Sunday, October 14, 2007

Patriots: Will They Ever Lose?

After watching the Patriots systematically take apart the Cowboys tonight, I'm left with one feeling: this team absolutely does not have a weakness. Tom Brady is right now the best QB in the NFL. He absolutely torched a pretty solid Dallas defense tonight. I can only think of one ball he threw that wasn't right on the mark - on the flea flicker when he overthrew Randy Moss by two steps on a 60 yard bomb. His numbers speak for themselves - 31-46 (lowering his completion percentage on the season), 388 yards, 5 TD's. But it's more than that with Brady. He makes big plays at big times. Look at his numbers on third down - 11-13, 167 yards, 2 TD's - converting nine times. Or after the Cowboys took the lead in the second half, he led five consecutive scoring drives yielding 3 TD's and 2 FG's. He makes adjustments and call audibles at the line as much as Peyton Manning does. Imagine the career numbers he would have right now if he had the same supporting cast as Manning.

Let's talk about that supporting cast. First of all, they have one the most explosive wide recievers ever in Randy Moss, who stretches the defense and commands double teams at all times. But when teams put two people on Moss, it leaves room for guys like Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth (who combined for 18 catches and 260 yards and 3 TD's), and tight end Ben Watson. Laurence Maroney is a top-tier back in the NFL, and Sammie Morris proved the last two weeks is more than a capable back-up, even though he never really got it going today. Their offensive line is very good, and you rarely see Brady get sacked (his three sacks today doubled the season total). The three and four WR sets they throw at you spread out opposing defenses enough that it is very tough to blitz, but if you don't their blocking is good enough that you don't see Brady getting pressured. Their defense is loaded with smart, veteran guys like Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison that just know the game.

The most important thing that I come away with every time I watch this team play is how prepared they are. They are the best coached team in the NFL by far. It really is incredible how they just dismantle opposing defenses. If you play up on their recievers, they throw over the top. If you play off, they kill you with underneath routes. It seems like Belicheck is always one step ahead. Perfect example: after stopping the Cowboys and getting the ball back up 31-24 early in the fourth quarter, the Pats ran play-action and hit Stallworth for a 69-yard touchdown pass and for all intents and purposes ended the game. Even when defenses guess right, the Pats are so talented they'll beat you most of the time anyway.

Bottom line - this team is loaded, and it wouldn't suprise me if they went undefeated. Continue reading...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Baseball Playoffs

Before I get into the LCS's, I just want to make one more comment on the whole A-rod free agency thing. I think A-rod is going to come back to New York, for another ridiculous contract, but I think he's coming back. If he leaves, he only perpetuates this image of a mercenary, someone that does not care at all about winning a championship and is all about the money. He will leave a third city in his wake, booing him every chance they get. And the season he had this year (including a postseason were he wasn't overwhleming, but outplayed his infield counterpart DJ) where he won back most Yankee fan hearts and loyalties can only intensify this reaction. Even if he gets a ring somewhere else, he will never be able to shed that image. A-rod cares alot about his image and how fans percieve him, so I think he will come back to New York to leave a legacy as one of the best - not only in pinstripes, but ever to play the game.

LCS predictions: As much as it kills me, I really can't see the Indians taking down the Red Sox. Literally, all day I've been thinking about the matchups - the 1-2 punch of Sabathia and Carmona, the Indians finally hitting their stride with a healthy Hafner and Grady Sizemore finally playing like the preseason MVP candidate, the clutch hitting and pitching the Indians showed in the Yankees. But I really can't see the Red Sox losing this series. Not with all their postseason experience. Not with Papi being Papi. And Manny has that look again (a quick sidenote: I hate Manny Ramirez, especially the way people say "Manny being Manny", but noone in baseball has better homerun poses than that guy. They're incredible, but I still hate him). When he is swinging like this, he might be the scariest hitter in baseball. Sox in 6.

I don't know as much about the NL, especially the NL west, but how can anyone pick against the Rockies right now. They've won 17 of 18 and have a manager that absolutely cannot make a bad move right now (two examples off the top of my head: pinch-runnning Jamey Carroll in the 7th against the Padres in the playoff for slugger Garrett Atkins and eventually getting the game-winning sac fly from him; pinch-hitting for the starter in game 2 of the Phillies series, leading the Matsui's game-changing grand slam). Add to that Brandon Webb is 2-2 with an ERA near 6 in his 6 starts against the Rockies this year (with a better ERA in the 3 starts at Coors). I just don't think the D-Backs have enough offense to beat the a Rockies team on a roll like this. Rockies in 6.

That's all for now. Continue reading...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Why I wanna break my TV

The fourth inning of game four of the Yankees series just ended. Let me tell you what makes baseball one of the best sports in the world, but also the most frustrating thing in the world.
Top of the 1st: runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, Jhonny Peralta hits a looper that is just out of the reach of a leaping Bobby Cano makes it 2 - 0.
Bottom 1st: runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, Jorge Posada hits a slicing flare to left field that Kenny Lofton makes a nice sliding catch, saves a run.
Top 2nd: runner on 3rd, 2 outs, Asdrubal Cabrera hits a flare slicing away from Melky Cabrera that drops in front of him making it 4 - 0 (all of which was set up by a tough call on a HBP on Kelly Shoppach's bunt attempt).
Bottom 2nd: bases loaded, 2 outs, Derek Jeter smokes a ball down the 3rd base line that Casey Blake knocks down, saving at least one maybe two runs. 4 - 1 (which included a missed call by the ump when Hideki Matsui hit Shoppach's golve on a swing).
Top 4th: bases loaded, 1 out, Victor Martinez hits a 1-2 backdoor breaking ball for a roller through the left side of the infield for a 2 run single breaking the game open.
And as I wrote this Grady Sizemore got called safe on a bang-bang play at first where replays showed Mussina beat him to the bag. Again, tough call that went against the Yankees.
Now I know that i am incredibly biased in this situation, but the Yankees absolutely cannot catch a break in this series. I don't know what it is. Maybe the Indians are just outplaying the Yankees. Maybe the baseball gods are punishing the "evil empire". Maybe its karma biting me and every other Yankee fan in the ass for the way we treated A-rod last year. I really don't know, but GOOD LORD, it is frustrating. Continue reading...

Yankees Playoffs Musings - Steinbrenner to A-rod

Late Sunday afternoon, as I drove back from Boston where I spent a ridiculous weekend with some of Red Sox nation's craziest, I had about nine hours to think about where the Yankees were as a team. First of all, I really want to comment on Steinbrenner's interview. I think Joe Torre is an incredible manager. He always deals with everything thrown at him with grace and integrity, and when dealing with the New York media and George Steinbrenner, that is absolutely necessary. With the exception of overworking his bullpen (mostly a result of a lack of quality pitchers), he is as good as they come when it comes to X's-and-O's baseball strategy. And he has an incredible ability to maintain an even keel - he's never too high during the good times and never too low during the bad.

This last quality may be his biggest fault as well. When the Yankees were winning World Series in the late '90's, they had guys on that team like Joe Girardi and Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez that were motivators. They were the ones that got people fired up for a game, that wouldn't accept the apathetic and effortless performances of the Yankees in the last few playoffs. They needed a manager that was even keel and could keep everything that happened in perspective. The Yankees don't have those guys right now. Sure, the young guys like Bobby Cano and Melky and Shelley Duncan and Joba bring a little excitement and enthusiam, but there isn't that one guy that will rip into the team when they need it. Even Derek Jeter, the captain of the Yankees, is more of a lead by example guy. Now I would never, ever call for someone to get fired unless I thought that I could do better in that position, but I'm saying that should the Yankees lose the series and Torre lose his job, a change might not be the worst thing in the world.

A few more things. First, I believe Steinbrenner's interview was an effort by the Boss to kick start some life into the Yankees. Everyone on the team loves playing for Torre, and what better way to light a fire under a player then to threaten to take their beloved manager away. Because when it comes down to it, the players - not the manager - decide the game. (I know i'm writing this after the Yankees already won game 3, but its tough to post on a blog from the Jersey Turnpike). Also, people need to get off A-rod's back for his playoff struggles. Before game 3, the Yankees had eight hits as a team and hadn't had two consecutive hits in the series. He may be 2-10 in the series right now, but other than Johnny Damon, has anyone else done anything in this series, or in the Tigers series last year for that matter? Other than maybe Cano, I'd say not really. Even Derek Jeter is clumped in that group. This series he is 1-12, has not played good defense, and in game 3 grounded into two rally-killing double plays. The last thing I want to say is that the Yankees game 2 loss was probably the MOST unlucky loss I've ever seen or heard if considering the situation. A swarm of bugs attack a 22-year old rookie pitcher in his first playoff appearance, during the eighth inning, when your team is down 0-1 in a best of 5 series, and as a result a pitcher with pinpoint control walks a guy and throws two wild pitches in one inning to allow a run to score without a hit. Crazy. Continue reading...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


What's up yall? Thanks for checking out the site. I'm trying out this whole sports blogging thing, so what is a better way to start than talking about my beloved UCONN Huskies. The Huskies come into this season with moderate expectations after winning only six Big East games and missing both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. That doesn't mean UCONN lacks the talent to be an elite Big East team. I'm reminded alot of the 1997-1998 season. After missing the NCAA tournament the year before (coincidentally the last time the Huskies were left out of the dance) with the youngest team in the Big East, UCONN bounced back to earn a top ten AP ranking and a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. The core of the teams are similar as well - a point guard with a chip-on-their-shoulder and something to prove (AJ Price meet Khaled El-Amin), a talented but overwhelmed freshman two (Jerome Dyson meet Rip Hamilton), and an undersized bulldog of a power forward (Jeff Adrien meet Kevin Freeman).

You always know what you are going to get with a Calhoun-coached UCONN team - uptempo and fast breaking offenses, aggressive and over-playing perimeter defense, and should you get into the paint, a multitude of shot-blockers waiting. The problem last year was that noone knew how to score. There was no Ray Allen or Caron Butler or Rip Hamilton to run an offense through or bail you out when things get stagnant and you need a bucket. It seemed that for the most part, the baby Huskies would be playing not to make a mistake, as opposed to trying to make a play. How much of that was being inexperienced versus being intimidated by the bright lights or even being flat out scared of the wrath of Jim Calhoun, I don't know. What I do know is that the Huskies seemed to be able to hang around with anyone, but once the opponent put a run on them, they could not stop the bleeding and never could get back into sync. Two examples stick out in my mind: the Syracuse game in the Big East tournament and the game at Pitt. The 'Cuse hit UCONN with a quick 8-point run to extend a second half lead to 10, and against Pitt UCONN went punch for punch with the Panthers until Pitt used a 7-0 spurt with about eight minutes left to push the lead to nine. On both occasions you knew that UCONN would not be able to recover simmply because they did not have the firepower offensively.

This brings me to my next point. With this year's squad, I believe there are three things that will determine the Huskies success this year. First, what AJ Price is going to show up this year - the one that led Amityville High to three straight LI titles, or the poor decision-maker and horrendous shooter (38%, 27% from 3) we saw last year. UCONN needs him to become one of the dominant PG's in the league like everyone thought he would be, in the same mold as an El-Amin or Doron Sheffer. Second, how will Hasheem Thabeet develop? He already has the defensive ability - great timing on blocking shots, althought he does get over aggressive sometimes. But he has no hands and no post moves. If he can develop along the same curve as Emeka Okafor, or even anywhere near that, he could be the best center in the league not in DC. But if he doesn't develop a jump hook (which would be unSTOPable at 7'3"), then he becomes a clog in the paint because he does not understand offensive basketball principles (he can't pass and he clogs up the paint for Adrien and penetrating guards). Lastly, will Jerome Dyson be next in line with names like Allen/Hamilton/Gordon or will he be another Albert Mouring or Tony Robertson? Will Stanley Robertson live up to his potential as a go-to scorer? Will Curtis Kelly learn to finish against Big East competition? Will Donnell Beverly be better than the last Bay Area PG to grace the Storrs campus (Antonio "smoke-more-weed" Kellogg)?

Regardless, I believe UCONN is going to have a good year. Maybe I'm bleeding Husky blue, but I don't think 20 wins, 10-12 in the expanded 18 game Big East schedule, a top-25 ranking and a top-5 tourney seed is out of the question. There is too much talent, too much size, and too much coaching expertise to have another down year. Continue reading...