Monthly Archives: April 2009

NFL: Team Draft Grades

By Tom Waterman, WSOE Sports

After an exciting weekend full of some big trades and excitement the 2009 NFL Draft is complete, but not without some surprising picks that left many of us puzzled and scratching our heads. Here is my breakdown of how each team fared.

AFC
—–Buffalo Bills: They took Defensive End Aaron Maybin with the eleventh pick, who is definitely a promising young pass rusher. However, they completely neglected their vacancy at Left Tackle due to the departure of Jason Peters. I think the Bills will eventually regret not choosing tackle Michael Oher. I really liked the pick of Shawn Nelson in the fourth round, and also liked how they solidified their interior offensive line with the selections of Eric Wood and Andrew Levitre.
My Grade: C+
—–Miami Dolphins: I personally really liked a few of the selections the Dolphins made this weekend. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are two very physical corners that should make an immediate impact for them. I think the Dolphins made a mistake however in drafting Pat White where they did. He does not have a future at Quarterback with the Dolphins with Chad Henne already lined up as the Quarterback of the future. I also feel that the second round is way to early to draft a “gimmick” player such as White. The choices of Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline add both depth and talent to the Wide Receiver position.
My Grade: B
—–New England Patriots: The Patriots used their four second round picks and twelve picks overall to develop depth at some key positions. I thought the selections of Rod Brace and Darius Butler were great value picks and the selection of Brandon Tate in the third round could turn out to be a steal. The combination of this draft class and the additional two second round picks the Patriots acquired gives them a high grade for the weekend.
My Grade: A-
—–New York Jets: The Jets found the player they wanted and jumped at him, with the trade and then the selection of USC Quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez, a future Pro Bowler, now gets to learn the ropes under the bright lights of New York. The downside with trading up twice in a draft is that you end up with less picks. The Jets, who ended up with only three draft picks, also picked up Sharon Greene and an offensive lineman Matt Slauson.
My Grade: B+
—–Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens jumped all over Michael Oher as he fell to the 23rd spot. He will fulfill the spot that at Left Tackle that has been vacant since the retirement of Jonathan Ogden. They also were able to pickup a player I am very high on in Davon Drew in the fifth round. Overall very solid draft; and I love the Oher pick in the first round.
My Grade: B+
——Cincinnati Bengals: This might be a first, but I am actually going to praise the Bengals. How many teams can come out of draft weekend and say that they probably drafted immediate starters with their first four picks. The Bengals did just that with the selections of Andre Smith, Rey Maugaluga, Michael Johnson, and Chase Coffman.
My Grade: A-
——Cleveland Browns: It will remain to be seen if the combination of Brian Robiske and Mohammad Massaaquoi will equal the production of Michael Crabtree, but I have to think it won’t. For the very reason they passed up Crabtree and then traded down and still didn’t come up with Maclin, Heyward-Bey, Harvin, Nicks, or even Britt is why I am grading the Browns poorly.
My Grade: D
—–Pittsburgh Steelers: The Super Bowl champs drafted for depth as they have no glaring needs at the moment. It will be best to judge this draft in a few years.
My Grade: C
—–Houston Texans: The additions of Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin bring a ton of versatility to a steadily improving defense. Watch out for the Texans next year.
My Grade: B+
—–Indianapolis Colts: Donald Brown is a good pick at the tail end of the first round, but they didn’t address the defensive line enough in this draft. Curtis Painter is an interesting pick late in the draft.
My Grade: C
—–Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have now solidified the bookends of their offensive line for years with selections of Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. Rashad Jennings from Liberty will form a great tandem with Maurice Jones-Drew.
My Grade: A-
——Tennessee Titans: Kenny Britt will be a solid addition at Wide Receiver, and the Tight End Jared Cook has plenty of upside.
My Grade: B
—–Denver Broncos: A team that hasn’t done much right this off-season was able to get the most talented running back and select a good pass rusher in Robert Ayers. However, trading next year’s first round pick for the opportunity to draft Alphonso Smith was incredibly short sighted.
My Grade: D
—–Kansas City Chiefs: This draft looked much like a Bill Belichick draft, as every picked was on players that will fit. Pick three might have been a little early for Tyson Jackson.
My Grade: B+
—–Oakland Raiders: This was a terrible draft for the Raiders. Almost every pick was a reach starting at pick seven and all the way down the list.
My Grade: F
——San Diego Chargers: I believe Larry English was a little bit of a reach at 16, and the Chargers also failed to grab a future replacement for L.T.
My Grade: C

NFC
—–Dallas Cowboys: I actually was very disappointed with the Cowboys draft, because with twelve picks they were not able to acquire any players that I feel will have an immediate impact.
My Grade: D
—–New York Giants: The Giants got great value at every spot, and I feel that Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden have the potential to be a great duo. William Beatty is also a future starter along with Linebacker Clint Sintim. Also, Rhett Bomar has a ton of potential.
My Grade: A-
—–Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin was a great pick in the first, and LeSean McCoy will eventually replace Brian Westbrook.
My Grade: B+
—–Washington Redskins: I love the Brian Orakpo pick, and I feel he may end up being one of the best players from this draft. However, the Redskins were unable to add anyone else significant in the draft.
My Grade: C
—–Chicago Bears: The Bears had no picks in the first two rounds because of the Jay Cutler trade, but they now have a franchise quarterback.
My Grade: B+
—–Detroit Lions: The Lions did great in the first round, but there were bigger needs then safety in the second. Especially when players like Laurinitius were still on the board.
My Grade: B
—–Green Bay Packers: The Packers found the perfect man to play the nose in their new 3-4 defense in B.J. Raji. Clay Matthews also will start immediately.
My Grade: A-
—–Minnesota Vikings: Drafting Percy Harvin after all his recent incident poses its problems, but his talent is undeniable.
My Grade: B-
—–Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons focused exclusively on defense and came away will much needed depth along with run stopper Peria Jerry, who will be certainly be needed in that division.
My Grade: B-
—–Carolina Panthers: Everette Brown is a good player, but you don’t trade future first round picks for second round players. Especially on a team that had others needs including Tight End, Offensive Line and Corner. Duke Robinson and Michael Goodson were two very good value picks later in the draft.
My Grade: C-
—–New Orleans Saints: With only four picks in the draft, the Saints were able to still fill needs at both corner and safety.
My Grade: C
—–Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I feel the Bucs reached a lot with the selection of Freeman, especially with no other team in the first round needing a quarterback. They should have traded down into the twenties to get more picks.
My Grade: D+
—–Arizona Cardinals: We all better get used to it, the Cardinals might be here for good. The selection of Beanie Wells gives the Cardinals a running game to go with that potent passing game.
My Grade: B+
—–St. Louis Rams: The Rams filled needs at left tackle and linebacker with players that will start right away. They probably needed to address wide receiver earlier then the fifth round.
My Grade: B
—–San Francisco 49ers: There is one name that describes this draft…Michael Crabtree. He is still the most talented player in this draft, because you can’t argue with production. The rest of their draft was mostly lacking.
My Grade: C
—–Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks turned my draft board on its head by passing on Mark Sanchez, but the Seahawks went with the solid linebacker and subsequently released veteran Leroy Hill. Max Unger will also come in and start right away.
My Grade: B

Contact Information:
Tom Waterman
WSOE Sports
swaterman@elon.edu

Advertisements

NBA: Great Start to the Playoffs

Russell Varner, WSOE Sports

Let me start off this week’s article by saying how great it is to have the NBA playoffs back, how much I missed it and how I’m still upset my Charlotte Bobcats didn’t make the playoffs this year. So close, and yet so far. Oh well, mark my words as you read this: if they can keep the core of their team together, they will be in the playoffs next year. And with a decent seed too…of course by decent I mean a 6 seed, but hey that would still be great.

Speaking of the playoffs, remember last year when barely any road teams won games? Even the powerful, can’t-be-stopped Celtics, who couldn’t beat a lowly, how-the-hell-did-they-even-make-the-playoffs Atlanta Hawks at their place. Or even win a road game until the Eastern Conference finals if my memory serves me correctly. All of the sudden, this year, the theme seems to be the exact opposite. Even though it is real early, road teams have won a surprising amount of games early on. The Mavs were able to take one from the Spurs, the Rockets at the Blazers, the Sixers somehow coming back against the Magic, and the Bulls beating the Celtics for the first time ever in the playoffs and nearly beating them again last night. What happened to defending your home court? This is what you fought all year for, in order to gain home court advantage in the playoffs. And surprisingly, teams aren’t defending it well lately. Why is that? Why the huge change from last year? And even more important, will it matter?

All the experts are calling for a Lakers-Cavs final, and right now it’s hard to see another outcome. Both teams are playing so well right now and no other team seems to be on the same level as these teams…or Kobe and LeBron, both of whom are playing on a completely different level than everyone else in the NBA, with the exception of Dwayne Wade. You know what, if we are doomed to see a Lakers-Cavs final, I’m perfectly fine with that, because it is the best final that the NBA and we as fans could ask for. The two best teams, the two best players in the game, two of the better coaches in the game today, it is exactly what we as fans want to see in the finals. So I say bring it on Lakers-Cavs championship matchup. I eagerly await Game 1 of your series.

Listen to Russell Varner and the Sports Time every Tuesday from 4:10-6:00pm.

Contact Information:
Russell Varner
WSOE Sports
rvarner@elon.edu

NFL: Final Mock Draft

By Tom Waterman, WSOE Sports

1. Detroit Lions: QB Matt Stafford, Georgia
– I believe it is pretty much set in stone that the Lions will take the big armed junior out of Georgia. He is not the number one talent in this draft; however this is a situation where a need had to be addressed.
Also look for: OT Jason Smith
2. St. Louis Rams: OT Jason Smith, Baylor
– Smith would fill the giant hole in the left side of the line left by the departure of Orlando Pace. Smith, who isn’t as experienced or as polished as a few of the other tackle prospects in the draft, is one of the players with the most upside and potential in this draft.
Also look for: WR Michael Crabtree, OT Eugene Monroe
3. Kansas City Chiefs: ILB/OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
– Curry could quite possibly be the most talented player in this draft is a coaches’ dream with his ability to play both inside and outside. There have been questions about his pass rushing ability, but most scouts dismiss that because he wasn’t asked to that in college. He is one of the safer picks in the draft.
Also look for: OLB Brian Orakpo, DT B.J. Raji
4. Seattle Seahawks: QB Matt Sanchez, USC
– I feel that Seattle saw the writing on the wall with Matt Hasselback last season and realized that this is their best chance to find an eventual replacement for him. Sanchez, a West Coast kid and a one year starter at USC, has a ton of upside and is highly coveted by many teams including the 49ers, Broncos, Jets and Buccaneers.
Also look for: WR Michael Crabtree, OT Eugene Monroe, and a trade
5. Cleveland Browns: WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
– I believe the Browns make this pick because they have every intention of trading Braylon Edwards either on or before draft day, in order to obtain more draft picks.
Also look for: OLB Brian Orakpo, DT B.J. Raji
6. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
– The Bengals know that in order to win football games they must keep Carson Palmer healthy and up on his feet. That is why I have them selecting the big offensive tackle out of UVA.
Also look for: OLB Brian Orakpo, OT Andre Smith
7. Oakland Raiders: WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
– We all know how Al Davis loves speed, and Maclin sure has plenty of that. He will immediately step in and be a threat returning punts and kicks, along with seeing some action at wide receiver for the Raiders.
Also look for: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and OT Andre Smith
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Brian Orakpo, Texas
– I really like the skill set of the Nagurski winner, and his ability to disrupt both the run and the pass. He would also certainly be the best player available at pick number 8.
Also look for: A trade if Sanchez is still on the board, B.J. Raji
9. Green Bay Packers: DE/OLB Brian Cushing, USC
– The Packers are a team desperately looking for Pass Rushers, and there aren’t many that fit the bill better then Cushing. The hard-nose linebacker from USC has experience both playing in space and with his hand on the ground, because he played Defensive End his first two years in college.
Also look for: DE Aaron Maybin, DE Tyson Jackson
10. San Francisco 49ers: DT B.J. Raji, Boston College
– Mike Singeltary would love to have this monstrous body plugging the middle of his defense in order to further allow Linebacker Patrick Willis be free to make plays all over the field.
Also look for: DE Aaron Maybin
11. Buffalo Bills: DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
– The Bills draft the sure thing in Jackson, rather then the undersized Aaron Maybin because Coach Dick Jauron knows that he has to win now to save his job.
Also look for: DE Robert Ayers
12. Denver Broncos: DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee
– The Broncos are going to find themselves in the situation that unless they trade up, all their targets may be gone. I see a very high probability that either this or pick 18 will be traded on draft day. Just a hunch.
Also look for: a trade, LB Rey Maualuga
13. Washington Redskins: OT Andre Smith, Alabama
– The Redskins need some help along the offensive line, and Smith who was originally though to be a top 5 pick, will fit perfectly. The skins could also go Defensive End with this pick.
Also look for: DE Everette Brown
14. New Orleans Saints: RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, Ohio State
– With the departure of Deuce McAllister, the Saints find themselves in the situation of needing another running back. Ironic for a team that has drafted running backs in the first round three times in the last nine years. What’s one more?
Also look for: DE Aaron Maybin, CB Malcolm Jenkins
15. Houston Texans: OLB Clay Matthews, USC
– The fast rising Matthews would fit perfectly with the defense that is slowly filling with talent. Also, Matthews’s uncle Bruce is a coach in Houston.
Also look for: DE Everette Brown
16. San Diego Chargers: LB Rey Maualuga USC
– Maualuga would be a great fit in this Charger’s defense that will also be getting back Shaun Merriman next year.
Also look for: RB Knowshon Moreno
17. New York Jets: WR Darrius Heyward Bey, Maryland
– With the departure of Lavernaues Coles, the Jets have a big need for another receiver to pair with Jericho Cotchery.
Also look for: QB Josh Freeman, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Kenny Britt
18. Denver Broncos: DT Peria Jerry, Ole Miss
– I still feel this pick will be traded, either as a part of a package to move up to get into the top 10, or as spot used to move down to get more picks. If the Broncos keep this pick, I see them solidifying their defensive line by choosing Peria Jerry.
Also look for: DE Everette Brown, a trade, OT Michael Oher
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State
– People have been predicting this one for a while now, and they are right. Good fit.
Also look for: DE Aaron Maybin, DE Everette Brown
20. Detroit Lions: OT Michael Oher, Ole MIss
– The Lions Re able to grab a solid tackle with their second pick in the first round. Oher is a solid player, that will be protecting Matthew Stafford’s blindside for years to come.
Also look for: DE Aaron Maybin
21. Philadelphia Eagles: TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
– The Eagles decide to fill in their hole at Tight End by drafting a very good player in Pettigrew.
Also look for: Knowshon Moreno, OT Eben Britton
22. Minnesota Vikings: WR Percy Harvin, Florida
– Harvin could quite possibly turn out to be the star of this draft. Strong, fast, compact, he will immediately become a threat both on special teams and in the slot.
Also look for: WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Aaron Maybin
23. New England Patriots: DE Everette Brown, FSU
– Very versatile player that loves to rush the passer.
Also look for: RB Knowshon Moreno, CB Michael Jenkins
24. Atlanta Falcons: DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State
– No one will question Maybin’s extreme athletic ability; however it’s his rail thin frame that will scare of many teams.
Also look for: DE Larry English, DT Ziggy Hood
25. Miami Dolphins: CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
– With the departure of Andre Goodman, there is a need at defensive back and Jenkins would be a good fit in this system.
Also look for: WR Hakeem Nicks, CB Vontae Davis
26. Baltimore Ravens: DE/OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois
– The best player available at the spot, that’s Ozzie Newsome’s strategy.
Also look for: WR Hakeem Nicks, OT Eben Britton
27. Indianapolis Colts: DT Ziggy Hood, Missouri
– Ziggy Hood will go along way in plugging up a front line that Darren Sproles ran through in the playoffs.
Also look for: WR Brian Robiske
28. Buffalo Bills: OT Eben Britton, Arizona
– The Bills acquired their second first round pick by trading away tackle Jason Peters, and the turn around and use this pick to get younger at that same position.
Also look for: RB Knowhon Moreno
29. New York Giants: WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
– This pick could be changing if the Giants acquire Braylon Edwards, but Wide Receiver is a big need.
Also look for: a trade, LB James Laurinaitis, WR Kenny Britt, RB Knowshon Moreno
30. Tennessee Titans: CB Darius Butler, UCONN
– Butler has really emerged, and is considered by some to be the top corner available.
Also look for: CB Vontae Davis, OG/C Max Unger
31. Arizona Cardinals: RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
– One of those rare instances where the best player available also fills a need.
Also look for: WR Kenny Britt
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
-Another instance of best player available.

Listen to Tom Waterman and the Smacktalk Sports crew every Sunday from 4:00-5:00pm.

Contact Information:
Tom Waterman
WSOE Sports
swaterman@elon.edu

NFL: The Madden Curse

By Tom Waterman, WSOE Sports

Forger the curse of the Bambino, with the announcement of which player will be gracing the newest edition of Madden NFL 2010 coming up in two weeks, the annual discussion of the “Madden Curse” is once again a hot topic of debate. Beginning in the year 2001, NFL players have appeared on the Madden Cover as way of marketing the game and putting a breakout NFL star on the cover. This practice began in 2001, when Eddie George was put on the cover. This is when the curse began. In the 10 years that have followed each cover athlete has fallen victim to the “Madden Curse,” and subsequently suffered a season-ending injury or had a terrible year.

The Victims:

Eddie George (Madden 2001): 939 yards, 3.0 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns. George was out of the NFL three years later.

Daunte Culpepper (Madden 2002): 14 Touchdowns and 13 Interceptions, Only played in 11 games that season and was forced to deal with other problems such as the “Randy Ratio”, Three torn knee ligaments and the subsequent rehab, and of course having to play for the Raiders and the Lions. Ugh!

Marshall Faulk (Madden 2003): 212 carries and 953 yards and 8 touchdowns. Played in 14 games that season, and was out of the NFL four years later.

Michael Vick (Madden 2004): 4 Touchdowns and 3 Interceptions. Broke his ankle in the preseason and only played in 5 games that season. He also was out of football four years later, and is currently in person for his role in dog fighting case. Vick will seek reinstatement into the NFL this summer.

Ray Lewis (Madden 2005): The curse didn’t really affect him, but he did fail to record an interception after having six the previous season. He recorded 147 tackles in 15 games that year. Lewis has continued to add to his credentials to what will certainly be a hall of fame career.

Donovan McNabb (Madden 2006): McNabb suffered from the infamous “sports hernia”, and ended up having season-ending surgery. His team went 6-10, one year removed form being in the Super Bowl. What was worse, having to deal with the sports hernia? or having to deal with Terrell Owens?

Shaun Alexander (Madden 2007): He scored the cover after setting the single season touchdown record the year before and for rushing for more then 1,800 yards. Alexander broke his foot in the following season after being on the cover and missed six games and failed to reach 1,000 yards. He is also now out of the NFL.

Vince Young (Madden 2008): Vince Young accumulated 9 Touchdowns and 17 interceptions after being on the cover for Madden 2008. The season after that Young lost his starting job and is currently behind fellow Titan Quarterback Kerry Collins on the depth chart.

Brett Favre (Madden 2009): Favre was retired when he was announced as the cover athlete for Madden 2009, but being on the cover in the uniform for a team you no longer play for can’t be a good sign. Favre ended the season with 22 Touchdowns and 22 Interceptions, and without a playoff appearance. He is now retired for good. We think.

So for whoever is lucky enough to grace the cover of Madden 2010, whether it is Larry Fitzgerald, Troy Polamalu, Brandon Jacobs, Drew Brees, or Ben Roethlisberger or whomever, just be sure not to draft them on your fantasy football team next year. I’m just kidding, But Seriously! The Madden Curse just never misses.

Tom Waterman
WSOE Sports
swaterman@elon.edu

MLB: NL Predictions

By Andy Harris, WSOE Sports

Hey guys! I’m back! I probably should name this column, but for now we’ll call it “Baseball Talk with John Kruk,” because his insight is invaluable. Last week I looked at the AL and made my predictions. This week I’ll move over to the Senior Circuit…That’s the NL.

Let’s start out with the NL West, perhaps the worst overall division in baseball.

5th Place, and still defending losers, San Diego Padres! It’s crazy to think that this time a year ago, the Fathers were considered a very strong candidate for a playoff spot. I don’t know how I or anyone else managed to overlook their glaring holes (read: 4/5 of their 25-man roster). About the only reason to keep tabs on the Pads this year is to see where Jake Peavy gets traded in July.

4th Place, Colorado Rockies. Sticking with the theme established by the Padres, it’s crazy to think that one year ago, the Rockies were defending NL Champions. Rocktober, everyone! It turns out that this was just an average team that got hot. Who knew? The Rockies still can’t pitch and they traded away their best player Matt Holliday for garbage. They won’t even sniff ROctober this year.

3rd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks. With Arizona, it’s all about patience. They have one of the youngest rosters in the game, and it seems like we’ve been waiting for a decade for their young stars to emerge. (If you’re in a Fantasy baseball keeper league, pick up Justin Upton and latch on. Dude’s gonna be insane in 3 years). If Stephen Drew, Upton, and Conor Jackson fulfill their potential this year, the snakes will have a lineup to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, I just don’t quite think that this is the year…again. They lost the Big Unit and replaced him with Jon Garland. The offense doesn’t make enough contact or get on base enough to really be the force it may become a few years from now. They’ll contend but come up short.

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants. What do you know, a team that will rarely score more than 3 runs a game will hover around .500. Such is that state of the NL West. They actually have a really good starting rotation, probably the best in the division. Tim Lincecum is downright nasty, they added still ticking (how?) Randy Johnson, and I really think Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez take the next step. If they could hit at all I’d be far more optimistic about this team.

1st Place, and still champion, Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim. Sorry about that, I got my L.A. teams confused again. The rotation takes a step back by losing Derek Lowe, but the lineup takes a huge step forward with full years from Manny and Rafael Furcal. For the first time in seemingly ever, L.A. will boast a very good offense. With their slightly above average pitching that will be more than enough to run away in the awful West.

Now on to the NL Central, probably the only division in the game with a clear-cut preseason favorite.

6th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates. The Buccaneers could potentially boast a good lineup…If Nate Mclouth and Ryan Doumit repeat, if Freddy Sanchez bounces back, if Andy Laroche and Andrew McCutchen come close to their ceiling, and if Adam Laroche figures out that hitting in April is no different than hitting in September. But…that won’t happen, and they’ll be a laughing stock for a 17th straight year. Keep your eyes on Pedro Alvarez, because he’ll be anchoring the Pirates lineup in 2 years. Maybe they’ll be good then.

5th Place, Houston Astros. It has to be so depressing to be an Astros fan. Every year they put just enough front-line talent on the field to get one’s hopes up, but inevitably fail because they have no supporting cast. They have a strong but aging core with not enough depth to make any headway. With a limited payroll, Ed Wade as a GM, and no talent whatsoever waiting in the minors, you’re looking at the worst franchise in the sport.

4th Place, Saint Louis Cardinals. Envision this team without Albert Pujols. Do you see a playoff contender now? Neither do I. This is a double-A team without Pooh. If Chris Carpenter can bounce back and give them 150 innings, they’ll have a shot, but I’m not sure that I see enough on that roster to be optimistic.

3rd place, Milwaukee Brewers. Despite their offensive weapons, the Brew Crew were only 7th in the NL in runs scored. The girl that took them to the dance was their starting pitching, but now the Brewers need to find a new girl because she had shoulder surgery and is dating a handsome young New York gent. (CC Sabathia signed with New York and Ben Sheets had should surge- you know what? Forget it.) Seriously, this team barely made the playoffs last year WITH CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, and now they lose them both. They’ll be fun to watch with all that power, but they’re no more than a Wild Card dark horse.

2nd Place, Cincinnati Reds. I swear I’ve heard more comparisons between the Reds and 2008 Rays than legitimate baseball analysis this offseason. Sure, I’ll give you that both teams are anchored by young and talented pitching staffs and a few young stars on offense, but I think the John Kruks of the world are forgetting something: The Rays were way better. They pitched better. They hit better. Most of all, they defended better. The Reds have an above .500 club, and a solid core to build around. If they act wisely they can reach the playoffs sometime in the next 3 years, but not in 2009.

1st Place, and still defending Champions, Chicago Cubs! This team should coast through the Central, but I’m not sure that this team is as good as everyone thinks. That rotation is a lot shakier than it appears. Ace(?) Ryan Dempster had a career year, never even touching those numbers whilst in the pen, and my money says he doesn’t repeat. Carlos Zambrano is in free fall. Seriously, look at his stats over the last 4 years. He’s gone from an Ace to a number three with shoulder issues. That September no-hitter against Houston masked just how ineffective he was last year. Rich Harden can be amazing, but he can also spend 5 months on the DL. Ted Lilly’s the only sure thing and he’s only good for a 4.00 ERA. Again, they’ll make the playoffs easy because no one else in the central is playoff-caliber, but I think the North Siders’ title drought reaches 101 years. Unless they trade for Jake Peavy mid season…

And now on to the best division in the NL, the East. In it holds the defending champs, a perennial favorite, a young and potent force, and a fallen dynasty looking for reprisal.

5th Place, Montreal Expos Washington Nationals. I said earlier it’s got to be depressing to by a Houston fan, because they’re mediocre now and will be far worse in the foreseeable future. It must be twice as bad to be a Nationals fan. They’re awful now AND for the foreseeable future. Their GM just got fired. Their top prospect turned out to be 18 years older than originally thought. Their Opening Day starter is John Lannan. I’ll stop now, because I don’t want any of my dear readers to have to get a prescription for Prozac.

4th Place, Miami Florida Marlins. I love this team’s upside. What I don’t like is their downside. They could and probably will have the best starting pitching in the division, and easily the most underrated. Fantasy owners: get Josh Johnson on your roster now. The defense still sucks and the offense got slightly worse (you can’t call replacing Mike Jacobs with Emilio Bonifacio a good move, defense or not), but with the starting pitching that they didn’t have last year they should finish above .500, but no better than 4th in this rugged division.

3rd Place, Atlanta Braves. They were better last year than they showed, and they got better this year then they were last year. They lost a ridiculous number of one run games, (30!) in which they’ll improve. Their starting pitching, obliterated by injuries and ineffectiveness last year, has been revamped. It lacks an ace, but it’s includes 5 good pitchers that will win more than they lose. On top of that, Tim Hudson should be back my August and prospect Tommy Hanson is ready to come up and dominate. Kenshin Kawakami, straight out of Dragon Ball Z, is the wild card, but here’s my prediction for him: In his first 5-6 starts, he’s lights out. Once teams start seeing him for the 2nd time, he gets knocked around. Then he adjusts and turns into an effective but now dominant starter. This rotation has the potential to be elite in the NL. The offense is still lacking, especially minus Mark Teixeira, but I’m seriously predicting a rebound from Jeff Francoeur. Stupid, I know. With they’re pitching they’ll score enough to win 89 games, and barely miss out on the Wild Card.

2nd Place, New York Mets. With the additions of K-rod and JJ Putz, the Mets have once again springboarded the Phillies and are now the best team in the NL East. The problem? That’s just the consensus, not the facts. The Mets are good but not great. Rather than truly revamping their Achilles heel, they put a band-aid on it. Do K-rod and Putz improve the pen? Yes. But will they pitch the 6th and 7th on days when John Maine or Ollie or Pelfrey or Livan get roughed up early? No. Beyond that, their starting pitching is far weaker than it appears. Maine is a huge question mark, as he hopes to return from shoulder surgery. Oliver Perez can strike out the side or give up 10 runs, and will fluctuate from start to start all season long. Mike Pelfrey, who many tab as a breakout star this year, will regress. I don’t have time to break it down, but his peripherals and workload point toward some regression. Speaking of such, does anyone really think Carlos Delgado has a 38 home run season left? The Mets had better hope so. In short, the offense won’t be as good, the starting pitching won’t be as good, and the bullpen won’t be as good as everyone thinks. But that’s a New York team for you.

1st Place, Philadelphia Phillies. This team hinges on Cole Hamels’ elbow. If it’s healthy and he makes even just 25 starts, they win the division. If not, it won’t be so easy. What I like about this team is that unlike most World Series winners, they really didn’t have many career years on their roster. Sure, Jamie Moyer and Chad Durbin won’t be as good and Lidge will blow a save, but the rest of their roster didn’t perform up to expectations. Chase Utley was on MVP pace until he injured his hip in June, which sapped his power and average. Ryan Howard lost his swing for 3 months. Jimmy Rollins battled an ankle injury for 4 months and wasn’t his typical sparkplug self. Brett Myers had his worst season ever. They had 50 starts from Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton, both who had ERAs over 5, and replaced them with Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ. I like the addition of Ibanez over Burrell, assuming Charlie Manuel bats lefty-killer Jayson Werth 5th and Raul Ibanez 6th. He brings consistency to a hit-or-miss lineup. Even if Moyer and Durbin regress, this team should be even better in 2009 than in 2008.

Stat of the Day: This is a new segment, but since the whole damn column is two weeks old, everything’s new. I may use some advanced statistics while discussing players, I wanted to keep you guys educated on these stats, and how to use them. I’ll start off with the easy ones. For today, let’s talk OBP, or On-Base Percentage. The skill of getting on base is far more important in baseball than it is given credit for. Why? Because most people assume that the goal of a plate appearance is to get a hit. In reality, the goal is to not make an out, or in other words get on base. A player who hits .220 but gets on base at a .380 will score more run than a player who his .300 with a .310 OBP (external variables aside). It is my firm belief that OBP should sit alongside Avg.-HR-RBI on player graphics for television broadcasts. Getting on base is a greatly underappreciated skill, one far more important than batting average.

Contact Information:
Andy Harris
WSOE Sports
aharris20@elon.edu

MLB: Watch out for those… Giants?

By Andy Sadler, WSOE Sports

Mark it down. Your surprise team of the 2009 season will be the San Francisco Giants. To quote Vicki from the Waterboy: “Guess? That ain’t no guess! That’s what it’s gonna be!”

Lets be honest, there’s not a whole lot of competition out there in the West. The popular preseason champ of their division is the Dodgers. We’ll get back to them.

The Padres will struggle to win 60 games this year. Count them out. The Rockies will score some runs, but without Matt Holliday, it won’t be enough to make up for the runs they’ll give up. The Diamondbacks have a wealth of young talent and will be a force to reckon with for the next ten years. But they have no starters born before 1980, and their biggest veteran presence off the bench (Eric Byrnes) hit .209 last year. Their rotation looks to be solid, but unless Brandon Webb can be the ace he’s expected to be (and not the goat he was in his first start), this team won’t contend.

So back to those Dodgers. They can hit. No doubt about that. I’d give them the best lineup in the National League (yes, better than those Mets and Phils). Here’s a look at their opening day lineup:

Rafael Furcal
Orlando Hudson
Manny Ramirez
Andre Ethier
Russell Martin
James Loney
Matt Kemp
Casey Blake
Hiroki Kuroda

Yikes. Matt Kemp hitting 7th? That lineup frightens me. They’ll be good. But the team has no ace. They lost Derek Lowe to the Braves. Hiroki Kuroda is a solid option, and can be exceptional at times. And Clayton Kershaw has all the potential in the world, and may show it this year. But Chad Billingsley, Randy Wolf, and James McDonald are three very underwhelming starting pitchers. Thus, the Giants have an opening.

I think we can agree that the Giants have the best rotation in the division. Tim Lincecum just won his first Cy Young (and I doubt his last). Matt Cain was coveted by several teams this offseason, but the Giants wouldn’t budge. Randy Johnson had a 3.41 ERA after the All-Star break last year, with almost a strikeout per inning. Barry Zito… well never mind. But who knows, the guy clearly had talent. And then Jonathan Sanchez or Noah Lowry to round out the rotation. Those guys would both probably be #3 in L.A.

Remember the name Pablo Sandoval. It will be hard to forget pretty soon. He hit .457 this Spring Training, and has the power to hit up to 20 home runs. He’ll start at third. He’ll be sharing a side of the infield with the mysterious Edgar Renteria, who has always been a National League player (just look at the numbers). Renteria is good for .300 and 10-15 home runs. First baseman Travis Ishikawa showed some pop in Spring Training with seven dingers. Bengie Molina will a top five hitting catcher in the National League. And speed is abundant in a lineup with Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, and Emmanuel Burriss. While the lineup may not scare you like the bats in L.A., it’s very similar to that of the Minnesota Twins (minus a Justin Morneau in the middle). Don’t be surprised when pitching leads the recently woeful Giants back to the playoffs.

Listen to Andy and the Sports Time crew every Tuesday from 4:10-6:00 p.m.

Contact Information:
Andy Sadler
WSOE Sports
asadler@elon.edu

NBA: Battle of the Intros

By Russell Varner, WSOE Sports

You wanna know one of the reasons I still love the NBA? Because you still have characters like Shaq and LeBron James who do things like hilarious commercials and planned introductions? (Shaqtus and Shaqtastic should now be allowed in all Scramble games I say.) Oh yea, they make some plays on the court too.

I mean, have you seen some of the stuff they have been doing lately? It’s classic, funny and something all the fans look forward to. So, and you know someone was gonna ask this sooner or later, who has the better intro?

We’ll start with the man with a thousand self-given nicknames (breaking an unwritten rule there, but that’s another story), Shaquille O’Neal. He was the one who originally sent out a challenge to LeBron to see who has the better introduction and he has had some classics. First, there was the ‘Superman,’ where he is carried by many of his teammates as he flies like Superman. I think this is the most difficult of the intros, since the teammates actually have to hold up Shaq. And that’s pretty damn impressive. Major points for that. Introduction number two: bowling with teammates. Man, I love this one. The wobbly pin really makes this one as good as it is. Props for that.

Now let’s move onto King James. He has had the photo intro for a little while now and yet he and his teammates are still finding new variations to add onto it. I mean, how can you not love it? You got Delonte West jumping into his teammates’ arms and everyone acting like little kids. And this is on a nightly basis. You know I’ve got to reward him with some nice points for that, much like Tony Reali on Around the Horn (on a side note, I have now accomplished a side life goal of being Stat Boy from PTI for a day. Woo hoo). And then there is the Christmas Day game, when he gets the crowd involved in his chalk clap. Watch the video and tell me that is not one of the sickest things you have ever seen. That is just ridiculous. Hence, more points for LeBron and he wins. Sorry Shaq, gotta go with the young gun here. Hey, at least you’ll make the playoffs so you can….oh wait, never mind. Y’all forgot how to defend against the Mavs. Well, it’ll be weird to have a postseason with out you, Shaq. Maybe ESPN can open up an analyst spot for you, since they do for everyone else.

To see videos of the aforementioned intros, [click here].

Listen to Russell Varner and the Sports Time crew every Tuesday from 4:10-6:00 p.m.

Contact Information:
Russell Varner
WSOE Sports
rvarner@elon.edu

NFL: From Super Bowl Hero to Super Chump…The Story of Plaxico Burress

By Tom Waterman, WSOE Sports

As a Giants fan, one of the most memorable moments as a fan was watching Plaxico Burress haul in the game winning score to beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. It was David beating Goliath. But little did we know that a little more then a year later that Plaxico Burress would be facing possible prison time in connection with a severe gun possession charge after shooting himself in a nightclub, and no longer be a New York Giant.

I’m not going to get into details regarding his case or recent actions, including five traffic stops in the last month with the most recent involving a heated argument with a deputy sheriff, but it became clearly obvious that winning games and playing football were not his top priorities anymore. However, I believe the Giants are now a better team without him. I would not have said this two months ago after watching the Giants crumble at the end of the year due to a one dimensional offense that lacked a big play threat. However, the Giants can finally move on! There won’t be anymore of his skipping workouts, not practicing, or showing up late for team meetings.

With 10 picks in the draft the Giants have ample opportunity to fill their only hole on a team that posses a stable full of running backs, a very underrated offensive line, and simply the best defensive line in football. Giants fans remember this name…Hakeem Nicks, if all goes well hopefully will be seeing this young wide receiver playing for Big Blue next year.

It might take the Giants some time to escape all the Plaxico Burress drama, especially with his next court appearance in just over two months. But the Giants can now finally move on, because the players they do have know that the name on the front of the jersey is always more important then the name on the back.

Listen to Tom Waterman and the Smacktalk Sports crew every Sunday from 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Contact Information:
Tom Waterman
WSOE Sports
swaterman@elon.edu

Listen to Our Interview with Coach Matt Matheny

On Tuesday, March 31, Elon’s Men’s Basketball Head Coach Matt Matheny spoke on Sports Time.

The show’s host Craig Filazzola and panelist David Aneser asked Coach Matheny questions.

Check out the sound clips!

Message to Elon Fans:

Atmosphere at The Nest:

His Elon Experience So Far:

Elon Campus:

His First College Coffee:

His First Press Conference:

Main Goal:

12-Month Mission:

Attacking Style of Play:

Recruiting for Next Year:

His Experience in Last Year’s NCAA Tournament:

Facing Davidson:

Contact Information:
Craig Filazzola
WSOE Sports
cfilazzola@elon.edu

MLB: AL Projections

By Andy Harris

Alright, I’m going to try to make this intro short and sweet, because I know you didn’t come here to learn about me. My name is Andy Harris. All you really need to know is that I love baseball, and I’m an avid Phillies phan (and have been long before October 2008). I’m pretty good at keeping my bias in check since I’m naturally pessimistic, so I hope it’s not an issue. I’m not exactly sure what my goal is for my slice of this blog. Obviously I‘ll be discussing baseball, but I’m still deciding what format to use. Part of me wants to make it a week-by-week power rankings, while another part wants to provide some more in-depth analysis. I guess I’ll figure it out while I go along. You can read my posts every Thursday, so make sure you check this blog every week.

For this week’s post, I’m going to go division by division and break down every team’s outlook for the upcoming season. A lot of this will involve my own personal predictions, so feel free to argue with me. I really enjoy a good baseball debate.

Let’s Start with the American League East. Easily baseball’s best division, you could make a strong case that any one of their top 3 teams are the best in baseball. The division is home to many strong pitching staffs and some stacked lineups, and no matter the outcome I think it’s going to be a thrilling race all year long. Here’s how I think the standings will look at the end of the year:

-5th place: Baltimore Orioles. In 3 years this team will be a lot of fun to watch. Then, their offense will be anchored by seasoned versions of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, crazy-hyped prospect Matt Wieters, as well as veteran Brian Roberts, and some of the good arms in their farm system are likely to have panned out. But until they can get some pitching, they’re destined to be cellar dwellers in the AL East.

-4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays. Man, it really must be depressing to be a Jay’s fan. Every year they field a team that’s good enough to get their fans optimistic in the spring, and every year they’re buried by the Sawx and Yanks (and now the Rays.) However, I really don’t see any reason to be optimistic about the Jays right now. They had the best starting pitching in the bigs last year, but that’s no longer the case. They lost A.J. Burnett to the Yankees, Shaun Marcum to Tommy John surgery, and Dustin McGowan is going to miss significant time as well. Factor in that they still don’t have an offense AND that Vernon Wells is hurt, not to mention that Roy Halladay won’t match his numbers of his career-year 2008, and it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be able to keep up in this division.

-3rd Place: New York Yankees. Alright guys, I’m going to go on a little rant here, and I apologize. You know what irks me more than anything? Overrated teams. Why is it that a team with glaring weaknesses and major question marks is the preseason consensus to win the World Series? Seriously? Look, I know this team has some great players. But honestly, the Yanks have declining talent and zero depth at almost every other position. It’s a collection of has-beens, never-beens, and DL stints. You really think a team anchored by A-rod’s right hip, CC Sabathia’s gut, and Jorge Posada’s ghost is going to the playoffs? I just hope you didn’t put any money on it. End of rant, here’s why they won’t make it:
-Age. Look at their roster and count how many guys on the wrong side of 30 they have. Now do the same for Tampa. Staggering, isn’t it? ESPN’s vaunted experts are saying that with a healthy Posada, Matsui, and Damon, they could have an offense for the ages. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what they could do, because you can’t expect guys closing in on 40, two coming off surgery, to stay healthy. It wasn’t bad luck that they were saddled with injuries last year. It’s what you should expect. They’re old, injury prone, and in decline.
-Weak starting pitching. I have absolutely no idea where the perception that this rotation will be dominant is coming from. They have a stud in Sabathia, but his shoulder is a ticking time bomb after pitching roughly 4,328 innings in the last 2 years. Burnett had a career year last year, which illustrates how overrated he is because his ERA was above 4. Oh, and he’s pitched 200 or more innings only thrice in 10 major leagues seasons. Chien Ming Wang gets points for his name, but he’s just a glorified middle of the rotation guy who gets passed off as an ace. Chamberlain has unbelievable talent, but his health and inexperience is a question mark. And then there’s Andy Pettite, who’s regressed to the point of being a competent number five starter and nothing more. So this is the rotation that’s supposed to carry them through the World Series?
-Alex Rodriguez. I’ll refrain from calling him A-Roid because he was just “naïve,” but it’s tough to win when your best player misses two months and isn’t a hundred percent all year.

2nd Place: Boston Red Sox. The Sawx offense is going to lack the punch it normally has, with a declining Big Papi and the loss of Manny. Still, they’ll score enough runs to win 97 games with the pitching they have. They boast one of the strongest rotations one through five in the game today, and they have an insane amount of depth. Honestly, injuries aren’t going to be a factor in this staff. If John Lester goes down, you can replace him with Clay Buckholz (1 career no hitter), John Smoltz (who could be the steal of the winter if he comes back to pre-injury levels), or Justin Masterson (can’t miss prospect). Oh, and their bullpen is filthy and as deep as the starting rotation.

1st Place: Tampa Bay Rays. Some people are viewing Tampa as a fluke because they were awful for a decade, but I really can’t see why. They didn’t merely catch fire in September and ride it through October like the Rockies in 2007, and they weren’t made up of guys who simply all had career years. They have a very young but immensely talented roster, and their young stars were finally incubated enough to hatch. Honestly, I expect them to be even better this year than last. It’s fair to say that their offense underachieved in 2008, and although they overcame that, they should score another hundred or so runs in 2009. BJ Upton battled a bad shoulder all year, limiting him to just 9 home runs after hitting 24 in 2007 (and the potential for far more.) He’ll open the year on the DL from surgery but he should come back at 100%. Carlos Pena missed a month, as did Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford battled injuries all year while posting the worst numbers of his career before finally hitting the DL in August. Assuming just 2 of these guys are better and healthier then their offense will be powerful. Oh, and they added Pat Burrell, who had an OPS of .874 last year with 33 home runs. I’m a little worried about their starting pitching. It’s as talented as anyone’s, with 3 guys posting an ERA+ of 120 or above (100 being average), but it has the potential to be decimated by injuries. Scott Kazmir is injury prone, and Matt Garza saw huge spikes in innings pitched last year, which always spells trouble. Assuming everyone stays healthy, it’s fair to argue that the staff could be even better. Some hotshot named David Price will be joining the rotation at some point this year, if not by opening day, which gives them four very good starters. How many teams can say that? Joe Maddon just has to hope he has to use the DL less this year.

On to the impossible to predict AL Central, where I can make a good case for all 5 teams. Seriously, it’s that wide open. I can see any one of these teams winning 87 games and I can see any team winning 70 games, and not one outcome would surprise me. What would surprise me is any team winning more or less than those totals. Here’s how I see it panning out, but keep in mind that this will likely change 47 times between when I write this and when you read it.

5th place, Chicago White Sox. Yup, the division’s defending champs are falling all the way to the bottom this year. This team was built around very strong starting pitching and the home run. The problem is, they won’t pitch or slug nearly as well this year. They already traded Javier Vazquez, and say what you want about his deficiencies, but he was always good for 200 innings and a 4.00 ERA. Gavin Floyd’s peripherals suggest some serious regression, and they’re relying on Jose Contreras as their fourth starter…On offense, they’re hoping 38 year old Jim Thome has another good year left, that old, injury prone, and that inconsistent Jermaine Dye doesn’t turn in a bad and/ or injury-riddled year, They need Carlos Quentin to come back from wrist surgery and prove that he wasn’t a fluke and for shortstop Alexei Ramirez to avoid a sophomore slump. This team just isn’t as good as it was last year, and is due for some serious regression.

4th Place, Kansas City Royals. Man, the Royals are finally getting some love! It feels like every sports website I go to I see articles that proclaim this could be the year that the Royals are this year’s Rays. It kind of seems like wishful thinking to me, but before I go and rain on your parade, I’ll tell you what I like about this team, or at least what the experts like. They have the best 1-2 punch atop their rotation in the division, with Zach Greinke and the unheralded Gil Meche. They have a lot of untapped potential in Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, and their defense has slightly improved as well. But now for what I don’t like. Behind Greinke and Meche they have no pitching starting pitching at all. Case and point: Horatio Ramirez and his career 4.59 ERA is the number 4 starter. Coco Crisp is batting leadoff. Jose Guillen is batting cleanup. Mike Aviles isn’t as good as he was last year. Mike Jacobs is their only power bat. Their team OBP last year was .320 (pitiful!) and they added out-makers in Jacobs and Crisp. And despite their potential, neither Alex Gordon or Billy Butler has broken out yet. Really, I can’t get excited about this team. They could be good, but at very best they win 85 games, and that’s assuming every player performs to their most optimistic predictions. I don’t think that happens, and as a result I don’t think they post a winning record. Sorry for the hate, Kansas fans. Go check out ESPN if you want to feel better, I’m sure they’ll have some optimistic things to say about your team.

3rd Place, Detroit Tigers. Remember a year ago, when the Tigers were the sexy World Series pick after trading for Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, and Edgar Renteria? And remember how their pitching disappeared and they won 74 games? They may only have a mediocre starting staff, but that will be far better than what they had last year. For one thing, they finally have an adequate defense with Miggy Cabrera moved to first, Adam Everett at short, and Brandon Inge at third. Trading for Edwin Jackson was a shrewd move, and the track records of Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman point to turnarounds. Even though Nate Robertson still sucks and Armando Galarraga will regress, this offense really only needs three above average starters to post a winning record.

2nd Place, Cleveland Indians. This team probably has more question marks than any team in the division, but also the most upside. There are a few reasons to feel good about this team. Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner are presumably healthy, and if both rebound to 2004-2006 levels they win the division going away. That’s a huge if, especially with Hafner, and I wouldn’t bank on a rebound from him. They know what they’re getting from Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark Derosa, but IF they have a healthy Martinez and Hafner, IF Shin-Soo Choo continues to develop, and IF backup catcher Kelly Shoppach continues to kill the ball, they’ll have a very good offense. IF. If they’re going to compete, they’re going to have to hit their way into contention, because this starting staff isn’t strong enough to carry them to October. They could have a respectable staff if (it’s becoming a theme) Cliff Lee can post numbers close to those of last year, if Fausto Carmona and Carl Pavano remember how to pitch after abysmal seasons, and if Anthony Reyes or Scott Lewis are merely not awful. So, to conclude, this team has the talent to win 90 games, but they need A LOT of things to go just right. If almost everything does, they’re division champs. But I don’t think everything does. There are just too many question marks, and I can’t imagine all of them turning out well. They’ll be painfully close to winning, though.

1st Place, Minnesota Twins. The Twins’ greatest strength is that they don’t have a weakness. They’re a solid but unspectacular team with no singular tremendous strength, but they don’t have a debilitating weakness like every other team in the Central does. Their offense is steady but not overpowering. Their starting pitching is led by an ace in Liriano and four young guys who won’t win or lose them many games. In fact, it’s that pitching stability that will get them into the postseason, because no other team in the Central can boast a reliable staff.

Ah, the AL West, which boasts three teams with good pitching staffs but no offense, one team with a great offense but no pitching, and a suspicious lack of a fifth team. Seriously if you like 1-0 games or 15-13 games, this is your division. The Angels dominated the West last year, but lost some key pieces while the A’s improved. The consensus pick is still the Los Angeles ANAHEIM Angels, but it should be a tight race regardless.

4th place, Texas Rangers. Seriously, this will be a really bad team. Fun to watch because every game will be a shootout, but bad. You just can’t win if you have awful pitching. With their powerful offense, they scored 901 runs (leading the league) and STILL lost 83 games. That’s how bad their pitching is. Nolan Ryan could go out there right now and be more effective than half of their guys. It’s a good thing they have a great farm system stocked with promising young arms, because otherwise there’d be no light at the end of the tunnel.

3rd Place, Seattle Mariners. Well, at least they won’t be atrocious this year. Their pitching should be better this year with a full healthy year from Erik Bedard, and who knows, maybe Carlos Silva will remember that he’s not throwing batting practice every five days. The staff will also be helped by a revamped outfield defense, which should be among the best in the game. (See, Endy Chavez does have some value!) Unfortunately they still can’t hit and the bullpen’s a mess, and I doubt their outfield gloves can carry them past the Angels, but, like I said to open this paragraph, at leas they won’t be atrocious again.

2nd place, Oakland Athletics. The A’s had the AL’s 5th best team ERA last year, but unfortunately they were dead last in runs. They have virtually the same staff returning, but finally found some offense. A great trade for Matt Holliday and a rare free agent signings of Jason Giambi and Orlando Cabrera have given this lineup some teeth, and coupled with Jack Cust they could form a fearsome middle of the order. Oh, and for the record, Giambi can still hit, even at age 58, posting the Al’s 13th highest OPS last year. Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be enough, because the Angels still outclass them, and if they get off to a slow start, Billy Beane won’t hesitate to trade away Holliday. Not to mention that Justin Duchschererererererer [sic], Oakland’s best starter, is injured a third of the time. But hey, the A’s are used to surprising people, right?

1st Place, and still defending champion, Anaheim Angels. Just a brief aside, I never refer to the Angels as the L.A. Angels. They play in Anaheim, not in L.A. End of story. A lot has been made about their offseason losses, but I’m not terribly worried about that. To say they lost Mark Teixeira is misleading because they only had him for two months. Losing K-rod doesn’t hurt because they replaced him with the equivalent Brian Fuentes (yes, K-rod is overrated. And yes, I know he saved 62 games.) Jon Garland is an innings eater, but they’re all awful innings, so losing him doesn’t hurt. Garret Anderson is bleh at this stage in his career anyway, so his departure was more of an emotional loss than an impactful one. Most of the offense they lost from Teixiera’s 2 months will be replaced by a full year of OBP machine Bobby Abreu, who they snagged for a tremendous value. What worries me more is that this team overachieved last year (they weren’t a 100-win team, they were more of an 88-win team but won a ton of 1-run games) and now Ervin Santana’s hurt. If he only misses a third of the season they’ll be fine, and getting Kelvim Escobar back at any point is huge. Imagine a 1-2-3 of Lackey-Santana-Escobar…

Alright guys, that’s all I got for this week, but since I’m already on page six of this word document it’s probably too much. Come back again next Thursday for my predictions for the NL, and maybe I’ll work on keeping things short.

Contact Information:
Andy Harris
WSOE Sports
aharris20@elon.edu