Friday, August 31, 2007

My Name is...


If you're a blogger and an avid reader of other blogs like me, you've probably seen this before. You read a blog post and you see that there are comments about the post, particularly if it's about something interesting or controversial. Often times the comments are complete with the full name of the poster and even a link to their own blog or webpage. Other times, I'll see anonymous comments from people who do not do so much as to even state the first initial of their name. Now this is fine if you're just leaving a little note, or saying something kind to said blog author. More times than not though, the anonymous commenters aren't very nice. In fact they are often just plain mean and condescending!!!

Fortunately (perhaps), I rarely receive anonymous comments on my blog. When I have received such comments in the past, the people have had the common decency to at least leave me a first name. There are probably a good dozen or so blogs that I regularly read, and sometimes the authors receive some rather scathing anonymous comments without so much as a mention from the writers as to whom they are...

The above leads me to the following question. If you're going to write a mean or "put-down" anonymous comment on someone or to someone, then why are you afraid of so much as stating your first name??? Are you scared that the said blog writer is going to come find you and give you a scolding??? Are you afraid of what your friends would think if they suddenly found out you weren't the nice person you pretended to be??? Are you afraid of what would happen if your boss found out??? Just what is the motive behind these kind of anonymous comments???

To me, those people that leave the above type of anonymous comments are just big phoneys, cowards and scaredy cats! If you don't have the backbone to state your identity and actually BACK UP what you're saying then you really shouldn't be commenting anonymously in the first place.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yes, I've been BOGGED!!!

Courtesy of Dan Steinberg and the Washington Post's DC Sports Bog!! Check it out here: Today's Top Five: Nats Fans in L.A.!!!!

And while you're there, please check out the rest of Dan's Sports Bog articles. Dan does a great job of covering the D.C. sports scene with his own unique and very witty perspective... There's a little something for everyone there, whether you're a die-hard sports fan, or a more casual one.


Angels Sweep Away Mariners

While I was watching the Dodgers sweep the Nationals to record their fourth straight win, the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels were once again ready to take care of business against Ichiro, "King" Felix Hernandez and the rest of their Mariner buddies at Safeco Field. The Mariners went into the series with high hopes as they only trailed the Angels by two games in the American League West race as it started Monday night... They went into Wednesday's game four back, with a pitching staff reeling from the 16 runs the Angels had put up in the first two games of the series. Unfortunately for the Mariners, the Angel scoring barrage would continue Wednesday afternoon.

The red-hot Garret Anderson continued his recent assault on anyone wearing an opposing uniform, going 4-for-5, including driving in his 16th run in his past nine games with a run scoring single in the first. Vladimir Guerrero slugged his 22nd home run of the year as the Angels pounded King Felix for 13 hits and six earned runs in seven plus innings. The Angels would tack on two more runs in the ninth for an easy 8-2 win. Jered Weaver went eight innings for the first time in his career to secure his 10th win of the year, allowing only one earned run and scattering seven hits, walking none and striking out five. With the sweep, the Angels are now five games in front of Seattle in the American League West race. They now come home to begin a three game series against the Texas Rangers starting tomorrow night. Joe Saunders takes the mound for the Halos, while Vicente Padilla is scheduled to go for the visitors.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Wild & Crazy Game!

I left home very early this morning - around 9:20am as I headed to Dodger Stadium to watch the Blue Crew take on the Washington Nationals... now you would think that heading through L.A. around 9:45 in the morning that you wouldn't hit much traffic... wrong!!! I've now come to the conclusion that the only hours you can drive in that town and not run into traffic are between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. This city needs mass transit in the worst possible way...

In spite of the traffic, it only took me an hour and ten minutes to make the forty mile journey... your typical bright, sunshine-filled southern California summer day, though it was a lot warmer than usual - 90 degrees when the game began. It was in the mid-upper 90's and quite humid by mid-afternoon.In addition to beating the traffic, I was also hoping to catch some of batting practice prior to the game, but as it turns out they didn't have it today due to the earlyness of the game. Nonetheless, it was fun being in the ballpark at 10:40am, an hour and a half before the game started and then gradually watch it fill up...Surprisingly, there were actually quite a few Nationals fans there, including (as I found out later when I walked two sections over and talked to one of the groups) some relatives of right fielder Ryan Church - and they were VERY supportive! Church is a Santa Barbara native, so that would explain his family's presence... Being a fan of both teams, I kind of had to dress impartially, so I decided to don one of my UCLA Bruin t-shirts - though I did wear my Nats cap as the weather got warmer. Special thanks to Nicole from Welk Resorts for taking some shots of me prior to the game.

As for the game itself, it was a true rollercoaster ride - one which would last over four hours! Yes, I got my money's worth as did the rest of the 41,913 in attendance. Most expected today's battle between Brad Penny and Shawn Hill to be a pitcher's duel... With ERA's of 2.65 and 2.31 respectively, a 3-2 or 2-1 game seemed to be in the cards. After one inning, all was going according to plan as every batter on both sides made out. Something very unusual though happened (and this set the tone for the game). Every one of the six outs was made in the air. No ground outs or strikeouts. For pitchers like Penny and Hill who try to induce groundball outs, this turned out to be a bad sign.

The Nats would get to Penny in the second inning as both Austin Kearns and Ryan Church would single to right... After DeAngelo Jimenez grounded out, Robert Fick would single to right to score Kearns and give the Nats a 1-0 lead. Jesus Flores would then single in Church to make it 2-0. Hill would then sacrifice, putting Fick and Flores into scoring position. Sure enough, Nook Logan would cash in the two runner with a single to center to make it a 4-0 lead for Nationals. The Dodgers though would make up half of that deficit in the bottom of the inning. Jeff Kent singled and then Russell Martin slammed a ball deep into the left field bullpen for his 17th home run of the year to make it a 4-2 margin.

In the third, the inspired Church would strike again, pulling a ball into the right field corner to plate Felipe Lopez and give the Nats a 5-2 lead. The Dodgers then would come right back to score a run in the bottom of the fourth inning as James Loney singled in Luis Gonzalez to make it a 5-3 score.

The Nats then appeared to take control of the game in the next two innings. Ryan Zimmerman continued his hot hitting, as he singled in Felipe Lopez in the top of the 5th inning to give the Nats a 6-3 lead. Penny was then removed from the game after he was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the frame. In the 6th, the Nats gave reliever Mark Hendrickson a very rude welcome as Robert Fick greeted him with a one out homer deep to right field. Jesus Flores then hit a long double to left field. After Hill struck out, Logan would strike again, singling to center to score Flores. The score was now 8-3, Nationals. It looked like things were well in hand.

The Dodgers though were determined and quickly rallied. Jeff Kent lined a ball on one hop into the right field stands for a ground-rule double with one out in the bottom of the 6th. Luis Gonzalez then walked. And then for the second game in a row, Felipe Lopez made a critical fielding error to give the Dodgers an extra out. Russell Martin hit a routine grounder to Lopez, but he booted it for an error.

James Loney then worked the count to 3-2 before sharply lining a ball down the first base line to clear the bases and end Hill's day. Luis Ayala then relieved Hill, and the newly aquired Shea Hillenbrand would hit a long flyball deep into the left-center field pavalion to tie the game at 8. Ayala would get out of the inning, and we would go to the 7th.

In that seventh inning, the Nats again rallied. Austin Kearns was hit by a pitch, and then Church singled to left for his third hit of the game. The light-hitting Jimenez would strike again, singling to center to plate Kearns to give the Nats their third lead of the game at 9-8. Once again though, the Dodgers would come back in the bottom of the frame. Matt Kemp would lead off with a long home run deep into the right field seats off of Ayala to once again tie the game at 9. Kent then doubled to left for his third hit of the game. Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch would then come in and close out the inning... and as it turned out, the game would end up 9-9 at the end of the 9 innings of regulation... And so it went... the scoring ceased for the first two extra innings as well. Set-up man Jonathan Broxton, closer Takeshi Saito and long reliever Scott Proctor would all pitch scoreless ball for the Dodgers... Chris Schroeder and closer Chad Cordero came in for the Nationals and likewise shut down the home team.

Proctor, always an innings eater for the Yankees, was asked to go a third inning against the Nationals and he got into a little trouble right away, giving up a walk to Church and a single to Jimenez to open up the 12th inning. For Church, it was his fifth time reaching base - the first time he's ever accomplished that feat. His four hits also tied a career high. Yes, he was inspired! Proctor got bailed out by the pitcher's best friend though, as Fick would ground into a double play to end the Nats threat. The bottom of the 12th began omniously for the Nationals. Saul Rivera gave up Jeff Kent's fourth hit of the game - a line single to left to lead off the inning. Then of all things, pitcher Eric Stults pinch-hit for Proctor! It's pretty rare to see a pitcher pinch-hit, but the Dodgers were all out of position players by that time! Stults would eventually strike out. Russell Martin would then hit a ball down the right field line which looked like it might score Kent all the way from first. Kent made it about 1/3 of the way to home before he slammed on the brakes. James Loney was then intentionally walked, setting the stage once more for Hillenbrand. Shea took the first pitch he saw and drove it to medium right field.

Kent tagged and did an outstanding head-first slide into home to score the winning run in spite of a nice throw by Kearns... Kent and Hillenbrand then were mobbed by their Dodger teammates! So, for the Dodgers, it was their third straight one-run victory over the Nationals. The record may show that the Dodgers swept the series, but truth of the matter is that EVERY game could have gone either way!!!
The Dodgers now head off to San Diego to begin a crucial three game series against the rival Padres. The Nationals go home to JFK to begin a three game series against the San Francisco Giants.


If You're Reading This...

If you're reading this, then you probably have a pretty good idea of my interests, likes and dislikes... hopefully you like what you're reading. I just wanted to give a quick thanks to everyone who has been reading this blog of mine since I started it a little over five months ago. I've received so many kind words, and words of encouragement over that time from friends, family, and even complete strangers. I'm very blessed and thankful to have so many people enjoying my writing! And by the way, if you haven't heard Tim McGraw's song with the same name as my post title today, do yourself a favor and give it a listen - it's a very powerful and moving tribute to a military officer who makes the ultimate sacrifice. Actually, go one better and buy the new version of his "Let It Go" CD which includes the song as a bonus track. It's definitely one of the best CD's of the year!

The above said, you probably know what's next - yes, it's some baseball coverage! One of these days when the Galaxy and Mr. Beckham actually do something notable, I promise to give you some coverage there - right now with their 3-5-4 record and Beckham not scoring much, there's not a lot to say though. The U.S Open tennis tournament is also happening, but without any major upsets in the first day, there's not a lot to write about - yet! College football is coming soon too... Of course, I look forward to nothing more than this December's second annual UCLA beats USC game! :)

The Washington Nationals were in town again to play the again Dodgers last night, and the game was a virtual carbon copy of Monday night's game. The Nats took an early 1-0 lead in the first off Dodger starter Chad Billingsley as Dmitri Young's double scored Felipe Lopez. Jason Bergmann pitched well for the Nats in his return from the DL, giving up only three runs and six hits in his six innings of work. Shea Hillenbrand gave the Dodgers the lead in the second, scoring Jeff Kent and Russell Martin with a one-out single. Kent extended the Dodger lead to 3-1 with a solo homer to left field in the thrid inning, his 17th of the year.

The Nats managed to claw their way back against Billingsley, scoring a run in the fourth on a Brian Schneider sacrifice fly. The Nats then tied the game at 3 as Tony Batista homered deep to center. Bergmann was now off the hook for the loss, and it also looked like Billingsley would end up with a no-decision. The latter wasn't the case though as the Dodgers would rally again the bottom of the 7th though as Billingsley's pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney hit a one-out double off of reliever Chris Schroeder. After a walk to Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre reached on an error by Felipe Lopez to load the bases. Lopez' error would prove to be very costly as Andre Ethier would score Sweeney with a sacrifice fly to center.

From there, Jonathan Broxton held down the Nats for his 27th hold in the eighth inning. Takeshi Saito pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out pinch hitter Wily Mo Pena to end the game and pick up his 36th save of the year. The win was Billingsley's ninth of the year and moved the Dodgers to within 4 1/2 games of the National League West lead held by the Arizona Diamondbacks and 3 1/2 games of the NL Wild Card lead, currently held by the San Diego Padres. Of note, with his 2-for-4 performance, Dmitri Young reclaimed the lead in the NL batting race. At .337, he's in a virtual tie with Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies. This afternoon, Brad Penny takes on Shawn Hill in the series finale. Coverage of the game begins at 3:05 ET/12:05 PT on MASN in the D.C. area and on Prime Sports here in L.A.


Last night may have marked a huge turning point in the seasons of the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels and the Seattle Mariners... Ervin Santana once again relapsed into his "bad road pitcher Ervin" mold, recording only a single out while giving up 4 hits, two walks and five earned runs before he was pulled for Dustin Moseley in game two of their series at Safeco Field in Seattle. As most people know, the Angels are very resilent, with 30 come from behind victories on the year. So, no lead is safe against them. Such was the case last night. The Halos would score a single run in the top of the third off of Mariners starter Jeff Weaver. Solo homers by Gary Matthews Jr. and Kendry Morales pulled the Angels to within two in the fourth. Orlando Cabrera and Jeff Mathis plated runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 5.

As for Moseley, he was simply outstanding in his emergency relief role, pitching 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball before being relieved by Justin Speier in the 6th inning. Vladimir Guerrero would give the Angels their first lead of the game, plating Mathis with a double to left in the top of the 7th inning. Ichiro Suzuki would quickly tie things back up though off of Speier, slapping a single to center to score Yulenski Betancourt.

The Angels would quickly reclaim the lead though.... Gary Matthews walked and then stole second base to begin the 8th inning. Kendry Morales would double him home to give the Angels a 7-6 lead. Reggie Willits would draw a two-out walk. Orlando Cabrera then singled to load the bases for ol' #27... As usual, "Super-Vlad" would deliver, lining a single to left to plate both Morales and Willits. Maicer Izturis would then plate Cabrera and give the Angels a 10-6 lead... Scott Shields would then shut the door on the Mariners, pitching two shutout innings to give Speier his second win of the season. With the victory, the Angels now lead the Mariners by four games in the American League West race. Jered Weaver takes on "King" Felix Hernandez in game three of the series beginning at 4:35 ET/1:35 PT.


Lastly, and sadly, the Boston Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees by a 5-3 count last night at Yankee Stadium. The Sox lost in spite of the presence of Tiger Woods (who earlier in the day rang the bell on Wall Street)... I don't know who Tiger was pulling for - hopefully NOT the Yankees! In spite of the loss, the Sox still carry a sizeable seven game lead over the Yankees in the AL East race.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lowe Just Good Enough

When the Dodgers' Derek Lowe is on his game, he's inducing a lot of ground balls. After inducing two ground outs and a strikeout in the first inning against the Washington Nationals last night, it appeared it was going to be another typical night for D-Lowe. The Dodger offense would stake Lowe to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as they parlayed three singles and a walk into runs by Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre off of Nats starter Mike Bacsik.

In the top of the second, the meat of the Nats lineup quickly changed things. Da' Meathook, Dmitri Young hit a Lowe offering deep into the left center field seats. After an Austin Kearns single, Wily Mo Pena powered a ball the other way and into the left field stands for his fourth homer in just 10 games for the Nationals. Unfortunately for the Nats, on the pitch prior to his homer, Pena hit a foul ball off his left foot and he had to leave the game after literally limping around the bases.

D-Lowe made some personal history of sorts in the top of the fifth inning as Ryan Zimmerman lined a high fastball deep to center field for his 22nd home run of the year, to give the Nats a 4-2 lead. For a ground ball pitcher like Lowe, giving up three home runs in a game is indeed a rare event. The last time it happened was over two years ago on August 16, 2005 against the Atlanta Braves courtesy of Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and the aforementioned Furcal.

Bascik pitched well after his rocky first inning, only giving up two hits and a walk, while being aided by two double plays. In the bottom of the sixth though, he ran into some trouble. Jeff Kent led off the inning with a hard grounder that Felipe Lopez was able to range to his right on and stop, however he could not control the ball and Kent reached base on what was scored an infield single. Andre Ethier then singled to right. Russell Martin would then single to center to score Kent and knock Bacsik out of the game. Jesus Colome relieved Bacsik and promptly gave up a single to James Loney to score Ethier and tie the game. Ramon Martinez then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Martin to give the Dodgers their first lead of the night at 5-4.

From there on, the offenses were silenced. Mark Hendrickson and Scott Proctor relieved Lowe and pitched scoreless frames, while Ray King, Luis Ayala and Jon Rauch all did the same for the Nats. Takeshi Saito closed out things for his 35th save, and gave Lowe his 11th win of the year. For the Dodgers, it was a very much needed win as it keeps them 3 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres for the wild card spot in the playoffs. For the Nats, it was yet another frustrating loss and fourth straight of the road trip. The only solace that the Nats can take out of this loss is that the three home runs now have them at 95 for the year, and no longer alone and last in the league in that category - they are now tied for last with the Dodgers in that department. Game two of the three game series begins at 10:10 ET/7:10 PT tonight as Brad Penny takes on Jason Bergmann fresh off the DL. You can catch the game in D.C. on MASN2 and on Prime Ticket if you're in L.A.


Angels ace John Lackey had been struggling coming into last night's game against the Seattle Mariners. After allowing 39 hits and 14 earned runs in his previous four outings covering 25 2/3 innings, many were wondering if perhaps the Angels' "bulldog" was being overworked... Thankfully, for the Angels, Lackey was back on his game last night throwing only 109 pitches in a complete game 6-0 shutout of the Seattle Mariners in the first of a crucial three game series between the top two teams in the American League West... Lackey scattered seven hits, walked none and struck out five to record his 16th win of the year. The win increased the Angels lead over the Mariners to three games. Garret Anderson continued to be red-hot, slamming his 10th homer of the year and singling to drive in three runs. "G.A" now has four homers and 14 RBI's in his past seven games. Two pitchers with some interesting history pitch the second game of the series. Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels, while Jeff Weaver pitches for the Mariners.


In other games, how about those Tigers??? The team from Detroit completely demolished the visiting New York Yankees... How bad was the demolishment? Well it turned out to be a 16-0 shellacking of the Bronx Bombers - the worst shutout loss in the ENTIRE history of the Yankees!!! Justin Verlander went severn strong innings for the Tigers, only giving up three hits and two walks, while striking out six. Yankee starter Mike Mussina was pummelled again, giving up six runs, nine hits and a walk in his three innings... Sean Henn took the brunt of the Tigers abuse, giving up nine runs (sevent earned), eight hits and five walks in his 2 2/3 innings of work. The loss drops the Yankees eight games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East race and two games back of the Mariners in the AL Wild Card chase. The Red Sox travel to Yankee Stadium today to begin the much-awaited and critical three game series against their arch rivals. Daisuke Matsuzaka takes on Andy Pettitte in game one of the match-up.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Nationals to take on Dodgers!

Well, tonight the much awaited (OK, personally much awaited) series between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers takes place beginning tonight at Dodger Stadium... While I won't be taking the 35 mile drive to and from Chavez Ravine tonight or tomorrow night, I will be making the journey for Wednesday's day game. Derek Lowe will face off against Mike Bacsik tonight. Chad Billingsley will take on Jason Bergmann (in his first start back from the DL) on Tuesday, while Brad Penny will face Shawn Hill in the series finale.

One thing you won't expect to see in the series is a lot of power. The Dodgers rank next to last in the league with just 95 round-trippers. Although Ryan Zimmerman has already established a new career high of 21 home runs, the Nationals rank last in the senior circuit with only 92 home runs. Don't expect them to remain there much longer though, as the recent addition of Wily Mo Pena has already paid some dividends. Wily Mo, very impressively, has slugged three homers in his first nine games as a Nat. Speaking of Zimmerman, he has been red-hot ever since I last saw the Nats play in person on July 8th (Miss DC Day at the Nationals), slugging 8 HR with 33 RBI's and a .318 batting average over the past 44 games. Similarly, Nook Logan (.320 BA, 10 steals), Dmitri Young (.320 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI), and Austin Kearns (.297 BA, 6 HR, 24 RBI) also appear to have been inspired by the happenings at RFK Stadium that sunny day in July. :)

Conversely, the teams are much better on the pitching side of the ledger - the Dodgers are 2nd in the league with a 3.99 ERA, while the Nationals own a respectable 4.55 ERA - good for 9th in the league. Game one of the series starts tonight at 10:10 ET/7:10 PT. Those of you in the D.C. area can catch the game on MASN, while those of you in L.A. can watch on Prime Ticket (formerly Fox Sports West 2).


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rory, it's OK to be nice!!!

Usually when I watch a golf tournament on TV, I like to root on my favorite players. Whether it be Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi or one of my other favorites, half the fun in watching is cheering for one of your guys to win and then seeing them pull it off... The same goes for the LPGA tournaments - if Lorena Ochoa, Morgan Pressel or Natalie Gulbis is competing (and what guy in his right mind doesn't root for Natalie???), I follow and cheer them on...

Golf is a gentleman's game. It always has been, and hopefully always will be. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw... do any of those names sound familiar??? Players such as Woods, Mickelson, Couples, Love, Johnson and Choi appreciate the game and it's history and treat it as such.

This past week, Rory Sabbatini once again called out the world's number one ranked player. Why??? Is he that insecure with himself that he has to try cause trouble with Tiger? Remember what happened the last time he did that??? He got paired up with Tiger in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational. Rory went into the final round with a one stroke lead... in that final round, Tiger tore up the course shooting a 5-under-par 65. Rory flat out choked, shooting a four-over par-74 and finishing eight strokes back of Tiger. Game, set and match!

I hate to admit it, but I watched the final round of the Barclay's Championship today not so much rooting for Mickelson or Choi to win as much as I was rooting for anyone but Rory to win!!! Yes, watching PGA Tour golf events where Rory is in the hunt has brought it to this, unfortunately. Other fans feel very much the same way about Rory and rightfully so. Check out this article I found called Rory Sabbatini: OK for Me to Drop F-Bombs, Not OK for You to Ask Me a Question. The article and it's comments make for some very good reading, and further elaborate on how Rory has alienated himself from the fans and the other touring pros. There was even a poll taken amongst PGA Tour players recently, and the question was asked as to whom you would least like to play a round of golf with. The winner (garnering 25% of the vote) was not at all surprisingly Rory.

Rory Sabbatini is undoubtedly one of the tour's best players today. I'm not a fan of guys like Vijay Singh or Colin Montgomerie but do I openly root for "anyone other than them" to win? Of course, not. Singh, Montgomerie and the other tour players (whether they are my favorites or not) have my respect as they are usually gracious in both victory and defeat. I do not respect Rory Sabbatini. I don't think most golf fans respect Rory Sabbatini. I don't think most professional golfers respect Rory Sabbatini. I'm not sure how it feels to be an outcast on the tour, but I do know in my 35 years or so of watching the tour, never has a player caused me to actually dislike him so much that I want him to lose. Rory, it's OK to be nice, or just attempt to be nice. You will be a much better person for it, and heck you just might get a few people to actually root for you one of these days!


Another Day, Another Draft

Just a quick little entry today before I'm out and about... all of my favorite baseball teams (except the Red Sox) lost yesterday, so I figured I'd drop a little blurb in on football real quick. I have yet another of my fantasy football league drafts tonight at 8PM ET/5 PM PT - so if you try to eMail/IM me for about that next hour tonight, well you'll probably know why I don't respond. These things do take concentration and energy after all! :) A bottle of water or some pop is also a requisite. This particular league I'm in is a keeper league, meaning that I got to bring three players back from last year. My three keepers are pretty good: Larry Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Torry Holt. This team happened to be one of my four (out of seven) that didn't win it's league last year, however, we had a "draft bracket" amongst the teams that didn't make the playoffs which I won. So I get the number 1 pick tonight... Two of my favorite players are available - Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers and Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts. The only question is which one of the two am I going to pick??? Either way, I don't think I can go wrong!!! Results to be posted either tonight or tomorrow morning!


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Justin Morneau: A Home Run Drought Studied...

Yes, it's 7:40pm, and I still haven't blogged yet today. You regulars are probably wondering just exactly where I've been all day. Well, I've been doing A LOT of studying of baseball statistics, trends and probabilities. Most of you that follow major league baseball know that Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins is one of the league's best young players. The controversial AL MVP award winner last year (many thought David Ortiz, Derek Jeter or teammate Johan Santana were more deserving), Morneau is someone who many think will someday hit 50 or more home runs in a year. At 26 years of age, growth is definitely still possible. Morneau hit 34 home runs in his MVP campaign last year, and through the games of July 23rd this year, he had hit 28 home runs. That date also happened to be the Twins' 100th game of the year, and at the time he was on pace to hit approximately 45 home runs. Since Morneau had hit nine home runs in his past 107 at bats, little did we know that a very long home run drought was about to begin...

The very next day, Morneau would go 0-for-4... The next five games, he would get red-hot, hitting .538 (9-for-17) but without a longball... A 1-for-22 (.045) slump would follow the following six games, the lone hit being a single. A 2-game hot spell against Kansas City 4-for-9 (.444) then occured... This was followed by a 2-for-20 (.100) five game stretch. Morneau's homerless drought had now reached 19 games. Perhaps even more concerning to me is that over that time he drew only one walk, while striking out 12 times. Was he pressing??? With only 16 hits in that 72 at bat stretch (.222 BA), one walk, and no homers, perhaps he was. That 45 home run projection was quickly becoming a VERY distant memory. Many people thought that perhaps he was hiding an injury...

Morneau went 3-for-10 the next two games, but once again without a walk or home run and adding three more strikeouts. On September 17th, things began to change. Morneau drew his first walk in 16 games as he went 1-for-3. Over the next six games he would go 9-for-22 (.409), while drawing six more walks, only striking out once. Still though, the home run was missing from his resume'. Morneau had gone an ENTIRE MONTH (28 games played) without a home run!!! In 104 at bats, he had tallied 28 hits for a decent .269 batting average. His on-base percentage though was only .319 and his home run-deprived slugging percentage was only .346.

And then last night (August 24th), it finally happened... Given that he had reached base in 15 of his previous 28 plate appearances (9 hits, 6 walks), I figured he might soon finally break out of his power drought... Sure enough he went 2-for-5 with his first home run in a month!!!

This all leads me back to the question... just how much out of the normal statistical probabilities was it for Morneau to go 104 at bats without a home run??? So I went off to Google some stuff on statistics and baseball. I soon stumbled upon a book online called Teaching Statistics Using Baseball by Jim Albert - who happens to be a college professor (and also a big Philadelphia Philles fan). Although only a few pages were available for viewing online, I comprehended the material so well that I wanted to see more. Unfortunately, trips to my local Barnes & Noble and Borders did not yield any copies of the book in stock. Nonetheless, I was able to take the information from some of the examples used in the book (most notably Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez) and apply it towards Morneau.

Prior to his recent power slump, Morneau had hit 107 home runs in his first 1830 major league at bats. A rate of one every 17.10 at bats. Some quick figuring shows that over 104 at bats, you would expect to see Morneau on average hit about six home runs. What I'll show next is a table showing the probabilites of normal statistical home run outcomes for Morneau in 104 at bats based on his prior history:

HR Chance
-- ----
0 0.19%
1 1.23%
2 3.92%
3 8.29%
4 12.99%
5 16.14%
6 16.54%
7 14.38%
8 10.83%
9 7.17%
10 4.23%

11 2.25%
12 1.08%
13 0.47%
14 0.19%
15+ 0.10%

As you would expect, the typical 104 at bat sequence by Morneau should produce 5 or 6 home runs almost a third (32.68%) of the time. Almost 95% of the time (94.48%), you would expect Morneau to hit between 2 and 10 home runs in a 104 at bat sequence. The 95% level is significant because this number represents the normal "standard deviation" in mathematical circles... Based on the above findings, if you gave Morneau 104 at bats, you would expect him to go homerless only once in 526 such periods!!! In other words, he would have to have a career of around 54,737 at bats expect this to happen once... Only a very few batters in the history of baseball have even managed to accumulate 1/6 of that number of at bats...

Thanks to a couple of nice websites, it's actually pretty easy to take Morneau's career numbers and break them into almost equal increments of around 104 at bats each (the actual numbers are between 100 and 106 at bats for each of the now 19 segments)...

06/10/03-09/26/03: 101 AB, 4 HR
09/27/03-08/03/04: 100 AB, 6 HR
08/04/04-09/03/04: 103 AB, 10 HR
09/04/04-04/25/05: 101 AB, 4 HR
04/26/05-05/25/05: 100 AB, 6 HR
05/26/05-07/04/05: 100 AB, 4 HR
07/05/05-08/08/05: 101 AB, 4 HR
08/09/05-09/10/05: 101 AB, 4 HR
09/11/05-04/12/06: 100 AB, 7 HR
04/13/06-05/17/06: 101 AB, 5 HR
05/18/06-06/18/06: 100 AB, 7 HR
06/19/06-07/21/06: 102 AB, 9 HR
07/22/06-08/18/06: 100 AB, 6 HR
08/19/06-09/16/06: 101 AB, 2 HR
09/17/06-04/16/07: 103 AB, 5 HR
04/17/07-05/16/07: 104 AB, 7 HR
05/17/07-06/16/07: 106 AB, 8 HR
06/17/07-07/23/07: 106 AB, 9 HR
07/24/07-08/23/07: 104 AB, 0 HR

The actual distribution:

HR #
-- -
0 1
1 0
2 1
3 0
4 5
5 2
6 3
7 3
8 1
9 2
10 1

Other than that recent stretch, there are no other "outliers"... one period late last year, saw a stretch of only two home runs in 101 at bats, while a stretch covering most of August 2004 and into early September of that year, saw Morneau hit 10 home runs. Given the corresponding 3.92 and 4.23% respective percentages, you would expect to see a two home run and a ten home run stretch represented. Now, while the numbers don't represent a perfect "bell curve", the majority of the occurances (13 of 19) did fall between 4 and 7 home runs, something you would expect to happen about 60% of the time... The 104 homerless at bat streak though is clearly an outlier, and not one we would expect a healthy Morneau to ever repeat in his career.


Now that I have some of COMPLETELY bored and probably VERY confused, I promise to go back to my usual fare tomorrow. :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Heartbreaking Nats Loss...

At least I didn't get to see it on TV like some of you... the Washington Nationals took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth against the Rockies in Colorado with their trusty closer, Chad Cordero in the game... "the Chief" proceeded to give up four hits and a walk, and two runs without recording an out. Jon Rauch was brought in, and he promptly gave up a two run single to tie the game... Rauch then got two outs. DeAngelo Jimenez then made an error on a ground ball to allow the winning run to score... Yes, a what seemed to be a sure 5-1 Nats win turned into a 6-5 defeat! That's a REAL bummer...


... And We DRAFT!!!

While I try to figure out why the Angels' Ervin Santana and Houston's Wandy Rodriguez suddenly have figured out how to pitch on the road, while losing their dominance at home, I figured it would be a nice time to look at the football team I drafted two nights ago for one of my fantasy leagues. So far I've had five drafts, with that Wednesday night one being the most recent and also most interesting!

My usual draft preference is to either get one of the first 3 spots or the last couple. So, when I found out that I would be drafting 9th, I was pretty happy. I figured in round 1, maybe I'd get lucky and get Peyton Manning there. So what happens? The guy picking before me gets Manning! Little did I know that would set a trend for me... I decide to take the exciting Reggie Bush with my first pick - yes, it's a little early but I don't always go by the book (or by some of the major site's prerankings). And yes, as a UCLA graduate, it always pains me to take USC Trojans, but Reggie's skills are just sooo impressive!!! Thanks to my friend Steve Carps, I got to see him play in person against Fresno State at the L.A. Coliseum a couple of years ago in a 50-42 thriller. It was just all I needed to see to be put in absolute awe of him. And yes, I was in the tiny minority of that crowd who spent the ENTIRE game rooting for the Fresno State Bulldogs! To this day, I'm still wondering how I survived as I was wearing one of my bright UCLA Bruins shirts amidst that sea of red - actually the walk back to my car after the game was the scariest part... Getting back to the game, Bush almost single-handedly won it for the Trojans - a pass reception of 43 yards, and runs of 45, 50 and 65 yards!!! The totals: 294 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving and 151 yards on returns. Truly INCREDIBLE numbers... I think we only got a taste of what he's going to do as a pro in his first year with the Saints last year. He put up nice numbers as a rookie, but I only see them getting better!

One of my big things (and keys to winning) is to take players on "high-powered" offenses. Usually, you're going to find a lot of Colts, Bengals, Rams, Jaguars, Chargers, Eagles and Saints on my teams... My second round pick was my most difficult one - I don't usually like to take running backs with my first two picks as there often is a lot of value with them later in the drafts... Do I take RB Rudi Johnson (Bengals), or do I grab a wide receiver - Steve Smith (Panthers) or Marvin Harrison (Colts)??? Instead, I decide to take the "little guy" who lived in the aforementioned Bush college shadow - Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars) out of my alma mater. In spite of being 5th amongst all running backs in fantasy points scored last year, Jones-Drew has been lingering toward the end of the second round or early third round on average in this year's drafts. Why??? Did he suddenly lose a step? Is Fred Taylor suddenly going to take carries away from him? I doubt it. Last year he only got 212 touches on offense, yet he scored 15 times!!!. He even returned a kick-off for a touchdown! In 166 rushing attempts, he got to the end zone 13 times. Amongst running backs with an average of 10 or more carries a game, there was only one in all of football who scored at a better rate than his once per 12.77 carries - that guy who wears 21 for the San Diego Chargers at once every 12.43 carries. Have you heard of him??? First three letters of the last name spell "Tom??" And we all know where L.T. is going in drafts this year...

Rounds 3 and 4 did not at all go according to plan. With the 29th and 32nd picks, I figured I would be able to grab two out of the following: WR Torry Holt (Rams), WR Reggie Wayne (Colts), QB Marc Bulger (Rams) and TE Antonio Gates (Chargers). With Holt going on average 25th in drafts, I figured my chances of getting him were remote, but possible... With Wayhe going 28th, Gates 31st and Bulger 34th on average, I was confident I would get a couple of my guys... and then the unthinkable happened... Holt goes at 24 and then Wayne goes with the next pick. I breathe a little sigh of relief as the overrated (for fantasy purposes only) Tom Brady goes 26th. At 27, Gates went. At 28, Bulger was picked!!! In the space of five picks, the four guys I was looking at all got taken. At this point, I knew I was in with a VERY savvy group of players. So what was I to do then??? Do I take Terrell Owens, Larry Fitzgerald or a running back??? I already had two running backs so I didn't really need a third one. Figuring I'll get one of the two receivers with the 32nd pick, I decide to take the best player left available - Donovan McNabb of the Eagles. And wouldn't you know it, the guy with the 30th and 31st picks took BOTH T.O. and Fitz!!! So again I had to reach, taking Marques Colsten six spots earlier than his average draft position of 38th.

Thankfully, the final 12 rounds of the draft went MUCH better for me. I was very happy to get Donald Driver of Green Bay in round five. Although now I'm a little worried about that pick as he got hurt in last night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fred Taylor (Jones-Drew's running mate in Jacksonville) went with my 6th round pick. With that potent 1-2 punch along with having Bush, I'm confident my running game will be a force to be reckoned with all year.

I had a couple of Washington Redskins targeted with my next two picks - the underrated Chris Cooley at tight end and the exciting Santana Moss at wide receiver. I picked Cooley with my 7th round pick. Moss' average draft position so far has been 65th, so when I saw he was still available with my 8th round pick (72nd overall) I was very happy!

Rounds 9 and 10 were like the first two - I took a Bruin and a Trojan. RB Deshaun Foster went with the 89th pick, QB Matt Leinart went 92nd. Both of these guys will be backups for me, but I do know what Foster brings to the table, and he very well could be the #1 guy in Carolina (as he was before) once the 2007 season is said and done. Leinart definitely has the skills to be great in this league and he put up some very good numbers last year for Arizona. Additionally, he's really good insurance in case McNabb happens to get hurt again.

The rest of the draft was basically just an exercise in filling out the roster and taking some chances on guys that could break out. Amongst the picks was yet another Bruin and another Trojan! Yes 3/8 of my roster is made up of UCLA and USC guys! I took Kevin Curtis of the Eagles in round 11 and LenDale White of Tennessee in the 12th. I grabbed the Eagles defense/special teams with my round 13 pick, and then took my lone Ram, Drew Bennett, with my 14th pick. My kicker (and fourth Philadelphia Eagle) went with my 15th pick - David Akers. With my last pick, I took Priest Holmes of the Chiefs. Given that he's only going to play if Larry Johnson gets hurt, I figured it wasn't a bad choice, especially given his history. More than likely though, I will be dropping him as soon as someone better comes along. Are you ready for some football??? The regular season is now less than two weeks away!!!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Texas (Baseball) Massacre

With apologies to any of you horror flick fans - and no, I am not one of them. Just what in the world tore through Baltimore yesterday??? No, it wasn't a tornado, it was just a baseball team tearing through Camden Yards. Perhaps the frustration of having to face the major league's two best strikeout pitchers over the course of three days (Johan Santana and Eric Bedard) and whiffing 28 times while scoring only twice caused them to have some pent up anger. Whatever it was, baseball has not seen anything like what happened yesterday in 110 years! The final score resembled something more like you'd expect out of an NFL game: Texas 30, Baltimore 3. Then again, the stingy Baltimore Ravens defense didn't allow more than 26 points in a single game last year, so I guess not even that one would make sense!!! This is the same Texas Rangers team who recently traded away their best slugger (Mark Teixeira) and their closer (Eric Gagne)... their RBI leader, Sammy Sosa, was also benched at the same time. With these moves, many (myself included) were calling the Rangers baseball's worst team.

So, just how did they do it? Well, the Rangers actualy spotted the Orioles a 3-0 lead as the O's scored a run in the first and two more in the third. The Rangers finally woke up in the fourth inning off of Oriole starter Daniel Cabrera. Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled in the Rangers first two runs, and Ramon Vazquez then hit a three-run homer to give the visitors a 5-3 lead. Cabrera would actually not give up any runs in the fifth inning. Brian Burres would relieve Cabrera in the sixth and he would get torched - in 2/3 of an inning, he gave up nine earned runs and nine hits! The "halftime" score looked like something you'd typically see on a Sunday morning in November: Texas 14, Baltimore 3.

Incredibly, the Rangers did all of their damage in just four innings. They failed to score in the 7th off of Rob Bell, but in the 8th the floodgates again opened as Bell would give up four hits and three walks before getting pulled for Paul Shuey. All seven of Bell's baserunners would score as Shuey pitched inneffectively as well in the frame, giving up three hits and three runs of his own. Interestingly, Shuey ended up striking out the side. Put up another 10-spot for the Texans (I mean Rangers)... it was now 24-3. Time for the 4th quarter to begin!!!

In that 4th quarter (or 9th inning), Shuey would get tagged for six more runs... Ramon Vazquez finished off the scoring with a three run homer to deep right field... Frank Catalanotto would walk, but the Rangers would fail to convert the "extra point" and would have to settle for just the "TD" as Ian Kinsler would fly out to deep center field.

Here are some interesting numbers from the game: The Rangers had a total of 37 baserunners (29 hits, 8 walks). The hit tally: 21 singles, two doubles and six home runs. The bottom two hitters in the order, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez both homered twice and each drove in seven runs. David Murphy had five hits. Catalanotto and Kinsler each came to the plate EIGHT times! With the 29 hits in game one, the Rangers' team batting average went from .2551 to .2584. Yes, that's 3.3 points. Conversely, the Orioles' staff ERA went from 4.41 to 4.62 after that one game of carnage!!

Whether you are 10, 110 or any age in between, one thing is certain - nothing like this has ever happened during your lifetime before!!! And by the way, that was actually the first game of a double header!!! The nightcap was a "defensive struggle" as the Rangers made their three field goals stand up in a 9-7 victory.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Garret's Double Vision...

Before last night only 11 major leaguers had ever managed to reach the rarified air of double-digit RBI's in a single game. Garret Anderson of the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels became the 12th such player to accompish the rare feat last night, homering and doubling twice to drive in 10 runs as the Angels routed the Yankees 18-9 at Angel Stadium. "G.A." actually had a chance to break the major league record of 12 RBI's shared by Jim Bottomly and Mark Whiten when he came up with two outs and two on in the eighth inning. Whiten's record tying night happened to come in a game I was also watching as the Dodgers were taking on the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Whiten actually hit a major league record-tying four homers that night as well. As "locked-in" as G.A. was last night, I can't ever remember seeing anyone as locked-in as Whiten was on his magical night.

As for Anderson, his night went something like this... a double to deep right in the first inning scored both Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera. In the second, he would double to center, plating Vladimir Guerrero. In the third, he would hit a homer to right to drive in Figgins and Jeff Mathis. A harmless rounder to second would temporarily interrupt his night in the 5th. In the 6th inning though, with the bases juiced, he launched a shot deep into the right field bullpen to give him four more RBI's. The crowd gave him a standing ovation after that one, and he made his first curtain call of his entire 13-year career after that one! He'd have to only settle for a piece of history though as his ground ball up the middle was fielded by Wilson Betemit for the Angels final out of the game. It would have certainly been nice to see him break the record for sure... Still, being witness to two of the most impressive offensive performances in major league history is definitely something to cherish!


Nats Juice Up @ Minute Maid

The Washington Nationals came off of a very disappointing home stand, losing five out of six games to the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. In spite of adding some much needed power in Wily Mo Peña, the Nats only scored 16 runs total in those six games.

So what happens? The Nats travel to Houston's Minute Maid park and score seven runs on Monday night, including Peña's second homer in as many days as the Nats shut out the Astros 7-0. Last night, the Nats took on Wandy Rodriguez, the same pitcher who had a sparkling 1.61 ERA at home in his 12 previous starts there. For three innings, things seemed to be going just like any other Wandy start at home - one hit allowed, no runs, no walks, and three strikeouts. The Astros had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on the soon-to-be-retiring Craig Biggio's 10th homer of the year. At that point, it looked like that the Nats little offensive explosion in Houston was only going to be of the one game variety... we had no warning as to what was about to transpire!

In the top of the fourth, Wandy's home "magic wand" mysteriously stopped working... Nook Logan would record the first of his FIVE consecutive hits, and Ryan Zimmerman would hit a triple to the deepest part of the park in center to knot the game. Zim would score on a Wily Mo Peña ground out to give the Nats a 2-1 lead. The Astros would quickly reassume the lead in the bottom of the frame, as Biggio and Hunter Pence would each single in runs off of Nats starter Joel Hanrahan. The Nats would pound Wandy again in the 5th. Brian Schneider doubled and Nook Logan then singled him home. Mr. Zimmerman came to the plate again and promptly belted a two-run homer to the short porch in left to give the Nats a 5-3 lead... The Nats then poured it on in the sixth. Ronnie Belliard and Schneider drew one out walks and Wandy was done for the night. Tony Batista would single in Belliard. Logan singled in Schneider and Zimmerman would single in Felipe Lopez to give the Nats an 8-3 advantage.

From there, the Nats cruised to an easy 11-6 victory. Logan's five hits would mark a new career high for him, while Zimmerman's 3-for-5, four RBI performance pushed his batting average to .271 and his RBI total to 71. Zimmerman actually had two chances to hit for the cycle (needing only a double to complete it), but he grounded out in the 7th and walked in the 9th. Hanrahan was the beneficiary of the Nats offensive outburst, going just the required five innings (giving up seven hits and three runs) to record his third victory in his past four starts. Mike Bacsik takes on Woody Williams in the series finale tonight at 8:05 ET/5:05 PT.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"So Small" so HUGE on Charts

Carrie Underwood's unprecedented ascent to the upper echelons of Country music has been very impressive. With a debut album that will more than likely go 7x Platinum before the year is over and with four consecutive number one Country hits, Carrie has raised the bar very high for her second album. Given past music history, the odds of Carrie duplicating her past success are against her, but as most of you know she always seems to do the unexpected. Such is the case with her brand new single, "So Small." In only 22 days of airplay, Carrie's latest single has ascended to the top 10 of the Mediabase Country charts. Yes, that's pretty incredible to see, but it also demonstrates just how popular Carrie has become. As one of the "chart gurus" on her official website,, I consider it an honor and privilege to be up at 4 a.m. PT most mornings to post the new Mediabase charts hot off the presses! Of course with that little sacrifice, it also means I go to bed by 10 p.m. PT most nights... There's really not too much of a night life out here in Thousand Oaks, California (or the nearby surrounding area) so I'm really not missing out on much by effectively living on East coast time. ALL of the fun things out here require some traveling on the freeways. Oh joy! Asides, there's no one at the gym at 6:30 or 7 in the morning, so I can watch whatever TV show (Fox News or ESPN) and listen to whatever music (Country) that I want when I go in there at that hour unlike when you go in at a similar time at night!

Just to further the above point on Carrie's success and her growth in popularity, "Jesus, Take The Wheel" (Carrie's first Country single) had a very impressive and record-breaking #39 debut two years ago on the Mediabase Country charts. Her first Country hit would go on to have a five week run at the top there, and a six week run on Billboard's Country chart, and it even made it to #6 on the Christian AC charts. Two Sundays ago, "So Small" debuted on the Mediabase Country charts at #25 - a full 14 spots higher than "Jesus, Take The Wheel" did! The only questions with "So Small" are not if it will get to #1, but when? And then once it's there, just how many weeks will it spend at the top??? With her sophomore album (still unnamed) to be released on October 23rd, there's just no telling what kind of records Carrie is going to set when it comes out. It's a given that the new album will ship Platinum, even perhaps DOUBLE Platinum... How many units will it move in it's first week? A conservative guess would be about 500,000... more realistically, I expect it will move upwards of 750,000 units... All I know is that the next couple of months are definitely going to be a lot of fun if you're as much of a fan of Carrie's music as I am!


Angels Still Yankees "Daddy"

Going into their three game series against the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles/Angels at 59-54 remained the only major league team to hold an edge on the Bronx Bombers during the Joe Torre era. Torre has coached the Yankees since the beginning of the 1996 season. Last night's game was an yet another epic battle between the two American League powerhouses.

Alex Rodriguez quickly gave the visitors a 1-0 lead off Angels starter Dustin Moseley, singling in Derek Jeter in the first. The Angels struck back in the second off of Yankee starter Philip Hughes as catcher Jeff Mathis hit a bases-loaded double, plating three runs to give the Halos a 3-1 advantage. A run-scoring Jorge Posada groundout in the top of the fourth inning would reduce the Angel lead to one. A-Rod would strike again in the sixth inning, lining a two-run homer off Angel reliever Chris Bootcheck to put the Yanks back in front 4-3. For A-Rod, it was his major league leading 40th home run of the year. The Angels would rally off of Hughes in the 7th as Howie Kendrick walked and Reggie Willits singled with one out. Luis Vizcaino came in and promptly gave up run-scoring singles to Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins to give the Angels back the lead at 5-4. Vladimir Guerrero's ground out gave the Angels a 6-4 advantage. Usually Scot Shields would come in to pitch the eighth for the Halos, but he's been very ineffective of late so he was given Monday off. Justin Speier took Sheilds' role for a night and promptly gave up a two-run homer to Jorge Posada to tie the game 6-6! The game would go extra innings, and this fan would fall asleep just as the 10th inning began. Yes, this is the price I pay for being a West coaster who usually lives on East coast time... Thankfully, I woke up at just after 5 a.m. this morning to see that the fans went home happy - Rookie Ryan Budde had singled in Howie Kendrick in the bottom of the 10th to give the Angels a 7-6 victory!!! The win keeps the Angels two games out in front of the Seattle Mariners in the American League West race.


Diamonds In The Rough:

It's been quite a while since I gave some recommendations for your fantasy teams. As always, the players I recommend will be players available in a large percentage of CBS Sportsline leagues.

1. Wily Mo Pena (OF - WAS) 10% owned in CBS Sporstline leagues - Just three years ago, Wily Mo Pena was amongst the biggest stories in our world of fantasy, and with good reason. At just 22 years of age, he powered 26 homers and drove in 66 in only 336 at bats for the Cincinnati Reds. Over the course of a full season of 600 at bats, those numbers work out to something in the neighborhood of 46 homers and 118 RBI's. Yes, he can rake! In spite of his promise, Pena couldn't earn a full time gig for the Reds. In 2005, Pena put up a similarly impressive 19 homers and 51 RBI's in 311 at bats for them. Unfortunately for Pena, he got traded in 2006 to the one place where a right handed line-drive home run hitter just dreads going: Fenway Park in Boston. The "Green Monster" is just murder on line-drive power hitters like Pena, and his numbers in his time there show it: only 16 homers in 432 at bats. That's only a 22 home run pace - not even half of what he projected out to in a full season with the Reds! Thankfully for Pena, and you and me that are in need of a slugger, Pena was traded this past Friday to the Washington Nationals - a team sorely lacking for power as they rank next to last to the Kansas City Royals in the majors in homers. It was a great move for the Nats, and Pena hasn't disappointed, going 5-for-11 (.455) with two homers and three RBI's in his first three games for his new team. Guys with 40-homer power are few and far between on your waiver wire. If you need someone who could blast you another 10 homers in the season's final six weeks, then you have your man! Word of warning though - if you need help with your batting average, you may want to look elsewhere - a .250-ish batting average is to be expected.

2. Rick Ankiel (OF - STL) 43% owned - Is this the feel-good sports story of the year or what??? Pitcher impresses everyone in his rookie season of 2000, then somehow loses his command of the strike zone. For the next four years he struggles and never regains that command. The next year he totally reinvents himself as an outfielder... said outfielder misses the entire next season (2006) due to injury, then puts up 32 homers in the minors in 2007 before manager Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals calls upon him to contribute again to his club. All Ankiel has done in his first nine games in his new life as a Cardinal hitter is hit four home runs, drive in seven, and score eight times to go with a .313 batting average! Ankiel's power is definitely legitimate, and while that .313 batting average will fall, he just could be essential to the Cardinals making the playoffs along with helping your fantasy team win your league!

3. Ryan Spilborghs (OF - COL) 23% owned - Who at this time of the year isn't looking for a little boost in the batting average department??? I know I certainly am. Looking at what Ryan Spilborghs has done the past couple of years in the minor leagues, one thing is certain: he can hit!!! A .340 batting average at two levels in 2005, a .338 batting average at triple A last year while also hitting .287 in 167 at bats for the big club. Spilborghs made the big club this year and he's finally getting an opportunity to play every day thanks to an injury to the speedy Willy Taveras. And what a perfect time to get this kind of opportunity as the thin Colorado air typically yields more home runs later in the season. So far, Spilborghs has been very impressive for the Rockies this year: 10 homers, 43 RBI's and a .325 bating average in only 169 at bats so far... At 27 years of age, Spilborghs should just be entering his prime as a hitter. Perhaps he's just a late bloomer, or more likely just hasn't gotten his opportunity. While he's never displayed this sort of power before, the high batting average should stay... enjoy the ride!

4. Tim Redding (SP - WAS) 13% owned - Once a top prospect in the Houston Astros organization, the 29-year-old Redding has suddenly began to live up to his promise since being called up by the Washington Nationals. Seven innings of shutout ball yesterday in Houston gave Redding his third win as a Nat. In his nine starts with the Nats, only once has he failed to go at least six innings, and only once has he given up more than three earned runs. As a result, Redding has posted a sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Although he isn't striking out as many batters as you would like, he's only allowing hitters a .237 batting average against. With the addition of Wily Mo Pena, the Nats offense is suddenly a little more daunting, and some of their close games are going to start turning into wins: good news if you're a Nats fan and/or a Redding owner!

5. Jacque Jones (OF - CHI) 33% owned - Jacque Jones has a reputation in the fantasy world, a dubious Rodney Dangerfield like reputation of not getting much respect. Why is this? Well, primarily it's due to the fact that he hits a high percentage of ground balls, yet he also usually hits for a lot of power. Call him a "statistical enigma." The percentage play for years has been to say he's not going to hit for as much power NEXT year... After posting 117 home runs over the past five years, "next year" had finally arrived in the form of 2007, or so we thought. As of just two weeks ago, Jones had put up only two home runs and driven in 33 in his first 287 at bats this year. Then something happened - the power suddenly returned... In spite of having 0-for-4 outings the past two nights, Jones is still 19-for-47 (.404) with three home runs, 13 RBI's and three steals over his past 11 games. While I don't expect the speed to remain, the power is legit. He could be good for another 6-8 homers the rest of the way. With the Cubs in the playoff race, you can bet that Jacque will be driven to give them all he has these final six weeks!


Monday, August 20, 2007

Things Can Only Get Better (I Hope)

With the guilty plea entered by Michael Vick in the dogfighting scandal, a step towards closure has occured. We now await Tim Donaghy's anticipated naming of up to 20 other officials who may have been involved in the gambling on NBA games. I hope that once the Donaghy allegations get out that the sporting world can start looking up, and most importantly looking to make changes so that these things never happen again.

While on the topic of Vick and Donaghy, the bottom line is they are both GUILTY of heinous crimes and should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. Why some people in the media are making comments about Vick such as "he would have gotten off if he was white" is beyond me. What does race have to do with this? Did Donaghy get off because he's white? No! Where's the logic in their line of questioning? Michael Vick and Tim Donaghy are felons and soon will be spending some much-deserved time behind bars.

Vick has had run-ins before. How many of you saw him flip the bird to fans at a game last year??? There have been many other incidents involving Vick over the years. The Falcons management, along with the NFL swept them under the rug. Donaghy had been suspected of gambling long before the recent revelations. NBA Commissioner David Stern did not thoroughly (if at all) investigate the original allegations. Why is this??? We look up to these people and put them on pedastals whether they deserve to be there or not. Since they are there, shouldn't they at least TRY to act like they belong??? And shouldn't those in charge care MORE about the integrity of the league and the fans, and LESS about the issues and interests of one individual???

Most of our officials and athletes have worked VERY hard to get to where they are at... it's quite a shame that Vick and Donaghy have betrayed their employers, their co-workers/teammates, the public, the fans, and most importantly, their families. The images of professional basketball and football have been severly tarnished by these two criminals. Doesn't this stuff almost make the Barry Bonds steroid allegations look like peanuts??? I hope every official, athlete and other person in a position of power can learn from the mistakes of these two felons and do their jobs with the integrity that the positions deserve!!! As a huge sports fan, I certainly hope that things will soon get better in both the NBA and NFL.


Johan The Great K's 17!

If there was ANY question as to whom baseball's most dominant pitcher today is, the great Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins once again gave a performance to reaffirm that he is still "numero uno." Santana completely baffled the Texas Rangers at the Metrodome in Minneapolis yesterday, allowing only two hits and no runs or walks, while striking out SEVENTEEN Ranger batters! Even more amazing is that he did this in only eight innings! In case you're wondering, the major league record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game is 20 - only the ageless wonder, Roger "the Rocket" Clemens (twice) and the injury-plagued Kerry Wood have reached that magic number. Michael Cuddyer provided all of the offense the Twins would need, homering off Rangers starter Kevin Millwood in the second inning. Santana had thrown 112 pitches through eight innings, and rather than risk injury and have him go past his "normal" pitch limit of 115 or so pitches, manager Ron Gardenhire handed the ball over to his closer, Joe Nathan, who promptly struck out two of the three batters he faced to give the Twins a 1-0 win and record his 27th save of the year. For Santana, the win was his 13th of the season. With a 2.88 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, a .214 batting average against and 191 strikeouts, the two-time Cy Young Award winner is looking to add a third trophy to his collection! Eric Bedard of the Baltimore Orioles though is giving the great Johan a run for his money this year. Bedard leads the American League in both strikeouts (206) and BAA (.210), and ranks third in WHIP (1.08), and fourth in ERA at 2.98. Santana is also one up on Bedard in wins (13 vs 12). The Twins also do have a shot at the playoffs while the Orioles do not, so this will sway some votes in Santana's direction. The race for the AL Cy Young award should definitely be interesting all the way to the finish!


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Makes Me Wonder

Growing up here in the L.A. area, I had the great privilege of watching, listening to and reading from some of the best in the sports business. I got to hear the great Dick Enberg do Los Angeles Rams football and California Angels baseball. Chick Hearn gave his "words-eye" view of the Lakers' basketball games all the way up until his death in 2002. Bob Miller has given us the equivalent of Hearn in his coverage of Los Angeles Kings hockey games for over 35 years. And lest I forget that we are still blessed to have one Vin Scully painting his pictures as he's done for 50 years in broadcasting the Dodger baseball games. Needless to say, I gained a lot of wisdom from each and every one of these greats over the years.

I gained a similar wisdom growing up from reading the sports section of the Los Angeles Times. For 37 years, up until his death nine years ago this past Friday, Jim Murray provided candor, humor, wit and his own unique perspective on the sports scene both locally and nationally. Fourteen times, Murray was named Sportswriter of the Year by his peers... He was a man of great intelligence, class and was respected all over the world. For the most part, the rest of the Times' sports section was well-written, full of other insightful articles by sportswriters who followed Murray's classy lead.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's though, the tone of the Times' sports section began to change as they hired people without Murray's class, dignity or knowledge of sports. This new breed of sportswriters wasn't interested in building up heroes; their main goal was to cut them down!!! The best visual I can think of when describing this new breed of "sportswriters" is to think of ESPN's classless Jim "Chrissy" Rome in print. All talk and no substabce - yes, a perfect analogy!!

Flash forward to 2007. The two lead "sportswriters" for the Times are now "men" named T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke. Simers has been "writing" for the Times since 1990. The truly sad thing with Simers is that he actually thinks he's funny. His articles rarely are researched, and never have much of substance. I liken reading Simers to picking up the latest edition of the National Enquirer from your local grocery store... Plaschke has been dishing out his abrasive and heartless brand of commentary for 19 years now... Though he writes sports articles, there is almost always a rude and sort of condescending tone to them. He also occasionally attempts humor, but fails miserably. Plaschke is also well known to have a hatred for certain L.A. sports people. He and Simers actually managed to successfully run Dodger GM Paul DePodesta out of town in 2005. He and Simers have also been trying to run Lakers' star Kobe Bryant out of town for about four years now. Why???? Why does one of the nation's largest newspapers have two lame wanna-be comedians writing their sports columns? In addition, their articles are almost always full of holes or inaccuracies - and even incorrect grammar and typos! It truly makes me wonder sometimes what exactly the requisites are to become a professional sportswriter today.

What prompted me to write about this today? Well, it's been building for quite some time and perusing the Times Sunday sports section for all of 10 minutes finally pushed me to the breaking point. I go to page two, where Simers' Sunday column always appears, and see this huge picture of the aforementioned Bryant with the caption:

DEFENDING KOBE: Many readers e-mailed and in no uncertain terms told Page 2 to lay off the Lakers' All-Star guard.

Here are a few of the more interesting e-mails he received:

"Dear stupid, you are such an idiot. You're old, ugly, and people don't care about you, stupid. Get this through your stupid skull, knucklehead, LA LOVES KOBE BRYANT, LA HATES TJ SIMERS."

"I've had the extreme pleasure of watching the greatest modern player in the game, Kobe Bryant. I've watched a strong-willed, excellent athlete excel in a highly competitive game under very stressful conditions. I wonder what you have done in your profession that comes near to what Kobe has accomplished in his career?"

"Kobe is a GIANT while you are a NOBODY."

Now, since I'm no longer a regular reader of the Los Angeles Times - I liken their "journalism" today to that of the New York Times, and not that of a respected publication such as the Washington (DC) Times, I do not know exactly what Simers wrote recently to get everyone so mad at him. Then again, past experience with his (and Plaschke's) columns tells me all that I need to know: The hate mail was well-deserved!!!

Plaschke had his own little gem(s) today... Page one started with an article entitled For Gagne, the reception in Beantown has been icy. Eric Gagne is the former closer for Dodgers who from 2002 thru 2004 set a major league record of 84 consecutive saves. Injuries limited him the past two seasons, and he signed with the Texas Rangers in the off season. Gagne pitched well for the Rangers in his stay, but was traded to the Red Sox at the trade deadline. His stint with the BoSox has been anything but a bed of roses, as his ERA coming into today with them was 15.00. As of Satuday's games, hitters were batting .452 off of him. Once blessed with a fastball that was clocked in the 97-98 MPH range, Gagne's fastball now hovers in the 90-92 MPH range. No, he's not the same pitcher he once was. As if to insult his and the readers intelligence, Plaschke asked this "question" of Gagne: "at one point you were the best reliever in the history of the game, remember?" Now what in the world was the point of that??? Just to make him feel worse??? Asking that kind of "question" is an insult to the intelligence of Gagne. Publishing it is an insult to the intelligence of every reader of the Times' sports section. This is the problem with Plaschke and ALWAYS HAS BEEN. When an athlete is down, he tries to keep him down! Why is that??? Aren't we as human beings and fans supposed to encourage and root for people when they are down?

Not only that, but there were some rather serious grammatical errors in Plaschke's article. Check this out:

"People need to let Gagne breath," said David Ortiz, the grand-slamming hero of the Red-Sox 10-5 Saturday night win over the Angels.

Hmmm... let me think about that for a second... is it just me, or shouldn't that last word have an "e" at the end as in B-R-E-A-T-H-E??? Do you want to know what's truly sad? That same grammatical error appears again later in that same paragraph:

"Everyone knows he has great stuff... let him breath, let him be confortable, let it go from there."


Yes, this is what I get to put up with here every Sunday, and what a lot of the Los Angeles sports-loving market gets to deal with every day. Isn't a sportswriter supposed actually to LIKE sports and APPRECIATE the athletes he or she is covering? I know that Jim Murray is frequently rolling over in his grave, seeing what a wasteland his once proud and happy home has become! Where have all of the good sportswriters gone? As Maroon 5 would say, it makes me wonder... Well, one thing I do know is that there's one good sportswriter right here waiting in the wings...


The Never Ending Dodger Game

It took five hours and six minutes and 14 innings of play, lasting into the early minutes of Sunday morning (12:15 am to be exact), for the baseball game at Chavez Ravine to finally be put in the books... In a game the Los Angeles Dodgers just had to win, reliever Roberto Hernandez gave up three runs to the Colorado Rockies to help them to a 7-4 win. With the loss, the Dodgers are now 7 1/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West standings. Their playoff hopes unfortunately are quickly fading.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Of Bush, Clinton & Gore...

No, I'm not going to be talking politics here today... rather, I'm readying you for football season!!! Yes, it's only three weeks away, believe it or not!!! Reggie Bush, Clinton Portis, and Frank Gore are just a few amongst the many highly sought-after running backs in fantasy leagues. Today, I'll give you all a little primer and some tips that have been instrumental to my success in fantasy football the past few years.

Most fantasy sites will tell you that you should ALWAYS take running backs with your first two picks in your draft. But is this truly a sound strategy? The truth of the matter is that this is rarely a good strategy. Running backs are actually a lot more prone to injury than either wide receivers or tight ends. Over the years I've had an astounding amount of success in fantasy football leagues by being a contrarian and NOT taking a lot of running backs early. Last year I participated in seven leagues with either 10 or 12 members in each, winning three of them!

Here are the dynamics of a typical starting fantasy football league roster where you have eight guys playing and eight guys on the bench with one disabled list slot. The typical fantasy league will have a 16 round draft in which the drafting order is reversed each round (i.e: the person who drafts first in round one, goes last in round 2, etc):

1 Quarterback (QB)
2 Running Backs (RB)
2 Wide Receivers (WR)
1 Flex (either RB or WR)
1 Tight End (TE)
1 Kicker (K)
1 Defense/Special Teams (D/ST)
8 Bench slots (BE) - can be any position player
1 Disabled List slot (DL)

My fantasy football draft philosophy is actually very similar to what I use in fantasy baseball - draft the best player available early, while targeting a lot of sleepers in the later rounds. Although I don't advocate drafting based on the so-called "positional scarcity" argument in baseball as you're typically filling 22 active roster slots, I do advocate it in football as you usually only have eight active roster spots. In layman's terms, one baseball player only comprises 4.5% of your active roster while one football player makes up 12.5% of your active roster. Yes, that's a HUGE difference!!! Every position (with the exception of K and D/ST) is crucial!!! And it's why I advocate taking Antonio Gates of the Chargers at TE so much. Owning Gates is really just like owning another wide receiver - he's THAT productive, and it's a HUGE step down to the next TE - usually someone like Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs. With that, let me give you a few of my rules to fantasy football success and drafting a winning team...

Rule #1: Do not take two running backs with your first two picks unless they are the best players available. I don't know how many leagues I saw where Edgerrin James, Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams and Lamont Jordan were taken ahead of a certain Peyton Manning in round one of last year's drafts. BIG mistake as we know. With your round one pick, it's CRUCIAL that you pick someone you know is going to be reliable and get your fantasy team points. The Arizona offensive line last year (as the previous year) was not good at opening holes for their running backs. Most people and fantasy insiders just assumed the all-pro James would have no problem adjusting to his new surroundings from the paradise of Indianapolis. Not me... He was my #1 "avoid" guy last year in round one of drafts. Actually, given the poor recent history of the Arizona offensive line, I wouldn't have even taken him in round two! The Raiders had all kinds of problems offensively last year and in their recent history, so taking Jordan in round one was also real gamble... So no, it's not a stretch in a 12-team league to grab a WR like Steve Smith with your #12 pick - it's much better to take him there than a RB that has a high chance of not producing!

This year, without a doubt, the consensus top three picks are LaDainian Tomlinson, Stephen Jackson and Larry Johnson. So, who is #4 in 2007? Some will tell you Shaun Alexander or Frank Gore, and still others will say Joseph Addai. The wise thing to do with that pick is to go with someone with a little more certainty and take the aforementioned Manning. Manning averaged 23 fantasy points a game last year (#2 overall to Tomlinson) - almost three points more than Drew Brees and 4.4 points more than both Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger. Yes, you can make a STRONG case for taking him #2 overall. I liken drafting Manning to taking Johan Santana in baseball - you have the best guy in the game at the position, and he's the best by quite a large margin! If you look at LaDainian Tomlinson (26.4 PPG), he had quite an advantage (about 6.5 PPG) over the #2 RB, Stephen Jackson and the #3 RB, Larry Johnson. It's then another large (over 4 points) dropoff to the next guys - Frank Gore and Willie Parker. At only 15.5 points or so a game, is it really wise to take one of these guys (who averaged 7.5 fewer PPG) so early and over Manning??? Not really. I liken the "en masse" drafting of running backs early to the infamous "closer runs" in fantasy baseball leagues. It's not a wise move to get caught up in either of them!

Rule #2: Don't draft based on a "name." I see it every year in both fantasy baseball and football. People will just blindly take Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez or Barry Zito way earlier than they should in my baseball drafts just because they know the name and assume they are good players without looking at the recent downward trends in their stats. The same holds true for football. Isaac Bruce's career as a Ram is winding down. Marvin Harrison is still a great option for the Colts, but Reggie Wayne someday soon is going to be Peyton's #1 option there. Tom Brady may be a great QB, but is he really worthy of a second or third round pick in fantasy? No! Give me Marc Bulger or Drew Brees any day of the week over the Super Bowl MVP!!! Look at the trends and value your players accordingly before you draft them! Draft based on talent, roles and projected stats!

Rule #3: With your first four picks, try to take 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR and 1 TE if possible and also at the same time, try and pick players from "high powered" offenses. In other words, especially try to take frontline guys from the Colts, Rams, Chargers, Saints and Bengals... One of the most common fallicies you will hear fantasy sites tell you is that WR are not as reliable as RB's. This is actually pretty far from the truth. Not only that, but WR are much less injury prone than RB's. Given his advantage over the rest of the TE's, I also strongly advocate getting Antonio Gates at that position. He was the #1 TE last year, and would have been #1 by a much wider margin if the aforementioned Tomlinson hadn't been setting all of those TD records last year. Expect Gates to get more red zone looks in 2007. A typical team, drafted wisely with your first four picks should look something like this:

1. Peyton Manning
2. Reggie Bush
3. Torry Holt
4. Antonio Gates

or this:

1. Stephen Jackson
2. Chad Johnson
3. Antonio Gates
4. Marc Bulger

Rule #4: Draft WR's in rounds 5 and 6, and use them (not RB's) in your flex position... Once again, being a contrarian is a good thing. People don't seem to realize that there is a lot less turnover in the WR position during a regular season than there is at RB. In other words, you're not going to be finding a lot of Marques Colston types during the regular season unless one of the big guys gets hurt.

Rule #5: Back up your stud RB's. This goes without saying. If your main guy gets hurt, you need his backup because he WILL get lots of touches! If you're drafting Maurice Jones-Drew, it would also be wise to get Fred Taylor. You Reggie Bush owners must get his Saints mate Deuce McAllister. Remember what happened to Clinton Portis last year??? If you had LaDell Betts sitting on your bench, you probably didn't skip a beat! Two years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the league's most dominant backs in Priest Holmes. Holmes got hurt and his backup - a certain Larry Johnson - filled in and became arguably even more dominant than his predecessor.

Rule #6: Load up on running backs in the later rounds. Rounds 9 thru 16 are where you typically unearth your hidden gems - the Maurice Jones-Drews, Lawrence Maroneys, and the like. Take as many talented youngsters as you can in these late rounds. Also, try to be a "vulture" - if you see a star player's backup just sitting there (especially if he's had some prior NFL success), it's almost always a wise use of a late draft pick to take him. DeAngelo Williams may be the #1 guy in Carolina, but we all know how talented DeShaun Foster is and what he can do. With the propensity of running backs to get injured, your chances are very good that one of your cheap investments will pay off handsomely. Not only that, but you will also have gotten into the head of said owner of the #1 guy that was planning on applying rule #5!!!


Weaving His Webb

Orel Hershisher is hearing footsteps. I remember it almost as if it were yesterday as the Dodgers' ace pitched 10 innings on September 28, 1988 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego against the Padres to break the late Don Drysdale's record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings. "Bulldog," as Hershiser was called, began the streak with 4 scoreless innings in Montreal against the Expos on August 30 of that year... He would then pitch an amazing five consecutive shutouts before his extra inning effort to break the record.

It was really neat to witness history as a young Dodger fan. Now, here we are 19 years later, and the rival Arizona Diamondbacks have a pitcher named Brandon Webb who is within two complete game shutouts of breaking Hershiser's major league record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings. The 28-year-old Webb threw his third consecutive shutout last night in defeating the Braves in Atlanta. With the shutout, Webb has now thrown 42 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to July 20th, when he gave up a run in the 6th inning of a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago against the Cubs. During the streak, Webb has lowered his ERA from 3.27 to 2.40... If you just happen to own him on your fantasy team, then he's basically been carrying your entire staff! Being a loyal Dodger fan, I have to say that I hope that Webb stops spinning his zeroes and that he gives up a run in his next two outings. The "Bulldog" was always one of my childhood idols and favorite pitchers growing up, so I really hope his record stays in the books well into this century!


Friday, August 17, 2007

NBA Gambling Scandal:Part III

Some breaking news on this from ESPN. And unfortunately this should not come as a surprise to those of us who thought NBA Commissioner David Stern wasn't giving us the full story as to the depth and level of the gambling scandal. Stern throughout has told us that former NBA official Tim Donaghy's involvement was an "isolated event." According to reports, Donaghy, as part of his plea bargain, could be naming up 20 other referees which gambled on and/or influenced the outcome of NBA games.

Just yesterday, I saw interviews of some of the NBA's elite such as LeBron James and it seemed like the vast majority were trying to follow Stern's lead and basically sweep this under the rug. There were signs even yesterday that this was a very incorrect stance to be taking, given that Donaghy had given betting tips on games which specific referees were working. The writing was on the wall.

At this point, I believe Commissioner Stern needs to resign his post in order to save any face he may have left. He has given the public and players false information about this scandal again and again. He needs to come clean and give us the truth, and/or whatever he knows about this awful scandal. In addition to Stern's replacement, I also think that in order for the NBA is to have ANY future as a viable league all of the NBA's current officials need to be temporarily removed (with pay) from their positions. Until we find out which referees are involved, it would be best if officials from the CBA (the NBA's minor leagues) were be used to work all of the games this season until the truth finally comes out. As I earlier feared, the league's future is VERY MUCH at stake now!!!


Nats Acquire Wily Mo Pena

Today the Washington Nationals acquired Wily Mo Pena from the Boston Red Sox for cash and that ubiquitous "player to be named later." This is actually a very good move for the Nats, given that they're sorely in need of a power hitter... Only third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman (18) has more than 11 homers for the Nats to this point in the season. With only 82 home runs as a team, the Nationals rank last in the National League, and next to last in the majors in the category to the Kansas City Royals (78 homers).

At only 25 years of age, Pena has slugged 67 homers in 1262 at bats over the course of his career, which also included a prior stint in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he's also struck out over a third of the time - 436 times total to be exact... Even with all of the strikeouts though, Pena without a doubt can be a big weapon. If you project his career numbers over a typical season of 600 at bats, you get 32 home runs... Considering only Zimmerman's on pace to hit even half that many homers this year, this will undoubtedly make the Nats more formidable offensively. Expect Nook Logan and Ryan Langerhans to lose playing time with Pena fitting in right after Zimmerman or Dmitri Young in the Nats lineup. Needless to say, if you're in need of a power hitter in your fantasy league, it might be worth your effort to take a chance on Wily Mo!


The Magic Wandy

Earlier this season, I posted about the Angels' Ervin Santana and just how much better he pitches at home as opposed to on the road. Santana recently was demoted to the minors and actually is being brought back up today to start one of the doubleheader games at Fenway today against the Red Sox. Just why Angel manager Mike Scioscia has decided to pitch Santana AGAIN on the road, where he carries an 8.79 ERA, a 1.95 WHIP and a .341 batting average against in 2007, is a mystery to me. His career numbers against the Red Sox are also dreadful - a 7.47 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP and a .274 BAA... At home, Santana's been a very good pitcher over the course of his career - a 3.42 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and a .256 BAA this year to give him a career 3.16 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and .234 BAA... On the road, his career numbers are now a 7.16 ERA, a 1.65 WHIP and a .302 BAA. In other words, for his career, he gives up an average of FOUR more runs per 9 innings in his road starts as opposed to his home ones...

It's hard to believe that someone would come along with an even more drastic discrepancy between home and road numbers than Santana, but unbelievably a man named Wandy Rodriguez has come along and carved his own niche this year for the Houston Astros. Even though he had his second best road outing of the season last night, giving up only two earned runs and five hits in five innings in a 6-2 loss to the L.A. Dodgers, it only put a small dent in the road damage he's done this year... A 7.80 ERA, a 1.68 WHIP and a .309 BAA in 12 road starts. Conversely, Wandy has been magical at home - a 1.65 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP to go with a .200 BAA in his 12 starts at Minute Maid Park in Houston - a notorious hitter's park. Yes, that's more than 6 earned runs per 9 inning game better at home than on the road!!

So, what gives here??? As Dodger announcer Vin Scully said last night, it's more than likely "all between the ears" with Wandy... Like with Ervin Santana, there's probably something psychological that allows him to pitch well at home, yet makes it difficult for him on the road. The discrepancy is well beyond any "norms" or "probabilities." It could be the mound in Houston is to his liking, or maybe he just likes to sleep in his own bed. Whatever it is, unlike with Santana, Wandy's incredible splits haven't occured during the entire course of his whole career. Rather, it's only been this year. In 2006, his road ERA was 5.82, while his home ERA was 5.48 - statistically insignificant. In 2005, he had a 5.47 road ERA and a 5.57 home ERA - once again no perceptable difference...

One encouraging thing could be gleaned from Wandy's performance last night - he actually pitched very well in the final four innings. After giving up two earned runs in the first inning, he didn't allow another one the rest of the game - though two Astro errors contributed to two unearned runs allowed in his stint. If Wandy can somehow put himself in the "home mindset" all of the time, he could become one of baseball's elite pitchers. He has some great stuff as evidenced by his 122 strikeouts in only 144 innings pitched this year. Overall (in spite of the poor road record), Wandy's numbers this year are easily the best of his career. His 4.31 ERA is a full run and a quarter better than what he put up the previous two seasons... Will Wandy get over the "road hump" or will he follow Ervin Santana's road??? Only time will tell...