Monday, October 31, 2005

It's Halloween...time to light bags of poop on fire and leave them on your neighbor's doorstep.

I’ve got neither the time nor the patience to write much of anything today. I am still recovering from the weekend’s events which, among other things, seems to have resulted in me losing my cell phone. What a nightmare this is turning out to be. My home phone is still not up and working due to the effects of Hurricane Wilma, so I am basically unreachable unless I’m at work. Well, that’s not completely true since I’ve borrowed my Mom’s cell phone for the time being. Of course, nobody knows the number to her cell phone and every number that is even remotely important to me is stored in my missing phone. This is fantastic, just beautiful. Oh well, at least the Gators pulled out a victory against Georgia. As one of my friends said after Florida went up 14-0 on Saturday, “Ruining Georgia’s season never gets old”. No, no it doesn’t.

I did get home in time to watch quite a bit of NFL Football yesterday. Let me just say this…you might want to consider thanking the good lord for DirectTV NFL Ticket next time you stumble out of the bar on Sunday morning (I’m betting that’s a lot more likely than anyone who reads this drivel attending any sort of religious ceremonies in the near future.) If it weren’t for the aformentioned NFL Ticket then I would’ve been stuck watching these three classics: Giants-Redskins, Jag-Rams, and 49ers-Bucs. The Jags-Rams game actually ended up being a pretty good contest but, personally, I’d rather drink a large bottle of Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce than sit through an entire Jaguars game. That’s just me though. As for the rest of the games, we were flipping back and forth throughout the day so all I’ve got are a collection of random thoughts concerning the week that was:

- I know that Wellington Mara was one of the greatest owners in pro sports and that he was as good an ambassador for the league as anybody could ask for, but I have to say that I found all the signs in the Meadowlands yesterday to be quite transparent. In all seriousness, what percentage of these fans could’ve named the owner of the Giants if questioned on the subject a month ago? Ten, fifteen percent…maybe? How about if they had been asked to pick him out of a lineup of elderly gentleman? That’s all I’m saying. With that said, I did find it very telling how jacked up the Giants came out to play yesterday. It seemed as if every guy on the roster was playing with a little extra motivation and swagger out there. Other than, maybe, Dan Rooney can you think of a single NFL owner whose death would evoke that kind of reaction from his players?

- Philly looks awful. Not Baltimore Ravens awful, but still very, very bad for a team that has been the other dominant franchise in the NFL for the last five years. Everything seems to be catching up to them at once: injuries, chemistry, lack of a running game, etc. They had one possession that lasted 12 seconds yesterday. 12 seconds! That’s absolutely amazing. It’s really too bad because they have a good to great defense that is already wearing down because they’ve spent sooo much time on the field this year. I could see this team losing something like 4 of their last 5 games and missing the playoffs.

- I’m almost (almost) glad that the Bucs lost yesterday. As the game was winding down I just kept thinking to myself. If we somehow win, is their a worse 6-1 team in the history of the NFL? I haven’t done the research but I’d venture a guess on “No” as the answer.

- Not that this is any sort of breaking news, but Chris Simms is awful, just awful. Even his one TD pass was nothing more than a 6 yard curl route that Galloway turned into a big play. Count me among those who don’t think that Simms will ever have the brains and/or intestinal fortitude to be a quality starting QB in the NFL. If his last name wasn’t Simms and he looked like Major Applewhite he’d be announcing high school football in Northern New Jersey by now.

- After years of NFL scouts basically giving hummers to every receiver over 6’2” it’s nice to see that some smaller speed receivers are finally establishing themselves as legitimate #1 receivers again. Guys like Galloway, Santana Moss, Steve Smith and Terry Glenn are all proving that there is much more to being a dominant receiver in this league than the ability to dunk a basketball. You know, things like route running, speed, good hands, and an ability to create yards after the catch.

- Who out there wasn’t wondering when the Annual Brett Favre Four Interception was coming? Of course we were all wrong since Brett decided to up the ante this year.

- That Kansas City defense sure has improved by leaps and bounds this year, huh?

- Has there ever been a situation that saw a group of fantasy owners rejoice when their All-Pro QB went down for the season like the one we’re currently witnessing with Daunte Culpepper? Seriously, him tearing up his knee is the best thing that could’ve possibly happened to anybody who had him on their fantasy team.

- Ricky Williams looked pretty good yesterday. Not only running with purpose but also flashing some breakaway speed for the first time since his return. With the way that Ronnie Brown has continued to improve (and impress) the Dolphins could be the third team this year (along with the Broncos and Chiefs) to have a legitimately dangerous running back platoon system.

- As for the Broncos, if Tatum Bell can get a little tougher running between the tackles he could end up being the best Bronco running back since Terrell Davis. He might not ever be the runner (in terms of vision and cutback ability) that Portis was/is but his breakaway speed gives him a dimension that not many backs in the NFL can compete with.

- An actual excerpt from Paul Maguire last night during a replay of Corey Dillon juking Lawyer Milloy, “Watch his feet. Watch his feet. Watch his feet. Oh, uh, whoop, uhhh…aw sheez.” Top flight analysis is exactly why they pay him the big bucks folks.

Friday, October 28, 2005

And you thought I'd forgotten about report cards...

It’s been so busy around work this week that I missed the one year anniversary of this monumentally average blog. That’s right, yesterday was the one year anniversary of Mark’s Musings.

I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long to me either. Actually, who am I kidding? It feels like it’s been 5 years, not just one. In the span of time since I’ve been writing in this space I’ve moved, switched jobs (three times, with a fourth possibly looming in the near future), barely avoided a DUI, and ingested god knows how many different types of drugs. What does all this mean? Not much other than, I’m probably a little more dense than when I began this, and that I can’t possibly work anywhere for more than a couple of months without uttering the words, “I hate this place.” as I read through the classifieds in search of a job that pays me more while expecting less from me than my previous place of employment. If you hadn’t guessed I’m still searching for that job…I’m not giving up that easy.

Speaking of giving up, most Gator fans were ready to give up on the SEC season after the embarrassing loss to LSU a couple of weeks ago. However, after DJ Shockley went down with a knee injury last week the window of opportunity for an SEC East Championship was cracked ever so slightly. If Florida can pull out a victory in Jacksonville this weekend then the Gators would have the tiebreaker if Georgia were to lose another game in the SEC. With Auburn still on the docket for the Bulldogs, a win this weekend for the Gators could make things extremely interesting heading down the home stretch. A win tomorrow could change the tenor of the entire season. With that in mind, I’m finally ready to turn in the mid-season report card for the 2005 Gators. I want to preface this by saying that this isn’t going to be the most comprehensive report card I’ve ever written. This will be much more concise, with a few quick points about each unit and a spotlight on a particular player in some of the personnel groups who has grabbed my attention in one way or another. I’m leaving for Jacksonville soon so let’s get started.

Quarterback: Chris Leak has struggled, there is no other way to put it. He has struggled adapting to the spread option and his various responsibilities for running the offense. He isn’t committing to the run enough to be a threat and that’s allowed defenses to focus on the pitch options when Florida attempts to run the option. Furthermore, Leak has struggled with accuracy as well as going through his reads and checking down to his third and fourth options in the passing game. Some of the blame is definitely on the shoulders of the receivers and the offensive line but Leak has to become more consistent in his execution of the offense as a whole.

Grade: C-

Running Backs: DeShawn Wynn is clearly the most physically gifted of the group. He’s big, strong, and possesses breakaway speed. However, he struggled to get out of Urban Meyer’s doghouse for much of the early part of the season. As has been the scenario with Wynn for most of his career, it was a case of his attitude and work ethic not being up to the desired level of the coaching staff. The LSU game seemed to be Wynn’s coming out party as he ran with purpose and drive against a quality opponent for the first time in nearly two years. The job is clearly his now, if he takes advantage of this opportunity remains to be seen. Redshirt freshman Markus Manson has been pegged by observers for a breakout game for weeks now, but his inability to protect the ball has kept him from seeing the field for any type of meaningful minutes. If he can correct this problem, he should begin to see the field much more often for Florida as he is a true homerun threat everytime he touches the ball.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers: This unit was as talented and as thin a position as any on the Gator football team coming into the fall. The talent had Gator fans drooling over the possibilities in early September. Since then, the lack of depth has caused major problems for Florida’s offense. Losing Andre Caldwell for the season has severely hindered the creativity of the spread option as he was the receiver designated for use in most option plays. Since then Jemalle Cornelius and Chad Jackson have both suffered nagging injuries that have limited their effectiveness as playmakers. Dallas Baker has been the only proven receiver healthy since the Alabama game and while he’s played well, the lack of a threat on the other side of the field has allowed defenses to focus on Baker without fear of being burned by any of the receivers who have been lining up opposite of Baker. Key player: Tate Casey. The sophomore tight end caught four touchdown passes in his last six games last year and possesses both the hands and body to cause major matchup problems for secondaries. Unfortunately, Casey has been almost nonexistent in the gameplan for much of the year. Meyer and Offensive Coordiantor Dan Mullem must find a way to exploit the matchup problems that Casey causes if they’re going to spark a revival in the Florida passing attack.

Grade: B

Offensive Line: The worst unit of the field. Sadly, most fans and media members thought this group would be a physical, dominating unit in 2005. The combination of a new zone blocking scheme as well as the some new positioning has turned this line into a wall with all of the consistency of a wet paper bag. They have been absolutely unable to hold up against pressure and have also struggled mightily in the run game. Somehow, the coaching staff must find a way to instill some confidence in this group. There is talent here. However, this talent is seriously lacking confidence in both themselves and the scheme at this point.

Grade: F

Defensive Line: After losing it’s best player, defensive end Ray McDonald, during the Tennessee game it seemed as though this unit would revert back to the inconsistent ways of the past two years. However, DT Marcus Thomas has responded by playing the best football of his career while Jeremy Mincey (or Jerome as Verne Lundquist calls him) is leading the team in tackles from the defensive end spot. This unit still leaves a little something to be desired when it comes to the pass rush, but they’ve played very well to date despite not getting any time to rest from a horribly inconsistent offense. Player(s) to watch: McDonald is expected to be back to (near) full strength for tomorrow’s game. Even more encouraging is that former super recruit Jarvis Moss is finally healthy for the first time in two years after suffering from a mysterious infection in his groin and has really come on as of late. He recorded three QB pressures, a sack and a forced fumble against LSU and looks to finally be the pass rusher that the Gators have lacked for so many years.

Grade: B+

Linebackers: Thin, thin, thin. That’s about all you can say about this group. After starters Brandon Siler, Earl Everett, and Todd McCullough there is little to speak of other than a couple of walk-ons, a few freshman, and a converted fullback. With that said, this unit hasn’t played badly. They haven’t been great either. Adequate would describe this group’s effort this year. A couple of the freshman have shown flashes of coming into their own but are probably a year away from really competing for a starting job. Player to watch: Jon Demps. Of all the freshman, Demps seemed to be the most ready to contribute in the remaining games this season. Unfortunately, Demps tore his ACL on Wednesday and is out for the season. When you’re thin, you’re thin…what can I say.

Grade: C+

Secondary: Another disappointing unit for 2005. This group has not played badly this year, just failed to meet the lofty expectations placed upon them in the preseason. Dee Webb has not been the shut down corner that many predicted him to be. While he’s played adequately, he’s failed to make the big plays when locked up one-on-one against opponents’ best wideouts. He has often looked tentative and that has resulted in him mistiming his break on the ball. At this point, one has to wonder if he can ever be the game changing corner that he was advertised to be coming out of high school. The safeties (Jarvis Herring and Kyle Jackson) have also had some very bad moments throughout the year. After a fantastic finish to last season, Jackson has lost his starting position which is never a good sign for a player who was (arguably) the nation’s top safety as a high school senior just two years ago. Player to watch: JUCO Sophomore Reggie Nelson. Nelson began the year as Florida’s nickel back due to his combination of blazing speed (4.3 40) and sure tackling. With the aforementioned struggles of Jackson, Nelson will move back to his natural position of safety (where he was a JUCO All-American) this weekend where most expect him to become a star in the very near future. Originally, Meyer was reticent to move Nelson to safety because he has been so effective in a hybrid role as a blitz and cover specialist. However, Nelson has proved too talented to keep in this role when his natural position is so on need of a lift.

Grade: B

Special Teams: Florida’s special teams have been surprisingly solid and could even be credited as the major reason for two of the Gators’ five victories. While the return teams have struggled mightily todo much of anything, it’s been the coverage teams grabbing the headlines(especially punt coverage...if that's even possible) by routinely pinning opponents inside their 20. Dee Webb has excelled in this phase of the game with a blocked field goal against Tennessee as well as a blocked punt that was converted into a touchdown against Mississippi State. Reggie Nelson has also been a bright spot in this area for Florida. Somehow, the Gators must find a way (hint: switch return men) to make a big play on punt returns in order to give the anemic offense a boost. Vernell Brown has been solid and reliable but far from the gamebreaker that you would expect to see from a team that has so many great athletes up and down it’s roster.

Grade: B

Coaching: The defensive coaches have done a great job of working with their personnel to create favorable matchups, and the two headed defensive coordinator that is Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison have brought aggressive defense back in vogue in the Swamp. In my opinion they could disguise their coverages more (especially considering the state of the SEC QB this season) but that’s really just nitpicking. They have their defense going in the right direction and should have Gator fans excited about the future. As for the offensive coaches…it’s been a struggle. They have not adjusted their schemes to fit the individual talents of their players. In addition, the playcalling has been downright predictable for much of the season. This isn’t to say that it’s time to give up on Meyer & Mullen as the offensive gurus on this team. What I am saying is that these two coaches need to spend a little more time preparing a gameplan that not only plays to the opponents weaknesses but also to the strengths of the Gators’ biggest playmakers. The offense is a work in progress and will continue to be for quite a bit of time, it’s just that most Gator fans would like to see some of that progress make its way onto the field on Saturdays. In fact, this Saturday would be just about perfect.

That’s it’s for now. The train is leaving the station and I’m not about to get left behind. Hopefully, I’ll be back on Monday for some highlights of the weekend and not in a jail somewhere in Duval County.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

You'll get nothing and like it....

I've been running around all day trying to take care of business before I head to Jacksonville for the weekend and the annual steel cage match with my liver that's better known to you as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party". As a result, I haven't even begun to construct anything that resembles a post today. I don't feel nearly as bad about it since to of the other blogs that I read have posted homemade pictures and absolutely nothing in the last couple of days as well. it, learn it, love it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Where I come from, "lazy" is a compliment...

I really did plan to write an exhaustive breakdown of the weekend's events yesterday ( I even made a list of the topics that I wanted to cover). However, between the cleanup of my facility as well as the interview that I went on yesterday there wasn't nearly enough time for me to write anything during the day, plus i lost my list. I know, I'm disappointed in me too.

Just in case you were wondering...yes, I did say that I went on an interview yesterday. What else did you expect? It's been like three months since I changed jobs, you had to know I was going to be in the market for a shakeup soon. Anyway, I said that I was planning on doing a mid-season report card for the Florida Gators at some point this week. Well, that may or may not happen. I'm feeling extremely unmotivated to write a comprehensive breakdown of Florida's season thus far. Partially, because it depresses me to rehash all the things wrong with Florida football this season, and partially because I'm an extremely lazy dude who doesn't get to spend nearly enough time perusing the internet these days. With that in mind, I'm going to post some random thoughts from the past few days (including the weekend) just so I don't feel like a complete loser. If you hadn't already surmised this much, you should know by now that it is always about what makes me feel good.

- I didn't watch much of the Tennessee-Alabama game because I was sitting at my local tattoo parlor for a solid three hours on Saturday. I did, however, manage to get home in time to watch almost the entire fourth quarter. After watching the way it ended, you just have to believe that this is one of "those seasons" for the Crimson Tide. The hit and subsequent touchback on the 3rd and 15 screen play sealed it for me. During any other year, Tennessee scores on that play or, at the very least, puts themselves in postiton for a chipshot field goal. Not this year. All the stars seemed to have aligned for 'Bama to have one of those memorable seasons where they keep pulling miracles out of their hats. The Tide still have two very loseable games yet to come against LSU and Auburn but I just have a feeling on this one.

- The Bucks just traded Desmond Mason, a 1st round pick, and cash (my favorite trade commodity) for Jamaal Magloire. Am I missing something here? Didn't the Bucks already draft their "franchise center" earlier this year when they selected Andrew Bogut? Is he that bad that they just had to go out and get Magloire? I thought the Bucks were going to be an uptempo team this year. Isn't that a little hard to do when you have Magloire and Bogut at your center and power forward positions, respectively?

The only angle that I can think of is that Bogut is such a natural fit at the high post that the Bucks thought that they had to get him a legit low post presence so that they could fully exploit his talents as a passer and shooter. Don't get me wrong here, I don't think you can pass up the chance to acquire a legit center for essentially Desmond Mason (especially when you signed Bobby Simmons to play his position this summer), it just strikes me as an odd move considering the direction that the organization said they were taking this summer. With that said, if this works out from a chemistry standpoint, the Bucks could be one of the scarier teams to face come playoff time in the East with their ability to bring high energy big guys off their bench like Joe Smith and Dan Gadzuric, both of whom should never start OR play over 20 minutes a game for a decent team.

-Sheryl Swoopes just announced that she's a lesbian. I guess we should be surprised since she has a kid who's like ten or something but, seriously, is anybody ever surprised when a female professional athlete declares that they're gay? I would be surprised if somebody like Katie Smith announced that she wasn't cleaning carpet fibers in her off time. This announcement brings up some interesting questions though. Did the guy who impregnated Swoopes know that she was gay? If so, did she just pay him hush money like some colombian immigrant who marries a U.S. citizen just to get her green card? Will Swoopes get ostracized like the gay receiver from ESPN's Playmakers or will she receive a "Houston 500" style reception from her teammates, coaches and fans when training camp opens in...whenever the WNBA opens training camp?

- LSU has the greatest midfield logo in college football. I won't even bother arguing this so stop right there. Not only is it fantastically original, but it is also quite good from an artisitic standpoint. I haven't even mentioned that it's best described as the "eye of the tiger" which wins it about ten cool points all on it's own. Unfortunately, all of this is negated by LSU's ridiculous insistence on assigning every 5 yards with a numeric marker. I realize that this break from tradition is probably extremely vital to the citizens of Louisiana but for those of us who don't have married cousins in our lineage it is, at once, annoying and somewhat painful to view.

- DJ Shockley is out for the Florida-Georgia game. This is most likely extremely disappointing to young Mr. Shockley, as the last time he was on the field for the Dawgs he was throwing the ball (and the game for that matter) directly to Florida's Guss Scott who would then return the interception for a touchdown and an eventual Gator victory.

In many ways, Shockley's injury will benefit Florida considering the inexperience of his backup as well as Florida's history of struggles in containing mobile QBs. However, I have a very bad feeling about Saturday. I have this feeling for one reason, and one reason only...Shockley's backup, Joe Tereshinzki. He is a third generation Bulldog who will probably never see the field as the #1 QB of his team after Saturday. Most people in the SEC think that he'll be overtaken by a high school All-American (from the same high school as Chris Leak, coincidentally) who is currently redshirting for Georgia after Shockley graduates this year.

Why does this have me so worried? It's the ultimate southern football scenario: Unsung QB who bleeds red and black starts against his team's biggest rival and plays the game of his life as he leads his troops to an unlikely victory in the biggest game of his life. I'm telling you, this scenario has Saturday written all over it. I've seen it happen before against Marcus Outzen and FSU in 1998 and I will never forget what it felt like to see some glorified Div. II QB beat the Gators for the only victory of his collegiate career. Just in case you don't think that the Gators are the Bulldogs biggest rival despite the act aht Georgia would be considered (at best) Florida's thrid most hated rival, consider this: On the main drag in Athens there are a number of bars, but the lodest and most popular goes by the name of "Gator Haters". Yeah, that pretty much sums up the Bulldogs' inferiority complex with the school down south.

I know it's a pretty weak update for today but I'm still trying to recover from monday's hurricane. Actually, I'm just super lazy today and the natural disaster card sounded alot better as an excuse.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hey Wilma! Thanks for the day off.

I don't have much to write tonight. I have been at home all day because of Hurricane Wilma. The storm was more powerful coming through the east side of the state than most had predicted with sustained winds reaching up to 65 mph, but it still wasn't enough to cause anything more than some minor cosmetic damge to the area. My neighbor's flag pole fell down and the sign at the entrance to my neighborhood is long gone but, other than that, the day amounted to a free day off of work. I never lost power for anything more than a minute or two and was even able to go pick up a pizza from the spot around the corner from me by the mid-afternoon. Of course, you can't do much on a day like today other than sit around and watch TV. I almost got on the internet to write up a weekend wrapup but quickly changed my mind when I heard a transformer blow a block or two away. I enjoy writing in this space, but not more than I love internet porn...and that's exaclty the sacrifice that I'd have been making if my computer sustained major damage because I was on the web during a hurricane. It wasn't the most exciting of days, but it was a free day off of work during a week that I already sees me taking Friday off for my annual journey to Jacksonville for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

I'll touch on a few of the weekend's more exciting events (Giants-Broncos, Two big SEC games, Last night's amazing Game 2, etc.) as well as tonight's Monday Night game during tomorrow's update. That's all I've got for now. Me and Jim Cantore are gonna go to the bar and tie one on. It's been a long day for both of us.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cause I'm Doug and I'm outta heeeare...

I've been in Orlando all day at a meeting and now I'm back in my facility which has a freshly broken AC. To top it off, it's raining outside so there's no way for us to ventilate the area that people are running around and sweating in. It sure is feeling like a 4:30 departure time for me this afternoon.

At least this brought a smile to my face: The University of Florida is recruiting a JUCO DE from Arizona who is purported to be an instant impact player. This would be fantastic if true since the Gators have never had a JUCO player of any relevance until Reggie Nelson this year. That's not what made me smile though. Rather, it was the name of the Scottsdale Community College Mascot...The Fighting Artichokes. Why did my community college have a cheesy, nondescript nickname? Couldn't BCC have gone with the Fighting Junkies? We could've even called the gym the Methadone Clinic. It's better than Titans.

As I'm typing this my back has begun to sweat...that's it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sore Loser...

I'm not going to deny that this accurately describes me. For instance, when one of my former roomates called me late last night I picked up the phone and simply said, "Fuck You." before I hung up. When his brother text messaged me with a "Hahaha" I texted him back with "Die, Die, Die." They are both Yankee fans from Long Island soI already knew what was coming from them and was in no mood to listen to them blather on about how much the Cardinals suck. However, being a sore loser has nothing to do with I haven't posted anything yet today. All of the credit for that goes to the auditors who came to my facility this morning. I have spent pretty much all day with them going over member records and financial reports. It was actually fairly painless and I managed to get through it all without having my job threatened once. All in all, I'd consider that I successful day.

Anyway, the Cardinals were just flat out beaten by a better team (at this point in the season) last night. My Dad commented before the start of last night's game that he thought the Cards needed to get out to an early lead, and that if Houston did then all the momentum gained from Monday night would be rendered useless. Well, the old man was right and Houston jumped to an early lead on Mulder. Mulder didn't even have his average stuff last night. He couldn't keep the ball low in the zone and was never able to make the pitches he needed in the tight spots. I give all the credit to Roy Oswalt for pitching a great game and for going right after St. Louis' batters. He deserved that victory last night. With that said, the blown call on the tag at second on Molina was HUGE. Instead of having the bases loaded with nobody out and John "Coolest Batting Stance Ever" Rodriguez at the plate. Oswalt was left with 1st and 3rd and one out. It's alot easier to make pitches in the latter of those two situations. The aspect of the call that I found most vexing was the umpire's insistence that he made the correct call even though he had a totally obstructed view of the play. Once you get to the playoffs, it should be about making the correct call, not your ego. In this case, the first base umpire had a much better vantage point on the "tag". Put your pride aside and ask for some help. I'm not saying that the Cardinals win if this call goes their way. I'm just saying it would've changed the complexion of that inning and (possibly) the game.

A couple of notes about last night's game:

- Roy Oswalt doesn't get nearly enough credit for being a dominant pitcher. I think this stems from two reasons. (1) He only has two pitches, and often times (like last night) only throws one of them for the majority of a game. Analysts have trouble giving alot of credit to pitchers that they view as a one trick pony. (2) (and this seems like an even larger reason to me) He doesn't look like a great pitcher. He's small and has a boyish appearance. If anything, he looks like a utility infielder. I'm serious here. Perception becomes reality more than most will admit.

- St. Louis has one more year as presently constructed before their window closes. Even if Larry Walker retires they can go into next year with this team (if healthy) and have a legitimate shot of winning it all. After next year this team begins to fall apart in some key places.

-Julian Tavarez is done. It's not his fault. LaRussa rode him to death these last three years (less this year due to his ineffectiveness) and it's taken his toll. He doesn't have as much on his fastball as before and he can't consistently locate the ball anymore.

-I hate Chris Burke. That guy was in the middle of every offensively productive inning for Houston. Two weeks ago I'd never even heard of him and now the sight of him fills me with rage beyond words.

- Never tell your girlfriend that she can come over to watch a big game at your parents house. I know this is basic stuff, but somehow I totally blew it on this one last night. She came over to my parents house in the bottom of the second and from that point on it was like a two person knitting fair with all the damn chatting her and my mother did. At one point, I expected my Dad to throw up his hands and yell, "Shutup! Both of you shutup! Are you kidding me? It's Game 6 of the goddamned NLCS! Just go in the back room if you want to talk about cheeseball recipes damnit!" Of course, he didn't but I'm willing to bet that he had to stop himself at least twice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Busch...not just a great beer.

After a day of walking around with a ridiculous hop in my step and a need to view the replay of Albert Pujols’ season saving homer as much as humanly possible (Seriously, I Tivo'd PTI and SportsCenter last night). I now find myself constantly looking forward to this evening’s matchup between Mark Mulder and Roy Oswalt. So much so that I’m finding it hard to concentrate on anything beyond surfing the internet looking for articles about tonight’s game.

When these two faced off in Game 2, both pitchers turned in above average performances. Mulder and Oswalt both went seven innings and allowed only one earned run apiece. However, it was Oswalt who came away with the victory and a lion’s share of the praise from the media as the Astros pulled out a victory on the road. To his credit, Oswalt was extremely dominant in Game 2 and never really allowed St. Louis to get anything going. Mulder, on the other hand, struggled with his control and needed a couple of big double plays from his defense in order to get out of some self-inflicted jams. None of that matters now though. Tonight’s game is precisely the reason that Walt Jocketty went out and acquired Mulder this offseason. He knew (along with everybody else) that St. Louis lacked dominant starting pitching last year and that if the Cards were going to have any chance of returning to the World Series this year then that issue would have to be rectified. The addition of Mulder as well as the healthy return of Chris Carpenter has given St. Louis two #1 caliber starters. Despite giving up a huge homer to Lance Berkman, Carpenter pitched seven strong innings on Monday. Without which, the Cardinals never would have been in a position to steal a victory in Houston. As for Mulder, with the way that St. Louis ran away with it’s division this year, one could make the case that a dominant performance tonight is the only way in which Mark Mulder could legitimately earn his substantial salary. Simply put, Mulder was brought here with just this type of game in mind. It’s now time for him to deliver. A team and a city are counting on him.

As for me, I’ll be at my parent’s house watching the game with my Dad. We haven’t watched a playoff game together yet this year, even though we live only a couple of miles from one another. Yet, after the way Monday night played out it wouldn’t feel quite right if I wasn’t watching this game with the man who first introduced me to Cardinal baseball, or baseball in general for that matter. It may not be Busch Stadium but it’ll be good enough for three hours tonight.

There are a couple of other assorted things that I’ve been meaning to mention so I’ll just get to them now since the NLCS has dominated this space (and rightfully so) for the past few days.

- Florida football: I had planned to do a mid-season report card for this year’s edition of the Gators. I can promise you that I’ll get to it eventually. Just not this week. Fortunately for me (and the University of Florida) the Gators have a bye this week. You can expect the report card to be up in this space before I head to Jacksonville for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

- Most basketball fans have heard of O.J. Mayo, hailed by many experts as the next great high school phenom since he first appeared on the scene as a starter for his high school team in eighth grade. What I’m sure many basketball fans (including myself) didn’t know, was what exactly the O.J. stood for. Well, wonder no more…Mr. Mayo’s initials stand for Ovington J’Anthony.

Honestly, you could have given me two hundred guesses and I wouldn’t have gotten either of those names correct. Hell, you could’ve let me guess for a solid week and I wouldn’t have gotten both of those names. In fact, are either of those actually names at all?

- I going out on a limb tonight and guaranteeing a loss by the Orlando Magic to Euroleague power Maccabi Tel Aviv. To be perfectly honest, I’m thinking that the Magic lose by double digits.

- The Bucs traded for Tim Rattay yesterday. I think that says all anybody needs to know about John Gruden’s level of confidence in Chris Simms. Honestly, can you blame Gruden? It’s not like Brian Griese is anywhere near the upper echelon of NFL QBs, and he was light years ahead of Simms in the preseason. I can’t say I’m a believer in Rattay in any way, shape, or form but he’s a definite upgrade over Simms and it only cost Tampa a sixth round pick. Considering the options available I’d say it was a good move for the Bucs.

- Finally, at least one good thing came from the NHL ending it’s strike. No, its not the huge surge in ratings for the Outdoor Life Network, though I’m sure the tree huggers at OLN are happy about that. It’s EA Sports’ decision to sell NHL 2006 for the bargain price of $25. This prompted me to purchase a hockey video game for the first time since my junior year of college. If there are two things that I know about Hockey, it’s that is blows on TV and that it’s unbelievably fun to play on video games.

Go Cardinals!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Just tickle my balls a little, dadgumit!

I just looked up at one of the TVs in my facility and I caught a glimpse of Oprah. Only it's not just Oprah. Rather Oprah interviewing a young black man in a snazzy sweater and collared shirt combo that would surely make Geoff Burr proud. It is none other than JETS WR Lavernues Coles, presumably talking about how he was molested as a child. Either that or how Bobby Bowden sacrificed him to the media in order to keep Peter Warrick eligible and FSU's 1999 National Championship hopes alive.

Or maybe how Bobby Bowden molested him and Peter Warrick causing them such mental anguish that they had to go on shopping spree at the Tallahassee Dillard's which resulted in Coles being kicked off of FSU's football team. Now that would be a story that I'm interested in hearing.

I'll see you all in hell.

Was that homerun BIG enough for you Texas?

That was at once, the most stressful and rewarding baseball game that I can ever remember watching. I had a basketball game last night so I missed the first two innings. By the time I got home the Cards had two on and nobody out in the top of the third. Shortly after I walk in, FOX shows a highlight from the first inning of Pujols popping out with Eckstein and Edmonds on base which allows Houston to get out of the first unscathed. This highlight is quickly followed by Pettite striking out Pujols and Walker. At this point, I’m thinking that I’ve cursed the Cardinals with my reference to Pujols not having any opportunities to drive in runs during this NLCS. In my warped mind it sure didn’t seem coincidental that I mentioned it in my blog (the official stat was that the bases were empty for 11 of Albert’s 12 at bats going into yesterday’s game) and Pujols, in turn, squandered two RBI chances in the game’s first three innings. Somehow, Mark Grudzielanek poked a flare to right that scored two before Pettite was able to get out of the inning. “Great…we scored”, I’m thinking, but I also think two runs won’t be enough to win this game. Of course I was right, and when Lance Berkman smacked a ball into the leftfield seats in the 7th it seemed as if the Cardinals’ season would end right then and there. Things looked very dire at that point but I certainly wasn’t going to retire to bed before this game was officially over.

By the time the 9th inning rolled around I was thumbing through my Sports Illustrated in an attempt to pass the time in between pitches because, frankly, it was making me a little ill watching all the celebrating Astros fans. It was over. My teeth were brushed and I was all set to call it a night, and a season for that matter. Then David Eckstein (Go Gators!) steps to the plate and hits a seeing eye single to the left side. I’m relieved but I’m hardly confident, especially when you consider the career numbers that Jim Edmonds has against Brad Lidge. Inexplicably, Lidge doesn’t go after Edmonds even though Albert Pujols is standing in the on deck circle. He continues to nibble around the plate and ends up issuing a walk. It was an awful decision, no matter the consequences, if only because none of Lidge’s pitches were even that close. Now I’m starting to think that the Cards have a shot to get back to Busch for at least one more game. Either that or I’ve managed to put the hex on the best hitter in baseball, thereby causing him to take the collar in three straight RBI situations.

Well, we all know what happened next. Lidge hung a slider and Pujols reached out and destroyed it. That thing was a bomb. The best part about it was Pujols’ reaction…there wasn’t one. He watched it go out, threw his bat to the side and without so much as a grin rounded the bases. The man just saved the Cardinals season from oblivion and you’d have thought he had just grabbed his mail. As I said to my, at this point horrified girlfriend, (there had been a lot of screaming, especially when Yadier Molina tried to field the slow roller along the first base line in the seventh) “He’s like a robot. A big, Dominican, hitting robot.”

I picked up the phone to call my Dad on his cell phone since I knew he’d be up and I didn’t want to wake my Mom. I had to share this moment with somebody and it wasn’t going to be my girlfriend since she may have dozed off before I jumped up screaming as Pujols’ shot went flying out of the park. I dial my Dad’s number and it goes straight to voicemail. Oh well. At this point I’m not even close to falling asleep so I go take a shower (remember, I walked in from a basketball game so I reek at this point). As I’m in the shower I here the phone ring. It’s my Dad, it has to be. I pick up the phone and he tells me that he is in Atlantic City. On “business”, of course. We talk about the entire game and go over the ninth inning in minute detail. After about ten minutes, he tells me he’ll be home on Wednesday and that he’ll call me then. We both get off the phone as happy as we’ve been in quite some time. It sounds cheesy but I really did feel like I was walking on air (or sunshine, if you like crappy 80’s songs). Easily the most memorable and magical finish that I’ve witnessed to a Cardinal game since Ozzie’s walk off homer against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. I was 9 then so you can imagine that last night had a little different feel to me. I don’t know what’s going to happen on Wednesday night. I do know that it could possibly be the last game ever played at Busch Stadium and that the place will be absolute pandemonium.

It’s not over, not yet.

Monday, October 17, 2005

"It's just not our year"

Those are the exact words that my dad uttered last night after I called him to bitch about Jim Edmonds getting thrown out of a one run playoff game in the eighth inning, on a completely ridiculus call no less. I don’t think he had any idea that he had summed up my thoughts on the collective seasons of the teams that I follow with the most passion and have followed the longest, respectively. As anybody who reads this space with any regularity can guess, I’m referring to the Florida Gators and the St. Louis Cardinals. It was not a good weekend for either team.

The Cardinals have simply run into a seemingly endless barrage of injuries that has wreaked havoc on their lineup. This team was banged up coming into the playoffs and it’s only gotten worse as Reggie Sanders and Abraham Nunez’s injuries have not only come at inopportune times but also resulted in some key defensive errors. While those injuries have really hurt St. Louis, it is a couple of injuries that occurred during the regular season which have cost the Cardinals most dearly in this NLCS. I am referring to the injuries of Scott Rolen and Larry Walker. When both of these guys were healthy, the St. Louis lineup had Walker batting second and Rolen protecting Albert Pujols from the cleanup slot. Walker was the perfect #2 hitter because he does such a great job of making contact, taking pitches and generally just doing the little things that make a pitcher work. All of these things allow Pujols to come to the plate with a chance to make a difference with guys on base. On the flip side, Rolen kept pitchers honest in the #4 slot. When a team did decide to pitch around Pujols, Rolen often did a great job of making teams pay for this strategy. With Walker ailing and Rolen out, St. Louis was forced to re-work it’s lineup by placing Jim Edmonds in the #2 hole. Edmonds is NOT a natural #2 hitter. He strikes out far too much for that (over 150 times this year) and the results have been obvious during this NLCS. Edmonds has been retired to end the inning on at least four separate occasions with men on base during this series. Naturally, this has resulted in the Astros being able to pitch to the most dangerous hitter in baseball with the bases empty for much of these past four games. Furthermore, while Reggie Sanders has done a fantastic job in the cleanup spot for much of the playoffs, he is not the contact hitter that Rolen is and that has allowed opposing pitchers to be a little more careful with Pujols, thus further limiting his effectiveness.

The Cardinals have gotten very solid pitching from their starters and the bullpen has even managed to play well for the most part. The problem for St. Louis (other than Game 1) has been an inability to get a hit or two with runners in scoring position. In my opinion this can all be traced back to the health (or lack thereof) of Walker and Rolen. Add to that some key breaks that haven’t gone the Cardinals’ way, and it’s easy to see how St. Louis is down 3-1 and staring elimination in the face this evening in Houston. I won’t say I’ve lost all hope for a comeback but I did lose an awful lot of it when the Cards had Pujols and Walker on third and first, respectively, with nobody out and never even came close to scoring the tying run. You’re only going to get so many chances like that against Brad Lidge, if you don’t capitalize on them then you’re not going to beat the Astros very often. It’s tough to think that the Cardinals are going to fall short once again but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

As for the Florida Gators, I only wish that I could pinpoint one specific problem for a team that is quickly becoming the most frustrating that I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of watching Florida Football. I’m going to do a mid-season report card for the Gators later on this week so I won’t delve too deeply into the topic at hand. However, I will say that the offensive line is among the most disorganized that I’ve ever witnessed. This includes the 2001 edition which was so bad that it nearly ended Rex Grossman’s junior season on three separate occasions. All the blame cannot go to the big uglies though, as the defensive secondary, wide receivers, coaching and quarterback play have all been below par up to this point in the season. Florida goes into their bye week this week with a full list of things to improve on and a fan base whose gripes are increasing at an alarming rate. Urban Meyer wanted to coach at a big time program like Florida and in a big time conference like the SEC. Be careful what you wish for.

I’ve already written more than I really have time for today but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the USC-Notre Dame classic. I can’t recall a more exciting, high profile game since, maybe, the FSU-Notre Dame game in 1993. Great atmosphere from the opening kickoff until the final seconds when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart into the endzone for the winning score. The action was so constant that I had the game going on my second TV constantly as I flipped back on forth between the Gator and Cardinal games. There was just too much action in the USC-Notre Dame game to risk missing out on something during the flips between channels. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding the game that will be saved on my Tivo for at least the next six months:

- I had not been on board the Reggie Bush for Heisman bandwagon up until Saturday. I agreed that he was the best player in the country, but I also felt like he didn’t see the ball enough to be considered a dominant presence the way a running back has to be to win the Heisman. Of course, I’m really damn stupid. Not only is he a dominant presence like few before him but he is also the guy that USC relies on whenever they need a big play. If USC wins out then he is guaranteed a Heisman. Vince Young will finish a distant second.

- Matt Leinart did not play very well. In fact, he looked downright shaky at moments. All of that was forgotten when he audibled into a new play on fourth and eight and threw a perfect strike to Dwayne Jarrett for a first down and a bunch more. Kudos to Jarrett as well for catching that ball after having an uncharacteristically tough day holding onto the ball.

- We should have all seen the green jerseys coming. It all made perfect sense. Undefeated defending National Champs coming to town. First big time home game of the Charlie Wies era. Alumni, student and fan excitement renewed over the “awakening of the echoes”. How did I (or anyone else for that matter) not predict green jerseys by Wednesday of last week?

- Tom Zbikowski’s punt return was electric. It was at that moment when I first realized that we were in for something truly special. I had wondered why the Irish had a safety returning punts all year long. That’s why I don’t coach football.

- How in the hell did none of the announcers not notice the ball flying out of Leinart’s hands as he dove for the goal line? It seemed pretty obvious to me while watching that the ball was dislodged right as Leinart came in contact with the second defender.

- USC may have won, but the decision to QB sneak was awfully stupid. Sure, it worked out but there is NO WAY that you should call a run play with seven seconds left in the game and no timeouts. If Reggie Bush doesn’t will his team (or cheat) to a victory then Pete Carroll (and Pete Carroll alone) is being lambasted for single handedly ending the longest win streak in college football.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Before, during and AFTER the game...

Damn right Joe Pa, damn right.

I was unbelievably busy yesterday during the early part of the afternoon. After all of the work and other assorted tasks subsided, I decided that I deserved to leave work a little early on a Friday. So that's exaclty what I entry be damned. Of course, I was riddled with guilt over shirking my responsibilities. So much so that I had to get hammered and forget about it all last night. Only my guilt didn't subside the way my hangover has this afternoon. With that in mind I am going to put up a quick bunch of picks for today's slate of games, which is exemplary by the way.

I'll only tackle games that haven't started yet because...that would be cheating.

USC-Notre Dame: I hate Notre Dame and think the constant criticism on USC borders on sublime in it's hilarity. I also think Notre Dame will jump out to an early lead. Too bad the game is 4 quarters long instead of two. USC wins by two touchdowns.

Penn State-Michigan: Michigan sucks, that much has been established at this point in the season. Penn State is ALOT better than anybody realized, especially on defense. However, Penn Sate struggled on the road against an underrated Northwestern team and I think they're due for a few costly turnovers from their offense in this road game. Michigan on a late field goal.

Florida-LSU: This game scares the shit out of me. LSU's D-Line is big, fast and talented, just like LSU QB JaMarcus Russell. The problem with Russell is that he still has to use his brain to read coverages and make the right audibles. I wouldn't be surprised to see Florida mix in some zone coverages to try and confuse Russell. However they do it, the Gators have to force LSU to beat them threw the air. I'm not quite sure why but I've got a good feeling about the Gators in this one. Florida by 4.

Louisville-West Virginia: This could be the Big East Championship game. By a show of hands, who cares? Oh! Okay...nobody. That seems about right. Louisville isn't the '89 Niners like many would have had us believe earlier this season, but they are better than any of the other schlubs in the Big East (Yes, you too USF). This will get ugly and in a hurry. Louisville.

St. Louis-Houston: I'd love to say that St. Louis will take back homefield advantage this afternoon but I've got little to no confidence in Matt Morris at this point in his career. It's too bad because he was once on the edge of being a dominant #1 starter...five years ago. St. Louis is going to get at least one win in Houston, just not today. Astros by 3.

Alright, I've got some interesting 4th quarters to get to, namely OSU-MSU and Bama-Ole Miss.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dig Dug? Are you kidding me?

Let’s be honest here, the divisional series are like MLB Playoffs Light. Yeah, they count as playoff games and you need to win them if you’re ever going to be regarded as a successful player and/or franchise. However, from a fans perspective, unless you have a vested interest in one of the teams participating in the divisional series it doesn’t carry the same feel of do-or-die importance that comes with the Championship and World Series’. Sometimes, even when you do have a team participating in the divisional series it still fails to evoke playoff type emotions in you. Such was the case last week as the Cardinals took on the Padres. I watched the games but did it with an emotional detachment that I rarely experience while watching a playoff game of any sort. Deep down inside in places you don’t like to talk about at cocktail parties, I knew the Cardinals would win.

Last night was an entirely different story. I was openly clapping and whooping it up as the Cards’ surged to a 5-0 lead in the early innings of Game 1. I began to tighten up as Chris Carpenter’s control seemed to wane in the middle innings and he subsequently got himself into a couple of possibly game breaking jams. I called my Dad at least three separate times to discuss different aspects of the game and the two starting pitchers’approaches. I told my girlfriend (half-jokingly) that she might have to leave as she walked in my door at precisely the moment that Chris Burke sent a two run homer off the leftfield foul pole of Busch Stadium. I even openly (and repeatedly) questioned Tony LaRussa’s decision to let a laboring Carpenter hit in the bottom of the seventh, despite the fact that I believe it’s crucial for the Cardinals’ starters to go late into the game during this series. To put it simply, it felt exactly like playoff baseball. Well, not exactly. St. Louis was never truly in trouble and I never had that god awful feeling in my stomach that you get during a 1-1 or 2-1 pitcher’s duel in October.

Game 2 @ 8 PM on Fox. We'll see how my stomach feels tonight.

I can’t say I watched much of the Angels-White Sox game, though I did happen to tune in just as the weirdest ending in recent memory was taking shape. After looking at the replay numerous times, I concluded that the ball did hit the ground. My girlfriend, on the other hand, said that there was no way the ball had hit the ground. Whichever way you saw it, the one thing that can’t be argued is that it was an extremely heads up play by White Sox catcher (and noted asshole) AJ Pierzynski. That’s a really tough way to lose a ball game but credit should also go to Mike Scioscia for refusing to blame last night’s loss in way, shape, or form on the disputed strikeout. Crying about it isn’t going to change the outcome so you’d might as well move on and get your team ready to play Game 3 on Friday night.

Finally, I have a story that relates (somewhat) to the ALCS. As you may or may not be aware of, I used to work for a minor league baseball team. This team was the spring training home of the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. In addition to this, any players who were doing rehab would be stationed at our complex in Viera, FL. As it turned out, 2004 was a big year for injuries for the Expo organization. At various times throughout the year Nick Johnson, Tomo Ohka, Tony Armas, Jr. and Carl Everett all spent more than a month at our complex rehabbing various injuries. All of these guys kept a pretty low profile while doing their rehab. All of these guys except for Carl Everett. Carl would routinely come out to the minor league games and hang around with our staff. He would come out on the field for postgame contests and basically just act like one of the guys during his almost two month stay in Viera. It seemed to all of us that Carl was just awfully bored in Viera, not a surprise if you’ve ever been to Viera or any of it’s surrounding areas. What was a surprise was what a funny guy Carl turned out to be. We never saw “Crazy Carl” come out, though we often joked about it in the privacy of our offices.

Basically, Carl came off like “that guy”. You know, the guy who is hilarious and always a ton of fun to be around, but also the guy who everybody is careful around because you can tell by his personality and general demeanor that he is only a step or two away from a full blown meltdown at all times. While being around Carl changed our view of him, it definitely didn’t lay to rest the stories of him being a complete and total whackjob. If anything, it lent credence to the ridiculous stories that you’ve heard about Carl over the years. Why am I telling you this? I’m not quite sure other than he’s a key member of the White Sox this year and there’s a story that illustrates why we all (as a staff) came to love Carl.

One night as I sat in the stands taking in a low scoring game with a couple of other staff members, a conversation began between myself and another staff member about video games over our radios. This conversation quickly turned to a session of trash talk over who was the better gamer of the two of us (I could not have cared less, I just enjoy insulting other people). As we traded insults over the radio we were suddenly interrupted by a voice that I’ll describe as “urban”. The voice was loud and it’s utterances went something like this, “Aww man. I’ll whoop ya’ll young boys. You can’t mess with me.” My friend then went on to challenge the unidentified voice to a game of Madden. To which the voice replied, “Na, na. I don’t play the new games. I’m old school. Give me some Donkey Kong. I’ll tear you up in some Donkey Kong or some Dig Dug or…what’s that one with all the burgers? Yeah, Burger Time. I’ll kill you in some Burger Time. Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp.” At this point, I was bent over in my chair I was laughing so hard. We looked about three sections over to see the only man it could’ve possibly been, smiling and ranting into a handheld radio. As I’m sure you’ve surmised by now, it was none other than Carl Everett. For that reason alone I say…Go White Sox!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

God I'm stupid....

You have no idea how many times a day that I utter this to myself. It's not that I'm genuinely stupid, at least I don't think it is. It's more that I am ,what my parents would call, an airhead. I just flake out on alot of things. You could certainly blame this on some of my daily habits but you'd be wrong. I've always been this way at least since I can remember. A perfect example of this is what I wrote earlier today when I said that the NLCS began this evening at 8 PM (7 central). I hadn't done any research. I had just assumed that the NLCS would kickoff today and the ALCS tomorrow.

Well, I got the whole thing wrong. I guess it makes sense to make the Angels play a third night in a row while giving the Astros an extra day to recover from their 18 inning marathon...I guess? Anyway the whole point of this post is to highlight just how dumb I am. I feel like I've accomplished my goal.

So I hooks a left....

The annual Cardinals-Astros NLCS kicks off this evening at 8 PM on FOX. I'm simultaneously excited and scared shitless about this series. I would like to get to some thoughts about the series and what the Cardinals will have to do to win aside for the normal McCarverisms (read: scores more runs than your opponent, be the first team to win four games, etc.). Unfortunately, I have alot on my plate today after being out of work for most of Friday and all of Monday. Evidently, this place doesn't shut down when I'm not here...I guess I missed the memo on that one. In lieu of a lengthy breakdown, I will leave you with this to mull over as you try and find ways to avoid work this afternoon. I can't be the only one, can I?

Key to the series: Left side of the Cardinal infield.

David Eckstein needs to consistently get on base to set the table for the bats behind him while continuing to do a cromulent job of playing shortstop. Perhaps even more important is that Abraham Nunez get a few timely hits in order to help make up for the loss of Scott Rolen in the lineup. Then again, what do I really know about this series?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Let's write two...

I'm back for the second installment of the day. What can I say other's my birthday so I'll do what I damn well please. In the spirit of doing what I damn well please I'm going to give my thoughts in the oh so familiar bullet point format. These are in no particular order. Again, deal with it:

- Fuck Vinny Testaverde. Of course he wins yesterday, why wouldn't he? He's made me "throw the remote control angry" since I was a kid so why would that stop now? Despite what I wrote on Thursday I wasn't overlooking the Jets. I was just alot more excited about the prospect of playing a Testaverde led Jets team than I would've been about the idea of playing the Jets with a healthy Chad Pennington. It really didn't matter who was playing QB for the Jets yesterday. Not when Brian Griese plays like that and definitely not when the defense misses that many tackles. The Bucs will have trouble winning against anybody when the defense allows so many yards after initial contact. None of this is meant to take anything away from Vinny. As much I hate to admit it, he played pretty well and did just enough to get the J-E-T-S the victory. I still hate him though and the Bucs would still have won in they could score more the four field goals.

One last thing about the Bucs: Throw the ball to Michael Clayton. He's really good, if you don't believe me than look at some tapes from last year. There's no excuse for him having only 196 yards receiving after 5 games.

- Purdue sure has the market cornered when it comes to Caucasian wide receivers. Seriously, it's always like a 3-1 ratio in favor of the white guys in the receiving corps. Where does Joe Tiller find all these guys? In an interesting note (to me at least), I actually played basketball in high school with a guy who went on to play receiver at Purdue. Of course, he was black.

- As I was watching the UGA-Tennessee game it occurred to me that the SEC may have the worst offenses among it's top tier teams (excluding Alabama) of all the BCS conferences. Think about it Florida, LSU, Tennessee, even Georgia all have average to below average offenses. There is certainly alot of talent on all of these teams but none of them are consistent enough in both the run and pass games to be labeled a "good" offense. Other than Tennessee, these units may all get there eventually, they are just not there yet. As for the actual game, I still think DJ Shockley is awfully shaky. Even with that, Georgia has to be the favorite in the SEC East this year due to a solid rushing attack and a dominating defense. Tennessee, on the other hand, is in trouble and it isn't going to get any easier now that All-American Jason Allen is out for the year with a hip injury...Hahahahaha...Oh! Was that out loud? Excuse me.

-Why do coaches continue to run reverses for Keyshawn Johnson? I can't figure it out. He's so slow that even when the play works he gets a minimal game at best. It was a good play when he was younger and a little bit quicker but he's lost enough now that it's time to stop calling it. Seriously, give up the ghost already.

- I don't watch alot of Iowa football. I know it's a shocking revelation. Because of my lack of immersion in all things Hawkeye I never new that Abdul Hodge was from Ft. Lauderdale. Now I know that there is a TON of high school football talent in Florida but how do some of these guys get out of the state? Off the top of my head I can think of three players (and I'm sure there are plenty more) who are near the top of their postion in the entire country that are from Florida. Yet, somehow they ended up playing somewhere far more north and far more cold. Other than Hodge I'm referring to Santonio Holmes and Omar Jacobs.

-The two best games of Saturday were both broadcast on TBS. Hey, they don't call it the Superstation for nothing.

Watching games on TBS is a different experience from your normal, everyday college football viewing. Because TBS isn't in the college football business, per se, they don't have great announcers (Charles Davis is jaw droppingly awful) and they are often not guys who regularly do football. Add to this the in-studio shots of Ernie Johnson sitting all by himself in some half TV studio-half Chili's and it leads to a feel for the viewer that could only be described as uncomfortable.

The first game featured the pass happy minds of Bill Callahan and Mike Leach matching wits in Lincoln. For much of the game I had this baby going on my second TV and I even (briefly) turned this game off as Texas Tech shot out to a 21-0 lead. However, I ended up tuning back in (on the main TV) to see a spirited Nebraska comeback and what looked to be the first big win of the Bill Callahan era. Of course, you've all seen what happened at the end as the Cornhuskers intercepted Cody Rogers' pass only to fumble it a few seconds later and give the Red Raiders one last chance, which they used to win the game. I had made the comment that Georgia Tech's loss on Thursday night was one of the cruelest I could ever remember. However, this loss was absolutely, positively, unequivocally the most brutal last second loss that I have seen in at least 5 years.

The second game on the docket was a classic PAC-10 matchup of UCLA and Cal. I don't know about you but I like my PAC-10 games to be full of fireworks and big plays with just a little defense sprinkled in for flavor. If you are, in fact, like me then you would've loved this game because these two teams went back and forth all night long. Both offenses feature big play backs in Marshawn Lynch and Maurice Drew (though his jersey reads "Jones-Drew", whatever?) who both had huge nights. This game was so good and entertaining that I had it on my first TV for a large portion of both the OSU-PSU game and the Cardinals-Padres Game 3. If (somehow) you get the chance to watch this game then I suggest you do it. Unless of course you don't like wide open offenses and two teams trading big play after big play. Finally, not to sound like Peter King here but, if Maurice Drew and Reggie Bush switched jerseys, you'd have alot of trouble telling the difference.

-Did anybody see Todd Zeile on the Fox pregame show on Saturday night? He looked like he was going to a pool party in the Hamptons. Poor Kevin Kennedy is sitting there with a tie and blazer on meanwhile Zeile is at least three buttons undone right next to him. I've got money on Zeile wearing flip-flops with that outfit.

-If you happened to miss the gruesome injury to Alabama's Tyrone Prothro last saturday,, here's a link to a picture of it happening. Prothro is a hell of player who I hope I'll see again (not against UF) in the near future.

-Torry Holt has the best hands in the NFL. I know this is not earth shattering news but there is not a single receiver in the league who catches the ball with his hands as much or as well as Torry Holt.

-Penn State-Ohio State was a good game and I'm sure that Penn State surprised alot of people (including me) but it's become clear that Ohio State isn't nearly as good (primarily offensively) as most once thought. Penn State has a very good defense and very well may win the Big Ten. However, I think that the inconsistency of Michael Robinson will catch up to them in at least one of their remaining games. He's just too shaky in the pocket and is due for a 4 turnover game... soon.

Finally the quote of the year from none other than former Florida Gator and current Toronto Raptor Matt Bonner, "I'd be selling out if I got a car. A car seems like a waste...I'd feel too lazy if I couldn't walk." So, in conclusion, all of you people out there who drove your car to work today...Matt Bonner thinks you're a sellout.

Oh yeah, in case you've been asleep all day tonight will give us a deciding Game 5 betwwen the Angesl and Yankees as well as the second appealling Monday Night game of the year between the Steelers and Chargers. Sweet.

We get to play the Astros?! Awesome...that's just what I was hoping for.

I was all set to deal with a weekend full of football and football related thoughts today. That is until the Braves and Astros decided it would be a good idea to play two full games of baseball yesterday afternoon. I guess that's what I get for deciding to root for the Braves after 20 plus years of out and out hatred of the franchise. I can't imagine how horrible a loss that must be for the eleven real Braves fans out there. Atlanta had that thing wrapped up and was ready to head home for a decisive Game 5 before the bullpen fell apart in the most dramatic fashion possible. It really could not have been more over the top and gut wrenching than it was. It's bad enough blowing a five run lead in the final two innings but to do it by allowing an eighth inning grand slam and a two out, bottom of the ninth homer (to a guy who has hit three jacks all year no less) has to go down as one of the most devastating postseason losses of all time. There's alot of blame to go around for the Bravos in this one. Kyle Farnsworth was awful in relief but he certainly didn't get much help from Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal, Brian Giles, or Julio Franco in the field, all of whom could've changed the the outcome of the game had they been able to make just one timely defensive play in the late innings. Nevermind the awful job on the basepaths by the seemingly unfallable (up to that point) Jeff Francouer. The only person who escapes any share of the blame in my opinion is Tim Hudson. He made up for a below average Game 1 start by posting a masterful 7 1/3 innings that should've pushed the Astros to the brink of elimination. Instead, he'll be attending Auburn games for the rest of the fall wondering if he'll ever have the breaks go his way in the postseason.

Even worse is that the Astros now come into the NLCS riding a wave of emotion and even deeper belief that they are a team of destiny. I've said here numerous times that I didn't want to see Houston in the NLCS and yesterday's events only served to amplify these feelings. Now we have a matchup looming between a St. Louis bullpen that continues to struggle running up against a lineup that (rightfully) doesn't ever feel like it's out of any game regardless of the circumstances. I'm about twice as worried about this series as I was before yesterday's game (already a pretty healthy amount of fret) with my only solace being that Houston's staff has to be a little worn out from yesterday's action. At least I'm more optimistic than my Dad who put his head in his hands yesterday evening and said, "We're in trouble. I just don't think we can matchup with them in the late innings." Now, I'm a little more optimistic than he is, but you have to understand that the man lives and dies with the Cardinals and is still significantly scarred from a number of postseason experiences over the last twenty years (ie: Don Denkinger's blown call, Clark's injury in '87, Rolen's injury in 2000, etc.) plus he also views Brad Lidge as the Christ incarnate (which he may or may not be). All in all, I'm a bit worried about my productivity (or lack thereof) at work over the next week and a half since there's probably a 5% chance of me getting to bed before midnight on any of the nights of the NLCS what with the way that postseason games drag on into the wee hours these days. Actually, to be honest, I could care less about what (if anything) I do at work over the next month as long as the Cardinals keep giving me a reason to stay up at night cursing the inane observations of Tim McCarver and/or Steve Lyons.

I'll be back a little later on with some random thoughts on a full Saturday and Sunday's worth of football.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Et tu Sweet Lou?

I don’t really have a great deal to talk about today since I’ve been knee deep in financial statements (and, unfortunately, copier toner) for most of the early part of the day. I’m far less bitter than I’d normally be in a situation like this since I’m taking a half day off tomorrow followed by a full day off on Monday for my birthday. It’s not like I’m going out of town or anything. I just refuse to work on my birthday…that’s how I roll.

Of course, my major concern this afternoon has nothing to do with work (other than the fact that I’ll be watching the game at work) and everything to do with Game 2 of the Cardinals-Padres Division Series. To say that the way the Cards’ bullpen folded on Monday was troublesome would be a major understatement. If the bullpen can’t get it together in a laugher against the Padres then what are they going to do in a one run game against the Astros? You can go ahead and add an increasingly shaky bullpen to my growing list of concerns for this postseason. That is, if you’re actually keeping track of my concerns. By the way, if you are in fact keeping track of my concerns then you’re one of the more pathetic people I’ve ever run across…and believe me, that list is long and distinguished.

Speaking of long and distinguished, today’s post will be neither. Instead I’ll supply you with a collection of random thoughts that have accumulated in my head over the past couple of days. Enjoy yourselves:

- I’m sure that we’re all in mourning over the breakup of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. I don’t want to be insensitive, but I’ve got a few questions/thoughts on the situation. First, does he get half of her money in the divorce or will she get half of all the sleeveless t-shirts that he owns? Do you think that Matt Leinart will even take Nick’s phone calls at this point? I mean, Lachey is clearly not cool enough to hang with Leinart anymore. I’m thinking the best he can do now is an invite to Pete Carroll’s weekly poker game with Norman Chad and Scott Baio.

- If anybody is wondering how to reach me this Sunday afternoon, I’ll be sitting on my couch watching the Bucs’s defense tear Vinny Testaverde limb from limb. This scenario really couldn’t have worked out any better for Bucs fans. Not only do we not have to face (what appeared to be) one of the more formidable opponents on our schedule this year, but now we get one last shot at the man who single handedly ruined an entire decade of football for us. If you weren’t a Bucs fan in the late eighties and early nineties then I can’t adequately explain the deep-seeded hatred in my heart for Vinny. There isn’t a single athlete who caused me more pain and heartache in my youth than Mr. Testaverde. I obviously want the Bucs to win. However, if I was forced to choose between a victory and watching Vinny lay motionless (or, even better, twitching) on the turf of the Meadowlands come Sunday…well, I think you know what I would choose.

- I hope the good people of New England enjoyed their World Series Championship because you’re about to be waist deep in Celtics training camp reports. Tony Graffanino’s error last night (and its subsequent results) was exactly the kind of play that you always expected to see the Sox make at one point or another in the postseason. The only difference now is that there is no bullshit curse to blame these sort of things on. Your team isn’t good enough, not even close, so deal with it and shut your mouths. The rest of the country is tired of hearing about you, your city and your beloved Sox.

- I’ll be the first to admit that I am not intimately aware of Jesus’ own personal likes and dislikes ( I believe he frowns on adultery). However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he’s probably not a huge fan of having his name plastered all over cheesy license plates and cheap bumper stickers. It’s a little beneath him, don’t you think?

- I know the NBA is a few weeks away but I thought I’d touch on the Magic real quickly. Not only is their first round draft pick gearing up for the upcoming Spanish League season but they currently boast a roster with four point guards. You read that correctly…four of them. Two of these guys were acquired in the off-season. Some people might be thinking that the Magic did this in anticipation of Steve Francis’ move to the two. That would be great if it weren’t for the reports that have Francis running the point during informal team scrimmages. Awesome. Why don’t the Magic go ahead and sign Andre Barrett so they can really confuse teams with the NBA’s first all 6’3” and under lineup?

- Was anybody else surprised to hear that Alge Crumpler’s brother and father both played in the NFL? How has that not been a segment on NFL Gameday by now? If you didn’t know, Alge is short for Algenon. Do you know what the name of Alge’s brother is? Carlister…I wish I could make stuff like this up.

- I hate the Atlanta Braves. If you hadn’t noticed I harbor an inordinate amount of ill will towards an exceedingly large numbers of sports teams (both college and pro). I assure you I have my reasons for each and every one of them. When it comes to the Braves, it is not so much the team I despise as much as it is their awful bandwagon jumping fans. Growing up in Florida during the Dale Murphy-Bob Horner Era you could go for months during the summer without seeing (or hearing) a Braves fan. There were no bumper stickers, no hats, no nothing, other than nightly broadcasts of Braves games on TBS. Of course, when the Braves began their unprecedented run of success, a million and one Braves fans appeared out of thin air. Whenever you asked one why they liked the Braves the response was invariably, “I grew up in the south and watched them on TBS all the time.” Sure asshole…can I see your powder blue Braves hat? That’s what I thought.

Why do I bring this up? Because I am being forced to root for the Braves this week in hopes of attending my first ever Major League Playoff game. My old co-worker Calvin works for the Danville Braves (Atlanta’s Rookie League team) and gets tickets to all of Atlanta’s home playoff games. He recently emailed me to say that he’d have an extra ticket for me if the Cardinals were to play in Atlanta during next week’s NLCS. Obviously this persuaded me to root for the Braves yesterday, well that and the fact that the Astros scare the bejesus out of me. Predictably, the Braves lost…at home…in heartbreaking fashion. Have I mentioned that I hate the Braves?

- All of the storylines on Nip/Tuck over the past year or so, Tuesday night’s had to be (by far) the most unrealistic yet. There is absolutely no chance that a stiff like McNamara would ever attend a college frat party, much less end up getting head from a moderately hot chick on the couch of some frat boy’s room. Listen to me here, despite my disdain for the Greek system I have attended a number of frat parties at a number of different colleges (Florida, Florida State, North Carolina, even the venerable College of William & Mary) and there is no way that this scenario would have ever come close to playing out in the manner in which it was portrayed on Nip/Tuck. Even the sluttiest girls I’ve ever met (and I’ve met some first ballot Hall of Famers) would think a man over the age of forty attending a frat party is about the creepiest thing that they could possibly imagine and would steer clear of this guy like AC Green avoids champagne rooms. Just for the record, I would like to go on believing that the “bracelet party” theme is alive and kicking on college campuses across this fine nation of ours. Seriously, just let me have this…okay.

- My fantasy baseball season came to a merciful end this past week. I avoided finishing in dead last. I finished second to last, thank you very much! That wasn't very surprising seeing as I'd been firmly entrenched in the bottom third of the league since (literally) opening day. What was surprising is that I ended up leading the league in ERA and WHIP. I'm like the Leo Mazzone of fantasy baseball.

- I might be the only person who feels this way, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what people find attractive about Melinda from Real World: Austin. Forget for a minute that she’s easily the wettest blanket since the girl with the big jugs from Real World: Hawaii. Even without that, she’s still wholly unattractive to me. At first glance you think that she’s hot, but upon further inspection it becomes clear (to me at least) that she’s nothing more than bunch of mismatched parts. She’s like some living, breathing Mr. Potato Head that was put together by my 4 year old niece.

- Is it just me or did Jim Leyland's hiring by the Tigers seem like one of the shadiest things we've seen go down in quite some time? The man was hired by his former boss (Dave Dombrowski) less than a day after former manager and Tiger legend Alan Trammel got the boot. That must have been one thorough hiring process that the Detroit front office conducted? Leyland has probably been under contract for a month already. Nobody really cares because it's the Tigers but the entire thing reeks of back office manuevering and managerial misconduct. To be perfectly honest, it's my own personal hope that Lou Whitaker was the Brutus to Trammel's Caesar in this scenario.

-Finally, I know that I just minked to my buddy John's blog last week but it is in your best interest to read a post fromt his week entitled "The Legend of Drunk Mike". You'll laugh, you'll cry, it's quite possible you'll wretch. Have a good night.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

1 there or be square.

It’s gotten to the point where I might as well end up conceding Mondays as a lost day when it comes to the Musings. Writing anything of value is pretty much a lost cause at this point. It’s tough enough to piece together some semi-redeeming prose of any length on a Monday to begin with. When you factor in the amount of work that I normally do on a Monday it is damn near impossible. Unless, of course, I just completely blow off work and write during the morning…which is exactly what I’m doing today.

I was going to start off with a detailed breakdown of Florida’s ass kicking at the hands of Alabama. Then I decided that I’d rather not relive that god awful three hours in intimate detail anymore then I already had over the past two days. Put simply, Alabama played the best game that they’ll play all year on the exact same day that Florida played it’s worst of the year (we hope). Brodie Croyle played the way so many fans had envisioned when he was the nation’s #1 QB recruit four years ago, while Tyrone Prothro managed to make even the great David Palmer marvel at his speed, versatility, and toughness. Seriously, how did that guy not cry (even a little bit) after his leg bone snapped in two? That’s as gruesome an injury as I’ve seen since Napoleon McCallum broke his leg on Monday Night some years ago. There were no real bright spots on the defense, though Brandon Siler and Reggie Nelson both managed to play with a reasonable amount of productivity for a defense that was getting pushed all over the field. Offensively the Florida line was once again a major weakness as it constantly had the Gators starting off in 1st & 15 or 1st & 20 situations. This has been a common theme thus far this season for the Gator offense. Yet, up to this point the passing attack of Chris Leak and Co. had been able to make up for a multitude of sins through their productivity. Even when the offense (or any phase of the game for that matter) was able to make a big play they would, invariably then turn around and manage to give back all the momentum gained to Alabama and their crown of raucous inbreds. At one point, as Prothro was making a ridiculous diving tip-catch, I turned to my buddy Vitas and mumbled, “It’s just Bama’s day.” It was and the Tide took full advantage of every opportunity afforded them on this day. All is not lost though, not by a longshot. Florida must go to LSU in two weeks as well as get prepared for the annual tangle with Georgia in Jacksonville at the end of the month. If Florida can win both of those games as well as manage to go through the rest of the SEC season undefeated (no small feat) then they’ll be in the drivers seat for the SEC East Title and a possible rematch with Alabama in Atlanta. Urban had his honeymoon and it’s now time for him to earn that fat salary ,and all the other perks that come with being the Head Coach at the University of Florida, by getting his guys refocused and better prepared for the rigors of the nation’s toughest conference.

Okay, so that went on a little longer than I had hoped but, to be honest there was no real way to put a wood shedding like that in it’s proper perspective with anything less than the bare bones review that I just posted.

My real focus for today is the kickoff of the MLB playoffs. Specifically the outlook for the St. Louis Cardinals. Many may wonder why a kid who grew up in Florida is a Cardinal fan. Actually, it’s a pretty simple explanation. My entire family (on both sides) is originally from St. Louis and I’m the only member of my immediate family who wasn’t born in the city. I attended my first baseball game at Busch Stadium when I was only 6 and I immediately fell in love with such Cardinal luminaries as Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee, to make no mention of Keith Hernandez or his mustache. Though I would grow to hate Hernandez and everything associated with him during his tour with the Mets in the mid-80’s. Those mid-80’s Mets teams are still the standard bearer for all teams that I hate in sports.

These days the Cardinals are one of the best franchises in all of sports, not to mention baseball. They have a great GM in Walt Jocketty and a Hall of Fame Manager in Tony LaRussa. Combine that with a city that many experts consider the best baseball town in American and you have a recipe for an unprecedented run of success. Through all of this success, there has always been a missing element for the Cardinals when it came time for postseason play. It was something different each year: shaky bullpen, lack of starting pitching depth, injuries, even the lack of a true #1 starter in last year’s playoffs.

After the off-season addition of Mark Mulder, this year seemed to be the exception to the rule. That is until the injury bug bit St. Louis about two months back. First it was Reggie Sanders's injury and then Larry Walker. Finally, the vastly underrated Scott Rolen went down for the year. This alone nearly caused my father to go back to drinking scotch. The loss of Rolen could have been much more debilitating if it hadn’t been for the brilliant defensive work of Abraham Nunez. With that said, it doesn’t take Buster Olney to figure out that St. Louis is going to miss Rolen’s bat in the lineup behind Albert Pujols during the postseason. Through it all, the Cards managed to keep winning games and were never in any real danger of being overtaken by the surging (and extremely annoying) Houston Astros. A major reason for this consistency was the dominance of the pitching staff. As a team, the Cardinals hadn’t been able to throw out a starting rotation this consistent and dominant since the 1985 team that boasted John Tudor and Joaqin Andujar. More than any other factor the starting rotation was the reason for my extreme optimism regarding this year’s edition of the Cardinals. That is, until the rotation began to fall apart during the month of August. Chris Carpenter’s feel good season took a dramatic turn for the worse as he allowed 23 runs in his final 22 innings of the regular season. Matt Morris also fell on hard times down the stretch, going 1-8 in his last 9 decisions. The one bright spot late in the year was Jeff Suppan. Unfortunately, due to the incompetence of Matt Morris and Jason “That’s outta here” Marqis, Suppan is now the Cardinals #3 starter going into the postseason. Don’t get me wrong, Suppan is a nice pitcher and has had a good year for St. Louis. However, Suppan is most effective when he is the fourth or fifth starter for a good team. The thought of relying on Suppan to capture a must win game on the road puts the fear of Whitey (Herzog, that is) in me.'s what I'm thinking: The Cardinals should dispose of the Padres in 4 games (San Diego will stave off elimination for one game at home). If they are able to eliminate the Fathers then I’ll be hoping and praying for the Braves to pull a rabbit out of their hat and eliminate the Astros in the other division series. The Cardinals were able to withstand the Astros in the NLCS last year but that was without a healthy (and recently dominant) Andy Pettite. I was telling anybody who would listen in June and July that this was St. Louis’ year to win it all, that all the pieces were finally in place. Now, I’m a lot like Joe Gibbs during Nick Novak’s game winning FG in OT on Sunday…afraid to look.