I'm really happy that the rest of America is getting a chance to see how the White Sox were able to win 99 games. Sure they have seemed to have had an inordinate amount of luck in 2005, but they also play some of the smartest, most entertaining baseball I've ever watched. I wrote at the beginning of the year that the acquisitions of Pierzynski, Iguchi, and El Duque were great moves, even though to clear up the salary they needed for these players, they would have to trade Carlos Lee. Well, for the regular season, Hernandez was a bust, but the reason the White Sox management picked up Orlando was for his big game pitching ability. His appearance in the 6th inning, inheriting the bases loaded and shutting down the Red Sox, without a run, will go down as one of the great pitching moments in playoff history. (On a related note, it seems to be the time to cut loose Marte from the playoff roster. Please insert McCarthy. He could mean the difference coming out of the bullpen in a long series.)
There has been discussion about how Ozzie Guillen learned to manage most from Bobby Cox. Guillen has also credited Marlins managers Jeff Torborg and Jack McKeon, as skippers who have had influence on him. Ozzie has seemed to developed the magic touch with a pitching staff that Cox has, but as a person, he seems to have little in common with his mentors. I would say the manager his style reminds me most of is Billy Martin. Fiery, unconvential, and always a great quote, both Guillen and Martin have that small, middle infielder chip on the shoulder is a great motivator. I would guess that like Martin, Guillen will wear out his welcome after 3 or 4 years, but the charismatic personality he possesses, much like Billy had, will drive teams to overachieving in the short-term.
Everytime Paul Konerko has a spectacular fielding play or hits a big fly, I have mixed feelings. Most of me is happy, as he's the most important weapon in the White Sox lineup, but I also realizes it makes him more and more money in the free agency market. Considering the shallow free agent talent pool that is available this off-season, I would guess Konerko is already too expensive for the White Sox, but now he has really ridden up the salary ladder, as some team with deep pockets, who needs to make an off-season splash will have to consider making him a Thome-like deal. In a city like Chicago, especially with the blue-collar fan base the White Sox have, Konerko is the biggest fan favorite I've seen since I've been following the team. Much like the last Sox player to fit this description, Robin Ventura, I would not sign him to anything more than 9 million a year, which I suspect will be about 3-5 million less per season than will be needed. You're an excellent power hitter and great team leader, Paulie, but slow-footed first-baseman, who will be turning 30 over the off-season is not a good financial bet.
The announcing crew for the Sox(s) series were Rick Sutcliffe, Chris Berman, and Mike Piazza. While he started slowly, I thought Piazza did a credible job behind the microphone. The biggest negative for Piazza being in the booth, was that gave less airtime for baseball's best color analyst, Rick Sutcliffe. The biggest positive for Piazza being in the booth was that it gave less airtime for Chris Berman. Sutcliffe is cocky, but backs it up, with great analyis and humor. Berman is living off his 1980's decade, when he had some innovative touches in delivering sports highlights. Much like a buffet table or a well-dressed list, Berman should be kept away from play-by-play.
ESPN radio has hired John Franco to provide color for the Astros-Braves series. I highly recommend listening to him for an inning, as he has the vocal delivery of a second-rate character on The Sopranos. Just another case of some East Coast executive deciding who should be hired for a national telecast. Sorry, but most of America doesn't want to hear a thick accent, be it East Coast, Southern drawling, or Minnesoda Fargo-flavored. If you do have such a voice, you better make up for it by being highly opinionated and a natural born entertainer. (See Dick Vitale.)
If you gave up on me, after the first couple of weeks, let me mention that I've been a combined 8-2 in the colleges and 6-3 in the NFL over the past 2 weeks. For the year, I'm 13-10 in college (+9 on the star basis) and 10-8 in the NFL(+11 on the star basis). Let's see if I can continue it up this weekend.
3 star Texas Tech (-4) over Nebraska
3 star Texas A&M (+3.5) over Colorado
3 star Iowa St. (-8) over Baylor
3 star Georgia (+3) over Tennessee
3 star Illinois (+6.5) over Indiana
Starting off with 3 Big 12 games. The Huskers have been a lucky team to start off the season undefeated, winning close games with Pittsburgh and Iowa State. With the 5th consecutive home game to begin the year, the Huskers have a chance to go 5-0, but they've seen nothing like the Red Raider passing game. The Big 12 South is far superior to the North. Staying on this same theme, take the points with the Aggies, as they are the better team and McNeal will make enough plays to help them win outright. OK, now forget everything I just said, at least in regards to Baylor. The Cyclones are the best team in the North and rebound from a tough overtime loss at Nebraska last weekend.
Tennessee is a miserable home favorite versus Top 25 ranked opponents and I have to take Richt over Fulmer, if the talent is equal, which the Bulldogs have.
New coach Hoeppner seems to be the perfect choice for the new coach at IU, but to make them a 6.5 point favorite over any Big 10 squad, seems a bit too lofty. Remember, Illinois beat a decent Rutgers squad and competed well against California, so I think the line gives the Illini some value.