I'm fairly certain none of you care about this at all -- I certainly don't care about anyone else's fantasy team -- but in case someone out there is interested here is my roster in the Baseball Think Factory Fantasy Football League:
STARTERS BENCH QB Daunte Culpepper QB Aaron Brooks RB Edgerrin James RB Stephen Davis RB Deuce McAllister RB Chester Taylor WR Randy Moss RB Najeh Davenport WR Chad Johnson WR Anquan Boldin TE Jeremy Shockey WR Ronald Curry K Sebastian Janikowski WR Koren Robinson D Tampa Bay Bucs TE Ben Watson
It is a 12-team keeper league, so I am downright giddy about my chances after trading for Daunte Culpepper, Deuce McAllister, Randy Moss, and Chad Johnson prior to the draft. Of course, I thought my team stunk last season and ended up losing in the Super Bowl.
Oh, and just so this note about my fantasy football team isn't boring and without any sort of a link, make sure to check out Rotoworld's NFL morning news blurbs six days a week by clicking here. Most of the stuff I write at Rotoworld isn't bylined, but if you see something about the NFL written before noon it's probably my work.
Speaking of football, I am once again in the SethSpeaks.net "NFL Expert Picks" pool. In addition to the usual suspects like me, Will Young, Stick and Ball Guy, and Ben Jacobs, Seth Stohs has also managed to convince injured Twins pitcher Grant Balfour and Twins pitching prospect Kevin Slowey to participate this season. I won the pool two years ago and finished fourth last year, and nothing would make me happier than beating an Australian guy who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery this season.
Here's an interesting excerpt from Rob Neyer's chat session on ESPN.com yesterday:
Jason (New York, NY): Rob, I know you spent a whole season watching the Red Sox at Fenway, can you explain why David Ortiz has become so much better of a hitter since become a Red Sox then when he was with the Twins. I know these last 3 season are statistically supposed to be his prime season given his age, but is there something else which has contributed more, perhaps the fact of playing 81 games in Fenway instead of the Metrodome?
Rob Neyer: Sure, Fenway helps. As does being the right age. As does not having to worry about playing first base, or listening to Tom Kelly or Ron Gardenhire.
Here's a depressing thought: The Twins haven't had a 30-homer guy since 1987, while David Ortiz has three straight 30-homer seasons since leaving Minnesota.
Rarely have I received more complimentary e-mails than I got after choosing Casey Fossum and the Devil Rays +280 over Randy Johnson and the Yankees as my "Pick of the Day" over at Rotoworld (and here) earlier this week. It was almost as if people were e-mailing to thank me for literally sending them money, which is funny considering I didn't get one angry e-mail the next day when my pick was wrong. That's the gambling mentality in a nutshell, I suppose.
My uncle, Ed Gleeman, was given a very favorable review for his work on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. In fact, after the reviewer, William Randall Beard, ripped into the play's plot and weak male actors, he wrote:
The physical production is elaborate and attractive. Special mention must be made of Ed Gleeman's costumes. They are highly theatrical, creating a strong sense of character as well as being fun to look at.
Not bad, and he also cooks a mean lasagna.
A lot of people seem to despise Mike Matusow (and understandably so), but he has become one of my favorite personalities in poker. Suffice it to say Matusow's interview in the latest edition of Card Player Magazine is highly entertaining. I'd quote a bit of it here, but it's too tough to pick just one excerpt.
I hate to get pessimistic before their season even starts, but how in the world is it possible that ESPN.com's Week 1 Power Rankings have the Vikings fourth? Really, they're right behind the Eagles and ahead of the Steelers, Falcons, Chargers, Ravens, Jets, Panthers and 20 other teams? I will say this: I'd be very surprised if the Vikings don't win the extremely weak NFC North. Also, I'm officially on record as saying the team will miss Moss a lot more than most people seem to think.
Friend of AG.com Will Leitch has been tabbed to write Gawker Media's new sports blog, Deadspin. The site launched yesterday and I'm already hooked, so go check it out.
Remember earlier this week, when I wrote about Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart taking a "Ballroom Dancing" class at USC with his attractive girlfriend? I got quite a few e-mails about it, including this one from a reader named Josh:
As a recent USC grad, I can tell you that not only is he now dating the hottest girl on our basketball team, but last year he was dating the hottest girl on our volleyball team!
Here's a picture of the current girlfriend, Brynn Cameron (which my friend Vinay Kumar said is "a perfect USC name"). And here's a picture of the former girlfriend, Jessica Gysin. My vote goes to Gysin, although I heard Cameron's strength of schedule was a lot better last season.
And in a completely unrelated bit of news, a headline this week on SportsPickle.com proclaimed: "Matt Leinart Just Three Away from Successfully Doing USC's Entire Co-Ed Population." As a former journalism school student, I liked the article's lead a lot:
Southern Cal senior quarterback Matt Leinart revealed today he has just three girls left to sleep with until he will have successfully bedded USC's entire co-ed population.
I encourage you to read the rest of the article, which includes a controversy about the incoming freshman class and the details of sacrifices Leinart has had to make to reach his goal.
I had an odd experience Monday. My mom had the day off from work for Labor Day and took the opportunity to sleep in. Meanwhile, I was up at 6:45, before the alarm even went off, and working by 7:05. It was like we had entered into some sort of bizarro world, where what I had experienced for the first 22 years of my life was flipped 180 degrees.
Suddenly I was up bright and early, working. And suddenly my mom, who has gotten up at six in the morning every weekday for as long as I can remember, was nestled comfortably under the covers. Even my trusty Boston Terrier, Samantha, abandoned me for a cozy spot in my mom's bed, leaving me alone with my laptop and daily NFL news beat for Rotoworld.
Francisco Liriano's big-league career got off to a rough start Monday, as he fell behind the first batter he faced, Gary Matthews Jr., and then gave up a long solo homer on a 3-1 fastball right over the plate. That wasn't how I envisioned his first appearance going, of course, but in the long run the homer isn't nearly as important as the incredible two-strike sliders he threw to strike out the next two batters.
Lost in the bomb he served up to Matthews is the fact that Liriano was throwing extremely hard, flashed a nasty breaking ball that appears to have several thousand strikeouts in its future, and recovered from a rocky beginning to set down three straight hitters. With Johan Santana locked up through 2008, Carlos Silva still arbitration-eligible, and Scott Baker now firmly entrenched as a starter, the future of the Twins' rotation is looking pretty nice.
The Twins' pitching staff showed a lot more restraint and patience when it came to the team's pathetic hitting than I did, but the infighting appears to have started now. Brad Radkesaid he was "suicidal" over the lack of offensive support, adding that "it's to the point where it just drives you crazy." Silva took it one step further after the team was shut out again Monday, seemingly lashing out at both the offense and defense:
It is hard to get a loss like this. The only thing I know, man, is that every time I go out there, I give 100 percent because I like to win and I hate to lose. It looks like a lot of guys in here don't want to play the game the right way. ... If you throw nine innings with one run and lose 1-0, you lost. That's nice to say, 'I pitched nine innings and only gave up one run,' but what happens the other times? If someone thinks that way, and I know a lot of guys think that way -- just worried about pitching and worry about yourself -- it is not going to work.
It's a shame the pitching staff can't perform in a vacuum, because they deserve a lot better than what they're getting this season and aren't receiving nearly enough credit for the amazing job they've done. If the pitching staff's frustration over the lack of offense ever starts hurting their pitching, then the hitters have really screwed things up royally. Perhaps that's what Kyle Lohse and Radke came blame their brief and horrendous outings this week on.
Aside from looking at him or watching him (attempt to) run, a simple look at Matthew LeCroy's hit totals is one way to tell how slow he is. LeCroy has smacked 14 homers this year and also has 45 singles, but he has just four doubles. I'm guessing your average mammal would have turned at least 5-6 more of those singles into two-baggers.
Remember when I said LeCroy was miscast as an everyday player? Well, he was on a hot streak at the time and I got quite a few e-mails from people telling me I was wrong. Turns out, I wasn't. LeCroy hit .244/.327/.433 while playing regularly last month and has batted .220/.299/.327 against right-handed pitching on the year. He's a lefty-masher, that's all.
I gushed about Joe Mauer's hitting last week (at which point he proceeded to go into his worst funk of the season), but here's an overlooked aspect of his game: The Twins have allowed the second-fewest stolen bases in baseball this season, behind only Yadier Molina and the Cardinals. And not only have Mauer and Mike Redmond allowed just 39 steals all year, they rank third in baseball with a 45% success rate throwing out runners. That's shutting down the running game.
Jesse Crain is really starting to worry me. He continues to keep runs off the board and vulture wins from the bullpen, but he now has a measly nine strikeouts in 28 second-half innings and has walked 15 batters during that same span. Not striking anyone out is concerning enough for a guy who racked up strikeouts like few other pitchers in the minors, but not striking anyone out and walking a batter every other inning is simply a recipe for disaster.
I don't care what you think about Crain or DIPS or the importance of strikeout rates, he simply can't continue to pitch this well with what is now an even 38-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 96.2 major-league innings. Sadly, I doubt anyone within the organization will preemptively address the problem, since Crain has a 2.36 ERA on the year, including 2.25 since the All-Star break, and is 10-4 with a .213 opponent's batting average.
I am amused by how the local coverage of the team -- both on TV and in print -- continues to act as if the Twins are right in the thick of the postseason race. The fact is that they are now 5.5 games back of the Wild Card, with three teams in front of them for a playoff spot. That wouldn't be a huge problem if it were, say, July, but there are only 23 games remaining in which to make up that ground.
Think of it this way: The Twins need to finish the year by going 17-6 just to reach 90 wins. Not only is that unlikely, considering it would be a .739 winning percentage for a team that has won at a .525 clip thus far, it still wouldn't even come close to guaranteeing them a playoff spot. In fact, the Yankees would have to play barely over .500, going 13-11 to the finish the year, and they'd end up with 91 wins. To get to 91 victories the Indians have to go 13-10 and the A's would have to go 14-9.
It's not that the Twins can't finish incredibly strong and a team like the Yankees can't slump down the stretch, it's that the Twins must finish incredibly strong and all three teams in front of them must play .500 or worse ball for the last three weeks of the season. The odds of that happening are slim and none, and slim probably left town with the Rangers.
Since I can't stand to write about a game in which the punchless Twins somehow managed to score seven runs and still lose, I'll simply direct you to my column today at The Hardball Times, which is about Carlos Silva:
My contempt for the Twins' pathetic offense grew even stronger over the weekend, as they failed to provide Johan Santana with enough offensive support for him to pick up a win Saturday night while allowing one run over eight innings against the Indians. Sure, Joe Nathan deserves part of the blame for failing to slam the door on a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning, but the fact that the offense once again provide sub par support is what has me upset.
Take a look at the number of runs the Twins have scored in Santana's starts since the beginning of August: 1, 4, 1, 5, 1, 1, 3. For those of you without calculators handy, that's an average of 2.3 runs per game over the course of seven starts, which is why Santana has gone just 3-1 over that stretch despite tossing 53.1 innings with a 1.35 ERA.
Given even four runs per game to work with, Santana would have gone 7-0 over his last seven starts, he'd be 17-5 with a 3.07 ERA on the year, and he'd be on his way to a second straight American League Cy Young. Instead, he's stuck turning in brilliant performances like Saturday night's (8.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 10 SO, 0 BB) for a team that can't score any damn runs, and he's stuck on 13 wins.
Regardless of how spectacular his strikeout-to-walk ratio gets or how low his ERA drops to, Santana will not win another AL Cy Young with 15 wins. It's a shame that he's going to lose out on something he deserves simply because he pitches for a team that starts Jason Tyner as its designated hitter in September, has the worst leadoff hitter in the league, and can't even get to four runs per game since the All-Star break.
Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart (who passed for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-17 win over Hawaii Saturday) will have a light schedule during his senior year, with his only class at USC reportedly being "Ballroom Dancing." I'd make a joke about this, except a) he's taking the class with his girlfriend, who looks pretty cute, and b) I once took "Bowling" to fill a physical education requirement (sans cute girlfriend).
In what is by far the most shocking news I've heard this year, former Gophers point guard Kevin Burleson has signed a contract with the Charlotte Bobcats. Now, Charlotte was an expansion team last year so they're pretty short on talent, but Burleson is by far the worst point guard I have ever seen start for a Big Ten team. And that's not hyperbole, I actually mean it.
I can't begin to explain the conflicting emotions I've had watching Burleson's brother, Nate Burleson, become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL for the Vikings. Considering the degree to which I despise Kevin (I used to seethe when I saw him around campus), it would be like if Adolph Hitler had a brother named Joey Hitler and he led the Twins to the World Series.
And here's something even less shocking than that: Tara Reid recently admitted that her breasts are fake. Feel free to insert your own joke here. Or not, since at this point she is sort of her own punchline.
Remember last month, when I said the Timberwolves' team trip to Las Vegas was a bad idea? Turns out the NBA agreed with me, fining the team $200,000 because "NBA teams are not allowed to hold organized team practices or functions in the offseason."
Speaking of basketball (sort of), I've discussed my strong dislike of the WNBA here in the past and received a lot of angry e-mails because of it. In fact, saying you don't really like watching women's sports is at the top of a very long list of things in this society that can get you in trouble for simply stating a personal preference. So while I no longer bring the subject up much, I was glad to see my favorite writer, ESPN.com's Bill Simmons, broach the topic last week.
Simmons wrote a lengthy piece on why he doesn't enjoy or even care about the WNBA, and I found myself agreeing with nearly every sentence. ESPN.com ran an accompanying pro-WNBA rebuttal from Graham Hays that contained faulty logical and some horribly twisted numbers, and did nothing but hammer home the fact that the league's supporters will never quite grasp why the majority of people don't like the league.
Here's an excerpt from Hays' piece:
Sloppy play? Five players in the 15-team WNBA averaged three or more turnovers per game this season ... In the 30-team NBA, 11 players averaged at least three turnovers per game ... The most careless team in the WNBA averaged 16.8 turnovers per game; the most careless team in the NBA averaged 16.1 turnovers per game. Lousy shooting? The worst team in the WNBA shot 40 percent from the floor; the worst team in the NBA shot 41.5 percent.
Yes, the shooting percentages are marginally lower, and the turnovers come in a game that's eight minutes shorter, but it's tough to make a case that, relative to the competition, WNBA basketball is any sloppier or less competitive than the NBA variety.
This is an angle the WNBA's supporters play constantly, and it is silly on several levels. For one thing, if you adjust the stats Hays presents for the differing number of teams in each league and minutes in each game, it is in fact very easy to "make a case that, relative to the competition, WNBA basketball is sloppier or less competitive than the NBA variety." WNBA teams shoot worse and turn the ball over more, and their individual players do too.
But even if that weren't the case -- if the numbers Hays presents actually supported his argument -- is there anyone really interested in watching basketball games because of fewer turnovers and better shooting percentages? Last year during the NBA playoffs or March Madness, did you ever hear someone say, "Wow, did you see the game last night? Only 15 combined turnovers and the two teams shot 52 percent from the field!" Of course not.
People like to watch basketball because it is face-paced and exciting, and at the highest levels contains an incredible amount of athleticism and skill. The fact that those arguing in favor of the WNBA bring up the league's "fundamentals" as such a strong selling point is pointless, in addition to being misleading and ultimately wrong.
I don't see nearly enough new movies, but I saw two recently that I highly recommend: The 40-Year-Old Virgin and The Aristocrats. Both movies were spectacularly funny (assuming you share my sense of humor) and among the best movies I have seen in years. The Aristocrats is not for everyone (which is what people say when they don't want to recommend something to someone who is a prude), but if you don't get offended by words and you like to laugh, it's an amazing way to spend 90 minutes.
"The Dukes of Hazzard" is a film that is not there. It can't really be reviewed because it doesn't really exist. It is not empty calories, which implies pleasure, but simply empty. It's a cosmic void where a movie ought to be. ... With no plot, character or dialogue worth experiencing, let alone remembering, the film merely occupies space on the screen and hopes for the best.
Every once in a while I'll come across something so good that I am actually jealous that I wasn't brilliant enough to write it.
Yes, I love the show, but Turtle is a clear weak link - he brings nothing, absolutely zero, to the table.
Now, if you want to talk about a completely useless character who brings absolutely nothing to the table, I have two words for you: Mandy Moore. Not since Paris Hilton has someone failed so miserably at playing herself.
If you hear the name "Beetle Juice" and don't think first of a Michael Keatonmovie, I have a must-see link for you: Staind sings "Bad As Can."He's big and he's strong ... he knows what he knows ... he's a tough guy.