Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Once again, my friends, my Internet Service has been cut, this time though with good reason. I'm moving into a new building in the New Year, and therefore my ISP has decided to shut off my service until January 7th, then simply flip the switch and turn it back on. Ain't technology grand?

Anyway, I'm at a relative's house using the 'net, so as to put out yet another quality post for my loyal readers, who now total about 10. Or at least, that's how many subscriptions I have. So if you are among the unsubscribed readers, I ask again that you get with the program and subscribe. Not only that, but tell other people to do the same. I like to see big numbers in my subscriptions log. Besides, Who knows when I'll get picked up by a real newspaper or online site and you'll have to PAY to read my stuff... Get it while it's hot (and free)...

That aside, I've been asked by a few people to recount my worst sports moment in this column. Well, before Game 7 back in October, I had a very specific worst moment, ironically also including the Red Sox and Yankees. For those of you who know the story, now you can just direct other people to this site when you want a funny anecdote to show how much I live and die by the Sox....

So, back in freshman year of college, I was living in Warren Towers at Boston University. Warren Towers is a single dorm that houses around 2000 kids. It is also about 3 blocks from Fenway Park. After game 5 of the Red Sox - Indians series (you know the one, Troy O'Leary hits two monster home runs, one a 3-run, the other a slam, after the Indians intentionally walk Nomar twice to get to him; Pedro comes in for 6 no-hit innings of relief, and slams the door; essentially the best Red Sox postseason game, before Game 7 of '03,) I decided to run over to Fenway Park to get in line for tickets for the Sox/Yanks ALCS. I also dragged a friend of mine out of bed to go with me, even though he was a Mets fan. Nobody's perfect...

So we get to Fenway and get in line with a bunch of scalpers (strangest guys on the planet, hands down), only to have the Boston PD disperse us because the Sox weren't selling any tickets that night. I was #5 in line, and got shafted. Ah well. I decided I'd just have to come back when there were tickets available.

And on the Day before Game 3 (Pedro v. Clemens I), I got my chance. Tow of my friends and I packed a football, a thermos full of coffee, and enough cash to get some nice seats and headed for Fenway. We got there at about 8PM the night before the game and got in line. After a few hours, we decided to toss the ball around in order to stay warm (and sane). That lasted a little while, until we were all too tired to throw.

Then we played cards. Then we waited. And waited. And waited..... We found out that the box office would open at 9AM to sell the only remaining tickets, maximum of 2 per person. Right then, I made a snap decision. We were about 150 people back in a line of over 500. But I wasn't about to take any chances with so few available tickets. At about 8AM, I told one of my friends to go long and I'd throw the ball over his head. Then he could pick it up, get in line, and we could casually move up and "bump into him", thereby greatly improving our chances of getting tickets. Worked perfectly.

About 8:30, all the sports media showed up. Got to meet Peter Gammons, who stayed outside and talked baseball with the rabid fans all around me. Alright, I'll admit, I was one of them. The police had long since fenced us in on the sidewalk.

9AM, doors opened, and there was a mad push to the front. First time I was really glad that I'm as big as I am, because I was able to withstand the push and not fall over, which also allowed me to advance a few spots in line. Take every advantage...

Finally got into the box office and got two rooftop seats right over home plate. Obstructed View or not, these were primo seats. I bought two because I was sure someone else would want to go to the game.

I went home to the dorm to find my roommates parents on my bed. Forgot it was parent's weekend. Oh well. So I told the friends that I had gone to Fenway with to bang on my door before they left for the game, because I hadn't slept in two days, and I needed a nap. It was about 10AM, and the game was at 4PM. I told my roommate that I was setting my alarm, and that if I didn't hear it, he needed to throw stuff at me until I woke up.

My phone rang; it was my mom.

"How was the game?!"

"Game?!? What time is it?"

"It's 7 o'clock. Oh no, don't tell me you missed the..."

I had already hung-up. I had slept through the game, and missed the best pitching performance in MLB history up until that day. Pedro had 12K's, Clemens never saw the fourth inning, Sox won 12-1, and I had missed it all.

I ended up in the hospital after breaking my hand by punching the wall in anger. I later found out that my roommate (or someone else) had turned off my alarm because it was too loud. And the people who were supposed to bang on my door until I opened it? They went to lunch near Fenway, then straight to the game.


There, I feel better.

I still have the untorn tickets, as well as a newspaper from that day with Pedro and Rocket on the cover. My hope is I can get the pitchers to one day autographs the tickets and the paper so I can have it all framed.

Now, football. 10-6 last week to make me 65-55-3 for the regular season "on-the-record" picks. Now, the slate is clean. It's the Playoffs baby!

Here's how things stack up. I missed the Vikings, putting Seattle in the playoffs. Only one I missed. So now, in the NFC, the seedings are Philly and St Louis have byes. Panthers are 3rd, Packers 4th, Seahawks are 5th, and Cowboys 6th.

In the AFC, Pats (oh yeah) and Chiefs are 1-2 and have byes. Colts, Ravens, Titans, and Broncos round it out. So, here's how this week will go

Titans (-1) over RAVENS: I think the whole "Will Jamal break Dickerson's mark" may have worn this team down. I mean, how many other times will you see the first team players on the field in a totally meaningless game in the fourth quarter or overtime? On the other hand, the Titans rested many players, including McNair. And it's only a 1-pt spread, so I've gotta take Tennessee.

PANTHERS (-3) over Cowboys: Parcells will eventually make this team into a true contender. But this season, they benefited from a very easy early-season schedule. Has anyone seen how they kinda limped into the playoffs? No star QB, no star RB, no real stars on Defense, although Roy Williams and Terrence Newman are coming along nicely. The Panthers have one of the best RB's in the game, and a Defense that should be able to contain Dallas. If this game were in Big-D though, I'd have to take that home-field into account. Talk about a region that's been starved for winning...

COLTS (-3) over Broncos: This is the year Peyton wins a postseason game. I just hope it's this one, and only this one. I think Tony Dungy will be able to diagnose exactly how the Broncos destroyed Indy the first time around, two weeks ago. Think about it; if the Pats were still fired up from a blowout loss from 16-weeks back, how intense do you think Indy's gonna be...

PACKERS (-7.5) over Seahawks: The Seahawks cannot possibly win two games in a row on the road. Plus, I've learned my lesson about betting against Brett Favre at home in the winter. He's got a reason to be inspired this postseason, and I think that the Packers might make a serious run at the NFC title.

So to recap, PACKERS (-7.5) / COLTS (-3) / PANTHERS (-3) / Titans (-1). Wow, all favorites, and 3 of 4 home teams. Goes to show how important home-field is in the playoffs, and look who's got it, N.E and Philly. See y'all in Houston....

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Yes, I realize I didn't write a column last week. And there's a very good reason for that. I'm an idiot. You see, I had planned to wait until Thursday or Friday to write about the whole A-Rod mess (this was before the A-Rod mess spilled into this week). But somewhere around Wednesday night, my ISP decided to inadvertently turn off my connection, and not restore it fully until late Monday. Since the A-Rod mess had been prolonged until Tuesday, I thought I'd wait another day. Then I forgot. Then it was X-Mas Eve. Then it was X-Mas. Now I’m ready.

So, about said A-Rod mess. Um, is it safe to come out yet? I mean really people, this has gone on just a bit too long. And don't worry, there's plenty of blame to go around.

I'm a lifelong die-hard Red Sox fan. But I'm also a die-hard baseball fan. It would really take something major to make me turn my back on the game I love. This almost did it. When billionaire owners and millionaire players fight over money, it's the hundredaire fans that lose. And when the union gets involved, look out.

So who to yell at first? Let's start with Tom Hicks, the exceedingly wealthy owner of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars. Back in the winter of 2000, he paid about $8M more per year than he really needed to in order to get Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod probably would have signed with Texas for $17M yearly. In fact, if memory serves, the largest offer he had previous to Texas was from Atlanta at about $15M a year. The Mets had pulled out after the whole debacle over non-salary bonuses, and Seattle backed off early in the bidding war. So Tom Hicks offered too much, and A-Rod, like any halfway intelligent human being, took the offer. Actually, Scott Boras, A-Rod's agent, took the offer, and not without a three mile wide grin on his face, I suspect.

Hicks gets some of the blame. So do A-Rod and Boras. So does Dan Duquette for following the trend that the Rangers set, and overpaying by quite a bit for Manny Ramirez. HE'S A ONE TOOL PLAYER! Didn't anyone actually see this before? He can't throw. He can't run. He's pretty shoddy defensively, although I'll admit he’s getting better and working harder. And worst of all, he never seems like his head is in the game. All he does is hit. But when you're better at the one thing you do best than anyone else in your profession, you're going to get paid. And get paid he did. $20M a year for a guy who today probably wouldn't command over $12M yearly is just asinine.

So now we have the blame being laid on Hicks, Boras, Rodriguez, Duquette, Ramirez, and Jeff Moorad, Manny's agent. Then Gene Orza and the MLBPA stepped in, and things just got ugly. All the while, fans were screaming about the inane salaries that major League Ballplayers were making, and other owners were screaming about the unfair labor practices of baseball, where the rich teams could get whoever they wanted and the poor teams would have to settle for whatever they could develop in their farm systems. These, of course, were the same owners who would later decide to pay players $5, $10, or $15 million a year. Obscene.

If you haven't already guessed, I'm not a big fan of the current labor system in baseball. I believe that baseball needs a salary cap. It has worked well in the NBA and NFL, and with the way hockey seems to be heading after this season, the NHL will probably have one soon. The MLBPA needs to wake up and realize that it's not all about getting paid. It's about the fans. Without fans who respect you as both players and as people, there is no league. I have no deluded fantasies about all fans walking away from the game to prove a point, but if attendance were to drop across the board by even 10%, it would surely set off a chain reaction that would ultimately lead to a drastic market correction in the salary level of players.

Here's how to do it. Set a minimum and maximum team salary. Teams must spend at least, say, $40M total, and no more than $75M yearly, just as an example. Teams spending too much will pay penalties to the rest of the league, perhaps something along the lines of 10-15% of the amount they are over the cap. Does anyone else find it amazing that the last year the difference between the highest payroll (Yankees, who else) and the second highest payroll (Mets I believe) was more than the total payrolls of five teams? Amazing. In my new format, teams not spending enough will have to forfeit draft picks. It's not hard to spend money once you know how much has to be spent. Overpay if you have to, but make your team competitive. No more situations like we've seen in Milwaukee and Detroit. Players will still get paid, but $25M a year is probably higher than the GNP of many countries in the world.

The other thing that needs to be addressed is this: NO MORE GUARANTEED CONTRACTS. I am unbelievably sick of seeing players in a four year contract play hard the first year, dog it for two years, then play hard once their contract is up for renewal. The NFL got this right; if someone isn't playing hard, or doesn't fit your system, cut them and just take a cap hit, rather than have a situation like the Sox got stuck in a few years ago with Jose Offerman. He was overpaid from day one, he didn't really want to be in Boston, and he played like it. Finally, when the Sox cut him, eating his remaining salary, he had the brass balls to throw a tantrum in the locker room because the team didn't cut him before leaving for a road trip, and he had to fly back home to get his stuff. Unreal.

I love baseball, but if things don't get fixed, and soon, I might just move the NFL up a rung on my ladder of the best sports in the world.

Speaking of football.....


Time for some picks. The last time I wrote was Week 15, when I went 10-6, not too bad, to make me 55-49-3 for the year. For the record, I went 4-1 in the five games I played last week. This week’s picks will be the last of the regular season, but I will post my playoff predictions at the end. That oughtta be a crapshoot...

PATRIOTS (-8.5) over Bills: So I've obviously done away with my whole 5.5 point rule. The Pats need this win to clinch home-field, and they really need this win to get the bad taste out of their mouth from week 1. Bledsoe has been horrific this season (as my fantasy team can attest), and so has the Bills offense. This should be a defensive struggle. Look for the Pats to take it, but take the under.

Seahawks (+2.5) over 49ERS: I actually got this game at a "Pick-'Em", luckily. I can't believe that the 'Hawks, everyone's cinderella team when the year started, could end up 0-8 on the road. They need this win for any shot at the playoffs, so look for them to play hard. The Niners are out of the playoff hunt, and T.O. is out for the game and maybe for awhile. Seahawks get their first road win, but still miss the playoffs.

Eagles (-6.5) over REDSKINS: The Redskins have just been pathetic all year long. They just don't look like they want it enough. Steve Spurrier needs to draft a respectable RB next year (someone like, oh, I don't know, maybe Stephen Davis?) and get offensive line help. Patrick Ramsey can lead a NFL team to the playoffs, but not by himself.

Cowboys (-1.5) over SAINTS: That was heartbreaking last week. Absolutely crushing. And yet, I still made money off it (had the Saints +1.5). Don't look for New Orleans to rebound anytime soon. They're out of it, Brooks, Horn, Stallworth, Deuce, and just about everyone else are banged up and just waiting for the year to end. Jim Haslett, unfortunately, is on his way out the door soon. At the other end of the spectrum, Bill Parcells is a genius, and there is nothing in this world at this moment that could ever prove otherwise to me.

TITANS (-6.5) over Bucs: The Titans are in, and they can't advance or fall in the playoff standings. So why are they going to win this game by more that a TD? Two words: Steve McNair. He's at home; he's playing hurt, he's going to win. That's all you really need to know.

TEXANS (+7.5) over Colts: Like the Titans, the Colts can't advance or fall in the playoffs standings, so they will probably rest people. That's a luxury Tennessee doesn't really have. Plus, Houston should leave the stadium giving their fans a great game, since the next game played in H-Town will be Super Bowl XXXIIX.

Bears (+10.5) over CHIEFS: Did I actually once say the Chiefs could go undefeated? Oops. If they didn't have to play defense, they'd have had a shot. They'll probably win this game, but since every game with them is turning into a guaranteed "Over", I don't see them winning by 11 or more. Plus, the Bears have been playing absolutely inspired ball of late, and they are essentially playing for their coach's job. That'd be motivation enough for me.

DOLPHINS (-3.5) over Jets: My god, is that a Dolphins victory in December? In Buffalo?!?!? That's not supposed to happen! Bad teams are not supposed to suddenly get good, or at least not without hiring Marvin Lewis or Bill Parcells. But yes, look for Miami to end the season on a two game winning streak, which will be about two games short of saving Dave Wannstedt's job.

Jaguars (+2.5) over FALCONS: When last I wrote about the Falcons, Michael Vick was healthy, and Dan Reeves was coach. Now, Reeves has been removed, Vick's leg is hurting, and Falcons' season ticket holders are demanding refunds. Oh how times have changed.

BENGALS (-7.5) over Browns: Remember when this used to be a meaningless rivalry for pride between two league doormats? Now it actually means something, well, for the Bengals at least. Win and cheer on the Steelers and they're in the playoffs for the first time in many, many, many years. And I don't think anyone in the NFL, except the Ravens and their fans, would be disappointed.

LIONS (+10.5) over Rams: No, the Lions are not going to beat the Rams outright. But the Lions are going to cover 10.5 points. "But D, The Rams are designed for turf" you might ask. This is true. But Detroit is Detroit, and they generally find a way to hang around, if not win. Besides, the Rams already have their first-round bye, they might just pull starters in garbage time and let the Lions get close enough to cover, but not scare anyone.

Vikings (-7.5) over CARDINALS: Is there a sorrier franchise in sports right now that the Arizona Cardinals? They draw less than 30,000 fans to a stadium that holds almost 70k. They field a horrible team that has somehow scraped together 3 wins this year. And they always screw me over when I bet on them. If I take them and the points, no matter how many, they get blown out. If I bet against them, they stay close or even win. Unreal. P.S. The Vikings need a win to make the postseason.

Panthers (-4.5) over GIANTS: No reason that this spread should be under 10. The Giants are without their starting QB, a starting WR, and a questionable RB. Plus, their coach has already been fired, but not until he coached the final two games. Wow. Can't you just see Jim Fassel deciding "Hey, who's it gonna hurt?" and calling in a punt on first down? I'd pay just to see that.

CHARGERS (-1.5) over Raiders: The Raiders have flat out quit. The team gave up on the coach. The coach gave up on the team. The fans gave up on both. Last week the team was torn to bits by an inspired Brett Favre. This week, they get to deal with LaDanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. Well, it's not Favre and Ahman Green, but that's why it's only a 1.5 point spread...

PACKERS (-3.5) over Broncos: Nothing needs to be said about Brett Favre last week more than this: He is incredible. No other man could have done that, save perhaps Michael Jordan who dealt with much the same thing. Amazing. As for this week, The Packers need the win to make the playoffs; the Broncos are already in and are missing their best player in Clinton Portis. And never bet against Brett Favre in Lambeau in December.

Steelers (+7.5) over RAVENS: Yes, Jamal Lewis is outstanding. Yes, he only needs 153 yards to break the single-season rushing record, which he will get this week. But no, the Ravens are not going to win this game, and no, they will not make the playoffs. Sorry guys, draft a QB and then win the games you're supposed to win (Pitt, Cincy, Oakland).

Now, the playoffs:

If everything I've predicted for this week is accurate, then the playoffs look like this:


(1) Patriots - (2) Chiefs - (3) Titans - (4) Bengals - (5) Colts - (6) Broncos


(1) Rams - (2) Eagles - (3) Panthers - (4) Vikings - (5) Cowboys - (6) Packers

And I've decided to wait until next week to make my playoff predictions, just because of A) Possible Injuries, and B) Possible incorrect picks this week (yeah, right).

Besides, if I did all the football this week, I'd be forced to talk Hockey next week... ugh.

Until next time folks, lata.

Friday, December 12, 2003

How is it possible that in the dead of December, with almost three feet of snow on the ground in the greater Boston Area, when every god-fearing sports fan should be focusing on the AFC East Champion (yes, that's right) Patriots, how is it possible that the Red Sox dominate almost every single local sports report?

Oh, that's right. We're all nuts.

Well, maybe nuts isn't the word I want here. Psychopathic, insane, obsessed, take your pick.

Of course, I'm doing exactly the same thing that everyone else is doing, leading off a column with a baseball note. But I struggeld with the choice of topics for this weeks column. I had the choice of baseball's hot stove, football's hot teams, or the bevy of firings across sports yesterday (NFL - Falcons, NBA - Suns, NHL - Capitals). I chose the NFL, but not without a quick note on baseball.

I don't want to comment on the Kevin Brown trade just yet, since it is not final and I'm still rather angry that George Steinbrenner has once again shown that "Whatever King George wants, King George gets." Instead, I've chosen to touch on the move that lead to that trade...

Andy Pettite, a lifelong Yankee, today chose to leave the only franchise he's ever known in order to return home to Houston and pitch for the hometown team. All kidding aside, and all bias' aside, I say good for him. In a sports age where professionals routinely choose dollars over dreams, Pettite took far less money than he was offered from the Yankees and even the Red Sox in order to fulfill a dream of pitching for his hometown. He gave up the chance to go into history as the winningest Yankee pitcher ever and he gave up the almost certain trip to the postseason every year, but what he got in return is worth far more.

One of my mottos in life has always been "If you don't enjoy what you're doing, then what's the point?" Although Pettite could have stayed in New York and pitched under the microscope in a greatly reduced rotation, and made almost $10 million more over the life of the contract, he chose to move back home and spearhead a young, but extremely talented rotation including Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller. He chose to take the leadership role that was passed down to him from friend, mentor, and former teammate Roger Clemens. Andy Pettite has taken the opportunity to teach this young rotation and possibly lead the Astros deep into the postseason. Just as Curt Schilling will be remembered a hero if he leads the Red Sox to a World Series, Pettite will be a hero if he simply leads the Astros to their first postseason series win.

And for that, I commend him.

Onto this weeks actual topic, the hottest teams in the NFL.

No, it's not the Chiefs. No, it's not the Rams. It's not the Colts, Titans, Dolphins, Broncos, Seahawks, Panthers, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, or Bengals. It's the Patriots, Eagles, and Ravens.

Although the Chiefs are 11-2, and the Rams are making their bi-annual odd-year playoff run, the Patriots, Eagles, and Ravens are simply playing inspired ball. these are three teams that had no business being in the position they are in based on early season returns.

The Patriots and Eagles both got shut out in Week 1. Baltimore lost to Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh?) by 19. The Ravens rebounded by stomping the hapless Browns by 20 in Week 2, as they should. The Pats showed glimmers of what could be with a 31-10 win over, you guessed it, the Eagles. Then Philly got healthy on their bye week (3) and the NFC East leading Eagles have lost only one game since, 27-25 to the Cowboys in their first meeting.

The Patriots won two straight after opening day, and should be on a 12-game streak right now, if not for an ill-advised 4th-down attempt against the Redskins when a FG would have tied the game and sent it to overtime. This wouldn't even be a discussion if the ball doesn't slip out of Tom Brady's hand on that pass and into the hands of the defender waiting downfield.

The Ravens, however, have done it differently. For starters, they are only 8-5 right now, whereas the Eagles are 10-3 and the Pats are 11-2. Baltimore has won 3 straight after an ugly 9-6 OT loss to the Dolphins in Week 11. But they are doing it with smoke and mirrors. Oh, and the best running back in the league.

Yep. Jamal Lewis is the best RB in the NFL. He has 159 more yards rushing (1622) than Ahman Green (1463), who is #1 in the NFC. But is the fear he inspires in others that has allowed his team to prosper. This is a team that is on QB #3 for the season, Anthony Wright (who?). Wright used to be a backup QB for the Cowboys, and now is leading the Ravens ever closer to the AFC North title.

The Ravens are a team NO ONE wants to play right now, let alone in the playoffs. The same can be said for the Eagles, who have a serious 2003 Coach of the Year candidate in Andy Reid. But the Patriots are the team that strikes fear into the heart of offensive coordinators leaguewide, and they have the 2003 Coach of the Year winner in Bill Belichick.

Last week's game against the Dolphins was absolutely a defensive masterpiece. We all knew that Miami had absolutely no chance of winning a December game in Foxboro, and once the storm had cleared and there was three feet of snow on the ground, there was really no reason to even play the game.

I don't think I have ever seen a coach and a defensive coordinator combine to shut down teams the way that Belichick and Romeo Crennel are shutting down everyone they play this year. The Indy game was an abbirration; The Pats have not allowed a TD at home in over 60 defensive series. They beat the Giants 17-6 in Foxboro, Cleveland 9-3, and Dallas and Miami 12-0 each. So in their last four home games, they've allowed 9 points. Compare that to 93 points in their last four road games (13 at Miami, 26 at Denver, 20 at Houston, and 34 at Indy). The Pats are 6-0 at home, 5-2 on the road. Now do we see why home field is so important?

Luckily, the Pats have three straight winnable games to end the season, (Jax, @NYJ, Buf), and they currently have the #1 seed in the AFC. Home-field, here we come!

Onto this week's picks. Last week I went 7-9 (Damned Michael Vick) to bring me to 45-43-3 on the year. I also made some comments that turned out to be pretty stupid. I guess the air in Mile High really does make a difference. And I'll eventually learn not to bet against Brett Favre in Lambeau in December. This week's picks are going to be kind of short, simply because I wrote a lot more above than I had planned to, and I'm trying to keep my columns under 3000 words so you, my loyal readers (both of you) don't get bored. Here goes:

Vikings (-1.5) over BEARS: OK, so I may have been wrong about the Vikings. Culpepper to Moss is getting nicer and nicer to watch each week though. It's really becoming a thing of beauty.

Lions (+14.5) over CHIEFS: C'Mon, 14.5?? This is the NFL, not college (No, I'm not getting into the BCS right now... absolute debaucle). You remember my 5.5 point rule? Well, this more than doubles it.

Buffalo (+6.5) over TENNESSEE: Tennessee has one of the worst passing defenses in the league, and providing Drew Bledsoe can see straight after his post-concussion syndrome (oh, I'm sorry, it was just an unrelated dizzy spell. Yeah, right.), then he should be able to torch the Titans' secondary.

RAMS (-6.5) over Seahawks: The Seahawks can't win on the road. It's as simple as that. They're 1-5 on the road, and that win was against San Diego. They will probably end up 8-0 at home, and still not make the playoffs. Sad.

BUCS (-7.5) over Texans: Once again, no David Carr, and a gimpy Domanick Davis will lead the Texans down the road to another loss. Are the Bucs eliminated yet? I'm getting tired of writing that they're not going to make it.

Cowboys (-1.5) over REDSKINS: There's not much to say about the game, so let me congratulate Bruce Smith for finally getting the career sacks record. I was a big Bills fan in the early 90's, and he was great to watch then, and now.

PATRIOTS (-7.5) over Jaguars: Considering that the Jags have a pretty good defense, I normally wouldn't give up 7.5 points. But then I heard that there was going to be another snowstorm in Foxboro when a Florida team was visiting, and I couldn't resist.

JETS (-3.5) over Steelers: Eventually, I'm going to be able to call a game correctly for the teams I hate, the Jets and Raiders. Maybe this will be the week. A steady diet of Curtis martin and Pennington to Moss should keep the Jets ahead in this one, and technicaly still barely breathing in the wildcard race. Don't get your hopes up.

COLTS (-7.5) over Falcons: Michael Vick killed me last week with his legs. Luckily, Peyton Manning is facing the Falcons secondary this week, so he can kill them with his cannon-arm. And I'll be starting him in one league, Marvin Harrison in another. Heh heh heh...

BENGALS (-2.5) over 49ers: Boy it felt good to be the only person to pick Cincy to lose last week's game outright. But don't look for them to roll over and die just because they got embarrased by a far superior team. They are a good football team. They will make the playoffs. Just not this year.

Ravens (-5.5) over RAIDERS: The Raiders cost me last week. Now I get to bash them. YOU SUCK!! YOU SUCK YOU SUCK YOU SUCK YOU SUCK... And the Ravens are really good (see above).

Packers (-4.5) over CHARGERS: The Chargers have one of the most fun RB's in the league to watch, but that won't save them. Ahman Green is the #1 RB in the NFC for a reason, look for him to come up big as the Packers struggle for the final NFC wildcard spot.

BRONCOS (-8.5) over Browns: Remember, the mile-high air DOES make a difference. Oh, now I get it. That, plus the Browns are horriffic. The Broncos currently hold the final AFC wildcard spot after the Dolphins we shutout last week, and they will solidify their standing this week with a win at home over Cleveland.

Panthers (-5.5) over CARDINALS: Only 5.5? Did the oddsmakers actually watch the Cardinals last week? I think the Niners are still scoring on them. THEY GAVE UP 50 POINTS!

SAINTS (-7.5) over Giants: Like the Bucs, the Saints aren't quite out of it, but they're close. The Giants are just playing because it's their job. They're not going to win much, except maybe a little respect. Jim Fassel has very little chance of saving his job, even if he goes 3-0 to end the year. It's all over in Giants-land.

Eagles (+1.5) over DOLPHINS: See, in this matchup, the Eagles would have a weather-relates home field advantage. The Dolphins don't. You see folks, Florida teams in the frigid cold are at a distinct disadvantage. Northern teams playing down south generally should perform better, right? Plus, the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.

To face the Pats. Oh yea baby.

This week, Mixed Singles, mostly Rock. Not in an album mood tonight, plus it's 1AM, so loud music is kinda a bad idea.

Until next time...

Saturday, December 06, 2003

I've been putting this column off all week just so I could watch the chess game between The Yankees and Red Sox unfold. It's been quite fun to watch up here in Boston, simply because this is the first time in recent memory that The Boss has been the one having to make reactionary moves to bolster his roster. So let's break down where we're at right now:

Curt Schilling to the Red Sox. This is the move that started it all. Schilling was the best pitcher available this offseason, unless of course Roger Clemens changed his mind. And even then... Anyway, "Wunderkind" Theo Epstein pulled off a huge deal to get this to happen, and it didn't cost the Sox that much. They gave up Casey Fossum and marginal prospects. It was essentially a salary dump for the D-Backs, and the Sox took advantage.

Fun side note here: last year I was screaming at my television when I heard that the Sox declined to move Fossum and Shea Hillenbrand in order to get either Bartolo Colon, Javier Vasquez, or Kevin Millwood. Now, a year later, they essentially traded both to the D-Backs to get Byun-Hyun Kim AND Curt Schilling. Wow, I guess the big picture / long term thing really is more important.

Javier Vasquez to the Yankees: I realize that the Yanks signed Gary Sheffield and Tom Gordon first, but that wasn't really a reactionary move as much as it was a move that happend to take place after the Schilling deal. Gordon is just one more bullpen arm. Not a new closer. Sheffield had said all off-season that he wanted to go to New York, so it wasn't really a surprise when he ended up there. Javier Vasquez was. I expected the Yanks to go after Colon or Millwood more, or put more energy into Andy Pettite before going after an outsider, especially on that required a trade rather than just a free agent. The Yanks had to give up one of their best OBP guys in Nick Johnson, which will force them to play Jason Giambi at first base more. Trust me, he's not that good defensively. Vasquez was a great addition, but not at that price. THIS was a reactionary move; Steinbrenner needed another arm to throw at Boston.

Paul Quantrill to the Yankees. Kinda came in under the radar between Sheffield and Vasquez, but this could be a huge addition for the Bombers. The Yankees still have one of the most dominating closers in the game. Problem last year was that they didn't have anyone to get him the ball. The starters were old and couldn't go 7-8 innings consistently anymore, and the middle relief was just plain bad. Mariano Rivera still got his 40 saves, but how many times did he have to throw more than 1 inning? Quantrill threw 77.1 innings over 89 games last year. That's obscene for a middle relief guy. He's a solid pitcher that knows how to pitch in the AL (Former card carrying member of Red Sox Nation). He had 44 K's to 15 walks. Not bad for a guy who usually faced only 1 or 2 batters a game. And that 1.75 ERA wasn't too shabby either. He's going to see alot of work in the Bronx, because....

Winner so far: Boston. No doubt. And I'm not playing favorites here, one Curt Schilling outweighs one Javier Vasquez. The Yankees major need this offseason is starting pitching. Even with Vasquez, their rotation goes a little like: Mike Mussina (solid), Vasquez (very good), Jose Contreras (struggled as a starter), Jeff Weaver (yikes!), Jon Lieber (hasn't pitched in 2 years after elbow surgery). Not going to get it done. If they can get Pettite back, then maybe they'll stay ahead of the Sox, who now have the 2 best pitchers, inning for inning, in the AL.

Predictions: Here's where I see the other big free agents going (all subject to change if the A-Rod deal goes down).

Kevin Millwood: Atlanta, NY(AL), Seattle, NY(NL), Boston. All of them need more pitching, all of them have money to spend.

Greg Maddux: Atlanta, San Diego, Boston. I don't think Maddux would come to Boston, but it'd be fun to throw out a rotation of Pedro, Schilling, Maddux. The Sox, with that rotation and their offense, would be like the greatest roto team of all time.

Andy Pettite: NY(AL), Houston, Boston, Texas. Boston is only a player for any of these guys if the A-Rod deal doesn't happen. Texas is only a player if it does happen.

Keith Foulke: Oakland, Boston. Not much interest outside of these two. He's a solid reliever, but he does occasionally have a bump in the road for about a week or so.

Bartolo Colon: Chicago(AL), NY(AL), Boston, Seattle. He's not an NL type pitcher. Hell, I could outrun him. Which brings me to...

David Wells: NY(AL), Chicago(AL), Boston, Oakland. Same reasons as above, but Oakland might like his numbers in Billy Beane's system. Besides, they just gave up Ted Lilly, so they need another #4 lefty.

Vlad Guerrero: Montreal, Atlanta, Seattle, NY(AL), Chicago(NL). Can you imagine having Ichiro, Mike Cameron, and Vlad in the same outfield? Ouch. That's like having a permanent "No Doubles" outfield. I think he either stays in Montreal or goes to another NL team. Wrigley would be a nice fit, on the Waveland side of the field.

Miguel Tejada: Oakland, NY(NL), Atlanta, San Diego, Chicago (AL/NL). Wow, this guy picked a real bad year to have a down season. He probably won't get nearly what he's worth, which is why he might stay in Oakland if the price goes down enough. But every other team on this list either need a SS or has one that can move to 2B. Seriously, can you imagine the Cubs starting Alex Gonzalez after what happened in the NLCS?

Javy Lopez: Baltimore, Altlanta. No one else seems interested in the guy. Amazing. He has a career year, and there's only two takers?

Ivan Rodriguez: Florida. Same deal. Pudge is probably the best overall catcher EVER (look at the numbers), and yet in a free agent year, after leading his team to the World Series title, he only has one team interested?

I don't think that the Sox or Yankees is done yet for the offseason, but the question is still the same: Who gets the best of what's around?



Had a sollid 11-5 weeks last week to help the old overall record inch back over .500 to 38-34-3. And I realized why I haven't had a push in 3 weeks now. I've been using the Pigskin Pick-'Em game on to get my lines, and all of their lies have half points so that there are no pushes. Yes, I realize I'm a tool.

TITANS (-2.5) over Colts: So let me get this straight, Jeff Fisher brings in a gimpy Steve McNair to play a game against a last place team that is considered a must win. Steve McNair and the Titans do not win this "must win" game, and now McNair is still pretty gimpy in a ABSOLUTE MUST WIN. I'll still take the Titans until Peyton Manning proves he can win a big game. Heh heh heh, four downs from the 1 baby.....

Bears (+7.5) over PACKERS: The Bears (gulp) are only 2 games out of first in this division. Hell, the Lions aren't even eliminated yet. The two North divisions, AFC and NFC, are the two worst in football. No question. And 7.5 is way to many points to give to a team that is playing inspired ball right now. I can't even make fun of Kordell, no matter how much I want to.

SAINTS (-1.5) over Bucs: The Bucs aren't officially eliminated yet either, but I think it's pretty safe to say that they're done. They're playing just to finish out the season and collect their paychecks. It's kind of sad watching them stumble through the year. I mean, Jacksonville?!? Not an easy loss to swallow. The Saints, meanwhile, are actually playing well and making a quiet push for the wild card. And, of course, I traded Deuce MacAllister off of my fantasy team midway through his 100+ rushing yards per game streak. DAMNIT!

Seahawks (+1.5) over VIKINGS: The Vikings are just looking for ways to lose games, and the Seqhawks should be happy to oblige. Granted, the Browns aren't exactly Super Bowl contenders, so it's a game they were expected to dominate. But the Vikings could certainly see the Rams in the playoffs, and if last week is an indicator of how that game could play out, ugh.

Texans (+5.5) over JAGUARS: Yes, I know that the Jags beat the Bucs last week. So have 6 other teams. The Texans, on the other hand, look like serious playoff contenders, next year. They're 5-7, which is pretty good for a 2nd year expansion team. But they've got two gimpy QB's, which can explain the spread. Even so, Domanick Davis should be able to tear apart the Jags D-Line.

Redskins (+2.5) over GIANTS: Here is this weeks battel of Coaches Playing For Their Resumes. Jim Fassel is gone the day after the season ends. Steve Spurrier is on an extremely short leash, and might just quit to go back to college and win more titles. And considering that there will probably be a few inches of snow on the turk at The Meadowlands, expect running to be big. If Tiki can't hold onto a dry ball, what makes anyone think he'll have a better grip on a wet or frozen one?

EAGLES (-5.5) over Cowboys: Philly has been amazing after being embarrased early this season. I realize that Coach of the Year is really betweek Belichick, Vermiel, Parcells and Lewis, but can't we throw in Andy Reid? Donovan McNabb hasn't been outstanding this year, they've had a RB by committee, and they still lead their division? Wow. Dallas will get the wild card, but not the division and not this game.

Raiders (+5.5) over STEELERS: I must be the stupidest sports fan in whole damned country, but I think the Raiders have one more win in them. It's going to be ugly, both on the field and on the sidelines. But 5.5 is a lot of points, and the Steelers aren't that good of a team.

Chargers (+2.5) over LIONS: The Chargers are already eliminated. The Lions probably will be if they lose this game. Therefore, the Lions are playing for their lives, and the Chargers are playing for pride. The game is in Detriot, but it's indoors. If it were outside, I'd take the Lions -30. But indoors the weather isn't a factor, which give the Chargers a huge advantage. Plus one of the best young RB's in the game. I thank San Diego takes this one outright.

RAVENS (-3.5) over Bengals: So I'm not sold on the Cincy bandwagon yet. They're doing what everyone else in the past five years except the Bucs has done. Take a mediocre defense, a little offensive firepower, and a last place schedule and voila, they're suddenly a playoff contender. Nope. I'll admit, the Bengals look good, and more importantly they look like they're having fun. But the Ravens D should be able to handle Kitna and the Krew.

49ERS (-9.5) over Cardinals: If it wasn't the Cardinals, that 9.5 would be obscene. But since it is Arizona... 'Nuff Said.

Chiefs (+1.5) over BRONCOS: Listen people, it's cold in Kansas City in the winter too! The Mile-High cold weather shouldnt' make a difference in this game. The Mile-High air might, but everyone breathes the same air. The Cheifs are still the best team in football (11-1, hello?!). They shouldn't be an underdog until they play either New England or Tennessee in the AFC Title game. Which brings me to...

PATRIOTS (-3.5) over Dolphins: There's going to be between 6 and 12 inches of snow on the ground for this game. Maybe we should go get a snow plow... In all seriousness, it's December, which means the Dolphins are required to wither and fall. Not a knock on their physical abilities, but their mental. It's like how it took the Bucs 20+ years to win a game in sub-40 degree temperatures, the Dolphins are starting to believe that they can't win in December.

Jets (+2.5) over BILLS: Another game where weather would be a factor if both teams weren't used to it. The Bills just look bad, even after stomping the Giants last week. In fact, I had a lot of fun writing that paragraph about the Bills/Giants last week, simply because I have a lot of Giants' fan friends. Anyway, the Jets look very good. If Penington doesn't break his wrist in the Preseason, they're probably right on top of the AFC East with the Pats. Too bad.

Carolina (-1.5) over ATLANTA: This is the only Sunday game where the home team isn't the favorite. Stunning. I almost picked up Mike Vick for this game in my fantasy league then I decided to take Jake Delhomme against an abyssmal Falcons secondary. Let's hope I was right. The last thing I want to see is Vick running for 100 and throwing for 250.

Rams (-4.5) over BROWNS: Well, at least the Browns are consistent now, consistently bad. I actually met a guy from my hometown in Massachusetts that is a Browns season ticket holder. Told me he and the family drive out to Cleveland for every home game. Something tells me he might have sold most of his tix this season.

Finally, I'm going to start doing something a little different at teh end of every column. I'm going to tell you what is in my CD player for the week. Every week I write a column with a diferent album or mixed singles playing, and I'm sure that the music probably affects my mood and my writing.

This week: Linkin Park "ReAnimation".