Saturday, October 20, 2007
Buffalo Sabres – There must be something in the water in Buffalo. That or it’s proximity to Canada is in some way rubbing off on this backwater New York town. The Sabres lost two of their best forwards last year in Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, but still seem to be able to score at an unbelievable clip. Youngsters Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Derek Roy make a potent top line, but that’s not all. With speedy wingers Maxim Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik, and even more youth in Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford, the Sabres have a bright future. However, they’ll need a strong showing from their relatively unknown defense and a strong campaign from netminder Ryan Miller if they want to go deep in the playoffs. The Sabres will be 5th in the East and 2nd in the Northeast.
Montreal Canadiens – The Canadiens are an underwhelming team on paper. I hate to speak ill of cancer survivors (seriously, even though I have no problem speaking ill of the dead), but Saku Koivu and winger Alexei Kovalev don’t impress me as a top line duo. Even worse, the Canadiens roster is filled out with young 20-somethings and Bryan Smolinski. And as an aside, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Bryan I liked. Michael Ryder has shown he can chip in as a solid second-line winger, but it’ll be up to the kids, Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas, Plekanec, etc, to take this team to the next level. Cristobal “Rasberry” Huet has shown solid career numbers with a .918 save percentage, but the Canadiens better pray that rookie Carey Price comes around quickly, as Huet hasn’t managed more than 46 games in a year. The Canadiens will be 4th in the Northeast, and 11th in the East.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Mats Sundin is playing like he did 15 years ago when he broke into the league, and this combined with Nik Antropov’s hot start would seem to bode well for these pointy blue leafs. But then you take a look at the rest of the team, where you’ll find Darcy “F*$!tard” Tucker, Chad Kilger, and Bates Battaglia, rounding out an unimpressive group of forwards. Tomas Kaberle is a stud on D, and Bryan McCabe will continue to put up points, but the controversy in net between the awful Vesa Toskala and seemingly bipolar Andrew Raycroft will be the Leafs’ downfall. They’ll round out the bottom of the Northeast, and finish 12th in the East.
Ottawa Senators – The Senators have been really good for a few years now, and they appear to be getting better. Daniel Alfredson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley make up the hottest line in hockey right now. They give the Sens a chance to score every time they touch the puck, and with a solid defense anchored by Chris Phillips and Wade Redden, the Sens won’t even need to score that much. What’s better, is that Ray Emery’s in the middle of a rehab assignment in the minors while Martin Gerber has done more than enough to pick up the slack. They say a starter shouldn’t lose his job to injury, but at 6-1 with a .936 save percentage and 2.13 GAA, Emery might be a backup until Gerber goes cold. Mark it down now, the Sens will win the East, and lose in the second round of the playoffs…I couldn’t tell you why, but I don’t see this team winning a cup.
New Jersey Devils – The new rule changes in hockey were supposed to open up the scoring, and force teams to abandon the trap. I actually thought that watching the Devils play would be fun again…then I remembered that they don’t have anyone who can score besides Patrick Elias and Brian Gionta. So Devils hockey still makes me want to die, and newcomer Zach Parise and vet Daniel Zubrus won’t be enough to make Martin Broduer the winningest goalie in NHL history. The demonic ones will finish 4th in the Atlantic and 8th in the East.
New York Islanders – I once saw Bill Guerin streak down the left wing, slip the puck between his legs, and rip one top shelf for a goal. Once. Now the old fart is on the top line with fellow underachievers Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedotenko, and the Islanders are without a true scoring line. Rick DiPietro’s job security and 100 year contract made me think his play would drop off, but I was wrong, and the netminder gives this underwhelming team a fighting chance every night. It won’t be enough though, to make the Isles a playoff team, as they’ll be last in the Atlantic and 9th in the East.
New York Rangers – With the arrival of highly touted pivots Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, everyone figured the Rangers would be a true Cup contender. But Jaromir Jagr is still without a goal, and the Rangers are off to the textbook definition of a mediocre start (2-2). The Rangers are still short on young talent, with Petr Prucha and Henrik Lundqvist the only two young starters of note, and Jagr and Brendan Shanahan are honorary members of the octogenarian club. The Rangers will be a 2nd in the Atlantic behind the well-dressed flightless birds, and 4th in the East.
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers sucked. Past tense. And with the addition of a premier center in Daniel Briere, the Flyers have a legitimate scoring threat with him, Simon Gagne, and anyone else who can skate (Mike Knuble). Kimmo Timonen and the once great Darien Hatcher bring some credibility to the defense, but the Flyers still have a Titanic question mark in net, with Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki. A solid start at 2-1 leaves me thinking the Flyers have taken a good step forward toward mediocrity. The Flyers should finish 7th in the East and 3rd in the Atlantic.
Pittsburgh Penguins – I loathe penguins, abhor them even. They’ve developed a society where the men stay home with the kids while the women go out and hunt. In any case, the Pittsburgh Penguins are beginning what should be an 80’s-like Edmonton dynasty. Their top three centers are Sid “The Kid” Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal. Their goaltender, Marc Andre-Fluery, won 40 last year. And I’m not even sure any of them can drink yet. They’ve even got a decent group of veterans that can still contribute, with Mark Recchi, Petr Sykora, Sergei Gonchar, and Darryl Sydor. If the old men can stay healthy, the young ones could bring home the cup. The Pens will be 2nd in the East and 1st in the Atlantic.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I’m sure that after the recent epidemic of hockey posts you guys have had to endure the past few days, you’re probably getting a bit restless. It’s okay. I understand. Not everyone can be cool enough to be an NHL fan in this day and age.
Regardless, after attending a football/baseball extravaganza at my buddy’s house last night, I thought that I would write out a little PSA about what you should do if invited over to watch a game or two.
Rule #1: Always bring beer
I don’t care if you’re going to Orrin Hatch’s house to watch History Channel DVDs of the temperance movement of the 1920s—you still should bring a few cold, frosty ones. The question then endures, should you go for quantity or quality? You know your friends best, so you should be able to make that determination. My friends and I prefer quantity, for sure, but if you appreciate the subtle nuances of hops and barley, or whatever the fuck that delicious taste is in beer, then maybe some higher quality stuff is in order. Just bring some fucking beer over.
Rule #2: Sometimes bring food
This one is important if you’re either going to be over there during a pre-designated meal time or for more than one game. “Food” can range from a bag of chips to all-out BBQ supplies. Bonus points if you bring the necessary accouterments to have a truly badass barbecue (sauce, cheese, spices, etc.)
Rule #3: If your buddy’s team is playing and you have no allegiance, don’t make fun of him if his team loses
A crucial rule. The guy is nice enough to invite you over to watch the game. The last thing he wants to hear is how his team is terrible after a heartbreaking loss. Besides, what are you, a fucking hoosier? Don’t be an ass. That said...
Rule #4: If your buddy’s team is playing your team, and he invites you over anyway, you get more leeway
Obviously, if your teams are facing off, you have room to cheer for your team and make some snide comments about the other team over the course of the game. That said, if your team wins, don’t be a Red Sox fan and rub your buddy’s face in it. Act like you’ve been there before. It’s okay to cheer. It’s not okay to deride the other team for a half-hour after the game is over.
Rule #5: Be entertaining or shut the fuck up
In a large group of people, there might be some people who either don’t understand what’s going on or don’t give a fuck. That’s totally fine. However, for those people who enjoy talking about the game and making commentary of their own, don’t ruin it by asking some dumbass question about the rules or “which color is _______ team?” Just go in the other room and talk about whatever the fuck you non-sports fans talk about.
Rule #6: Let the real fans have seats
In a large group, there’s going to be limited seating. That said, if you’re a fairly big sports fan, you shouldn’t feel obligated to give up your seat to a lady or someone who’s going to ruin the atmosphere in the room. I know it’s kind of a dick move, ladies, but that’s how it is. However, if there is a downgrade in seating available (i.e. you can switch to a chair without a back), you should be a gentleman and make the switch.
Rule #7: Thank the host for having you over and don’t overstay your welcome
Once the game is over, if the host is giving you hints to leave, thank him politely and make a graceful exit. He was nice enough to have you over—you shouldn’t take advantage of your host’s hospitality.
If you follow these rules, you can have a fun and enjoyable viewing at your house or somewhere else. Enjoy the baseball playoffs, football season, and the NHL (hey, I can dream, right?)
Questions? Comments? Disagree with some of these largely arbitrary rules? E-mail the BlogMogger team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
San Jose Sharks – The Sharks would appear to have it all. A power forward with hands (Joe Thornton), a strong second line center/captain ( Patrick Marleau), young wingers with cannons (Jon Cheechoo, Milan Michalek), a budding group of blue liners (Matt Carle et. al.), and an outstanding netminder (Evgeni Nabokov). But then again, they seem to lack that one thing that every good team needs: chemistry. Look for the Sharks to lead the West…and lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Blues.
Anaheim Ducks – I served coffee to one Chris Pronger a few weeks ago, and I have to say I’m not impressed. I suppose his Cup win gives him enough leeway to be a dick…but without Scott Niedermeyer and Teemu Selanne, this young and incredibly talented hockey team will sputter at times through the season. Matthew Schnider's injury doesn’t help maters. Expect the Ducks, not to be confused with the former Mighty Ducks of the same city, to limp into the playoffs, 2nd in the Pacific and 7th in the West.
Los Angeles Kings – I like the Kings. How could I not, as they’re apparently using the Larry Pleau formula for success? Sign a bunch of has-beens for way too much money while the young guns lose ice time and a chance to develop their talents. Ladislav Nagy had a promising young career in St. Louis before he was traded to Phoenix for fatass…I mean Keith Tkachuk. Then injuries decimated his career. Michal Handzus had a promising career in St. Louis before he…well, I'm not totally sure, to be honest. Alexander Frolov, Anze Kopitar, and Michael Cammalleri will be stars for a while, and Rob Blake, the perennially disappointing Brad Stuart, and Lubomir Visnovsky will serve as a decent blue line for the hopelessly young Jonathon Bernier. Look for the Kings to be streaky, but finish 3rd in the Pacific and 11th in the West.
Phoenix Coyotes – The Coyotes suck. I wrote earlier that the Blue Jackets would finish last in the West, but the ‘Yotes are going to give them a run for their money. They’re saving grace is The Great One, whom I’m sure has an inspirational speech or two in him to help his team when they’re down at the 2nd intermission. Last in the Pacific and 14th in the West. (Ed's note: this could change as Janet Gretzky's tastes in gambling dictate-DJG)
Dallas Stars – I consider Marty Turco to be the poor man’s Roberto Luongo: A good goalie that’s not being given the opportunity to be great because he’s stuck on a mediocre team. Mike Modano, despite being one of the greatest American players to have played the game, needs to hang up the skates. And after Modano, the Stars don’t have a whole lot of scoring touch. They have a decent top two on D, with Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher, but after the pickings get slim. The Stars will fall…to 4th in the Pacific and 9th in the West.
Questions? Comments? Unsure why the fuck they're playing hockey in places like Phoenix and Dallas anyway? E-mail the BlogMogger team at email@example.com.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Central Division
Blues – I’ve been a Blues fan since the Brett Hull days…and even worse, I was the one begging his friends to go to games during their last two abysmal seasons. Young guns like Brad Boyes, Lee Stempniak, and some unknown, Erik Johnson, show the Blues have a bright future, but injuries to Manny Legace, Eric Brewer, and oft hurt Jay McKee threaten present successes. Fortune cookie say: Blues finish second in the Central and 8th in the West.
Red Wings – The dynamic duo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk return to lead a mediocre cast of forwards, aging defensemen, and near-dead goaltenders. Nick Lidstrom will have another Norris trophy year, and newcomer Brian Rafalski will help bolster the D and power play, but all will be for naught if Dom Hasek goes down and the Wings have to rely upon Chris Osgood and the youngin’, Howard, in net. I hate to say it, but the Wings will win the Central, and be 3rd in the West.
Blue Jackets – I can’t believe there’s still a team in Columbus. Rick Nash tied his career high 57 points last year, but can’t do it alone. It appears that Nicholai Zherdev is a complete bust, and despite my obsession with everything hockey, I don’t think I’ve heard of half of the players on Columbus’ roster. They’ll be last in the Central and the West.
Predators – The Preds are stuck in hockey Limbo. Literally. Ownership can’t seem to find a healthy buyer, and the team lost its big names in Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg, and biggest contributor in Tomas Vokoun. It’s unclear whether or not Chris Mason can shoulder the load on a team that’s suffered such a reduction in offense, but a quick start shows that there’s still a big bite left in this squad. The Preds will be 3rd in the Central and 10th in the West.
Blackhawks – RIP Bill Wirtz. Apparently speaking ill of the dead is taboo. I actually don’t care, and think that Wirtz’s death marks a rebirth in Chi-town. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes - I should probably have saved that for the ‘Yotes, but they still suck – the Hawks will show great improvement behind Johnathan Toews and Pat Kane. A healthy Martin Havlat and the version of the Bulin-Wall that led the Lightning to the Cup could take Chicago to a new level…but it’s not going to happen this year. 4th in the Central and 12th in the West.
Questions? Comments? Want to know what this "NHL" is? E-mail the BlogMogger team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
JOCKETTY GOT A RAW DEAL
By (douchebag) Keith Law
What exactly does a GM have to do these days to keep his job?
Walt Jocketty spent 13 seasons at the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals. In that time, they racked up seven playoff appearances, three National League pennants and a World Championship (an unlikely one, but still, the flag looks the same). Their seven-year run of winning seasons was snapped this year, due in no small part to injuries to Chris Carpenter, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, and 2007 marked just the fourth losing season in Jocketty's tenure. Jocketty was let go due to non-baseball reasons, but sometimes the baseball reasons need to win out. His track record at the major league level includes some outstanding moves:
• He picked up Rolen for a young Placido Polanco back in 2002. Rolen was a star at the time (Ed's Note: he is no longer, yet we signed him to a 34 year extnsion [perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels that way]) having a down year, with Dallas Green killing him in the press at every opportunity; Rolen hit 15 homers in two-plus months with the Cardinals, finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2004 as he had his best year and the Cardinals won the pennant, and had another excellent year in 2006 before injuries wrecked his season this year. Polanco became a great hitter for average starting in 2005, but the value Rolen provided in the short term made this a slam-dunk for the Cardinals.
• He acquired Edmonds for Kent Bottenfield and then-prospect Adam Kennedy. Bottenfield was out of the majors for good inside of 15 months and Kennedy eventually developed into a fringy regular, but Edmonds became a star, hitting 172 homers with a .410 OBP over the next five years, with great defense in center.
• He picked up a broken-down Carpenter after the 2002 season (Ed's Note: there is a good chance that Law himself let Carpenter go. Fucking moron), and while Carpenter needed another shoulder surgery before he was able to pitch for the Cards, he turned in three fantastic years, winning a Cy Young Award and coming in third the following year. While Jocketty eventually gave Carpenter a huge contract extension, the cost of the initial pickup was minimal; Carpenter came to St. Louis because the Cards offered him a spot on the 40-man roster and Toronto wouldn't.
• He traded an underachieving and soon-to-be-free-agent J.D. Drew to Atlanta for Jason Marquis and Adam Wainwright. Marquis gave the Cardinals two solid years before one awful one, while Wainwright became the closer on the 2006 championship club before becoming an above-average starter this year. Drew spent one year with the Braves before leaving as a free agent.
If Jocketty has had a major failing, it's that the Cardinals' farm system was not especially productive during his tenure, but that area of the business was taken away from him over the last two years, and the team's drafts in that time have not been particularly strong. And that leads into the real reason for the friction that led to Jocketty's departure: the rise of Jeff Luhnow, hired by owner Bill DeWitt and handed increasing amounts of responsibility within baseball operations, to the detriment of several of Jocketty's longtime lieutenants. This situation, where the general manager did not have full authority over his team's scouting and player developments, appears to be unique within the game, and it's all the more unusual given Jocketty's track record and reputation.
St. Louis is now in a difficult spot. If it's true that Luhnow -- who apparently won't be a candidate for the GM position -- is untouchable due to his relationship with the team's primary owner, many GM candidates with backgrounds in either scouting or player development will balk at the position because of how limited their control will be. They may be forced to fill the position from within (John Mozeliak, their former scouting director and now the interim GM, would be a solid choice), or to accept a candidate whose interest in being GM supersedes his concern at the lack of control. Jocketty, meanwhile, should have his pick of positions, as many teams would be thrilled to obtain a GM with his reputation and track record, and you can bet that one of his first questions for a prospective employer will be, "Can I pick my own scouting director?"
I'm sorry Keith, but I have to disagree with your take on this one.
Sure Walt was a great GM for the Cards for quite some time, and sure you cite last year's World Series in your article, despite your outright disdain for the Cards throughout last year's playoffs. Unfortunately, he has been unwilling to pull the trigger on the "big deal" the past few years.
I think that's what most frustrates Cards fans. He wouldn't dare try to make a stretch run trade for an impact player over the past three years. And yes, I realize that, in the past, he has turned miracles with guys like Will Clark and Larry Walker. Heck, even throw in Ronnie Belliard if you want.
The bottom line is that he was upset that his lieutenants were fired over the Luhnow situation. And, as unfortunate as it may be, Luhnow has overseen the Cards' rise from a bottom three farm system to a middle -of-the-road farm system--no small feat considering what kind of a bottomless pit Jocketty's cronies had dug for us over the previous decade.
The problem is here, Jocketty felt Luhnow was some kind of a threat to him, and he felt no restraint in voicing his displeasure to the media, which, as a loyal Cards fan, was downright unprofessional.
I mean, come on now, Keith. You're certainly familiar with front office politics. I find it hard to believe that you take a strictly objective view here without offering your "inside analysis" as to how this all went down, especially if you were present in Toronto when the Dave Stewart debacle went down (I’m not sure if you were, but even so, I think your role on ESPN is to try to “pierce the veil” a bit between Joe Fan and management. Give us some insight, for crying out loud!
Ultimately, Walt Jocketty was a phenomenal GM for the Cards, and I will agree that he put some amazing trades together in his day. Combined with the respect that he receives from fellow front office types, I can see why you would contest his firing. That said, I’m not surprised at his firing given the unrest in the front office, Walt’s open discontent, and the toxic work environment it created for those involved. For once, I think Bill DeWitt has greater insight than the fans do as to the inner workings of the Cards organization, and, even as a DeWitt skeptic, I actually trust his judgment on this one.
Go ahead, make some pithy joke at my expense. Still, I don’t think you’re really getting to the guts of this one like ESPN is paying you to do.
Questions? Comments? Think we're being too hard on the asshole? E-mail the BlogMogger team at email@example.com.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Some of you out there might think that this article is not even worth reading. It’s hard to blame you given my season previews for the NL and AL. Fortunately for you, I just linked to them so that you could see how wrong I was, unlike, say, Buster Olney or (in the NFL) Sean Salisbury, who make about 156,723 predictions over the course of the season so that they can cover their asses by the end of the year. That’s not my style.
Still, I consider myself an expert because…uh…er…MY TEAM WON THE WORLD SERIES LAST YEAR, MOTHERFUCKER!!! Isn’t that really enough? Without further adieu…
Man, that play-in game was something, wasn’t it? I don’t want to hear any bitching from Pads fans, either. First of all, the homerun earlier in the game that they only counted as a double was clearly gone—I remember hearing a metallic “ping” on the live broadcast, which was, apparently, the ball hitting a railing behind the wall. That said, the umping was just deplorable throughout. This is the best that you can do, MLB? Yikes…
Still, if you like offense, this series is the one for you. The Rocks and Phils both have unbelievably solid lineups and fairly shitty pitching staffs, outside of Jeff Francis and Cole Hamels, respectively. There aren’t enough fireworks made in all of
Another good NL Series, but for far different reasons. This series should solve the age-old dilemma of whether it’s better to have a deep, above-average pitching staff in the playoffs (the Scrubs), or one hot shit Ace who can go twice in a five-game series (The D-Backs with Brandon Webb). The offense tilts slightly to the Cubbies, but the two W’s the D-backs have in the books already from Webb starts might be able to overcome it. In a tough one, I say Cubs in 5, if only because the longer they go, the sweeter the loss will be at the end.
In an incredibly odd NLCS match-up, I expect it to be plenty cold out. And snowy. Really, really snowy. I can see it already—Game 7, Carlos Zambrano taking the hill in 45 degree weather at Wrigley, the Cubs jumping out to a 6 run lead, then blowing it all in the eighth on a freakish play…oh wait, I’m sorry, that was 2003. This time, the Cubs will lose in 6, allowing the Colorado Rockies to (somehow) squeak into the World Series.
This is where things start to get interesting. The Yankees miraculously rose from the dead in mid-summer to claim the Wild Card. The Indians finally put it all together to win the AL Central by about 35 games. More importantly, this series will probably determine whether Derek Jeter or Grady Sizemore gets a greater combination of thinly-veiled homoerotic puff pieces by sports writers and ridiculous “men’s magazine” photoshoots in the off-season.
Seriously, though, the Yanks lineup is phenomenal. There’s something about the Tribe, though, that I really like. No matter what, I think this one goes the distance. Let’s say Indians in 5.
EVERYONE is picking the BoSox here. And they might be right. I’m just blinded by my undying hatred of them. Everyone says, “They have the pitching, they have the lineup.” I dunno—without a full-speed Papi and a declining Man-Ram, I think that they’re eminently beatable. Plus, the Angels aren’t afraid to play well-known steroid users, like oft-injured CF Gary Matthews Jr., which should help them out. One thing is for sure—with K Rod and Papelbon closing these games out, they’re playing a series of essentially eight inning games. Call it a gut instinct, call it spite, call it immaturity. I call it Angels in 4.
In a turn of events that is sure to cause half of
If you can bet on potential World Series match-ups like you can potential Super Bowls, then I am going to bet the shit out of this one on my upcoming trip to Vegas. Wouldn’t it vindicate Bud Selig and the new CBA to see two mid-90’s contenders be able to build themselves back into contention with homegrown talent, and in the case of the Indians, by releasing Ryan Ludwick so that he can hit .245…against only lefties…for the Cards?
As for the actual Series itself—what are you, fucking nuts? The Indians are going to kill the
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
- What's with TV shows being dedicated to people who have recently passsed away? Don't get me wrong, it's a nice thought, but how big a tribute is it to have an episode of King of Queens dedicated to your memory? (*exception for Mog fan JPH)
- Is it rude to ask a stranger to take a picture for you with a camera phone?
- How did chicken fingers go from the kids' menu to a regular menu item? Was there a vote that I am unaware of?
- Kid Nation is the best show currently on TV. Period. I dare you to watch an episode of that show and not be entertained by Jared from Georgia.
- MOG PSA: If your text message is longer than 2 screens - pick up the phone.
- When safeties try to read Tom Brady's eyes, do they get lost in them?
- Why do "down for anything" and "up for anything" mean the same thing?
- When someone asks your opinion on a future outcome, do not respond, "It could go either way." We all know how possibilities and uncertainty work, we dont need a disclaimer on your weather prediction for the weekend.
That's all for now. I'm a man of the people so if you enjoy RR, leave a post and I'll soldier on. Otherwise, I'll take the hint and take a longer hiatus. Later!