August 2008


Are the Yankees Done?

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

We are going to take a break from Brett Favre and Michael Phelps stories and talk about another historic event that might take place within the next month and that is the MLB playoffs…without the New York Yankees.  After a second straight loss to their arch-rivals the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees are on the verge of getting swept at home against the team that every Yankee fan hates.  Last nights loss put them seven games behind the redsox and 10.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Ray’s.  Even though the Sox and the Ray’s are in the Yanks division, they cannot forget about the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins who are in a dogfight for the AL Central division title.  The Yanks are third in the wild card race behind the Red Sox and the Twins.

For the past few seasons, everyone was questioning the Yanks playoff chances because of how slow they started.  The difference between this season and previous ones, is that it is August and the Yankees are not in control.  Instead, they are falling out.  Isn’t this the same team that has come back from multiple games back in the final month?  Yes, that is why fans are questioning their playoff life and not just writing them off.

1993: In 1993 Michael Jordan won his third straight Championship, Rodney King testified in court, and Bill Clinton was just starting as President.  That year was also the last time the Yanks missed the Post Season.  Every year the Yankees are expected to make the playoffs and every year they have delivered…until now.  They have no more than 30 games left in the season and to have any shot they must win at least 23 of them.  I understand that they have been marred by injuries to key players such as Joba Chamberlain, Chin Ming Wang and Jorge Posada, but shouldn’t a team with a 206 million dollar payroll have extra talent on the backburner?  You would think yes, but from what we have seen recently, it doesn’t seem like it.  Are the Yanks officially done?  No, but it is not looking good and if you ask my opinion, I would say RIP Yanks.  It will be very difficult to come back and if they want to, they better bring back guys like Paul O’neill, Don Mattingly and Reggie Jackson, but even with them, they might just be in too big of a deficit to fight back.  Yankee magic has proven itself before, but is there enough magic in the moonlight to keep their playoff dreams alive?  You tell me!

Instant Replay Becomes Part of Major League Baseball

By: Sean Speirs

     Major League Baseball’s Commissioner Bud Selig has finally surrendered. 

     This Thursday, our nations past time will catch up with every other major national sport and include instant replay technology.  This new move is set to last through the rest of the season and post-season (while ideally being re-evaluated during the winter off-season).

     What’s the catch?  Instead of a “play-by-play” instant replay that one may see in an NFL game, the MLB’s instant replay will be used strictly for disputed home run calls, such as over the outfield fence foul balls and fan interference with potential home runs.

     In an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Selig admits that he is “old fashioned”.  “I love the sport the way it is,” Selig said, “but the time has come for this [instant replay].”

     Unfortunately, for some baseball teams who lost because of radical home-run calls, the “time” for change has come a little too late.

     The heavy demand to include some sort of instant replay in baseball has been ongoing, and in retrospective, could have been useful in certain games in the sports’ past.  However, due to some die-hard baseball fans (including Selig) and umpires in the World Umpires Association, the sport’s pure and old-fashioned regulations were to be untouched.

     However, in mid-May of this baseball season, umpires began to call too many mistakes concerning disputed home runs hit by Mets Outfielder Carlos Delgado on May 18th and Yankees Third Basemen Alex Rodriguez on May 21st.  In these particular instances, it was not until these umpires watched the tapes after the game where they noticed that their official rulings were wrong.

     Whether or not this little technological boost will make a difference in baseball, only time will tell.  What is for sure though is that Selig is not looking to expand instant replay past home run calls (such as for pitches and tag-outs).

     “My opposition to unlimited instant replay is still very much in play,” he said to Nightengale.

     So while behind-the-plate and foul-line umpires can sigh in relief, the MLB should still remember (an be a little ashamed) that it was the last national sport to bring in instant replay to assist officials. 

     Although baseball games may be a little longer with the new instant replay process (crew chief umpire waits for an “overturned” call on a disputed home run by a retired umpire/supervisor who is watching a broadcast video feed of the game in a media office), officials are human and cannot be perfect.

     When all is said and done, instant replay in the MLB is bound to shake up the nostalgic feel of baseball, just not as bad as how the use of anabolic steroids already changed the sport.

     At least Selig is starting to understand the accessible technology around him.

     To the MLB: Welcome to the 21st Century…It’s About Time.

By Sean Speirs

IMAGE FROM YAHOOSPORTS.COM

NFC South:  My question to the world, how will Jeremy Shockey handle New Orleans?  I see some major problems brewing.  However, I do like the outlook of this division, with this divisional race coming down to the wire.

New Orleans Saints (9-7):  After a dissapointingyear where they went from national darlings to underachievers in a matter of seconds, they are back again with an easy schedule and lowered expectations.  Fantasy Pick:Drew Brees has established himself as a top-5 quarterback in New Orleans and the addition of Jeremy Shockey should only help him as defenses can no longer key on Marques Colston.  I look for Brees to have a huge year, lets say 4000 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.  Burning Question:  The Saints took two huge gambles this offseason by trading for MLB Jonathan Vilma and TE Jeremy Shockey.  Both are All-Pro players when healthy but both players are coming off of major injuries.  Will they be ready in time to contribute and if they do play, will it be at their formal exceptional level?  I say yes to both.  Final Outlook: The Saints will be back in the playoffs this year and their high flying offense will scare some better teams but they will be knocked out in the first round.  Sean Payton is just not that good of a coach and Reggie Bush is not tough enough to be the running threat that he could be.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8):  This team surprised many last year after making it to the playoffs and even expected to win their home game.  This year is different though.  Jeff Garcia is a year older and there is too much controversy surrounding this team and its quarterbacks.  Fantasy Pick:Joey Galloway has shown that he is a consistent deep threat despite his advanced age.  He’s a good third wide reciever in a shallow league and a decent number two in a very deep league.  Quarterback Controversy:  So many questions surround this teams quarterbacks.  They currently carry 5 and at least two are on the way out.  Chris Simms is not on speaking terms with the organization and they are holding him hostage.  Brian Griese is a capable backup but not very valuable on this team.  Starter Jeff Garcia has recently thrown himself into the Brett Favre controversy by claiming he would demand his release if Favre landed in Tampa.  This team is a mess mentally.  Final Outlook: Tampa will tease its fans with a frustrating season in which they go on hot and cold stretches.  The defense will be excellent again but it won’t be enough to disguise a painfully average offense.  However, if Favre ends up in Tampa, everything changes.

Carolina Panthers (7-9):  The Panthers are a team that always confuses me.  When I think that they will be good, they are bad.  When I think they are bad, they do good.  This offseason, they did little to improve upon a team that had a weak running game, no QB depth, and no second reciever.  They are in quite a predicament.  Fantasy Pick:  Steve Smith, the Panthers star reciever is out for the first two games due to suspension.  However, he is worth a look as your number two reciever.  But don’t overvalue him and pick him too high (between rounds 4 and 6), look for him in round 8 or so.  Coaching Hot Seat:  John Fox came into Carolina as the next big thing and he has taken them to a Superbowl but time is not on his side.  If the Panthers do not win this season and make the playoffs, Fox will be asked to pack his bags.  Final Outlook:  I always like this team but I just don’t see it this year.  Quarterback Jake Delhomme is coming off a major injury (and hes getting up there in age), there seem to be some chemistry issues surrounding the team, and there is no reliable secondary offensive weapon for Delhomme to use, whether it be a running back or a wide receiver.  Until they figure out who their secondary playmaker is going to be, they are not going to be very good.

Atlanta Falcons (3-13):  With the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino eras finally erased from memory, Falcons fans can look forward to another season of just plain old sucking.  There is very little to be excited about here.  Fantasy Pick:Michael Turner signed a big contract in the off-season to come here to be the starter.  Does he have what it takes to carry this offense?  I believe he has the skills to become a pretty good starter but this team has so little going for it that its going to be tough for him to find room to run because teams are most likely going to stuff the box against the Falcons.  He is still worth a flier as your third running back and could even surprise a few with a good season, try 1050 yards and four touchdowns.  Impact Rookie:Matt Ryan was picked at number four with the idea that he would be the franchise quarterback that this team desperately needs.  However, in order to keep him away from the David Carr syndrome (I just made that up and here is the definition: fear of getting pummeled by big and athletic defensive linemen.  Symptoms: The loss of confidence, happy feet, and throwing in front of receivers).  I didn’t think he was the best quarterback in the draft but he’ll be a player, but he needs to ride the pine for a little to ensure his success.  Final Outlook: The Falcons are not going to be very good this year.  They know it and we know it.  However, their defensive front seven is pretty good and should keep them in most games.  They’ll be competitive, but won’t win many games.

NFC West:  Perhaps the worst division in football, all of these teams will struggle to make it .500.  None of them are a threat to make any noise (especially the proverbially overrated Seattle Seahawks).  I do expect to see Seattle fans come out in droves to support their only half decent team.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7): Now you may be thinking, this guy is obviously an idiot if he is picking the Cardinals to win the division.  A closer look at the other teams in this division I believe they are the strongest one (even though one key injury would destroy them).  Fantasy Pick: You can’t go wrong with either Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald so I recommend them both.  I expect to be above 85 catches, 1300 yards, and 9 touchdowns.  That looks pretty good to me and should be in your top 5 of wide receivers.  Quarterback Controversy:  Is this the year that Matt Leinart finally realizes that he’s Matt freakin’ Leinart and he’s letting the fumble king Kurt Warner make him look silly?  I believe it is.  A man can only party and date supermodels for so long (who are we kidding, I could do that for the rest of my life).  But he steps up and wins this battle.  Final Outlook:The Cardinals showed a lot of promise last season and in Ken Whisenhunt’s second season, look for them to make an even greater step forward.

Seattle Seahawks (8-8): The team that I find to be consistently overrated finally loses its stranglehold on the division.  No more Shaun Alexander and an aging team finally shows that it just isn’t that good.  Fantasy Pick: Matt Hasselback has shown that he is a consistent quarterback who you can rely on for 3400 yards and 24 touchdowns.  Mark him down for that again.  Free-agent Bust:Lets be honest here, Julius Jones was not welcome back in Dallas.  He is a soft runner who can not be a starter in this league.  How can the Seahawks expect him to come in and take charge of this situation.  Letting go of Shaun Alexander was the right thing, but find someone who is better, not worse.  Final Outlook:Mike Holmgren’s last season will be one to forget.  They play six playoff teams from last season, including the two who made it to the Super Bowl, the tough NFC East, and the much improved AFC East.  Getting to .500 should be considered a good year.

San Francisco 49ers (6-10): What happened to the 49ers?  They used to be one of the best run organizations in the NFL with fantastic players and coaches.  Now they are stuck with Mike Nolan and a three-headed quarterback from hell.  Enjoy your season 49ers fans.  Fantasy Pick:The only redeemable thing that 49ers have for it going on offense is Frank Gore, RB.  However, with Mike Martz running the offense and Gore coming off an injury plagued season (I was personally crushed by him last year), I see him rushing for about 1100 yards, 500 yards receiving, and 9 total touchdowns.  But buyer beware.  Quarterback Controversy:  With Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, and J.T. O’Sullivan all battling for the QB position, this is a battle that could last all of preseason.  I recently read that J.T. O’Sullivan has the inside track right now but they have too much money invested in Smith to not play him.  When will teams learn the lesson to NEVER take option quarterbacks with the first overall pick.  He is a system quarterback who had one good season.  Idiots.  Final Outlook:  The 49ers will improve over last season when the pressure of playoff expectations crushed them.  Gore and Vernon Davis will be healthy but beyond them, there is very little to like on offense.  Defense will be good though with tackling machine Patrick Willis leading the way.  They are still a few years away or until they get a legitimate QB.

St. Louis Rams (4-12):  Scott Linehan is perhaps the worst coach in the NFL, consistently getting outcoached.  He makes Brad Childress look like a genius.  Fantasy Pick: Steven Jackson is a top 5 fantasy talent but this holdout has me worried a little bit.  But he does have Marc Bulger throwing the Torry Holt, which always helps open up the running game a little.  Pick him high and have confidence that he can lead you to victory.  Impact Rookie: Chris Long has everything you want in a high draft pick: Pedigree, success at a big time program, and a good attitude.  He’ll become a good all-around defensive end this season, maybe even winning defensive rookie of the year, and make a Mario Williams like leap next season into stardom.  Final Outlook:  I want to believe the Rams will win more games.  The more I look at their roster, the more I like it (except for CB and WR where there is no depth behind Torry Holt).  But I remember that Scott Linehan is the coach.  He automatically takes away a couple of wins because he is just so bad.  There are quality guys out there who are ready to take over a franchise.  Fire him and this team will be much better.

 

Part Three to come very soon or when I have time at work to write it

    Wow, its been way too long since I’ve posted here and to make up for it, I am going to release my  NFL Preview over the next couple of days.  I know, ludicrous.  Let the insanity begin:

NFC Preview (teams are listed in predicted order of finish):

NFC East:  This is by far the toughest division in all of football with each of these teams capable of winning the Super Bowl or least getting there.  I see at three of these teams making the playoffs with all four of them finishing at or above .500

Dallas Cowboys (13-3):  The team with the most talent west of Foxboro got better in the offseason with the addition of Pacman Jones and Zach Thomas and the promotion of Marion Barber to starter.  Fantasy Pick:  While T.O. and Romo are givens, Jason Witten comes in as my top rated tight end because he is going to draw the double teams away from T.O. on the outside and destroy opponents down the middle of the field.  I expect a huge year.  Position of Concern: Wide Reciever, after releasing Terry Glenn, the Boys only have one reliable reciever and a bunch of unknowns.  Patrick Crayton was decent as a number 3 be does he have what it takes to be a number two?  After him you have even more questions.  Will the recievers lack of experience ground their vast air attack?  Final Outlook:  The Cowboys are obviosly the class of the NFC and have the talent and coaching to gather the number one seed.  However, Tony Romo’s history of choking in the playoffs will not be forgotten as the Cowboys lose another divisional playoff game.

New York Giants (11-5):  The defending Super Bowl Champs have seen a lot of players exit from their championship team.  With the addition of only rookies and role players, will this team take a step back?  Fantasy Pick: I really like Brandon Jacobs and always have.  If he stays healthy this year expect top-10 fantasy numbers from him (like 1800 total yards and 12 touchdowns).  He’s bigger than some defensive ends and will play to contact.  Gotta love that in a running back.  Impact Rookie:  First round pick Kenny Phillips has been flying around camp laying the smackdown.  Pencil him in as the Giants free safety for the next 5-10 years.  Final Outlook:  While they won’t win the division, I like them getting to the playoffs as the top wild card entry and fighting their way to the NFC Champsionship Game. 

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6):  The Eagles have the potential to win the Super Bowl this year or finish below .500.  It all depends on whether or not McNabb is healthy enough to lead this team.  Fantasy Pick:  Brian Westbrook led the league last year in yards and I see no reason he won’t do it again this year.  If i’m drafting in the 4 or 5 position in the first round, I’d think long and hard about grabbing him.  Free-Agent Bust?:  Asante Samuel came from a system that primarily used zone, which allowed Samuel to play an area and wait for the balls to come his way.  Now in Philly, hes going to be primarily a man corner and does he have the skills to justify that massive contract and locker room resentment that Lito Sheppard holds towards the organization?  I don’t think so.  Final Outlook:  This will be the final playoff team and will surprise a few teams when they get there.  I see them reaching the NFC Championship game and maybe something more.

Washington Redskins (8-8): New Coach Jim Zorn has a daunting task of replacing Redskins coaching icon Joe Gibbs.  However, this Quarterback Guru has been busy teaching his stable of quaterback to run his offense.  Fantasy Pick:  Chris Cooley is a guy that I would highly recommend.  He catches everything thrown to him and is always reliable for 800 yards and 6 touchdowns, which is easily attainable when your two best red zone options are rookie wide recievers.  He’s my 5 TE off the board so keep an eye on him.  Burning Question:  What will Jason Taylor’s impact be on the Defense?  The Taylor trade was important on two fronts: they found a great replacement for Philip Daniels and kept him away from the G-Men.  However, they are playing him out of his normal position of LE, but he will still have an impact, but not really add wins to this team.  Final Outlook:  This team just has too many questions and not enough answers to justify a finish better than 8-8.  Jason Campbell still hasn’t proven that he is a winner or can put up the numbers desired from a franchise QB.  Clinton Portis is hurt again and will he be ready for opening day?  Also, how will Zorn handle himself late in the season when his decisions are questioned by the media?  Give them one more year and then they’ll have something. 

NFC North:  The “Drama Division” as I like to refer to it now, has seen the Packers hog all of the media attention while the other teams lurk in the shadows, waiting for all the distractions to destroy the team.  Watch out for Minnesota, if Tavaris Jackson can figure out how to play quarterback, they could be good.

Green Bay Packers (9-7):  I hate Brett Favre.  There I said it, now I can get on with my life.  If I didn’t know any better, I would be led to believe that the Packers are the only team in the NFL.  Fantasy Pick: Greg Jennings, the third year wide reciever is going to explode into stardom this year.  I expect at least 1100 yards recieving and 6-10 touchdowns.  I’d pencil him in as an elite No. 2 reciever/borderline number one.  Burning Question:  How is Aaron Rodgers going to respond this media circus that Brett Favre has created?  Is he the player that fell in the draft or the player who showed enough flashes of brilliance during the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game to lead them to the promised land.  He’s sat enough and now is the time to let him prove it, no matter what number Four thinks.  Final Outlook:  This is still the best team in a week division and Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the division.  They also have a running game to complement Rodgers growth and a defense that features the best press corners in the NFL.  That alone guarantees them a spot in the playoffs. 

Minnesota Vikings (7-9):  While most experts are drooling over the Vikings because of Year Two of A-Pete and the addition of Jared Allen, I still see a team with a bad coach, bad recievers, and a bad quarterback.  Fantasy Pick:  There is nobody worth drafting on this team except Adrian Peterson and he is going to go a couple spots too high.  With all of the hype surrounding him, I see him as a sell high candidate who can give a pretty nice return in a two for one deal.  Free-Agent/Trade Bust:  While this trade was widely hailed throughout the the NFL, I feel like the Chiefs came out on top in the Jared Allen trade.  He is a player who went after his own stats (sacks) and sacrificed run stopping.  In a division that is short on QB prowess, will he live up to lofty standards…I don’t believe so.  Final Outlook:  This is the most overrated team in the league.  They have major holes at all of the offensive skill positions except for running back.  They have a coach that is overmatched and lost.  They will be a major dissapointment and will miss the playoffs.

Detroit Lions (7-9): The Lions dropped ego-maniac/offensive coordinator Mike Martz and his pass happy scheme in favor of something that suits bulldog coach Rod Marinelli.  Lets see if this is the answer to the prayers of Lions nation.  Fantasy Pick:  Roy Williams always has put of monster numbers and he will again this year.  He is the only thing certain on a roster full of questions.  Impact Rookie:  RB Kevin Smith was drafted with the idea that he would give the running game some stability.  Even though he led the nation in rushing last year and is coming into they same system that was run at UCF, he has a lot of wear and tear on him (450 carries last year, over 30 a game) and did not come out of a big time program.  I believe he wins the starting job but doesn’t set the world on fire.  Final Outlook:  The Lions will not be very good again, but they won’t be horrible.  There first priority is to find a franchise QB because Jon Kitna is just a stopgap option.  Two questions though: Will Rod Marinelli last the season and is this the year that Matt Millen finally loses his job?

Chicago Bears (5-11):  The Bears have all sorts of problems on offense, mainly a lack of playmakers.  The defense should rebound from a poor year but they can’t score for the team.  Fantasy Pick:  Chicago DEF/Brian Urlacher.  Urlacher should become a top-5 defense again now that (hopefully) everyone is healthy.  This is more a statement that I would stay away from everyone on this roster, even Devin Hester.  Quarterback Controversy:  Kyle Orton vs. Rex Grossman does not really inspire much confidence but I believe that Orton gives them a better chance to win right now.  He seems to better understand what needs to be done on offense in order to put his team in position to win the game.  Grossman has more talent but it just doesn’t translate on the field.  Final Outlook:  The Bears believe they will be back but I just don’t see it.  Too many holes on offense and top pick Chris Williams has not practiced with the first team offense yet and Matt Forte was a bit of a reach in the second round.  Will he be the answer at RB?  I don’t really think so.

Part Two of Four Coming Tomorrow