A depressing weekend personally, as my teams did poorly, but nonetheless and exciting one. Michigan Wolverines held off the Spartans in a thrilling game that came down to the buzzer. Gonzaga made it to number one, proving that you don’t have to be in the Power Six to attain such a ranking. If memory serves me correctly, its been five years since that has happened.

The Miami Heat have continued to dominate the East, and the rest of the NBA. It took some time for Wade to adjust to that supporting role, but now he is throwing up the big numbers, while providing the proper role of supporter. I think the more interesting transition to watch was LeBron as he took the reigns from Wade, and with that the responsibility, particularly in big games and the fourth quarter. It is how you act in those situations, that proves the best leaders. We will have to wait and see if LeBron can hold onto this new attitude down the stretch and win another ring this year.

ESPN Insider’s prospect writers have made their second annual list of the MLB Future Power Rankings which as the name implies attempts to rank teams according to how they look in the years to come. Last year Texas topped the rankings, but they’re decisions to allow Napoli, Hamilton, and C.J. Wilson walk have brought a fair bit of criticism. The Rangers are now number two, and still look to have a promising future. They have seen the World Series quite a bit recently but have not been able to pull of the win. I would watch them to continue to be a Baseball superpower in the years to come.

The Cardinals of St. Louis are now ranked number one in the future prospect rankings and for good reason. They have refused to stick with an all-star and instead elect to work on a strong and youthful core. They also have seen plenty of playoff time, but their play last year barely got them into the playoffs. They do really well in the post season, but their regular season play is poor, and that is result of a young and streaky team. Road play is difficult for younger teams like that, but guys like Allan Craig, Freese, and Matt Carpenter should begin to develop some consistency after some time in the league. If they want to win the WS, they need to strengthen the pen and iron out their rotation. Re-sign Wainwright.

The Reds and Tigers are 7 and 9 in their rankings, and in another risky post I picked them to win their conferences. The Tiger’s  will depend on Verlander’s consistent arm, and hope to god the Miguel can produce like he did last year. I still question that fact that WAR won him that MVP.

That’s all for now folks

 

Very quickly here, The New Jersey Devils cannot win with Hedburg in net. Brodeur is still performing at an elite level, and I understand you want to the young guy playing time and that’s cool, but he’s costing you multiple games in a row now. Get him out, build some momentum with ol’ Marty, then consider putting him back in

Nothing too exciting to report in the professional world this morning. Curry dropped a pant load on the Knicks last night, but the Warriors still lost. A shocking disappointment for a nation that surely was holding its breath. (Sarcasm is harder to portray in text) However, the college level always brings exciting news. Nick Saban and The University of Alabama football program have parted ways with the four players who were arrested last month.  Running back Brent Calloway, linebacker Tyler Hayes, defensive lineman D.J. Pettway and defensive back Eddie Williams. This is not surprising at all. Saban didn’t do this just because that’s what the media would expect from a head coach, but because he is a stan dup guy and won’t put up with that kind of behavior in his program. Those men are privileged to play for a highly respected university, and have their college tuition paid for at the expense of others simply for playing a game that America loves. If they cannot conduct themselves in such a way that respects the university, the fans, and the city that pays for them, then they have no place playing for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide or any team for that matter. Saban understands that, and I can honestly say, other than Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, I cannot think of a more respectable, hard working, and humble coach that has had that sort of success in college football today.

Speaking of the Big Ten, Michigan was sent packing by Penn State last night, ending the nittony lions 19 game conference losing streak. This effectively kills Michigan’s bid for the number one spot (for now) and allows The Ohio State Buckeyes to move up to fourth seed in the Big Ten and grab the first round bye.  They will face the very beatable Illinois and NW, but they and Michigan must still face Indiana. Michigan has yet to match up against Purdue and Michigan state, both strong opponents, and considering they’ve lost four of their last seven, it doesn’t look good for Ann Arbor. As elevenwarriors.com puts it “As it should be, the homestretch of the conference race is going to be all kinds of cray.”

In other news, its Cincinnati Reds phenom pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s 25th birthday. The Red’s two and four record in cactus league play, while unimpressive is not as telling as it may seem. Recent additions Miguel Olivo, Jason Donald, and Jack Hannahan all look strong in their first outings with the team. Most notably has been second baseman Henry Rodriguez’ effort. With seven hits for ten at bats, he’s racked up two runs, two doubles, and two rbi’s with a 1.6 OPS, he along with LHP Cingrani, is a top prospect this season for the Cincinnati Reds. I wasn’t going to go into Pro sports today but I just couldn’t help myself. There are plenty of injury updates, mainly pitchers, that can be found on hardballtalk.com, if you are interested.

That’s it for now, unless something happens today that is so exciting that I just have to chime in on. Have a wonderful Thursday.

The Superbowl feels like eons ago, and the burn for the new season has started already. The 2013 Combine just wrapped up, but I’m not going into detail about each recruit. Spend a few bucks and get ESPN insider if you want that. But I want to talk about Teo. Up to this point, I have still been rooting for him. Despite the girlfriend crap, and even the poor time he ran. (4.83? Really?) Here is where I fell off the Teo Train: the excuses. He blames his time on the stress of the combine. Here’s the thing buddy, everybody who has ever had a job, has an interview process. Yes, yours is being watched by a nation holding its breath, but that’s just the horrible consequences of being scouted by teams willing to pay you millions of dollars. Every rep in the gym, every hour spent studying leads up to that moment, so yeah its a bit stressful, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Besides, I would think stress would propel you in sort of situation. Will all that pent up emotion, bursting off that line would feel like the greatest thing in the world one would think. In any case, even if the stress did get to him, no one in the NFL wants to hear excuses. His best move would have been to say how disappointing it was, and that he will spend every second trying to improve his speed, and then not talk to the media until he’s been drafted. A disappointing move by Teo, and I think that, more than the performance (or lack there of) will hurt his draft stock.

On a similar train of thought, USC Quarterback Matt Barkley made some dumb comments this past week. Claiming to take a page from Peyton Manning’s book and “be a dick.” Prior to this comment, I am screaming, chanting, and worshiping the name Barkley, but my lord did he know how to say the wrong thing. He speaks about how he doesn’t like being thought of as a “Cali boy”. He needs to step up, drop the middle school attitude and keep the media out of his head. His mind should be on preparing for that draft, and playing his heart out. In terms of football smarts, what he showed at USC reminded me of young Peyton Manning. (I’m not promising a rebirth) If he would keep his mouth shut, focus on getting better, and continue to work his football mind, he could end up being a franchise quarterback. Peyton Manning’s not a dick, he is a leader. He understands what it means to lead a team, and ride everyone to force their best out. He also doesn’t go out and say stupid things like that. When he entered the league, he kept his head down and did his job. Read that page Barkley, and you could do well in this league.

The Raiders have shown an interest in Geno Smith. I won’t say much other than, I’m sorry Oakland. Dumb move by the raiders. If I’m going Quarterback, I still pick Barkley, or even what’s his face from Syracuse. Geno will not make it as a starting NFL quarterback. End of Story

I am interested in the revival of a former Raiders QB, Mr. Russell promises a return to the NFL. With his wealth of talent, its not impossible, but don’t look for him to be making a superbowl run, at least not without one hell of a team around him. Trent Dilfer got a ring, but he’ll be the first to tell you, he was not the reason why. (No disrespect towards Dilfer, he is one of my favorite analysts to watch.)

Last on the docket, Smiths new home in KC. This really was best of all opportunities for Smith. Andy Reid is THE QB Guru. He is competing against two QB’s who have been booed out of their own stadium, so no threat there. Here is his chance. Reid’s got some great picks this year, a starting QB that shows promise, and he happens to be Andy Reid. The Kansas City Chiefs are definitely a team to watch in the next few years. Smith is young enough, that even if they don’t make a run for the Lombardi trophy this year, his championship window is still open. KC has every reason to be excited.

Preseason Predictions are always the most fun. Mostly because they can go so awry so quickly. I think baseball is the hardest sport to predict because each pitch is so dependent on every player, and streaks make a BIG difference. That being said, lets dig in.

The American League

With only four games into spring training, we can only look at teams on Paper, and what history has taught us. At the beginning of the Off-season I told myself there was nothing the Blue Jays could do, to make themselves contenders next (this) season. But that was never on paper so I can go the other way. The Jays made massive strides in becoming serious contenders not only in their division, but their conference also. But I’m not going to start trumpeting their success just yet. Melky’s performance will see a serious decrease after his little PED problem, and Dickey is still a wild card as I discussed in other posts. But that combo of E.E. and Bautista makes a terrific anchor for their offense, and they’ve filled out that starting pitching staff well, even if Dickey doesn’t live up to last year’s hype. The biggest foreseeable gap is that Bullpen. It puts a ton of pressure on the starters and just as much the batters to perform at their best every pitch of every at-bat every day. That is just an enormous amount to ask for, especially in baseball where you are playing 6 days a week. But that being said, the Jays still have a lot of upside this season, and look for them to be serious contenders, particularly, if they can get that bullpen ironed out.

Next stop, Anaheim. They have a very powerful outfield, but Trout cannot and will not have the same season as last year. But he still has the potential to be one of the top bats in the league, we just cannot expect last years production. His youth and determination will provide a great spark for this team, especially when they need it down the stretch. It’s important to note that it is these young years that players work hardest, because now they are looking to earn those big bucks, and one year will not cut it. Pujols’ numbers have been declining these past few years but his experience and his raw power will come into play down the stretch as well. It will be up to the young guns like Trout, to get things going early, so they don’t start off slowly. The acquisition of Hamilton adds further power to that outfield, but as we all know Hamilton comes with more baggage than a mobster’s daughter. Look to the road to be their biggest obstacle. The most important thing in baseball (other than fundamentals which applies to all sports) is consistency. Make the road your home, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a ticket to that World Series.

Lastly the Tigers have a good shot at this year’s AL Title. Look for them to fly under the radar and the League by storm. But I see this as a crash and burn team. They win big, or they go home. That’s all there is to it

Out of the American League I see the Tigers. Honestly I think that they look really impressive at the end of last year, after almost not making it. Fielder needs to rally that team with Cabrera and force some early offense.

The National League

Nats, Backs, Dodgers, Reds. The Nationals and the Reds went back and forth over home field advantage with the most wins in the regular season. The Nationals took that title, but neither team won the pennant. The Nats cannot rely too heavily on Strasburg, and the bullpen needs to stay consistent. The same goes for the Reds. Hands down the best bullpen last year, they slipped up at the end when it counted most. With Chapman moving to the rotation and Broxton filling that closing role, they still have lots of power in the pen. Leake, top LHP prospect Cingrani, Bray, Hoover, and Masset, will all be vying for a couple of empty slots in the pen. This kind of competition between good competitors promises another good bullpen this year for the Reds. If they continue to play consistently, and they all stay healthy, the Cincinnati Reds could very well see that Pennant.

Going back to the Nats, they need to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. Harper who took the NL Rookie of the Year award (A steal from Reds 3rd Basemen Todd Fraizer), will need to stay strong, and not be discouraged when he hits that second year wall.  Play with confidence and ambition, and we will see good things from the Nats this year. That a lot of pressure for such a young guy, but he is not alone. The Nats scored top ten in average, runs, and slugging last year, proving that they can hit as a team. It will be fun to watch how Geo deals with his PED rumors as they move into the regular season play. As good as this Nats team is, and their experience together will help, it will be hard for them to match up with the newly formed powerhouse in the NL, the Dodgers.

Moving past money, T.V. Deals, and all that, the Dodgers made great pick ups in the off-season and promise to be a premier team this year. We said the same thing about the Lakers. A lot of egos just entered that locker room, and enough money to drown someone in, came along as well. The city is expecting a lot from new team members like Greinke and Jin at pitcher, and their ability to ignore the media will play a big role in their success. Couple those pitchers with Kershaw, Billingsley, and Lilly, Pitching should not be the issue for the Dodgers. Their bats have power, but consistency will be the question. Ramirez, Gonzales, Punto, Hairston, Uribe, Kemp, Crawford, the list goes on. The bats are there, it will be up to proper management to propel them to the next level.

Finally the Arizona Diamondbacks have an explosive outfield with the Upton brothers, and look to be the underdog team of the year. Look for a quiet ride to the top for D-Backs. They performed well stats-wise last season, ranking top ten in Runs, OBP and Slugging. Aaron Hill’s newfound prowess will play a big role to their overall moral next year. They will look to rally around him and the Uptons, to provide solid defense, and a booming offense.

The NL Champions:

This is a tough one. Ultimately it came down to consistency in every sense of the word. The Cincinnati Reds play well on the road, with and without streaks they are winning series’, and their bullpen provides the consistant pitching to cushion that explosive offense.

World Series Champions

Allow me to reiterate the difficulty in accurately declare a championship winner in the offseason. This is definitely a seven game series between the Detroit Tigers and the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have explosive bats at EVERY position. Bruce, Phillips, Votto, Cozart, Fraizer, Ludwick, and now Olivo at catcher. Mesoraco was a bit of disappointment for the Reds last year, but they have a tendency to call up players too early so I would watch him yet. Choo is filling in a Gap stop role at CF, and the Reds hope to pull up Hamilton, the speed demon prospect, sometime mid-season. Choo is a great leadoff hitter, with good contact and decent power. If he can get on with some kind of consistency, those bats behind him will drive him across.

As for the Tigers, their star-studded line up will provide a difficult challenge for Cincinnati’s young pitchers. Latos and Cueto are both still maturing, and I expect a team like the Tigers to wear them down and frustrate them. Arroyo is really the only veteran on that rotation, so look for him to keep those young guys in check. This is a good point for the Reds. They have a very young team which makes their consistency last year all the more impressive. It looks like Rolen will not return next year which is a loss of defensive talent and veteran experience, but I don’t see that making a big difference. Verlander was almost immaculate in the offseason last year, and if we see that again, even the Reds hitters will be at a loss. After much hair-pulling and nail-chewing I’m calling it a Blue November. I hesitate to use this but we have to remember this is Cincinnati. Although their baseball prowess is much better than their football, we see that Cincinnati has the innate ability to fall short even with talent. Detroit’s veteran players, star power, and dominant pitching will propel them to the World Series win.

Here goes, the 2013 NBA Championship.

I’ll say it once, I’ll say it a million times, “Ultimately it comes down to the same thing it always does: fundamentals.” Right now the Spurs are doing that the best, but there are other factors against them. Age being the prominent one. They seem to have found the fountain of youth, and consistently do well, but transition defense is what will hurt them the most. They don’t have the youth and speed to transition well against the leagues best players. However, play good perimeter defense and force them to the inside to give yourself time to transition. Thunder have Youth, size, scheme and a multitude of talent; however, we see the gap that Harden leaves, and I would expect that to be a big factor down the road. If that is exploited, they can still win obviously, but against the premier teams in the league, it will be difficult. Finally the Rockets. They need to stay hot, and not Peak too early. I see them making a long run in the playoffs, but for right now, my pick as the Best in the West is the Spurs. We saw them fall short last year against the Thunder in the CC, but look for a different ending (Ravens v Pats ring a bell?). However, they need to step it up on shot blocking. That is their biggest recordable issue.

In the East, I’m picking the obvious favorites: The Heat. They’ve just got it right now, and LeBron has hit his stride. Look for them to be the Beast of the East. The Pacers are making a good run and show themselves as serious contenders in the East. They’re first in their division, and 8-2 during the last ten. A title run is not impossible, but it isn’t to be expected. Hibbert needs to step it up in the paint. At 7’2″ and his athleticism, he needs to perform. Danny Granger’s presence has electrified Indiana, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the sure-to-come drought that every team faces in the stretch. Last bone to pick with the Pacer’s is bench play. SCORE WITH THE BENCH! This same issue plagued the Heat two years ago, and their ability to fix this problem led to their rings last year. Fix it now, while you still can.

Running late here, I’m going to give a quick pick and I’ll return to it later. The Heat. They’ve got it going right now in almost every department, but they must fix the issue of size/power play. Go out and get Curry or O’Neal. Play fundamentals, stay strong in the Fourth, and play power Basketball, and the series is theirs.

Mike Zimmer seems to think that the Bengals are on the right track. They do have a considerable amount of talent; however, with Mike Brown at the helm, the Bengals will never see a championship. They need to go after a speed back in the second or third round and grab a good safety in the first. IF they manage to do that, re-sign their FA’s like Smith and Johnson, then they could do well in the playoffs. Barring any major injuries and hoping that Dalton proves to be more consistent. Another large issue they had this past year was holding onto the ball. Especially in the later half of the season. Green went downhill, and they didn’t have a run game to rely on. Step up in the trenches, play strong fundamentals (ball control, play memory, etc.), and play with consistent purpose, and they will do well.

In the baseball world, a late thought on R.A. Dickey with the Jays. Let me start off by saying that not only is he a terrific ballplayer, but a great human being. Without going into detail, he had a ROUGH childhood and volunteers in the offseason. With that being said however, I’m not sold on him just yet; or at least, I wouldn’t give him a big term contract and expect him to be the centerpiece of the organization. I love his success with the KB, and enjoy watching him pitch, but with one breakout year, and at his age, I’m still hesitant to buy. But for all this, the Jays made leaps and bounds this offseason, and even if Dickey does fall short, they have enough talent to compete in their difficult division.

Basketball life: Lakers couldn’t make it four after the All-Star Break, but they are looking better. They’re playing with chemistry, and that’s the most important part. Dwight’s size means he needs to play better in the paint. He just has to. Kobe’s been stepping up and motivating the team, if he keeps that up, I don’t count them out of the playoffs. With threat of digressing, I don’t think Kobe’s enthusiasm will ever be an issue. Will they be a threat in the playoffs? Hard to say. Assuming they make it, I wouldn’t count them out; however, with Dantoni at the helm, and the consistent injuries, I would be downright shocked to see them hoist that trophy.

The contenders of the East and West are as follows:

In the East:

  • Heat
  • Pacers
  • Knicks

In the West:

  • Thunder
  • Rockets
  • San Antonio

I am hesitant to say the Knicks for several reasons, but I put my money on a Heat/Pacers Conf. Championship series (and a darn good one at that). In the west, the Rockets are way underrated. I see them looking strong in the Playoffs. The Spurs are far and away playing the best FUNDEMENTAL basketball in the NBA right now, but they have a Falconesque feel to them in the playoffs (Sports-crossover get over it.)We will see though how they do. As for the Thunder, I have nothing new to say about them, that hasn’t been said a thousand times by everyone else.

That’s the big three sports to report. As for Hockey, my insight just doesn’t go that deep, but I love watching it.

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