Monday, April 6, 2015

2015 MLB Preview

Photo courtesy of Fox Houston
If you're reading this, it's too late.

(Is that a copyright infringement? Probably. What are they going to take from me? I'm still a minor.)

You're about to dive into a long preview of the entire baseball season that will be way too interesting to quit reading. If you've been on an island all winter and aren't prepared for this baseball season, I've got you covered. If you want to read this just so you can laugh at me when I make a bad call about Tanner Scheppers being good in his move to the rotation, only for him to give up 20 earned runs in 18.1 innings to start the year, and go on the DL for basically the rest of the season, come at me. (In my defense, Scheppers was pitching with an elbow problem, so his four terrible starts wasn't indicative of him being a bad pitcher. Plus, he's redeemed himself in my eyes with a killer videobomb.)

Let's get on with the division by division previews. As always, when I give best and worst case scenarios, I'm assuming the general health of their roster, because I'm not a psychic. If I were, I would have objected to becoming a Mets fan ten years ago, but I'm a mere mortal.

We begin with the AL East.


Photo courtesy of Fox Sports
1. Baltimore Orioles
Opening Day Lineup:
C Joseph
1B Davis
2B Schoop
3B Machado
SS Flaherty
LF De Aza
CF Jones
RF Snider
DH Pearce
P Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, Norris, Jimenez

Team Outlook: Last year's division winners are in a good position to repeat as AL East champs as they pretty much stood pat this offseason. They're even adding talent, in the form of Matt Wieters about a month into the year to replace the offensively bad (in that they were so bad at offense that I was offended) combination of Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger, and Nick Hundley. Manny Machado will be back to start the year after missing the final month and a half with a knee injury. Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop were so bad for large chunks of the year that there should be natural upgrades at first and second base as well. There are concerns that their pitching staff will take a step back. Even so, their roster is still above average as a whole. This is a really good team who decided to run it back in 2015, and they should be successful. 

Worst Case Scenario: 84 wins. This is contingent on not only the Os regressing themselves, but the BoSox and Blue Jays taking steps forward, making this division tough to navigate. 

Best Case Scenario: 100 wins. After 96 wins last season, Wieters is a massive upgrade behind the plate, Chris Davis is at least consistently average, and the rest of the team repeats their performance from last year. 

Player to Watch: Kevin Gausman. Gausman was one of the top prospects in baseball prior to last season, and after pitching well to start the year in AAA, he was called up and provided good #2 starter production when he wasn't constantly bouncing between Norfolk and Baltimore. He's a flamethrower, averaging 94.8 MPH on his fastball, on which he is heavily dependent. As he starts to work in his off-speed stuff a bit more, he should be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He won't start the year in the rotation, but it won't be long before he gets the nod. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dee Milliner Is Not a Bust

Photo courtesy of ESPN
In 2014, the Jets had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. In fact, it was one of the worst in recent memory. They ended the year with four cornerbacks, two of whom I had never heard of prior to them appearing in their Jets uniforms for the first time in Phillip Adams and Marcus Williams. Another one of those four corners was Kyle Wilson, who has been bad his entire career since the Jets spent a first round pick on him in 2010. 

The reason why the Jets were so thin and so bad at corner was partially due to John Idzik failing to upgrade the position too much during the offseason, but also due to other circumstances. The Jets cut Antonio Cromartie last year because he was terrible in 2013. It's now clear that his abysmal performance was because he was playing hobbled all year, and after a short stint in Arizona is now back with the Jets. Many cornerbacks were on the market in the spring of 2014, but most notably Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the cousin of the then-former, now current Jet Antonio. Idzik stayed away from those guys, and, for a team that needed multiple corners, only signed Dimitri Patterson from the Dolphins. I wasn't in love with the acquisition, but I was fine with it because Patterson is a decent enough player. In the third round of the draft, Idzik took Dex McDougle out of Maryland. This meant that the Jets were set to pin the starting #1 corner job on the second year player out of Alabama, Dee Milliner.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brandon Marshall Trade Reaction

Photo courtesy of ESPN
On Friday morning, news broke that the Jets traded a 5th round pick to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Brandon Marshall and a 7th round pick. Just look at that sentence again. Fifth round pick, for Brandon Marshall.

It always amazes me how people can be so negative about moves that make all the sense in the world, especially when that move involves the Jets. Without delving too far into the territory of an ridiculously sensitive fan who can't take it when their team is criticized, it's unfair how the Jets are treated as a joke no matter what they do. 

This is the case with Percy Harvin right now as well, because their midseason trade for him has been widely maligned, when he was actually pretty good as a Jet, considering that he was thrown into a bad offensive system midway through the year. 

Excuse that angry rant directed at no one in particular, but it's been on my mind.

As for how this affects the on field product in New York, Marshall greatly improves a Jets team who were greatly in need of another receiver. I think Eric Decker is a number one receiver, and people who still vehemently refute that statement clearly did not watch enough of the Jets this past season. Even so, behind him are Jeremy Kerley, who is now able to settle into a more comfortable role as a third receiving option, Chris Owusu, and T.J. Graham. I really like Jace Amaro, but the Jets were in need of better players on the outside. And, look who's here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Remembering Sexy Rexy

Photo courtesy of NY Daily News
Both Rex Ryan and the Jets have moved on from one another in the past month. After the fourth straight season missing the playoffs, Gang Green fired the coach and have started a new era under another first time head coach, and star defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles. Ryan has chosen to stay within the division, and the state by going to the Bills. The dust has settled, so it's an appropriate time to take a look back at Ryan's run.

He came in as the neophyte coach who had made a name for himself by being the son of Buddy Ryan, and lived up to his father's legacy through 10 years in Baltimore. He began as the Defensive Line Coach, and eventually became the Defensive Coordinator, of the feared 2000s Ravens defense which was never ranked lower than 6th in the league while he was around. 

After failing to land a coaching job prior to the 2008 season, Ryan signed on with the Jets almost immediately after the Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs following 2008. Soon, he came on and took the media by storm. He was brash, sarcastic, and an overall quote machine.He started making guarantees from the first moment that he stepped into his officer. And for the first little while, it looked like he was going to deliver soon.

By now, we know that Mark Sanchez is a dud. He was a top five pick who is unable to carry a team, and will vacillate between mediocre and straight up bad. But in 2009, he was drafted to be the savior of the Jets, and Rex's boy for years to come.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

NFL Picks: Super Bowl

Photo courtesy of TIME
It's that time again. One of the best days in the year has arrived, dominated by pizza, beer, football, and explaining football to your cousin again. In New York., there's a distinct possibility that I will have a snow day this Monday, giving us all over here our rightful post-Super Bowl day off. Maybe this is the first step to making it an officially recognized national holiday!

I'm happy that it's actually game day, so we can finally end all the talk of deflated balls, fire alarms, and not speaking to the media, and actually focus on what's happening on the field, which is probably the most intriguing matchup of the 2014 season.

Here are the possible outcomes:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Live from New York, It's Saturday Afternoon Death


As I mentioned in my most famous column in July, I had never been to a Knicks game. I've lived in New York City for all of my 17 years and I had yet to go to one. Recently I've had multiple friends invite me, but due to various circumstances I've been unable to join them. And the tickets are so comically expensive for good seats that simply getting up to go to see the Knicks on a whim isn't something I've been able to do.

That all changed last Saturday, and I wish it hadn't.

In September, a friend, colleague, and minor internet celebrity offered me the chance to see a game on January 10 against the Hornets from a suite, with warmup passes for the pre-game, for a little over a hundred bucks. That's a great price for that type of experience, so I pounced. Even better, I fell in love with the Hornets during the offseason, and it looked like they were primed for a great season. At the very least, they'd be one of the most fun teams in the NBA. I adopted them as my second favorite team in the league. Lance Stephenson, Al Jefferson, whatever P.J. Hairston is, and the potential of Noah Vonleh looked like a team that could restart the Hornets Era in Charlotte with a bang. Even better, there's a chance that I go to college on the outskirts of Charlotte, and I was so ready to spend four years heading over to the arena to catch a true contender.

Well, that didn't happen. Stephenson simply isn't working out so far, and missed the game I was at. Jefferson did as well. This wasn't the Hornets team that I signed up for.

As for the home team, that certainly wasn't the team that I expected. I bought the tickets expecting to see Carmelo Anthony leading the team in scoring, followed by J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire, pesky perimeter defense from Iman Shumpert, and lackluster interior defense from Samuel Dalembert. And the Knicks expected that as well, I mean, look at the back of the head that was featured on this ticket! A man who currently plays in Cleveland.


Instead, as I got to our spot behind the benches for warmups, I was greeted by the sight of Lou Amundson on the floor. The man who was re-signed that morning after being waived immediately following his acquisition from the Cavaliers.

This was not a nice feeling. Amundson is one of the most non-descript, space-eating, big men in the league. He doesn't do anything. He's just there. He just there with great hair. Guys like him, Tyler Hansbrough, and new teammate Cole Aldrich are basically useless guys who simply exist. There's nothing to them. Amongst fans, the feeling is different of course, because Hansbrough has earned his reputation as Psycho T, Amundson has his beautiful hair to keep him from anonymity. Aldrich has nothing, but we'll get to him later.

After a rather un-exciting 20 or so minutes at floor level, including a lot of watching Quincy Acy jack up jump shots that he shouldn't be encouraged to take, it was time to head up to our seats. The view was pretty good, there was an abundance of food and drink waiting for us in the lounge, and we each got a Knicks drawstring bag with a T-shirt and cap inside.

The first order of business was to bow down to the New York Rangers' 2013-14 Eastern Conference Champions banner hanging across from me.

Soon, we got to the second best part of the entire game:



After this woman fidgeted, looked around, checked her phone, attended to a crumb that she thought she noticed on her shirt for over a minute, she finally looked up and noticed that the entire stadium had been staring at her. She was immediately followed by a couple that took a minute and fifty-four seconds to realize the big screen. This was incredibly fun. It was really messed up if you were one of the people featured on the Oblivious Cam, but fun for everyone else.

Then the game started, and the fun ended abruptly.

The Knicks sent out a starting lineup of Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Jason Smith, and Cole Aldrich.

That being our first team is not what I expected back in October.

It was during the first quarter that I made a pretty important observation about the Knicks and their roster. Cole Aldrich is not good at basketball. He's not one of those players like Tristan Thompson who has a redeeming quality in that he can crash the offensive boards with the best of them, I'm saying that Cole Aldrich has no legitimate NBA skill.

I'm saying this because he has hands of stone on the offensive side of the ball. But that's not why he's here I guess. He's here to be a big body and take up some space in the middle of the lane on defense to deter all attackers.

One issue: he's not good at that either.

The amount of times I saw this man over-commit on the pick and roll, leave the paint too early and get embarrassed as a quicker guard blew right by him as he slowly began to set himself into a defensive position was sickening. He's supposed to be a help defender. But when a help defender is not standing between the offensive player and the rim, that's a major problem.

The crowd was very into Langston Galloway when he entered the game. At that point it was only his second game in the NBA, and we were all pretty pumped about him after his great showing against the Rockets. And he was okay. He was pretty aggressive on offense and was not at all afraid of taking too many shots.

In fact, I think that the Garden was well aware that he was the only player who had yet to piss off the fans to that point, as they used him on the giant video board in the pregame.

Second game of his career, and he's by default a fan favorite.

The score was 21-18 Hornets at the end of the first, and that was just about the last time I paid attention to the action on the floor.

The second quarter was when I started to play a lot of Trivia Crack, and it remained that way for the rest of the game. It was during this time that former Knick John Wallace came by our suite to say hi, which wasn't too exciting for me because he was a Knick for a year, and that year was before I was born. But at least he signed this for me, so he's cool:


Every time I looked down at the court, someone on the Hornets, usually Kemba Walker, was scoring.

At least the cookies in the suite were really, really good.

Towards the end of the second, the PA announcer mentioned that the halftime entertainment would be a Kidz Bop Talent Show, to which I immediately yelled "that's disgusting."


Outside of the Oblivious Cam, it was the best hting to happen all day until the fourth quarter. That's a really low bar, but the three kids that performed weren't totally devoid of talent, unlike the Knicks.

During the beginning of the third quarter, I was more interested in sharing my NFL Picks that I had posted six hours earlier prior to leaving the house than in watching the game that was right in front of me. Why? Because the Knicks were down 62-31 at halftime and things were about to get worse.

The quarter ended with the Knicks down 89 to 44. That wasn't a typo. I watched the Knicks get more than doubled up through three quarters by a team that was ten games under .500 at the time.


Okafor chants filled the stands as we couldn't stand to watch this team anymore. Obviously the chants were in reference to Jahlil, but I think at this point I'd rather watch Emeka than anyone cuirrently on the roster.

After watching Jason Maxiell put up 7 points and keep gettin' dem checks (seriously, how is he still in the NBA?), we found salvation.

Now that's not saying much of anything, because the Knicks are so bad. But when you hit three treys in a row when your team scored only 44 points through three quarters, you're going to become a fan favorite quickly.

Don't be fooled though, I still hate Quincy Acy. I don't think he's much of anything. He should stop shooting so much. A man that attempted only 17 three pointers in 92 games prior to this season has already taken 18 this year. He's been good at it, but clearly he's not someone who has ever trusted his shot. Maybe he's added that to his game for the long term, but I doubt it.

As for the game in general, the fourth quarter was better, but the fans were apathetic. Just because they scored 38 in the fourth doesn't mean we suddenly cared again. Scoring only 18, 13, and 13 in the first three quarters is what lost us. That 28 point loss felt like a 78 point loss.

Immediately following the game, I bolted to the train to go to Hunter College to see the second half of my high school's homecoming game. They were down by 1 when I walked in, and lost to their bitter rivals (and a school that stole our team nickname) by 10 points. And that was the best basketball I saw all day.

I'm not going to let that experience deter me from ever going to another Knicks game at the Garden, but damn that was a huge slap in the face. I waited ten years just to see that.

NFL Picks: Championship Round

Photo courtesy of AOL
Last week I took four underdogs, and against the spread I went 3-1, with my only loss coming at the hands of a rather unnecessary Kam Chancellor pick six. Straight up, I whiffed on both Sunday games, picking the Cowboys and the Broncos.

Yes, that was a catch.

And of course Peyton Manning is hurt, it's felt that way for about a month and now we have confirmation. Hopefully this isn't the end for him.

While I went with all dogs last week, expect a slightly different strategy this time around.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NFL Picks: Divisional Round

Photo courtesy of Grantland
I got three games right when picking straight up last week, but the Panthers covered, and the Cowboys didn't, meaning that I went 1-3 in my picks. Once again, a prime example of why this simply isn't my year.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

NFL Picks: Wild Card Round and Playoff Preview

Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report
It's the end of a long season, and it's time for the playoffs. Things get started today as we kick off the worst Wild Card round ever, but that will give way to what should be an awesome second round next week.

Now let's take a trip back to September, when I posted my NFL Preview. I got seven of the twelve playoff teams correct, but there was an interesting conference split. I got nearly every AFC playoff team correct, with my only mishap being me placing the Jets in the sixth spot and leaving the Steelers out completely. That means that I only got two teams correct in the NFC: the Seahawks and the Packers (who I nearly left out anyway). I figured that the NFC would be a very interesting conference this year, but little did I know I'd be so wrong about so many things.

Speaking of being wrong, let's talk about my picks this year! I naturally closed out the year with a 7-9 Week 17, meaning that I finished the year 18 games under, compared to 13 games over in 2013. This also means that even if I sweep through the postseason, there's no chance of be sniffing .500 for this season overall. I'm disgusted.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS. 

Resurrection of Lindley (+6.5) over PANTHERS. It seems obvious to everyone that the Cardinals are going to lose this afternoon, but I'm not so sure. The fact that the Cards are 11-5 is incredible considering the innumerable amount of injuries that they've suffered, dating back to losing Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett to season ending injuries even before Week 1. All credit goes to Bruce Arians and future Jets head coach Todd Bowles for the job they've done all year working with a depleted roster. Asking them to win a road playoff game with Ryan Lindley as the starting quarterback would usually be an impossible task, but not against a sub-.500 division winner in the 7-8-1 Panthers.

Carolina had won four games in a row on their way to winning the NFC South, simply because no one else wanted to. I don't trust them at all, but their defense has improved over the last few weeks and Cam Newton has been keeping their offense afloat.

Superior coaching will keep the game close, but in the end, Newton will be the best player on the field, and for the second time, a team blow .500 will advance to the second round. This game is going to be terrible. I suggest you avert your eyes.

Panthers 23, Cardinals 17.

Ravens (+3) over STEELERS. I'm not nearly as excited for this game as I should be. I recognize that Ravens-Steelers is one of the best rivalries in the league. I recognize that these are divisional foes playing each other for the third time this season after splitting the first two games. I get it. I recognize that the Steelers have the best offense in the NFL and will go up against a pesky Ravens defense (even with their gruesome secondary) that will be getting back Haloti Ngata.

But am I chomping at the bit to watch it happen?

Not really.

Unlike the first game, however, I will make sure to watch this because it will be a fun game. The key here is how Pittsburgh deals with the loss of Le'Veon Bell. The star running back will be out for today's game, and they don't really have anyone to replace him. Rookie Josh Harris and Ben Tate, fresh off of being cut for the second time this year, are going to be leading the running game, which seriously hinders Pittsburgh's offense.

At the same time, the Steelers still have Antonio Brown on their team. Not only is he amazing, the Ravens have absolutely no one that can cover him. And yet, I think Baltimore can overcome that. Their pass rush is great, and should frustrate Big Ben throughout the night, even if sacking Ben is like a midget dunking on Dikembe Mutombo. The Steelers offense runs through Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell. And one of those pieces will be out tonight.

UPSET ALERT.

Ravens 28, Steelers 24.  

Bengals (+3.5) over COLTS. For the third year in a row, the Colts are 11-5, for the third year in a row they are a lot shakier than their record suggests, and for the third year in a row, I'm picking against them in the first round.

Indianapolis went 2-4 against playoff teams this season. They were embarrassed by the Steelers, Patriots, and Cowboys, lost to the Broncos. One of the playoff teams that they beat was the Ravens. The other...the Bengals. In fact, they didn't just beat Cincinnati, they shut the Bengals out 27-0.

So, why in God's name am I picking the Bengals in this game?

Two reasons: inconsistency, and Jeremy Hill.

We'll start with the first. Both of these teams, and their quarterbacks can be erratic at times. That Week 7 game was simply a case of the Colts playing their best game while the Bengals played their absolute worst. the stars aligned and it led to a beatdown. It would take a lot of luck (and no, I don't mean Luck) for that to happen again.

As for the other big factor, it's pretty self explanatory. These two teams played before Jeremy Hill broke out and took over Cincinnati's rushing attack. He's been awesome, and the combination of him and Giovani Bernard has been great. Bernard has been shifted to the role of almost purely a receiving back, while Hill has been tearing it up as the lead back. In related news, the Colts have a terrible run defense, so the Bengals should be able to take advantage of that this time around in a close game.

Once again, UPSET ALERT.

Bengals 31, Colts 29. 

COWBOYS (-6.5) over Lions. This is the only favorite that I'm taking all weekend, and it makes me quite nervous. There is a good chance that I'm wrong and the game is a lot closer than expected, and it's not out of the question that the Lions win outright and perpetuate the insanity that Tony Romo cannot win a big game.

Detroit has one of the best defenses in the NFL, and if they can slow down, and possibly shut down the potent Dallas offense, then they should win easily. But I don't see that happening.

Everything is working perfectly on the offensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. Their offensive line is beating up their opponents up front, they are elite at running back, wide receiver, and most important quarterback, and each of these pieces are meshing perfectly.

On the other side of the ball, Detroit's offense has a lot of talent but has struggled to get going all year. I'm going to heap a good portion of the blame for that onto Matthew Stafford, because he's not good enough to take advantage of the weapons around him in Joique Bell, Calvin Johnson, and Golden Tate. This is the perfect team for the Cowboys defense to take advantage of. With Dallas's ball control offense, the Lions will rarely see the ball, and they aren't the type of quick strike offense that can score quickly enough to keep the game close.

And for that reason, I'm laying the touchdown.

Cowboys 27, Lions 17.

Divisional Playoffs
PATRIOTS over Ravens. 

BRONCOS over Bengals. 

SEAHAWKS over Panthers. 

Cowboys over PACKERS. 

Conference Championships
PATRIOTS over Broncos. 

SEAHAWKS over Cowboys.

Super Bowl
Seahawks over Patriots. 

Last Week: 7-9

Season: 117-135-4

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Awards

Photo courtesy of Yahoo

2014 has been a very interesting year in sports, and before we turn the page, it's time to reflect and review the best and worst of the past 365 days. In addition to the four major sports, it also happened to be a World Cup year, which brought an added excitement to that normally dead moment immediately after the end of the NHL and NBA seasons. As usual there were emotional moments, great plays, and of course, scandals. So many scandals.

Here's to 2014.

Worst Team
  • Arizona Diamondbacks. The DBacks looked before the season to be just about average, but injuries and the lackluster roster put together by Kevin Towers led to them having the worst record in the MLB.  
  • Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo finished as far and away the worst team in hockey last season, and haven't improved that much. But at least they're appear later on in this column, but in a good way. 
  • Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers had a tanktastic 2013-14 season that led to them drafting an injured Joel Embiid and setting themselves up for yet another season of tanking. In the long run, this strategy makes sense, but just because they're purposely terrible doesn't mean they can avoid this category. 
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I, and many others predicted that the Bucs would make the playoffs this season. I fell for the trap once again. I wasn't just wrong, I was dead wrong. They were an absolute dumpster fire that couldn't move the ball offensively and once again underperformed on defense. There must be something in the water in Tampa because in terms of talent this was not the worst team in the NFL. 
And the winner is...