Wednesday, August 31, 2005

ND Football 2005

Issue 1: Pittsburgh

Pitt Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Dave Wannstedt has cleaned house with Pitt's run game. The Panthers' 2004 1st and 4th leading rushers in terms of yardage, Raymond Kirkley (560 yds) and Marcus Furman (116 yds), don't even show up on the depth chart. Instead, the run game will be headlined by freshman Rashad Jennings. Jennings will be backed up by sophomore Brandon Mason and freshman LaRod Stephens. But Pitt's run game isn't just about the tailback. Last year, fullback Tim Murphy, who will again be the starting blocking back this year, finished second on the team with 334 yards, and returning quarterback Tyler Palko finished third with 139 yards. (That number is misleading, however - Palko had 469 yards in the positive direction, and 330 lost to sacks.)
Wannstedt is known for favoring the run, but if there's one thing this Notre Dame defense has been able to do the past few years, it's stop the run. The linebacking corps is headlined by hard-hitting runstopped Brandon Hoyte, while the defensive line is anchored in the middle by Derek Landri, a solid senior nose tackle, and the talented Trevor Laws. Stopping the running backs shouldn't be a problem for ND. What they have to worry about is a scheme to contain the scrambling Palko. This will be the job of four first-time starters: Victor Abiamiri and Chris Frome at defensive end, and Corey Mays and Maurice Crum, Jr. at linebacker.

ND Rush Offense vs. Pitt Rush Defense

Julius Jones ran all over Pitt in 2003, and many argue that the duo of Darius Walker and Ryan Grant should have easily done the same in 2004. Walker is back for revenge, coming off a season where he lead the team with 786 rushing yards. He'll be backed up by Travis Thomas, whose fumbling problems quickly sank his 2004 season, and also perhaps by talented sophomore Justin Hoskins. What will be most interesting to watch is the role that fullback Rashon Powers-Neal plays. RPN's last coach thought that fullbacks were for receiving and blocking, not for rushing. But what does Charlie Weis think of this former tailback? Regardless of who runs the ball, Notre Dame's backfield should be confident in their veteran offensive line, featuring junior tackle Ryan Harris, and the new center duo of Bob Morton and John Sullivan.
Pitt is returning their top two tacklers, linebackers HB Blades and Clint Session, who combined for 199 tackles in 2004. Session, however, will start the season as a backup to redshirt sophomore Derron Thomas. Hey, when your team is coming off a season where it gave up 140 yards per game on the ground, you've got to try anything you think might work.

Pitt Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

I was very upset dropped an F-bomb on live TV following last year's game, I was very upset. I had Jon Gruden and our own Chris Orenchuk in the "first unedited f-bomb during an NBC Notre Dame broadcast." (If we actually had a former ND player in the broadcast booth, that alum would have had plenty of reasons to drop sed f-bomb at some point between the 1997 and 2004 seasons.) Where was I? Oh yes, Palko. Do you really blame a kid for being excited after he threw five (five!) touchdown passes in Notre Dame stadium? For the past few years, Notre Dame has had two options in their pass defense: play straight up and take your chances with their #1 receiver (in this case, it will again be Greg Lee), or bracket that #1 receiver while Palko dinks and dunks to the backs, tight end Eric Gill, and "possession receiver" Joe DelSardo (both Gill and DelSardo are returning starters). In 2003, ND went bracket in the second half and Larry Fitzgerald didn't have a single catch. In 2004, the Irish went straight up in the first half, got beaten up by Lee, then switched to bracket in the second half and got demolished by Gill.
The giant question with this Notre Dame team is the pass defense. Gone are its top pass rusher, and 3/4 of its starting secondary. The good news is that the remaining 1/4 of that starting secondary was by far the best. This year, Tom Zbikowski will start at strong safety. Across from him, Chinedum Ndukwe, the hard-hitting former receiver, will try to step in at "weak safety." Now, normally, you think of the weak or free safety as the last line of defense in your passing game. Hardly a responsibility you want to give to someone who's played 9 games on defense in his entire life. However, the fact that he's called a "weak" safety (lined up on the side of the field the tight end isn't on) as opposed to a "free" safety makes me want to believe that Ndukwe and Zbikowski will be sharing the "last line of defense" duty from play to play.
Two years ago, everyone worried about the state of the defensive line after Anthony Weaver and Ryan Roberts left. Darrell Campbell and Ced Hilliard stepped in, and the line did just fine. Then, last year, with Campbell and Hilliard gone, everyone once again worried about the state of the line. But Justin Tuck and Derek Landri stepped up. This year, Landri is back but Tuck is gone, causing everyone to worry about the lack of a pass rush (which is especially an issue considering the inexperience in the secondary). Can ends Abiamiri and Frome, combined with Laws at tackle, pick up the slack?
In a world where catching passes out of the backfield is becoming an increasingly important tool for many offenses, the ability of Notre Dame's linebackers to cover running backs in pass patterns was lagging far behind. Enter the Apache linebacker. Much like Will, Mike, and Sam are the nicknames for the weak, middle, and strong-side linebackers, "Apache" is the nickname for the "adjuster backer." Think of the Apache as a small, fast linebacker, or a big, hard-hitting safety. The Apache can line up at linebacker when needed, spy a back out of the backfield, or play safety in three deep sets. This year, the role of Apache linebacker will be played by Maurice Crum, Jr. and Anthony Vernaglia.
Finally, there are the cornerbacks. Junior Ambrose Wooden is said to be the most athletic DB the Irish have. As a starter, he'll get a chance to prove it. Across from him, a senior will have a shot at redemption. Last year as a reserve, Mike Richardson made a name for himself by being posterized or by volunteering as a visual aid on the intricacies of pass interference. Most memorably, Richardson surrendered a late touchdown in last year's loss to Pitt. This Saturday, he will be given a chance to rewrite the Mike Richardson story.

ND Pass Offense vs. Pitt Pass Defense

Whether you like him or you're still skeptical, Brady Quinn is the #1 choice at quarterback for ND. Last year, Quinn spread 191 completions and 2586 yards among 21 receivers. Back this year are his three top options: Rhema McKnight, Anthony Fasano, and Maurice Stovall, who combined for 90 completions, 1290 yards, and 7 TDs. Other options at receiver are the reliable Jeff Samardzija and deep thread Matt Shelton. At tight end, the talented John Carlson and Marcus Freeman back up Fasano.
In 2004, Pitt gave up 255.2 ypg and 22 passing touchdowns, numbers that mirrored their offensive output in the air. Gone are Malcolm Postell and Tyrone Gilliard, who combined for 5 picks in 2004, but back are Tez Morris, Darrelle Revis, Mike Phillips, and Josh Lay, who combined for 7 INTs. The defense had 22 totals sacks. Their leader was JJ Horne with 3.5, but the redshirt senior will platoon with Brian Bennett at the Will linebacker position this year.

Special Teams

Pitt kicker Josh Cummings comes off a season where he made 18-17 field goals, with a long of 47. Not bad for a guy who plays half his games in Heinz Field. His counterpart is the versatile DJ Fitzpatrick, was 11-15, also with a long of 47.
Pitt's punter is also returning from last season. Adam Graessle put up good numbers last year, averaging 43.3 yards per punt with a long of 79 yards. Again, his counterpart will be Fitzpatrick. DJ began college as a placekicker, but he developed into quite a punter last year, averaging 41.8 yards with a long of 67 and 29 punts placed inside the 20.
Returning kicks for Pitt will be LaRod Stephens, a Joey Getherall-sized running back, and either backup backs Mason or Furman. Last year, Pitt averaged 19.9 yards per return while Notre Dame gave up that exact same amount per kick. Possible kick returners for the Irish include Chase Anastascio, who battled an ankle injury for most of last year, talented DB Terrail Lambert, freshman receiver DJ Hord, and Justin Hoskins. Notre Dame averaged 18.7 yards per return in 2004, while Pitt yielded 22.7.
Sophomore DB Darrelle Revis will return punts for Pitt. Last year, Pitt averaged a meager 5.5 yards per punt return, while Notre Dame surrendered a decent 8.2 yards per return. Several options for Notre Dame at punt returner include Tom Zbikowski, who has looked impressive in the open field, Rhema McKnight, who is also talented in the open field but looked lost returning punts last year. Notre Dame picked up 10.8 yards per punt return in 2004, while Pitt gave up 12.1.

Look for a big game from

Charlie Weis, Walker, Fasano, Stovall, the offensive line, Hoyte, Laws, Zbikowski, and Fitzpatrick.

ND 27, Pitt 17: Two by land (Walker), one by air (Fasano, set up by a turnover), and two by DJ.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Beisbol Copa Del Mundo

Group D: Games Played in the US (Florida or Arizona

The World Baseball Classic now has its own website, here. Without further ado, here are your Pool D participants:

Dominican Republic

SS Miguel Tejada
RF Vlad Guerrero
1B Albert Pujols
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
2B Alfonso Soriano
3B Adrian Beltre
CF Sammy Sosa
C Miguel Olivo

I wouldn't want to face that lineup. Let's see, they have to have some negatives... Well, they only have one lefty. There's also no true center fielder. Vlad is probably in better shape to play center than Sammy, but for the time being I'll keep Vlad in right because of his arm. But, with all that said, any lineup with Tejada leading off and Guerrero batting second is OK in my book.

1B Julio Franco
SS/2B Rafael Furcal
OF Jose Guillen
3B Aramis Ramirez

Franco gets in as the fan favorite. Furcal can play an important role as a table-setter for all the big boppers. Plus, he is a switch hitter. Guillen is insurance at all three outfield positions, while the choice between Beltre and Aramis Ramirez at third is a toss up.

SP Pedro Martinez
SP Bartolo Colon
SP Pedro Astacio
SP Odalis Perez
SP Jose Lima

Is it even legal to have Pedro and Lima in the same rotation? That's just too out of control. Martinez and Colon stand head and shoulders above the rest of the starters, but this is still a rotation that would be enough for any penant contenders.

RP Antonio Alfonseca
RP Octavio Dotel
RP Damaso Marte
RP Francisco Cordero
RP Guillermo Mota
CP Armando Benitez

The Cradle of Closers - of this bunch, only Marte has not been a closer in his career, and he still has 27 career saves. If I was managing this team, I'd be tempted to go with a two man rotation of Pedro and Colon, let them throw 3 innings every other day, and then just turn it over to the bullpen. Until the final rounds, at least, when I would "accidentally" forget that Benitez is on the team.


CF Melvin Mora
SS Omar Vizquel
RF Bobby Abreu
LF Miguel Cabrera
C Victor Martinez
DH Magglio Ordonez
3B Carlos Guillen
2B Edgardo Alfonzo
1B Andres Galarraga

While the Dominicans will be hitting it out of the park, the Venezuelans will be hitting the ball everywhere inside the park. Top to bottom, this is a great lineup when it comes to hitting for average. This team could struggle - Abreu and Alfonzo are known for being inconsistent, Martinez always gets off to a slow start, and everyone else in the lineup except Cabrera has injury issues. But, if everyone's clicking, they'll give the Dominicans a run for their money.

C Ramon Hernandez
SS Cesar Izturis
OF Richard Hidalgo
IF Luis Sojo

Hernandez is a very underrated catcher - truly Gammonsesque. Izturis has the bat and the glove (and the wheels) to start at short, but Omar is the fan favorite in Venezuela. Hidalgo offers some depth in the outfield. And you just know that Luis Sojo can't pass up an offer to play in a tournament like this.

SP Johan Santana
SP Carlos Zambrano
SP Freddy Garcia
SP Gustavo Chacin
SP Wilson Alvarez

Now that I take a look at how deep this rotation is, I have to give a slight edge to the Venezuelans in this pool. Again, the lineup doesn't have big pop (or Big Papi), but the starting pitchers will be able to keep the score down low enough to make good of the runs that the hitters do produce. Santana, Zambrano, and Garcia are lights out, and if Chacin can keep up the work he's doing this year, you could Tim Robbins in the 5th starter slot and still do alright.

RP Rafael Betancourt
RP Victor Zambrano
RP Kelvim Escobar
RP Juan Rincon
RP Carlos Silva
RP Ugueth Urbina
CP Francisco Rodriguez

Several decent starters will have to get used to bullpen life for this team to succeed. Zambrano, Escobar, and Silva are all capable pitchers - most of the time. They will be joined by three proven setup men in Betancourt, Rincon, and Ugueth Urbina, who will once again be given the 8th inning spot instead of the closer's role. Closing will be the hard-slinging Francisco Rodriguez.


2B Trent Durrington
1B ?
3B ?
C Dave Nilsson
SS ?
LF ?
CF ?
RF ?

Hey, I remember Dave Nilsson? Whatever happened to him? Nilsson left the majors after the 1999 season to join the Aussie national team. Then, in 2004, he came back to the States to join the Braves organization. He'll be joined in the Australia lineup by Durrington, who has spent parts of four seasons with the Angels and Brewers.


SP Damian Moss
SP John Stephens
SP Brad Thomas

Once considered a top prospect of the Braves, Moss has bounced around in many trades and is currently in the Seattle organization. He'll be joined by John Stephens, who pitched in 12 games for the Orioles in 2002, and Brad Thomas, who sponsored his own Baseball-Reference page as a birthday present to his wife.

RP Grant Balfour
CP Graeme Lloyd

Australia's bullpen will consist of Twins reliever Grant Balfour and the recently retired Graeme Lloyd.


No active Major Leaguers. Could have sworn there was at least one...

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Weekend(?) In Review

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • How did I let this get under the radar? Megan Duffy helped lead the US team to a gold medal in the 2005 University Games. Duffy was named a co-captain by her teammates before the tournament, responded by averaging 6.1 points per game, leading the team in 3-point percentage (8/12, .400), and picking up the second-most assists (15).

  • For all of you Darrell Campbell fans out there, here's a nice little article about his thoughts and his mom's thoughts on Darrell's first game at Soldier Field. Unfortnately, Darrell's chances of making the Bears may be slipping. Originally, Chicago planned to carry him as a 5th defensive tackle (teams normally keep 4) due to his exceptional performance in training camp. However, his performance in actual games has been inconsistent so far. They and we may know for sure by 4pm eastern Tuesday, the day rosters must be cut down to 65.

  • Two ND alums didn't survive the round of 65: Javin Hunter was released by the 49ers, and Vontez Duff by the Steelers.

  • In other ND alum news, Carlyle Holiday is one of five people competing for the final two wide receiver spots in Arizona, while John Owens was traded by the Bears to Miami for linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo. (Hat tip to reader Tara for keeping up on her ND alumni.)

  • How long before people start throwing out completely inappropriate Katrina and the Waves comments? ("KATW" was famous for "Walkin' on Sunshine.")

  • I've been wondering what GEICO stands for. Now I know, thanks to, of all places, The Bad Guys Won!, the story of the '86 Mets. In the book, a woman with insurance from the Government Employees Insurance Company tries to get money from Doc Gooden after he "allegedly" collides with the back end of her car.

Pitt Depth Chart Thoughts

It may be old news by now, by I did have a few thoughts on the depth chart for the Pitt game.

  • When it comes to college coaches, there's no set system for naming the positions. Here are Charlie's "variations on a theme" (with alternative names in parentheses): X, Y, Z receivers (SE, TE, FL), WLB - weak or "Will" linebacker and Apache LB (OLB), WS - weak safety (FS).

  • The thing that stands out in that naming convention (now that were' all familar with the Apache positon) is the fact that the tight ends are labeled as Z receivers. This tells me that Charlie is going to do a lot more with them than just put them in a three-point stance next to a tackle.

  • Travis Thomas will get a chance to redeem himself as the second string running back.

  • Some outsiders had senior Brian Beidatsch as a starter on the defensive line. But, he instead will be backing up the very talented Trevor Laws, while Chris Frome will be the "second" end across from Victor Abiamiri.

  • What isn't surprising is that Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays will start at linebacker. What is surprising, somewhat, is that sophomore Maurice Crum, Jr. has played his way into the starting Apache spot, with Anthony Vernaglia as his backup.

  • The last small surprise is Chinedum Ndukwe at the WS spot. As I mentioned in my season preview, seemed to be loaded at strong safety (Vernaglia, Tom Zbikowski, Chinedum Nduwke), but without a true free safety. Enter Ndukwe, hard-hitting former wide receiver. Let's hope that one year plus one summer of practice is enough experience at safety for him to keep the job.

Coming Thursday: The return of the ND Football Previews.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Know thy Enemy

ND Football's 2005 Opponent Bloggers

Borrowing from The Art of War (a Lou Holtz favorite),, and Pitt Sports Blather, I'm offering a look at blogs devoted to ND's 2005 opponents. I'm greatly appreciative of the attention Fanblogs has always given KankaNation. Meanwhile, Pitt Sports Blather's links to enemy blogs has been the best source of new traffic for this site since the new pope was named. So, without any further ado, here they are:


Pitt Sports Blather
On the Prowl
Fanblogs Pitt


Blue Notes
Football Insiders (also a great NFL site and former home of the TMQ)
Straight Bangin'
iBlog for Cookies
Rob in Madtown
Big House Football
Motown Sports Revival
Blah Me to Death
Blue Cats and Red Sox
The Blog that Yost Built
SportsLog Michigan
ArborBlogs Sports
Dangerous Logic
Fanblogs Michigan

Michigan State

The Enlightened Spartan
Grinz on Green
C'Mon Ref!
Fanblogs MSU


pantagruelfool II
College Football Northwest
Fanblogs Washington


It Came from Black Background
Fanblogs Purdue


Boi from Troy
SC Football
Irish Trojan
Tribute to Troy
USC Trojan Football
Fanblogs USC


BYU Cougar Corner
Fanblogs BYU


UT Vols Blog
Football Junkie
Tenn Vol Champ's Thoughts
Fanblogs Tennessee


Fanblogs Navy


Orange Juice
Syracuse :: 44 :: Orange
Fanblogs Syracuse


Fanblogs Stanford

...and Know Thyself

Notre Dame

The Blue-Gray Sky
The Backer
Catholic Packer Fan
Daily Contentions
Kelly Green
Irish Trojan
The Irish Brogue
The Irish Condo
Irish Law
Majorly English
Marchand Chronicles
Musings of a Domer
Pieces of Flare
The Primary Main Objective
Running at the Mouth
Tough Guy
Fanblogs Notre Dame

If I've left anyone out, friend or foe, I apologize. Just email me or post to the message board, and I'll be sure to add it to the list.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Beisbol Clasic Del Mundo

Group C: Games Played in Latin America (likely Puerto Rico)


HUGE DISCLAIMER: The MLB players I'm listing below are of Cuban descent. Of course, with international politics being as they are, none of these players are eligible for the Cuban national team.
CF Alex Sanchez
SS Rey Ordonez
1B Rafael Palmeiro
LF Eli Marrero
DH Juan Diaz
C Michel Hernandez
2B ?
3B ?
RF ?

So maybe it was a couple of really strong cigars that did in Alex Sanchez and Rafael Palmeiro. Regardless, those two are decent headliners to any lineup. They're joined by the versatile Eli Marrero, and Rey Ordonez if he's still alive. Diaz and Hernandez are cup-of-coffee guys, Diaz's coming with Boston for 4 games in 2002, and Hernandez' coming from the Yankees for 5 games in 2003.


SP Livan Hernandez
SP Orlando Hernandez
SP Jose Contreras
SP Rolando Vierra
SP Naels Rodriguez

Cuba's rotation starts out with two guys who are continuing to have successful Major League careers, and it's rounded out by three players who were the definition of Gammonsesquity in 2002 - literally. I Googled "gammons cuban pitching prospect," and it came up with a 2002 article about Vierra. At that time, Contreras, Vierra, and Rodriguez were considered the three best pitchers for the Cuban national team. Contreras had already signed with the Yankees, Vierra was just getting ready to work out for scouts (not sure whatever became of him), and the then-20-year-old Naels Rodriguez was still in Cuba.

RP Adrian Hernandez
RP Vladimir Nunez
RP Hansel Izquierdo
RP Eddie Oropesa
RP Michael Tejera
CP Danys Baez

I'm willing to bet anyone that at least three people will read this article and say, "Wow, Adrian Hernandez, I remember him." Well, thanks to the Gammonsesque rotation, Adrian is our long reliever. He's joined by four other veteran set up men in Nunez, Izquierdo, Oropesa, and Tejera (yeah, I had only heard of Nunez before, too). Closing will be the man that was Cleveland's first and only attempt to overpay for a Cuban refugee, current Tampa Bay closer Danys Baez.

Puerto Rico

SS Roberto Alomar
2B Jose Vidro
CF Carlos Beltran
1B Carlos Delgado
C Ivan Rodriguez
DH Javy Lopez
RF Juan Gonzalez
LF Ruben Sierra
3B Mike Lowell

So, yeah, this team's stacked at catcher. Sandy Alomar didn't even make the cut. Oddly enough, though, there have been a plethora of Puerto Rican second baseman in recent years, but no Major League shortstops in the bunch. So, I've asked Robbie Alomar to dust off his spikes and step back into his original position. This team should have no trouble scoring runs, as Alomar, Vidro, Beltran, Delgado, and Rodriguez are normally found in one of the top three spots in the batting order. The bottom four hitters in the order would have made this lineup unstoppable in 2003, but unfortunately age and injury have taken their toll on Javy Lopez, Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, and Mike Lowell.

C Jorge Posada
IF Carlos Baerga
OF Jose Cruz, Jr.
OF Luis Matos

Posada? I told you they were deep at catcher. Baerga is the kind of beloved veteran/mascot that you just have to have on your team in a tournament like this (of course, considering the crowd reaction at Shea the other day, maybe he's not that beloved). Jose Cruz, Jr. and Luis Matos make the team solely based on the fact that Juan Gonzalez and Ruben Sierra should spend as little time as possible in the outfield.

SP Javier Vazquez
SP Joel Pineiro
SP JC Romero
SP Hector Mercado
SP Dicky Gonzalez

Javy Vazquez is the ace of the Puerto Rican team, followed by the somewhat Gammonsesque Joel Pineiro and JC Romero, and the slightly less Gammonsesque Hector Mercado. Dicky Gonzalez has played 20 career games with the Mets and Devil Rays, starting 7.

RP Fernando Cabrera
RP Kiko Calero
RP Pedro Feliciano
RP Javier Lopez
RP Juan Padilla
RP Jose Santiago
CP Roberto Hernandez

Fernando Cabrera is a hot prospect in the Indians organization. Calero showed up big for the Cards in last year's playoffs, and is now with the A's following the Mark Mulder deal. Pedro Feliciano, Javier "don't call me Javy" Lopez, and Juan Padilla are all young Major League talents, while Jose Santiago is a proven veteran. Roberto Hernandez, with 320 career saves, is a fine closer on any team.


SS Jose Macias
3B Olmedo Saenz
LF Carlos Lee
CF Ruben Rivera
1B Fernando Seguignol
C Einar Diaz
2B ?
RF ?
DH ?

Leading off will be utilityman Jose Macias, followed by utilityman Olmedo Saenz. Carlos Lee is the star of this team, easily. He'll be followed by veterans Ruben Rivera, Fernando Seguignol, and Einar Diaz. Yep, if you can't say anything nice about someone, and they have more than 4 years of Major League experience, just call them a veteran and move on.


SP Ramiro Mendoza
SP Bruce Chen
SP Roger Deago

The man who revolutionized the long reliever role... kind of... will be the ace of the Puerto Rican staff. He'll be followed by Bruce Chen, who will probably find some way to be traded by the time the World Baseball Classic is over. The only other starter the Puerto Ricans have is Roger Deago, who started two games for the Padres in 2003.

CP Mariano Rivera

Well, obvious choice here. Psst, he's going to throw the cutter!


C ?
2B ?
CF Andruw Jones
1B Randall Simon
3B ?
SS ?
LF ?
RF ?
DH ?

Well, if there's anyone who can cover 8 defensive positions at once, it's Andruw Jones. As mentioned at one point, both of these players are from the island of Curacao. But, the Netherlands owns Curacao, so Jones and Simon are eligible to play for the Dutch team. No word as to whether Tom Timmermans will play.




Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Recruiting Diary

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I spent most of last week in the New York area, being "recruited" to stay there. So, in that vein, here is my "recruiting diary" for the trip.


Wednesday was my first long drive. For a 10-hour trip, it actually wasn't too bad. Of course, I didn't have to drive downtown, so that helped. The only small snag came at the George Washington Bridge. First, traffic was backed up getting onto the bridge, as it was rush hour. So, 10-15 people decided they were going to drive up the shoulder to get a better spot in line. And, of course - hey, there's an Ohio guy! Let's cut in front of him to get back in a lane! Good, good. Then, of course, after going through the toll booth, the road goes from 15-20 booths to three traffic lanes. Fun. But all-in-all, I'd say that the traffic I encountered wasn't any worse than the Cleveland Shoreway during an accident.
Once I got to Dave's house, he and Ellen took me to pick out a birthday cake. I went with a cookie dough ice cream cake. Dave asked the girl at the counter to add "HAPPY BIRTHDAY KANKA" to the cake. And she did - in bright pink letters. Cute. Well, at least it was good (very good), but there's probably still a piece or two left in Dave's freezer.
After cake, we went to a bar called the Nutty Irishman. Decent bar, decent band. At one point during the night, Ellen finally did it - she offered me her cherry. Well, the cherry from her drink, at least. Who said that? I did get my first taste of the locals, and two new catchphrases were born. 1) "I don't have a collar to pop." 2) (when looking at a guy with a popped-collar, rolled-under sleeves, sunglasses, spiked hair, and a cell phone) "I'm sorry, I was distracted by his coolness."


Thursday was water park day at a place called Splish Splash. I believe this was actually my first trip to a water park. (Well, considering Cedar Point's water park is an additional $50....) Dave's friends Will and Sabina came along. It was fun, even with the brilliant idea of letting the not-so-strong swimmers (Ellen and me) hang around each other the whole time.
It was there that I realized what it takes to be a Long Islander: If you're a girl, and older than 12 (I kid you not), you need a lower back tattoo and too much belly button jewelry. If you're a guy, you need a tribal armband tattoo and a gold chain necklace (brilliant at a water park, I know).
Speaking of 12-year-olds, that was probably the average age of the workers there. That was the lowlight of Splish-Splash. The highlight was the Best. Ride. Ever., the Hollywood Stunt Extravaganza! After waiting for 40 minutes in line while overhead sprinklers mist water on you (brilliant on a 105 degree day, not so brilliant on an 85 degree day), we got to watch a short animatronic presentation by our "director" that included water cannons. Then, after waiting another 10 minutes to climb up the slide, we finally got to go down the Best. Ride. Ever. I got to go down backwards, so it was even better! Yipee!
After the water park, Dave, Ellen, and I went to a BBQ joint called Smokin' Al's. The 40-minute wait was very enjoyable, thanks to the 40's jazz music they broadcast over outdoor speakers. Good times. If you ever go to Smokin' Al's, I highly recommend the barbeque nachos. Or, if you're in a Flinstones mood, go with the Monster Ribs.


Friday was meant to be a day spent at Fire Island (a "family-friendly" section of Fire Island, I should mention - even if that one 60-year-old topless woman didn't think so). But, after narrowly avoiding birds for an hour, the rains came. So, we headed back home for an afternoon of playing catch (I only dropped the ball once!) and video games. And let me tell you - mascot basketball is at least 100 times better than mascot football.
Friday night, we went to the Mets-Nationals game with quite a crew in tow: in addition to Dave and Ellen, we had Scott Howard, Dave's old roommate Danny and his girlfriend Adrienne, and Dave's West Islip friends Sal (the newest member of KankaMatic Fantasy Football) and Killah. One person that was noticeably missing was the ever-elusive Rhiana. Does she exist, or doesn't she? After my first trip on the 7 Train (not as bad as advertized), I got to see a 1-0 Mets win. The lone run came on a Ramon Castro double followed by a Victor Diaz single. Following Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS, I'm now 2-0 at Shea - a good reason for me to move, I suppose.
After the game, Scott drove us downtown to McSorley's, the oldest bar in New York (it turned 151 years old this past February). On the drive down, everyone tried to play faux tour guide for me. The highlight was when Scott or Sal mentioned that waiters came by with cocktail service when traffic is backed up in the midtown tunnel. McSorley's easily became my favorite New York bar. Years and years of newspapers clippings and keepsakes lined the walls (including references to prohibition and the court order that forced McSorley's to finally start admitting women in the early 1970's). You have two choices at McSorley's: light or dark. Beers are served two at a time in 8-ounce mugs by one of the feisty bartenders. All-in-all, the group of Scott, Dave, Ellen, Sal, and I consumed $80 of dark beer and fish-and-chips. Good times, even if the train didn't get us home until 3:30.


Saturday morning was filled with trashy MTV shows and ice cream cake for breakfast (for me at least). I swear, that sweet 16 show is another time when you just want to see homeless people come out of the wings and start beating the crap out of these spoiled people. I did pick up another great catchphrase from the Real World: "That's weak. That's practice squad."
After a while, we drove out to Ellen's mid-renovation house. After an early dinner (yeah, I'm "too skinny"), we went to mass. I'm sure Ellen loves going to mass - she's surrounded by "cute old people" there. Afterwards, we headed to the Giants-Panthers game at Giants stadium. It was a good game, and a big win for the Giants. Justin Tuck had a huge game, including a big hit on Carolina's quarterback and an interception. Ryan Grant's day wasn't as memorable. He's officially fifth on the depth chart, behind people like Brandon Jacobs, who has absolutely been tearing up the preseason. Grant got in on one play when Jacobs was having trouble with his helmet (it was a pass). Later on, he got back in the game, only to drop a bubble screen pass. Of all the plays you would think that he'd be able to handle.... Ah well. Best of luck to him. After the game, Ellen's sketchy dad escorted us to the area outside of the locker room where fans and family members can watch the players load the busses. Ellen's dad was able to flag down Ryan Grant, much to her embarrassment. When Ellen's dad asked Grant if he remembered her, Grant replied, "Oh hell yeah I remember her." He asked her what she was up to these days, and she replied that she was about to start sports management school. His response: "Manager 4 Life!" Ha.


Sunday was the drive back. But, of course, Mrs. Fitzgerald wouldn't let me leave without having a good breakfast first. So, Dave, Ellen, and I went to a little diner to eat. I had the waffle shortcake, marking the second day in a row that I had ice cream in some form for breakfast.
I noticed a sign for Williamsport on the way down, and also noticed that the Little League World Series started on Saturday, so I decided to stop by on the way back. Of course, I was never warned that Williamsport is a full 25 minutes off of Route 80. Not wanting to lose too much time, I decided to spend only half an hour in Williamsport. After going through a metal detector (which is more security than Shea or Giants Stadium had, by the way), I quickly checked out everything the LLWS had to offer. Besides the main stadium you always see on TV, there's also now a second feel that isn't as big, but probably still holds more people than some Single-A stadiums. There was also a very simple softball field, but that was being used for parking. To keep the players' younger siblings occupied (and possibly to keep the players themselves occupied), there are a variety of sponsored activties and stands set up on the grounds. I took a quick stop in the Little League Museum, which included a running speed test, pitching radar gun, and batting cages (yes, I did actually resist the temptation to jump in line with the little kids that were playing there), before heading back home for good.

Yeah, I probably forgot a ton. Dave, Ellen, (anyone else who was there), feel free to fill in the gaps on the message board.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Vacation, all I ever wanted

I'll be on vacation starting tomorrow. In the meantime, I highly recommend you check out the blogs I link to in the right sidebar - high quality every last one of them.

Finally, some good news: I figured that when the website for CJ's went down, that meant the bar was gone, too. However, The Backer is reporting that CJ's will be back in business by the home opener September 17.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Transaction Wire

MLB Trade Deadline Edition

Haven't gone a Transaction Wire in a while. Here's what I've missed:

  • Twins acquire, and then release, Bret Boone. Boone was hitting .231 for the Mariners, but the Twins needed any pop they could get. Boone went on to hit .170 for the Twinkies, and now he's gone. Say what you want about the chin (and what it implies) - the guy is 36 years old, and never was a great average hitter to begin with.

  • Yankees trade Paul Quantrill to San Diego for Tim Redding, Darrell May, and cash. How can Brian Cashman continually rob other teams in trades? Two guys and cash for Quantrill? A career double-A guy and pocket change for your best player? Cashman must have some connections with Scores, otherwise there's no way GM's would let him get away with these trades. As far as the players themselves go - the Yankees need starters and need them bad, so here are two guys who can start once or twice, then get released if need be.

  • Indians trade Alex Cora for Ramon Vazquez. This is basically a money deal. Neither of these utility infielders are exactly young. Cora has a good glove, but his offense was lacking this year. The reason the Tribe got him, though, was as insurance in case first-time starter Jhonny Peralta floundered at shortstop. Peralta is excelling - moving up from ninth in the order to third as the season progressed - so Cora became expendable, and ended up being traded in a move that saves Cleveland $2 million.

  • Rockies trade pitchers Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick to the A's for Eric Byrnes and infielder Omar Quintanilla. Byrnes is later traded to the Orioles for Larry Bigbie. Byrnes is a game, and the Orioles needed something, anything from the right side of the plate. Kennedy falls into the "great young starter, if he ever gets out of Colorado" class. However, now that he's out of Colorado, he's been moved to the bullpen. There was speculation that he'd be used in a deadline deal, but he never was. Witasick is a serviceable veteran reliever. The Rockies aren't going to do anything this year, so they're just looking for youth.

  • Rockies also trade Preston Wilson for pitcher Zach Day and outfielder JJ Davis. The Nationals obvioulsly needed some pop in the lineup. The Rockies get Day, who has a great sinker (you need your breaking balls to be "great" in the thin air of Coors) but needs to develop into a better all-around pitcher, and a young outfielder.

  • Red Sox trade Jay Payton for Chad Bradford. The Sox had DFA'd Payton, so getting anything for him was a bonus. They need something, anything, in the bullpen, and Bradford is that something. Meanwhile, Payton's 10 HR and 35 RBI look powerful for an Oakland outfielder, especially with Byrnes now gone. Brian Stavisky and Steve Stanley are both hitting over .300 in double-A, but there's still at least a year away from The Show.

  • Cubs trade Jason Dubois to the Indians for Jody Gerut. Gerut is later traded to the Pirates for Matt Lawton. I'm not sure what the Cubs' plan would have been for Gerut, or if they had planned to trade him all along. Gerut was starting to get an inflated sense of self-worth in Cleveland, and he would not have enjoyed being part of a 4-man outfield rotation in 2006. What is Dubois' purpose in Cleveland? The Indians need a right-handed, middle of the lineup guy right now, but Dubois is still a couple years away. Is he the right fielder of the future, along side Coco Crisp and Grady Sizemore? No, unless he's just there to bridge the gap until Franklin Gutierrez is ready. Meanwhile, the Gerut/Lawton deal works out well for both parties involved. The Pirates get a talented young outfielder to complement Jason Bay, and the Cubs get a proven leadoff hitter who can get on for Derrek Lee.

  • Red Sox trade pitcher Scott Cassidy to the Padres for outfielder Adam Hyzdu. Hyzdu was apparently just there to fill the gap left by Jay Payton, as he was released when the Sox re-signed Gabe Kapler. Cassidy is more or less a career AAA guy, but he is insurance in case any of the young arms in the Padre rotation break down.

  • Red Sox trade outfielder Chip Ambres and pitcher Juan Cedeno to the Royals for Tony Graffanino. Graffanino can play all four infield positions, and could probably play some outfield if he wanted to. Plus, he's another righty in a lefty-heavy lineup. The Royals trade a 30-something veteran for two young players, which is the best they can do right now.

  • Braves trade Kevin Gryboski to Texas for pitcher Matt Lorenzo. It's interesting to see the Braves trade a proven reliever when the bullpen has been struggling this season, but that could have been a money move. Lorenzo is a starting pitching prospect. Apparently, Atlanta can pull a plethora of hitting prospects from out of their butts, but they need to acquire pitchers from elsewhere these days. Texas GM John Hart, meanwhile, has never been afraid to trade away young talent for a decent, but not great, middle reliever.

  • Diamondbacks trade Matt Kata to Philadelphia for Tim Worrell. The NL West is terrible this year, and thusly the D'Backs find themselves in the middle of a pennant race. Now, here's the first thing they teach you at GM school: as soon as someone says you're in the middle of a pennant race, you need to go out and trade for a middle reliever. With Rheal Cormier and Ugueth Urbina setting up Billy Wagner, the Phillies could afford to part with Worrell. With Craig Counsell at second, Arizona could afford to give up Kata. The Phillies already have a few utility infielders, so the addition of Kata just means a move towards youth more than anything.

  • Blue Jays trade John MacDonald to the Tigers for a player to be named later. MacDonald is known for his glove much more than his bat. With SS Carlos Guillen often on the DL, and with third base not being Brandon Inge's native position, this is a decent move for the Tigers.

  • Reds trade Joe Randa to San Diego for pitchers Justin Germano and Travis Chick. Joe Randa was going somewhere by 4 pm on July 31. The question was just where. It definitely wasn't Cleveland, as the list of players Cincinnati wanted in return was just preposterous. It turned out to be San Diego, who has had its fill with Sean Burroughs. The Reds, not going anywhere this year, got in return two minor league pitching prospects.

  • Padres (there they are again) trade SS JJ Furmaniak to Pittsburgh for C Dave Ross. When you're a Furmaniak, you're a Furmaniak 4 Life, Brother! The Padres needed some insurance at catcher due to the injury problems of Ramon Hernandez. Furmaniak is a decent utility infielder, but so are most of the other players on the Pirates.

  • Yankees trade pitchers Ramon Ramirez and Eduardo Sierra to the Rockies for Shawn Chacon. Again, the Yankees get something for minor leaguers who will never make the bigs. Chacon went from "great young starting pitcher, if he ever gets out of Colorado" to failed closer experiment to "why isn't he a good starter any more?" The Yankees, who almost activated Tommy John after Mel Stottlemyre watched the old-timers game, again are trying anyone and everyone as a starting pitcher. (Remember I haven't even mentioned Al Leiter yet.)

  • Mariners trade Randy Winn to San Francisco for pitcher Jesse Foppert and catcher Yorvit Torrealba. There was a good chance that Winn was going somewhere by July 31, it just didn't seem like San Francisco was the place. Of course, this trade made a little more sense a few days later, when the Giants released Marquis Grissom. Foppert is a serviceable-but-not-great reliever, but the Giants seem to have a surplus of those. The Torrealba pickup will make more sense below.

  • Padres (again!) trade Phil Nevin to Texas for Chan Ho Park. John Hart never met a power hitter he didn't like. Not sure what Park adds to the Padres - Sidney Ponson, who was to be traded for Nevin before Nevin nixed it, is younger and with more potential. Nevin, as I just mentioned, did enact his no-trade clause on the deal to the Orioles, but Texas was never mentioned in that clause. So, the Rangers now have a right-handed power hitter to complement the lefty Hank Blalock and the switch-hitting Mark Teixeira. Nevin can DH, play first or third when Blalock or Teixeira need a rare day off, or even catch when the Rangers need a little more pop at that position than Sandy Alomar, Jr. (I love the guy, but he's not exactly in his prime any more offensively). This trade was perhaps done in anticipation of an Alfonso Soriano deal that never went through. Soriano is currently the big right-handed bat in the Texas lineup - now that they're both with the club, that lineup is just all the more lethal.

  • Devil Rays trade Jose Cruz, Jr. to Boston for infielder Kenny Perez and pitcher Kyle Bono. Not much of a deal here. The D-Rays had DFA'd Cruz, so essentially they got something for nothing. That "something" isn't much, though, as Perez and Bono really aren't considered prospects.

  • Padres (I hope GM Kevin Towers has good minutes on his cell phone plan. Not that I would know anything about that.) trade C Miguel Ojeda to Seattle for C Miguel Olivo. Olivo was supposed to be a decent hitter, but the M's weren't getting anything out of him. So, they went for some new faces at catcher.

  • Marlins trade pitchers Mike Flannery and Yorman Bazardo to Seattle for Ron Villone. Villone is a good LOOGY - Lefty One Out GuY - and those are in high demand in a playoff run. The Mariners, not in a playoff run this year, get one good (Bazardo) and one OK (Flannery) pitching prospect.

  • White Sox trade P Ryan Meaux to San Diego (go figure) for 3B Geoff Blum. Blum will back up Joe Crede, who is still developing on defense and has yet to hit for a decent average (although he already has some power). Meaux is a LOOGY-in-training.

  • Yankees trade Buddy Groom to Arizona for a player to be named later. Well, he's a lefty reliever. Guess you can never have too many of those.

  • Brave trade pitchers Roman Colon and Zach Miner to Detroit for Kyle Farnsworth. Colon is still young, but already is a Major League-level reliever. Farnsworth is a huge pickup for the back of Atlanta's bullpen. Whether they use him in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning, Farnsworth will bowl over opposing batters. As it turns out, Farnsworth and Matt Lawton turned out to be the biggest names traded on deadline day.

Well, there you have them. I'm going on vacation to Disney World next week. So, if you'd like to write a guest column, email it to me by Friday evening, and that way everyone can have some reading material for next week while I'm gone.