Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game 2 Yankees-Phillies World Series Notes

> For 17 innings, the Phillies had played nearly mistake-free baseball (the exception: Rollins' ninth inning error last night), refusing to cede to the pressure that took out the Twins and Angels. Down two in the eighth and facing Mariano Rivera in his bid for a six-out save, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino did exactly what you'd want them to do there; made the pitcher throw a lot of pitches and get on base. Chase Utley then battled to a full count, and drama was brewing.

And then the runners inexplicably didn't go as Utley got sawed off on a dribller to second, and just as fast as you can say Missed Opportunity, that was a double play to get Mariano Rivera off the hook. (Ed. Note: Charlie Manuel specifically didn't send the runners, citing Utley's contact tendencies and his desire to see Howard hit in that inning. Um, OK. So put the brainlock on the manager instead.)

You can't overstate the magnitude of that play, really. Had Victorino gotten to second, you have Rivera likely pitching around Howard to load the bases, and facing Werth with the bases loaded. He's also doing it on his 27th pitch of his inning, and damage is usually done after a pitcher has thrown a couple of dozen pitches.

I'm not saying that Werth does damage and the Phillies come back to win the game; he is, after all, facing Mariano Freaking Rivera. Maybe Werth just makes an out. And then again, maybe he gets a hit and ties the game. You just have to send the runners there; even in the event of a strikeout, Rollins and Victorino are extremely good at stealing bases.

Oh, and it's also all kinds of fun that the umpires blew the call at first to call Utley out. Gah.

> Pet peeve: Guys with filthy batting helmets. I get the need for luck and familiarity and all, but it still looks gross and bush league to me. At least no one in this game is taking it to true Manny-ish extremes.

> Matt Stairs, of all people, with the early RBI. It's not exactly encouraging for the NL team when your DHs are hitting less than .200 for the year, but so long as they produce, I suppose.

> In the bottom of the seventh, Jerry Hairston fought off a little bleeder to get on base, and then Melky Cabrera delivered a clear single to right. That ended Pedro Martinez's night, and let Yankee Fan get their full "Who's Your Daddy" on. The man actually smiled as he left, even though the game now goes 8 times out of 9 for the home team from here in. If the man ever needs money after baseball, he can work forever as a wrestling heel manager to New York audiences; I suspect they would never tire of paying for the priviledge of screaming for his blood.

Martinez's night ended with 107 pitches, 6+ innings, 6 hits, 2 ER (eventually, 3), 2 walks and 8 strikeouts, 2 HRs. And he's in the same exact place that CC Sabathia was last night -- a good start, some bad luck, and the loss. But I still hope he's back next year, and I can't imagine that Yankee Fan really wants him gone, either. In a world of forgettable pitchers, you can't deny that he's genuinely fun to watch and/or hate.

> Chan Ho Park came in, threw hard, got ahead, then made a 2-strike mistake for the Jorge Posada insurance RBI single. Park's just one of those guys with great stuff that I don't trust, regardless of the numbers.

> Derek Jeter then kept the game close with an utterly inexplicable bunt strikeout. Kind of breathtaking there, really. Even if it works, you're setting up the ice-cold Johnny Damon against a lefty; hardly something you would hope for.

Yankee Fan will explain that by blaming Girardi for flashing the sign, and it didn't come back to haunt them. But that's besides the point. If Girardi did call for it with two strikes, Jeter should have walked into the dugout and shoved the bat up his overmanaging ass. Just inexcusable, really. And then the inning ends with badly called double play, with the umps missing a call on a liner that Ryan Howard short-hopped. (Oh, and on the DP, the Internet broke from angry Yankee Fan tweets. Baseball Fan, I get why you want instant reply, especially when the call goes against your laundry. But honestly, isn't the game delayed enough?)

> Ryan Howard: 4 ABs, 4 Ks, the last of which was a pretty terrible call by the umpire... but Rivera's just getting that call in this stadium, in this point of his life. A soft line drive from Werth, but Raul Ibanez refuses to be the last out tonight. Matt Stairs, a 2 for 15 lifetime hitter against Rivera, for the hope against a man who has thrown 35 pitches already... but Rivera immediately jumps out to an 0-2 count, then backs the older man off the plate for ball one. Stairs waits out a diving breaking ball for ball two, but the next one catches him fishing, and that's that. There's a reason why Rivera's a first ballot Hall of Famer, and Matt Stairs is, well, Matt Stairs.

> What is it about teams self-destructing against the pinstripes? Yankee Fan doesn't want to hear this, but it's actually what happens in most games, really. The Dodgers self-destructed against the Phillies with weak pitching. The Rockies did it with an utter inability to hit left-handed pitching. But when you do it against the most famous franchise on the planet, Voodoo Magic Pinstripes have to be the cause. (And if "self-destruct" is defined as not sending the runners, that's a pretty small threshold for self-destruct.)

> Encouraging for the Phillies: Alex Rodriguez stayed down tonight, and as the past two nights have shown, you can pitch to this team when he's firing up blanks. Discouraging: the same is true for the Yankees when Howard isn't hitting. And it's not as if he's likely to break out in the next game, because...

> Andy Pettite gets the ball for New York in Game Three in Philadelphia against Cole Hamels, and, um, Pettite's left-handed. I know that the Phils have been aces at home, but I can't see this series ending there. (Happy to be wrong, of course.)

Top 13 little known facts about Cliff Lee

13) Baseballs are attracted to Cliff Lee's gravitational well of awesomeness.

12) When it rains, Cliff Lee does not get wet.

11) Tonight, Cliff Lee is the #1 topic on Twitter, but only because he has allowed it.

10) His middle name is "Phifer", which is Latin for "Much, Much, Much Cooler Than You."

9) The Dos Equis guy feels insecure in his presence.

8) He has solved pi, but is too modest to share the information with anyone else.

7) When his son and daughter were born, he did not feel nervous. Neither did the children, or his wife.

6) He allowed his down 2007 season to give his Cooperstown plaque some variety, and to give his autobiographers a story arc.

5) Lee can throw a baseball over 150 miles per hour, but chooses not to, because it would eliminate all drama from his starts.

4) He beaned Sammy Sosa on the night that he was honored for hitting his 600th home run, because Cliff Lee knows what Sammy Sosa did.

3) It has been said that this is Cliff Lee's world, and we're all just living in it. But the fact is that we are all merely figments of Cliff Lee's imagination.

2) Steroid abuse in baseball exists because of the hitters' fear of Cliff Lee.

1) Next year, Cliff Lee will lead the Phillies in stolen bases, just to master something new.

(Feel free to add your own in the comments...)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 Game One Phillies-Yankees World Series Notes

10) Writing a notes column on a game and night like this is downright tricky. Do you refuse to write the lede ahead of time, knowing that baseball has no clock and if it turns, you will blame yourself for the jinx? Or do you wallow in the good fortune and trust that the man who has taken you this far, all the while looking like he's working against minor leaguers in Florida in March, will just close it out, and have a little freaking faith?

The answer, of course, is the former, because you are a Philly Fan, and Philly Fan has seen much that has been unfortunate. But the temptation was immense, and the Man Crush on Cliff Lee has reached Can't Be Believed levels. The man's making Schilling '93 and Hamels '08 look like batting practice.

9) Here's the problem with baseball in a nutshell. Tonight, we had two pitchers who had a minimum of baserunners and worked quickly. The game didn't ever get out of hand, and the offense was mostly contained to a few innings. One team never changed its starting pitcher. And yet, at the start of the eighth inning, we were still more than 2:20 into the game, which is to say, what it should take to play nine, not seven -- and the whole thing didn't wrap until 3:30.

Don't blame the players; blame the networks, for just jamming in tons of extra ads -- nearly twice as many as a normal game. If there's a short term gain to be made from long term damage, MLB will always, always make that trade.

8) With one out in the sixth, Lee caught a pop up from Johnny Damon with less interest than you might show in scratching your nose. The next hitter (Mark Teixiera, who usually involves a little more worry from the pitcher) then dribbled out to Utley at second to close the inning. With one out in the seventh, he got Jorge Posada to tap out to the mound, and tagged him on the ass. With nobody on in the eighth, he retired Robinson Cano on a comebacker behind his back.

Has a starting pitcher ever been this good and seemed more bored?

(Oh, and postgame, he's just standing on the field shrugging, whereas most guys are running for the showers and putting ice on their shoulders. I'm pretty sure he's going to go celebrate with a nap.)

7) Is anyone else shocked at the sight of back to back nights with baseball games? C'mon, MLB -- why so much so soon? We need more off days!

6) I'm not normally a fan of sacrifice bunts, but when you are trying to stretch out the pitch count of a #1 starter, and have a first pitch (not so much) hitter like Pedro Feliz at the plate... well, let's just say a fast inning wasn't helpful in the seventh. The bottom of the lineup is going to have to be better than that if the Fightin's are going to win this series. (But then again, since the Yankees insist on their 7th inning hootenanny, maybe a fast inning actually kept Lee on pace.)

5) With Utley's two bombs to right and Rollins nearly getting there in the eighth, the thought comes to mind... just how much does this Phillies team enjoy Yankee Stadium? The power is mostly left-handed, and the porch to right is short. Kinda helpful, really.

4) Why do advertisers not realize that high frequency ads during closely watched sporting events drive the audience insane and hurt their brand? I'm looking at you, DirecTV. And you do this every damn year.

3) A very long eighth inning could have ended with real deflation and worry that Lee would have rested too long... but instead, Raul Ibanez bounced a 2-strike single through the hole to right, and suddenly the 2-0 lead was doubled, and Yankee Fan seemed to make for the subway. Just huge, and took things out of the realm of a bloop and a blast. The extra two runs in the ninth were helpful, too.

2) The Phillies really need to stop throwing the ball into the dugout on double play balls. That's something like the third time this postseason, and it ended the shutout.

1) Lee, on his 118th pitch of the night, struck out Alex Rodriguez, and I'm pretty much assuming that there weren't enough fans left in the stands to boo him. Fox then had him throwing 99 to Posada, which is of course an error, but hey, it's Fox -- they're prone to hyperbole. Lee then bent Posada into the ground for the closing strikeout, and my heavens, what a performance. Just complete and utter domination.

Oh, and there was actually some debate on Twitter as to whether Lee should have been allowed to pitch the ninth, given his pitch count. He had the first 10 Ks and 0 walk game in a World Series since, gulp, 1903. Yeah, I'm thinking he deserved to finish.

Week 8 NFL Picks: Who Are You Supposed To Be

In theory, I love Halloween. The practice, however, is something entirely different.

In theory, this gives me a cool opportunity to show my creativity -- hell, I make my living at the day job for that.

In practice, I just don't have the time and money to do very cool costumes, and I always wind up having to cobble together something on the cheap and portable, since sitting on a train for an hour and a half in a costume doesn't appeal. When I'm on the train, I want invisibility and the ability to do things like write this picks column, rather than getting into a conversation with someone about the motivations behind my costume choice, or how someone Just Doesn't Get It. I'm also not a guy who's ever felt good with makeup on, even in situations (TV, stage) that have demanded it. So I usually wind up in a mask, which gets hot and nasty fast. Fah.

In theory, watching women try to outslut each other makes the holiday the very best day of the year.

In practice, I live with my wife and two daughters, which means that I'm not all that thrilled with my kids growing up too fast, or making the Shooter Wife insecure. (And for the record, women trying to outslut each other is still kinda great. Halloween is Christmas for horndogs.)

In theory, it's great to walk the neighborhood and bask in the glow of your kids having the most fun ever.

In practice, separating them from the dozens of pounds of candy, or trying to ration it out so that they aren't going bulimic at midnight, is like keeping meat from dogs. Hungry, hungry dogs.

And that's why, in the long run, Thanksgiving becomes your favorite holiday as a grown up, even though you thought it was kind of dull as a kid.

Besides, the latter holiday *always* has football.

And with that, on to the picks!

* * * * *

HOUSTON at Buffalo (+3.5)

I'm still trying to figure out how, exactly, the Bills won going away last week against a Panthers team that, in theory at least, was trying to save their season at home. The Bills gave up a safety. They were outgained something like 2.5 to 1. They were starting a QB (Ryan Fitzpatrick) who is actually worse than Trent Edwards. They employ the shattered remains of Terrible Owens, who, independent of the terrible situation at QB, might be one of the worst WRs in the league right now. (No, seriously. Drop issues, motivation issues, no breakaway speed, and a nightmare in the huddle and locker room. Between the lines, I'd rather have Jason Avant. Outside the lines, I'd rather have Hannibal Lechter. And if you drafted him for your fantasy team and still have him, this derisive laughter is for you. Is his reality show still on?)

And then I remembered -- oh yeah. The Panthers employ Jake Delhomme.

Unfortunately for the Bills, Matt Schaub is not a terrible QB. As a matter of fact, he's one of the best in the business right now, especially when he's healthy. He is now, and with Steve Slaton giving them a devastating screen game to go with Owen Daniels in the middle and Andre Johnson deep, it's pinball time for Houston. Slaton's fumble issues even kind of help in that regard, since that means head coach Gary Kubiak doesn't get tempted to play ball control with a lead. I'd take this game at 6.5; I just don't see what the Bills have going for them right now.

There's also this: the Texans might not be terrible on defense against the run anymore. They held Cedric Benson to a season-low a couple of weeks ago and Frank Gore to 13 for 32 last week, and those aren't bad lines or backs. The secondary is still bad, but if their opponents become one dimensional, maybe they'll get to that 10 to 11 win and wilcdcard playoff status that the world has been waiting years for.

Of course, this is usually when the Texans pull the rug out and have a terrible loss. But not to this Bills team, especially if the team's only dimension doesn't work.

Texans 31, Bills 20

Cleveland at CHICAGO (-14)

Just how bad at the Browns, really? So bad that a Bears team that was absolutely balls-to-the-wall stinky last week against the Benson Vengeance Bengals is a two touchdown favorite, and rising.

The key in Cleveland is the worst quarterback situation in the NFL -- and yes, that includes Oakland, despite their very best efforts. I'm fairly sure that all three of the Eagles options (even the Still Looks Terrible Michael Vick) would be starting in Cleveland. If I were coach Eric Mangini -- well, first I'd punch myself for an hour, and then I'd give up on both terrible options and just go find some random Arena League guy who might, you know, have some idea where the ball is going. At least lose with something different, and give a moment of hope to Muhammad Massaquoi, who sees any number of balls go sailing over his head every week. Just a little accuracy would help.

For the Bears, the biggest story of the year is that Matt Forte has become just another guy, leading to the team becoming a wildly inconsistent team... and with Brian Urlacher gone, the defense has become as inconsistent. I'd love to bet against them, but the Browns are just this gutless, and you've got to think that Chicago is going to have a bounce-back game here. Besides, Joshua Cribbs is looking a little dinged up, and he's got to be ready to stop trying by now, and join the ret of the team's energy conservation effort.

Bears 31, Browns 13

SEATTLE at Dallas (-10)

Dallas got a big win last week at home against Atlanta while the Seahawks were on a bye. The Cowboys are flying high with Miles Austin finally giving them something approximating a #1 wideout, but the running game still isn't right, and that's a lot of points to give for a defense that just seems to lose focus routinely.

The reason why the line is this high, independent of the public's eternal willingness to be fooled by Dallas and the fact that big favorites have seemed to cover everything this year, is because the Seahawks are routinely awful on the road and working with something like their fourth-string offensive line. With Dallas actually getting a push in their last game, the line reflects the world thinking that this game will be a wilding.

Normally I'd be all over the underdog here, because the Dallas defense really isn't very good, and I'm thinking that the Seahawks have to come out of the bye with some juice. There's also the possibility that Julius Jones has a light vengeance game, and Matt Hasselbeck is certainly capable of putting up multiple touchdowns if he's upright. It's not exactly the most confident I've ever been about a cover, but I think Seattle gets it done.

Cowboys 27, Seahawks 20

St. Louis at DETROIT (NL)

The rarest of all things; a possible Lions blowout. Detroit comes into this one from a bye, while the Rams are on their second straight dome road game (last one, an evisceration in Indy). There's also the fun fact that the Rams have dropped 17 games in a row, but are such big losers that they haven't even had the sense of doing it all in one calendar year, so that they'd be noticeably awful. You have to applaud the creativity.

Detroit is likely to get back Calvin Johnson, who has been quietly murdering his fantasy owners all year. St. Louis has been seeing the best year from a RB that never scores (Stephen Jackson), but the same old terrible defense and quarterbacking has doomed them to the new low spot in the NFC.

I like Steve Spagnuolo, but it's also starting to get to the point where the new coach in a terrible situation's patience has to be wearing thin. The Rams also more or less threw in the towel this week by shipping out MLB Will Witherspoon to the Eagles (thanks, Spags!) for a fifth round pick. I didn't have a problem with that move for either side, but honestly, why just one? Jackson is still young and won't be when this team is good again, Jake Long might get you a speculative pick from someone who is still in love with his combine scores, and Donnie Avery should be moved on the general principle of celebrating when the team is getting its head kicked in. If you are going to flame out, best to do it with as many of your personnel choices as possible, really.

Here's how confident I am that the Lions will get it done this week -- I'm picking up their defense in a fantasy leagues due to a bye week issue. That team, by the way, is owned in just two percent of leagues. Which makes me wonder, really, who those two percent are, or if it's just a matter of Yahoo giving the Lions a courtesy stat...

Lions 24, Rams 13

San Francisco at INDIANAPOLIS (-13)

Didn't the Colts play this game last week? NFC West opponent, home game, defensive secondary licking their chops at a high probability of multiple picks, lone defensive worry an overrated RB? Check, check and check, with the only difference being that the Niners employ a few more defensive players than the Rams, or at least, did until Atlanta took them apart three weeks ago. Last week, they let the Texans run out and hide, then came roaring back to fall short behind the newly resurrected Alex Smith and the newly signed Michael Crabtree.

In time, Smith to Crabtree (and because Smith is still in Baby Mode as an NFL QB, TE Vernon Davis) might actually help this team get back to real respectability, rather than September NFC West fool's gold. But that time is not this week, against Peyton Manning at home, especially when Manning is playing Pinball Wizard with a half dozen targets. The only question that I have for this game is whether they make Smith look bad enough that Niners coach Mike Singletary goes back to Shaun Hill. And why that's actually a question, I'm not sure. (Oh, right, because I write a picks column, and will need to come up with something to say about the Niners next week. Perhaps Mike Singletary will drop trou or get a bigger crucifix. C'mon, Mike, help us out here.)

Colts 31, Niners 16

MIAMI at NY Jets (-3.5)

Will the real Jets please stand up? Are they the maddening, limited and turnover-prone bunch that dropped multiple games and looked like one of the league's great fade stories (just like last year, really), or are they the road-grading offensive line driven smashmouth artists that laughed their way through four quarters of garbage time in Oakland last week?

If you watch enough football, you start to realize when you've seen this movie before, and I have -- it's the mid-80s Eagles, only through a funhouse mirror. Instead of the OL being the focus, that was the QB, but otherwise, the same emotion and inconsistency reign, and there's a Ryan at the controls of both. Assuming the coach continues to work like the father, Jets Fan is in for a constant roller coaster ride that will end in a wild card weekend loss and future hopes that will never really work out. But considering what these fans have seen, I'm thinking they'll take it.

As for Miami, they raced out to a big early lead against the Saints, only to see the scariest team in the league come all the way back and more, in a game that I'm pretty sure clinched homefield for the playoffs for Brees and Co. (No? OK, it just seemed that way.) I think they'll run the ball a ton and get enough turnovers to keep this one close enough to take the points, but there's also the very real possibility that they had their hearts ripped out last week. It's not the most confident pick I've ever made, and whoever wins will still get stomped by the Big Bad Patriots later, anyway.

Jets 24, Dolphins 21

NY Giants (-1) at PHILADELPHIA

Two teams that looked like serious contenders a month ago, now with warts exposed to the point where I'm thinking the NFC North survivor will be the Saints' punching bag in the NFC championship game instead. The Eagles haven't played a good game since their bye, but have two wins thanks to the largesse of KC and Washington. The Giants have dropped consecutive games to the throwing Saints and Cardinals, which has to worry them coming into a game with the Throw Even When They Shouldn't Eagles. They've also seen their September passing circus turn sour, as Mario Manningham keeps getting open and not converting, and Eli Manning continues to show why his contract is a joke.

On the injury front for the Eagles, Brian Westbrook's concussion is a major cause of concern, and DeSean Jackson keeps scaring everyone in Philly with nicks and cuts. For the Giants, look for Giants TE Kevin Boss to have his best game of the year, since that's what every TE does to Philly. (To be fair, with these corners, you'd throw to the TE, too.) But the game will be won and lost on whether the defense stops Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. I actually think they will, because MLB Will Witherspoon is actually a football player, and the Giants haven't blocked well as they usually do.

If this game was at a neutral site or NY, I'd be sadly taking Big Blue; the Westbrook injury is troubling on every level, and he has just owned the Giants more than any other team. But on a weekend of pure Philly-New York hate, I'm seeing the home team pulling out all the stops, and hopefully tabling the Michael Vick package until further notice. Should be a great game.

Eagles 24, Giants 20

Denver at BALTIMORE (-3)

Yes, I'm back on my anti-Bronco kick, and continuing to denigrate the Greatest Winner in NFL History, QB Kyle Orton. This week, Denver comes off a bye to visit the Ravens in Baltimore, but the Carrion were also off, negating the usual bye week advantage. I like the home team here just so that when the Broncos fall apart in the stretch this year (you know, just like last year, when their QB was the Greatest Loser In NFL History, Jay Cutler), I'll be able to say I always disbelieved.

Besides, there's also the fact that this Ravens team is actually pretty good, and I like the coaching staff enough to think they'll have done something productive with the bye week. Ray Rice (and more importantly, the lack of Willis McGahee) makes the offense explosive, and the next time you hear someone talk about how NFL players are all me-first greedbuckets, consider the career of La'Ron McClain, who went from a stunning rookie year as a power back to being just another blocker.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. This one is just a matter of regressing to the mean. The Ravens have been unlucky so far in 2009 (made field goals, questionable ref calls, bad bounces), while the Broncos have been getting unreal breaks and happiness. In the probable cold and wet of Charm City, a place where even legendary QBs like Kyle Orton can struggle, it's time to slip, especially in the red zone.

Ravens 24, Broncos 16

Jacksonville at TENNESSEE (-3)

In Nashville, the owner wants to see Vince Young play. Coach Jeff Fisher seems to be in the one-year death spiral that won't hurt him too much when he hits the market, and maybe tying himself to the mast of Kerry Collins is just his way to get to the television booth faster. Either that, or he sees what the rest of the world sees when he looks at Vince Young: a terrible QB who doesn't have the head for the game, and who rode a nice little run of luck and team to post his first two years with a winning record.

For the record, I think Fisher is right to play Collins instead of Young, but at this point, I'd be thinking about the new equivalent of Billy Volek, too. The Titans aren't going anywhere this year, the defense was going to be worse without Albert Haynesworth anyway, and just to make matters worse, they are banged up, too. This week, they should win since they are at home, coming off a bye, and facing the constantly up and down Jaguars, but I've been sucked in too many times by this Titans team this year to trust them against a team with Maurice Jones-Drew.

Besides, if Fisher really is as far out the door as it seems, an extra week of preparation isn't going to help much.

Jaguars 27, Titans 17

Oakland at SAN DIEGO (-17)

You could make this line 24, and I'd be taking the Chargers... in the first half. There are clearly worse teams in the NFL than the Raiders, who've managed to have a couple of wins, but there's none that will quit on a game faster, or have less interest in staying with a game after they fall behind.

Which isn't to say that everything is right in Chargerland. Last week in KC, they did everything short of hold a telethon to get LaDanian Tomlinson into the end zone, to no avail, and the defense is capable of getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage. Despite the rampant talent on both sides of the ball, there's a malaise with this team that's capping them at 10 wins and a first round exit, and when you've got no dependable short yardage game and a QB (Phil Rivers) who's prone to holding the ball too long to try to make improv plays, that just means you're going to eventually come up craps in Turnover Roulette against a good defense. (Oh, and by the way, my fellow Eagles Fans, that shiver that just went up your spine from reading that last line? Intentional.)

But this week, Rivers will dink and dunk to Darren Sproles and Antonio Gates, then hit long balls to whoever Nmandi Asomugha isn't covering. Then, JaRuss and Co. will turn it over and give a short field, followed by the Raider run defense taking a nice SoCal siesta. If they can actually make Tomlinson look fantasy relevant for a week, I'd appreciate it. Maybe he can retire after the game, and go out with a nice 2 or 3 TD game. I'm just hoping, really.

If you're looking for reasons to believe in the Raiders to cover, well, maybe JaRuss will put it all together following his benching last week, and Darren McFadden might be back soon. The last time they played, the Raiders' offensive line dominated for a while on pure physicality, but as that was on opening weekend when the season was still in doubt, I'm not seeing it. And if you still believe that JaRuss is anything but The New Ryan Leaf (only less mobile), I've got a bridge to sell you. Many of them, actually.

Chargers 42, Raiders 6

Carolina at ARIZONA (-10.5)

Why, look who's back... the defending NFC champions, who were everyone's choice as So Last Year in the preseason and after a Week 1 loss to the Niners. Last week, the Warner Brothers went to New York and held the once-vaunted Giants running game to squat while actually running the ball a little themselves; Beanie Wells has moments of actual interest here, though he's still dicey with the ball and tries to do too much on broken plays. I'm not sure how a half-speed Anquan Boldin helps, but he'll probably be a little better this week, too, and if the Cards can keep DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in check, this one has all the makings of a blowout, really.

The Cardinals won't make it to the Super Bowl again, but they are actually better than last year's team, and really starting to look like they could win the division early again -- and there's something to be said for a team that wins three straight games on the road. For the first time since, gulp, 1975. Yes, the Cardinals franchise has not exactly covered itself in glory for the past half a century.

For the Panthers, we're on Vote of Confidence #12 on Jake Delhomme, and someone really needs to just shoot him now and put him out of everyone's misery. Last week in Buffalo, the defense did everything you'd want, but just got overwhelmed by the short fields and constant overexposure that the Snake gave them. This week, on the road against a team with a real advantage, they'll quit a lot faster than that. I fear, for the sake of all gamblers, that this is the end for the Snake.

Cardinals 31, Panthers 16

Minnesota at GREEN BAY (-3)

I understand there's some off-field storyline to this one, but I thought I'd do something weird and focus on the game instead, seeing how it'll be a good one. The last time these two teams met, Aaron Rodgers rang up huge numbers when he wasn't getting hammered to the turf. Last week against the admittedly terrible Browns, he wasn't sacked once, and RB Ryan Grant broke out with a monster game. The difference? Green Bay got its veteran OLers back. Be afraid, NFC North...

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, the Vikings took their first loss of the year on late turnovers for defensive scores. They also looked much easier to defend through the air after Bernard Berrian went down with a hamstring, and also gave up some huge plays through the air with their best CB, Antoine Winfield, on the shelf. Interesting.

You have to think the Lambeau stands are going to be fascinating, and that Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson will do damage. But I'm also seeing the Packers jump out to an early lead, which will make Favre take chances. And really, what would make for better poetic justice than a home team blowout? (Crap, I got sucked into the storyline, too...)

Packers 31, Vikings 17

Atlanta at NEW ORLEANS (-10)

One of the lighter point spreads that you'll see for the Saints in a home game, and I'm happy to have it. Atlanta just didn't look right last week in Dallas, and they'll need to be to stay with the home team in a loud dome, let alone a team as loaded as this one is. New Orleans remained undefeated despite a big early hole in Miami, and given how easy it would have been to just think that it wasn't your day and move on, I'm inclined to call that their most impressive win of the year.

Normally you'd worry about letdown with a double digit favorite at home, and think that the possibility for a letdown late cover would be in play. The trouble with that theory is that these are division rivals, and the Falcons are really the only possible rival to the Saints this year. New Orleans is going to be remembering past wrongs when they view game film this week, and the Michael Turner that ran them into the ground last year just isn't the guy wearing that jersey this year.

It also doesn't hurt, of course, that the Saints can actually run the ball this year themselves, and that they also are getting a bounce-back year from TE Jeremy Shockey to go with all of the other weapons. I'm pretty sure that the Saints won't go undefeated, but I'm also not sure when I'm actually going to pick them to lose a game. They really are this good.

Saints 38, Falcons 20

Last week: 6-5-1

Year to date: 51-49-2

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Series Pick

For the past couple of weeks, I've been hearing how wonderful it would have been had there been a Dodger-Yankee World Series. Everyone would have relived their Reggie Jackson childhood, both coasts would be covered in baseball interest, it's iconic and yada yada yada.

It turned my stomach.

I get that the world hates repeat champions, but honestly? Rooting for Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez (aka, the faces of everlasting Yankee and Red Sox success), while they were wearing the laundry of the team that taught me crushing childhood sadness?

Garry Maddox, sunshine, center field. Greg Luzinski, night, wall, no. Manny Freaking Mota. Crying my eight year old eyes out while wondering why God hated my team, and vowing never to care this much about a team ever, ever, ever again. Why, the Eagles are much more worthy of my devotion! They're sure to win this playoff game against Atlanta...

Anyway, the Dodgers got pounded over the head and shoulders and lost for the second straight year in five short games, and I really hope there's some eight year-old in SoCal that's learned a good and painful lesson about life, and will grow up thinking the same bitter thoughts that I did.

On the other hand, he's probably a Lakers fan. Crap.

Now, is it attractive to savor the tears of a theoretical child? Of course not. But let me speak frankly on the behalf of my home town, Philadelphia, to the rest of the nation. We get it. We understand that you don't like us. As a matter of fact, we're completely comfortable with that, and respect your opinion. Most of the time, we don't like ourselves that much, either, mostly because we keep hearing our fellow fans on the radio making a complete ass out of themselves. I've been a Philly Fan living in Philly, Northern California, and now, central New Jersey. It's easier in Jersey, and a hell of a lot easier in NoCal.

And for the next four to seven baseball games, a very large chunk of America will be waving the red flag, wishing with all of their hearts for Ryan Howard to be clutch, and rooting for our laundry as if it were their own, simply because we're The Not Yankees.

And it's deeply unsettling, really.

This is not how it's supposed to be for a defending champion. You're supposed to be enjoying your Us Against The World status, waist-deep in the glow from last year's triumph. So long as you aren't Boston Fan, you don't write books about it. You just accept the rare respite from disappointment, and try to remember as much of the ride as possible, because this is so much better than what normally happens.

Having all of these new people -- especially, pah, Boston Fan -- on the bandwagon is just wrong. It's our bandwagon. We know you're not going to be on it long. So go screw. (And you thought I was kidding about the Not Liking thing.)

For Philadelphia, this Series is perfectly/awfully designed to legitimize last year's title, not that anyone ever throws these things back. No one outside of town will think any less of this team if they fail to repeat. Having left Jonathon Broxton's career in a dumper, as well as denying TorreManny twice, is more than enough joy for the Hangover Year. (And oh, Dodger Fan? You just keep sucking on that until it turns sweet. 30-year-old revenge is sweet.)

Last year, the Rays fell in five close games that no one outside of Philadelphia watched. This year, they get The Billion Dollar Beasts with the most famous baseball players in the world, and they'll also have the road field disadvantage, thanks to MLB's continued insistence on giving the All-Star Game undue weight.

And yet.... I still want to pick them.

The real problem for the Phillies in this series isn't a hitter. It's Yankee ace CC Sabathia, who presents the very first dominant lefthanded SP that the Fightin's will face in this postseason. As the numbers show, southpaws with stuff turn Ryan Howard into something much less than helpful, and they also don't do wonderful things for Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley and the two switch-hitters at the top of the lineup. I could easily see Sabathia starting three games in this series, and putting his team in a great position to win all of them. Cliff Lee, God bless him, just doesn't have the same vibe. When they were both Indians, no one ever thought of giving Lee the top spot in the rotation, even when he was having the Cy Young year in the AL.

But here's the dirty little secret about both of these guys: the opposing team has smacked them both around. In 3 lifetime games against the Phils, Big Ceec is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA. In less happy news, Cliff Lee is 4-4 with a 5.04 ERA against NY. No one else on the starting staffs has a huge chance at dominance, though a lot of competence is likely.

There's also this: New York didn't exactly steamroll through the first two series. They were tight against a Twins team that gave away games and had a spent (hurt) closer. They needed six games and sweat to take out an Angels team with more defense and baserunning issues. There's no doubt that the Fightin's are the best team New York will face this postseason, and maybe they catch the Beasts in a bit of a paper tiger moment here.

The fun part about this Series, at least for those without undue emotional investment, is that it should actually be fun to watch. I don't know about you, but when every single game in October is a 4-hour stomach wrecker where the announcers can tell me how a single base hit is indicative of Character, Guts and Greatness that mortal men rarely achieve, I kinda want to break the television. In this series, where both teams have pitching staffs that can be had and hitters that don't shrink in the spotlight, we should have 50+ runs scored between the two teams over the course of the series. It won't be pinball, but it won't be soccer, either.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, continuing his run of gutsy decisions that we all hope will continue to turn out aces, is going to go with Pedro Martinez instead of Cole Hamels in Game 2 In New York. I love this move, if only for the theater of it; if Pedro can summon the old magic for this start, I think we'd have the perfect walk away moment for the man. (Don't count on that, BTW. Pedro likes money, and his lifetime win total could use another 20 to 30 more to make his Cooperstown plaque more impressive.)

Speaking of the managers, keep and eye on Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, who has shown a predilection for the overmanage this playoff with his shaky set-up men. Luckily for Joe, Yankee Fan is just happy to be here, and will cheerfully accept a Series loss so long as the team plays hard. (I'm just receiving word that, actually, no, this isn't the case. If they lose, Girardi gets vilified as Not Torre forever and ever. No pressure, Joe. Just make a few extra moves with the pitchers and try harder. Much harder.)

I hate the 2-3-2 format as well (what, New York and Philly are too far away? I freaking commute this on a daily basis), which means that the following pick is downright insane to make. But so is this year, where the team with better defense, a deeper bullpen, a much more productive outfield and a defending championship is a strong underdog.

Phillies in six.

Now, go on out there and win it for Harry Kalas, men. We need to hear him sing some more.

Top 10 Eagles-Redskins MNF Notes

10) Welcome to Philadelphia, Will Witherspoon. Is it that easy to play MLB, that a guy can move over in a week and deliver value... or is it just that Witherspoon is like a man that's gotten off Death Row now that he escaped the Rams?

9) Honestly, at this point, I'm wondering if Michael Vick has photos of Andy Reid at the dogfights. Can we please put away Line of Scrimmage Punt Return until it actually has a good play? (For the record, with 11 minutes left in the fourth, the line threw in some pancake work and got Vick a 9-yard carry around the left side to convert a third down. Woo.) I get that we need to stop any kind of momentum a sputtering offense has by constantly jerking the QB in and out, but, um, no, we *don't* actually need that, really...

8) Given that Jim Zorn no longer calls plays, why should the cameras look for his reaction shot after plays? He's got as much impact on this game as, well, you and I...

7) On 3rd and 16 at midfield in their first drive of the second half. 'Skins play-caller and senior center bingo caller -- no, honestly, we are not making this up -- Sherman Lewis called a screen to fullback Mike Sellers. Against a 3-man rush. You have to treasure the Skins in moments like this, because you're just not going to see that kind of thing from any other team...

6) The really surprising thing about this game is how the Eagles have a big lead without actually playing very well. A couple of big offensive plays by DeSean Jackson, a TAInt, and boom, it's a 17-point lead. But it feels like smoke and mirrors, despite coming against a terrible team, because when the offense isn't moving the ball and living on big plays only, that's what the world is like.

5) Jon Gruden likes Clinton Portis because he's a workhorse. A 2.5 yards per carry workhorse. I wonder if he also likes Jason Campbell, because he's really good at collecting cheap yards on give up 3rd and long calls.

4) The MNF mouth jobbers take up for Lewis, because they take up for everything. But the simple fact of the matter is that it's not that Lewis has the gig, but that he has the gig *now* -- the same way that Daniel Snyder crushed the legacy of Joe Gibbs. It's what The Daniel does, and that's why he's my very favorite Redskins owner ever. He not only kills the present, he also kills their past.

3) It may just be me, but it really seems like Sav Rocca makes one deadly awful punt a game, especially in close games. I'm not getting the infatuation here.

2) The Eagles have so many guys that can blitz! In that they have defensive players that can run to the QB and tackle him. What an amazing talent that is!

1) With 9:30 left in the game, the Lemur found it necessary to show youth QBs practicing, and it made Jon Gruden go all spazzy. Suddenly, the entire Bucs Experience of collecting awful QBs became understandable. The man's just got a fetish.

* * * * *

And a final point... with 4:40 left in the game, the Skins fumbled on one of the worst plays you will ever see in this world, as a sad little coda to their evening. At the time, my head to head fantasy football matchup swung by two points to my opponent. After a bad series for the offense (sorry, that should have read "after yet another bad series for the offense"), the Skins made it a 3-point lead with another sack... but a garbage time touchdown to Fred Davis swung it back to a point in my direction. After a failed offsides kick, it was kneeldown time for Donovan McNabb, which is to say, my QB. And he had to do it four times, and seemed to be interested in giving up extra ground as he did it... but it finally ended, with 4 yards of difference giving me the win.

The lesson: fantasy football sucks. Pass it on, really...

Ed. Note and Update: Fantasty football sucks even more when, the next morning, you see the points have been adjusted somehow to give your opponent the win. So take this as another lesson: Never use ESPN for your game. (Says the guy who just ported his fantasy basketball league over because of the auction software. Gahhhhh.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top 12 reasons why you should root for the Phillies over the Yankees in the Series

12)Philadelphia has grown their talent, which the Yankees generally find quaint

11) The Phillies steroid and spousal abusers are minor players, instead of major stars

10) Scientific research has proven that a Phillies repeat will cause Mets Fan to kill themself in more entertaining ways

9) A millennium that's free of Yankee championships is a good millennium

8) It's not often that you can root for the defending champion with a $132 million annual payroll and have them be the plucky underdogs

7) A Yankees loss will make Boston Fan happy, and as we all know, nothing is more painful on this or any other earth than Boston Fan unhappy

6) If the Phillies win, the Yankees will continue the wacky "Weekend at Bernie's" routine they've been doing with Big Stein's body

5) It's revenge for 1950, dammit, and will finally allow Richie Ashburn's ghost to rest

4) Preferring Frank Sinatra singing "New York" to Harry Kalas singing "High Hopes" is indicative of a persistent soul sickness

3) Because the phrase "Alex Rodriguez, World Champion" makes Baby Jesus cry

2) Unlike the Yankees, the Phillies' management doesn't get their rocks off from dry humping 9/11

1) Because rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for cancer, the casino, or a casino that will give you cancer

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week 7 NFL: You Crap The Bed!

This week in honor of the NFL's annual forced insertion of a bad football game on a foreign market, we're brought to you by Boong-Ga Boong-Ga, perhaps the most puzzling and dispiriting video game ever made, and continuing proof that Truman was right when he used nuclear weapons on Nippon. You can click and see if you like, but on some level, maybe you shouldn't. At least the exchange rate in yen means I can afford mid-level ramen this week.

Remember, the goal of the game is to let you try to out-think people who are actually paid to make NFL decisions. Remember, all of these scenarios are taken from actual game time decisions. Now, let's all play... You Crap The Bed!

1) You are Vikings safety Bennie Sapp.
It's 10-7 Steelers in the third quarter in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers are on the march. On a third and one from the Vikings 18 yard line, Steeler QB Ben Roethlesberger scrambles out of traffic and goes out of bounds for a first down. Do you:

a) Run hard towards him to make sure he doesn't cut it back inside for extra yardage

b) Keep an eye out for WR Hines Ward, who lives for extra hit moments like this

c) Maybe try to extend an arm or yell at Roehleseberger in the vain hopes for a turnover

d) Slow down, because the last thing you want to do in a moment like this is give the opposing team extra yards with a dumb penalty

e) Launch yourself head-first like a missile at Roethlesberger, despite the fact that he's already out of bounds, has the first down, is a quarterback and is the most visible player in the game, and the league likes to fine the hell out of people who lead with the helmet

If you've chose (e), preferably while pretending you've done nothing wrong with less conviction than a porn actress, you've won! And given the Steelers free yards on a second half drive that extended the lead, and set the tone on your first loss of the season. (At least Sapp got his head back enough in the game to make a nice third down deflection and keep the Steelers to a field goal. It'll make the inevitable five-figure fine easier to take in the film room.)

2) You are Bucs coach Radio Raheem Morris. It's 28-7 Patriots with 30 seconds left in the third quarter in your game in London. On third down, QB Josh Johnson and WR Antonoio Bryant almost connect off a scramble play, but don't make the completion, setting up a fourth and two from the Pats 35. Do you:

a) Go for it, and allow the mobile Johnson to see if he can pick up the first down by getting out of the pocket

b) Go for it, and give the ball to highly paid and reasonably effective RB Derrick Ward

c) Go for it, and try to find physical receivers like TE Kellen Winslow or WR Bryant to move the sticks for you

d) Put on a skirt and try to kick a 52-yard field goal, under the theory that that you're going to need the field goal for the win in your thrilling comeback

e) Put on a skirt, lipstick and heels and send out the punting team, because the fact that the Patriots have already put up 28 points on three quarters while yawning definitely means that you'll stop them after your defense sees you wuss out

If you've choose (e), you've won! And you've gained 25 yard of field position that the Patriots will eradicate in the next minute of football, the gratitude of the gambling public that laid the points on the Patriots and we're feeling worried about the investment, and more evidence that you have absolutely no business running an NFL franchise. Congratulations!

3) You are Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith. With nine minutes left in the game in Dallas, it's 27-14 Cowboys. Your defense hasn't given you any indication that they can give you a three and out, and on 3rd and 10, QB Matt Ryan connects with WR Roddy White to give you a fourth and two around near your own 40 yard line. Ryan and the rest of the offense are clearly itching to go for it on fourth. Do you:

a) Go for it and put the ball in the hands of your QB, who did, after all, win the Rookie of the Year award last year

b) Go for it and run the ball from a spread formation with RB Michael Turner or RB Jason Snelling, who has been very effective today

c) Go for it and throw to TE Tony Gonzalez, who may be, after all, the best to ever play his position

d) Go for it and try to go deep to WR Roddy White, under the theory that the Cowboys have an erratic secondary, won't be looking for a deep ball and you need to do something dramatic to change the way this game is going, or

e) Punt, because you clearly have enough time to get the ball back despite not being able to stop the Cowboys most the day, and you really need to make sure that Ryan knows who's boss

If you chose (e), followed up your team giving up an up the gut punt return for touchdown by the recently demoted Patrick Crayton, leading to a 16-point blowout that gave America's Team a season-saving win... you've won! And you take home a loss that more or less sticks a fork in your division hopes, seeing as how the Saints were maintaining perfection with a furious comeback in Miami. Well done!

Well, that's all we have time for this week. But remember, with a little fiber, determination, and poise -- or the right visual inspiration from the plainly terrifying Japanese mindset -- you too can... Crap The Bed! Good night, everybody!

Top 10 Week 7 NFL Late Game Notes

> Mark Sanchez said he wanted to get his mojo back this week, and scored on a QB draw and a really nice deep ball to David Clowney when the Raiders were getting Clownied all over the field. But in general, I'm looking at a guy who, in ten years, has a chance to be ten years older, and make me think of Joey Harrington. Not impressed.

> Atlanta started their road game in Dallas with a 16-play, 80 yard touchdown drive, eating up 8.5 minutes of clock and making the Jerruhsoleum crowd go straight to muttering. And then, they more or less crapped away the rest of the game. Not a common game pattern, that.

> JaRuss's seventh pick of the year was a dying quail that's about as big of a gift as you will ever see at this level. His third and final turnover of the day was a terrible ball into the end zone that Darrelle Revis made a highlight film catch on. If there is a QB that is less aware of the bliz, or less able to get away from it, or less likely to make a good decison on the move... my Lord, JaRuss is just unspeakably bad. We will be studying him, for ages to come, for the full package of his awfulness. But the footage may end here, as Bruce Gradkowski took over the rest of the way. Somewhere, Jeff Garcia is laughing. Hard.

> According to Jerruh Jones, the Roy Williams trade is still going to work out fine. I quite agree, really. But then again, I'm not a Cowboy Fan. Two drops and counting for the new Terrible, and when he finally caught a ball, he got called for PI. Heckuva job, Jonesy!

> On one truly marvelous play, Tony Romo scrambled, fumbled, and looked concussed, though to be fair, it's hard to tell a difference between Romo in full faculties and Romo impaired. Sadly, the rest of the day didn't go like this.

> With no timeouts left, 5 seconds on the clock and the ball on the Falcon 5, Romo escaped multiple rushers and flips a touchdown for their 17th straight unanswered points and a startling 17-7 lead. Gah, Falcons. If they get the sack, no points and a 10-7 game with booing Cowboy Fan. Game-changer.

> I'm sure there's a reason why someone would watch the Bills and Panthers. But none of them involve football being entertaining.

> Jason Snelling looked a lot better carrying the ball than Michael Turner for the Falcons. I'm not sure if this means Turner isn't what he was last year, though he had a tolerable fantasy day thanks to a third-quarter touchdown. But for a guy that some people were claiming was the #1 RB in fantasy this year, um, he's really not.

> Now that the league has changed the rules on what you can do with an onside kick, it's really a nearly pointless play. Honestly, I can't see this working against a defense that knows it's coming more than 5% of the time.

> If there's a bigger bunch of quitters in the NFL than the Oakland Raiders, I haven't seen them. I also await your frenzied defense of your laundry, Raider Fan who gave me crap for demeaning their win last week...

Top 10 Week 7 NFL Ad Questions

10) Does David Spade feel any shame whatsoever at exploiting the morbidly obese corpse of Chris Farley, and why exactly should this make me want to switch to DirecTV?

9) Is anyone else creeped out by CBS, the network of "60 Minutes", "Murder, She Wrote" and "The Metamucil Olde-Time Minstel Show" having MMA?

8) In what parallel world do people wander an urban setting aimlessly asking people what they can buy for a single held up dollar, and fast food counter people are awake and pretentious enough to use words like "amenities" when discussing "food"?

7) Why are Ford drivers so impressed by hybrid technology that's been commonly used by Prius owners for over five years?

6) How has anyone ever attempted to film or stage anything by Charles Dickens without the use of rampant CGI, stuntwork and elderly stuntman abuse?

5) Why is Honda selling the fact that their model hasn't changed in the past 30 years, and that they are the vehicle of choice for T-shirt wearing smacktivist douchebags?

4) Is it really a good branding moment for FedEx to tell me that my business needs a Butt Kiss?

3) Is there anyone left in America who thinks Chris Berman isn't a complete media whore, or that he'd ever be found dead in an Applebee's?

2) Why does Coors Light want to associate their product with Romeo Crennel having sex?

1) Is the UPS whiteboard guy becoming even more insufferable, or is that even possible?

Top 10 Week 7 NFL Early Game Notes

> How, exactly, does bringing a terrible game to foreign audiences build the NFL's appeal overseas? The Pats looked downright bored in this game, even when it was close. They weren't the only ones.

> I know I'm perverse, but on some level, I really love shanked punts. Chris Kluwe got off a stinkbomb of a 19-yarder against the Steelers against no pressure, and that's just good comedy, really. It's like a fart in an elevator, really.

> Wow! Steve Slaton ran for a 1-yard touchdown today in the first quarter against the Niners. Thanks for making it hard to fill You Crap this week, Gary Kubiak.

> On Philip Rivers' second touchdown of the day, the time that the quarterback had to complete the pass wasn't enough to have lunch. It was enough to start a restaurant and serve lunch. Kudos to the Chiefs for the impeccable energy conversation.

> There's braying jackassery, there's extreme braying jackassery, and there's what happens in the CBS halftime show. Today, Boomer Esiason interrupted Dan Marino during a highlight, and you would have thought that Esiason invented the fart joke for the forced laughter from the other mouth jobbers. Porn actors have better range. And more shame.

> Happiness is having Adrian Peterson on your roto team, and watching the Vikings give him one shot at the touchdown on a first and goal from the one. I get that Pittsburgh's very good at the run, but you'd think that the NFL's leading rusher might be more than an ornament in that situation.

> The hidden moment of insanity in the Steelers organization for years has been special teams. It makes no sense, since they draft well and have coaching stability, but it's just the case. Perhaps it's because they employ frequent Deadspin devotee Jeff Reed, who disgraced even the kicker brotherhood on a non-tackle of Vikings returner Percy Harvin today. It didn't wind up mattering, but still. Yeesh.

> Bill Belichick and Lawrence Maroney are old hand at boning fantasy owners, but there's really something special about the accomplishment when you run the ball ten times in the first 45 minutes of a game where you are up by three touchdowns almost before the game begins. At least Larry got a touchdown in the fourth quarter garbage time. Phew.

> Adrian Peterson face-raped William Gay on a 29-yard screen pass. I have no idea how Peterson will be a year or two from now -- honestly, a RB that plays the game with that level of violence can't last -- but he's just worth the price of admission by himself right now. Had the Vikings simply kept hold of the ball, AP would have generated overtime on his lonesome.

> And it all went for nothing thanks to Saint Bretty putting 14 points in the hands of the Steelers defense with turnovers today. (The first on a strip sack, the second on a deflection pick TAInt.) That Vikings bandwagon just got some leg room. (Oh, and kudos to Darryl Johnston for nothing that Bretty might want to have that play back. No, ya think?)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yankees-Angelzzzz.... zzz... zzz... zzz...

Here's what happens to you, Dear Reader, after A Certain Age: you start to fall asleep on games. This happened to me last night with the Angles-Yankees, which eliminated the chance to crank off a list of snarky goodness over how the game was a classic case of two managers seeing who could over-manage the game more, and thanking Mike Scoscia for injecting drama into the proceedings by pulling John Lackey for Darren Oliver, or how between the Vladdy Daddy and Bobby Abreu, I'm certain that the Angels would totally dominate your weekend softball league.

But all of that went by the boards, and I wound up waking up to a "Seinfeld" rerun an hour after the game ended. (Julia Louis-Dreyfus in HD? No favors.)

I'd like to tell you that this is a new occurrence, a sign of temporary overwork at the day job (lots of transition and stress there, and I'd say more, really, but there's a reason why I keep the two gigs separate), the change in seasons, the (non-existent) speed of an MLB playoff game, or the simple fact that the games seem designed for people in a non EST time zone. With my commute, I get up earlier on a daily basis then I ever have, and the sleep has to come from somewhere. A quick nap, and I'll be right as rain for the late innings.

Or, well, not.

The awful truth of it is that sports does not matter to you as much after a certain age. If your laundry breaks through and wins, it's a feeling of relief more than triumph, and if they are in the mode of maybe winning again, the experience gets compared to the earlier win, rather than just enjoying it. Watching for just the game's sake seems childishly unsophisticated; the fact that I had no action in last night's Yankee-Angels game (no fantasy play, no exceptional wager) takes the starch right out of it. I've become like a guy eating spicy food; if I don't have some Tabasco to go with the meal, I'm eating cardboard.

The other night, when the Phillies clinched, the eldest had a Halloween family fun night event at her school. The Shooter Wife gave me permission to skip to see the game, but I went anyway for the Dad points, because I knew the game was going to go on for 3 hours after the event was over, and because, honestly, seeing my kids after my 13-hour work day and commute matters more. Had this been 1993, I'd have been glued to the set and intractable. Had it been the A's, maybe I'm there and awake, but in all likelihood, no.

It might also help if these teams weren't my second and third least favorite clubs in the AL, and the ones that have dumped the most misery on my laundry in recent years. I have no rooting interest here, other than injuries, and seven games, so that there is less time to recover from injuries. But I digress.

So if you are (inevitably) younger than me and still waist-deep in your infatuation with Sports, I envy you, on some level. Just know that it won't last forever, and that eventually, you're going to be finding that overly comfortable couch/womb and losing your edge. There is a reason, after all, why the games are played and watched by young men.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top 10 Dodgers - Phillies Game Five Questions

10) Was the TBS crew contractually unable to mention that the fans were chanting "You Took Steroids" and "Hit the Showers" at Manny Ramirez?

9) Is it really worth a tongue-lashing from the people inside your television if you are lacking avocado, or should we just move straight to capital punishment?

8) Will the Phillies throw at the Dodgers in their first game against them in 2010 for all of the hit batsmen in tonight's clinching game?

7) After 1,500 regular season games, how long will it take for Raul Ibanez to calm down enough to actually play in a World Series game?

6) Why is Ryan Madson only able to bear down after a run scores and people are starting to lose their fudge?

5) Did Brad Lidge find another soul to sell for the 2009 postseason, or is his 2009 to date just part of the deal he made in 2008?

4) Can someone please use the 30+ years of media library to have Harry Kalas call the ninth?

3) Will the Phillies vote for a partial share to ex-teammates and welcome sights Randy Wolf and Vincente Padilla?

2) Do the Dodgers take some comfort in finally holding Ryan Howard without an RBI?

1) If they finish the job in the World Series and become the first repeat winner in the NL in 30 year, will that be enough to make Philadelphia a baseball town?

* * * * *

Some next-morning notes...

> The thing about this Phillies team is that, especially with the relative obscurity of Brett Myers, there really isn't an irritating guy in the bunch. Even your known PED users (JC Romero) are minor and with extenuating circumstances, and the stars are still presumed innocent on the needle use, and don't even fit the profile of sudden power surges and injuries.

More than that, they are downright huggable in interviews, while still retaining humanizing flaws. Ryan Howard can't hit lefties very much and strikes out a lot. Chase Utley had throwing issues in the first couple of games. Jimmy Rollins had a terrible year and has coasted in the past. The outfielders are all streaky, the starting pitchers the same, and the relievers have games where you wouldn't trust them with a 10-run lead. The manager shifts gears and sounds like Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel. The GM brings in spare parts guys like Chan Ho Park and Chad Durbin that seem like cannon fodder.

And yet, they win. Only after it's all done, and you look at the overall numbers, do you realize that they even did so with a large margin for error. They've gone against two closers so far in this post-season that were supposed to be airtight, and they cracked them like walnuts. It's just satisfying, really.

> That love-in extends to the stands now. Regardless of what happens in the Series, Philly Fan has bought in completely to this team, and the sense that the team feeds off that is palpable. I barely recognize the species, really.

To sweep the Dodgers at home and avoid the trip back to the West Coast is just huge, especially if the Angels can extend the ALCS and allow the Phils a chance to go with their preferred rotation against a tired staff. At this level, it's hard to see how home field is more than a marginal advantage, and yet... in this park, with these fans, I think it exists.

> As for the Dodgers, it's a good team and a pretty great franchise, and so long as they remain patient with their young arms and position players, it's hard not to see them back in the postseason again next year. But the guys that let them down -- Raffy Furcal, Manny Ramirez, Hideki Kuroda, Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla -- are all on the wrong side of the calendar, and probably need to move on. And until Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are a lockdown 1-2 starting rotation, you can't like their chances in a playoff.

> I realize that I'm prejudiced with my Yankee Hate (from the Freaking Jeremy Giambi series), but it's hard not to see how the general rooting interest of neutral fans don't go for Philly in a PHL-NYY series. It's also hard to imagine how there will be neutral fans watching the series at all. If you root for the Mets, this is the final insult to the worst year of your life. If you are a Red Sox fan, you just watched Manny take it in the neck, and are rooting for a team that could compromise your standing as the best team of the decade. And for the rest of the country that isn't on the East Coast, it's the defending champions with a big payroll against the historic overlords with an ungodly payroll. It's not quite Stalin v. Hitler here, but Philly Fan should realize that he's not exactly rooting for Ewoks, as it were. (And thank heavens for that, really.)

Speaking to that final point, I told the eldest the results of the game this morning. She's not really a sports fan, and keeping her up until midnight on a school night for something she's not that into is a complete no-sell, but she's heard enough to make conversation about it.

She also knows that even though Dad might own the occasional player in his fantasy league, and that some of Dad's friends like the team, The Yankees Are Evil. Maybe not Darth Vader's Empire evil, but more like Firefly's Alliance evil. Which inspired the following, given that she's also watched "Dr. Horrible":

"You should call them the League Of Super Evil, Dad. LOSE."

It's the small moments that let you know you are parenting them right, really...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Week 7 NFL Picks: These Picks Just Don't Like Each Other

Is these a bigger announcer cop-out than "These teams just don't like each other!" It's a darn shame, really. They used to get along famously, taking turns forfeiting games so that no one would get hurt, sharing playbooks and film rather than trying to trick each other, helping people up after tackles and declining bad penalty calls. Now, just look at them - fighting for every play, refusing to consider the feelings of each other's fans, and being just plain greedy about winning. It's sickening.

Well, I'll tell you something, Dear Reader... these picks just don't like each other, either. They started off 6-1 last week in the early games, with nothing but a half point separating them from perfection, only to see the late games give up the money and stumble to .500. When you have something like that happen, you can be sure that the next week's practices are going to be a little more intense, with lots of after-the-whistle hitting and fights. Now, let's see if they can put that kind of aggression to work where it counts. Because winning is a great deodorant, in that it doesn't smell like flopsweat, failure, and store-brand oatmeal, which is how I punish myself after gambling losses.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

INDIANAPOLIS at St. Louis (+14)

Will the Rams go winless? It hardly seems possible for a team in the NFC West, but far be it for me to deny these crazy kids their shot at history. Short of RB Stephen Jackson (who really should be traded to a contender, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of why the NFL isn't as fun as it should be), journeyman TE Randy McMichael and oft-injured oft-idiotic WR Donnie Avery, I'm not sure that any of their offensive starters could work for anyone else in the league as starters.

If you're looking for a late cover, Marc Bulger has looked frisky for the past two games, and they gve the Jaguars a game last week. The problem with that moment of undue optimism is that the Jags always play down to the level of the opponent, while the Colts do not. There's also the fact that the Colts are coming off a bye, which means the speed rushers will *definitely* get to Bulger, and Peyton Manning seems to like putting up Big Numbers, since that's the way to make sure that everyone remembers he's the MVP. I'd probably take the Colts +20 here; Jackson will get some yards and might even finally score a touchdown this year, but this offense just doesn't take games off.

Colts 34, Rams 13

Minnesota at PITTSBURGH (-4)

Why are the Steelers favored in this game? The Vikings are undefeated, have the gunslingerest QB that ever gunslingered, and unlike the home team, are relatively healthy, especially on the defensive line. They also have the best RB in the game in Adrian Peterson, a tremendous set of wideouts with Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and a genuine threat at TE with Visanthe Schiancoe. With the old man not throwing picks, they are no worse than a top five team.

Or, well, are they? They needed a miracle to take out the Niners at home. They nearly coughed up a big lead last week against the Ravens. The schedule has been fairly kind, and a road game in Pittsburgh is clearly stepping up in class.

There is also the fact that the public likes the Steelers and wants to bet them. They are also the defending Super Bowl champions, at home, and are highly likely to pick Saint Bretty a few times in this game, because Senor Gunslinger is most prone to the internal deep ball pick, which is to say, where the Steelers get the majority of their picks anyway.

To me, this is a toss-up game, which makes me tempted to take the Vikings just for the points. But I cant shake the idea that Rashard Mendenhall will give the Vikings enough to worry about in the running game to give Ben Roethlesberger time to throw, and when Joe Flacco riddles you with dump offs to a scatback, Big Ben can do more than that. Should be a hell of a game.

Steelers 24, Vikings 17

NEW ENGLAND at Tampa Bay (+15)

Welcome back to the Bad Old Run it Up Patriots, who led by 45 at the half last week at home against the DOA Titans. Way to take your bye week early, Tennessee; I didn't know an NFL team could go 60 minutes with a single positive passing yard. (Total: 2 for 14, -7 yards, 2 picks.) Honestly, I don't know what it is about teams quitting in the snow in Boston, but this game was remarkably like the Cardinals foldo last season, only less competitive. It also, of course, cost me bitterly, as one of my opponents saw Randy Moss go off for 30+ points in a half. That was fun.

This week, the Bucs have to be looking at the footage of last week and wondering if they are next for the Confetti Bucket Brigade. Historically, I'd almost be looking for that, because the Bucs had enough defensive players with pride that would break something from that kind of mean spiritedness... but not under Radio Raheem Morris. The Bucs have real issues covering deep balls, and this week is going to see a lot of those. It's 2007 all over again, at least for one more week. Maybe Tampa should bring in Joey Galloway for the week to tell them about the Patriots playbook, but that, of course, assumes that Joey actually knew anything about it...

Patriots 45, Bucs 24

San Francisco at HOUSTON (-3)

A real puzzler of a pick. Do you go with the tough-minded defensive team coming off a bye following an all-day clowning, or the perplexing offensive flakes that finally put together a good win last week, despite still having major issues in the run game, and is just primed to suck you in with another tease game moment? So many very bad choices, really.

I'm going to go with the Texans, mostly because the last Niner defensive effort was really that terrible, and I'm really not seeing any benefit in force-feeding rookie WR Michael Crabtree to the starting lineup when he probably doesn't know more than a half dozen plays. This way, especially with tough but talentless QB Shaun Hill, lies turnovers.

On the other side of the ball, WR Andre Johnson is putting to bed any notion that he isn't the best in the game at his position, and the Niners won't get to QB Matt Schaub enough to prevent that hookup from happening repeatedly. There's also finally this: when in doubt, bet against the team from the NFC West.

Texans 31, Niners 20

GREEN BAY at Cleveland (+7)

The Packers were supposed to get their offensive line fixed during the bye week, with starting left tackle Chad Clifton returning to eliminate that problem of QB Aaron Rodgers constantly hitting the turf. Clifton did return for last week's game against the Lions, but did not stay, and while the Pack still won easily, it was more from the charity of Lion QBs Dante Culpepper and Drew Stanton.

If you're a Packer fan, you've got to be worried that the team won't be able to overcome this line. RB Ryan Grant has been healthy and had moments, but the line is so bad that his per carry average has been like last year, when he had hamstring issues. You also, of course, have to wonder why Brett Favre turned into an undefeated lack of turnover machine in your most hated rival's laundry. But I'm assuming that the meth that you are shooting into your eyeballs every time the purple enters your field of consciousness takes care of that.

This week, I suspect we'll see something similar to the Lions game, as Browns QB Derek Anderson continues his troublesome relationship with accuracy, and the defense eventually gives up. It will be closer than the final score, but that's only because Anderson is due to start forcing things, which means TAInt Time. Just a couple more weeks until NBA season, Cleveland Fan.

Packers 31, Browns 20

SAN DIEGO at Kansas City (+5.5)

In the close but not quite MNF loss to the Broncos at home that more or less ended the AFC West race, Chargers coach Norv Turner encapsulated why he's such an epic failure as a game-day coach. With RB LaDanian Tomlinson ripping off nice chunks of yards, Norvalicious chose to take LdT out on 3rd and goal from the two, then gave the ball to change-of-pace back Darren Sproles on a gimmick draw. The Broncos stuffed it as cold as Ray Lewis did to Sproles on the game-ending home loss to the Ravens while Tomlinson fumed on the sidelines. It's just a shame that we had already played You Crap The Bed for the week, because Norvy used every inch of the mattress on that one. You have to admire the man's abilities in coverage.

This week, the presumably desperate and angry Bolts will get a road game in KC, a place where they've historically struggled, against the no longer winless Chiefs, who took advantage of the Redskins' charity for a not terribly surprising upset win last week on the road. I keep waiting for this Bolt team to just mutiny on the offensive plays and call their own, rather than continue to to follow the Norved One. It couldn't hurt, because there's only one man on the field on Sunday that can keep the Chargers, with their talent level, anywhere near the Chiefs. His name is Norv, and Bolt Fan should really treasure him while he can. It's genuinely hard to squander this much talent.

Chargers 34, Chiefs 20

New York Jets at OAKLAND (+7)

A small aside. One of the things that happens with this blog is that it gets mirrored on another site, under the idea that this will increase site views and visibility and keep me in gum money. I have my doubts about this, but haven't seen fit to pull the plug on it (yet). (And as an aside to that site's ever-changing cast of "editors", Hi, Mirror Site! Hugs and kisses!)

Anyway, in last week's notes column on Raiders-Eagles, Raider Fan that read the mirror site went off on me for not giving props to his team in the midst of what they are hoping will be a season (and in the case of JaMarcus Russell, perhaps career-changing) win. You see, a home win against a team that misses multiple field goals, calls timeouts when they don't have them, drops a half dozen passes and calls 50+ passing plays on a day when the rushing game is racking up yards against a defensive line that's recording a half dozen sacks... well, that just means the home team has Heart, and Team Spirit, and Excellence In Execution and whatever else is available in ten pound sacks down at the garden supply store.

In other words, after relentless exposure to the toxic levels of bullsquat and bad football that is Raiderball, the fanbase has been compromised. If you're a Raider fan now, you are well and truly delusional, a full-time Kool-Aid drinker, last in the bunker with Al, wondering how you can get closer, closer to the man and his aura even as those around you stiffen and gag from the stench of decay. You defend the WRs when they turn in a catch-free day by noting how well they blocked on TE Zach Miller's touchdown. You explain away the closeness of the final score with referee puling. And with just one more win this week against a suddenly reeling Jets team that got completely sabotaged by their rookie QB at home against the Bills last week, you're going to think that you've got Big Momentum.

And, truth be told... I kind of like your chances. I did, after all, think you were going to be a .500 team this year in the preseason, before I saw just how badly JaRuss was going to stink it up.

Justin Fargas ran really hard last week. The Jets lost cornerstone DT Kris Jenkins to injury last week. The Jets' best remaining defensive asset, shutdown CB, Darelle Revis, will have absolutely nothing to do in this game. Jets QB Matt Sanchez has been a turnover machine all year, and now that his security blanket #1 WR (Jerricho Cotchery) is on the shelf, he's forcing every throw to a guy (Braylon Edwards) who doesn't know the playbook. The Raiders should have Nmandi Asomugha back this week. The Jets probably won't have Cotchery. I'd say the home team is going to get at least 3 picks this week, and JaRuss is usually not accurate enough for more than two a game on hit own self.

Add it all up, and you get a vibe that supports an upset more than a cover. Two in a row before being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs? Extra blood for everybody in the Davis box this week!

Raiders 24, Jets 17

Buffalo at CAROLINA (NL)

Thomas Jones, a nice enough RB whose death in fantasy football was wildly overstated this year, ran for over 200 yards last week against this Bills team. So why won't DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart do well over 250 yards on the ground at home this week? The short answer, of course, is that they'll probably do more like 300, assuming that Jake Delhomme doesn't turn the ball over on his 12 to 15 pass attempts on the day. (Note to Jake: Do not turn the ball over on your 12 to 15 pass attempts on Sunday.)

Buffalo counters, in all likelihood, with the super scamper power of backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is now on his third team of announcers talking about his Harvard education and community college arm. (And honestly, Vegas, you aren't going to give a line over the difference between Captain Checkdown Edwards and the Crimson Scourge here? Grow a pair.)

On the other hand, Ryno sure does scamper a lot, and I'm sure all of the defensive players on the other team feel much better for pounding the internal organs of a Harvard man. At least when Terrible Owens gives him crap in the huddle for not throwing the ball to him, Ryno can answer him in Latin. Or snobese. By the end of this season, Terrible will be begging for the arm strength of Jeff Garcia.

So with both teams strictly in game manager mode, this is the game for you... if you like your football to look more like when the ball resembled a watermelon, and forward passes were only done by that commie Don Hutson. A nice point to remember for the next time you're stuck near a run only traditionalist, because this game will be about as pretty as, well, Ryno's game. (CAP'N ANDY, IGNORE THIS PREVIEW. IT DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU. RUNNING THE BALL IS GOOD. RUNNING THE BALL IS YOUR FRIEND.)

Panthers 24, Bills 13

CHICAGO at Cincinnati (-1.5)

Two teams on hard times. The Bears blew their bye week return with sloppy red zone play in Atlanta, while the Bengals kept forgetting to cover the screen pass against the Texans, and lost their defensive reason for being, DE Antwan Odom. This week, we get the Vengeance Game to end all Vengeance Games from Cedric "The Avenger" Benson, who has reinvented himself in Porkopolis and who I really should be selling high on.

If Odom weren't hurt, I'd be all over the tabbies here. The Bears just seem snakebit this year, and RB Matt Forte's fumbling problems last week in Atlanta are officially worrisome. But now that I'm pretty sure that the Bengals won't be able to get a push without a blitz, the pendulum swings back to the visitors, despite Benson. As the line shows, it's a coin flip game, and in that, I'd rather go with the defense that's closer to complete, or at least, has had longer to learn how to live without their best player. (Remember, the Bears lost MLB Brian Urlacher in Week One. Bear Fan, especially, has not forgotten this.)

Bears 24, Bengals 21

ATLANTA at Dallas (-4.0)

Dallas comes to this game off a bye, while the Falcons held off the Bears at home. What struck me from that game was how the Falcon defense, without really crossing the line to good, was just opportunistic and plucky, especially in the red zone. They turned Matt Forte into a goal line fumbler early, then took advantage of Orlando Pace jumping offsides late. You can fault the Bears for such things, or you can credit the defense... But what you can not do, usually, is expect that to continue the next week on the road. Except here.

I don't mean to overstate the case against Tony Romo; he's at least a top half QB, and if you give him WRs that can take advantage of the extra time that he usually can buy, he can look a lot better than that. But when your WRs are this underwhelming (Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton especially), you aren't going to get big numbers without missed tackles. That won't happen this week against the Falcons.

I hate going against a home team at night, coming off a bye. But it's not as if Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White all won't see success this week, or that Cowboy Fan is so enraptured with his team that they enjoy an unquestioned home field advantage.

Finally, this. Is Wade Phillips really a coach that you think can take advantage of more time to prepare? Look for Atlanta to do no less than cover, and maybe even win.

Falcons 27, Cowboys 24

NEW ORLEANS at Miami (+7)

Another game in which the Dolphins will try to play ground away against a terrifying offense, but with a key difference - the Saints just might be good at stopping the run. Hidden inside the pinball antics of last week's de-pantsing of the Giants was this; Brandon Jacobs didn't do much despite playing in front of his peoples (I swear the number of tickets he bought for this game kept rising during the pre-game shows), and Ahmad Bradshaw didn't rule the world, either.

New York's secret to road success is a punishing ground game (ARE YOU LISTENING, CAP'N ANDY?), but the Saints are allowing less than four yards per carry this year. If they keep doing that, the NFC math gets simple. You just count the number of teams that are more explosive or who might have home field in a title game. Zero and zero.

The last we saw of Chad Henne, he was making The Leap against the Jets on MNF. That looks a lot less impressive now, and I remain a believer in this NO team, especially now that Lance Moore is back to give them another fearless slot and sticks mover. If the Fish want to win this game, they are going to have to injure Drew Brees, and that's not how you bet.

Saints 31, Dolphins 16

ARIZONA at New York Giants (-7)

New York is, really, the only failed stop in the NFL history of Kurt Warner, and he gets a prime-time shot at vengeance in a suddenly compelling matchup. Last week on the road in Seattle, the Cards put together a dominating effort, with Warner doing his hyper-efficient game management routine while the defense took advantage of the wounded Seattle OL to look like last year's good games.

Meanwhile in the Big Easy, the Giants defense was coming unglued against Drew Brees in a surprisingly uncompetitive game. If you had set the line for this one last week, it would have been at least a touchdown different.

Like an increasing number of games, this one will change strongly from who makes the game. The Cards are hoping to have the increasingly fragile Anquan Boldin, while the Giants are hoping for health from Mario Manningham, as well a presumably recovered Eli Manning.

The Giants would do well to get their running game untracked to keep Manning clean, because it's feeling like a tough weather year in the East, and his arm will go to hibernation mode soon enough. I think that the Giants will run for some big plays this week in a bit of a shootout; the blue secondary showed more than a few holes last week. Besides, the night game helps us all avoid that 1pm EST West Coast road team problem...

Giants 31, Cardinals 27

Philadelphia at WASHINGTON (-7)

I suppose it would strain my credibility (hah!) to insist that I was always going to call this game for DC, even independent of the events of last week. But seriously, I was. Consider the following:

+ Jim Zorn went 2-0 last year against Andy Reid

+ Reid's lifetime record against DC is something like 4-3,000 (note: perception, not reality)

+ Jason Campbell is only in the NFL for what he's done to the Green

+ Donovan McNabb broke the Skins back when he not only could run, but wanted to

+ The Green are the only NFC East team that DC has any good recent feelings about

+ These games are always nut-huggingly close because (theme alert! theme alert!) These Teams Just Don't Like Each Other

The simple fact of the matter is that DC is built to cause problems for the Eagles. They have a commitment to running the ball, a competent pass catching TE (the publicly endowed Chris Cooley), and an overall talent level that causes the Eagles to think that everything will be easy, so they sleepwalk until panic, at which point they throw and throw and throw until the panic is justified.

They also generally follow up turd-tastic losses with stinky, stinky wins, and Skins Fan hates this team so much that any road lead could snowball. But that's just not my laundry this year.

Eagles 17, Redskins 13

Last week: 7-7

Year to date: 45-44-1

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Phillies - Dodgers Game Four Notes

11) According to the World Wide Lemur, Jimmy Rollins' game tying and game winning RBIS is the first time that a home team got one of those with two outs since... Kirk Gibson. So that means we can stop showing that footage, right? (Please? As an A's fan, I'm begging.)

10) Please note that the game-tying run tonight was sparked by the man that lives in permanent heavy rotation in Jonathan Broxton's nightmares: Matt Stairs, working the walk. And if you suspect, like I do, that Charlie Manuel kept the old fire hydrant around all year for just this purpose... well, Cholly's smarter than he lets on, OK?

9) I have to say, I'm really enjoying Bill Simmons' bandwagon rooting for the Dodgers and his old pal Manny. Wait, what's that, you mean he didn't write a word about it, because he doesn't write about things that don't go his way? I'm shocked, shocked, to see a Boston Fan behave this way. Just shocking, really.

8) I'm pretty sure that we all expected this series to turn on a catastrophic bullpen failure to blow a save. Really the only way it could have gone.

7) In the eighth inning tonight, Ryan Howard reminded us all of why he's not, in fact, the best first baseman in baseball. It's mostly because left-handed pitchers exist.

6) You'd never know from his at-bat tonight to win the game, but Jimmy Rollins has been mostly terrible his year, leaving the table clear for the pulp-crushing machine that is the middle of this lineup. But it's all water under the bridge now.

4) The Phillies' bullpen tonight: 3 innings, 2 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts and a win. After the Game 2 tragedy to deny Pedro Martinez, Philly Fan was reminded anew to never, ever trust the bullpen ever again... but to be fair, getting nine outs without giving up a single run is not quite the worst bullpen effort ever. Kudos, Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, and tonight's winning pitcher... Brad Lidge.

3) Chutch Ruiz scored the winning run tonight after getting on base via being hit by the pitch. He also made it all the way around the bases on the Rollins hit, and look like the world's biggest kid every step of the way. You have to love it when defensive catchers hit.

2) Both MLB playoff games ended today with a walk-off hit. If MLB wants to keep doing this sort of thing, maybe the sport will survive the men who run it...

1) Game Five will be on Wednesday, and feature Cole Hamels vs. Vincente Padilla. Dodger Fan, I've seen Padilla in a must have situation before, and lemme tell ya, I'm not loving your chances...

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