BACK IN THE BOX! Returned last season as the host of "the Penalty Box", the post game call in show for Rochester Americans broadcasts on Sports 1280 WHTK, as well as studio host for game broadcasts and intermission updates. Looking forward to starting a second straight season this upcoming year.
Weekend morning newscaster on WHAM.
Sometime fill in host for Bob Matthews or John DiTullio, as well as hosting call-in shows during Yankees and Red Wings rain delays.
Graduated from West Irondequoit high school (in 1984) where I was the sports director at the student run radio station, WIRQ, as well as the "voice of the Indians" football and basketball radio broadcasts.
Graduated with a B.A. degree from Florida Southern College (in1988). Announced FSC basketball games on local cable TV. Also announced local high school football games on local cable TV.
Have worked for WBBF-AM, WPXY-AM, Sportsradio 990, and then moved on to Clear Channel in 1997, where I have worked for WHAM and WHTK since as a board operator, producer, newscaster, traffic reporter, weatherman and sports host, as well as all-around good guy.
I am also psyched to be back on the air hosting "the Penalty Box", the post game call in show for the Rochester Americans radio broadcasts on 107--3 FM and 1280 AM.
I recently also started reading newscasts on Newsradio 1180, WHAM. It is a good opportunity for me, although I never saw myself as a "news guy". I am still enjoying the opportunity.
The NBA playoffs begin tomorrow, and fans await with bated breath for all the first round upsets. Well, actually, maybe not.
First round upset is really a contradiction in terms. There are rarely any big upsets in the NBA first round playoff series'. Oh sure, there have been a few over the years that come to mind. The top seeded Seattle SuperSonics being upset by the 8th Nuggets in 1994. The Knicks over the Heat in 1999. Last year, the 8th seeded Sixers knocked out the top seeded Bulls, but that was after the Bulls lost their best player to injury in game one.
Most years though, the NBA first round usually goes according to plan. There may be a 5 seed that beats a 4 every now and then, and a 6 might take a 3 seed to seven games once in a while, but anything else is pretty rare. Let's see if this year will have any monumental upsets, in my opinion at least.
#1 Miami Heat vs #8 Milwaukee Bucks.
Bucks management must be thrilled. They get to sell tickets to two postseason games. It won't be any more than that though. The Heat should sweep this in four. The Bucks are a young team with some upside, but they just don't have anyone who can guard Lebron, or D Wade for that matter. If Milwaukee shoots lights out, they might win one game, but that's about it.
#2 New York vs #7 Boston.
Do the Celtics have one more run in them? I highly doubt it. KG and Paul Pierce still have some game, but they will definitely miss Rajon Rondo. The Knicks are playing very well heading into the playoffs. They just score too much for the Celtics to keep up.
#3 Indiana vs #6 Atlanta
The Hawks are one of those teams who are always good enough to make the playoffs, but never good enough to win a round. I think that will be the case again this year. Al Horford and Josh Smith are solid interior players but Kyle Korver can't defend anyone, so look for Paul George to go off. Pacers defend too well.
#4 Brooklyn vs #5 Chicago
I wrote in a recent blog that the Bulls are a team no one wants to face in the playoffs. The Nets are unlucky enough to get the first call. The injury plagued Bulls are now healthier than they have been all season long now, and should take it out on the Nets, a young team in a new city (borough) who had a nice year. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are too streaky to deal with a Bulls team that can D-up with anyone when they are healthy.
#1 Oklahoma City vs #8 Houston
The Western conference is far more balenced than the East, with only 15 games separating 1 from 8, as opposed to 28 games in the other conference. That being said, the Thunder have too much firepower for the Rockets. James Harden will have one great game, but Okie City should win this 4-1.
#2 San Antonio vs #7 Los Angeles
The Lakers would have made this a series if Kobe Bryant was healthy. After his achillies tear knocked him out for the rest of the year and probably most of the next, the Lakers heart and soul went with him. The Spurs have been vulnerable in the recent past in early series', but I don't expect that to happen against a Kobe-less Lakers team. A sweep would not shock me in the slightest.
#3 Denver vs #6 Golden State
The Warriors are a nice story, overachieving for much of the year, but with Denver playing well heading into the postseason, and playing with home court advantage in the Mile High, the Nugs should roll 4-1.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs $5 Memphis
Should be the toughest series to choose a winner from of all of them, since both teams finished with identical 56-26 records. The difference is in the matchups, where I think the Clips have a big edge. LA won 3 of 4 from the Grizzlies in the regular season, and Chris Paul/Blake Griffin/Jamal Crawford are much tougher than Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph/Mike Conley. The Clippers are deeper too with Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe, Ronny Turiaf and Grant Hill. I think the Clippers win in six.
That's how I see it. The REAL fun should begin in the 2nd round though. That is where the real interesting matchups will take place. I can hardly wait!
Top overall picks in the NFL draft haven't always had success in the league. In fact, when you look at it historically, #1 overall picks have almost as much of a chance of flaming out as they do of having monstrous success and a Hall of Fame career.
When the Kansas City Chiefs get ready to make their pick in a couple weeks, they may want to take a look at this list, and make a trade. Allow me to go over each top pick since 1970 and just for fun, I will catagorize each into four catagories: superstar, very good player if not quite hall of fame, decent contributor, or pure bust. Here we go:
1970: Terry Bradshaw. One of the great winners of all time, even though not a great quarterback in the first half of his career. Still--superstar
1971: Jim Plunkett. Was a major disappointment until the Raiders resurrected his career and he won a Super Bowl. Still, for being a #1 pick, he really never lived up to expectations. Decent contributor.
1972: Walt Patulski. Played five years in the league for the Bills primarily, and never came close to living up to expectations. Bust
1973: John Matuszak. Played in two Super Bowls and was a decent player for a number of years, but gained more fame for partying and appearing on Miller Lite commercials than for being a great player. Decent contributor.
1974: Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Dangerous pass rusher and longtime Cowboys great. One of the dominant forces on many Super Bowl Cowboys teams. Superstar
1975: Steve Bartkowski. Still holds many Falcons passing records and played for many years at a high level. Very good player if not quite Hall of Fame.
1976: Lee Roy Selmon. Played in six Pro Bowls. One of the best defensive tackles in his era if not in the history of the game. Superstar
1977. Ricky Bell. Tragic story, but still a bust.
1978: Earl Campbell. Hardest runner in history. Not many better running backs in history at the prime of his career. Unfortunately, injuries limited what could have been. Superstar
1979: Tom Cousineau. 2nd #1 overall pick of the Bills in the decade. Bad choice. He opted to play in Canada and never played a down for the Bills. BUST
1980: Billy Sims. Played five seasons and made three Pro Bowls before injuries ended his career. An electrifying runner who could have been much better if he had stayed healthy. A very good player if not quite Hall of fame worthy.
1981: George Rogers. Had some very good years and made two Pro Bowls. Still for a number one pick, should have been better. Decent contributor.
1982: Ken Sims. A monster of a man who was a monster of a bust.
1983: John Elway. Lousy first season, but then became probably the best number one pick ever. Played in five Super Bowls and won two.
1984: Irving Fryer. Played fifteen years in the league and made five Pro Bowls. Still considered a bust by some, but with his longevity I'm saying he was a very good player if not quite a Hall of Famer.
1985: Bruce Smith. The Bills FINALLY struck gold as their third time was a charm. Bruce became one of the best pass rushers in history. Superstar
1986: Bo Jackson. One of the greatest athletes of all time, but a hip injury in his prime ended what could have been a Hall of Fame career. As is, he was a very good player if not quite Hall of Fame worthy.
1987: Vinny Testaverde. Long career but was never considered one of the better QB's in the game during his era. Decent contributor.
1988: Aundray Bruce. Did next to nothing in his NFL career, then got in trouble with the law after leaving the game. Major bust!
1989: Troy Aikman. One of the best leaders of all time. Solid and effective quarterback for over a decade. Superstar
1990: Jeff George. Put up decent numbers in a ten year career but unlike Aikman, was a terrible leader and all about himself. Never made any of his teams better. Considering all his skills and the fact that he was a top overall pick, I'm going with bust.
1991: Russell Maryland. Decent player for a few years and played on a couple of Super Bowl teams, but again, considering he was a top pick, he's a bust in my mind.
1992: Steve Emtman. Lots of injuries, but still a bust
1993: Drew Bledsoe. Very good quarterback for over a decade and played in a number of Pro Bowls and was a one time Super Bowl loser. A very good player if not quite a Hall of Famer.
1994: Dan Wilkenson. A big defensive lineman who turned out to be an even bigger BUST
1995: Ki-Jana Carter. Like Emtman, a ton of debilitating injuries, but still a pretty big bust.
1996: Keyshawn Johnson. A very good wide receiver but never the dominant player many thought he would be at the time he was drafted. A very good player if not quite Hall of Fame worthy.
1997: Orlando Pace. Seven Pro Bowls and perhaps the best left tackle in the game during his career. Superstar
1998: Peyton Manning. Along with Elway, one of the two best #1 picks ever. An easy Hall of Famer and a superstar!
1999: Tim Couch. Was supposed to be the savior of the Browns, but ended up being a colossal bust
2000: Courtney Brown. The Browns made it 0 for 2 in back to back years. More famous for having an official hit him in the eyes with a flag than for anything he did in his playing career. Big time bust.
2001: Michael Vick. At times, he was a superstar. Still somewhat of a disappointment. Dogfighting issues with the law dampened his career although he came back from that to be a very good player again. I'll say he was a very good player but not Hall of Fame worthy.
2002. David Carr. Went to an expansion team and never recovered. Under different circumstances, who knows, but as it is, he has to be considered a bust.
2003: Carson Palmer. For a couple of years, it looked like he was going to be a great one, then he backslid. Decent contributor.
2004: Eli Manning. Beat Bill Belichick twice in Super Bowls. Still, not sure if I can say superstar. OK, I will but I'm not thrilled with it.
2005: Alex Smith. Was a bust, now a decent contributor.
2006. Mario Williams. Jury is still out, but he is approaching potential bust status. For now, I'll go with decent contributor.
2007: Jamarcus Russell. What can I say? Perhaps the biggest #1 pick bust of all time.
2008: Jake Long. Very good player. Still could be known as a superstar, but for now, I'm going with a very good player if not quite a Hall of Famer.
2009: Matthew Stafford. Still too early to tell, but he is a bit overrated to me. I'm thinking Stafford will be like Steve Bartkowski--a very good quarterback who will probably never make the Hall.
2010: Sam Bradford. Jury is still out and will be for a number of years, but all indications point to him not being a superstar. Somewhere in the middle two catagories is more likely.
2011: Cam Newton. Like Vick, he is an electric player. Only time will tell if he can be the leader he needs to be to be considered a superstar.
2012: Andrew Luck. One year in, and most casual fans and experts all consider him a superstar. Should only get better.
So there you go. 43 number one overall picks since 1970. Let's add it all up:
In my opionion, there have been ELEVEN of those forty who would be considered SUPERSTARS.
NINE former #1's would be in my "very good player but not quite a Hall of Famer" catagory.
SEVEN former top picks would be on my "decent contributor" list, and
FOURTEEN former top picks have to be considered BUSTS.
That is not counting Newton and Bradford, because it's honetly too early, in my opinion, to put them in any catagory. I did however put Andrew Luck in the superstar catagory based on pure potential and almost assuredly getting even better.
Add it all up and it becomes apparent. If you are picking first in any NFL draft, you have a 50-50 chance of picking a very good player or a superstar. You also have just under one third of a chance of picking a complete and utter bust.
Memo to the Kansas City Chiefs: Pick very carefully and good luck!
You know those suspense movies about killer crocodiles, or monstrous snakes, or sea-serpently water creatures? Come on, you know the ones I am talking about....The happy, partying teens and early 20-somethings who are blissfully unaware, joking with each other and playing around, when all of a sudden, some killer creature sneaks out of the bog and chomps down on the poor unsuspecting kids, slowly dragging them back into their lair, never to be heard from again.
This is obviously a metaphor, as this is primarily a sports blog, so you movie fans may click away now. In this case, the sneaky killers are the Chicago Bulls. The happy, jovial, fun-loving kids are the Pacers, Knickerbockers or even could very well be the Miami Heat.
Now, keep in mind that I am a serious Chicago Bulls fan, so I could be looking through red colored glasses at this, but I like what I have seen recently. A couple weeks ago, the Heat came blazing into the windy city a few games shy of an NBA record. The Bulls punked them, ending Miami's shot at history. Last night, the New York Knickerbockers strode into Chi-town, brazenly boasting a 13 game winning streak. Again, the Bulls took out the New Yorkers like a wise guy takes out...well...another wise guy.
I'm sure many of you are thinking, "C'mon Craig, get real! There are only about four teams who have a shot at winning the NBA title, and the Bulls aren't one of them." I say, "Au contraire, mon frere!"
True, Chicago is currently only the #5 seed in the Eastern conference standings. True, they only have a 43-35 record. True, the Bulls best player has not played a real NBA game in almost a full year. I realize all these things, but as far as I am concerned, you can throw them all out the window come playoff time.
You have to take many other things into account. First of all, the Bulls have played much of the season without many of their starters in their opening day lineup for long stretches. You know how many Bulls players have played in each of the team's 78 games this year? Two, and they are both non-starters (Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler). Carlos Boozer has been the inronman of the team, missing only three games. All-star Luol Deng has missed seven. Joaquim Noah has missed fourteen. Kirk Hinrich has missed 22. Rip Hamilton has missed 31. Even key reserves have missed loads of time (Marco Bellinelli--9 and Taj Gibson--15).
Oh, and then there is this guy...ohhhh, what's his name again? Oh yeah, Derrick Rose, who happens to be a former league MVP just two years ago.
Rose tore his knee to shreds in game one of last years opening playoff series against the 76ers, and has been out all season long. His rehab has taken longer than expected. However, he has been playing 5 on 5 games at practice for a few weeks now, and recently dunked off his surgically repaired knee, and reportedly looked good doing it.
The team says there is no timetable for Rose's return. At this point, he has basically been cleared to play. He says he is just not ready yet, and doesn't know when he will be. He says it is all mental now. He has to be able to trust the knee. It makes sense, considering the type of driving and slashing game he plays with.
Perhaps I am being overly optimistic here, but I can read between the lines a bit. All these great athletes have huge ego's. Rose is most likely in that catagory. I would be SHOCKED if Rose honestly doesn't have some kind of triumphant return planned, and when would that be? I'm guessing it would be sometime during the playoffs.
Just imagine the excitement in the NBA world if the Bulls are down 3 games to 2 in their first round series with say, Brooklyn. Their backs are against the wall, lose and go home, or win and force a game seven....and Rose announces that he is coming back for game six. Now imagine that Rose plays well and leads the Bulls to a series win and a matchup with say, the Knicks.
By that time, presumably, Noah, Hamilton, Deng, Gibson, Boozer and company are all healthy as well. Jimmy Butler has been playing like a monster lately and would provide scoring and defense off the bench. Nate Robinson would provide the instant offense and a three point threat off the bench that has been lacking the last two playoff runs. Suddenly, you are looking at a better version of the team that had the number one seed in the East the last two seasons. It is not a team anyone would want to be playing in a seven game series this time of year.
Yes, the Bulls have been laying in wait. Hiding in the weeds. Unaccounted for. By the time the first round of the postseason rolls around, if and when Rose returns, Chicago could be ready to pounce on their prey, and everyone, even the mighty Heat, could serve as a tasty treat.
Why is it that people just can't stop asking Jim Boeheim if he is going to retire? The clock had barely hit triple zero's of the Cuse's loss to Michigan in the Final Four and the first question out of some media guy's mouth is "Did you just coach your last game?"
Boeheim was exasperated. Understandably so. He had been asked that question more than a Florida mailman in a retirement community asks people if it's hot enough for them. His answer has always been "no, I'm not retiring. I plan on coaching next year." Yet reporters continue to ask him.
Does everyone think he's lying all this time? Do reporters think they will suddenly hear Boeheim say, "well Johnny, since it is YOU who is asking, I AM going to retire. Thanks John, buddy....I have been waiting all this time for you to be the one who asked me. Thanks, I'll be going now..."
How many times does a guy have to say it? How many times does a guy have to deny it? How many times does a guy have to NOT say it? I gotta admit, I feel for the guy.
It has to get frustrating for Boeheim. Not only to answer the question, but also the subtle meaning behind it. With so many people asking if he is retiring all the time, Boeheim must be wondering, "Gee, with all these people asking me all the time, they must want me gone."
I'd start thinking that if I were Boeheim. I'd be thinking, "With all these questions about retirement, everyone must want me to find a nice hammock somewhere in Florida."
We know of course why the media asks. That's the story for a whole different blog. Everyone wants the scoop. Everyone wants to be the one who breaks the big national story. Everyone wants to be the one who asks the question when he finally says 'yes".
Now, it has to stop. Jim Boeheim wants to keep coaching. With over 900 career wins at his alma mater, he has earned the right. He walked onto the team as a freshman in 1962, and he hasn't left yet. He shouldn't have to. Fifty one years is quite a legacy. Boeheim is still not an old man by any stretch. He turns 69 years old at the beginning of next season, his birthday falling on November 17th, probably on a night when SU will beat one of those cupcakes he always starts his seasons with. He is far from JoePa status.
In most places in the country where a college coach is a legend, word that he is coming back to coach another year would usually be met with a chorus of applause and jubilation. In Syracuse, with Jim Boeheim, it almost seems like there is a collective ho-hum reaction of. "Oh...well, oh ok". It's hard to figure, and it is a good indication of how Boeheim doesn't get the respect he deserves.
You just don't win over 900 games, with all of those 20 win season, four trips to the final four, three national championship games and one title, unless you are a jeckuva coach. It's about time we appreciate him for it.
Jimmy B can coach as long as he wants in my book. Get off his back!
Welcome to your new Buffalo Sabres!
At long last, it looks like the Buffalo Sabres braintrust, led by General Manager Darcy Regier, has finally decided to blow up the Sabres as we knew them. It wasn't subtle either. Like pulling a bad tooth, the Sabres traded away two of the starting blue liners and their team captain.
The exorcism began when the Sabres dealt defenseman Jordan Leopold to the Blues for a 2nd round pick and a 4th rounder in this years draft. Then two days later, the Sabres continued their purge trading defenseman Robin Regehr to the LA Kings for a 2nd round pick in 2014 and a 2nd rounder in 2015. Finally, on deadline day, the Sabres finished their makeover by trading away team captain Jason Pominville and a 4th round pick in 2014 to the Wild for goaltender Matt Hackett, center Johan Larsson, a 1st round pick in the upcoming draft and a 2nd rounder in 2014.
There is no doubting now. The Sabres are giving up the ghost on this season, and remaking the team for the future. It's about time! These kind of moves should really have been done in 2009 or 2010.
The Sabres had basically the same nucleus for far too long. The Sabres held onto Pominvile, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and company like a 3 year old holds onto their blankie. It proved to be a nucleus that just didn't have the ability to compete for a Stanley Cup. It was, plain and simple, a nucleus that was what it was--a borderline playoff team.
They brought in some high priced talent to try to add to that nucleus in Brad Boyes, Ville Leino, Christian Erhoff and Steve Ott, but no matter who it was, it wasn't enough. For whatever reason, there was just never enough scoring, never enough size, never enough defense, and that nucleus continued to drag the collective unit down.
The Sabres finally parted ways with Derek Roy last offseason, as well as Boyes, but nothing changed. Now, they say goodbye to Pominville--a nice guy who was durable and played hard, but was never the fiery leader a captain should be, and two experienced defensemen who never really fit in or performed like Buffalo thought they would.
The purge should continue in the off-season. I would be surprised to see Thomas Vanek back. He has one year left on the contract he signed in 2007, and should have quite a good amount of trade value. He has never quite lived up to the huge contract he was given, but is still highly thought of league-wide as a talent.
I would also be very surprised to see Ryan Miller back between the pipes for Buffalo next year as well. The 32 year old Miller is still young for a goaltender, and would have a good amount of trade value. He also, like Vanek, also has a year left on his contract that pays him over six million dollars a year. I think the Sabres realize that it wouldn't be prudent to resign either of them to a new long term deal, so to trade them and get SOMETHING for them would be far better than getting nothing and watch them walk.
Drew Stafford is still young at 27, and the Sabres hopefully can find a suitor that feels that a change of scenery and new teammates would bring back his game to levels once expected of him.
The new acquisitions have a lot of upside and are highly thought of. Larsson has good size and, although he will never lead a league in scoring, is a Selke award type player who is a very good defensive center with a head for the game. Hackett has great potential and is thought of by many experts as a future #1 type goaltender.
So, the rebuilding begins with those two, as well as Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno, Steve Ott and Tyler Myers. This is your new Sabres nucleus, along with the soon to be Sabres who have not been drafted yet. Even without trading Vanek, Miller or Stafford, as it is Buffalo has two first round picks this year, two 2nd rounders this year, two 2nd rounders next year, two 2nd's in 2015 and two 4th rounders this year, at least how I figure it.
In addition, the Sabres still have last years 1st round picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons and 2nd rounder Jake McCabe, as well as 2011 1st rounder Joel Armia not far away from being ready. 2010 1st round pick Mark Pysyk has just arrived and is already contributing.
There may be a long year or two coming up in Buffalo, but with the right drafting and making good trades in the near future, I think there will be some excitement to come a couple of years from now at the First Niagara Center.
Either way, it beats the same ol, same ol that we have seen there for the past five or six years.
Lost in the shuffle over a big weekend of NCAA tournament action and Syracuse wins was a little transaction the Buffalo Bills made. The Bills signed quarterback Kevin Kolb to a two year contract worth a maximum of $13 million dollars.
It's a far cry from the 5 year, $63 million dollar deal ($20 mill guaranteed) that Kolb signed three years ago with the Arizona Cardinals, but it works for both sides. The Bills are desperate for a halfway decent quarterback, and Kolb is desperate for another chance to prove he belongs as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Like two single people in their forties who have never married yet, this could work!
Kolb has always had a lot of proponents in his corner. After the Eagles drafted him out of Houston, then coach Andy Reid tabbed him as the Eagles "quarterback of the future", whenever Donovan McNabb was ready to move on. McNabb was eventually traded to Washington when Reid thought Kolb was finally ready. Some guy named Michael Vick threw a monkey wrench into that plan though. Remember, it was Kolb who started the season as the Eagles quarterback in 2010, before going 2-3 as a starter, then getting hurt. Vick stole his starting job, had a career year, and the rest is, as they say, history for Kolb.
The next offseason, Kolb was still thought of around the league as a potential star in the making who was just looking for the right chance. The Cardinals bought into it and signed him to a monstrous contract. They were desperate for a starting QB to replace the retiring Kurt Warner, and thought the 6'3" Kolb could do for Arizona what Matt Schaub did for Houston--bring the franchise new success in the future.
It didn't quite work out that way for them or Kolb. Each time Kolb seemed to start to feel comfortable as a starter, the injury bug would rear it's ugly head, and Kolb would be sidetracked and once again, find himself on the bench--just like in Philly.
Now, Kolb is not as highly thought of. The bloom is off the rose, so to speak. Thing is, with such lousy prospects out there, the Bills have to look at Kolb's glass as half full instead of half empty.
Buffalo needs a quarterback capable or running an offense with the first team. Tarvaris Jackson is on the roster, but isn't taken seriously as an honest to God, starting quarterback for any team, so the Bills had to do something. They are most likely still going to draft a quarterback in the upcoming draft in April, but with question marks surrounding all of those prospects, the Bills needed to have someone else to build around, just in case they swing and miss this year.
Kolb is no Dan Marino in his prime, but he is still an obvious upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick. At 6 foot three and 220 pounds, he at least has an NFL arm and is capable of making all the throws. Like so many other quarterbacks, give him a decent offensive line that can protect him (which he didn't have in Arizona), and the right offensive system, and I believe he can have success. I never felt that way with Fitzpatrick, who had a ceiling a "little person" could reach up and touch.
It's a bit of a gamble, but it's a "roll of the dice" the Bills had to take. Adding Kolb at a relative bargain price, and drafting a young quarterback in the second round like Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, EJ Manuel or Landry Jones is the way to go. Let Kolb, Jackson and the young draftee fight it out in camp, and let the best man win.
I wouldn't even be opposed to the Bills doing what the Redskins did last year. Pick one of those quarterbacks in the 2nd round, and then maybe in the 4th or 5th round, pick one of the other ones who has fallen in the draft and may still be out there. Or if not, take a flier on a guy like Tyler Bray of Tennessee, Alex Carder of Western Michigan or Collin Klein of K State. Maybe you miss on the first guy, but the 2nd guy turns out to be a stud. In a weak draft class, a strategy like that maximizes your chances of success with someone. And you have Kolb to hold down the fort while the draft pick(s) hold clipboards and learn.
Whatever the Bills do in the draft, at least they now have Kevin Kolb. Who says Kolb-lers are obsolete? I wouldn't mind becoming one if he can lead the Bills to some wins.
donate to my indiegogo fundraiser to raise money for clinical trials for my blinding eye disease. Go to www.indiegogo.com and then search for "help-reurn-our-sight" in the search box.
I am writing this a night earlier than I usually would. The reason? Well, I have an American League fantasy baseball draft tomorrow night of course. So have strategically set it up so that I can kill two birds with one Steve Stone, prep for my draft while at the same time, so my American League preview. Aren't I clever?
1. Baltimore Orioles. Huh you say? Yup, I think the Orioles can and will do it again. In fact, I think they will be better this year than they were last year when they almost won the division. The reason? The baby birds are starting to grow up. Wei Yin Chen, Jason Hammel and Miguel Gonzalez are unspectacular but solid. Chris Tillman finally showed the ace potential he was supposed to have. If Jake Arrieta and/or Zach Britton can live up to their potential, the O's will have one of the best staffs in the AL. Great middle relief with Steve Johnson, Jair Jurgens, Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala and a top notch closer in Jim Johnson. Pitching will keep this team in games and offense will win them a bunch. Adam Jones leads an underrated bunch including Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, JJ Hardy and Chris Davis. If Manny Machado can take the next step into being the next A-Rod, watch the O's prove last year was no fluke.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
What a difference a season makes. Last years ace is now in the minors (Ricky Romero). The Jays revamped their whole rotation, bringing in Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle from Miami along with Brendan Morrow and R.A. Dickey. HUGE improvement! Along with that, they also add Jose Reyes and Emelio Bonafacio to an already strong lineup with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. On paper, this team should win 120 games. Thing is, games aren't won on paper. Many people fell for the Miami Marlins last year, after they made the same kind of splash the Jays did this year offseason. You saw what happened. The Jays could be a juggernaut. They could be this years Marlins. I am guessing they will be somewhere in the middle, a slight disappointment who probably win the wild card.
3. Tampa Bay Rays. The AL equivalent of the San Francisco Giants. This Rays team has the best pitching in the AL. David Price, the AL reigning Cy Young winner, is obviously a front line starter. Jeremy Hellickson is young and nasty. Matt Moore has future Cy Young type stuff. Alex Cobb is unheralded but very good and young and 6'7" Jeff Niemann returns from injury. Fernando Rodney put up one of the best years in history for a closer. They may struggle to score runs though. Evan Longoria can pound it if he can only stay healthy. Desmond Jennings will eventually be a five tool player but will this be the year he puts it all together? Other than that, the Rays are pedestrian offensively at best.
4. New York Yankees. Yeah, can you believe it, the Yankees and Red sox battling FOR LAST PLACE!?!?!? Both have the most weaknesses in the division. I will say the Yankee mystique will keep them from finishing last.
CC Sabathia and Hideki Kuroda aren't a bad top two starters, but after that....YIKES. Andy Pettitte's arm is going to pull a Dravecky one of these years and have his arm fall off while he is pitching. Ivan Nova has one great start out of every four. David Phelps is an unknown and Phil Hughes never stays healthy. The hitting has gotten old very fast. Derek Jeter starts on the DL most likely. A-Rod is out until August and may never be the same. Mark Texeiera and Curtis Granderson are out until May or June. Their current outfield is Ichiro, Brett Gardiner and Vernon Wells or Brennan Boesch. Only Robbie Cano is in his prime. Could be a long year in the Bronx.
5. Boston red Sox. The Sox still can hit and score runs, especially if David Ortiz has one more big year in him and Jacoby Ellsbury can bounce back. Dustin Pedroia has had two years in a row where his production has dropped. Will Middlebrooks looks like a stud though. Newcomers Jonny Gomes and Shane victorino must produce. The Sox pitching has taken a step back too. Ryan Dempster is a shaky ace. Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront are very hittable and John Lackey hasn't been the same since 2009. Middle relief is the strength of the staff with Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara and Daniel Bard. Joel Hanrahan is a bit of a shaky closer.
1. Detroit Tigers. The 1-2 punch of Miggy Cabrera and Prince Fielder is second to none in the AL. Victor Martinez comes back from injury. Austin Jackson is a young, underrated centerfielder. Torii Hunter comes over via free agency to add defense and hopefully some offensive punch. Alex Avila, Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta aren't easy outs. The staff of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello is solid from top to bottom. The biggest question mark is closer, where the Tigers are hoping youngster Bruce Rondon can do the job.
2. Kansas City Royals. The Royals are almost there. For years they have been stockpiling young talent and it is almost time to watch them shine. Alex Gotdon and Billy Butler are young studs who can really rake. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all have HUGE upside, but haven't proven it yet. Alcides Escobar has gotten better every year. What can hold them back is pitching. James Shields comes over from Tampa and is a decent ace, and I like Wade Davis, but Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie are batting practice pitchers. Greg Holland has nasty stuff as their closer, and the middle relief is unknown and unproven.
3. Chicago White Sox. Chris Sale proved last year that he can be a staff ace. Jake Peavy proved that he still has a lot left if he is healthy. Gavin Floyd is solid. After that, it gets a little shaky. The Pale Hose can hit with anyone in the league though, especially if Adam Dunn can hit more than his weight. I like Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez and Paul Konerko in the infield, but the Sox are weak at third with light hitting Jeff Keppinger. A good young outfield with D'Aza, Rios and Viciedo. They could contend if they can find decent 4 and 5 starters.
4. Cleveland Indians. The Tribe upgraded their hitting in the offseason. I love the addition of Michael Bourn, who can really make things happen at the top of the lineup. Nick Swisher comes over from the Yankees to add power. Young Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera are a dynamic double play combo, both offensively and defensively, and Carlos Santana plays sweet music with his bat. If Lonnie Chisenhall can prove he is ready at third, they will score runs. Pitching is the problem. Justin Masterson is the ace, but would be only a 4th or 5th starter on a really good team. The rest of the staff is a bunch of retreads like Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Myers. Chris Perez is a decent young closer.
5. Minnesota Twins. The Twins overhauled their pitching staff completely, but the problem is...I don't think it is any better than last year. When Vance Worley is your ace, you have problems. They also brought in Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia, They will be better when Scott Diamond is healthy and if Sam Diduno, Liam Hendricks and Cole DeVries get into the rotation, bumping a few of the other stiffs. Glen Perkins is an unproven closer and the middle relief is shaky. Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier are a very weak middle infield, and Trevor Plouffe is unproven at third. Josh Willingham, Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmalee are young but have serious upside if they are ready. The Twins need vintage years from the M and M boys, Morneau and Mauer, in order to have a .500 year.
1. Oakland A's. Last year, the A's shocked the world, winning the division over the mighty Rangers and Angels. This year, they won't shock anybody. The A's have the best pitching stafff that no one has ever heard of in the league. Brett Anderson returns again from inury and hopes to prove that he has ace stuff. Jarrod Parker had his coming out party last year and is finally living up to the hype. Tommy Millone and AJ Griffin put up very good numbers last year. The A's have solid middle relief but a shaky closing situation with Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook. Yoenis Cespedes is ready to be a dominant force. Coco Crisp is an underrated tablesetter. Josh Reddick proved he has major pop in his bat last year. The A's have major question marks all around their infield though. Jed Lowrie, Scott Sizemore and Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima are unknown and unproven in middle infield and Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson are unproven but have upside at the corner positions. If their young guys prove themselves, I think the A's win the division again.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels will be right there all year, thanks to the biggest addition of the off-season, Josh Hamilton. The hitting just keeps coming and coming. Rookie of the year phenom Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and, oh yeah that guy Albert Pujols. Angels are a little weak at certain positions, like third base with Alberto Callaspo and Chris Ianetta at catcher. Jared Weaver is one of the best aces when healthy. CJ Wilson and imports Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton round out a solid rotation. Biggest question is closer where the Angels hope Ryan Madson is the answer, coming off surgery.
3. Texas Rangers. The Rangers lost a lot when they let Hamilton walk, but hope young studs Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry can make up for it. The Rangers still have a lot of bangers though and could still compete for the division title if things fall right. Adrian Beltre is still a monster at third. Nelson Cruz is one of the leagues best young sluggers. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus are one of the best all-around double play combos in baseball. Mitch Moreland and David Murphy are unheralded. The Rangers hope imports AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman have one more good year left in them. Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are a nice 1-2 punch in the rotation, but after that it gets shaky. Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are average. Things will get better when Colby Lewis comes back in June.
4. Seattle Mariners. The M's are young and getting better but are still a couple years away. Felix Hernandez is a stud and Hisashi Iwakuma aren't a bad 1-2, but after that, it's weak. Joe Saunders will soft toss a bunch of innings and get knocked around again. Blake Beavan has upside but is unproven and a bunch of no names will try to grab the 5th starter role. Michael Morse, Franklin Gutuerrez and Michael Saunders are young with upside. Same for infielders Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. Shortstop Brendan Ryan is absolutely useless at the plate but can field.
5. Houston Astros. The American League will welcome the Astros with a last place finish. Houston has some good young hitters with potential, but the pitching staff is an absolute mess. Jason Castro, Brett Wallace, Chris Carter, Jose Altuva and Matt Dominguez fall into that catagory in the infield along with Justin Maxwell and Fernando Martinez in the outfield. Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell form the worst 1-2 starting punch in baseball, followed by retreads Phil Humber and Eric Bedard. The bullpen doesn't scare anyone and the imitable Jose Veras is the closer. Ouch!
In the postseason, it will be Baltimore, Toronto, Detroit and the Angels or Blue Jays as the wild card. I'll go with the Angels by a hair. The Tigers will beat the Angels in the ALCS and move on to the World Series.
In the senior circuit, the Nationals, Reds, Dodgers and Giants make the postseason. The Nationals beat the Giants and the Dodgers slip past the Reds to meet the Nats in the NLCS. The Nationals overpower the Dodgers to move on to the World Series.
In the World Series, the Nationals will beat the Tigers in six games. Of course, this is presuming they learned their lesson last year and DON'T shut down Stephen Strasberg in mid September, still the most asinine move in baseball history.
Now let's play the games and see how I do! PLAY BALL!!!
Yes, it's that time again. It sure doesn't feel like it yet, but spring is in the air, and with it comes the sights and sounds of the midsummer pastime of baseball. Time for my annual preview of what I think will happen this season, who will finish where and what to expect in the postseason. I am starting with the National League and later in the week, I invite you to come back to check the AL preview. Let's begin with the NL East:
1. Washington Nationals. The Nats are back and better than last year when they ran away with this division. They are solid at every position, have a great young infield DP combo of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, an all-star at 3b in Ryan Zimmerman and a nice mix of power and speed in the OF with Bryce Harper, newcomer Denard Span and Jeyson Werth. What separates Washington is their pitching.
Stephen Strasburg is a bonifide ace and possibly the best starting pitcher in the NL. Gio Gonzalez is also an ace. Jordan Zimmerman is a slight notch below a staff acce and Dan Haren is a former staff ace for a fwe teams. Even Ryan Detwiler put up great numbers. The Nats are leaoded and should repeat.
2. Atlanta Braves. If any team can give the Nationals a run, it's the Braves. What an outfield they have compiled! Bringing in BOTH Upton brothers, Justin and BJ and pairing them with young stud Jason Heyward gives the Braves the best outfield in the league. The big question mark is if Juan Francisco or Chris Johnson can fill the shoes of Chipper Jones at the hot corner. The pitching staff of Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm is good but not in the Nationals class. Craig Kimbrel is possibly the best closer in baseball right now though.
3. Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils hope they have one more run in them at the title but too many things would have to go right. Can Ryan Howard and Chase Utley stay healthy? Can Michael Young play an adaquate third base after being a DH the last couple years? Is Jimmy Rollins speed still there? Can Domonic Brown finally stick in the big leagues and become the stud they thought he would be? Is Roy Halladay really 100%? If the answer to too many of those questions is "no", the Phillies could be in for a long year.
4 and 5. New York Mets and Miami Marlins. Take your pick. Either could finish as the worst team in baseball, so I am going to combine them here. The Marlins at least have young players to rebuild around, led by Giancarlo Stanton. Problem is, they are ALL untested. Check out the Marlins infield: Logan Morrison at first, Donovan Solano at second, Adeiny Hechavarria at SS and Placido Polanco at third. Brutal! Almost as bad is the Mets outfield of Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill and Mike Baxter. WHO??? Both teams have shaky pitching with no real ace, and bad bullpens. Both of these teams will have trouble winning 60 games. At least they play each other a bunch.
1. Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have the strongest team on paper, but I think they are beatable. Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos are a nice one-two punch as starting pitchers, but after that, Bronson arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake don't inspire confidence. At least the Reds made a great choice keeping Aroldis Chapmas as their closer where he was lights out last year and has electric stuff. Offensively, the Reds will score a ton of runs with Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick banging and Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Tood Frazier doing the same. Will the pitching hold up though? My guess is yes.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates. If any team has the capability of beating the Reds, I think it's the Bucs. They made some great moves in the offseason bringing in Russell Martin to catch, and Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano to join the rotation, providing a huge upgrade. The Pirates have one of the best young players in the game to lead them offensively in Andrew McCutcheon. If they ir other young studs like Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez can become all-stars this year and Meil Walker, Garrett Jones and Clint Barmes can have good years, this Pirates team could really surprise.
3. St Louis Cardinals. The Cards took a step back last year after winning with World Series the year before, and I think they continue to step back this year. They are getting older at corner OF spots with Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. Adam Wainwright is back from an injury and it remains to be seen if he will be as good as before. Jake Westbrook is uttely hitable and Jaime Garcia could not repeat his great season the year before and is a bit of a question mark. Now the good points, Jason Motte is one of the best closers in the NL. Holliday & Beltran can still rake. Allen Craig has a very good young bat and will play mostly first base now. Yadier Molina is one of the best all-around catchers in the game, and former 1st round pick Pete Kozma should start at short. Could go either way, but with the pitching questions, I think the Cards fall back even further.
4. Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew have perhaps the best slugger and all aruond player in the game in Ryan Braun, but other than that, are getting weaker everywhere. They have yet to replace Prince Fielder, and will try to make due with Corey Hart, but he's out until May. Rickie weeks still strikes out too much. Aramis Ramirez is solid at third, and Carlos Gomez and Juan Segura are youngsters that look to have really arrived. The pitching is suspect with Yovani Gallardo a decent ace, but then Marco Estrade, Mike Fiers and Chris Narveson are all still question marks. John Axford throws smoke but blew quite a few games last year.
5. Chicago Cubs. With the Astros packing their bags for the American League, the Cubbies once again retain their hold on last place. Jeff Samardjia is a great wide receiver but a shaky ace. Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman are gopher ball pitchers and Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva are young and unproven. Matt Garza is out until late April at the earliest. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro form a young nucleus to build around but there are too many outs in the lineup.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers. OK, I'm buying...reluctantly. Part of me wants to say the Giants will still hold on to this division, but the Dodgers upgrades are just too tough to ignore. The Dodgers traded for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett late last year, and signed Zack Greinke in the offseason. He pairs with Clayton Kershaw to form a potentially dominating 1-2 starting punch. Matt Kemp, Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Crawford and Gonzalez should mean the Dodgers will have no problem scoring runs. Slight question mark at catcher and a large question mark at third base temper the excitement a bit, but it's hard to see how their won't be a division title in Chavez Ravine this year.
2. San Francisco Giants. Perhaps the key to the Giants success is Tim Lincicum. If he comes back from an awful year last year and regains his Cy Young form, the Giants will contend. With a dominant Lincicum teaming with young studs Matt Cain and Madison Bumgartner, the Giants would have even better pitching than the Dodgers. Sergio Romo moves into the closer role and should be fine. There are just too many dead spots in the lineup. The loss of Melky Cabrera means Gregor Blanco will have to start. Brandon Crawford can field, but can't hit his way out of a paper bag. Marco Scutaro is a slap hitter. Pablo Sandoval is often injured and/or out of shape. Buster Posey may need another MVP type season to help this team compete for the division crown this year.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks. OK, so they lost Justin Upton, but many experts think young Adam Eaton could be just as good quickly. The D'Backs brought in Cody Ross and Martin Prado via free agency, and still have underrated Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel, Miguel Montero and Aaron Hill. They will score runs. Their starting staff of Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy and Patrick Corbin is underrated. With Daniel Hudson due back in mid July, the D-backs could be dangerous if they are still in the hunt.
4. San Diego Padres. The Padres will have some issues scoring runs, but they have some young pitching that isn't bad. Yonder Alonso has upside at first, along with Everth Cabrera and Chase Headley at third. Judd Gyorko looks like he may win the 2b job. Cameron Maybin and Wil Venable are young with upside as well. If Carlos Quentin can ever regain his power hitting form and quit overswinging at Petco, it would sure help. Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard and Eric Stults aren't bad, but the 4 and 5 starters could be Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia. OUCH!
5. Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have some nice bats, but serious question marks on the staff. Young studs like Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Jordan Pacheco, Wilin Rosario and Troy Tulowitzki will drive plenty of tuns across the plate. Michael Cuddyer and Chris Nelson are extremely versatile and can hit. Todd Helton is close to the end though. As for pitching, Jhoulys Chacin is the "ace", followed by Jorge DeLaRosa, Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis and Drew Pomeranz. They might win a contest of "which staff his the most vowels in their names", but I doubt they will win many games. A 37 year old closer in Rafeal Betancourt adds to the problems. Unless the Rox get some serious surprises from their pitching staff, it could be a long year in the Mile High.
My American League preview will be later in the week.
The night of Thursday, September 5th has turned into a war in the city of Baltimore. A war between sports. A war over a parking lot. The warring factions? The front offices of the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens.
Tha National Football League would like to have the Super Bowl champion Ravens open the NFL season on their now traditional Thursday night game in Baltimore. The Ravens would like nothing more than to do the same thing. One problem though...the Baltimore Orioles have a home game scheduled for the same night.
I know what you are thinking. Why don't they both play? The Ravens don't play in Camden Yards right? Well, the thing is, both teams have different stadiums that share the same immense parking lot. There simply would not be enough parking spaces for 40 thousand or so baseball fans and 70 thousand or so football fans on the same night.
The Ravens and the NFL politely asked the Orioles, "hey guys, since the NFL is the king of the world of sports, would you mind changing the start time of your little game to ohhh, say around 1 o' clock that afternoon, and leave the evening to the sport everyone really WANTS to see play?"
The front office for the Orioles thought about it, scratched their heads, and then politely said, "Up your nose with a rubber hose".
"The Orioles have great respect for the Super Bowl Champion Ravens and thank Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association, and the White Sox for doing everything possible to work with us to explore all options to reschedule the September 5 game. We also appreciate the work of the NFL and the Ravens over the past several weeks as we attempted to accommodate the Ravens' interest in a game the same evening. Given the limited options available to reschedule the game at that late date in the season, the parties jointly determined that even an earlier start time would still create such enormous logistical difficulties that it would greatly diminish the fan experience for both events which all parties realized would not be in the interest of their fans or the City."
So much for harmony in Baltimore. To be honest, I applaud the Orioles. It seems like nowadays, the NFL gets whatever it wants. In this case, they obviously will not, and quite frankly, it's about time.
The Orioles are a young exciting team that is coming off a playoff run. Big things are expected from them and after a 15 year stretch of doldrums, fans are excited. Why should the birds give up a prime time home date in the heat of a pennant race just to satisfy the big ol' NFL?
They shouldn't, and they made the right call. the major league baseball schedule has been out much longer, and they have every right to that home date AT NIGHT, when most fans can come to the game. It's all about revenue when it comes to sports, and the Orioles are entitled to as much as they can grab.
Baseball needs to stand up for itself as often as it can. Hopefully this will start a trend. I love the NFL as much as the next guy, but baseball still holds a huge part in most sports fans hearts. For me, it's a little bit bigger today.