We have established that the Padres are the front runners for the worst team in the NL West, but I could be wrong. I have been
before, just ask my girlfriend. However, assuming I am right we must look into where the other teams in the division fall into place…
With the Dodgers ability to potentially re-sign Manny and their impressive post-season play last year, I cannot fathom power ranking them 4th. Many would naturally expect the San Francisco Giants to assume this poll position, however I am optimistic for this ball club to make improvements from 2008. I believe the team that deserves to occupy the 4th place power rank in the West is a team that will not be celebrating Holidays this year…wait, I mean Holliday.
Lets take a team that finished at .500 from last year and see what happened to them in the off-season. They lost blue-chip sensation, Matt Holliday in a trade to give them financial wiggle room as well as speedster Willy Tavaras and closer Brian Fuentes to free agency. Bummer. What did the Rockies recover from these losses? Some money and Huston Street, the young closer from Oakland. I like Street’s potential, however, the Rockies already have a useable closer in Manny Corpas so I can’t help but feel that they put their eggs in the wrong basket when trading away Holliday. Why didn’t they go for a marquis pitcher to aide their stomach churning rotation? Speaking of which…
The Rockies arms have to be amongst the bottom 7 in the MLB. I suppose they consider their ace Aaron Cook who had a good first half of last year, but proceeded to play like a skunk for the rest of the season. The rotation is followed by Jeff Francis and Franklin Morales who both battle injuries of sorts and neither may play this season. Ubaldo Jimenez could help the team out if he strays from his 100+ walks from last year and newcomer Jason Marquis may become something good, but has a lot to prove getting his first chance as a starting pitcher. For a team that plays 80-some-odd games in a stadium notorious for it’s home run hitting ease, this rotation has to be scaring the pants off everyone in Colorado.
Aside from Garret Atkins being a totally overrated bust, the Rockies don’t look too shabby in the field. There is power behind (SS) Troy Tulowitzki and (RF) Brad Hawpe and breakout potential behind (C) Chris Iannetta. The rest of the filed doesn’t necessarily dazzle or disappoint. If and when Todd Helton realizes that he is going to be 36 years old this season Colorado may start to dip in offensive production.
Plain and simply, you can get away with crappy pitching if you have a line-up like the Yankees but you can’t if you’re the Rockies. They have lost speed and power and are getting older at the corners. They will put up a fight within the middle of the pack of the NL West, but when the season is over you will see them in the 75 wins range…and occupying 4th place in their division.
And THAT’s what the StatDragon is breathing fire about!
The magic number is 41.
And I’m not referring to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver who sported the number on his jersey. This is how many days are left until the first pitch will be thrown out across America and every baseball fan across our great nation will rejoice in the commencement of a new season.
For me, a new season is synonymous with a new year. A time for new goals and resolutions. A time in which anything is defined as ‘possible.’ Even the most lackluster teams from the previous year stand a chance as different acquisitions throughout the off-season have been made, injuries have been treated and the proverbial ‘slate’ has been wiped clean. On the contrary, the biggest threats from previous seasons have to enter on a new stage in an effort to remain the force that they have been in seasons past and reprove themselves again.
Although the race is addictive to watch in all divisions I am particularly interested to see what will transpire in the NL West this season. The West presents a more opened door for the division than it has in years past and there is clearly no forerunner or favorite as there are in other divisions.
The universal fight over Manny Ramirez is incessant and driving me crazy. I go to bed every night praying that someone will offer him the 3rd year he desires in his contract so I can wake up the next morning a NEVER hear about it again. If he finds a home in the NL West, with the Dodgers for another year OR in rumored San Francisco, the division will become slightly weighted. Nonetheless, the division presents to the league an interesting race to follow.
Check in during the following weeks as I dissect the NL West and allow you to take a scientific look into the division’s teams. We will look at strengths, weaknesses and other variables that might allow us to answer the question, “Who looks to be the favorite in the NL West?”
Holler Back. StatDragon.
Forget steroids for a minute. Forget Olympians bong-toking. Forget the Lakers tapping the Celtics and Cavs in back-to-back games. It’s time to break out the full-court coverage on the greatest American sporting event. That’s right, my friends, it is Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show time. Some of you may consider this coverage ludicrous, cynical, and even irrelevant, but you’re straight up wrong. If there’s one thing the FlyMaster loves, it’s bitches. Bitches of all shapes and sizes. Loud bitches. Quite bitches. Black bitches. White bitches. Brindle bitches. Bitches that drool. Bitches that like pools. Bitches that eat meat. As long as that bitch has four feet, she can compete.
On the real side, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a gem of the highest carat weight. Each February Madison Square Garden becomes the world’s fanciest dog park. Last week Kobe and Lebron both left their mark on the Garden. This week there will be all sorts of marks left on the garden. America’s blue bloods parade their canine compatriots with more pride than when Yury Andropov surveyed and approved the Soviet Army in Red Square. You know you’re dealing with a blue blood, conceited, four legged spoiled brats when they sport names like “Champion Dulymus Arbuckle on High Quartermain,” and “Winchester Trig Palin McCain We Lost Damnit.” The FlyDog is named Del. Keep it simple, muffy. Now that the backstory is set, let’s break down the 133rd Westiminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Last year’s champion was Uno, a beagle that took the City by storm and did it his way. With his dynamic personality and semi-tolerable breath, Uno was a lock to go back-to-back, but alas Uno is currently embroiled in ACL rehabilitation and a performance enhancing drug scandal that prevent him from competing. The field is wide open, just like the NL MVP race once Barry Bonds removed himself from the league. This year’s early favorites are Lincoln, a Brussels Griffon from the Toy Group, and Carly, a corgi from the Herding Group. Here’s a group by group breakdown.
The Sporting Group is replete with every type of retriever, spaniel, and pointer you’d ever want to see. While many of the pundits laud the accomplishments of the English Springer Spaniel, and some of the overseas prognosticators are lining up in the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s corner, Sir FlyMaster will be sticking to his preseason pick, the Vizsla. The Vizsla is a little-known Hungarian dog that puts all thes other Sporting Mutts in their place. Watch out for the Nova Scotia Duck Toiling Retriever to make a splash as well.
The Terrier Group features a bunch of glorified rat and rabbit hunters. If that’s your dharma, you don’t deserve an award show. But since they’re in the competition we’ll pick a winner. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Pick the Norwich Terrier and get on with the show.
The Toy group is a disgrace to the animal kingdom. These dogs are the preferred choice of B-list celebrities, gay mafiosos, old ladies with skin that looks like a well tanned kangaroo hide, and the Sportsfly office. This year it was tough to make a decision, but FlyMaster is rolling with the Japanese Chin for two reasons. Japanese Chin sounds like a disparaging disease name from the mid 1800s and the name “Chin” is Chinese, so who the hell is Japanese Chin? Conspiracy in the making.
Non-Sporting Group:All bastard dogs that really don’t serve a purpose and can’t be classified in any of the other groups get thrown in the Non-Sporting Group. Here you’ll find your Poodles, Dalmations, Chow Chow, and other ungodly concoctions. Put some money on the Bulldog (British) because he’s really trying to distance himself from the rest of these ragamuffins, but his leg length and genetic predisposition for hip problems are severely limiting. Mercy vote the Bulldog to glory.
The Herding Group features some new entrants this year. This begs the question, were there new dogs discovered last year or has that Human Genome Project taken a turn toward the realm of Doctor Moreau? Anyhow, look for the Swedish Vallhund to make a huge debut this year. Word is, the Vallhund looks more like a shrunk down buffalo with goat eyes and a forked tongue, so you know it will stand out. Other contenders are the Bearded Collie and the Corgi. Either way, it’s going to be a heated competition.
BEST IN SHOW:
No doubt the best in show comp will come down to the Boxer and the Swedish Vallhund. This year’s competition has been switched up to boost ratings. Word has it that Michael Vick will be asked to referee the Best in Show match, with the losing dog being placed on the Signature #7 Rape Stand, where all Chihuahuas are released upon the loser. It ain’t pretty, but it’s sports. Look for the Boxer to take down the Vallhund with some nice punching skills and adept ankle-biting. Sorry Sweden, maybe you can invent another new dog in 2010 and enter again. Until then, 2009 is the year of the Boxer.
As you all know by now, the StatDragon is a big Super Bowl commercial fan. Although I thought this year’s ads were weaker, on whole, than they have been in previous years, I have provided my favorites from Sunday that I believe to be worth another look:
1. THANK YOU SOBE, FOR TURNING RAY LEWIS INTO A LIZARD:
2. WATCH THE RHINO HERE. THIS IS HOW I USED TO STROM INTO FRAT PARTIES IN COLLEGE:
3. “GIVE DADDY A KISS:”
4. ANYTHING WITH A BOB DYLAN SONG AND I TURN INTO A SENTIMENTAL MESS:
… and for those of you who put down too many PBR’s before the 4th quarter, here’s what it all came down to:
Peace in the Middle East. StatDragon.
It’s not often that the Sportsfly crew muses on women’s athletics, except to clown or hammer home a point of irrelevance, but today closes the uplifting yet sorrowful saga of North Carolina State Women’s Basketball Coach Kay Yow. Yow’s Hall of Fame career has some amazing stats. 700+ wins. Olympic gold medal coach. Numerous NCAA Tournament appearances. These stats and career moments pale in comparison to her real contribution to humanity.
Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and battled the disease over the next 22 years of her life. Yow’s initial response to being diagnosed was to go out and coach the Olympic team in 1988. She beat the disease and continued coaching. In 2004, the cancer returned, yet Yow faced it down again. Indomitable spirit defined Kay Yow’s life experience. In December 2008 Coach Yow took a leave of absence and said she would not return this season. A week later, she checked into the hospital. A week after that she passed away. A fitting farewell to an inspirational figure.
All to often the true essence of sports gets lost. Amongst media blitzes, over-dramaticized hyperbole, and overexposure the nature of sports dwells and unfortunately it takes stories like Kay Yow’s to bring that nature to the fore. Competition breeds internal fire and that fire can be used to succeed, defy odds, perservere through adversity, stand humble in the face of success, and recognize one’s place in the greater scheme. It’s fitting that both Kay Yow and her Wolfpack compatriot, Jim Valvano, lived and taught these principles as they faced an opponent that typically drains the spirit just as much as it drains the body. To the end, Kay Yow remained resolute to not let cancer take her out of the game. On the court she stood, even as her physical self dwindled away. When she finally decided the fight was over, it ended. That is the beauty of free will. Kay Yow was laid to rest today, but her example and teachings resonate.
FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!
All right, you got your gear, you got a place to watch, so now, here are some do’s and dont’s to prep you for the big game and party.
If you’re a visitor to the party:
1) Do bring something — anything, a Steinlager 12-pack, wings, dessert, something. Even if you’re broke, you can scarf up for a bottle of Thunderbird or Pabst; just show that you appreciate your host’s sacrifice.
2) Do Not get too drunk before the game starts (applies to host also) — You don’t want to be blacked out if Warner throws a winning Hail Mary or Polamalu seals it with a pick … it’s all about a smooth slip into inebriation. 6 to 8 brews by kickoff is optimal (this applies to a guy around 180 pounds, add one beer per 30 pound level up).
3) Do Not double dip — and that not only applies to the ranch dressing, but to your pal’s spliff stash or his hottie chick.
4) Do Not bring any suckas to the party — No annoying girlfriends or “marks” who have no concept of a first down. SIDE NOTE: Be very prepared to feel the wrath if you go to a Cardinals party and you’re the only one rocking the black and gold (or vice versa)
5) Do have fun — Cheer and yell with gusto! Boldin just scored, stuff that Terrible Towel in that Pitt guys face.
6) Do know when to shut yer trap — during the anthem, commercials (yes, commercials) and when they present the trophy (optional during the Boss’ halftime set).
7) Do prepare for the post-game properly — designate a driver (BEFORE the game) or stash a sleeping bag in your trunk, or stash the designated driver in a sleeping bag in your trunk.
As a host, not much: You already provided enough eats, drinks, TV and pad. You’re the master of your domain, but just a few things:
1) Do Not channel surf — Once the game starts, put the remote away for the next 4 hours. Yes, it’s your remote control. And yes, it’s your house. But the Super Bowl is bigger than you brother, and you became Obama-esque when you signed up for this (you’re here to serve, protect and deliver).
2) Do provide proper and plenty of trash receptacles — easy clean up, less stink; because these jokers you’re inviting think that they’re tailgating indoors.
3) Do provide for the post-game — ice cold water, fresh coffee, taxi numbers, instant soups, and in some cases, extra sleeping bags (or at least sweep the pick-up truck bed).
Finally, if you’re like me and watching the game with newborn in tow while the Mrs. has a “self-day,” then no rules apply. Do what you want, you’re the king of the castle. Though you might wanna take it easy on the booze, because you don’t want to make any nacho mix-up with the con queso dip and the nearby diaper.
Any other “do’s” and “don’ts” that I forgot?
Enjoy another wonderful American Institution.
Straight Cash … Homey!
If you’ve been near a television in Mississippi, or have had the luxury of an Internet connection, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Tony Dungy retired from being the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. And he did it quickly, smoothly, and with a ton of class.
Though you may sometimes be an erratic quarterback with a penchant for throwing passes to the guys wearing different jerseys, we still love you. You’ve been a great player to watch for almost two decades. You play hurt, you play without fear, and you certainly improve the play of your teammates.
But Brett, you are a heartbeat away from forty years old. And though there have been a few signal callers who have found relative success at middle age—Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde come immediately to mind—2009 may just be the year to call it quits.
That’s not to say that you still don’t have talent. You probably throw the ball harder at 39 than most quarterbacks at 25. You still are reliable enough to play all sixteen games and you are a man who genuinely doesn’t play the game soley for money. I can’t help but appreciate that.
Whatever you do decide, Brett, please don’t drag it out. Please learn from Tony Dungy—make a commitment and stand behind it. I know the idea of walking away from the game is scary. I know football is all you’ve known since your Pop Warner days. I know that, aside from family, it’s probably your first love.
But Brett, I think I speak for most when I say that I cannot bear to have the networks cover the “will he, won’t he” retirement speculation that surrounds you every year at this time. If you love the NFL as much as I know you do, don’t subject its fans to your indecisive, libra-esque tendencies.
Please don’t retire, cry at your press conference, only to text message your former teammates that you still have “the itch.” Similar to a break-up with a girlfriend, as much as I still care for you, I can’t see you anymore. I need space, and to get over you, you need to step off the stage for a little while.
If the week 17 game against the Dolphins was indeed your swan song, you had a great career. You’re one of the best to ever play the game, and you will be remembered for generations to come. That’s more than most can say about their lives. With that said, nothing is forever—certainly not football. Please know this. If retirement is even creeping into your mind, it’s probably time to go. And just like a band-aid, you need to rip it off quickly. The sting will last for a short while, but in the end, we’ll all be better for it.
Mark McGwire did steroids. We know this. This isn’t a big deal anymore. Silence is admission of guilt, and when was the last time you heard Mark McGwire speak? That’s right, it was when he pleaded the fifth like a Chappelle’s show skit. Well, in a story that’s about as tired and used up as a hooker at a 1994 house party at Michael Irvin’s house, Mark McGwire’s younger brother Jay is making headlines (more like footnotes) with a proposed book that details brother Mark’s steroid use. Big whoopty-do. It should be noted that Jay and Mark are estranged and Jay claims that he introduced Mark to ‘roids after Mark saw Jay win a bodybuilding contest. Jay’s looking for a payday and that’s where the FlyMaster’s ire gets raised.
Assaults on filial piety, the sanctity of the family, and sibling bonds are the lowest of the low. Rats are dealt with pretty severely in prison, and thus they should be karmically retributed against with the utmost impunity when they betray their family. All families bicker, fight, become estranged, burn each other’s houses, beat each other’s puppies, but that all stays in the family. That’s rule number one. Jay McGwire broke the golden rules of being a family member and in his meager attempts to capitalize on his brother’s demons only make him a demon of higher caliber. What’s next, Jay? Are you going to rat out your other brother Dan, one of the worst NFL QB busts in the last 30 years, for being a hideously bad gunslinger who was a product of the San Diego State offense of the late 1980s? You jerk!
Please allow the FlyMaster to make an open statement to the FlySister. FlySister, if you ever rat me out on all the ridiculously dumb, dimwitted, nefarious stuff the FlyMaster is responsible for the FlyMaster will find you. Find you he will. However, if you choose to write some memoir of FlyMaster’s foibles please ask for more than $100K, although I doubt you’d receive more than $4 bucks, a six pack of Pabst, and some gummy bears. But, on the real side, the FlySister understands this agreement as an unsaid code of siblings. That’s what makes Jay McGwire even more of a douchetard. He didn’t even realize the idiocy and ignorance of his actions. Remember people, nothing is more important than maintaining belief in your family members even if they’re a walking petri dish of HGH, horse testosterone, and cow urine. Back acne and rages aside, he’s still your brother.
FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!
There are some juicy, juicy matchups this weekend. Lots of top defenses showcased, a wild gun show on display in the South, and a good old NFC East hatefest. Let’s get it on.
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, 01/10/09, 4:30pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: TEN -3, o/u 34
The Pick: BAL +3
Everyone’s saying that a rookie QB like Flacco will fold against Tennessee’s punishing front, but New Guy Joe gets to see this type of “D” everyday in practice. The Titans won back in Week 5 (13-10) in a grind it out, defensive battle, but I think the difference this time is the improved play and confidence of Flacco and the growth of Le’Ron McClain as a legitimate back to pair with Willis McGahee. Kerry Collins, LenDale White and Chris Johnson are stabling forces for the Titans, but the loss of Kevin Mawae under center will play a big role at the line. To me, it just seems like the Ravens D is jacked entering the postseason, led by All-world hawk Ed Reed. No doubt, Tennessee is still one of the top 3 defenses in the league, I just don’t think they have enough weapons offensively to put up points. The Ravens will keep it close and may win outright — lots of penalties, trash talking and clock running in this one.
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, 01/10/09, 8:15pm EST, FOX
Line/Total: CAR -10, o/u 49
The Pick: Over 49
I’m riding the Arizona “over” train until it falls off the tracks. This team cannot cover anyone and Kurt Warner must try to outgun each opponent they face. And why not? with both NFC Pro Bowl WR starters at his disposal in Boldin and Fitzgerald, could you blame him. Carolina has found gold in their backfield tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. And of course, Steve Smith is a game changer. Need some numbers? The two teams combined for 50 in a 27-23 Panthers win in Week 8. The over is 7-2 in Arizona’s and Carolina’s last 9 games. Carolina has given up an average of 25 points in that span, and Arizona 29.5. It’s Jake Delhomme’s 33rd birthday Saturday and his wish of a Carolina win will come to fruition, just not sure it’s by the 10 points Vegas is projecting them by. So take the over, sit back on the Lazy Boy and watch some fireworks in the Bank of America Dome.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 01/11/09, 1:00pm EST FOX
Line/Total: NYG -4, o/u 38
The Pick: NYG -4
The Eagles are playing excellent ball at the right time. The Donovan McNabb Hall of Fame talk has resurfaced. Philly’s defense has been dynamic with Johnson at the helm. I’m still taking the Giants to win and cover. A few reasons why: 1) They’re at home. 2) Eli has more weapons to pass to than Donovan. 3) Brandon “Frankenstein” Jacobs is at full force. 4) The 3-headed monster that is Jacobs-Ward-Bradshaw is more effective than a nicked up Westbrook and Buckhalter. 5) The Meadowlands field will be slick and there’s a 90% chance of snowfall/rain, which bodes well for the Giants ground attack. 6) The Giants have been there, done that, and coach Coughlin has had an extra week to prep the troops. And finally, 7) Those two “MENSA” candidates Andy Reid and McNabb will find a way to implode on the big stage. ‘Nuff said.
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers, 01/11/09, 4:45pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: PIT -6, o/u 37.5
The Pick: PIT -6
I still don’t believe in Philip Rivers. While everyone waxes poetic about his natural ability and competitiveness, I still think he’s just a gunslinger who lacks the leadership quality (charisma) to inspire his team. That said, the Steelers will bring the pressure in waves at the Chargers, and Rivers will have to get rid of the ball quicker than he’s used to. Darren Sproles has to be ready to catch short dinks from the backfield ala LaDainian Tomlinson, while Gates must push hard off the line for SD to be effective. Now, what concerns me for Pittsburgh is the offensive side of the ball. Big Ben is holding on to the ball longer than he should be, resulting in multiple sack games, while the deep threat in Santonio Holmes has been nullified throughout the year. Look for the Steelers to give the Chargers a big dose of Fast Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore. The -6 points from Vegas is pretty steep, but the Steelers have gotten all the breaks of late and it’ll be a game-changing turnover (maybe by the wavy-haired Samoan) that’ll put the Steelers over the top. Also, that same competitiveness that Rivers is lauded for will be his undoing as he’ll attempt some unnecessary deep throws into the Pittsburgh’s secondary. The only thing that worries me is Big Ben’s bell being rung to the tune of another concussion.
Went 3-1 in last weekend’s Wild Card matchups. Let’s keep up the good vibes.
2009 record: 5-2.
Straight Cash … Homey!