything I am doing to watch this cinematic masterpiece.

But, on the subject of power rankings, I got to thinking. Some of my favorite writers out there, chiefly Bill Simmons, do a fantastic job of ranking powerfully the NBA and NFL. It makes for great reading sure, but poor baseball is left in the dust, all alone. And as a fantasy baseball junkie (at the Royals game yesterday, a fellow league member told me to my face that my lineup was horrible, I proceeded to cry on the inside…I have a serious problem) thats tough to watch. So its me to the rescue, ranking all of the MLB teams from worst to first (yes, even the Cardinals), separating them by groups into divisions named for the first words that jump to mind when I think of those particular teams (borrowing an idea from Simmons himself). Again, apologies on the long wait, and more apologies for making you wait for so long for a brief treatise on Mortal Kombat and some MLB Power Rankings. Without further ado, I give you:

THE POOP SANDWICH DIVISION

30. Houston Astros (17-30).  In this edition of “Who made the better buy?!” you will get to choose between the ring-pop (whatever happened to those) I bought in the 2nd grade, the recently completed $680 million purchase of the Astros by Jim Crane, and the $1000 I once donated online to help a certain Nigerian prince. Ugh.

29. Minnesota Twins (15-30). If the Yankees are the Evil Empire, then you would have to at least throw the Twins’ name in the running to be the Rebel Alliance (and yes, not only do I love Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but you can also add Star Wars to that list…ouch), which makes this slide into the league cellar particularly tough to watch. Im hoping that Joe Mauer comes back at full strength out of nowhere and the Twins catch fire, making a run at the wild card. Don’t hold your breath though.

28. San Diego Fathers (19-28). Not much to say here. Hopefully the Adrian Gonzalez trade replenishes the farm system enough to begin a feasable rebuilding project. Also, get a new ball park. Im all game for ballparks that give pitchers a slight advantage, but Petco (where they play) is just a black hole for offense. I feel bad for any position players who have ever had to play baseball in San Diego.

27. Seattle Mariners (22-24). They have played above their talent level thus far, but I don’t really see it lasting. Would love to see Ichiro get some time in the playoffs before his incredible career comes to an end though. At least they get to see Kevin Durant in person 41 nights a year. Wait…nevermind…

ITS NOT POOP BUT JUST ROTTEN MEAT IN MY SANDWICH DIVISION

26. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-23). Like Seattle, a team that has played above their talent level and it likely won’t last. It gives me no pleausre to throw this out there, but is it possible that Justin Upton (like his older brother BJ) is a player that never fully realizes his incredibly high ceiling? Personally, I hope both guys prove me totally wrong. But Upton (he is still very young) has been in the league for awhile, and with most players that are truly special, don’t we normally see at least some indicators of it pretty early on? Maybe our expectations for Upton were too high? I dont know.

25. Chicago Cubs (20-25). Frankly I’d rather eat a handful of sand than watch some of the teams in the league right now, and Chicago certainly qualifies. They just aren’t very exciting right now. At least they have Alfonso Soriano? If you are a Cubs fan, you are now excused to gauge your eyes out.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates (22-24). Astounded that they have straddled .500 so far into the season 1. Because Andrew Mccutchen has been a resident occupant of struggletown all year (although he has started to pick things up a bit) and 2. Its the Pirates. If Pedro Alvarez can come back and get things going at the plate, it looks as if Pittsburgh, just may, have a solid nucleus in place for the future. But for now, they still suck.

23. Washington Nationals (21-25). Speaking of nuclei (I need to get out more), there’s no need to mention the guys Washington plans to build around for the next 10-15 years. One of those guys is not Jayson Werth. His contract may be worse than Soriano’s, and thats really saying something. Better days are ahead Nationals fans.

22. New York Mets (22-24). There are just a lot of crappy teams trying to stay afloat out there right now. I know this team is all over the news, but like so many other teams, I just do not care. I think all of this negative PR will get back to the locker room if it hasn’t already. This team is in serious trouble.

THE MEDIOCRE SANDWICH DIVISION (editors note: I’ll quit with the sandwich names, I think about food too much)

21. Los Angeles Dodgers (21-27). Like the Mets, a lot of negative press has taken its toll on the team. Unlike the Mets, I think this squad still has the guys (or at least some semblence of a foundation) to turn things around and make a run at a spot in the playoffs. Can it be done? Does anyone care?

20. Baltimore Orioles (21-24). This team is a .500 one at best. General management got too trigger happy in the offseason and signed a bunch of past their prime/takes more off the table than he contributes guys (Derek Lee, Mark Reynolds (why would anyone make these kinds of moves?!)), because they thought this team was ready to contend. And they were the only ones who thought this. Never get fooled by a new manager injecting life into a team post-AllStar break. In baseball, things tend to flatten out (i.e. return to the status quo) over time. And for a team of this talent level, their record is just about right. Even Buck Showalter couldn’t stop that from happening.

19. Kansas City Royals (22-24). Falling back to the status quo and trigger happy general management is a perfect segue to this team as a matter of fact. The Royals, simply put, just aren’t very good. They won games early on because their offense was better than most. Thats fine. The offense was powered by Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Mike Aviles, and Jeff Francoeur. Thats not fine (although I do think Francoeur has a chance to sustain what hes been doing, and I have full faith in Butler). Again, another case of a team returning to the status quo, something not even Eric Hosmer can stop. The Hosmer call up appears to have been a success, but Danny Duffy and Everett Teaford? Im not too sure. With these types of moves, I feel like Dayton Moore is starting to get into a “make the team as good as it can be THIS YEAR” type of mindset, when it could come at the price of the future, which doesn’t seem like the type of plan he’d been preaching throughout the entire offseason. There’s absolutely no way he can screw this farm system up, right? Gonna puke.

18. Chicago White Sox (22-26). Clearly, they have been underwhelming this season, especially big, bad Adam Dunn. But something tells me they will find a way to play up to their talent level and make some sort of run at a playoff spot. And that is the kiss of death for their season. Chicago baseball everyone!

17. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States of America (24-24). Thats a mouthful. This appears to be a squad that is on the tail end of a reasonably dominant decade of baseball. They were good for awhile, but players grow old, every team gets crappy at some point. The Angels are certainly trending in that direction. But Mike Scoscia is one of THE BEST managers in the entire game, and I think he can squeeze one more competitive season out of this team.

THE MILDLY INTERESTING DIVISION

16. Oakland Athletics (22-25). The preseason comparisons to last years world champs may have been unfair, but up to now, this could still be that type of team (although they are more likely than not 1-2 years away from being serious contenders). If they can lock up their young pitching (which is right up there with the top staffs in the game), they will be contending for a long time. But that offense on the other hand…

15. Toronto Blue Jays (23-23). Jose Bautista is mashing the ball like he would be if he were on steroids. Whoops, did I just say that? Im not going to flat out say he’s found some loophole with the drug testing system. But he’s probably found some loophole in the drug testing system.

14. Detroit Tigers (23-23). This group holds the current honor of being the highest ranked team on this list to be a part of the prestigious group of teams I care extremely little about. V-Mart and Max Scherzer have been outstanding this year. And if your core is Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander (Detroit happens to have these very two players), you’ll probably be contending for a playoff spot deep into the season no matter what. Apart from that, their record reflects their type of play this year, imagine that.

13. Colorado Rockies (23-22). Seeing Troy Tulowitzki struggle with his bat hasn’t been easy to watch. I have a huge man crush on him, and hes been on my fantasy team 4 of the last 5 years. Knowing him as well as I do though, he will continue to pull Ubaldo Jiminez and Carlos Gonzalez out of their funks, getting this team where it belongs: on top of the division and in the discussion for world series darkhorse.

THE THESE TEAMS HAVE TALENT BUT COULD JUST AS EASILY IMPLODE DIVISION

12. Texas Rangers (24-23). Getting Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz back bumps these guys up a few spots. Alexi Ogando has been a revelation, and the Rangers are better than their record lets on. If they can stay healthy, they are one of the top teams in the game.

11. Milwaukee Brewers (24-23). It seems like almost every year, the Brewers have the guys to be able to compete, but can never quite get things done. This year, with a legitimate ace starting to get healthy, things may be different. But he will have to pitch better than he has in his last few starts if the BrewCrew wants to make a run at a division and league championship.

10. Cincinnati Reds (25-22). Like the Rangers, I think the Reds are a little better than how they’ve opened the first 25% or so of the season. Jay Bruce looks like he is taking baby steps towards stardom. Going into the season, their starting pitching looked like it could be a real asset. Now? Bronson Arroyo has an ERA of 4.11 and is the team leader in that category. ‘Nuff said. Something will have to change with that rotation (personnel or production wise) if they want to get back to the playoffs.

9. Florida Marlins (26-19). Unlike the three teams mentioned above, this team is not as good as their record would seem to indicate. And things just got rockier with Josh Johnson (who has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league the last 2.5 years) hitting the disabled list. You have to hope they can tread water until he makes a, hopefully, early return, but things could turn south very quickly if they aren’t careful.

8. Satan (25-20). 8 years ago, I was tired of hearing about this team every day. Today? I am tired of hearing about this team every day. And it definitely won’t stop. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada’s respective careers coming to a tense end will not do the team any justice in the next few years. And I don’t think they have any way of getting out of A-Rods HUMONGOUSLY bad contract and CC Sabathia’s potentially horrible looking contract either. I wonder what this team will look like in 2015. In all likelihood, they will be there right til the end of the season, but I sure hope not.  

THE UPSTARTS

7. San Francisco Giants (27-19). Love their pitching, hate their offense, its that simple. They will continue to stay 5-10 games above .500 until something changes, for better or for worse.

6. Atlanta Braves (26-23). This is another case of a team that should be better than where they are right now. The pitching continues to be exceptional, but the offense is sputtering. Jason Heyward has been a puzzle (was placed on the disabled list a few hours after writing this), and this could go 1 of 2 ways. Heyward could finally start to produce like his talent would suggest he is capable of doing, and he would elevate this team to serious contending level. Or Heyward continues to fizzle, and then the delicate balance of this middling team begins to unravel, and other things begin to go wrong, and then I start to look too deeply into certain situations, until finally, I exaggerate enough that I have something to write about.

5. Tampa Bay Rays (26-21). Every time I think Tampa Bay, I think “model way to run a small market team in today’s game.” I can’t say that enough. It blows my mind how some teams simply refuse to build through the draft. You sign those core guys to long term deals, suck it up when good, non-core players leave, tread water, and then reload with younger talent (that came through the drafting) in 1-2 years. Thats it! Thats all you have to do. Unfortunately for Tampa, this is one of those treading water seasons. This type of record is their ceiling for the year, speaking to just how little good teams there are in baseball right now.

4. St. Lou Cardinals (28-20). One of the top stories of the year is how this team has been able to put up such a solid record with Albert Pujols hitting .260, Adam Wainright not pitching, and Chris Carpenter pitching badly. I feel like this team, like basically any other on this list, could have things go sour in 2 weeks. But if Lance Berkman can continue to produce, and Matt Holliday can stay healthy, they should be right there at the end, and there’s no way Albert continues this powerless streak for much longer. He is the greatest hitter of our generation, he’ll get things turned around very soon. That would be classic if he left after the season though.

 3. Cleveland Indians (29-15). I don’t really get this team, because I’m just not sure how good they really are, which is why they do not hold the top spot. The AL Central is WIDE open, and they are in complete control right now. But if/when they make the playoffs, how will they fair against some of the more talented teams? Luckily for them there aren’t too many that are as talented as they are. Unfortunately for them, this is a product of there being very few teams that have revealed themselves as actually good, rather than the Indians being legitimately more talented than many other squads.

THE CONTENDERS

2. Philadelphia Phillies (28-18). There really isn’t much to say about the pitching. It was the best on paper before the season began, and there isn’t much of a reason to refute that claim at this stage in the season. But think where they would be right now if the offense was producing at the levels it has for the past 4 years. Many in Philadelphia are hoping that the return of Chase Utley will restore the bats to just that level. And it better, because this team won’t have too many shots at a world series after this year.

1. Boston Red Sox (25-21). Maybe not the best record on the whole this year, but since they started 2-10, this squad has been playing like the favorites we all expected them to be. And that is with Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia all still struggling, Marco Scutaro on the DL, and John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka being the most worthless $150 million+ in the league today. Adrian Gonzalez has emerged as a true superstar (which I, personally, have been waiting for for about 4 years). Look for them to continue to keep this hot streak going for the rest of the season. The Giants may be the defending champs, but in my book, the World Series goes through beantown for the time being.

And that will do it. I have just completely given up on trying to write something under a reasonable word count. There is no hope. But hopefully my lack of posting the last few weeks hasn’t turned you off just yet. I’ve already been busy trying to come up with new ideas, and am looking to put out some new material late this week/early next week, for absolute sure. Until then, thanks again for stopping by. Go Chiefs.

Word Limits Be Damned

The NFL Draft is one of my favorite events to watch every year, but with my team picking at 21 (after being in the top 5 for the previous 3 years) some of the excitement seemed to be gone. If thats the price for a 10 win season, I’ll take it. I thought the 1st round would be the perfect opportunity for a running diary, but this is my first shot at it, so bear with me here.

8.00: Turn on the tv and the first thing we see is cam newton on the phone, and possibly a little teary eyed? Carolina’s taking the kid for sure. The lineup is Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, and Mel Kiper. The only thing we’re missing here is mel kiper not being there. Get it?! No? Ok moving on.

8.03: Do you guys remember those tiny American flag pins that important political people wear? Cam newton is wearing an Under Armour version take of that pin on his jacket. Thats marketing folks.

8.04: Goodell being booed heavily as he comes out to which he responds, “I got you.” He has learned some urban slang as of late.

8.06: Newton is officially a Carolina panther. My roommates and their friends on the other side of the room have been screaming for no reason for the last 2 hours, distracting me heavily in the process. And now I have some insurance against the always possible lack of comedy tonight.

8.10: Gruden says Cam needs to make the adjustment in the NFL to new “loaded installations.” Not sure what this means but its awesome, and will be incorporating that phrase into daily word use.

8.12: Von miller is crying in the green room.

8.13: Broncos take Von Miller, who is now sobbing in the green room. As much as it pains me to say it, that alone has to make the Broncos extremely happy. Will be a star, and now we know he’ll probably work his butt off to make sure that happens. Very afraid. Hoping he struggles to adjust to new loaded installations.

8.15: Von miller is still crying.

8.17: Now watching a Bud Light commercial that displays a phone application which enables said phone to dispense illimitable amounts of bear. Bud light tells lies.

8.20: Bills take Marcell Dareus, who lifts his agent 20 feet in the air in celebration. Liking the efficiency of the draft so far, something the NFL has really gotten right in the past few years.

8.24: Bengals take AJ Green. So far, the draft has gone according to plan, but things start to get a little dicey with Arizona up next.

8.25: Gruden: “AJ Green could be in the circus the way he handles the football.” The circus now employs a football handling act.

8.31: Cards taking LSU’s Pat Peterson, maybe the best player in the draft. Fans now have another year of List_of_Arizona_Cardinals_starting_quarterbacks and trying to convince themselves that Richard Bartel can be the man to look forward to; should be fun.

8.32: Browns trade their pick (6th overall) to Atlanta. I officially have no idea whats going on.

8.35: Gruden: “One thing I want my receivers to do…catch the ball.” I also want my quarterbacks to throw the ball.

8.36: Falcons take Julio Jones. Can’t really say anything against the pick except what they gave up for it. They now have someone to put opposite Roddy White who can take the top off of a defense. Falcons give up 1st, 2nd and 4th round picks this year, and 1st and 4th round picks next year. Pretty steep price, but you can’t get a Julio Jones when you’re at the bottom of the first round. I think that 5 of the first 6 players taken in the draft were from the SEC. Doesn’t it seem like we see this every year?

8.39: Kiper says Julio Jones needs to work on his concentration in the NFL. Meanwhile Jones is showing the wrong side of his Falcons jersey to the cheering crowd. He turns around…and shows the wrong side of the jersey to the cameras. I am now in agreement with Kiper, and am immediately alarmed for the Falcons.

8.42: San Fran takes Aldon Smith from Missouri. Solid pass rusher to compliment Pat Willis. Blaine Gabbert comes up to him to give a token congratulations and Smith acts like hes not even there. Maybe it means nothing, maybe it means something? Trying to keep myself intrigued.

8.45: Titans take Jake Locker. First huge surprise of the draft, but personally, I like the guy. Really impressed me in Gruden’s quarterback camp (which is some of the best television you  can come around), which clearly meant a lot to management in Tennessee.

8.46: Gruden: “Locker is one of the few guys in the league who could play without a face mask.” Gruden is on a roll now.

8.48: Gruden passionately defends Locker saying he wins games, and is simply a product of a bad team. This is the most fired up I have ever seen him get outside of being on a football sideline (not joking). Im sold.

8.51. Mort comes on with Schefty and says Tebow announced he was coming back for his senior season at Florida to a stadium full of riotous people. Locker announced he was coming back for his senior season by walking into his coach’s office with his hunting dog. Im really sold.

8.55: Dallas takes an offensive tackle from USC. I just burnt my tongue. Disappointingly conventional pick from Jerry Jones.

8.56: Gruden says Tyron Smith (Dallas’ pick) “needs more thump.” Gruden might be the drafts biggest winner. I will also be putting this phrase to daily usage.

8.59: Under Armour advertises a shirt that can measure heart rate, speed, and among other things g-force of beginning take off. Pretty cool stuff. I would like a shirt to tell me how much calories and fat I gain whenever I eat.

9.00: Jags trade up to take the Redskins’ pick. Someone next to me lets out a 90 decibel scream. I’m not sure what he was hoping would happen, but I feel like this is the existence of the common Redskins fan under Dan Snyder.

9.02: Fan still screaming. Washington did irreparable damage to its relationship with Donovan McNabb, they could really use a franchise quarterback.

9.02: Jaguars take Blaine Gabbert. No qualms with the pick. If anyone cared about the city of Jacksonville, the fact that David Garrard still has 4 years and almost $40 million left on his contract would raise a few eyebrows. Maybe they’re hoping Gabbert can use all that time to develop, in which case this worked out brilliantly for them.

9.03: Gabbert tops both my flow and cabbage power rankings. The one thing Jacksonville can be sure of is that they are getting a bro.

9.05: Kiper asks Gruden if he thinks Gabbert can play in the NFL. Disappointed its taken an hour for Kiper to say something stupid.

9.06: Von miller is still crying

9.09: Texans take JJ Watt, a defensive end out of Wisconsin. Again, no qualms with the pick, Im pretty indifferent. The Texans had an historically bad pass defense last year and they immediately improve their pass rush. Fine.

9.09: Gruden: “This guy is a self made man. Your in for an all day sucker when you face off against this man. I think he used to sell pizzas to you Mel.” All day suckers are the worst.

9.14: Mort says Minnesota was poised to take Jake Locker had he fallen to them. I don’t feel the need to explain my logic here because I’m too lazy, but I bet they trade down now and take a chance on Andy Dalton.

9.16: Da’Quan Bowers and Nick Fairley have really slipped so far. Otherwise, pretty reasonably tame draft.

9.17: Right on cue, the Vikings select Christian Ponder. I promise you I typed the tame part before this happened. Gruden and Kiper have no idea what is going on. Minnesota fans are lighting themselves on fire.

9.18: Apparently a current Villanova student used to date Christian Ponder. This is a win for everybody.

9.21: Detriot happens upon Nick Fairley. Maybe not a huge need pick, but the best player on the board without a doubt. If I’m a Lions fan, I am extremely excited. If Fairley pans out, the Lions will possess the most fearsome d-tackle tandom of the decade, mark it down.Looks like the team finally has something going here. Now we just need to keep Stafford healthy.

9.22: Chris Berman says Lions lost 16 games just a few years ago then screams AND NOW THEYRE ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. Gruden still carrying the show.

9.29: Rams take Robert Quinn. Not really much knowledge of team needs but he appears to be crying. Huge fan of the cry factor for players. Not a guarantor of sure stardom, but you know youre gonna get a serious worker, which is a 100% big deal in the NFL.

9.30: Bro party in the adjacent room (I live in a quad), and one of the guys is listening to Love In This Club by Usher, wearing a bandana, shirtless, and pantless. Gotta love the draft.

9.35: Miami takes Mike Pouncey. Not quite as good as his older brother, but still has a few pro bowls in his future. Very solid draft pick. Chiefs are almost on the clock, getting a bit jumpy here.

9.38: For the 40,000th time, Kiper makes an unnecessarily big deal about a team that may or may not need a quarterback passing on a quarterback.

9.40: Now blaring in the party across the room is Rolling in the Deep by Adele. Things are getting interesting. I think?

9.43: Redskins (with the Jaguars’ old pick) take Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue origins. The place literally goes silent, maybe everyone is surprised that Dan Snyder does something comprehensible?

9.44: Mel Kiper compares Kerrigan (defensive end) to Chris Long (a very highly picked defensive end) and Jarret Johnson (a little known defensive tackle for the Ravens). All 3 are also white. Kiper clearly did a lot of research on that one.

9.49: New England (with the pick they got from the Seymour trade a couple years ago) takes Nate Solder. Good pick for the Patriots, offensive line was a slight issue for the team. Surprised Mel didn’t get angrier that they passed on Andy Dalton.

9.51: Gruden has gone cold. Solder and Tom Brady are both white, pretty comparable by Kiper’s estimates.

9.56: Chargers take Corey Liuget. Pretty indifferent here, their trying to beef up their front 7. Gruden: “This guy is 300 pounds and that’s where he likes to play.” Not sure what that means but Gruden is back.

10.03: The Giants take Prince Amukamara. Looks like a good value pick, and also near the top of this year’s name power rankings. But Gruden’s areas for concern are “sloppy technician” and “needs to acclimate to NFL rules.” Those are red flags if I’ve ever seen them.

10.05: I just stubbed my toe and that’s where I like to play.

10.11: Bucs select Adrian Clayborn. Team on the rise, love Josh Freeman, love Raheem Morris, indifferent about the pick. Chiefs on the clock, I have no idea whats coming. Ive been hearing maybe Gabe Carimi the last few days. Hoping Scott Pioli sticks to the plan…whatever that means.

10.12: Mel compares Clayborn to Troy Polamalu: “Polamalu will hit you, this kid will hit you.” Mel is clearly slipping a bit now. Not only do they play completely different positions, but their skin isn’t the same color.

10.14: Someone just tried to trade me a PBR for a Coors Light. I refused. Sorry Tom Raper.

10.16: Chiefs trade their pick (21st overall) to Cleveland for the 27th overall and Cleveland’s 3rd rounder. Don’t mind this one at all. Pioli clearly knows what he wants, and thinks he can get some extra value in return as well. Cant argue against stockpiling picks.

10.21: Special guest pick-announcer Peyton Hillis thanks his lord and savior Jesus Christ for the opportunity. I’m all for thanking the guy upstairs after a big win etc., but attributing the ability to announce a draft choice to God? C’mon man. Browns take Phil Taylor and that’s where they like to play.

10.26: Colts take Anthony Castonzo. Keeping good maintenance of the O-line is a must. Feel like the Colts make smart picks just about every year.

10.33: They bring out the troops for a great round of applause and it delays the Eagles’ selection for about 3 minutes. I bet even this pissed them off. They take Danny Watkins. As it turns out, he is 26 years old. 40% of his career (and that’s generous) was over before it even began. Age wont have any effect on the quality of his performance but it does have an effect on the longevity of his career (a pretty large deal). I’d rather have a player with a solid 10 year career than a player with a solid 6 year career.

10.38: Danny Watkins was a firefighter before playing college football. He is near the top for most interesting man in the world power rankings (behind the most interesting man in the world of course).

10.39: Gruden out of nowhere: “This is as good as I’ve felt in a long time.”

10.42: Saints select Cameron Jordan. Yawn. Nice value pick though.

10.48: Interesting note from Berman. Had the Seahawks lost their final game of the regular season, thus losing the division and missing out on the playoffs as a result, they would have picked 7th in this draft. Ruh roh. Then Seattle ends up picking James Carpenter. I feel like Ive heard of a good deal of prospects and I’ve never heard of this guy. Ruh roh. Pretty big reach, but always keep in mind that Seattle loves loaded installations (still working on when its ok to use that).

10.57: Gruden on Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith: “We’ve been talking about this LOCKout thing for awhile now, but this kid is a LOCKdown corner.” Seamless.

11.00: The clock has run out on Baltimore and they don’t do anything (found out later it was because Chicago botched the trade). Haven’t seen a team pass on a pick in a very long time. So now the Chiefs are on the clock. Worried this pick is now jinxed for us. The pick is immediately announced as “in.” Pioli wants his guy I guess. Baltimore then announces that its pick is also “in.” What is going on.

11.04: Chiefs pick Jon Baldwin from Pittsburgh. We needed a WR, and he is a very sizeable guy, but I’m worried its just another Dwayne Bowe to line up on the other side of the field. At the same time, it’s a big position of need and hes a fantastic athlete, so no big complaints here. They have a surplus of picks in the coming rounds to try and address the O-line and front seven.

11.07: Ravens pick cornerback Jimmy Smith.  Huge position of need. He is more talented then where he was drafted, and the only possible problem was a character issue, and you know Jon Harbaugh and Ray Lewis will fix that problem pretty quickly. Very good pick.

11.14: Saints trade up with the Patriots to take Alabama’s Mark Ingram. The Patriots will get the Saints number one pick next year, and the saints 2nd round pick this year. Like this for both teams. Saints clearly needed some RB help, and the Patriots do what they do best, stockpiling massive amount of draft picks. They had (via the Seymour trade with Oakland) a 1st rounder this year, three 2nd’s this year, 2 3rd’s and 2 1st’s next year. Great organization.

11.17: Suzy Kolber reads a letter to Ingram that his dad (former NFL player, currently in jail) wanted read upon his being drafted. Really special moment, maybe the highlight of the night.

11.19: The Patriots seem to stockpile picks going into/during every draft, only to trade them away a few hours later for even more picks in the next draft. And this process has been on repeat for maybe 6 years in a row. Is it possible they are assembling the greatest godfather package of all-time to swoop in and select Andrew Luck with the top overall pick during next year’s draft? The draft has gotten boring and I’ve clearly let myself go. Then again, wouldn’t put it past Bill Belichick. And they have to do something with all of these picks at some point. Right? If it happens I will literally crap my pants on purpose. That would be one of the greatest draft day stories of all time. I should just stop talking. But seriously. Luck (already a certifiable stud) learning the craft under Tom Brady for 2-3 years? The Patriots would be set until 2025. This has gotten out of control.

11.20: Chicago gets Gabe Carimi up next. Like this guy, and he will start from day one. Good protection for Cutler. Wouldn’t want him to get anymore booboos on his knee.

11.30: Jets take Muhammad Wilkerson, a DT. Steelers take Cameron Heyward, a DE. Packers take Derek Sherrod. I’ve lost all interest.

Observations: 1. Gruden is a rising star, and possibly poised to become the Gus Johnson of pro football commentating?

2. This draft was pretty boring I think because about 20 linemen were selected. Gotta see more position players for the usual excitement.

3. Da’Quan Bowers and Andy Dalton will probably dominate the discussion for tomorrow. Trent Dilfer has said Dalton reminds him of Aaron Rodgers. Sign me up.

4. How crappy must Panthers fans be feeling right now? They were sandwiched in between the Sam Bradford draft (last year) and the Andrew Luck draft (next year) and have to settle for Cam Newton? This isn’t to say Newton won’t do well, but you don’t need me to tell you that he is the prototype boom or bust draft pick. Bradford had one of the highest pre-draft grades for a QB since Peyton Manning (not to mention he exceeded already sky high expectations with his rookie campaign). And Luck? It is pretty much the general consensus that he will be even better than Bradford. And even if the Panthers are lucky enough to get the number one overall pick again next year (I have never seen a team do it two years in a row), you know they can’t take Luck, because they will already have invested so much in Newton. This pick will define the franchise. Not for the next 5, 10, or 15 years. This pick will define the franchise. Period. Good thing they didn’t use it on a guy who has a 50% chance of NFL success (I’m probably being generous here).

The action should be just as interesting later tonight, so be sure to tune in. Apologies for the 3 week wait and especially to Andrew Edmonds on the word count, will be sure to work on that for the next column.