Thursday, January 31, 2008

FROM THE FANS - DAVE IN BRIGHTON

Well, the Super Bowl is drawing ever nearer, and the weirdest Super Bowl bye week I've experienced is drawing to a close. I'm getting inundated nonstop in New England with Patriots coverage, my family is getting Super Bowl coverage in New York for the Giants, and I'm stuck here having to hear all about it while not really caring.

We'll do a last "From the Fans" segment, though, this time from Dave in Brighton. Dave has been in New England for the same length of time I have, and as he explains, he had no prior loyalties preventing him from blending right in to a winning football culture:

I didn't even watch football at all until fall of 2001. My roommate at the time in Brighton was dismayed by this, so he told me that '01 would be the season I would start being a fan. His first instruction: "Pick a team." I figured all the Pats games would be on TV, so I went with the Patriots.

I will point out that at the time I made the decision, the Patriots had been to two Super Bowls but won none, and the team was still in the post-Pete Carroll doldrums.

Seven years hence, there have been six post-season appearances, three Super Bowl wins, and one undefeated season. In short, the Pats have made it easy to be a fan.

So what's it like? I may have come late to the party, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to enjoy it.

I think sports fans find a shared identity in the bad times, mainly because only one team wins each season. But now I find myself in a place that
plans victory parades before the game is even played. It's been nice to only identify with the good times. I'm sure that bothers some people, but what do you want me to do? Stop rooting for a team because it's good? Heck no. I'll stop rooting when they're bad. Duh.

Safe to say Sunday's game will come down to a field goal. I'll go Pats 31, Giants 28.

Dave in Brighton is also a talented blogger. He has filled in on the rare occasion that he watches a Mets game that I am unable to see.

AN UNRELATED BASEBALL NOTE TO OMAR MINAYA: Omar, give the man what he wants. If Johan Santana wants 7 years, you give him 7 years. If he will take 6, but only for an extra $10 million, you shell out the money. Don't even let it get close to the Friday, 5pm deadline. Please.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

FROM THE FANS - JUSTIN IN NYC

The strange week for Jets fans continues. With the Super Bowl pitting the Giants against the Patriots, and all the news in football centering on either the cross-town rival or the division rival, it's been a rough week. As I've mentioned, I'm in the unique position, living in New England and having grown up in New York, of knowing fans of both teams. So this week, we are featuring their thoughts on the Super Bowl, and living vicariously through them as their teams get ready to play in the big game......again. While I still wait to see my team in one.

Our second entry is Justin in NYC, who grew up a Giants fan in New Jersey. Justin doesn't flaunt his football fanhood (he does flaunt his Yankee fanhood, though it's quite tolerable for me), but the excitement about the Giants shines through every now and again. Justin has made trips a few years now in a row to watch the Giants play road games, and when he was up visiting this past weekend, he was excited about staying up until about 2:30am to watch the Super Bowl XXI highlights on the NFL Network. Here are his thoughts:

There are two questions that every Giant fan is asking themselves this week. "Can they win?", and "How disappointed will I be if they don't?"

Let's take them one at a time.

Can they win?

Who am I to say no? They weren't supposed to get this far. Tampa was at best a tossup, and they had no chance against Dallas and Green Bay. Remember? Why am I asking so many questions? It's a rhetorical tool!

Ever since that week 17 loss that everyone treated as a win, The Giants have been on an unbelievable roll. But none of those wins have been blowouts, and even a game they dominated ended up in Overtime. They're doing just enough to win each week, and getting key plays at all the right times. I don't know if they can keep it up.

I'm also uncomfortable with how happy they are to be in the Super Bowl. They've spent the last week being coronated around New York. That's what happened in 2000, and everyone remembers how that game ended.

But, that being said. I have more faith in this team, and I have faith in Eli and Plax and Jacobs and Bradshaw and a pass rush that doesn't quit and a resurgent secondary that has made huge play after huge play all post season. So the answer is yes, they can win.

But what if they don't?

I think I'll be ok with it. At around 10 pm Sunday night, I'll either be basking in the glory of my team's 3rd Super bowl championship, or I will have just witnessed history. And as long as the Giants show up and put up a strong effort, I think I'll be satisfied.

John wants me to include a score, and so I will. Let's go Giants 34 Pats 30.

Justin from NYC lives in New York City, and is a political blogger. Justin contributes to the site every so often, and this time was nice enough to mix in some lowercase letters to accompany the capitalized ones.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

THE METS NEED TO COMPLETE A CONTRACT NEGOTIATION IMMEDIATELY

I can't even believe it.

I half expect that the Mets and Johan Santana will not be able to reach a contract extension....or Santana will fail his physical. There's no way this could be happening.

But I think it is.

I partly said the trade wasn't going to happen at all because I didn't want him not to go to the Mets. But a small, small part of me felt really good about the chances of Santana coming to the Mets. I can't put my finger on why - perhaps because after all the Yankees and Red Sox talk during the Winter Meetings, and especially the Red Sox talk after the meetings....the Mets name came up again. And it didn't seem likely that those were just rumors. And I bet the Twins were enticed by the fact that they wouldn't have to see Santana a few times a year if he stayed in the American League - if they traded him to the Mets, they would face him once every three years.

Bottom Line: I'm thrilled. And so is Steve in Queens:

"As one of your loyal readers, I demand that you comment on the Johan Santana deal. Although the football talk has been interesting, this truly signifies a turning point where all focus should be placed on the Mets. I can't believe that the Mets just got the best pitcher in the game for 4 guys who may or may not amount to much. Based on the Mets track record of farm system pitchers (Izzy / Wilson / Pulsipher), this may very well be the best deal in Mets history. I would love to hear your thoughts on that."

I think you're exactly right, Steve. And that's part of the reason I'm still waiting for the bad news, or the catch. Because the Mets don't usually make deals this good. I liked watching Carlos Gomez play - he has great speed, he's a good defender, but he's a stellar trading chip, and the Mets turned him into Johan Santana. Kevin Mulvey had some good minor league numbers, but Mets minor league pitchers are a crapshoot (also the case with Philip Humber). I've never even heard of Deolis Guerra, but if giving him up is what it takes to bring in Santana, I'm all for it.

How good does Santana make the Mets? He's a legit number one, something they didn't have all of last year (if he's here last year, there's no such collapse, I'll tell you that). Pedro Martinez* becomes your number two pitcher! John Maine and Oliver Perez could be very different pitchers as number three and four starters, their natural roles, instead of being bumped up in the rotation (John Maine was the Mets' number one starter last year - being depended on to be the stopper more often than anyone....and succeeding quite often. Imagine how he'll do this year. Let me point this out - with the season on the line last year [and even in the 2006 playoffs], Maine came up huge...more huge than Tom Glavine, who couldn't make it out of the first inning.)

Look at the rotation from last year to now:
2007...........................2008
Glavine.......................Santana
Maine.........................Martinez*
Perez..........................Maine
Hernandez.................Perez
Pelfrey/Lawrence/Sosa/Vargas/Humber/Williams/Park....................Hernandez

Needless to say, 2008 is better.

This is very exciting. I was having a hard time justifying how I would pick the Mets to win the NL East this year...the Braves look a lot better, the Phillies are the defending division champions....but this is amazing. It's just amazing - for the Mets to keep the core of their team intact, and ADD to it (not giving up Jose Reyes, for example) - it just seems too good to be true. I read somewhere the Mets mortgaged their future on Santana. I don't think so. Four guys who no one knows how good they'll be for a proven superstar, who actually was not overworked in Minnesota (he adhered to fairly mundane pitch counts) is a great deal - not a giving up your future-type deal. The Mets have plenty of years from their core right now at the key positions to develop new prospects.

The last piece is for Santana to pass a physical, then the Mets to work out a contract extension. They need to give Santana what he wants. Rumor has it he wants 5 years, which the Mets don't do....do it. Give him what he wants.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We'll take away one of my "fan" Super Bowl previews to accomodate today's happy news. Tomorrow we'll have Justin from NYC, Thursday will be Dave in Brighton, then Friday I'll make my pick. Unless the Mets acquire someone else special.

Monday, January 28, 2008

FROM THE FANS - THE WIFE

This is a strange week for Jets fans. The Super Bowl pits the Giants against the Patriots, and all the news in football centers on the cross-town rival and the division rival. In the worst of times, it's usually one or the other, not both. But that's what we face right now. I'm in the unique position, though, living in New England, of knowing fans of both teams. So this week, we'll feature their thoughts on the Super Bowl, and live vicariously through them as their teams get ready to play in the big game......again. While I still wait to see my team in one.

We begin with The Wife, who grew up in a Patriots household, was indifferent towards the Patriots when we started dating, then thought being a football fan was easy as the Patriots rolled off three championships in our first years together.

Something strange is going on with this Super Bowl…

Boston has always been home to the underdog, the teams that get no respect, the teams that are cursed, the teams that you love to root for. New York, on the other hand, is home to the Evil Empire, the teams that win year over year, the teams that you want to see suffer miserably.

So how is it that in this year’s Super Bowl, it seems everyone is rooting for the Giants to spank the Patriots silly?

I’ll admit, the Boston sports teams are losing a little bit of their scrappy luster. The Sox are no longer the loveable team that broke the curse in 2004. This year, they basically bought themselves a World Series this year with a payroll that rivaled the Yankees’. The Celtics signed Kevin Garnett and are now #1 in the NBA. BC football did well for the season, the Bruins – well, who cares about hockey anyway? And the Patriots (with Tom “Baby Daddy” Brady at the helm and Randy “It was an accident” Moss receiving) are now 18-0, certain to go 19-0 for the season.

See, even my attitude has changed – no longer am I certain of impending collapse for my sports teams, but now I’m guaranteeing victory in the Super Bowl. (Yes, a GUARANTEE – Pats 35, Giants 17.)

What is wrong with me? What is wrong with Boston? When did we become New York??


The Wife also lives '200 Miles From The Citi' and is a frequent contributor to johnnymets.blogspot.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A WINTER BLAST

The draft is over, and the weekend visit/mini-BU Reunion is over. And I can't wait for baseball season.

That's always the result of this weekend and its activities - when Dave in Brighton, Justin From NYC, and the Southern Bureau are all up for the weekend, we catch a BU hockey game, and then have our baseball draft. I need to spend a minute updating you on our draft:

We do things a little differently - for about the fifth year now, we're doing this league using only teams from the NL and AL East divisions. And we don't use the traditional stats. This year it's:
OBP, R, RBI, SB, and K's on offense and W, SV, ERA, K, and BB for pitchers.

There are other minor rules, involving which players are eligible for the league based on trades and free agent signings and such. You may think we're crazy for holding our draft in January, before the dust settles for the season, but we think it's part of the deal. For example, the Southern Bureau drafted the rights to Johan Santana, so while I still hope the Mets land him, if my suspicion that he won't even be traded turns out to be true, I won't be too upset.

And Dave in Brighton is being punished by the baseball gods. In the one year he does a traditional draft, instead of employing some sort of blockbuster strategy in which he tries to game the system, it looks like the Orioles are on the verge of pulling off a blockbuster trade. Or two. (And I think Dave has Brian Roberts, but I know he has Erik Bedard.) Both Bedard and Roberts look like they are going to be shipped out of the division, punishment to Dave, in my eyes, for drafting Bedard before I could. So it looks like I'm already charmed this year, because I wasn't even considering the Bedard trade (to Seattle) as I prepared for the draft...and I would have been left in a lurch had I taken him in the draft. And Dave went from having an awesome team to now having a team with two very big holes.

Who did I end up with? Well, a few Mets, no one earth-shattering, position-player-wise - Brian Schneider and Moises Alou...but I also got Pedro Martinez*. I was able to get Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Chad Cordero and Ryan Zimmerman again, holdovers from last year's co-champions. Former Mets also dot my team - Scott Kazmir, Cliff Floyd, and Lastings Milledge. I'm also psyched to see what happens with Matt Garza for the Rays and Scott Rolen in Toronto. That trophy is here to stay.

I know it's boring to go over fantasy stuff...but I'll only do it occasionally. Expect another update mid-season. I'm very excited to get to baseball - but there's one more week where the focus will be on football. Being in the "stuck in the middle" position that I am, as a Jets fan watching the Giants and Patriots get ready to play in the Super Bowl, I have the advantage of knowing many Patriots fans and many Giants fans. Two of each will weigh in this week with special guest blogs this week. It'll start late Monday/early Tuesday with The Wife.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

THE DRAFT WEEKEND

Due to the fact that 80% of my readership will be spending the weekend at my house, I'll be taking the weekend off. But it's not like I won't be doing anything sports-related.

This weekend is the big BU Reunion, where Dave in Brighton, Southern Bureau, and Justin in NYC all come up for a BU hockey game and we hold our East Coast Bias fantasy baseball draft.

You may remember the heartbreak of last year where I lost my season-long grip on first place in the final weeks of the season and then had to share first place because I came up one pitcher's strikeout shy of winning on the final day of the season. It's better than finishing second, but it's still just a tie...and especially painful because due to a school event, I missed starting Pedro Martinez* on the final Wednesday of the season, and, I think, Jon Lester - and there's your strikeout.

I have the trophy (seen at left), but I still feel like I'm sharing it. I want to win it all this season, by myself, and it starts with the draft on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, I don't even remember what the stats are going to be that we need to keep track of. All I have is a list of names - no stats. Darn schoolwork. I'll be busy in the next 24 hrs...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RATTLING THE CAGE

If you're a Patriots fan, or a casual observer of the NFL, perhaps you're thinking anxiously about Tom Brady spending his time away from the team with his girlfriend Gisele in New York City. 'Of all places!' you might say. 'New York City!? Why, isn't that where the Giants are from?!" Well, yes it is.

And if you're a Giants fan, you probably love the fact that Tom Brady spends his off days in New York City. 'He's away from his team,' you say. 'He's distracted, and he has to hear the New York media constantly badgering him....' Wait. Stop right there. He hears it, and I don't think that's a good thing. Because I'm sure he's going to use it against you.

Exhibit A: Tuesday's New York Post:


Not only does the newspaper put Brady and his foot cast (air boot, whatever....it's a precaution that will be long gone by game time in two weeks) on the cover with the headline "Who's Afraid of Tom Brady Now?", but the accompanying article has the headline "Flowery Tom A Posy Patsie". Good work, New York Post. Your Giants press credentials should be revoked.

Exhibit B: Q104.3's promotion:

A classic rock radio station in New York City is encouraging fans to print out and cut out a mask of Bridget Moynahan, a la the Jessica Simpson face masks in Dallas to taunt Tony Romo, or the bimbo masks at Fenway Park to taunt A-Rod. You may remember, or need reminding, that Bridget Moynahan is Tom Brady's former girlfriend who he impregnated, then broke up with, and has spent all of his free time in New York City instead of, as The Wife points out, in LA to see his child. So this might actually be an effective taunt (masks of the baby might haunt him more, to be quite honest), but that's the second thing happening so far this week that is bound to piss off Tom Brady.

Exhibit C: Because I'm sure Brady is reading the New York papers, getting himself psyched for the week and a half off - Gary Myers in the New York Daily News on Tuesday, predicting Giants 31, Patriots 28 in the Super Bowl. I'm sure that'll tick him off, too.

And Brady's got a front-row seat, spending his time in New York. Don't think the man who can motivate a 16-0, 3-time Super Bowl champion team can't turn this stuff into an outrage that will psyche his team up. Don't rattle the cage.

Tom Brady doesn't often have two bad games in a row. Heck, he doesn't often have one bad game in a row. But he's coming off a bad game in the AFC Championship against San Diego. That means he's NOT going to play poorly in the Super Bowl...in fact, he'll be above the top of his game. And this all is just playing with fire.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

IF HE GOES

This is looking more and more like an unlikely scenario, because everyone is saying he will probably be staying with the Jets now, but there is a chance that Chad Pennington will be playing somewhere else next season. (And it's probably still a pretty good chance, because you can't really believe what anyone in sports says anyway.)

The problem is, Pennington is going to be making a lot of money, too much to be a backup. There may be some restructuring of a contract going on, there may be a chance he beats out Kellen Clemens for the starting job in training camp next year (instead of being handed the job as he was this year), or there's a chance that's all talk, and Pennington will be gone come draft day. Let's assume the Jets move him (and here's where I stand if that happens: Wherever Pennington goes, I'll be rooting for him. He's been nothing but a professional in whatever situation he's been in with the Jets...he's a class act. Even after he had hoped he would be moving on, and heard that he might be back with the Jets - it's really out of his hands what happens - his line was, "If I'm with the Jets, I'll be the best Jet I can be."). Here's what I have worked out as the likeliest scenarios of where Pennington would end up:

UNLIKELY

It's unlikely, but not impossible, for Pennington to end up with one of these teams. He's so respected around the league, I get the impression, that any of these teams, which are pretty set at quarterback, would love to have him, at the right price, as a backup, in case they lose their star, then they would have a legitimate leader to step in and take his place:

New England (Tom Brady), Indianapolis (Peyton Manning), Green Bay (Brett Favre, then Aaron Rodgers), Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger), New York Giants (Eli Manning), San Diego (Phillip Rivers), Dallas (Tony Romo), Seattle (Matt Hasselbeck), New Orleans (Drew Brees), Jacksonville (David Garrard), Denver (Jay Cutler), Cleveland (Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn), Cincinnati (Carson Palmer), Tennessee (Vince Young), Arizona (Matt Leinart), St. Louis (Marc Bulger), Oakland (JaMarcus Russell), and Washington (Jason Campbell).

That leaves 13 teams (not counting the Jets) that could use some help at quarterback, and in a year where the free agent class is pretty weak, Pennington might be an attractive option (which is why it might be a leverage thing that the Jets are saying he's coming back next year).

Here are the teams that would likely make a play for Pennington.

VERY LIKELY

Miami - The Dolphins need a quarterback. So that's number one. Secondly, Bill Parcells is there now, and he drafted Pennington with the Jets. He likes players he's familiar with. I think this is a pretty strong option. The only issue is the 'in the division' factor. (And the fact that earlier today, word came out of Miami that Trent Green was Parcells' man next year........but things change....and people lie.)

Kansas City - The Herman Edwards connection. The Chiefs' QB position was a disaster last year. Edwards and Pennington teamed up for three playoff appearances, and by all accounts, still get along.

Chicago - The QB position is just about the only reason this team isn't a playoff contender year after year.

San Francisco - QB issues out west - Mike Nolan dressed down his quarterback of the future, Alex Smith, and he didn't take it well. Pennington's arm, which isn't strong, wouldn't be a big deal in the land of Joe Montana and the West Coast Offense.

Baltimore - Starting fresh, and a new quarterback would help change the face of the offense.

JUST PLAIN POSSIBLE

These teams aren't definites or out-of-the questions...they're just possibilities.

Buffalo - Trent Edwards stole J.P. Losman's job - but is he blowing anyone away? Losman probably won't be back with Buffalo - he is in the same boat as Pennington, but has flat-out asked to be traded. This is unlikely, though, because of the division factor, and they wouldn't be willing to give up as much, most likely, as Miami.

Houston - They're kind of set with Matt Schaub, but when he went down, it was Sage Rosenfels. You'd probably feel better with Pennington coming in in that situation.

Philadelphia - Word is, now, that Donovan McNabb isn't going anywhere either (do you believe it?). But if he does, Pennington would be a good replacement. He's coming from New York, which is as close as you can get to the scrutiny of Philly.

Minnesota - This way he'd be backed up by Brooks Bollinger again.

Detroit - Jon Kitna didn't make many friends with their disastrous end to the season. They are undergoing a lot of changes in the coaching ranks...wouldn't be surprised to see a bunch of players gone, too...or brought in.

Atlanta - Need to change everything - why not Chad Pennington at quarterback?

Tampa Bay - Unless they're married to Jeff Garcia.

Carolina - They learned this year that a few extra quarterbacks never hurt.

Just so I'm on the record - If Chad Pennington is back with the Jets, and he's playing, they will be better than this year (can't be much worse). The protection needs to be better, and the run game needs to be better. And I'll love it. But I think with the Jets' current state, he's probably better off going somewhere else and getting a fresh start.

ONE MORE SOB STORY: I know I've been laying it on thick with the 'woe is me' stuff lately, but I think I have a right, since it's Giants-Patriots in the Super Bowl. That's almost worst-case scenario for a Jets fan. But I just want to say - here's the difference between the Jets and the Giants. The Giants have a Doug Brien moment, and their kicker misses two field goals, what happens? He gets the chance to redeem himself and connects. The Jets have their Doug Brien moment, and they actually get Doug Brien, and it's heartbreak after heartbreak. That just about sums it up right there.

Monday, January 21, 2008

UPDATED SIGNINGS

Been a while since I updated the two headliners on this site, and both have made some recent moves:
The Mets avoided salary arbitration with Aaron Heilman by agreeing to a one-year contract on Friday. The contract gives Heilman a raise from $453,000 last year to $1.2 million in 2008.

It's a little less exciting to get Heilman back for next year than it would have been before last season, coming off a great 2006. Heilman was good last year, but nowhere near as reliable as he was the year before. He did appear in half the team's games....and it felt like it - you saw him almost all of the time. Heilman will be better if the Mets don't overwork him. I also haven't heard how happy Heilman is to be back - remember, he still wants to start, and the Mets don't really have designs on doing that with him.

Interesting note on the Mets - they haven't been to a salary arbitration hearing since 1992.

Also, earlier this month, the Mets traded two minor leaguers to the Cubs for Angel Pagan - he's 26, a switch-hitter, and will play a reserve role in the outfield.

Kept forgetting to mention this - but here's why the Southern Bureau is such a good friend. During baseball's winter meetings, he kept sending me e-mails with updated quotes from Omar Minaya, commenting on the moves the Mets were making, and that this year's Mets team was better than last year's. Southern Bureau wrote me saying:

"Huh?? Did I miss something?? They haven’t done anything, right??

And…more importantly…WHEN DID I START CARING SO MUCH ABOUT THE METS???"


Since you became the Southern Bureau, that's when.

Meanwhile, the Jets hired Bill Callahan as assistant head coach/offense. (I'm not sure what the /offense means...but I guess it stresses he'll be keeping a closer eye on Brian Schottenheimer's act than the defense.) Callahan was coaching at Nebraska most recently, and before that was with the Raiders, as an assistant for some years, and as coach for a couple, including a Super Bowl appearance.

Not sure what to think about the Callahan move - it comes from Mangini, allegedly, so I don't think it puts heat on him - but he could take over for Schottenheimer first, and then grease the skids for the head position down the road.

(I also read that Callahan's expertise is the running game, and the Jets are looking to him for a shot in the ground game.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES RECAP

That was an exciting day of football. The bad news: I lost my bet, so I'm out of my pool. The good news: I feel like this NFL season was worth it - we've got ourselves a new Super Bowl matchup. My thoughts:

PATRIOTS 21, CHARGERS 12
The Chargers blew this opportunity. When Tom Brady looks as bad as he looked in the early part of this game, you need to pounce, and pounce quick. All the Chargers could muster were field goals...and that's not going to do it. LaDainian Tomlinson may have been hurt - but continues to be invisible in playoff games. I need to stress this - he does get yards in playoff games - but he hasn't changed a playoff game, and he hasn't put up a super performance in a playoff game. And he was a non-factor (again, albeit with an injury) in this game. But the Chargers put up a fight with the likes of Michael Turner and Darren Sproles...and Phillip Rivers played but could not get the ball into the end zone.

One other thing worth commenting on - did you happen to see when Nate Kaeding made his third field goal - just before the half, which made it 14-9 Pats? He started celebrating like the Chargers had just taken the lead or won the game. Take it easy Kaeding...maybe if you had kicked like that in your other playoff games, a 14-9 deficit at halftime of the AFC Championship Game wouldn't feel like such a big deal.

GIANTS 23, PACKERS 20 OT
The only thing wrong with this game was that it hit the over. And I'll tell you why before I go any further. The third quarter - both teams got drives sustained (after defensive stops) by penalties. The penalty on the Packers, which seemed legit, leading to the Giants' TD, and then the Sam Madison penalty, which I've never seen a replay of, which seemed like payback for the Packers' penalty on the Giants' drive. I maintain had those penalties not happened, the game would have been 13-13 going into overtime, and I'd be sitting pretty in my pool. But I digress (I really am taking the loss in the pool a lot better than I thought I would).

The Giants pulled off the upset in another fantastic game by Eli Manning. I can't believe the maturing of Eli Manning that we're watching this post-season. And I'm surprisingly happy for him. I should clarify - I've never hated the Giants. I certainly dislike certain people involved with the Giants (not a Coughlin fan), but I'm pretty indifferent to the Giants. I'll root for them, I'll root against them, depending on the situation, but I'm indifferent. Mostly, usually, (not lately), I find them boring to watch, so I don't even bother. But I've jumped on their bandwagon, and I'm rooting for them this post-season. And I'm really happy for them and for Eli Manning. (And other than the Super Bowl matchup thing, I couldn't lose with this NFC Championship, because I like Favre and the Packers a lot, too.)

The Super Bowl matchup now is one that has never happened before (YES!). And it's interesting, because I'm willing to bet that never before has there been a Super Bowl matchup not where both teams played in the regular season (that's happened many times before), but where they played in the last week of the regular season. And if that's the case (and they have played in the last week of the regular season), I bet it wasn't as intense as Giants-Patriots in Week 17 of this past season. I wonder a couple of things right away:

1) Who does it benefit more? The Patriots, who game plan so well, or the Giants, who now have not only a recent game plan against this team, but a game plan that worked, and just needs a little tweaking?

2) The teams battled hard just a few weeks ago. Is there any carryover into the big game?

3) Don't you get the feeling the Patriots would rather not play the Giants? New York is a team that knows them, having already played them, and is hot. 10 straight wins on the road. Playing its best football. Things seem to be breaking for them. If I were New England, I'd rather be playing the Packers, with their old quarterback, instead of the Giants, with their young quarterback playing the best football of their career.

One last point - I wrote this week about the Giants being a better team without Jeremy Shockey (or, at least, Eli Manning being a better quarterback without him). I can't believe I totally forgot about Tiki Barber. What a difference it must make for the Giants to not have him badmouthing the coach, putting down the quarterback. He must be steaming over at NBC watching the Giants do this....and I kind of like that.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

This isn't the first time I've been an outsider. I spent about half of my life (I'm pushing 30 now, and I was an odd duck for about the first 15 years) as more of a social observer than interactor. So maybe I'm suited to be a fan of the Mets and Jets. Occasionally, I'm invited to the party - make an appearance, have a little fun, go home early. (Jets - 1991, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006; Mets - 1988, 1999, 2000, 2006). Once in a while, I'm the hit of the party - 1986 - but that's when I was 8, and my cute kid-ness covered up the other inadequacies.

Anyway, a look at the past couple of years, playoff-wise, shows that once again, I'm on the outside looking in, while all of the people around me are having a blast:


The toughest part is living in New England, where the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots have had tremendous success, just about from the time when I moved up here until this day. (Really - starting with the Patriots making the Super Bowl in 1996, then lots of Red Sox playoff appearances, then both teams winning multiple championships.) It's bad enough the Jets and Patriots play in the same division - but seeing all of this success right in my own backyard, while I'm always left out - it's rough. The equivalent of this is you make a friend at school, bring him/her home to your neighborhood, and the popular kid next door, who doesn't go to your school, steals your friend and they have a bunch of fun together, and all of a sudden you're a third wheel.

Then there's the other options. I could have been a Yankees fan...or a Giants fan. And then I would be happy - celebrating recent championships or championship game appearances (Giants - 3 Super Bowl appearances in my lifetime [2 wins], Jets - 0...and we all know about Yankees vs. Mets), instead of watching smarter team-pickers than I having more success than me. This group ranges from acquaintances to close friends to members of my own family. So that's just a constant reminder of bad choices...but, in the end, appropriate ones.

Of course, we all know about my second choice. The Packers are a team I've always rooted for when my real team fades. During the 1990's, it was the Packers who were making playoff appearances year after year, while the Jets were going 4-12, 3-13, 1-15, etc. But, they're a second choice - they're not my team. Plus, they weren't even tremendously successful...one championship, one other Super Bowl appearance. I guess that's the friend you kind of have fun with, but you don't see very often, and maybe they don't even consider you a friend. You're like a hanger-on.

Then there's the rivals. The Patriots we've already commented on....but for years the teams the Mets couldn't beat were the ones who stood in their way - the Atlanta Braves for many years, and the Philadelphia Phillies this past, horrid, horrible year. And that's watching the kid you hate, the bully, having fun, getting all the rewards, being Mr. Popular, even though he's a jerk.

And, finally, there's the new blood. I'm sitting here, nearly 30 years old, and the teams I root for (I'll even throw the Rangers in there) have won two championships....one if I take away the Rangers. The playoff appearances I could even count on my fingers...maybe a couple of toes. And then there's the Arizona Diamondbacks, who broke the Mets' record for success out of the gate (1998, created, 2001 championship - the Mets were 1962, 1969), and are back on a successful run again. And the Rockies - who are on the upswing and made the World Series this year. This isn't the strongest argument in the world, but it's fresh in my mind. It's like your younger brother becoming more popular with your own friends, just when you've established some friendships. Not that I'd know.

So here I am, on the outside looking in. Sure looks like a lot of fun. I'm going to go back to watching TV now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

For a change, I am 100% going with my head over my heart. And I'm devoting myself fully to it. Last week, I said I was sure about the Giants, but I still put a little bit of money in my pool into all of the games, and as a result, instead of being in first place by a large margin, I'm in first place by a small margin: only $100. I still turned $650 into $900...but I should have had $1300 or so. As a result, this week I'm putting it all on the one bet I'm sure of - The under in the Green Bay-Giants game. If I lose it all, so be it. I'm going with my gut. And even though I don't want the Super Bowl to be Packers-Patriots, because it will be a repeat matchup, and though I might not be rooting for that matchup, that's what my head says will happen. Here are my picks (remember, the spreads are from officefootballpool.com):

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (NE -13.5, 47.5)
I don't have a strong feeling either way in this game, but I suspect the Patriots' feelings that the Chargers have wronged them with all their talking will outweigh the Chargers' feelings that they were wronged by the Patriots in last year's playoff loss. After all, San Diego had a chance to avenge the loss in Week 2 and got smoked, when the incident was fresher in their minds. So I think it's Patriots, pretty big. I'm not sure how weather is going to factor into this game, but I hear cold and windy, and if that's the case, the Patriots will have to run the ball a little bit, and maybe the Chargers can beat them in a ground game...if LT decides to show up for a playoff game...but that's my heart talking. Also, they'd better start Billy Volek. But the reason I bring up weather is that might curb the scoring, so I say:

NEW YORK GIANTS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (GB -7.5, 41.5)
Here's what I'm sure of - this game will be a defensive struggle. Both teams will have trouble getting their offense going. But I think Eli Manning's run of good games will end, and Brett Favre's playoff experience will shine through, and the Packers will run away late...but not score very many points. Therefore, with the under being my lock this week, I say:

The standings didn't change much as far as the picks, but the over/unders shifted a little bit:

We'll see how dedicated Dave in Brighton is, and whether he gets a pick in from a vacation in Spain. My cousin weighed in this week, taking the Giants with the points (Green Bay winning), and New England minus the points. Make your picks in the comments section. Enjoy the championship weekend.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A COMPLETE SHOCK?

I'm thinking about this as I write it - I haven't really given it a lot of forethought....but is Eli Manning a better quarterback without Jeremy Shockey? Shockey broke his leg a month ago, and the Giants have won two playoff games since then.

Now, I need to say that I don't hate Shockey...but I don't like him very much. I think he's pretty overrated as a tight end, and I think, while he has matured from the guy who singlehandedly cost the Giants that playoff loss to Jeff Garcia and the 49ers a few years back (hey - how about the Giants exorcising those demons this post-season - Jeff Garcia, then Terrell Owens....is Kevan Barlow now playing for Green Bay? [Upon further research, there is no one on Green Bay's roster who played for San Francisco in 2002. That would have been cool.]), I think he's still pretty cocky and immature. And I don't like players like that.

But Shockey has been a go-to target for Manning over the past couple of years. And he drops a lot of passes. Could that bring Manning down in the early part of games, and affect the way he plays later on? Is this Kevin Boss kid a more reliable target, albeit one that won't get as many yards after the catch, and bolstering Manning's confidence throughout the game?

Maybe without having the Shockey crutch, Manning is getting the ball to Amani Toomer more, and Toomer is continuing to do what he's done pretty much all year, make big plays...but now he's making more big plays because he's seeing the ball more without Jeremy Shockey on the field.

Plaxico Burress is the same downfield threat, with or without Shockey. And the loss of Shockey hasn't seemed to hurt the running game.

The Giants have shown they can win without Shockey, no question about that. But could he be dragging down their quarterback? I'm going to say yes, because I've seen Eli Manning play the best football of his career without Jeremy Shockey the past month.

Championship game picks will be up Friday afternoon - put yours in the comments.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

WHO DO YOU LIKE?

I'm in a no-win situation in the AFC Championship. While it works out better for me to have the Chargers win (Super Bowl matchups-wise, since the only Super Bowl they've been in was against the 49ers, so we'd get a new one no matter who won the NFC), I don't think I like the Chargers at all.

First of all, it seems like every time the cameras cut away to the Chargers' bench, it looks like Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson are fighting. I don't really care if those guys don't like each other (and maybe they do, I just don't know), but at least pretend like you do in public.

Then there's Rivers specifically. Doesn't he just look like a punk? I don't know if it was just looking at him mouthing off to the fans in Indianapolis, and maybe they were giving him a hard time and making his life miserable, but he looked like a punk.

And I still hold a grudge against the Chargers for the way they nearly made my heart stop when the Jets faced them in the playoffs a few years back. Remember, the Eric Barton roughing the passer, and the Nate Kaeding missed field goal? (I still hold a special place in my heart for Kaeding...but the man can't go much longer with a job in the NFL performing the way he has been in the playoffs.) It may not be right, but it's the way I feel.

I hinted at the fact a week or so ago that I find this Patriots team particularly hard to root for. I mentioned that at least their first few teams had players you could single out and recognize as good character guys. Now, there's Junior (Me) Seau, and Randy (Me) Moss, and especially Rodney (Me) Harrison. Harrison is the main culprit, but the Patriots keep taking cheap shots - they're almost becoming a dirty team. It's hard to watch them do well when those things are happening. (And I don't know that there's another place for this, so I'll throw it in parenthetically - I know the Jaguars played him hard, but Randy Moss had a nothing game last week. He's had nothing post-seasons for good teams before - see the 1998 Vikings and the 2000 Vikings. Is it possible he could have another great regular season with a disappointing playoff finish this year?)

So I don't want to root for the Patriots, but I don't want to root for the Chargers either. The Chargers are also sore losers, reacting the way they did after the Patriots beat them in San Diego last year. Ultimately, though, that one big chip on their shoulder (losing to New England at home in the post-season last year), which has probably been motivating them all year, is probably the one thing they have going for them entering this year's playoffs. Good for them...but I don't think it's enough.

And I don't think I'm happy about it...because I think the Chargers are the lesser of two evils.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WHAT A GUY

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I always tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially, for some reason, if they play a professional sport. I don't know why that has been the case - maybe because for my whole life, I've put these people up on a pedestal.

Recently, that has changed. It started probably not with the players, but with the dishonesty of the coaches, that started opening my eyes to the fact that no one in professional sports deserved the benefit of the doubt. That's why I trust the Mitchell Report's allegations more than I trust the denials of the players involved, vehement though they may be. And when individual players admit to their transgressions, it just makes me believe the Report as a whole even more.

Everyone involved in professional sports has been taken down a peg in my book. And Major League Baseball players seem to be a little worse than the rest. To see a player defend cheaters, it makes me angry. And when cheaters rank higher in a player's book than replacement players, I get even more angry. Here are the words of Brad Ausmus, as reported by Nick Cafardo in the Boston Globe this past Sunday. Ausmus is talking about whether it will be troublesome for players named in the Mitchell Report to be accepted in the clubhouse.:

"I think in the case of the replacement players way back, they had a lot tougher time blending back into the clubhouse. This is totally different. I certainly am not going to demonize a player who was on the Mitchell Report. I feel badly for all of those guys. At the very worst, if all the allegations in that report are true, we're not talking about murder here. They aren't bad people. Throughout time, and in different sports, you've always had people trying to beat the system. They didn't do it to hurt anybody else, they did it because they wanted to get stronger and better."

The part that bothers me most (besides the fact that he's giving cheaters a free pass) is the shot at the replacement players. I know I can be making enemies with this statement, and that the baseball players' union can hunt me down and kill me for writing it, but I don't blame the replacement players. These are guys trying to earn a living doing what they love. I can't say that if I was a little (OK, a lot) more talented, I wouldn't have crossed the picket line to play a couple of weeks for the Mets, and make a dream come true. And then maybe if I was good enough, I could catch on, and make a career out of it, a la Rick Reed, or Kevin Millar. But those were guys that were demonized, and ostracized in clubhouses, when they were regular guys, non-cheaters (maybe), trying to earn a living. (And I don't buy for a minute that they were 'stealing bread from major leaguers' plates' - was there ever an instance where anyone thought the replacement players posed a threat to anything the million-dollar baseball players stood for?)

I feel like in an indirect way, while Ausmus is saying people named in the Mitchell Report aren't bad guys, he is saying the replacement players were, and that bothers me.

I also realize that Ausmus was probably close with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, and will be playing next year with Miguel Tejada, all named in the Mitchell Report, and maybe he didn't want to rock any boats. But if that's the case, a simple 'no comment' would have worked wonders here.

E-MAIL: It appears I may have won some sort of Swiss e-mail lottery now.....

Monday, January 14, 2008

VOLEK FOR VICTORY?

Earl Morrall....Jeff Hostetler....Frank Reich....Tom Brady....Billy Volek?

All of the above are men who didn't start the season as their team's starting quarterback, but due to injury took over and led their team to great things (Morrall is '72 Dolphins Morrall, not '68 Colts, and Reich advanced to a Super Bowl, not winning it - but did have the great comeback against the Oilers). Could Billy Volek join their ranks?

The best chance for the Chargers to win the AFC Championship just might be their backup quarterback. Personally, seeing Volek in the game might give me reason to root harder for San Diego - I don't think I like Philip Rivers (more on that later in the week). But the Patriots are familiar with Rivers, and Volek brings an element of the unknown that could help San Diego's cause. (I am also familiar with Rivers, having been a fantasy owner of him in the 2006 NFL season, and I know what he is capable of...or, rather, not capable of. He's been playing much better than he really is...that's got to catch up with him sooner or later. Speaking of underachieving....LaDainian Tomlinson and the playoffs continue to be a mystery. Injury or underperforming....he needs to show up Sunday too. But I digress.)

I wrote on Sunday that I remember Volek making news in another part of his career. Could have been I was thinking of the fact that when he got some playing time with the Titans in 2004, he set a record for most passing yards in his first seven starts, throwing for more than any quarterback in NFL history in that situation. Now, that's mostly because the team he was playing for stunk, and that's how he had the playing time, and they were throwing the ball alot...but the fact remains, he did it. And he's capable of leading a team and getting the ball downfield. That's significant. If he has a healthy Antonio Gates, if Vincent Jackson plays as well as he's been playing, and if Chris Chambers continues to be the sparkplug he has been since joining the Chargers, maybe the Chargers can pull out the unlikely win.

But I think a change of face at quarterback might be the key for San Diego...I think Volek can take advantage of those weapons in a way that Philip Rivers can't continue doing.

AND IN THE NFC: Funny that Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are having all this success. Recently, over the Christmas holiday, I got into an argument with one of my uncles about Rivers vs. Manning. He's fed up with Manning (although, probably not anymore), and started railing about him and how he's no good, and the Giants should have kept Rivers instead of swapping draft picks with the Chargers a few years back. (This is the same uncle who hated Joe Torre, and thought he was an awful manager. I can't stand it, because the Yankees won championships under Torre - how can you not be happy with him?!)

I went off on Rivers, mostly based on my fantasy football experience, where Rivers cost me so many wins (and a playoff win, most notably) by playing awful games most of the season, with a couple of great games sprinkled in. I think Manning is going to end up being the better quarterback, I said, because I think the only reason Rivers does better is because he has LaDainian Tomlinson. Anyway, this was before the Patriots-Giants game, before Manning played horribly in that second half.

Of course, Eli played great against Tampa, and was good enough against the Cowboys...but I didn't think he was great. I think he gets nervous in tight situations, and that's deadly for an NFL quarterback. When all the Giants had to do was run out the clock, Manning got happy feet, and threw an incompletion on a big third down, giving the Cowboys the ball back. Same situation as against the Patriots. At least the Giants were ahead...I don't know that Manning could lead the Giants from behind in a situation like that, where the game is tight, in the playoffs. (I think he's done it in the regular season, but the stakes are different.) I hope I'm wrong, because I like Eli, and like seeing him do well...but I have my doubts when the game is on the line. Especially with a guy like Brett Favre on the other side.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

PLAYOFFS ROUND TWO ROUNDUP

The conference championship matchups are set. Basically, with the Colts' loss, it's going to be the Patriots against either the Packers or the Giants in the Super Bowl...and that means I have to root against the Packers, which stinks, since they are my secondary team again this year (for matchup reasons - Packers-Patriots has already happened, but you should know that if you're reading this). I think it's unlikely the Patriots will lose...but at least they're the early game next Sunday, and if they do, I can root for Green Bay late. (Truth be told, I wouldn't mind rooting for the Giants, either - they've grown on me this year - I'll get more into that later in the week.) Here's the recap:

That Green Bay game went sort of how last week's playoff games went. It turned out the way I expected (Green Bay blowout), but took a little while to develop. The Seahawks jumped out to the 14-0 lead, and I started to think there was something to all of these people picking Seattle to win in Green Bay. Then the Packers came back, and Brett Favre just looked like there was no way he was going to lose. It was like the dominant Packers of old. Favre has never won in Dallas, so he and the Packers look like the biggest beneficiaries of the Giants win.

I was disappointed by the Jaguars' performance. Their offense played much better than I expected, and their defense was underwhelming. I thought they would beat up the Patriots more than they did...and now the Patriots head into the conference championship game against a weak opponent, and they're sitting pretty. There's also a chance there might be a storm in New England next week, though I don't know the details. San Diego in New England, and possibly in a storm...I don't like their chances there.

The Colts ought to be ashamed of themselves. There's no call for losing this game. I know Antonio Gates played, which makes a difference for Philip Rivers, but this was a game they should have won. You know what it is? It's bad karma because Bob Sanders acted like a jerk to Nate Kaeding after he missed that field goal (how bad is Kaeding in the post-season - kicking like that in New England isn't going to get you to the Super Bowl). I don't care if you did go to college together - that's bad sportsmanship. (And I should know - I won my Little League sportsmanship award a few times.) I'm not surprised Billy Volek was effective - hasn't he done this type of thing before, at least in the regular season? I feel like he may have even done it in the playoffs - but I can't remember right now and I have more pressing concerns before bed than looking that up. This type of game makes gambling on games (or participating in the type of pool I'm in) a bummer, because I'm sitting there rooting for different scenarios to work out so I can win a bet...and then I realize at the end that while that was going on, I missed a pretty good football game. One last thing about San Diego - they had some legitimate gripes about some of the officials' calls in that game. It seemed Norv Turner was complaining about every call - but I think he had the right to.

The Giants did what I thought they could do. Towards the end of this game, I was actually rooting for the Cowboys to score a touchdown, so the Giants could come back and kick a field goal, force overtime, and I could get the over....then they showed Jerry Jones on the sideline. And I wanted the Giants to win........bad. And there was nothing more rewarding for me, someone who lost his over/under bet, so see Jerry Jones standing there at the end of the game, with his arms crossed, looking like a loser. That was great. I don't know that the Giants continue their Pittsburgh Steelers-type wild card run next week in Green Bay - but I think it will be an entertaining game.

Here's who did what this week (though you may have picked winners, I'm counting everyone's results against the spread, because that's how we do it around here):

PICKS
Johnnymets: 2-2
Justin from NYC: 1-3
Southern Bureau: 1-3
The Wife: 1-3
Dave in Brighton: 0-4

OVER/UNDER
Southern Bureau: 3-1
Dave in Brighton: 2-2
The Wife: 2-2
Johnnymets: 1-3

Chargers-Patriots, Giants-Packers in the conference championship games. Interesting matchups. Make your picks in the comments section on Friday.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

3 Things

3 Things From My Saturday of Playoffs Football

1) I never really knew how I felt about David Garrard. I always liked Byron Leftwich, because of the Marshall connection with Chad Pennington, and because of his fighting-through-injury performance in one of his college games, where he played with, I think, what turned out to be a broken leg and drove his team to a comeback win, and couldn't even run down the field, and had to be helped by his offensive lineman to get down the field.

So there were a couple of feelings about Garrard - one was not caring a thing about him, the other was anger because I liked Leftwich. 'Not caring much' won out, because I didn't like Leftwich too much.

But then I saw James Brown's interview with Garrard on the CBS pregame (the interview started at 8:01 of what was supposed to be an 8 o'clock game, so I imagine most everyone saw the interview). And it was very good - Garrard seems very likeable, no? So I think I'll be rooting for him for a while...although his likeability took a pretty big hit after his first quarter fumble against New England. (James Brown looked ridiculous in those cutaways during the interview, incidentally. That's why if I had made it as a reporter I would have taken a very active role in the editing process.)

(Just looked up the Byron Leftwich info - broken shin, and they lost the game...but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.)

2) These Budweiser commercials where that dude keeps talking about the Budweiser process annoy me. I don't like them, and they're not going to grow on me. Boring.

3) Watching the Packers win their playoff game really brought me back to the early 1990's. You may remember that's when the Jets were the pits, and I was always left without a team to root for come January. So I adopted the Packers, partly because I liked Brett Favre, partly because I liked the green and yellow (this was one instance where I could really pick a team based on anything, and team colors weighed in heavily). So I rooted for the Packers, and it was kind of neat for me when they beat the Patriots in 1996. Well, this year I'll be rooting for the Packers again, and their win was pretty fun, in the snow and all. (The only thing I'm not rooting for is the Patriots-Packers rematch, because you know how I feel about rematches. We'll get to that next week as the teams shake out.)

I'll recap the weekend games Sunday night. Terrell Owens is reportedly 100% for the game against the Giants...I don't know if that changes my feelings on the game. I don't know if that's a lie to make him seem more threatening, or the injury was a lie to get him some extra rest.

Friday, January 11, 2008

THE PICKS - PLAYOFFS WEEK 2

Have you seen this week's spreads? I don't know what to make of them, except for the fact that when I look at them, it convinces me that for the most part, as far as putting down money, I'm going to be sticking to the over/unders this weekend. (Remember, when I say "putting down money, I'm referring to my participation in the pool on officefootballpool.com, where I am in first place after one week, incidentally, and from where I am taking these spreads. I earned my week in first by turning $250 into $650 last week - fake dollars.)

Here's what I think will happen this week:

SEATTLE AT GREEN BAY (GB - 7.5, 41.5)
Seattle was less-than-convincing last week at home against the Redskins. No chance on the road in Green Bay this week. Their running game is awful, and the Packers defense is pretty good. I can see this game going a few different ways. I could see 24-17, or 24-20 Packers, where the Pack just squeak by. (Therefore, I won't put money on that spread...I do like the over.) I think it might be close, then the Packers will pull away late:


JACKSONVILLE AT NEW ENGLAND (NE - 13.5, 49.5)
I've been saying it for weeks. The Patriots are ripe for the picking. They haven't been beaten yet, though, and the near losses have probably just made them stronger. The bye week helps, too. And I don't think the Jaguars are the team to get over the "Beating the Patriots" threshold. They'll pound New England. They'll beat them up. The Patriots will lose some players to injury. And I wouldn't be shocked if they lost...but I think the Jaguars will soften them up enough for the Colts next week. All that said, I don't think I'm going to touch this game at all with money, unless I win huge in the early game. Here's my pick:


SAN DIEGO AT INDIANAPOLIS (IND -8.5, 46.5)
This is sort of a tune-up game for the Colts. I see no way San Diego can win, with the way they've been playing, and then throw in the fact that Phillip Rivers doesn't have Antonio Gates. I think the Colts win easy, though I don't know how confident I am in that spread and over/under (although I did give this game my favorite football picking score of all time):


NEW YORK AT DALLAS (DAL -7.5, 47.5)
I hate that this is the last game, because it's the only one I'm positive about putting money on and getting a win. I think this is a 3-point game either way, so I love the Giants getting more than a touchdown. Love it. I think they're playing great football - and they've been proving me wrong all year, so I've finally jumped on the bandwagon (and since this is the Giants we're talking about, that means it's time for them to crap the bed). Eli Manning suddenly has one more playoff win than Tony Romo, Terrell Owens isn't a hundred percent - everything looks like it's pointing to a Giants upset. I know the Cowboys put up lots of points on the Giants this year when they took both games...but it's the Giants' turn. Watch it happen (or at least watch them cover):


Here's where we stand in the picks after last week - if anyone new wants to jump on board, leave your picks in the 'comments' section, and I'll extend the graph to include winning percentage.


Enjoy the football.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

CALLED TO THE HALL

I have lots of problems with lots of things. Trouble is, with some of these things, here's the way my mind works:
1) acknowledge problem
2) obsess over how troubling the problem is
3) move onto another problem to obsess over

Rarely does 2a) happen, but in this case it has. 2a) is this: Think of solution to problem, publish it on blog, and solve problem.

Here's what I've solved.

The problem is election into the baseball Hall of Fame. I have a big problem with the fact that a guy is not a Hall of Famer one year (maybe on his own merit, maybe in comparison to the people he's up for election with in a given year), and then in succeeding years, he gets closer and closer and closer to election, until one January day he gets the call and suddenly, he's a Hall of Famer! (Two things - I realize this system worked for Hall of Famer Gary Carter, but it's flawed to me, no matter which person I idolize benefits. Also, I realize that this is not the only problem with the system, but it's the only one I'm solving.)

Now, this is big news up by me these days because of Jim Rice, and how close he has gotten this year, and how likely it is that he will get in next year, after 15 years of eligibility (I think I have that right....I'm going sans looking up information here). (Also note that this is Jim Rice, pictured below. He's the Red Sox player about to be tagged out at home by Gary Carter in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.).

What makes Rice a Hall of Famer now, after all these years, when he barely got 30% of the vote his first few times out? (Actually, with Rice, it's quite simple - the media are lording it over him that they control his Hall of Fame fate, because he was a downright jerk to them when he was playing. Since the media always gets the last laugh [you listening, Roger Clemens?], and he didn't stay on their good side, he's paying the price.)

My solution to this whole thing - wait more than 5 years on marginal candidates before you vote. Maybe give it ten years, and only leave them on the ballot for five years total. This way:

1) We're not subjected to year after year of voting, where a guy inches closer and closer and finally makes it.
2) A player, instead of campaigning and trying to win votes after his first year of eligibility and seeing how many more votes he needs, can spend 10 years building the case for candidacy before anyone votes at all.
3) A player like Jim Rice, who ticked off the writers, can have a longer cooling-off period (but, really, when it comes down to the media, they have long memories, and will hold the grudge no matter what).
4) With a player who is a lock for the Hall of Fame, the commissioner can step in and do something positive for the sport - waive the waiting period, or declare a 5-year waiting period, and that player can get in sooner.

I just thought I'd weigh in - it's rare that I can complain about something and offer some ideas to make it better. So I'm taking advantage of that opportunity.

AN E-MAIL: Thanks to Rob in New Jersey, who heard my desperate plea for e-mail and answered...in reference to my post last week about the Mangini cell phone ads:

"I was going to post a comment, but I didn't feel like taking the time to set up a log-in. Plus, I could tell you were jonesin' for an email to this address.

Re: Magini's Razr phone commercials... It also took me several viewing before I got the point.

Even though I agree with your take on the ads, allow me to pose an alternate theory: could it be that everyone in the city with a stake in Jets' outcomes or with things that cause angst is chucking his phone in frustration and they just end with Mangini showing his particular brand of frustration as a way of illustrating why the phones are turning up embedded in walls? In other words, could they be trying to make us think that Razrs are getting embedded in walls all over the place as people have things - Jets related or not - digust them? Hmmmm..."

If you want to meet someone who has obsessed over this longer and given it more thought than I, meet Rob. I think he's right - that's probably where all of the phones came from. It never seemed right that Mangini had about twenty phones and was chucking them into things all over Jersey. Thanks for making sense of that, Rob.

That said, I think we can all agree that if that is Belichick's voice at the end of the commercial (and the more I hear it now, the more I think it is), it's gotta be driving him nuts that he's tagging the end of a commercial starring Eric Mangini.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I WON!!!!

This has been driving me nuts lately. Perhaps it's because it's on a blog, and out there for all to see (see the top right hand side of this page), but my johnnymetsmail@yahoo.com e-mail address gets all kind of junk mail. I never get junk mail at my usual e-mail addresses, but that's because I only release those to legit businesses. But I get a ton at this one.

So each time I log in, it says I have 3 or 4 messages, and I get my hopes up that someone has e-mailed the site (it just doesn't happen much anymore, since I added the comments section), and it turns out that they're all junk. But not just any kind of junk - trick junk. To wit (I italicize so you can just skip past the rest of the letter when you have had enough, and get back to my analysis):

"The Irish Lottery
P O Box 1010
11 G Lower Dorset Street,
Dublin 1, Ireland
(Customer Services)

Ref: UK/9420X2/68
Batch: 074/05/ZY369

We happily announce to you the draw (#1004) of the IRISH LOTTERY online
Sweepstakes International program held on Saturday 05 January 2008. It
is now available for claims and you are getting the final NOTIFICATION
as
regards this.Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 56475600545
188
with Serial number 5368/02 drew the lucky numbers:27, 29, 30, 33, 40,
43,
Bonus 36,which subsequently won you the lottery in the 1st category i.e
match 5 plus bonus.You have therefore been approved to claim a total
sum of
£1.35 Million (One million, three hundred and fifty thousand, pounds
sterling) in
cash credited to file KTU/9023118308/03. This is from a total cash
prize of
£4,419,864 shared amongst the (2) lucky winners in this category
i.e. Match 6 plus bonus. All participants for the online version were
selected randomly from World Wide Web sites through computer draw
system
and extracted from over 100,000 unions, associations, and corporate
bodies
that are listed online. This promotion takes place weekly.

To file for your claim, please contact our fiduciary agent:

Name: Mr. Curtis Smith,
E-mail: irishclaimscentre01@live.com
Tel :+44 70457 36906
Tel :( +44)-7045726069

Fill the Below informations and send to the fiduciary agent for your
claims verification:

1.Full Name:
2.Full Address:
3.Marital Status:
4.Occupation:
5.Age:
6.Sex:
7.Nationality:
8.Country Of Residence:
9.Telephone Number:

Congratulations from me and members of staff of THE IRISH LOTTERY.

Yours faithfully,
Sir. Wilson Frank
Online coordinator for THE IRISH LOTTERY
Sweepstakes International Program

Congratulations Lucky Winner !!!
"

I can't really have won, can I? If I ignored the first 100 messages, would they keep sending me notices that I won? They'd probably have given up on me by now if this was a legit organization, right? But the big problem here is that I could have won an Irish lottery, and I just don't know.

And I'll continue not knowing - because they'll continue sending me notices, and I'll keep hitting delete. And don't get me started on the guy in Africa who keeps asking me to send money like we're long-lost pals.

I don't know what to make of this, but I figured, since I usually print e-mails from that e-mail address, I might as well print that one. I do know this: If I'm not cashing in on a possible Irish Lottery win....I'm probably missing out on a lot of potatoes and beer.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MITCHELL REPORT REACTION IV

The Mets - Part II

Here are the other former Mets/people connected to the Mets named in the Mitchell Report (Part I here), and my evaluation of how surprising it was to see their names, or how disappointed I was that they were implicated.

MO VAUGHN
Surprise: 8
Disappointment: 9
Just another disappointment in the saga of Mo Vaughn as a Met. Vaughn's connection with Radomski allegedly happened in 2001...and in December of 2001 Vaughn was traded to the Mets. Does that mean the Mets had information that Vaughn would somehow speedily recover from his horrible ankle injury? Again, it makes you wonder. The Vaughn write-up did provide one of the few laughs of the Mitchell Report - "Radomski said that he did not sell Vaughn steroids because Vaughn was 'afraid of the big needles'".
DAVID SEGUI
Surprise: 0
Disappointment: 7
This is no surprise, because Segui came out and admitted use before the Report was released. It's still disappointing, because they all are, but mostly because Segui sounds so entitled when he talks about taking steroids. His comments about Radomski in the Report make it sound like the guy's some sort of hero to cheaters. On the one hand, Segui's comments add some legitimacy to Radomski's comments throughout the report, but on the other hand, it is coming from David Segui, who sounds more and more like an idiot when you read his comments.
CHRIS DONNELS
Surprise: ?
Disappointment: 9
I haven't really thought much about Chris Donnels for the past 15 years or so, so I don't know about the surprise factor. It was interesting, though, that he played such a big role in the steroids case in baseball. Donnels is named in the report as being one of the people Ken Caminiti talked candidly to about steroids before he took them for the first time. The allegations regarding Donnels and steroids don't come up during Donnels' time wih the Mets, but I always think of him as a Met when I hear his name (again, not often in the past 15 years). At least he didn't impede the investigation, and spoke to Mitchell....though he did say he wouldn't tell the names of people he knew were using steroids, anyway. Ain't ballplayers great, stand-up guys?
FERNANDO VINA
Surprise: 0
Disappointment: 9
I realize there's not much fluctuation in the 'disappointment' category here - I get frustrated when this is the topic. I'm absolutely not surprised by Vina's involvement. I don't remember Vina being huge when he was with the Mets...and now that I look it up, I would have bet money that Vina was with the Mets for a while...but it was just 1994, which I guess was an era which seemed interminable. But the way Vina ballooned later in his career makes this one seem kind of obvious. The disappointment climbs the scale by Vina's admission to only using HGH to help recover from injuries after the report was released. I don't believe it.
MARK CARREON
Surprise: ?
Disappointment: ?
I don't really know what to say about Mark Carreon. He's pretty irrelevant, except for the fact that he is quoted as having told Radomski that 'the ball was jumping off his bat' in the report after he started using a performance enhancer while with the Giants (after his time with the Mets). His numbers reflect an improvement while he was in San Francisco. His case raises doubt for anyone with significant statistical increases during this time period.
SCOTT SCHOENEWEIS
Surprise: 5
Disappointment: 2
Really, could this guy be any more disappointing? I had high expectations when he joined the Mets, and those expectations were met with a 5.03 ERA, 28 walks in 59 innings pitched out of the bullpen, and allegations connecting him with the use of performance enhancing drugs. A successful run, I'd say.



TIM LAKER
Surprise: 7-8
Disappointment: 9
At long last, your Gary Carter connection. When Carter retired in 1992, he hit a double in his last major league at-bat for the Montreal Expos. He was standing at second base, and was lifted for a pinch runner to a standing ovation. That pinch runner was a young rookie catcher named Tim Laker. As a current employee of baseball (Laker manages in the Indians' farm system), Laker had to be interviewed by Mitchell, and he was up front about his steroid use. It's also interesting that the steroids never really helped him - he was hardly effective in the major leagues. But I bet Gary Carter was disappointed to see his name connected....and that's good enough for me.

(By the way - how is Tim Laker good enough to have a high level minor league managing job, while Hall of Famer Gary Carter is stuck in the Golden Baseball League?!)

Monday, January 07, 2008

STILL UNSURE

I just don't know who to believe.

I'm back into the swing of school today, and I kind of lose touch with the sports world during most of the school day. I left at 5:20, and the car radio was on ESPN Radio. I thought the station was getting poor reception, because it seemed like I was picking up someone's phone call. Then a voice sounded like Roger Clemens...and I realized what I was listening to. But I don't know what to make of it.

I'll say this - Roger Clemens is fighting a battle he's not going to win - because he's still being evasive. How can we believe that Clemens is the one to believe when he's refusing to answer certain questions?

I almost turned around on him and believed him after I heard the tape of the phone call, and his vehement denials one more time. Then someone asked him about the B12 and the Lydocaine for the umpteenth time. And he said, "I never supplied anyone with anything I've ever been injected with." And the question was rephrased, and he answered the same way.

Almost as though he is setting us up for a situation where later, if it turns out there were steroids in his system (if his tendons do turn to dust, as he says, or he does get a third ear out of his forehead), he can say, "Well, I never provided that stuff. I had no idea what they were injecting into me. I thought it was B12." And we'll be expected to believe him then.

Then someone asked him if he thought people who used performance enhancers were cheaters, and drove that point home. Clemens dodged the question like batters dodged the pitches he used to throw at their heads.

And again, he was asked about Andy Pettitte. And that's flat-out unbelievable that he had no idea about this guy, with whom he did everything, doing something like injecting himself with HGH. And he said again, their situations are separate. No, they're actually quite related.

Just still sounds like Clemens is hiding something. And that he feels if he tough guys it enough, and denies loud and angrily enough, people will just say, OK, and back off. But it's not going to happen. Oh, by the way, bad idea taking it out on the media, Roger. Long after you storm out of the 20-minute media session, and long after your 5-7 minutes are up on '60 Minutes', and long after your appearance before Congress, they'll still be writing about you. And you're not giving them much that's positive to say.

I don't like writing about this stuff. I hate it. Justin from NYC is right when he writes about the fact that there are many bigger problems in the world than whether or not Roger Clemens took steroids. Tomorrow I'll post my 'Mets connections - Part II', and then hopefully we can leave this subject alone for a while.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A QUICK RECAP

Do you feel like I do? Did those playoff games turn out the way you expected them to, except not really go the way you expected them to?

I'll break it down winner-by-winner:

In my opinion, Seattle should have dominated this game from the get-go. Instead, they controlled the game, though they couldn't get anything huge going, until the Redskins shocked them with two quick scores to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks then turned it into the rout it should have been from the beginning of the game, with a couple of defensive scores (and a back-door cover and back-door over).

A lot of people were high on Jacksonville going into this game - I just never got that way. If Pittsburgh had kicked an extra point or two, there would have been overtime, and who knows what would have happened (they at least would have covered the point-and-a-half with one extra point - my only loss against the spread this weekend). I will say this, with the Chargers win, the fact that Jacksonville now goes to New England gives the Patriots a tougher matchup than if it had been Tennessee.

The Giants game was, surprisingly, the least surprising game of the weekend. It was pretty straightforward - after the Buccaneers scored early in the game, the Giants rattled off 24 unanswered, and never looked back. I just didn't buy this Tampa team, and the way the Giants had played on the road, it seemed likely they would get the win. I don't want to tip my hand too soon...but with the Giants going to Dallas, a division foe they are familiar with, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants advance.

If you are a Chargers fan, you are breathing a tremendous sigh of relief right now. That did not go according to plan. The Chargers were lucky to win the game, let alone cover the 9-and-a-half point spread. A disgusting effort by San Diego at home. LaDainian Tomlinson is becoming an Alex Rodriguez type - he just doesn't perform in the post-season.

There was no picture to illustrate my point, so I'll just throw this out there here - Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars gets the "Best Dressed" award for the coaches this week. That leather jacket was sharp on Saturday night. (You might remember that Del Rio cares how he looks - he appealed to the NFL along with Mike Nolan for the coaches to be able to wear suits on the sidelines like the old days.)

Thanks for making your picks - here's the way it stands (I'll break it down into picks and over/unders, because apparently Justin from NYC doesn't 'do' over/unders):

PICKS
Justin from NYC: 4-0
Johnnymets: 3-1
Southern Bureau: 3-1
Dave in Brighton: 2-2
The Brother-in-Law: 2-2
The Wife: 1-3

OVER/UNDER
Dave in Brighton: 2-2
Johnnymets: 2-2
Southern Bureau: 2-2
The Wife: 2-2
The Brother-in-Law: 1-3

(I'll see if I can get a spreadsheet or something for next week.)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

CAN IT BE?

If you've watched the NFL at all this season, you've seen the ad. If you're anything like me, it took you about 10 times seeing it (from the beginning of the season until about mid-season) to realize what was going on. It's the Motorola Razr ad, in which Eric Mangini is the guy flinging his phone around in anger, and since it's such a sleek phone, it embeds itself into whatever it was thrown at - a car, a ceiling fan, a boat. (Like the wall in the picture at the top left, but that's not from the same commercial.)

Part of what I want to comment on is the fact that this commercial portrays Mangini as the coach of a team that didn't play well, presumabely more than once, since these phone have been thrown so many different places. The commercial has been airing since the beginning of the season, with the Jets coming off a playoff appearance - no one involved with this commercial, I'm sure, saw the 4-win season coming. So it was a little prescient, and I'm sure if Mangini had any inkling that his team would be this bad this year, he wouldn't have done this commercial.

But that's not my main comment. After seeing the commercial for about the 100th time in the past couple of weeks, and thinking for about the 97th time, "Why would they use Eric Mangini in this commercial?", I heard the tagline for Motorola. It's a voiceover, and the voice they use sounds an awful lot like......Bill Belichick. Now, I don't know if it's him or not...I'll leave that to more inquisitive minds, like naturalbl0g. Part of it is likely - NFL coaches have a deal with Motorola, they wear their headsets and all, and if Eric Mangini is in a commercial, why not Belichick? But part of it is also unlikely - I don't think Belichick would do endorsements. But if it is him - interesting that his voice-over is the tag on a commercial starring Eric Mangini, no? Especially this year, with the spy-gate follow-up to "The Hug" of last year.

This isn't a major deal - it's just something I've been meaning to write about for a couple of weeks. And I thought now was a good time.

PLAYOFFS: I'll comment on the playoffs Sunday night as my last act before resuming a normal school schedule. Thanks to everyone who is participating in the playoff picks.