Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Predictions

Yes, useless as always (witness the annual humiliation called the Bracket, for example) but equally difficult to avoid, the baseless predictions, this time for the baseball season.

And it is in fact a pleasure (or shall be) some five months from now to look back and thing wow, how bloody daft could I have been to think that? Or if a lucky bet comes to fruition, link to this very article down the road with some smug I-told-you-so phrase on the fingertips.

So for the sake of nothing more than a record, here are my predictions for the 2007 season:

1. Roger Clemens - Will end up with the Yankees this season in order to bring balance to the absurdly imbalanced advantage in starting pitching the Red Sox currently have over the Yankees. It also makes sense. Why go back to the Sox, the only team that said they didn't want him? That said that he was all washed up so many years ago we've all lost count.

I point to this as number one because it is a decision that will likely have a strong influence on the outcome not only of the AL East but the entire post season, Clemens' mission, should he choose to take it. And let's face it, he isn't going to join a club that already has the Japanese Roger Clemens on it anyway, is he?

2. The Disappointments -

a. Nats fans, generally. Not because they're expecting anything anyway but isn't everyone in DC just waiting for the announcement that due to the top in fan interest in a hopelessly losing team the Nats will be moving their franchise to Mexico City or San Juan...
b. The Tigers, whose young arms will burn out because they just can't take that kind of season that young two seasons in a row. Let's call it the Cubs phenomenon, the Kerry Wood/Mark Prior Stigma.
c. The Cubs, simply because they disappoint every year after year and Lou Piniella is not big enough to change that, otherwise he'd have won the World Series with those Mariners teams of auld.
d. The Phillies - and boy oh boy am I going to enjoy watching this season's Phillies flush themselves down the toilet yet again after all the smack they've talked already this season about being the team to beat. Helloooo? Flash Gordon is your closer. Wake up, muppets.

3. The Suprises -

a. Milwaukee Brewers: last year in the legacy of teams rising from the death of the Rust Belt, was the Tigers turn. This year it's time for another perennial loser to rise from the ashes and fly to improbable heights.
b. Sammy Sosa: is he really a surprise? Nah, for some whacky reason, I'm rooting for this guy to make a comeback. More than I care if the petulant Barry Bonds' steroid-ridden joints don't crumble to dust before he reaches Henry Aaron's mark and more than I care if the cowardly Mark McGwire ever makes it to the Hall of Fame after his performance in the face of Congressional hearings.
c. Ben Sheets - let's just say a monster season in store for this lad who has inched along the edge of greatness for the last several seasons.
d. Texas Rangers - no, not because of Sammy Sosa but because Buck Showalter is no longer the manager. That in and of itself usually spells a World Championship. It happened after he left the Yankees and again after he left the Diamondbacks. Watch out Rangers, it's the post Buck Showalter Bump.



St Louis

San Diego
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Colorado (what? STILL in the league?!)

NL MVP: Jose Reyes, NY Mets
NL CY YOUNG: Ben Sheets, Milwaukee

NY Yankees
Tampa Bay



AL MVP: Mark Teixeira, Texas
AL CY YOUNG: Roy Holliday, Toronto


NY Mets over Milwaukee
Arizona over Atlanta

NY Mets over Arizona

Cleveland over Boston
NYY over Texas

Cleveland over NYY

Cleveland over NY Mets

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hookaye lads and lasses, we're down to the Sweet Sixteen and there aren't many surprises. In the West, the 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds remain. South: 1, 2, 3, 5. East: 1, 2, 5, 6. Midwest: 1, 3, 5, 7. Of the top 12 seeds, only two, Wisconsin and Washington State, lost in the first two rounds No "true" Cinderella's in the pack which means my choices of 11th seeded VCU making it along with 14th seeded Oral Roberts were pretty much sperm tadpoles never destined to make it to the mother egg to begin with.

That said Sports Amnesia have 10 of the final 16 standing, or just a hair over mediocre but not humiliating. Primarily because there is no March Madness office pool in England except for maybe the American embassy in London so I don't have to hold up my 10 whilst hanging my head because some overweight suburban mother of two who has never watched a game of college hoops in her entire life, got 12 out of 16 right by guessing based upon team nicknames she fancied.

Of course she probably wasn't as big a plonker as Sports Amnesia's whose pool went bust the minute Wisconsin did their predictable swan dive off the roof and into oblivion.

Guess there's only Memphis left to root for.


Phillies of Philly - Let's face it, despite the impressive array of talent that's been amassed the bottom line is the bullpen sucks and if the bullpen sucks they are going to give away alot of victories they should have had.

And if you like to worry you only have to look as far as the Philly's closer, Tom Gordon, half hurt, half incompetent to worry.

Too boot, the rest of the pen consists of the rehab returned Alfonseca (9.00 earned run average) to back him up along with Fabio Castro (9.35) and Matt Smith(12.00) to make sure the Phillies don't win a game they aren't winning by a dozen runs in the 7th.


More on The Destruction of The O's by Peter Angeleos:

"Just when you probably thought things couldn't get worse for the Baltimore Orioles after nine losing seasons in a row, they have.

Much worse.

Owner Peter Angelos said over the weekend he has no plans to sell the club anytime soon, which should be more than enough to make remaining fans of the Orioles sob in their suds and swallow crab shells -- the hard kind."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Brains Beer

No March Madness here in Merry Ole on St Paddy's Day, not when the Six Nations rugby was on the telly all afternoon with every game of the deciding Saturday round filling the hours with nail-biting, head-smashing brutality and blood.

What you see in the Six Nations that you won't see in a lifetime of March Madness however, is a team jersey sponsored by a beer company.

That's right. The official jersey of Welsh rugby, good enough to beat England into a pulp in the Saturday finale:

Of course, it was not merely anticlimactic that the entire event was won by the French yet again. In fact, after Ireland had finished thrashing Italy 51-24 at the Stadio Flaminio yet surrendered an all-important try in the dying seconds of the match, France were faced with having to beat Scotland by at least 24 to clinch.

But as even the front page of Le Monde will tell you, La France remporte le Tournoi des Six nations, even if it was only on the last bloody play of the match with the title to be determined by an Irish judge who had to say yes, the final play was in fact a France try and even if it was only on points difference (forget about the fact the French stomped Ireland in Ireland a few weeks before...)

Elvis Vermeulen, hardly your typical French name, came on late to score the decisive try and hand France their fourth title in six years.

So it was exciting even without the basketball and this won't even begin to talk about Ireland St Paddy's Day Massacre of Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup, only the biggest upset in the history of the world cup. Good day for Ireland which, had they not allowed that last Italian try or if Scotland had not allowed that last second France try, would have been an even happier St Paddy's day with a Six Nations title to boot.



In the Land of Premature Daylight Savings, the day was filled with basketball and further, albeit subtle swings and misses in The Bracket. Ah yes, lads. In The East, we cracked on with the predictable top seed victories in Carolina and GTown advancements. Having backed Oral Roberts, the Vandy victory was a wash. I have Texas over USC in a rematch of the NCAA football title two years ago.

In the South another easy day of picking favourites, Texas A&M and Ohio State both advancing albeit Ohio State only in OT and Texas A&M but the short and curlies, over Rick Pitino and the Cardinals, 72-69. For today, the picks are Memphis and my other darkhorse Long Beach State already took a spill so it doesn't much matter to the bracket if TN or VA win.

In the West, having madly reached for VCU, we took a spill on Pitt but were again redeemed in the favourites category when second-seeded UCLA overcame a boring Indiana's four corners snooze hoops misadventure. I have S Illinois and Kansas in the last two today.

And lastly, the East correctly chosen, Butler over Maryland, barely, 62-59. The remaining games today will require rooting for Florida, Wisconsin and Notre Dame but seeing as how the Irish were out before St Paddy's Day, Winthrop who so few likely had faith in, going another round, just to keep the bracket busters happy.


And what about baseball you say? Well, it's still 14 days to Opening Day and even longer before Roger Clemens makes his decision but there's an interview with him - I learned one nugget from listening: what's the best pitch in baseball?

Strike one.

March Madness First Round

Right - out of 32 matches, 22 right. Many rash upset choices didn't pan out. Missed the Winthrop upset, as did most of you, I'm sure. My own madness, taking Oral Roberts into the 16 went to flames the first night out. Long Beach State also failed to pan out, losing to Tennessee. You see, you try to be crafty, you outthink yourself into a tailspin of losing. Missed Kentucky over Villanova, Indiana over Gonzaga. Oh yea, the Albany upset over Virginia never materialised either. However, I did get the VCU upset over Duke spot on. It pays to root against Duke once every dozen years or so.

Overall, out of my Sweet 16 candidates, after the first round, 13 are still alive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March Mistress

Unload all the metaphors! Let loose the flying, unsubstantiated hysteria of hope and unpredictability! The NCAA tournament, the only blip in the amateur or professional basketball season worth noticing is finally here!

And just on time - how apropos that the NCAA tournament and the accompanying, dizzying array of possibilities swing around the corner at the same time the baseball season has just begun and similarly delusional dreams of people and teams destined for disappointment are simultaneously unwrapping the letterbomb of expectation not knowing if it will fizzle or explode.

But over here, in merry ole' there is no such obsession. On this side of the pond brackets are not being mass produced and hours of valuable productivity are not idled away dreaming up a multitude of possible scenarios, goats, unsung heroes and surprises. No, we are still here listening to politically expedient bravado about cutting emissions by 60%, fat chance, with no care about public transportation good luck - whilst over in America, men from state to state are pulling out their remaining hairs contemplating every possible scenario.

Well, the good news is, Sports Amnesia have sorted it all out for you.

That's right. We've combed through all the teams painstakingly just so you over in America can fill out your pools with confidence. We've looked at the trends, examined the rosters and coaches, reviewed seasons and games, watched hours and hours and hours of videotape and news broadcasts and stared vacantly at walls for days in an effort to conjure the answers to the eternal question: Who Will Be In The Final Four?!

Well, not exactly. In truth we've relied upon the science of not knowing for as everyone knows the office pool usually comes down to some twat who is actually somewhat of an inside gambling expert and some fat housewife who has never watched a basketball game in her life, closed her eyes and picked or based her picks on whether or not she liked the team nickname. So hours of planning is pointless save for the fun of it.

Here's how the regions quickly breakdowns as winners:

East - Ignorance is bliss. The one thing I knew before the brackets were announced was forget about the 16th seed. What you can know is that this is a strong group led by top seeds North Carolina and Georgetown. North Carolina would have to beat anyone from New Mexico State to a surprise Texas team to make it to the finals of the group. Georgetown on the other hand, have a relatively simple path Vanderbilt and Texas Tech. Forget about Boston College. My picks: Upsets -I've only got one and that is Oral Roberts making it to the Round of 16. Why? Because I want to see more of the man they call Caleb. Caleb Green. Otherwise, the 1, 2 and 4 seeds go through. Georgetown, having only to defeat a suddenly scaring Oral Roberts, roll into the finals and defeat Texas to make it to the Final Four.

South - Texas A&M seems to be a favourite "darkhorse" pick. It's a wise move, to a point. Too many people believe the hype. My picks: Upsets - Long Beach State and Albany will surprise in the First Round which sets them against each other in the who cares match up to get to the Round of 16 whom I have as LB State, #1 Ohio State, #2 Memphis and #3 Texas A&M. Advantage here goes to Memphis. Why? You don't hear much about them but they were 16-0 in the mighty Conference USA. Louisville is everyone's favourite here if not the Aggies with their senior point guard All American blahblahblah. Go for Memphis. Good music, good BBQ sauce. That's all that matters in the picking. Not the fact that by wins, their coach John Calipari has the sixth-best career start in NCAA history through 14 years with his sparkling 337-129 record (.723). Through 14 collegiate seasons, only North Carolina coach Roy Williams, Louisville Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Arkansas' Nolan Richardson have won more games than Calipari. Put think about the music and the food. Who would you rather root for?

West - First thing I'll admit is that Duke is in this bracket and I, like millions around the globe, hate Duke with a passion that borders on pathological or insane. I don't ever want to be in the position of having to root for them just to have my bracket work so I will note straight away that I will pick VCU in the first round to upset them. I'm not even sure what VCU stands for, Viet Cong Uni? Aha, send those emails of hatred, little Rams supporters. Virginia Commonwealth indeed. Is it common wealth or wealth which is parsed to a small percentage? In any event, let's keep focused. Send those Dukies home crying in their dirty socks and wiping their arses with their dainty Ivy-in-the-south hands.

A little sidetracked there because there are, after all, 14 other teams in this group. In the realm of upsets I shall recommend to you Gonzaga, Illinois and Villanova doing better than their seeds would allow. It's tempting to seek another first round knock out of Kansas, this time at the hands of the unheralded Niagra, but not likely. Do Gonzaga surprise every year? It seems so. To the point where you wouldn't think it would be a surprise or an upset any more. But I think UCLA get past them. Eric Maynor will lead VCU past Pitt and suddenly you'll find a quasi-predictable Kansas-UCLA regional final. Pick: UCLA.

Midwest - Florida have the chance to repeat their championship from last year's bracket AND lump this with their NCAA football title. No bloody Uni is that good mates so forget about them winning it all this year. I don't have many(any) upsets in this group. Why? Because it's the Midwest and everyone knows how boring the Midwest is. Just shove a few brats in their gobs and let them vote for whatever muppet Republican candidate frightens them the most with speeches about gays taking over the corn crops and there you have it. I've got the 1, 2, 5 and 6 seeds advancing and guess what kids, just because of Richie Cunningham, I'm going with Wisconsin to the Final Four!

So, to summarise the Final Four will comprise of:

Wisconsin v UCLA
Georgetown v Memphis

The Final will see Memphis v Wisconsin and the Badgers are destined to win it all because in some circles it is indeed the Year of the Badger!

(Besides, someone has to make up for Ohio State's humiliating show in the NCAA Football Championship.

Go Badgers, Go!