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.
I’ll admit right from the beginning that the FlyMaster is a bonafide Brett Favre fan. It’s not his stats, both the good and the bad, or his exciting and often nerve-racking plays. For me, Favre played football the way everyone should play games. He went all out all the time and was always having fun. Let’s face it, sports are games and games are meant to be fun. Bottom line. Nobody puts their 6 year old son in sports in the hopes of him becoming a Hall of Famer. And for those of you who do that, shame on you. No, we put our kids in sports so they can learn some values and also so we see them having fun. Pure unadulterated fun. As we age many of us lose that inner-child and we then stop playing games. Brett Favre never let go of that inner-child and played the game like a 6 year old at the highest level.
Favre, unlike so many other major sports icons, possesses an everyman quality. His wrangler commercials are believable. His battle against painkiller addiction and his dogged determination to always go to work made him more like us than any other icon from this era. It’s imagineable to see Favre getting an offseason job just to work for work’s sake. It’s plausible to walk into an Hattiesburg bar and see Brett at the end of the bar holding court over a pitcher. Can the same be said of Tom Brady? What about Tiger Woods? No way, those guys aren’t like us. They’re openly better, and that’s okay. Favre is the uber normal man. This week we’ve seen some pretty low stories with A-Rod and Phelps, but quietly the “boy-man” Favre left the sports spotlight and I highly doubt there is anybody who can step into his role.
FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!
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.
This weekends game will feature several match ups that may decide the conclusion to the game. Just to look back, last weeks matchup winners were Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Dansby, and DRC vs. Steve Smith, and the young-gun did what he was supposed to do. I’m not an expert but I’d say I called ’em last week. This week I will touch base with the current match ups…
- Lyle Sendlein vs. Mike Patterson/ Brodrick Bunkley – Lyle will need to play his best game on Sunday. Not only will he need to spot the blitz, but contain these two, something New York was unable to do last Sunday.
- Gerald Hayes vs. Brian Westbrook – I heard somewhere that when facing a star running back , Hayes only job is the rush the gap and make a tackle, nothing else. That may be what Gerald will have to do this Sunday.
- Fitzgerald/Boldin vs. Samuel/Brown – This may be the match up of the game. If Arizona receivers can get off the ball and get YAC, that will put this offense in great field position. If Boldin plays throughout the game, that will also be an important factor. Philadelphia’s CBs will have their hands full but are very capable of containing these two pro bowl receivers.
- Dominique Rogers-Cromartie vs. DeSean Jackson – They are both rookies with bright futures ahead of them. Jackson has been McNabb’s go-to man, while DRC has developed nicely into one of the few shut down corners. He’s not quite there but can improve if he contains the speedy Jackson on Sunday.
- Darnell Dockett vs. Shawn Andrews – We haven’t heard much from Dockett lately, and that will need to change Sunday. Dockett will need to play with that same intensity that we saw in the Dallas game. He said he felt like it was a “playoff atmosphere” that game, and now it really is. If he is able to get passed Andrews, and disrupt plays/get to McNabb/Bat down balls, then it will make life difficult on McNabb and the passing game.
- The Cardinals need to come out with a tough mentality, and not get ahead of themselves. It’s pretty simple, If the Arizona Cardinals can win the majority of these match ups, expect the game to be over by the third quarter.
9 year old Bakersfield, Ca. native Drew Heredia already owns the FlyMaster’s 2009 Athlete of the Year Award. It’s over, so tell Mike Phelps, Lebron, Tiger Woods to look forward to 2010. Drew Heredia was strutting down the street last week when he, a little lady friend, and their pet dog were assaulted by a pit bull. The pit bull first attacked the little dog, then it attacked Drew’s friend. Drew Heredia don’t play that junk. Promptly, Drew jumped on the pit bull’s back and proceeded to choke the dog out using the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu he’d been studying. That’s what I’m sayin’! That kid wins the award hands down.
First of all, pit bulls catch an overall bad rap, but every once in a while a rogue pit makes the news after mauling some kids or old folks. That’s usually because they’re owned by methed-out, trashy fools who treat animals like beasts. Enter Drew Heredia. He sent a message to pit bull nation loud and clear. “Pit bulls can fade Jiu Jitsu.” Drew, you’re a bad man. Not only did Drew teach the dog a lesson, he didn’t even have to kill it. That’s martial arts on the highest level. Bruce Lee and Miyamoto Musashi are smiling down on Sensei Heredia today for his display of control and valor. I’m thinking of moving to Bakersfield to take lessons from this kid. Be my guide, Drew. Lead me from the squalor of selfishness into the lightness of being that is. After learning how to choke out pits, I’m going to focus on other animals. Bears, marmosets, camels, manatees…no rogue animal will be safe once Sensei Drew finishes with me. Life has purpose once again.
FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!
What will happen to Matt Cassel next year? He’s an unrestricted free agent as soon as the curtain falls on the 2008. When you Google “Matt Cassel 2009” you can find articles and forum posts titled “Could Matt Cassel [wind up with (insert team here)]?”
Does Matt Cassel become a viable fantasy starter in 2009? With 21 TDs and 3,600 yards it’s understandable why he’s a hot commodity as an unrestricted free agent. But consider the surrounding talent in New England – a great head coach, a veteran offensive line, the best deep threat in the history of the NFL, and a terrific underneath receiver with skills after the catch. How many teams have this combination of talent? None.
Still there are teams that could provide him elements of the Pats environment that helped him become a highly successful first-year starter.
Here is a quick look around the map at where he could potentially fit in:
Detroit: Placing Jon Kitna on IR against his will told us long ago that they’re in the hunt for a new QB. Calvin Johnson has a chance to be a better deep threat than Moss, but beyond Megatron, there’s not much else here. Kevin Smith has been playing very well without a dominant offensive line in front of him, but beyond these two players there’s no stability for the offense system unless the same coaching staff remains in place. If the Ford family retains Rod Marinelli, this will be a run-oriented offense that will want to go deep off the play action pass.
Chicago: The problem here is Cassel would have to work with young receivers with little to zero experience. At the same time, he’s pretty good in a short passing attack and he’s developing into an effective cold weather player. I’m convinced that Chicago isn’t satisified with either Orton or Grossman as their future quarterback and will be, at least, taking a look at the free agent market or, more likely, targeting young talent in the draft.
New York: If Brett Farve retires, the Jets will be left with Kellen Clemens and a cast of young quarterbacks with intriguing, but not blue chip, futures. Even though Mangini is gone, I could see the Jets going after Cassel to put the middle finger in the (rival) Patriots face.
San Francisco: Cassel could be the type of guy the Niners would try to build around. The surrounding talent is young, but more experienced than Chicago. The issue will be the offensive coordinator/system San Francisco adopts. Shaun Hill has done enough to keep my attention as an option, but the 49ers have to be done with giving Alex Smith “the potential” label. Could Shaun Hill have passed for 3,000 plus yards behind a New England line with weapons like Moss and Welker? Perhaps. Arizona is eventually going to build around Leinhart, and when they do, a guy like Warner could be viable working with Hill.
Minnesota: Strong running game? Check. Solid offensive mind? Check. Quality deep threat? Check. Compatible offensive system? Big question mark. It seems to me if Minnesota decides to pursue a quarterback they are going after McNabb, who has worked with Childress and won’t need any development.
St. Louis: Marc Bulger is a fine passer when he has time, but he’s frail and gets hit a lot. A recipe for disaster and this team is ripe for an offensive overhaul.
Early Verdict: I’m betting on San Francisco or Detroit. If Cassel winds up in either destination, I think 3600 yards and 20 scores would be a huge year for him. I don’t expect him to retain starter status numbers in 2009. If you do, I think he’ll disappoint.
And that’s what the StatDragon is breathing fire about!
In past years, consumers used to love visiting auto shows because they could envision themselves in roadsters, racing the streets as if they were competing in Cruisin’ USA. Additionally, automakers were known to include James Bond style technology in each vehicle. This year however, none of that was on anyone’s mind as the first big auto showcase took place in Los Angeles. The only two things consumers pondered were longevity of vehicles and how green-friendly they will be. Automakers on the other hand, namely the Big 3, were more focused on layoffs than pitching cars. The challenge was to showcase efficient vehicles to consumers who don’t want to buy from failing automakers.
Skrybe – Keep it Fly