Skip to content

Archive for

Multi-Points

So much is happening in the world of sports that I’d have to write five pieces to adequately address everything that’s gone down in the past week. But that would take a long time and I don’t get paid for this (yet).

A quick recap. First the Red Sox swept the Yankees at Fenway. Then the Bulls scorched the Heat in four, making Miami the weakest defending champion in decades. Next the Sox proceeded to take two of three at Yankee Stadium. Then the Patriots traded a signed-Tom Brady jersey to Al Davis for Randy Moss (actually it was a fourth round pick). Finally the week concluded with the Golden State Warriors winning Game 4 against Dallas, to go up 3-1 against the defending-Western Conference champions.

What does all that mean? Well most relevantly it means my NBA Playoff Preview Part Deux has officially been “deaded” quicker than Turtle’s record deal with Saigon on “Entourage”. It also means I now have the chance to throw my two cents on all of it…


Yankees
The Yankees have suffered through slow starts before (they were 9-13 two years ago) but what strikes me about this April is that without A-Rod the Bombers wouldn’t have won more than five games. Because with him they still only won nine!! That’s embarrassing. Just how embarrassing is anyone’s guess. But if you want to find out for yourself, and you happen to have the pleasure of being chummy with a New York fan, ask them what’s worse: watching A-Rod’s most prolific-April in history result in a record of 9-14 or living through a 5-18 start, which evidently would have been the case minus A-Rod’s superhuman effort early on. I say the latter’s less humiliating, because the Yanks starting staff is ravaged and Mariano Rivera always struggles out of the gate, so Yankee fans would at least have a viable (albeit weak) excuse for such a sputtering start. But with A-Rod hitting more home runs than some divisions over the first half of the month, to win nine out of twenty three games is just poor.


Red Sox
I can count on one hand the number of players in the game today who are capable of carrying their teams for a stretch of time all by their lonesome: Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez (honorable mention: Vlad Guerrero, Ryan Howard, Carlos Beltran). Here’s my point: look at what A-Rod has done in comparison to what Manny has done until this juncture. Now extrapolate that s**t. Yankee fans love noting how “it’s only April”. Well for Manny April represents the calm before the storm. While A-Rod’s .355-14-34-1.297 has been the respirator on which the whole Yankees-organization is breathing, Manny’s .202-3-13-.629 has been nothing short of a comical farce. Why? Because the Red Sox have taken five of six from New York and have the best record in baseball. Manny, meanwhile, has contributed little more than a few bombs and a couple goofy exchanges with Dice-K. We all know that as the weather warms up so too does Manuel Ramirez. (Makes that 6.5 game lead seem a little more imposing, doesn’t it?)


Randy Moss
Let’s make something clear right away: the Patriots don’t need Randy Moss. In the months subsequent to their collapse in the AFC Championship they signed the deep threat (Dante Stallworth) they so desperately needed, a big and physical possession receiver (Kelley Washington), and a slot-specialist (Wes Welker). Those acquisitions supplemented a receiving core that proved to be nearly sufficient enough to return to the Super Bowl. So when the opportunity arose to pull Moss out of Oakland for nothing more than a fourth round draft pick, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli probably said, why not? Then they met with Moss, and most assuredly laid down the law cut and dry. Something along the lines of if you come here and work like every other guy on this team, you’re going to win a Super Bowl. Anything less and you’ll be out on your rear end quicker than you could ever imagine. The knock on Randy Moss has always been his incessant and inherent selfishness. Now he has the opportunity to tie his personal legacy into that of the most successful franchise of this era. Here’s one vote saying Randy chooses the Patriot-way over the highway.


Mavs-Warriors
Forget the 67 wins in the regular season. Twenty percent of the Mavs’ 15 losses came against the Warriors. (That’s three.) And frankly they look exactly like the team that last June stood by, in shock and awe, as the Heat took four straight from them in the Finals. Which is to say they’re playing scared. And timid. Playing the Warriors period was already the worst-case scenario for Dallas. It’s rapidly becoming a worst-case nightmare. Including playoffs, Golden State has now taken a whopping nine of the last 11 from Dallas. The Warriors’ coach, Don Nelson, knows all of Dirk Nowitzki’s secrets. And their fans are genuinely intimidating. So how exactly are the Mavs going to pull off three straight and avoid becoming the biggest fraud in NBA history? Don’t ask me. Optimists will point to last year as the Suns climbed out of a 3-1 hole to down the Lakers. The parallels end there. The weight on the shoulders of the Mavs is immense. Between their implosion in the Finals last year to dominating the entire league but Golden State this season, the Mavs are going to have to overcome history and reality. (Plus Stephen “Haymaker” Jackson.)

Finally, a few notes on imminent Eastern Conference second round matchups…

Nets-Cavs This Nets team is pretty much on par with the New Jersey teams that went to back to back NBA Finals a few years ago. Difference is the rest of the Eastern Conference was god-awful back then. No more will Jason Kidd win multiple playoff series’ by leading the fastbreak and tossing alleys to Richard Jefferson. The Nets reign as the most hard-nosed defensive team in the East has long passed. Simply put, anything the Nets can do Lebron can do better. Shoot. Pass. Defend. All advantage Lebron. He’ll ultimatley need a true wingman to take the next step, that much is known. But for the moment Lebron won’t have too many problems disposing of a team that recently has taken nothing but steps back.

Bulls-Pistons The Pistons exhausted their nitrous way too prematurely last year. For a team that already understood the grind of winning an NBA title, Detroit burned itself out in the 2005-06 regular season (64-18), had to dig itself out of a 3-2 hole just to defeat King James in the second round of the playoffs, then bowed to the Heat in the East Finals. I know what you’re thinking. To say the Bulls are hot after watching what they did to the defending champs would be like saying an ice-bath is cool. And yes, Ben Wallace did get the better of his old team during the regular season, but don’t let that fool you. Chicago is still maturing, and this season Detroit has adapted its mentality to that of a team expecting to win a championship.

Division II Lacrosse Special

Here are two pieces I wrote about the top two DII lacrosse teams in the country. Published on CSTV.com, the first is about #1 Mercyhurst, the second is on #2 NY Tech .

http://www.cstv.com/sports/m-lacros/stories/042407aaf.html

http://www.cstv.com/sports/m-lacros/stories/042407aae.html

NBA Playoff Preview ‘07

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!

Awake yet? Have a nice snooze through the 2006-07 NBA season? Good. Now splash some water on your face and prepare yourself for some real basketball. Dwyane Wade is back. Lebron James cares about the game again. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are finally clicking. Tim Duncan is one lumbering step away from meeting a referee in the parking lot to settle a few things. And barring a Black Sox-esque fix, the embarrassing and over-documented tanking that defined this season will be permanently relegated to the rear view.

Plus the Warriors are in the playoffs!!

See, good news all around.

Since we, as fans, are fixated with rankings, I’ve decided to rank the NBA playoff teams, from worst to first, in order of how they will fare in the upcoming second season of basketball. Following is the first half of that list…

Gone real fast

16. Orlando Magic Every couple of years the Magic slip and slide their way into the seventh or eighth seed in the East only to be completely dismantled. The last such occurrence came in 2003 against Detroit. Tracy McGrady actually led the Magic to a 3-1 advantage in that series before the Pistons locked down and took a methodical three straight, reinventing themselves as the new age “Bad Boys”. Since then they’ve seemed to take pleasure in falling behind in the playoffs only to come storming back against mortified opponents. In my opinion getting swept is actually less humiliating than having an adversary spot you a game or two just so they can mop the floor with you the next four nights. If I’m the Magic, I say, thanks but no thanks, just do what you came here to do, Chauncey. Quick and painless exit for Orlando this year…

15. Washington Wizards Not a whole lot to say here. The season-ending injury to Gilbert Arenas prevented the most-hyped rematch from a year ago from really taking place. True, the Wizards and Cavs will meet in the first round again, but there will be no need for Lebron to drive the baseline for an epic game-winner; no need to walk to the free throw line and ice Gilbert Arenas in Game 6. Nope, without Agent Zero in uniform there won’t be multiple one-point thrillers, nor a pulsating-Game 6. There won’t even be a Game 5. Sorry, Wiz.


Upset early

14. Toronto Raptors 47 wins versus 41 wins. That’s all that justifies the notion that Toronto losing to New Jersey is an upset. So the Raptors won six more games than the Nets and have home-court advantage. Woohoo. Nothing against the Raptors, they are a solid youth-infused team led by a true star in the making, Chris Bosh. Had Chicago beaten New Jersey on the last night of the season the Raptors would have been facing Washington in the first round, and I would have been congratulating Toronto on its first playoff series win since this guy named Vince Carter. Which reminds me…Vinsanity anyone?

Not like last year

13. Los Angeles Lakers Kobe and the Lakers were peaking at this time last season, and surged out to a 3-1 series lead in the first round against Phoenix. Then Steve Nash got angry and the Lakers got juvenile. No matter what, it went down as the most compelling opening round tilt, as the Suns prevailed in seven. This year Kobe has had to drop 40 a game just to keep LA from crumbling down the stretch. Coupled with Amare Stoudemire’s presence in the rematch I don’t see the Lakers winning more than a game this time around. Plus, after three grueling seven game series in the West last year, the Suns now understand they can’t fool around in Round One.

Back…ever-so-quickly

12. Utah Jazz Mainstays in the playoffs during the days of Malone and Stockton, the Jazz had been slowly fading away the last few years. Snatching Carlos Boozer from the Cavs and drafting Deron Williams has helped the Jazz undergo a massive transformation, resulting in 51 wins and another division title to hang in the Delta Center. This will be a team to reckon with for years to come, but in 2007 they have to face a very hungry-Houston team. Both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming have been patiently awaiting this opportunity for years. The time may be soon for the Jazz, but it’s now for the Rockets.

Formidable first foe

11. Golden State Warriors Lots of intrigue and mystery associated with the Warriors. Here’s what we know: a) Golden State hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1993, b) they are 16-5 over their last 21 games, with Al Harrington making a huge impact once settling in after his trade from Indiana, c) they have won five of the last six games against Dallas, including all three this year, and d) they are playing with absolutely nothing to lose. Question is, how many times can they down the Mavs in the postseason. I say twice. If so, that’s not good news for the defending Western Conference Champs.

Going the distance

10. Denver Nuggets Melo and AI. AI and Melo. It always sounded right, didn’t it? Well now it’s starting to look right as well. No one thought it would be easy, not with Melo suspended for AI’s first month with the Nuggets, not with the marked transition it was going to be for these two megastars to coexist and thrive. Well of late, they’ve done just that. Winners of 10 of 11 entering postseason play, Denver is primed for another run at San Antonio. The Spurs are notorious for slowing teams down, but they’ve never had to reckon with Iverson in the playoffs. Ladies and gentleman, your first Game 7 of the 2007 NBA Playoffs will take place Sunday, May 6th, in San Antonio.

9. Chicago Bulls Beat New Jersey once, avoid Cleveland, Miami, and Detroit until the Eastern Conference Finals. That was the scenario for the Bulls on the last night of the ’07 campaign, and they failed. Now they have to face the defending champs in Round One, and would theoretically have to beat both Detroit and Cleveland to advance to the NBA Finals. But that’s not going to happen. They blew their chance. Can’t mess with karma. In the case of the Bulls karma will be coming in the form of an unrelenting Shaq-diesel, then a crushing dagger from Dwyane Wade in Game 7 of the most thrilling series we’ll see in the first round.

That’s all for now. I’m off to watch the Greatest Rivalry in Sports, aka Sox-Yanks. Back with the rest next week…

MLB Fantasy Points

MLB General Managers look at the season in three two-month increments. They spend April and May evaluating what they’ve put together and discovering if their team can be a contender. June and July are periods of assessment; GM’s of losing teams assess what kind of prospects they could receive upon dealing a big-name player while GM’s of winning teams try to target that missing piece that will hopefully put their club over the top. For this reason the majority of trades happen in July because at that point a GM knows for sure whether he’s going to be a buyer or seller. After the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, teams are either in it to win it or to play spoiler. (Although since the inception of the wild card many more teams have at least a theoretical shot at the playoffs much deeper into the season.) In sum, it is very rare to see a major trade consummated in the springtime unless it is in response to a key player sustaining a major injury.

So what, you might say, not tellin me anything I don’t already know. Fair enough. Here’s my question: why do so many fantasy owners see fit to wheel and deal so early in the season? The purpose of a fantasy league is to be your own GM, right? Don’t you put together a team that you believe will compete for the long haul? Why not emulate the guys getting paid tons of money to run baseball franchises? They allegedly know what they’re doing, and assuredly know more than we do, so it’s worth using their template.

Of course the biggest difference between GM’s and fantasy GM’s is that the real ones are constructing teams that can win baseball games whereas their fantasy counterparts are trying to amass the best cumulative statistics. Wins versus stats: an age-old paradigm that frequently pits the selfless against the selfish. Here’s the problem, though. Having a “good clubhouse guy” on your fantasy squad means squat. All fantasy owners are inherently (and justifiably) interested in only one thing: statistics.

Baseball is a sport told by numbers. By virtue of the length of season and intricacies of the game, not to mention the myriad of ways to statistically interpret production, baseball relies more on stats than any other sport. However, as complex as the game is, it is also quite simplistic. One guy throws, one guy hits, again and again. Because of this, it’s a game that revolves heavily around the law of averages. The element of repetition is prevalent, and most relevant to my argument. For example, if you flip a coin ten times, it could quite realistically land heads seven of those times. That would give you a 70% rate of heads. Flip that coin five hundred more times and I guarantee the rate of heads will be right around 50%. That may not be enlightening, but it is the law of averages.

Let’s relate that to baseball. Take a look at the current stats of three players, who for the moment shall remain anonymous.

Player A- .234, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Player B- .200, 0 HR, 6 RBI
Player C- .212, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Now, look at the stats of these three players.

Player D- .370, 2 HR, 11 RBI
Player E- .343, 6 HR, 10 RBI
Player F- .412, 2 HR, 8 RBI

Obviously anyone with rudimentary knowledge of baseball could look at these stats and say with complete certainty that Players A, B, and C are all worth trading for Players D, E, and F. In fact, the numbers would indicate that any fantasy owner who didn’t come to that conclusion must be a little thick in the head. Or just a real baseball junkie who knows that Player A is actually Alfonso Soriano, Player B Manny Ramirez, and Player C Travis Hafner. Three of the premier sluggers in the game today, whose numbers currently pale in comparison to the likes of Player D (Aaron Hill), Player E (Ian Kinsler), and Player F (Orlando Hudson).

Hey, no knock to Hill, Kinsler, and the O-Dog (who is finally living up to his ridiculously cool nickname). These guys have all had explosive first two weeks, and just might continue their bashing through the summer. However history would tell me that Soriano, Manny, and Hafner will all be fine. The law of averages has my back here too. For the purposes of this context the ole law states quite simply, that Hill, Kinsler, and Hudson will inevitably slow down and those other three will most definitely turn it on, and soon. (You know, water seeks its level…or something like that.)

Back to the main point. If you consider yourself a knowledgeable baseball fan and participated in your league’s draft (and did so with no identifiable mental black outs), there is simply no reason to make a big trade this early in the season. Chances are you have one of those three struggling, blue-chip superstars on your team. (If not one of them then someone in the class of Gary Sheffield, Mark Teixeira, or Lance Berkman, all of whom are presently enduring prolonged troubles at the plate.) So basically one of your top picks is not only performing poorly, but is actually skewing the entire statistical breakdown of your squad. A detriment at the moment? Absolutely. In the long run? Not in the least bit.

Real-life GM’s give their teams two months on average to develop an identity before making possible personnel decisions. And believe me, their concerns are far more serious than pondering what Manny and Hafner’s final 2007 stat-line will look like. So why shouldn’t we use the same philosophy? As fantasy owners, we all have our core of carefully selected blue-chippers to complement a handful of very good players and a couple of handpicked sleepers. That’s a fantasy baseball team. In my opinion it’s a crime to start tinkering with that entity so early in the season, when some of your stars are actually hindering the output of your team. I for one can say Manny probably won’t get the flip a coin ten times, flip it five hundred times thing, but that sure as hell won’t stop the law of averages from applying to the big fella.

So here’s my advice: take a hard look at your squad. If today, you feel it’s not as good as it was two weeks ago, and you haven’t sustained any major injuries, making a blockbuster trade isn’t the right move. Trying to get a refund on that twin you dropped probably is.

MLB Points 4/9

Baseball has returned, albeit without the blessing of Mother Nature. Near freezing temperatures in the south, cold and snow squalls in the northeast, an all out winter wonderland in the midwest…and baseball? Bizarre. And a little unsettling. Now only if someone like Al Gore would make a documentary tackling climatological oddities and their anthropogenic roots..oh right. Well maybe if he did the same thing over again, except within the greater context of baseball, all those fools who don’t believe in global warming would finally be enlightened. I mean if there’s one unifying element in our country right now it’s baseball, no? Forget the polar ice caps and the greenhouse effect. Not even worth attempting to explain the North Atlantic Current. Snow-outs in April?? Now summin ain’t right there! Well I say if our national pastime is the only thing making us all realize how screwed up our environment is, so be it…

Onto the stories that involved games being played as opposed to those being hindered by extremely unseasonable weather…

The Phillies have stumbled out of the gates once again, prompting such headlines as Now Phils Could Really Be in Trouble (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Why the Phillies are Doomed (Philadelphia Daily News). So the Phillies got swept by the Braves. So Ryan Howard and Chase Utley had rough first weeks of the season. Big deal!! Baseball is a game of streaks woven into a schedule of one hundred sixty two games. Last I checked the Phils were signed up for all 162, which leaves ample time for those big boppers to start boppin. It needs to be communicated to the city of Philly that a 1-5 start for the baseball team isn’t as serious as a 1-5 start for the football team…

Interesting week for Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees. Opening Day against the Devil Rays A-Rod botched a pop fly so early in the game the photographers were barely settled enough to snap it. He then hit one of his trademark late-inning, lead-extending home runs. In the Bombers next series against Baltimore he went on to make a huge eighth inning-ending out with the bases loaded. Finally, he capped off the roller coaster week by smoking a walk-off grand slam against the Orioles. Per usual the Yankee faithful were with him step for step, booing him off the field when he screwed up and cheering him back onto it when he saved the day. All and all, a pretty typique week for A-Rod in the Bronx…

Umm, Dice-K and Papelbon? Need I say more at this juncture? Didn’t think so. But I will anyways. Dice-K’s big league debut was everything the cynics were dreading. He threw an array of pitches for strikes, had consistent velocity in the low 90s, and visibly enjoyed the moment. Much more to come. Paps, meanwhile, recorded one of the most thrilling saves of his brief, yet dominant closing-career. On a nationally televised game in Texas on Sunday night, Papelbon entered the game with one out in the eighth inning and the Red Sox grasping to a 3-2 lead. With the tying run ninety feet away, Paps made Michael Young look bush league before retiring Mark Teixeira on a pop out. He then mowed down the rest the Rangers had to offer in the ninth for his second save. Ladies and gentleman: Dice-K and Big John Stud…

The champs stink. Now they are about to lose their ace. It’s not determined how long Chris Carpenter will be out, but with an arthritic right elbow there’s really no telling how long and seriously this ailment will aggravate the St. Louis linchpin. Even with him in the rotation the Cardinals weren’t able to salvage a game against the vengeance-seeking Mets during the teams’ three game season-opening tilt (or as they were calling it in Flushing, Games 8, 9, and 10 of the NLCS). Cards are going to have to relish that trophy because they won’t come close to having a chance at defending it…

On a different note, props to John Kerry. Acting as a proponent of the common man, Kerry initiated a response to Major League Baseball’s deal with DirecTV. MLB’s out of market coverage, known as “Extra Innings”, was to be exclusively broadcast on satellite television, a move that would’ve slighted many loyal fans with digital cable. Kerry brought the issue to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which put the wheels in motion for an agreement in principle to keep the games on cable. “All we ever wanted was a victory for the fans, and this outcome is a big step forward,” Kerry said in a statement. “Everyone kept talking and pressing until we had a deal that protects the rights of most fans to follow their hometown team.” In other words the Massachusetts Senator was asserting how Red Sox Nation would be wicked teed off if they couldn’t watch the Sox on cable. Commendable move on Kerry’s part, and a vast improvement from the guy who not long ago said his favorite player was Manny Ortez…

MLB Preview 2007

Odd season in ’06. The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs. The Yankees got dismantled in the divisional round (again). The Mets were easily the best the National League had to offer, but a score of untimely injuries and a surreal-Game 7 left them a step short of amazin. The champs from ’05 meanwhile, the White Sox, pretty much self-destructed under the guidance of their unorthodox/unstable manager, Ozzie Guillen. Thus, thanks to the aforementioned failures, the 83-win St. Louis Cardinals were able to emerge as your 2006 World Series Champions. The crown is once again the Cards’ to defend in the year ’07.

Now let us never mention that again. Thank you.

Onto this season, where Dice-K is in Boston, Sweet Lou is in Chicago, A-Rod is (miraculously) still in New York and Barry Bonds is (predictably) still in San Francisco. As opposed to A-Rod, who, it seems, would be happier anywhere else but New York, Bonds has opted to remain in San Fran, the one place he won’t be scorned when he breaks Henry Aaron’s home run record sometime this summer. (So yeah, I guess I’m applauding A-Rod’s stones, but only to rip Bonds’ character.) On the bright side, Barry’s pursuit of tainted history won’t be the only historical subplot this season. 300 wins are on the horizon for Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and A-Rod should all be joining the 500 home run club. David Ortiz and Ryan Howard are sure to break some records. Did I mention Lou Piniella is now the manager of the Cubs?

History??? I guarantee Lou will grab history by the effing nostrils in Wrigleyville before all is said and done. So in that light (and in spite of the parity that has made its mark in recent years), note these teams that will use a carpe diem m.o. and have successful seasons in ’07.

National League

Dodgers: Probably the most complete team in the NL. Building on their playoff squad of a year ago, the Dodgers added a top of the rotation guy in Jason Schmidt as well as a top of the order speedster in Juan Pierre. LA will have the ability to score runs to complement strong starting pitching. The bullpen is talented and deep as well, headlined by the young and emerging Jonathan Broxton. The Dodgers are a veteran laden ball club, and have brought some star power back to Chavez Ravine. Ideal for Hollywood, a town that loves its stars and feeds off their trends. The Dodgers made the postseason last year then flashed some green and augmented the team for another run. Look for Dodger Stadium to play host to some huge and trendy crowds once the sun starts scorching SoCal (but after the Lakers get bounced from the playoffs of course).

Prediction: 90 wins, NL West Champions

Phillies: The fans in Philly are truly fickle. I guess they’re so accustomed to impending embarrassment when it comes to their sports teams that it’s just easier to be cynical by nature. They were headed right down that familiar road again last year until a monstrous human being named Ryan Howard pulled them back by their collective shirt collars. What does Howard mean to the city of Philly and its faithful? Consistency. As long as this guy is dining on strip steak smothered in Cheesewiz, the Phillies will be a steadily solid team. If Brett Myers could only mirror that consistency and become a viable ace, the city of Philly may actually have reason to commit itself to following a baseball season from start to finish.

Prediction: 89 wins, NL Wild Card

Mets: There’s a gritty determination surrounding this team and fan base. When you get oh so close only to have your heart ripped out, something inside you changes, for both player and fan alike (just ask Red Sox Nation.) The Mets are that team this year. They took back New York last year, and it felt refreshing. This year they’ve returned to finish the job, except they’re going about their business with a polar opposite strategy. The middle of the Metropolitan lineup is good enough to win on a nightly basis in the NL, a fact made obvious last season. The Mets staff, on the other hand, is too old to sustain itself over 162 games and through the playoffs. This is why I believe Pedro’s rotator cuff injury is a blessing in disguise. He is such a competitor the only thing that could keep him away from the game is if his arm was going to fall off. And it almost did. So now he can sit back and recover, watch his boys bash their way through the summer months, and make his triumphant return in late-July. Sounds like a better script this time around, doesn’t it?

Prediction: 94 wins, NL East Champions

Cubs: The Cubs are the most losing franchise in baseball. Lou Piniella despises losing. You don’t have to be a visionary to conclude that somethings gotta give. But wait, you might be tempted to say, Lou is fresh off a campaign of losing in Tampa Bay! Right you are! Just makes him all the scarier in my opinion. You see, Lou has always been something of a hothead, but he’s also been a winner everywhere but Tampa. His hotheadedness took on an identity of its own when he was managing the Devil Dogs. Now he’s had a chance to step back, gather himself, and prepare for the next crazy chapter in his zany baseball existence. True, the Cubs are epic losers by definition. But they are also a talented baseball team in need of guidance and discipline. What do you think Lou is more fazed by, managing a bunch of minor leaguers forty times a year against the Red Sox and Yankees, or rallying a group of bona fide ballplayers together to tackle some history? History??? Please. Lou will shed history quicker than the cap on his head.

Prediction: 88 wins, NL Central Champions

American League

Angels: The Halos are always one of the top teams in the AL on paper, and only injuries ever thwart them from winning in the neighborhood of 90 games. This year will be no different, as Bartolo Colon, Jared Weaver, and Chone Figgins are all starting the year on the DL. The mark of the Angels is that they never panic, probably because they have the likes of Vlad and K-Rod, but also because they consistently play solid fundamental baseball. However, for a crafty and sound team their Achilles heel last year came from an unlikely source: poor defense. By signing the dynamic Gary Matthews to man the center-meadow at Angel Stadium, the LA Angels of Anaheim appear to have shored up the one glaring weakness that kept them out of the playoffs last year.

Prediction: 91 wins, AL West Champions.

Indians: Two years ago the Indians were a young, vibrant team, having finally emerged from the abyss the franchise had slipped into after the exodus of its potent nucleus some five years prior. These upstart no-names came almost out of nowhere, and came ever so close to dethroning the would-be champion-White Sox before they even had a chance to make their dash to glory. That run, coupled with an AL Central that always seems to be up for grabs, catapulted them to preemptive favorites in the division last year. With the great Tribe teams of the 90s still fresh in the rear view, these new Indians simply weren’t able to harness the expectations and finished with an underwhelming 78 wins. This year the stories are all about the Tigers and Twins and Chicago, while the Tribe has quietly slipped back under the radar. I think they like it that way.

Prediction: 90 wins, AL Central Champs

Yankees: I referenced it at the time but it begs reiteration: last October, ESPN.com’s Jim Caple suggested the Yankees would be better off trading Derek Jeter. Now only if George Steinbrenner would name Caple successor to his empire! The Boss’s son in law is no longer in the picture, and Caple no longer has a readership. It’d be a perfect match! Well only through the eyes of a Red Sox fan. And any Sox fan who knows Derek Jeter also knows that as long as he’s in pinstripes the Yanks will be a winning team. Why? Because Jeter’s a winner. Same can’t be said about a chunk of his teammates, but it doesn’t matter. The Bombers will be there in October because Jeter won’t have it any other way. As for that elusive 27th banner? Hmm, convincing Roger Clemens to return would be an intriguing move, but I have the inkling it just may end up coming a day late and a dollar shor…okay bad pun.

Prediction: 98 wins, AL East Champions

Red Sox: Aright, so we can no longer throw puddles of verbal excrement at the spending proclivities associated with the Yankees front office. Yeah I’d say Fedexing a suitcase of cash to Japan in return for its most prized baseball commodity might just render us hypocrites if we persist in playing the role of the little guy. Like it or not, “the Idiots” will go down as the last group of true little guys to don the rouge socks; the last crew to challenge and defeat a mightier force of financial fortitude from Gotham. I’m cool with that, no beef here. Not with the porterhouse that the ’07 Sox are about to serve up. In case you haven’t noticed I’m back in full-fledged watch-every Sox-game mode; haven’t been there since ’05 and I’m real excited. Excited about Dice-K in the bigs, about Schilling in his last contract year, about Manny and Papi in the middle, about Papelbon at the end. Call me a traditionalist, but I’m excited about bringing baseball back to Sox-Yanks in ’07.

Prediction: 98 wins, AL Wild Card Champions (+ T-shirts)

Playoff Predictions

ALDS: Red Sox over Angels; Yankees over Indians
NLDS: Mets over Dodgers; Cubs over Phillies

ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Mets over Cubs

World Series: Red Sox over Mets

Plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ball!!!!!!!