Monthly archives: September 2006
Football Picks Are 11-8 for Year: Both Best Bets Win
So last week saw me suffering a lot of close losses, with the overall result being 3-2 in the NFL and 1-3 in the colleges. The Boilermakers and Vikings were my best bets and both won. This week has a better slate of games to bet, with my first 4-star selections of the season.
So far, the NFL has gotten off to great start, as they have had a lot of marquee matchups, especially the big Sunday Night Game. This week the 2 top teams in the NFC battle in Chicago on NBC. Last Monday Night, the Saints victory was really a magical sports event. Coach Sean Payton has such a good gameplan for New Orleans that he should be hired as the new director of FEMA.
The Falcons just signed kicker 46 year-old kicker, Morten Anderson. Part of his contract stipulates that the team pre-game meals will be at the Cracker Barrel. Hopefully to help him communicate with his teammates there was a miracle ear installed in his helmet.
It will be interesting to see how the Eagles bounce back from their bye week, considering that they were up 24-7 going into the 4th quarter and still lost. They were stumbling around at the end of game like Mel Gibson taking a field sobriety test.
4 star Arizona St.(-1.5) Oregon
The Sun Devils were embarassed last week at Cal. They are a much better home team, while Oregon is very lucky to have the record they have. ASU has to win this game or Coach Dirk might be looking for a new gig.
4 star New England(+6) Cincinnati
Cincinnati was very lucky to win last week versus the Steelers. I think the Patriots are a step below past teams, but I love the bounce back against a flawed Bengals squad.
If Alternative Radio Was Good, This Is What You Would Hear
The death of commercial alternative music radio stations is about done. When New York City doesn't even have an alternative station anymore, you know the genre is dead on commercial radio. Reasons for this are abundant, with MP3 players and satellite radio right at the top.
Alternative rock channels began to appear on commercial radio during the early 90's grunge movement. While initially successful, these channels began to get more narrow in the focus of their playlists by the turn of the century, with most going harder edge, especially when the rap-metal thing happened.
Sadly, most of the bands that I have listed below get no commercial airplay, as they don't fit a format that exists today. I have chosen 20 songs by 20 different artists. All of these songs were released over the past few years and I've tried to choose ones released since 2005, with only a few exceptions. I focused on a more post-punk type sound. This is the first of a regular series I plan on doing, listing Top 20 songs for different genres that you ought to check out.
The Killers- When We Were Young
I was not a big fan of the initial effort of the Killers, but their newest release takes a large leap, as they go from Vegas' version of Duran Duran to writing something that could have been a single on one of U2's first few albums. The Bravery have been compared to the Killers and I thought their first album was superior. The other 3 bands I've listed here have been over-hyped, but each of these songs are worth downloading.
Gang of Four- Damaged Goods
Last year, Gang of Four rerecorded a bunch of their older songs and they sounded better than ever. Like The Velvet Underground and The Fall, they influenced many, without having large record sales themselves. All of the bands I've listed below them must have been influenced by their sound. The Futureheads "Skip to the End" is one of the best songs of 2006.
The White Stripes- The Denial Twist
If you like catchy hooks in your indie rock scene, check all 5 of these retro rockers. The Stripes have been the best band of this new century, with "The Denial Twist" demonstrating what Led Zeppelin might have sounded like with a funky beat. While the last 2 songs listed are a few years old, they both have great post-punk hooks that are the best that these bands have recorded.
Deadman and Elephant Boy- Stop, I'm Already Dead
"Stop, I'm Already Dead" is my favorite song of 2006. While Karen O. and her band released an album in 2006, "Fever to Tell" was a far superior work, with the single "Maps" one of the best of this decade. Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" is on that same list of top singles, but I chose the equally as good "Do You Want To", as it is more of a recent release.
Rise Against- Ready to Fall
The bonus track is the latest release by Rise Against, which is the best Bad Religion-influenced song in years. Check it out.
Funny Porn Site, NL Playoffs, and More
I stumbled upon a very funny website named verybadporn.com. It is a satire of typical internet porn, with its cheesy dialogue and bad camera work, but site founder Chelsea Humboldt adds a quirky sense of humor that makes it more real. In one scene with "actress" Sana Summers, Humboldt says he wants to do her Indian ass, which Summers explains that she's not Indian, she's Pakaitani. This changes the direction of the scene by putting the brakes on the down and dirty, so they can discuss the differences between the 2 nations. Maybe I'm not explaining this really well. Just go to the site. It's really funny and original.
I will go into more detail when the playoffs happen, but I thought I would mention my NL favorite to make the World Series, as I am the expert on the Senior Circuit. (I had the Mets, Cards, Padres, and Phillies at the beginning of the year, with the Dodgers and Astros right behind. Ouch, I think I just pulled a muscle patting myself on the back) I know the Mets have been the dominant team this year, but I like the Padres in the playoffs, as they have the best starting pitching.
Chris Young and Woody Williams have ERA's around 3.50. If you think it's all home park factors, Young has actually been much better on the road, with a 2.50 ERA away from PETCO. Clay Hensley is right behind them with an ERA of 3.73. Since coming to the Padres, David Wells has kept the team in every game he has started and the best month of his career in ERA and WHIP is in October. And no pitcher in the NL Playoffs has more of an upside than Jake Peavy. Despite having a down year for him, Peavy still has a K/W ratio of 208/58.
Sure the Mets have a more potent offensive lineup, but upon closer inspection the Padres have nearly the same team OBP, so it's not as big of a difference as you might expect. When you look at the pitching matchups, the Padres have a large advantage, especially if Pedro isn't Pedro. The idea that just because the Mets have the dominant record doesn't mean that they should be a prohibitive favorite in the playoffs. There is no great team in National League, so it should be pretty wide-open, especially if the Astros and Dodgers are the other 2 teams in the final four.
I had a couple of you ask when I would be reviewing ESPN's new fantasy football show. Funny, but I don't feel really comfortable doing it, but I do watch it every week, as I'm a big fan of their injury expert, Will Carroll. I will offer up a couple of points.
Each NFL pregame show is either new (NBC) or have had major changes. The only exception to this is HBO's Inside the NFL and it remains the best of the genre. Cris Collingsworth and Bob Costas play beautifully off each other, while Peter King is the best insider there is. While these 3 also appear on NBC together, their chemistry with Sterling Sharpe and Jerome Bettis isn't quite there yet. I'm a fan of Sharpe, as he is witty and comes strong with his opinions. Bettis is not well-suited for TV and the show I think would really work well, if it was just Costas, Collingsworth, and Sharpe, with King having a larger segment.
I'm not a big fan of Tony Kornheiser, but I think he's done a great job so far in the booth for Monday Night Football. Mike Tirico has done a solid job, as well, demonstrating a reporter's instinct for researching the teams that he will be covering. Joe Theisman. Well, he's been better than he was with Patrick and Maguire, but I still don't think he offers much, beside a lot of bombast. Kornheiser has subtly reigned in some of this behavior, which is to the benefit of the viewer.
I really enjoyed this season of ROCKSTAR SUPERNOVA. I had predicted the final 3 after the first night of the show and I thought Lukas was the right pick for the band, because the other 2 (Toby and Dilana) were too good of singers to front this second-rate outfit. The original songs the band had written were what you would expect from 3 guys who have never been major songwriters. CBS really blew the final show, as the commercial before they announced the winner had Lukas singing his original song, "Headspin" over a preview of their reality show "Survivor." Considering that Mark Burnett is executive producer of both shows, I knew then who was the winner before they even announced it.
ROCKSTAR is a superior show to American Idol because of the lack of an age limit and that instead of covering sappy ballads, the ROCKSTAR contestants belt out some of the best rock songs ever recorded. Hmm, would I rather hear a Radiohead cover or a David Foster penned tune? This is a big problem with the show "Duets", as the format makes for one saccharine MOR tune after another. Have you ever wondered what happened to Michael Bolton or Dick Marx (also known by many as Richard)? Tune into "Duets" and watch psuedo-celebrites sing with these has-beens.
Football Picks Go 7-3 vs. Spread Last Week
Now I know most of you aren't too concerned with football, but I do offer up my selections here on a weekly basis, so if you like to wager, it might not be a bad idea to check out my offerings.
Before we get to this week's picks, let me offer a few thoughts on the NFL.
Did the Raiders move from Oakland, because every story I read after their first 2 losses began with "the Hapless Raiders". The only good decision the Raiders have made recently was to bring in Jeff George. At least this was a move to reach out to ticket holders because the last time anyone saw George he had a mullet, which is the official haircut for Raider fan.
You would have thought at least the offensive line would be better under hall of fame tackle Shell. Uh, 15 sacks later Shell was able to prove one thing. Maybe Norv Turner isn't such a bad coach after all. You know you picked the wrong guy when Bryant Gumbel thinks even Gene Upshaw would have made a better coach.
It's going to be a long year for the Packer coaches. I would recommend they start tailgating on Saturday night, just to dull the pain of Sunday afternoon. Just make sure to have a designated driver and for pete's sake, keep your clothes on. I mean you aren't working for Matt Millen.
The Falcons just signed kicker 46 year-old kicker, Morten Anderson. Part of his contract stipulates that the team pre-game meals will be at the Cracker Barrel. He will be using only a one-step approach before kicking, since he needs a walker to get around.
The Bucs have run for so few yards that their star running back has changed his name from Cadillac to Gremlin Williams.
Maurice Clarett has been sentenced to 3 years in prison. Good news for Mo, as he finally has a team that he can contribute to; the Mean Machine.
Last week I was one half point (as Voxter pointed out) away from going 5-0 against the spread. My Top 10 was looking pretty good, as well, until the referees completely screwed Oklahoma out of a victory. In non-conference games, the referees should either be from the visiting teams conference or from another conference altogether.
Now for the picks.
3 star Purdue (+3) Minnesota
Not a good week for games, either to bet or to watch. I was pointing towards making Michigan State a big winner versus Notre Dame, but after the stomping Michigan put on the Irish, I expect more focus. I think the game is now a toss-up and the 8 point spread I was expecting is now 3.
3 star Vikings (+4) Bears
If the Bears look impressive this week, put me on board with them being the Super Bowl favorites for the NFC. Vikings defense is much improved, as is the head coaching, so I expect a close, low-scoring game.
The Number 1 Qualification for the Next President (Read the Comments Below)
Just wanted to note that this is the most fun we have had here since the glory days of Clay Aiken commentary. Go to the post below this one, as there is some quality stuff being offered up in the comment section.
Whip Me, Beat Me, Come On and Eat Me... Good God, Y'all, It's a Free-For-All
If I didn't already piss-off the liberals, quoting Uncle Ted should do it. I've got to imagine there are some old readers here shaking their heads thinking they are in some kind of bizarro world, with me being the one causing anger among some Democrats. I kind of feel like Christopher Hitchens or David Brock going from one group's most hated to their most loved. Since I aspire to be the contrarian, when I think it serves a purpose, I've got no problems with the attack. Anyway, if you are going to piss off one group, it seems safer to pick Liberals, as they haven't seemed capable of violence since the Chicago 7. (For you baseball fans out there, the Chicago 7 is not a reference to the Black Sox scandal.)
See what happens when the White Sox fall out of the Playoff Chase. I become unstable. Hey, I don't cover one team, so this is the closest thing I can come to a gamewatch.
The Number 1 Qualification for the Next President
It's been a long time since I've stirred up some shinola around here, but I need to vent. After watching Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speak today, it became abundantly clear to me. The United States cannot ever again elect a President who is not a good public speaker. Chavez, who is a close, personal friend of another often misguided, but entertaining speaker, Ozzie Guillen, railed against President Bush referring to the "sulfur(ous) smell" that Bush had left from his appearance at the UN the day before.
Now Chavez is loony on many levels, but just like another scary leader, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he has real charisma when speaking. Not to go Thomas Friedman here, but in the global economy that we've chosen to live in, we have to rely more than just on our muscle to market our products to other countries. The President is our biggest sales person and George W. Bush has made us a laughing stock to most of the world. I know that Bush has been successful to many of our nation's brain dead playing the "I'm your big daddy and I will protect you from the baddy-bads who want to hurt you", but the real truth is he has even failed on the terrorism front and on most other issues, he is an outright failure.
Now, don't take this for a rant against the Republican party. While I think the party that has been in total power the past 6 years has done a miserable job of governing, as they've spent money like a 14 year-old girl with her first credit card, I do believe there are capable Republican's who fill the bill for what we need to help to begin getting us out of the diplomatic mess we are in with the rest of the planet. John McCain and Chuck Hagel are 2 men who possess the type of personality and rugged individulism that this country is desperate for. While I don't agree with their views on some major issues, they at least would bring some intelligence and wit back to the oval office.
The Democratic Party has been a bad joke ever since Bill Clinton left office. Al Gore and John Kerry not only didn't have the guts to speak from their hearts (instead blindly following what pollsters told them to say), but they also had so little charisma that they allowed the worst Presidential candidate of my lifetime to squeak out victories against them. (I say squeak because both elections would have produced a tainted winner, no matter who was victorious.) Not only have the Democratic presidential candidates lacked personality, but the current leaders of the senate and the house are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Not exactly Lyndon Johnson or Tip O'Neill in the force of nature departments.
Just like the Republicans, though, the Democrats do have some candidates with the type of verve and intelligence to begin to steer us back from the abyss that this current administration has led us. Joesph Biden, Bill Richardson, and John Edwards are men who have the mix of intelligence and charisma that the United States needs from its leader.
John Kerry seems to be talking about wanting to run again. Dude, no one wants you back. Kerry reminds me of the guy who goes into a bar and asks a woman if "I can buy you a drink." She replies "No", to which he says, "Well then how about us hitting the dance floor." "Sorry, I'm not interested" is her second brush off. Kerry would be the guy then who would take these first 2 rejections as the perfect opportunity for him to say, "Oh, I get it. You want to go back to my place so we can get it on!"
Dude, even though our ex-boyfriend (Bush) was an idiot and treated us badly, half us still went back with him because you were such a boring first date. You had your chance and you were unable to make us laugh and at the end of the date the warmest thing you could manage was a firm handshake. Sorry, but there are better prospects, so John Kerry, quit calling us!
Finally, you know I have made no mention of Hillary. I'm not a big fan of the former first lady and don't believe she has the type of charisma that the next occupant needs. She is such a devisive figure, which after 8 years of this type of split among the nation under Bush, I don't think would be healthy to continue. The one thing that does make her more attractive than the others is that Bill Clinton would come as part of the package.
I was in my very suburban neighborhood tonight, when one of the neighbor kids tripped over a box sitting on the driveway. He started crying and began to blame one of his friends who was right there for "not warning him." The crying boy's Dad said that his son never takes the blame for anything. I offered that it's this trait that might make him President of the United States. The neighborhood men who were there laughed and a couple of them simultaneouly both went into a "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" impression.
I replied that I long for the days when a hummer was the worst thing that we had to worry about. You know, when the stock market was booming, the deficit was non-existent, and we had the respect of most of the world. Before thejuiceblog was even around and we were writing at a different site than the Toaster, politics was discussed pretty regularly. Over the past couple of years it has disappeared because quite frankly, it's seems kind of pointless to debate many of the poor decisions that the Bush administration has made. Even most thoughtful Republicans know that the direction the country is going is not healthy. Kind of like being a Cubs fan. You love your team, but it still doesn't mean you don't want to fire the manager.
I know I've been pretty simplistic in my thoughts about what quality is the most important in our next President, but we have reached a point where we need a President who is both dynamic and intelligent. Fortunately for our country, the politicians who fit this category are not ruthless dictators like Chavez and Ahmadinejad. Our best choice would be to strike down the 22nd amendment and re-elect Bill Clinton, but since that won't happen; I will take my chances with the people I've mentioned. I just wish the election was tomorrow because another 15 months of the Skipper (Cheney) and Gilligan (Dubya) are only going to create a bigger hole for the next occupant.
Time to Pull the Tarp over the White Sox
The race for the AL Central, which looked so exciting has ceased to be. With the Tigers dismantling of the White Sox in game 1 of their series, the playoffs seem to be set. If the A's sweep of the Sox (led by my buddy Frank Thomas) hadn't of already of locked it up, losing the way they did on Monday clinched it.
Without going into too much detail of why the White Sox have fallen short this season, I would point to these 3 factors.
1) The starting staff logged a ton of innings last year, especially when you consider what they provided in the playoffs. A tip of the hat goes to Herm Schneider and his training staff, which has managed to keep all of their Big 4 from suffering any major arm injuries. While they might not be visiting Dr. Andrews, these starters have looked fatigued all year.
2) The bullpen is completely different than last season. The White Sox started last year with Takatsu (remember him and where is he now?), Marte, Politte, Hermanson, Cotts, and Vizcaino, as their main guys. Only Cotts and Hermanson are left with the team now, with the former nowhere close to his last season's brilliance and the latter only joining the team over the past week. Bobby Jenks was the team's savior last year and pitched well this year, but seems to have hit a wall in August. Jenks' velocity is quite a bit down from his flame-throwing peak. Plugging in McCarthy and adding Riske and MacDougal have kept them competitive for most of the year, but they can't match the bullpens of the Twins, A's, and Tigers.
3) If you compare Scott Podsednik's stats from 2005 and 2006, you will notice a 20 point drop in OBP this season. While that might not seem like a big deal, Podsednik last year was a catalyst for the team. The White Sox played small ball during the first inning, where Scott seemed to reach base at a much higher clip than the rest of his at bats. The White Sox were masters at getting the lead first (they set a MLB record for most straight games scoring first). They played like a football team with a great defense, trying to score initially and then pitching and defense helping them hold on.
This season, Podsednik rarely set the table and the White Sox played from behind a lot more. The increased power hitting for the team kept them in the race, despite a drop in pitching and hitting from the leadoff spot, but it only could sustain them for so long.
I know my evidence is completely circumstantial on the Podsednik theory, but I would guess most fanatical observers of the team would go along with some of my theory. If I had the time or desire, I would go through all the box scores from last year to calculate what he hit in his first at bat and what is the winning percentage when a team scores first. I'm not that guy. If you have the interest, I would love to have you do the research and co-author a piece with me on the subject.
The National League continues to be an interesting battle, no matter how mediocre the competition is, but the AL teams can begin to set their starting staffs for the playoffs. It's about time for the White Sox to play Josh Fields and Ryan Sweeney everyday, while also giving a couple of their young pitchers the opportunity to start a couple of games. If the White Sox are going to compete with the incredibly strong AL Central teams in 2007, they need to know if these players are major league options. The World Champions are just about done with the defending part of their reign.
College Football Top 25, Plus Best Bets for the Weekend
I was going through my posts the other day and realized that I never put up my pre-season College Football Top 25. Now I realize it seems like I'm cheating by posting it now, but I guess I will have to let you determine from these choices if I deserve the honor system.
Below my Top 25 are my football picks for this week. Last year I was 34-23 (over 60 percent) on my best bet NFL picks, which most of your famous tout sheets would love to be able to say. In the colleges, I would have lost you some money, as my best bets were 29-27. I never play the first week of the NFL, as I feel it's too much of a crapshoot. On to week 2 we go, below the Top 25.
Scott's 2006 Pre-Season Top 25
College Football is very much about scheduling and coaching, as these factors make a lot bigger difference than they do in the NFL. Auburn has one of the Top 10 coaches in college football and a schedule where their toughest games are at home.
6. Virginia Tech
The Hokies' Beamer is one of the best 5 coaches and they play a very advantageous schedule.
The best college football magazine hands down is Phil Steele's preview. He opened my eyes to the Vols bad luck in 2006, as they definitely underperformed their Pythagorean. With Cutcliffe back as offensive co-coordinator they will jump right back in it.
Another top-10 coach is Tedford in Berkley. They would rate higher if not playing their 2 toughest games on the road.
21. Michigan St.
The Spartans are my biggest surprise of 2006, as they have a top-notch QB and a favorable schedule.
(NOTE: This was written before the season. How Iowa and Oklahoma have looked so far, I don't look so good. Now my Texas and Tennessee rankings do look a lot better, though.
College Best Bets
3 star Michigan St. (+2.5) Pittsburgh
The Spartans are one of my teams on the rise and I like betting against Wannstadt. The Sooners are getting too many points here, as I see them winning by at least a field goal. While Spurrier never seemed to have much trouble winning in Knoxville, I see the Vols winning a tight one. While USC has better talent and coaching, too many distractions keep this game closer. Not a fan of either coach, as they are more recruiters than tacticians, but the Orangemen have a decent d-line, which should help them win the battle in the trenches.
NFL Best Bets
3 star Green Bay (-3) New Orleans
If the Packers can't win this game at home, it's time to rethink the whole season. Even with Portis out, the Skins defense will keep this game close. As long as Rivers is solid, the Chargers will be one of the Top 5 teams in the NFL. The outcomes of last week give the Pats good value against the Jets. With Steve Smith hurt, expect to see the Panthers play more conservatively; something the Vikings will be doing all year. Go under.
My Life with Frank Thomas
It must be fun when your favorite player is Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn. You know a beloved figure that everyone in the game loves. Frank Thomas has been my guy. While not a dick on the level of Barry Bonds, loving Frank has never been easy.
Despite being one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, Thomas always seemed like a man out of place. At 6' 5" and at least 260 pounds, he has always looked like the tight end he was at Auburn more than the baseball superstar that he is. What made him look even more out of place was that he was the biggest man in the game, but felt more comfortable swinging in the Charlie Lau/Walt Hriniak-style of hitting it to all fields. In a time when the long ball ruled supreme, Thomas has never hit more than 42 homers, despite playing most of his career in a good home park for them.
His first 7 seasons are as good as anyone has ever come out of the gate, with 6 of those years having an OPS of over 1000 and the other year being 975. Four of these years he led the league in this category, with his lowest rank being 3rd. Only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams have put together such an impressive streak to begin their careers. Typical of the way his career has gone, Frank's greatest season was in 1994, when he had 38 homers, .353 BA, .487 OBP, .729 SLG. What was shaping up to be one of the great years of all-time was cut down because of the strike-shortened season.
Being a sabermetrical devotee, Thomas quickly becane my favorite. Sure he was a liability in the field, but when you hit like Thomas, you don't expect him to throw the leather like Wes Parker. No player had more entertaining at-bats than Thomas, as he saw more pitches than seemingly any hitter. He has as great of an eye as any player I've seen, with a John McEnroe ability to know if it's in or out. He also has a remarkable ability to take horrible looking swings and still manage, with his immense strength to guide the ball in for an amazing amount of ducksnorts.
In his 1995 Players Ratings Book, this is what Bill James wrote about him.
Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Frank Thomas...maybe the three best hitters God ever made. Gets on base half the time, has tremendous power, hits .350...what more could you want? He works hard, stays healthy, never slumps. Only weakness are his glove and speed. When the White Sox picked him seventh overall in the 1989 draft, they were widely ridiculed by the scouting community.
Thomas' hitting ability has given him the respect that his personal actions never could. Thomas is an articulate guy, but never meshed well with the media or fans because of his very thin skin. While being the greatest player in Chicago White Sox history, he was never the leader of the team because he just never seemed to relate well to his teammates. Frank always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder about not being more of a media celebrity, but during his best years the city was owned by the Bulls...especially Michael Jordan. When MJ retired in 1998, it happened to be the the year of the home run, with Maris' breaker Sammy Sosa filling the void left by Jordan's absence. Sammy was great with the fans and seemed to love the game, a game that Thomas has always seemed to just tolerate. Sosa took over the town with his chicks digging the longball style. Frank Thomas was always more than just a slugger, but his best stats were never sexy to anyone but stat geeks.
Thomas' bad timing continued in 2005, as he was on the disabled list most of the year that the White Sox finally won a World Series title. Sure he celebrated with the team in the locker room and tried to say all the right things, but the proud man that is Frank Thomas seemed to be masking an emptiness in not having a chance to produce on the largest stage. The ultimate Big Hurt happened when the White Sox declined his option and didn't offer him a contract he could live with for 2006. Instead they traded for another DH with injury problems by the name of Jim Thome. It was hard to argue with the move, as Thomas had only played a total of 108 games over the past 2 seasons.
What was more amazing was that there were a lot of American League teams without a quality DH, but none of them were willing to take the risk on a 37 year-old all-time great. Much has been made of how the Oakland A's made a great decision to sign him. While they look savvy in the way the picked Thomas up, I think it was more of a case of a lot of GM's dropping the ball, as his past stats should have elicited more of a spirited market for his talents. Considering that when healthy Thomas had hit 30 homeruns in the 345 AB's he had over the past 2 seasons, while slugging over .570, it seemed like a no-brainer to take a flyer on him. Once again, Thomas' timing was unfortunate.
Hopefully after his resurgent 2006 season, the notion that Big Frank is anything but a first-ballot hall of famer has been vanquished. Sure he's just been a DH for the past decade, but he's one of the Top 20 hitters of all-time. Only Barry Bonds has had better hitting stats than Thomas over the past 2 decades. I'm happy for Frank, as his resurgence has given him back some of the acclaim he deserves. I hope he's reached a point that he has a career first. Actually enjoying his success.
Here are my quick picks for the 2006-07 NFL Season.
1. New England
The Patriots aren't as good as in the past, but people are a little out in front of themselves on the Dolphins. I've never been a Culpepper fan and as crazy as it sounds, I think they would be just as good with Joey Harrington behind center.
The Colts continue to be the best team in the NFL, but as long as they face 3-4 defenses in the playoffs, they will struggle to make it to the Super Bowl. The Jaguars have the NFL's best defensive line, but they suffer without any offensive playmakers. Everything went wrong in Houston last year and I suspect they might have the biggest improvement in record in 2006. Jeff Fisher is one of the NFL's top coaches, but they have one of the worst roster in the league. He will likely be coaching with someone else in 2007.
The NFL's most explosive defense will enable the Steelers to win the division again. The Bengals have a brutal schedule, but their offense is the best in the NFL, as the Colts and Chiefs have fallen off a bit on this side of the ball. Common Wisdom is that the Ravens are still a dominant defensive team. Not the case. Ray Lewis is not player he used to be and the front four struggles against good running teams. Cleveland looked to be capable of moving up, but the loss of their offensive leader (center Bentley) should keep them in the cellar.
The best division in the AFC, there is not much difference between the top 3 squads. It will be interesting to see how Jake Plummer plays knowing that the Broncos have their QB of the future (Cutler) waiting on the bench. The past 2 seasons, Drew Brees did well in the same situation and now we will see if Rivers can succeed. The 2 best running backs in the NFL, LT and Larry Johnson will keep both of their teams in the playoff chase. The Chiefs will be better on defense, with the addition of a healthy Ty Law and a head coach who understands ball control. Schottenheimer has struggled in the playoffs, but his teams can never be counted out in the regular season. The Raiders replaced one NFL failed coach, with another one, Art Shell.
1. NY Giants
Not much difference between these 4, but the Giants have more playmakers and this is the year Manning becomes the best QB in the division. The Redskins defense is excellent, but it's amazing that they didn't go after someone like Kerry Collins to back-up the fragile Brunell. If the Eagles can find some kind of running game, they will move up. The Cowboys are being seen as a Super Bowl contender by many, but I think the loss of offensive coordinator Payton will cause problems. Bledsoe is no longer a quality signal caller.
The Panthers are the most balanced team in the NFL, as long as Steve Smith is healthy. Fantasy Football injuries guru Will Carroll says though that Smith could struggle with his nagging injury all season. Considering how Smith was the most important player to his team in 2005, this will make the difference between the Super Bowl and just making the playoffs. I had the Bucs making the playoffs last year, but their schedule this year will cause them to fall just short. Considering that the Falcons new quarterback coach oversaw backup Matt Schaub at Virginia, he would be a better fit for the team than Vick. Yeah, you heard that right. Bad situation as how can you bench your star? The Saints will be exciting on offense, but their defense is a mess. If Brees is healthy, they could surprise, as he is a real leader. Most of Reggie Bush's big plays will be on screens and kick returns, as he will really miss the great offensive line of the Trojans.
The Bears seem to be the most likely team to win their division, but they are not the type of team to blow out their opposition, so expect a drop off in wins this year. At this point, Griese is a better QB than Grossman, so expect a QB controversy. The Vikings made a great move picking up the top guard in the NFL (Hutchison) and have improved their coaching staff. A tougher schedule will keep them from improving thier overall record. Jon Kitna and Mike Martz will create more stability on the offensive side of the ball, but not enough to move up past third. The Packers have no offensive line and their young coaching staff will have some growing pains.
There are many reasons why the Seahawks will struggle more this year, but playing these inferior teams 6 times will give them enough leeway to find themselves in the playoffs once again. While the Cards are being hyped, I have a hard time seeing how one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL is going to protect the most immobile QB (Warner). The Rams have a chance, as they will have a more stable season, after last year's Martz/front office war. The 49ers might actually win 5 games. Pretty sad to feel like that is an improvement.
Super Bowl: Colts vs. Giants
Manning Bowl starts off the season and we wind up with the same game at the end. It's the greatest dream of the NFL and it actually comes true. Older brother schools younger brother and finally wins the elusive Super Bowl title.
No Crocodile Tears for Steve Irwin
During the seemingly endless tributes to Steve Irwin after his death, I want to offer up that I have a hard time feeling really too choked up about it. When you spend your life doing a job where your life is often at risk, my sympapthies are fairly muted, if something goes wrong. I felt similarly when Dale Earnhardt died. I guess I don't understand doing a gig like this when you have a family. The one positive that I hope has come out of Steve Irwin's death is that all the hacky stand-ups who do Crocodile Hunter bits, with their second-rate Aussie impressions, will have to retire it. Maybe Irwin was a martyr to protect the comedy club audience from the lameness of this type of routine. Now if all Wal-Mart greeters could be wiped out....
I've already touted Muse's Black Holes and Revelations as the best release of 2006. Well, if you haven't caught their bombastic video for their equally bombastic single, Knights of Cydonna, you are really missing out. If Quentin Tarantino decided to direct a spaghetti western, I would guess it would look just like this video.
This year's MTV VMA's was awful. It really showed how MTV doesn't know how to promote music anymore. I'm not a rap hater, but very few artists in the genre pass for being even listenable when performing live. Outside of OK Go's live reenactment of their hilarious video, the show was weak. Host Jack Black didn't have anywhere near his usual kinetic energy. My guess this was partially because he didn't care for the music or most of the promoters. I mean, where was the Dio tribute to keep Jack interested?
Programming Note: The 4th year of writing the sketches for the NFL on FOX pregame show kicks off this Sunday for me. There are some big changes going on with the show this season, which I think will really reinvigorate the program. The addition of NBC being in the mix, with all the top talent it purchased has made the whole pre and post-game show field more competitive.
Broadcasting Booth Rant Part 2
Instead of having it buried in the comment section, I thought I would add a couple of things to what wrote about Hawk Harrelson, before my baseball blogging license is revoked. (I especially say this considering that Baseball Primer has decided to link my piece. Since the writers there have ignored me in the past like hot women do them at parties, I'm sure they finally chose this piece of mine since they knew that many of their readers would savor having me as their new favorite whipping boy. Considering I make most of my living in a profession where I deal with drunk hecklers on a regular basis, I can take it. Thank you Sir, can I have another?)
I used to listen to Hawk a lot, when he and Wimpy Paciorek were doing the games because they had a really fun banter together. Paciorek's silly sense of humor kept Hawk in check sometimes and he would call Harrelson on something when he disagreed. I didn't mention Darrin Jackson in the review, because he reminds me of so many other ex-jocks in the booth. Forgettable. I also didn't mention Ed Farmer's new partner, Chris Singleton, as he is much the same.
I've discussed broadcaster's before and what thoroughly pisses me off is that everyone in the comments section is willing to bash away, but no one mentions anyone as being good, except for the Pope of Vero Beach. I've mentioned that I've enjoy announcers like Steve Stone, Orel Hershiser, and Rick Sutcliffe before, as they are guys who have strong opinions, plus good senses of humor. I was attacked in the comments section for liking them as well. Fine, if you feel that way, but I think you need to list what makes a good broadcaster to you to truly refute them and it would be nice to mention who you do like. Sorry, but I grade all professions on a curve. If they all suck, then it must be the toughest job on the planet.
I've listened to every major league radio broadcast team on XM Satellite and it's amazing how so many of them are carbon copies of each other. I realize that unless their Daddy was a all-time great, they probably had a tough road to get into the booth, so being distinct scares them. "Let's just try to do everything to stay under the radar, so no one in upper management decides to replace us."
I don't remember ever saying I thought Harrelson was a good announcer. I just think he's better than most of the cookie cutter robots that a majority of MLB teams have hired. If you like that...REALLY PHUCKING GREAT FOR YOU, as they will only grow in the ranks. Look at what happened a couple of seasons ago with the Cubs. The players didn't like Steve Stone being critical (honest) about some of their efforts, so the Front Office decided they would support the players and not their long-time broadcaster. Hey, I can see where that might seem like a good business decision, but the results since then have shown the Cubs to be the most disappointing team in the National League. Hmm, maybe Steve Stone should be the one putting the team together?
Let me repeat, I don't think Hawk Harrelson is a premier type broadcaster. I don't even listen to him that much, as I listen to Ed Farmer on radio, whenever I can. I will agree that if I wasn't a White Sox fan, I would probably dislike the guy. Having said this, I appreciate some of his unique traits and don't think he at the bottom of his field.
I would be interested on who you think are the Top 5 broadcasters in the game. I realize that most people never hear anyone besides their local guys and the ESPN or Fox announcers. I think people have a general bias towards their own team, so try to include people who aren't part of this group.
Oh and if I wasn't taking a shellacking enough, I see where Bob Dylan is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Oy!
(Let me also mention that my friend, Ken Schultz has a good piece which discusses my favorite topic, Scott Long. Well, to be more specific he calls me out for not bashing Hawk. Check it out at his myspace blog. Taking shots from a Cub's fan and still linking them on my blog. I must be a masochist.
A White Sox Fan Discusses Hawk Harrelson
If you haven't noticed, the Toaster's Catfish Stew has added a new writer, Phillip Michaels. I've really enjoyed his new voice here. Considering how many A's blogs there are it can't be easy to come up with a unique spin on the team, but Ken and Phillip have completely cornered the market on the quirky, intellectual take on the A's. Recently, Phillip discussed how he likes the Red Sox broadcasts and took the standard "White Sox TV broadcast is the worst on the planet" view. As a White Sox fan, I thought I would offer up my thoughts on Hawk Harrelson.
I will be the first to admit that Hawk must seem insufferable to a fan of another team, as he has a style like a college football announcer, with a lot of "we" this and the other team seen as "badguys". I know it lacks the dignity that the generic broadcaster types have and if you like a dry, matter of fact broadcast, it must seem like torture to hear Harrelson. Here's what I actually like about the White Sox telecast.
1.) The best thing that Harrelson does is that he has some passion and attitude in what he says. He's not afraid to rip a player, as he knows that the front office will allow it. So many of these company men who broadcast games are afraid to say anything negative. Just ask Steve Stone about how being an opinionated analyst can be for your broadcasting career.
2.) If you like to hear stories about players from the 60's and 70's, Harrelson is your broadcasting guy, as he tells some great tales about different teammates and opponents he faced during his very colorful career. This is one thing that the ex-jock should bring to the booth, but very few do. When he discusses George Brett, it seems like he gets sexually stimulated, as he is completely enrapture with the former Royal. Did you know that his favorite pitcher of all-time is Catfish Hunter? Yes, Phillip and Ken, the man who inspired your site's name is the former player that Harrelson brings up the most.
3.) One of my favorite things about baseball's past was that so many players had nicknames. This seems to have fallen by the wayside, but if you are an everyday player with the White Sox, there is a decent chance that you might have been dubbed a name by Hawk. No other profession lends itself to nicknames more than baseball and I like anyone who tries to keep this part of the game's lore alive.
4.) I realize that a lot of people think a broadcaster should just stick to telling what is on the field, but I like that Harrelson is willing to use his mic as a bully pulpit. The past few seasons he has had a feud with Jay Mariotti, which has brought some dark energy to the booth. Yeah, I know many think that a broadcasting booth is some kind of holy shrine where only the game on the field should be discussed. I'm not that guy.
5.) I love the "put it on the board, yes." I'm sure it has to do with being a White Sox fan, but this to me is the best homerun call in baseball, as it is unique and has an excitement level that expresses how you feel when it leaves the park when hit by your team.
Now I'm not for a minute going to pretend that Harrelson isn't pompous. He's off-based on many of his thoughts about sabermetrics. Truth be told that if I had a choice between listening to the White Sox TV or radio broadcasts, I would always choose the radio, as Ed Farmer is the best in the biz.
I defend Harrelson in some ways, as I think the new breed of broadcaster has become a stooge for the corporate ownership, sucking the life out of the game. The days of big personalities in the booth I'm afraid has been lost. Hawk Harrelson has many flaws and can be frustrating to listen to, but I choose him over at least half of the snore-inducing broadcasters who have taken over baseball booth.
(INTERNAL DIALOGUE: First you rip Bob Dylan and now you somewhat defend Hawk Harrelson. Jesus Scott, are you trying to kill any credibility you have all in one week?)
The Christian Guide to Stripping (Comic Story No. 4)
In my continuing quest to bring interesting voices to thejuiceblog, I would like to submit Serena Hein. I was turned on to Serena by a friend and after reading her very unique spin on stripping for Jesus, I felt it should be shared with more people.
Serena is a standup comedian/superhero based in Kansas City. I feel a kinship with her, as my business card for the past 15 years has listed me as having the same occupations. Check out Serena at myspace.com.
Hi, my name is Serena Hein. I'm just a girl trying to save the world, so I can go back to playing video games all day. The source of my superpowers originates in my nakedness. I'm currently trying to write a book that will explain to everyone how they can gain superpowers from losing their clothes.
Since I'm working on finishing my newest book (the Christian's guide to stripping) I've started the search for a new publisher, since my old one decided that it didn't exist.
I'm looking for a publisher that has good inroads to Christian book stores, porn shops, and a 6 figure signing bonus.
I know that seems like a lot of money but I'm going to need to hire some really good comic book artists to draw some parts that I won't be able to fully explain in words alone.
This is the type of book that only comes along once in a lifetime so don't miss out on it publisher people. You guys are willing to give Ann Coulter 3 million and this book is going to sell waaayyyyyyyy more copies and at a fraction of the cost, guaranteed and you have my word on that.
There are over 6 billion people on the planet and I estimate 1 in 4 is going to need a copy of this book. (Another plus of sequential art is that it will be easier to translate into other languages.)
I don't want to over sell this book, but there's no doubt it will change the world. I'm talking the keys to eternal life here, world peace and how taking our clothes off is all completely necessary for this goal to be achieved.
We can never truly be free till we're free of our clothes. If we want to return to the long lives we lived in the Old Testament times or hopefully the eternal life we had in the Garden then we're going to have to return to our original state naked dancing in the Sun.
This is not a joke, I repeat this is not a joke, if you give me 6 figures I will write a book that will tell you how we can bring Jesus back and live forever is his glory and love by getting naked.
From the Gospel of Thomas 37. His disciples said, "When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?"
Thank you Serena for sharing your hopes and desires with us. I know if I was Pat Robertson, you would be a regular guest on the 700 Club.
Bob Dylan Update
So I am watching the thrilling Andre Agassi match last night when one of those nifty Ipod ads comes on. Who is the star of it? Mr. "New technology in music has wrecked the sound" Dylan, that is who.
Look, I am not slamming the guy for doing a commercial to get more people to listen to his parody songs. I just think it is a MAJOR piece of hypocrisy to take money from Apple, while spouting off the way he has.
I ask his legion of tone deaf followers to PLEASE defend this choice of his.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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