Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve

To end 2005 and begin 2006 I thought I'd do a year in review and 2006 preview blog today.

Top 5 Athletes of 2005

1) Lance Armstrong: Everyone knows his story. Having overcome cancer to win that many Tours is amazing. Because I lost my father to cancer I understand the difficult battles people have with the disease and can see the affect that Lance has had on so many people affected by the disease. Lance is an inspiration to everyone, no matter what sport he is in, even if it is one few Americans really care about.

2) Roger Federer: Tennis is not a sport that is very popular in the US anymore, but Federer had an amazing run in 2005. He was put under the national spotlight at the US Open and impressed many tennis fans and non-tennis fans, including me.

3) Chicago White Sox: If the SI Athlete of the Year last year could be the Boston Red Sox, than why not the White Sox this year? The ChiSox won their first World Series since 1907 and won over the nation in doing so. The White Sox were a great team and a great story.

4) Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and the USC Trojans: Undefeated season, lots of hype over where Bush and Leinart will be next year. This could be the best team ever in college football.

5) Tom Brady: Led the Patriots to a third Super Bowl in four years and then led the Patriots through the regular season with his best statistical season, carrying a banged up offense and overcoming injuries to the defense.

Top Ten Sports Stories of 2005:

1) Steroids in Baseball
2) Hurricane Katrina's Effect on Sport
3) Chicago White Sox Win World Series
4) USC Trojans Win 34 Straight
5) Reggie Bush Wins Heisman, NFL Teams Compete to See Who Finishes Last
6) Patriots Win Super Bowl
7) Spurs Win NBA Title
8) No Hockey, Hockey Returns, Crosby Picked By Pens
9) Danica Races Indy
10) Roy Williams and UNC Win National Championship

Others: Terrell Owens Takes Over ESPN, Baylor Lady Bears Win Women's National Championship, Colts Attempt Perfect Season, Lance Armstrong Rides One Final Time, Vikings Sex Boat Scandal

Top Ten Athletes to Watch in 2006:

1) Albert Pujols: Pujols is a great guy and one of the best hitter's baseball has ever seen. He is young and ready to break out as the superstar baseball player of this generation. The Cardinals have been on the verge of the World Series for the past two years and in 2006 I think they can finally make the final push and win it. With Edmonds and Rolen back healthy, Pujols will have the protection he needs and put up great numbers all season long en route to his second straight NL MVP Award. Pujols will lead the Cards through the NL Playoffs and be the World Series hero, earning Playoff MVP and World Series MVP honors. His good deeds in the community will become more well-known as the Cards enter the spotlight across the country, and he will be the Athlete of the Year for everyone who gives out the award, SI, AP, ESPN, etc.

2) LeBron James: LeBron will finish second in the league in scoring to Kobe Bryant, but the Cavs will finish with a much better record and James will have more assists per game and more rebounds per game than Kobe and will win the MVP Award in a close race against Tim Duncan, with Kobe finishing third and AI fourth, because LA and Philly struggle all year. James leads the Cavs to the NBA Finals, but loses to the Spurs and Duncan, who is overlooked again by the media and James is proclaimed as the next Jordan and many will look at him as Athlete of the Year. Whether LeBron can live up to that hype or not is a different story.

3) Reggie Bush: Many people will remember Bush's 2005 year when considering him for the award. Bush will have a very impressive game in the Rose Bowl and lead the Trojans to a third straight National Championship. Reggie will be picked number one, by the Houston Texans. The Texans, who were 8-8 just two seasons ago, turn it around led by Carr, Bush, a revamped offensive line, Andre Johnson, and a young defense. The Texans have a playoff spot clinched by the end of 06 and Bush is looked at as the savior of the franchise, as he has put together both a rookie of the year and MVP type season, with a ton of total yards, receiving and passing, in the high powered offense of the Texans. The three-headed monster of David Carr, Reggie Bush, and Andre Johnson begins its reign as the dynasty of the 06-10 years, taking over the spot from the Patriots.

4) Adam Morrison: A surprise pick here. Morrison leads a healthy Zags team to the National Championship and the once cinderella mid-major team establishes itself as a major contender. Morrison is picked Number One in the NBA Draft and he is hyped as one of the next generation of NBAers who will help turn the league around, and become the Larry Bird to Lebron's Magic Johnson/Michael Jordan status.

5) Ottawa Senators-Dany Heatley/Jason Spezza/Daniel Alfredsson: The Senators will win the Stanley Cup in front of a national audience and hockey will begin to become popular again as many people watch the playoffs and are impressed by the speed and high scoring game. Spezza, Heatley, and Alfie lead the Sens and many are impressed with their scoring.

6) Tom Brady
7) Brady Quinn
8) Tim Duncan
9) Danica Patrick
10) Jeremy Bloom: The longshot guy who everyone considers but noone would ever give the award to. After stealing the hearts of many Americans as his story is told over and over on NBC's coverage of the Olympics, he wins the Gold Medal at the Olympics and one week later impress NFL scouts with his speed and hands at the scouting combine. Bloom will be drafted in the 3rd or 4th round by someone willing to give him a shot, but his story alone will earn him consideration.

2006 Champions:

College Football: USC
MVP: Reggie Bush
College Baskebtall: Gonzaga Bulldogs
MVP: Adam Morrison
NBA: San Antonio Spurs
MVP: Tim Duncan, Runner Up: Cleveland Cavs
NHL: Ottawa Senators
MVP: Dany Heatley, Runner Up: Calgary Flames
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals
MVP: Albert Pujols, Runner Up: Chicago White Sox
NFL: New England Patriots
MVP: Tom Brady, Runner Up: Seattle Seahawks

Team to Watch for NFL 2006 Regular Season: Cincinnati Bengals
Team to Watch for NCAA Football 2006 Regular Season: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Have a good New Year's Eve and a Happy 2006!

Weird Fantasy Football Week

Its Week 17 of the NFL and this is a strange week for all the fantasy football players out there. This is the week where most leagues crown their champion and instead of the best players playing for the two teams, the owners have to go out and find guys who will actually play this week. With the top stars like Peyton Manning, Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer, Shaun Alexander, etc sitting out for most of this week, we owners battling for the League Super Bowl have to turn to other guys to bring us the gold.

My team, the West Hartford Fighting Irish, is fighting for the Championship in the Bobby V Show's League, created by ESPN Radio host Bobby Valvanno for show listeners. I finished the regular season with a 10-3 record and earned the second seed in the playoff bracket. Now in the Championship I have to bench the guys who got me to the Championship, Thomas Jones, Shaun Alexander and Jeremy Shockey for Adrian Peterson and Zachary Hilton. In another league my starting quarterback is Kyle Boller, who would have thought Boller would ever start for any fantasy team this year, especially not one going for the Championship. I picked up Hilton in that league as well, and grabbed Cincy WR Chris Henry. I'm hoping Hilton has a big day for the Saints, really the only reason this guy caught my eye is because he is tall, I saw him on Sunday Night Football once, and his name is the same as Paris Hilton. Go Saints!

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Red Sox Are Pissing Me Off!

What the hell?

Could the Red Sox front office be any worse than it is right now? Sure this is better than the Yawkey Era and better than having The Duke running things, this is the ownership group and most of the front office (MOST, missing one very important person) that brought Red Sox Nation the World Series, but come on, this off-season has been terrible.

The only thing that could make this off-season worse is if the Sox trade Manny to Baltimore, with Clement, for Tejeda. I don't want to have to go through an entire season with Johnny "Devil" Damon coming in with the Yankees and screwing us and Manny coming in with the Orioles. We all know that if Manny goes to Baltimore, Tejeda is going to come to Fenway and collapse under the constant pressure of us rabid Boston fans, while Manny will go and continue to hammer hits for the O's. I can already see Manny in a Baltimore uniform, bopping a home run over the wall and doing a goofy handshake with an awkward as hell looking Jeremy Burnitz while Curt Schilling stands on the mound looking like a damn fool because he doesn't realize his stuff ain't what it used to be.

Its now official, the grace period we all had to give the Sox front office is over. You brought us a World Series, thank you, we love you, we'll love you forever for it, but bring us another damn Trophy! Last season we could forgive you, but hell you made some dumb ass decisions then to. Letting both Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe walk, and pretending like David Wells and Matt Clement are actually good replacements for them. Telling us that Edgar Renteria is one of the best shortstops in the league and is better than anyone else we could have got, when David Eckstein and Orlando Cabrera both had better seasons for less money in St. Louis and Los Angeles. But hell, I'll give you a break on the Renteria signing, because who really could have known he would fold like he did under the pressure of Fenway.

What is your plan this off-season? Do you really even have a plan? I thought Johnny Damon was a cinch, everyone was saying that Damon would be back, but what happened? You thought J-D would be back no matter what, but what did you expect? Johnny saw you trading everyone of his teammates and thought, why the hell am I going to stay here and make less money when I can go to New York for 12 million more and have a better chance to win. Are we rebuilding or what?

This off-season can still be salvaged, the Sox can still win the division next year. The core is there, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling (if he pitches smart and doesn't try and use stuff that isn't there anymore), Keith Foulke (if he can come back from his injury, so many ifs), maybe Loretta, maybe Lowell, Nixon isn't bad, MANNY RAMIREZ! KEEP MANNY! This guy is the best hitter in the AL by far when he is on and that's 3/4 of the year. Sure he can be a pain in the ass, but deal with it. Right now Manny wants to be traded, but in a few months if the Sox are winning and he is hitting, he won't give a damn where he is. Manny being Manny, this is all it is. Manny is Manny, who happens to be one of the best hitters baseball has seen in a long time. He can carry a team by himself, and teamed with Big Papi he is dominant. We need Manny to win at all. Tejeda does not strike fear into pitcher's hearts like Manny does and that weakens Ortiz's value. Do you really think Papi will get the same pitches he does now with Manny if Miggy is behind him instead? No, he won't. Remember what happened when Manny was out of the lineup? Ortiz got walked and it will happen again. And if you bat Ortiz behind Tejeda, his value will be weakened again, because Tejeda will get the pitches to hit and Ortiz is not as good at hitting balls all around the zone as Manny is.

The Sox need to keep Manny and get a shortstop and center fielder. Stop going after Kevin Millwood and Gil Meche and go after Alex Gonzalez. Sure he's no better than a ninth hitter, but he's better than Alex Cora. Platoon Cora and Gonzalez and you have at least two good defensive shortstops who can hit some. Plus A-Gon can pound the doubles in Fenway. Deal with them at short for one year and Dustin Pedroia will be ready. Trade Matt Clement to Seattle for Jeremy Reed. Reed has a ton of talent and could be a solid lead off hitter. With Reed then Loretta ahead of Papi and Manny we have somewhat of a good lineup. Clement collapsed as bad as Renteria under Fenway's lights and to get Reed for him would be great.

This year may be a rebuilding year, but do something to at least give us Sox fans hope. We need hope, the Patriots are great, but they will not keep us happy through the summer. We need the Sox, we need them to be better than the third best team in the AL East. You gave us a taste of glory and now you need to do something to satisfy our thirst for more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why Jim Rice Belongs in the Hall of Fame

It's time. This is the year that Jim Ed Rice finally gets what he deserves, a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rice has always been on the outside looking in. In the past there have been years like this one where there is no one or two players whose qualifications go far and beyond the other candidates. Every time that has happened, Rice has come close to being voted into the Hall of Fame. Last year Wade Boggs was a cinch, there was no way Boggs would not get in on the first ballot. But Ryne Sandberg, well, as good as he is, he was not a cinch. Rice came close, finishing fourth in the voting, 86 votes behind Sandberg. Bruce Sutter finished third.

This years ballot includes only one new player who has a chance to challenge for 75% of the votes, Albert Belle, but with Belle's shaky relationship with the media, I doubt he will get in, at least not on his first ballot. Dwight Gooden is also on the ballot, and while he was one of the greatest players baseball has ever seen for three years in the eighties, his future years took him out of a Hall of Fame career. Gooden gave us three years to enjoy his full talent, but was never the same. If Dwight had pitched the way he did when he was 19, 20, and 21, for just five more years, he would be a cinch Hall of Famer. Sutter made a run last year, but I think this year the sports writers will look and realize that Rice is deserving of the Hall of Fame and finally do what is right.

Jim Rice entered into the spotlight in 1974, when he was just 21 years old. Rice was playing in Pawtucket and dominated, winning the Triple Crown and the Minor League Player of the Year Award. Rice thrust himself into the Boston fan's heads and hearts with his play that year and never left. In 1975 Rice began his career in left field at Fenway, continuing the tradition of Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. He was impressive right from the start, hitting 22 home runs with 102 RBI and a .309 batting average. Rice had an amazing year for a rookie, but Freddie Lynn topped him and took the Rookie of the Year Award and the MVP as the rookie tandem led the Sox to the World Series. Rice quickly became the most feared hitter in the American League for the next twelve years.

Rice's case for the Hall of Fame is a strange one. This is a guy who owns the major league record for most double plays grounded into in a season, an amazing 36 in 1984, but he still managed to blast 28 home runs and drive in 122 runs, while grounding into all those double plays. Rice was the most feared batter in the AL for 12 years. He was an All-Star from 77-80, and 83-86. He averaged .304, 30 Home Runs, and 106 RBI during these 12 years. Rice hit 30 home runs every year when it mattered, before steroids tainted the game and cast shadows on great power hitters like Rice, because he never hit 50 in a year and didn't hit 40 home runs every season. Rice had 11 20 home run seasons, 4 200 hit seasons, and 8 100 RBI seasons. Jim Ed was a true all-around player, hitting for contact and power, while also playing great defensively in left field Rice was in the top five for the MVP Award six times, winning the award in 1978.

A Hall of Famer is a player who was the best at his position for a long string of years. Rice was one, if not the greatest, hitter of his era. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. This is the year that Jim Ed Rice finally gets what he deserves.

Welcome

This is the first post of my first blog. The Red Sox are my favorite team and I have a lot of thoughts about them that I would like to share, but while discussing the Sox and news about them I will also talk about other sports issues going on in Connecticut, Boston, New England, and across the world. So I hope you enjoy reading!