Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MLB Preview #4: AL East

New York Yankees

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jason Giambi 1B/DH
Hideki Matsui DH/LF
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera LF/Doug Mientkiewicz 1B

Mike Mussina
Chien-Ming Wang
Andy Pettitte
Kei Igawa
Jeff Karstens
Carl Pavano
Phillip Hughes
Sean Henn
Darrell Rasner

Not much change for the Yankees lineup from the end of last year. Gary Sheffield is gone, but he was hurt for most of 2006 anyways. The only question is the use of Giambi, Matsui, Cabrera, and Mientkiewicz. Cabrera is a switch hitter and Mientkiewicz is a lefty, so a straight platoon probably won't happen, as neither would traditionally
hit well against lefties. I suppose it will just come down to health issues. Speaking of health issues, the Yanks could be in trouble again. They have a quality utility infielder in Miguel Cairo. But in Giambi, Mientkiewicz, Josh Phelps, and Andy Phillips, they're essentially carrying four first basemen (although Phelps can catch as well). If and when Damon and Matsui get hurt, this team will be in trouble again... until Brian Cashman tricks the Devil Rays into trading Carl Crawford for Chuck Knoblauch.
The rotation is OK, but they look far from title contenders. One has to wonder how much Mussina, Pettitte, and Pavano have left in the tank (or if Pavano even has a tank anymore). Hitters will eventually figure out Wang, and Igawa is said to have mediocre stuff at best. But surprisingly, help is on the way. The Yankees discovered that they were allowed to keep young players in what is called a "farm system," and they picked up a guy named Phillip Hughes. Hughes is arguably the best pitching prospect in the game right now. The Yanks also still have a bullpen that can bail them out of a few jams. Mariano Rivera will be set up by pr0ff3ss0r_f4rnsw0rth, former White Sox prospect Luis Vizcaino, and a still-alive Mike Myers.

Toronto Blue Jays

Reed Johnson LF
Alex Rios RF
Vernon Wells CF
Frank Thomas DH
Troy Glaus 3B
Lyle Overbay 1B
Greg Zaun C
Aaron Hill 2B
Royce Clayton/Russ Adams/John McDonald SS

Roy Halladay
AJ Burnett
Gustavo Chacin
Tomo Ohka
John Thomson
Casey Janssen
Shaun Marcum
Ty Taubenheim
Scott Downs
Dustin McGowan
Brian Tallet

This lineup lost Frank Catalanotto and Shea Hillenbrand, but if Frank Thomas comes anywhere close to the numbers he put up in Oakland last year, the Blue Jays should again challenge for second place in the division. (What a great thing to aspire to, right?) Vernon Wells is finally becoming a star, Alex Rios broke out last year, and Reed Johnson got on base like it was his job. (Oh wait, it was his job.) Overbay and Glaus are productive hitters, and Hill and Zaun are adequate for their positions. The only question is shortstop. Whoever can hit well enough to keep the - or at least hit better than the other two guys - will play. Predictably, the team is deep in the infield, but the outfield may need some help.
The pitching rotation would compete in most division, but as always Roy Halladay and AJ Burnett need to stay healthy. BJ Ryan is an established closer, and he will be set up by a plethora of converted starters.

Boston Red Sox

Kevin Youkilis 1B
JD Drew RF
David Ortiz DH
Manny Ramirez LF
Jason Varitek C
Mike Lowell 3B
Coco Crisp CF
Julio Lugo SS
Dustin Pedroia 2B

Curt Schilling
Josh Beckett
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Jonathan Papelbon
Tim Wakefield
Jon Lester
Matt Clement

If JD Drew can stay healthy, and if Mike Lowell can repeat the success of 2006, this is a very good lineup. So good, in fact, that Wily Mo Pena once again finds himself as a fourth outfielder. Julio Lugo is a better plan than people give him credit for, so the only question mark in the lineup is Pedroia. The bench is well-planned: Pena can and will see time at all three outfield spots this season. Eric Hinske can play first, third, and right, and I have a feeling his main role will be Lowell's backup. Alex Cora can play second, third, and short, and will serve as an insurance policy if Pedroia struggles. And of course Doug Mirabelli is back, because Captain Varitek doesn't want to embarrass himself by catching Tim Wakefield, or stick up for any catcher who does try to catch Wakefield.
The rotation features some names that are new, but very familiar at the same time. Matsuzaka is expected to make a smooth transition into the majors. Papelbon will debut as a starter, and Lester's health seems more and more promising each day. But as has been the case for the BoSox, the closer's role is still in doubt. This team is full of elite setup men like Mike Timlin, Joel Pineiro, JC Romero, Julian Tavarez, and Frontier League success story Brendan Donnelly, so the team at least has options. Right now, it appears that Pineiro has a slight edge over Timlin for the spot.

Baltimore Orioles

Brian Roberts2B
Melvin Mora 3B
Miguel Tejada SS
Aubrey Huff/Jay Gibbons DH
Ramon Hernandez C
Kevin Millar 1B
Jay Payton LF
Corey Patterson CF
Nick Markakis RF

Erik Bedard
Daniel Cabrera
Jaret Wright
Adam Loewen
Steve Trachsel
Hayden Penn

Huff, Gibbons, and Millar may seem like three players fighting for two spots, but the O's do have some options. Millar is the only righty of the group, so he's virtually guaranteed playing time against left handed pitching. Huff and Gibbons can both play first and right, and Huff can play third base as well. I suppose it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to throw one of them into left field either. As is the caveat with most teams in the AL East, this lineup would do well in most other divisions. Moneyball-ers are going to cringe at this outfield, as the trio combined for 86 walks last year, with half of that total coming from savior-in-training Nick Markakis. But Mora, Roberts, and Tejada can flat-out hit. I'm expecting big things this year from Tejada after an inspired performance in the Carribean Series. Despite his big contract, Ramon Hernandez remains the most underrated hitting catcher in the bigs. The bench features one current Orioles top prospect in Brandon Fahey, and two castoff top prospects from other organizations: Freddie Bynum from Oakland, and Team Canada hero Adam Stern from Boston.
The theme for this year's rotation is "Guys who were really good their rookie year... and Steve Trachsel." In all fairness, Bedard is one of the least-known aces in baseball, and Loewen still has time to match the hype that followed him through the minors. Cabrera is "effectively wild," and Trachsel isn't a bad guy to have at the back of your rotation, especially when he can lead the young guys by example. Baltimore has found a way to turn out good closers in the past few years (even despite Jorge Julio's collapse), and Chris Ray is just the latest. Ray will be set up by veteran reliever Danys Baez, Chad Bradford (sorry, I've run out of synonyms for "underrated"), Scott Williamson, and former Tigers workhorse Jamie Walker.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Rocco Baldelli CF
Delmon Young RF
Carl Crawford LF
Jonny Gomes DH
Ty Wigginton 1B
Jorge Cantu 2B
Dioner Navarro/Josh Paul C
Akinori Iwamura 3B
Ben Zobrist SS

Scott Kazmir
Casey Fossum
James Shields
Tim Corcoran
JP Howell
Seth McClung
Mark Hendrickson
Edwin Jackson
Jason Hammel
Brian Stokes

You know that your lineup has a lot of question marks when and can't agree on your depth chart. (I'm sure the same goes for other baseball sites, but those are the two I've always used.) The two agree that former Yankees/Dodgers superprospect Navarro will catch, Benny Boo will play short, and Crawford, Baldelli, and DudeYoureGettinADelmon will patrol the outfield. Of course, I gave Josh Paul at least a chance at catching, BJ Upton is still technically the shortstop of the future (until the Rays finally admit that his glove is better off at third or in the outfield), and Young's still a prospect (who may not have conquered his temper yet). Here's a quick rundown of some of the lineup options Tampa Bay has this year:
  • Wigginton can play first or his natural position, third. He's also seen some time at second base. If Wigginton plays third, there have been rumors of moving Jorge Cantu to first.

  • Iwamura was a third baseman in Japan, but there have been talks of playing him at second. (He can also play the outfield, but the Rays already have more than enough outfielders.) If so, that means Cantu at first and Wigginton or Upton at third.

  • The popular opinion seems to be that Upton should move from short to third. There are also those who think he should be an outfielder, but again the Rays are already set there. Moving him to short means that Igawa or Wigginton are set at third, which may also mean a move to first for Cantu.

  • Baldelli and Crawford are set unless they get traded, or Baldelli gets hurt again.

  • It looks like Young will play right, but the Devil Rays will want to give Elijah Dukes (another outfielder. See, I told you.) some playing time sooner or later.

  • The Rays have Greg Norton on the bench, who can play all four corner positions, and hit close to .300 in 300 at bats last year.

  • Paul can also play first base if needed.

  • DH Jonny Gomes can technically play the corner outfield spots, but again, he's not really needed there.
Scott Kazmir will continue to give Mets fans plenty of reasons to curse Steve Phillips. But beyond him, this pitching staff will need some help. Jae Seo is sure to do better than his 3-12, 5.33 ERA 2006. The rest of the starters have ERAs that hover around 5 and win-loss records that hover around .500, but as a team Tampa Bay would love to be hovering around .500 at the end of the year. It appears that Seth McClung will get closing duties for the Devil Rays this year, supported by Dan Miceli and Chad Orvella. (Speaking of Orvella, that's the last time I take fantasy sleeper advice from a magazine in my eye doctor's waiting room.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bubble Watch

It's that time again already. Fortunately, it looks like both teams are in good shape right now.

For those of you unfamiliar with my Bubble Watch formula, here's a synopsis. There are so many at large teams taken for each tournament - 34 in the men's tourney, and 33 in the women's. In theory, the selection committee will take the teams with the 34 or 33 highest RPI rankings that aren't also conference champions (and therefore automatic bids). So, a team should be in if
(Team's RPI) - (Number of automatic bids with higher RPI) > (Number of at large bids).

ND Men's Basketball: As mentioned above, the "magic number" for the men is 34. Notre Dame currently has an RPI of 32 (despite a Strength of Schedule of 106), and there are no doubt several conference leaders/champions ahead of them, so they're safe this week. If needed in the next few weeks, I'll break down the exact number of conference leaders ahead of them to get a better estimate.

ND Women's Basketball: The Notre Dame women are in even better shape, sitting at 28 in the RPI with a SOS of 23. Not bad for a rebuilding year.

Dave's Flight Watch

As a special added feature to Bubble Watch this year, I'm introducting "Dave's Flight Watch." Dave is planning to fly into Cleveland on the night of March 16. His flight takes off at approximately 7 PM and lands at approximately 9 PM. Dave asked me to calculate the odds of being midair while the Irish play, since he always seems to have terrible luck like that.

First, the odds that he'll be midair when the women's team is playing: 0%. The women's tournament doesn't start until March 17.

Now, the odds that the men will play their first round game while Dave is sans-TV. I had a terrible time finding tipoff times for this year's tournament - or last year's tournament for that matter. So, for the sake of argument this week, I'm going to say that all sites have 1, 3, 7, and 9 PM Eastern tipoff times, and that there's no rhyme or reason for scheduling the times. (That is, the times and the seeds don't correspond.) As I gather more information, I'll refine things.

Sixteen of the 32 first round games will be played on March 16. Of those games, a fourth will be played at 7 PM. So, there's a 16/32 * 1/4 = 1/8 chance that Dave will miss the ND game in its entirety. In addition, Dave lands shortly after 9, and there's taxiing, baggage, and driving, meaning he would part of a 9 PM game. One out of 8 games will be played at 9 PM on March 16, so overall there's a 1/4 chance that Dave will miss at least some of the ND game. (Unless F-Bomb graciously DVR's it.)

Now, let's take a look at where some of the experts say that Notre Dame will play:

Columbus is in the Eastern time zone, so they will have a 7 PM and 9 PM game.

Over the next few weeks, I will (or I may) refine my formula, and work out the odds that Dave will also be in the air back to New York during second round action on Sunday.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Notre Dame Men's Basketball 85, Marquette 73

Editor's Note: The women's basketball team also played on Saturday, and the game was aired locally on the Ohio News Network. Unfortunately, I didn't find that out until after the game was finished. The women fell to Big East rival Rutgers on senior day, 76-60. The women are now tied for fourth in the Big East, and play they final regular season game Monday night at DePaul. That game will be televised on CSTV at 8 PM eastern.

And a correction: For most of Wednesday, I had the score of the Tuesday night Notre Dame-DePaul game listed as 78-74. I have since corrected it to 78-54, and I regret the error.

On Senior Day, it was Notre Dame's freshman stars that shone the brightest. (See, sports journalism isn't that hard.) Marquette had no answer for Luke Harangody in the paint, and Harangody finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds - career highs in both categories. Tory Jackson's stock continues to rise, as in this game he had 21 points (a career high for him as well), 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Once again, the Irish started sluggishly. Marquette hustled circles around Notre Dame and quickly built a 13 point lead. But the Irish fought back, and led this game for the entire second half. Marquette threatened at the end, but clutch free throw shooting by Jackson sealed the deal. Jackson carried a 59% free throw record into this game, but made 8 of 11 in this contest, including 5 of 7 in the final 3 minutes. Aided by 8-of-9 made by Harangody and 7-of-8 from Russell Carter, Notre Dame made 27 of 35 free throw attempts overall.
Jackson's final two points, and the final two points of the game, actually came after one of his missed free throws. Jackson was fouled with 2.7 seconds left, and went to the line. With the game won, Notre Dame had all of its players back, leaving only Marquette players lined up with Jackson shooting. Jackson made the first, but missed the second. With the Golden Eagles simply standing there, Jackson tipped in his own miss off the glass as time expired. Unfortunately, ABC's cameras missed this final shot.
Carter had 13 points on the game, and Colin Falls added 14; each had 8 rebounds. With his father in the stands, Colin Falls passed Gerry McNamara's year-old record for career three pointers made in Big East play by hitting his 184th late in the second half. Senior walk-on Kieran Piller made an appearance at the end of the game as Carter and Falls both checked out to a rousing ovation during Jackson's final free throws.
This game also furthered the intensity of what is going to be a great Big East rivalry over the years to come. Early in the game, Russell Carter lost the ball out of bounds in front of the Marquette bench. A Marquette player (one currently in the game) got in Carter's ear to give him the business. Carter casually shoved him away. This took place right in front of Marquette coach Tom Crean, and Crean was incensed that nothing was called on Carter. Crean had to be restrained by his assistants while screaming at the refs. At one point, Crean also walked towards the Notre Dame bench to talk to Mike Brey. Brey remained calm, but it appeared that Crean was still yelling, so it was unclear what the conversation was about. (Hopefully it was simply Brey apologizing for Carter's act in order to soothe Crean.) A bench warning was given to Marquette, but the ABC announcers failed to note whether that warning was given because Crean walked over to talk to Brey (they met at the halfcourt line, so both were out of the coaching box), because Crean stepped onto the court to complain to the refs (it was a dead ball situation, and Crean was only a step onto the court, so I doubt that was the case), or because a Marquette assistant was standing close to the sideline and possible interfered with Carter's attempt to save the ball.
Three techicals were called late in the game, including one after Harangody's fifth foul. Harangody and Dan Fitzgerald were going after a loose ball in the corner, when Harangody used his arm in an attempt to create some separation from Fitzgerald. It wasn't anything malicious or flagrant, but it was a foul, and it was properly called. However, Fitzgerald took umbrage and retaliated by shoving Harangody out of bounds. The big freshman took a tumble, and Fitzgerald was given a technical. The Notre Dame-Marquette rivalry was intense before Marquette's jump to the Big East, but now it may take on the level of passion seen in the late 90s/early 00s between ND and West Virginia.
The men finish their regular season on Saturday, March 3, at Rutgers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

MLB Preview #3: NL East

New York Mets

Jose Reyes SS
Paul LoDuca C
Carlos Beltran CF
Carlos Delgado 1B
David Wright 3B
Shawn Green RF
Moises Alou LF
Jose Valentin 2B

Pedro Martinez
Tom Glavine
Orlando Hernandez
John Maine
Oliver Perez
Chan Ho Park
Alay Soler
Dave Williams
Mike Pelfrey

If Shawn Green and Moises Alou put up any kind of production this year - and they should - then this is by far the best lineup in the division, if not in all of the National League. If Green or Alou can't get the job done (or if Willie Randolph finally realizes that Shawn Green has no right playing the outfield in spacious Shea Stadium), there's still that Lastings Milledge guy. Last season, Reyes, Beltran, and Wright proved that they are young stars worthy of the hype. Carlos Delgado finally got some attention for the numbers he's been putting up for the past decade plus, and Paul LoDuca put in another solid Paul LoDuca performance. If there's any question, it's whether ageless Andy de la Riva look-alike Jose Valentin can again play second base for a full season. If not, the Mets will be forced to see wheter Anderson Hernandez is ready for the job. The bench features Julio Franco, who was playing in the majors before Reyes, Wright, and Milledge were born (not that that should surprise anyone), a comeback attempt by Damion Easley, and defensive star Endy Chavez.
The Mets may be thankful that this year's team is built around offense. New York spent the entire winter looking for a starter to complement Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez (and to fill in while Martinez is hurt), and all they got was this lousy Chan Ho Park. If Park doesn't work out, of course, there's always Mike Pelfry - that is, assuming he (like Milledge) aren't used as trade bait this year. If the rotation fails them, the Metropolitans can always rely on their bullpen, led by Billy Wagner, who continues to be one of the best closers in the game. Aaron Heilman, another Met rumored to be trade bait, leads the list of setup men that features a "trimmed down" Guillermo Mota, Pedro Feliciano, a (hopefully) healthy Duaner Sanchez, Royals reclaimation project and sometimes French comic book hero Ambiorix Burgos, Mighty Mighty Earmuff Bandit Dave Williams (no really, he's from Anchorage), Scott Schoeneweis, and Jorge Sosa. At least name recognition isn't a problem in the Shea pen.

Philadelphia Phillies

Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino RF
Chase Utley 2B
Ryan Howard 1B
Pat Burrell LF
Aaron Rowand CF
Wes Helms/Abraham Nunez 3B
Rod Barajas C

Jon Lieber
Brett Myers
Freddy Garcia
Jamie Moyer
Cole Hamels
Adam Eaton
Ryan Madson
Scott Mathieson
Eude Brito

Try as they might, the Phillies still can't put together a winner. This team has its stars - Rollins, Utley, and Howard - and its supporting cast - Burrell and Rowand - but this just doesn't look like a lineup that can compete with the Mets. Maybe I'm wrong, though. Maybe Shane Victorino or backup Jayson Werth will break out this season. Maybe the Wes Helms/Abraham Nunez platoon (if that's how Charlie Manuel chooses to play it) will prove surprisingly effective. Or maybe not.
The pitching rotation could go either way. Lieber's always a question mark. Digger Phelps' son-in-law (Jamie Moyer) will probably still surprise a few people with his masterful changing speeds. But was the signing of Adam Eaton enough? And is top prospect Cole Hamels ready for the show? If not, the Phillies will have to expect big things from its bullpen. Tom Gordon did very well in his return to the closer's role, but can he repeat his 2006 success? If not, the Phillies may have to turn to Antonio Alfonseca or other members of its supporting cast, including sometimes-starter Ryan Madson and Rule V pickup (from Cleveland - go figure!) Jim Ed Warden.

Atlanta Braves

Ryan Langerhans LF
Edgar Renteria SS
Chipper Jones 3B
Andruw Jones CF
Brian McCann C
Jeff Francoeur RF
Scott Thorman/Craig Wilson 1B
Martin Prado/Kelly Johnson 2B

John Smoltz
Tim Hudson
Chuck James
Kyle Davies
Mike Hampton

Atlanta's biggest question looks to be its leadoff spot. After losing both of 2005's top-of-the-lineup hitters (Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles), who will take the top spot? Renteria could handle the role, if Bobby Cox was up to it. I went with Ryan Langerhans, but that's a blatant guess. Langerhans is a solid ballplayer, but can he hit well enough to play LF full time on a championship caliber team? I guess the answer to that is "no," as Langerhans was the starting LF for a 2006 Atlanta team that only finished third in their division. The addition of Craig Wilson is a good one. Not only can he play first if Scott Thorman isn't ready for the role, but he can also fill in for Langerhans when necessary (and play 3rd and catcher in a pinch). Of course, in getting Wilson the Braves gave up Adam LaRoche, but in addition to Wilson they picked up one of the top shortstop prospects in the game. But that's the future. This year, Atlanta's next question is Marcus Giles' replacement at second. There are quite a few people who could fill that role, including Prado, Johnson, and utilitymen Chris Woodward and Pete Orr. I suppose that Willie Aybar and Tony Pena II are also longshots, if they're up for a position change. In addition to the names listed above, the Atlanta bench also features outfielder Matt Diaz, who could be the next Jeff Francoeur, or the next Matt Franco (not that there's anything wrong with that).
The Atlanta rotation isn't what it used to be, but John Smoltz is still kicking (but most likely taking his shirts off now before he irons them). Tim Hudson struggled last year by Tim Hudson standards, but he's still a decent top-of-the-rotation pitcher. If the Braves can get any production out of Mike Hampton, or even any starts out of him, it will be a plus. Last year, Chuck James surprised a few people with an 11-4 record and a 3.78 ERA. Better yet, he did it in only 119 innings, so his arm should still be fresh for this season. Kyle Davies struggled last year, but he still has time to develop into a good pitcher. After a few years of unrest, it appears the bullpen has finally settled down. Bob Wickman will return as the first established closer Atlanta has seen in a while. He'll be supported by talented setup men Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Lance Cormier, Chad Paronto, and Tanyon Sturtze. Top prospect Anthony Lerew will try to rebound from a disasterous 2006 to make the 2007 edition of the Braves bullpen.

Florida Marlins

Hanley Ramirez SS
Dan Uggla 2B
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Josh Willingham LF
Mike Jacobs 1B
Jeremy Hermida RF
Miguel Olivo C
Alfredo Amezaga CF

Dontrelle Willis
Josh Johnson
Scott Olsen
Anibal Sanchez
Ricky Nolasco
Sergio Mitre
Logan Kensing

This young team was so good in 2006 that it got its manager fired. This year, almost everyone returns, and they're all a year older and wiser. It appears that veteran utilityman Alfredo Amezaga has finally found an everyday home in center field for the Fish. The only thing Florida should worry about (besides having the team charter replaced by a 60-year-old prop plane) is having half the lineup enter sophomore slumps. The bench features C Matt Treanor - husband of Olympic beach volleyballer Misty May-Treanor (she's the short brunette that plays with the tall blone one), Aaron Boone, and a quartet of hungry young outfielders trying to prove that they can hit well enough to stick in the majors: Reggie Abercrombie, Joe Borchard, Eric Reed, and Cody Ross.
Like the lineup, the pitching rotation can only be stopped by sophomore slumps. Everyone knows that Dontrelle Willis is a proven commodity. But Scott Olsen and Josh Johnson both posted winning records last season, and Ricky Nolasco went 11-11. All Anibal Sanchez did was go 10-3 and throw the first no hitter the majors had seen in 2+ years. So if the starters weren't losing games for the Marlins, who was? It must have been the no-name bullpen. But hey, if your payroll's only $20, you have to cut corners somewhere. If the Fish want to win again (and, of course, disband a year later), the bullpen is what they need to improve. That is, after they lock up Miguel Cabrera long-term, of course.

Washington Nationals

Ryan Church/Kory Casto LF
Felipe Lopez 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Nick Johnson 1B
Austin Kearns RF
Alex Escobar/Nook Logan CF
Brian Schneider C
Christian Guzman SS

John Patterson
Mike O'Connor
Billy Traber
Shawn Hill
Jason Bergmann
Jerome Williams
Tim Redding
Beltran Perez

The Nationals basically have four guys - Casto, Logan, and Indians castoffs Church and Escobar - fighting for two outfield spots. Unfortunately, they do not have anyone fighting Christian Guzman for the shortstop role. Of course, the wise thing would be to sign a second baseman (too late - someone just took Ronnie Belliard!) and move Felipe Lopez back to his natural position at short. (A wiser thing would have been to not trade their starting second baseman, Jose Vidro, to a team that already had a starting keystone sacker.) Going into last season, everyone knew that Ryan Zimmerman was already a star with the glove, and the question was whether he could hit well enough to play every day. How's .287 with 20 HR and 110 RBI in cavernous RFK Stadium? Oh, and I'm finally willing to admit that Nick Johnson's a legit player. I'm sure my past criticism had been keeping him up at night.... And for all the criticism Austin Kearns takes, he had a decent 2006 with 24 HR and an .830 OPS.
The Nationals have some options for their rotation, and anyone who isn't named a starter can help out in a bullpen that already looks pretty decent. Chad Cordero is a top closer, and he will be supported by Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala. Micah Bowie, a player who was considered a top prospect when he was traded by Atlanta to the Cubs for Jose Hernandez and Terry Mulholland in 1999, has resurfaced and will also try to earn a spot in the Washington bullpen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Notre Dame Men's Basketball 78, DePaul 54

A lazy sportswriter would begin this column with a "Fool me once..." joke.

Of course, a lazy sportswriter would also use one-sentence paragraphs for emphasis.

The Irish played with determination from the opening tip on this one. Colin Falls made a three-pointer 15 seconds into the first half, and also closed the first half with a three. He had 19, all in that opening stanza.
Led by Falls' 19, Notre Dame took a 40-22 lead into the locker room. Early in the second half, the Irish looked content to once again let their opponent back into the game. But then something sparked, and the Irish powered their way to a 25 point lead. A huge part of that spark was Tory Jackson, who finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. The refs were letting the teams play a physical game, and Jackson delighted in it, driving the lane for layup after hard-fought layup.
Along with Falls and Jackson, the remaining three starters all scored at least 13 points. Luke Harangody and Russell Carter had 13, and Rob Kurz had 15. The bench only had 5 points - a three from Ryan Ayers and a two from Zach Hillesland. But this was a night when the starters, playing 148 of a possible 200 minutes, didn't need much help from the bench.
Still, it was the Notre Dame bench on the court. The decisive win allowed Luke Zeller, Jonathan Peeples, Kieran Piller, and Joe Harden to see playing time at the end of the game.

Up next, the Irish play host to a very tough Marquette team at 3:30 this Saturday, a game that will be televised on ABC.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Notre Dame Men's Basketball 81, Providence 78

It was a battle between the Big East's top scoring teams. In the end, both teams scored their season average - which is a good thing for #1 scoring Notre Dame.
At the start of the game, things didn't look good for the Irish. The Friars were simply running over, around, and through the home team, on offense and on defense. Colin Falls, going for the school record for made three pointers with his father in the stands, was tight. Rob Kurz learned (or maybe he didn't learn) several times that sometime's it's better to go up soft for a layup, rather than trying to dunk through two or three defenders' hands. Notre Dame was able to scrape back, but at the half still trailed by four.
Then they started attacking Providence's 2-3 zone. Luke Harangody positioned himself just outside of the key and behind the basket itself. It was a strategy that had worked well for other teams against Notre Dame's 2-3, and it worked well for Luke, too. Not only was Harangody able to find passers as the cut to the basket, but he was also able to muscle up a few shots as well. Zach Hillesland played the high post at the top of the key - a spot that Tom Timmermans mastered. But Hillesland has an extra dimension to his game that The Urban Tombrero didn't - an ability to cut to the basket and make plays off the dribble. Russell Carter completed the zone-busting trifecta by nailing several key three-pointers from the right wing.
The Irish looked to have a comfortable lead late in the game, but they still tried to lose it. On offense, the team gave the ball to Falls - their best free throw shooter - in the backcourt. However, they didn't have a plan for getting the ball up the court, and it almost cost them again. On defense, the team when foul-crazy, giving the Friars a chance to come back while the clock was stopped. And despite going to the line 29 times as a team, the Irish only made 19 of their own free throw attempts.
But in the end, Notre Dame improved to 16-0 at home. Unfortunately for the Irish, the RPI formula was changed recently to heavily favor road wins. ND has only 1 Big East away win this season, but they'll look to improve on that Sunday against a Cincinnati team that has only one Big East win overall this season.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

MLB Preview #2: AL West

Oakland Athletics

Mark Kotsay CF
Shannon Stewart LF
Milton Bradley RF
Eric Chavez 3B
Mike Piazza DH
Nick Swisher 1B
Bobby Crosby SS
Jason Kendall C
Mark Ellis 2B

Rich Harden
Danny Haren
Esteban Loaiza
Joe Blanton
Joe Kennedy
Brad Halsey
Jason Windsor
Shane Komine
Dan Meyer

The A's replace Frank Thomas in their lineup with Mike Piazza. Piazza put up decent numbers in pitcher-friendly San Diego, so there's no reason he can't repeat in the cavernous expanses of Oakland. The A's also added Shannon Stewart, which gives them some options. The primary option is the start Stewart, move Swisher from LF to 1B, and take .234 hitter Dan Johnson out of the lineup. The A's have a very deep outfield, and they'll need it as Stewart, Kotsay, and Bradley are all injury prone. Beside Swisher, the A's return Bobby Kielty and add Ryan Goleski, acquired from the Indians in the Rule V draft. Speaking of former Indains farmhands, Marco Scutaro will once again be the Oakland utility infielder.
Oakland lost Barry Zito, but their rotation still appears to be in good shape. At the very least, they have some options. And if needed, Billy Beane always knows how to find good young pitching. The bullpen should be in decent shape, too. A healthy Huston Street will once again be the closer, aided by Kiko Calero, Alan Embree, Jay Witasick, and anyone who can't crack the starting rotation.

The Angels

Chone Figgins 3B
Orlando Cabrera SS
Vlad Guerrero RF
Garret Anderson LF/DH
Juan Rivera DH/LF
Shea Hillenbrand/Casey Kotchman 1B
Gary Matthews, Jr. CF
Mike Napoli/Jose Molina C
Howie Kendrick 2B

John Lackey
Bartolo Colon
Ervin Santana
Jered Weaver
Kelvim Escobar
Joe Saunders
Hector Carrasco
Dustin Moseley

The Angels added Shea Hillenbrand and made a big splash by signing Gary Matthews to a huge deal. Hillenbrand has never had a high on base average, but he should add some pop to the middle of the lineup. Matthews led off in Texas, but the Angels may be best suited in keeping their top two hitters from last year in place. As Garret Anderson ages, he will likely share LF and DH duties with Juan Rivera. Hillenbrand is also able to play 3B, so Chone Figgins can move to the outfield when needed. The Angels bench boasts a very deep infield. Erick Aybar and Macier Izturis (yet another Rule V pickup from the Indians, albeit from a few years back) can play the middle infield spots. Robb Quinlan and Dallas McPherson can capably play both first and third (when McPherson is healthy, that is), and Cuban Defector Kendry Morales can also play first base.
The Angels rotation will be strong this year. John Lackey has continued to establish himself as a top-flight starter. Bartolo Colon is still Bartolo Colon, strikeout rates be darned. Jered Weaver is only the reigning AL Rookie of the Year (and MVP 07 cover boy), and big things are expected of "the other Santana" (no relation to Johan). Francisco Rodriguez is back at closer until his arm flies out of his shoulder socket - or until the Yankees lure him away as a successor to Mariano Rivera next season. K-Rod is supported by some very capable veterans, including Darren Oliver, Scot Shields, and Justin Speier. Even with a lineup featuring Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero, it appears that the pitching staff will be the strength of this team.

Texas Rangers

Kenny Lofton/Brad Wilkerson CF
Frank Catalanotto LF
Michael Young SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hank Blalock 3B
Jason Botts DH
Nelson Cruz RF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Gerald Laird/Miguel Ojeda C

Kevin Millwood
Vincente Padilla
Brandon McCarthy
John Koronka
Kameron Loe
Robinson Tejada
John Rheinecker
Edinson Volquez
Francisco Cruceta

Once again, Texas' hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of their big three: Young, Teixeira, and Blalock. Lofton and Catalanotto are no longer spring chickens, but they are still very capable at the top of any lineup. Unfortunately, the bottom of the lineup is where things get dicey. Kinsler proved himself last year when healthy. Laird won the starting job last year, and his backup, Ojeda, is solid. But the question marks come in the #6 and #7 spots in the lineup. Who are Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz? (Well, Cruz is a guy who came over in the Carlos Lee deal.) Can Brad Wilkerson recover from an off year to return to his Montreal form? Fortunately (I guess), the Rangers have quite a few outfielders/DH's to choose from, including Cruz, Wilkerson, Marlon Byrd, former Mighty Mighty Earmuff Bandit Victor Diaz, and spring training longshot Sammy Sosa. Conversely, the Rangers are very thin in the infield, unless you consider that Catalanotto started his career as a second baseman for Texas.
The Rangers rotation doesn't have any stars, but it does have a few solid pitchers in Millwood and Padilla - and to some extent Koronka and Loe as well. The uber-talented Brandon McCarthy comes over from the White Sox, and he will get a chance to start for the first time in his young career. Former Indians prospect Francisco Cruceta comes over from Seattle, where he will have a chance to join the big league club. Closer Francisco Cordero was replaced quite capably by Akinori Otsuka after Cordero was traded to Milwaukee. Otsuka may or may not be challenged by Eric Gagne for the closer's role this year.

Seattle Mariners

Ichiro! CF
Jose Lopez 2B
Raul Ibanez LF
Richie Sexson 1B
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Guillen RF
Jose Vidro/Ben Broussard DH
Kenji Johjima C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS

Jarrod Washburn
Felix Hernandez
Jeff Weaver
Miguel Batista
Horacio Ramirez
Jake Woods
Cha Seung Baek
Ryan Feierabend
Travis Blackley

With the addition of Jose Guillen, it appears that Ichiro will finally make the move to center field. Ichiro's always had the range to play center, but it was his amazing arm that kept him in right. Jose Lopez hit at the top of the lineup for most of last year; even with the addition of Jose Vidro, I wouldn't be surprised if Lopez stayed up there. Vidro may end up platooning with Ben Broussard. Broussard is a very streaky hitter, but you definitely want him in the lineup when he's hot. Broussard can DH or play first and let Sexson DH. Raul Ibanez has quietly put up very good numbers over the past few years for Seattle; he's one of the most underrated players in the game. Last year, Japanese import Kenji Johjima proved that he was more than capable of handling US baseball, and Yuniesky Betancourt didn't do too badly himself. This is a very solid lineup. The bench features super-sub Willie Bloomquist, 6'4 shortstop/outfielder Mike Morse, and center fielder Jeremy Reed, who can certainly field his position, but can't yet hit well enough to stay in the lineup.
Jarrod Washburn returns for his second season as the Mariners ace. Felix Hernandez had a solid outing last year, going 12-14 with a 4.52 ERA, but he didn't come close to the preseason hype fantasy experts gave him. That's the problem with hype sometimes. The Mariners strengthened their rotation by adding Jeff Weaver, still trying to resurrect his career, and Miguel Batista, who is still pitching well enough to stick around for a 16th MLB season. Horacio Ramirez comes over as yet another successful pitching product of the Braves minor league system, and the highly-touted Travis Blackley will be waiting in the wings for his turn to pitch. JJ Putz had a breakout year in 2006 as Seattle's closer, and he'll return to that role in 2007. Putz will be supported by Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes (returning to his 2003 club), and a bunch of people you've probably never heard of before.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Notre Dame Women's Basketball 78, DePaul 70

Editor's note: Had I remembered that Saturday's ND hockey game was on Sports Time Ohio, I could have covered that too. Whoops. The Irish tied Nebraska-Omaha 2-2 one night after beating UNO 4-2.

DePaul led for the first 14 minutes of this game. But Notre Dame used a few extended scoring droughts by the Demons to take a 32-26 halftime lead over DePaul.
ESPN2 was supposed to show this game as part of their "February Frenzy" event, which meant jumping between several games, a la what CBS does during March Madness. ESPN2 strived to show only games that would be interesting to the national audience, including Tennessee blowing out Kentucky, and a battle between powerhouses Miami and Boston College (and by "powerhouses," I mean "two teams with a combined 3 wins on the season"). After showing the end of a thrilling East Carolina game (I actually say that with no sarcasm), The Deuce switched to ND-DePaul with 6 minutes left in the game.
By that point, Notre Dame's lead was quite comfortable, floating around an 8 point margin. You have to like the Muffet McGraw's offense. Whereas Mike Brey uses screens and set plays to open up jump shots, McGraw's plays work to open up easy layups. If you're going to create a shot for someone, why not create the easiest shot possible? It's a good thing, too: The women were 0 for 8 from three point range; had they stuck to the long jumper, this game likely would have been a loss. And this year the women are actually making their layups! (Nothing against the men, it's just the offense I prefer to run.)
Taking shots in the paint also puts you on the free throw line a bunch. The Irish were 26-38 from the charity stripe, while the Demons were only 8-13.
Personal favorite Ashley Barlow put up 13 points in her first career start. You may look at Barlow and think, athletic player known for her defense and rebounding, and only a freshman - she can't possibly be a good free throw shooter, right? False. Barlow leads the team at 89% from the line. I may have also found another personal favorite in Melissa Lechlitner. Lech had 13 points, 3 steals, and 2 highlight-reel assists. She's another very athletic player and a smart and creative passer. She'll be fun to watch in the years to come.
Charel Allen picked up her third career double-double with 25 points and 13 boards; practically a career day for the woman who has become a team leader. And her knee must be healthy again, too. There were a few tense moments in this one, and after playing 38 minutes she was no doubt winded, but Allen proved to be a tough player by fighting through any pain that may have been there.
Crystal Erwin added 9 points and 8 boards, while Tulyah Gaines had 12 points and a team-high 5 assists.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

DePaul 67, Notre Dame Men's Basketball 66

The 11-0 start looked typical for the high scoring '06-'07 Notre Dame men's team. But then the Irish reverted to the mistakes that have dogged Mike Brey throughout his tenure: no hustle, poor rebounding, and ill-advised jump shots.
Down midway through the second half, the team once again fed off the energy of their senior leaders, Russell Carter and Colin Falls. With under a minute left to play, Notre Dame was in position to win. Leading by one, Tory Jackson dribbled into the frontcourt and was fouled with just under 30 seconds left in the game. If Notre Dame had been in the bonus, this would have been a smart play for DePaul; Jackson is just a 59% free throw shooter, so DePaul would have gotten the ball back down by at most three with plenty of time to play. Instead, it was only DePaul's 6th foul of the half, meaning the Irish retained posession and now didn't have to worry about the shot clock. So things looked good for the Irish.
The ball was inbounded to Colin Falls just beyond midcourt. Falls dribbled to his left, and had the ball stolen. A quick pass gave Wilson Chandler the chance to dunk home his game-leading 24th and 25th points, and more importantly gave DePaul a 67-66 lead with 16 seconds left.
Notre Dame called time out to set up a play in the frontcourt. Apparently that play didn't go as planned, as Tory Jackson spent 10 seconds dribbling around without direction. Jackson fumbled a pass that barely got Luke Zeller at the top of the circle. With a full 6 seconds left, Zeller showed his inexperience by throwing up a desperation three.
But then, it looked like fate was on Notre Dame's side, as the ball deflected to Rob Kurz alone under the basket. Three Depaul players quickly converged on Kurz and in a flurry of contact were able to block Kurz' shot as time expired. I would like to argue that what's called a foul in the first 39 minutes should be called a foul in the last one minute. But on the same token, Notre Dame should never put itself in a position to need a last second shot to win this game.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

MLB Preview 1: NL West

San Diego Padres

Marcus Giles 2B
Mike Cameron CF
Brian Giles RF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Josh Bard C
Khalil Greene SS
Russell Branyan/Terrmel Sledge/Jose Cruz, Jr. LF

Jake Peavy
Chris Young
Greg Maddux
Clay Hensley
David Wells
Mike Thompson

San Diego's lineup has a few new faces, and it should only make the returing defending champs stronger. Marcus Giles may no longer be able to hit leadoff - if he ever was able to - but he appears to be their best option. After Giles and last year's #2 and 3 hitters - Cameron and Brian Giles - the lineup is filled with emerging young hitters. Adrian Gonzalez is starting to live up to the hype he earned as a former Rangers #1 prospect. After Gonzalez is one of the best college hitters of all time in Khalil Greene, and three Indians "castoffs." Kevin Kouzmanoff, who hit close to .400 in the minors last year and hit a grand slam off the first pitch he saw in the majors, was acquired a few months ago in a trade for Josh Barfield. Josh Bard is emerging as an above average hitter for a catcher. Russ Branyan is still Russ Branyan, but the Pads still have Jose Cruz, Jr., and Terrmel Sledge if he doesn't work out. The bench features Todd Walker and Jack Cust - who for Notre Dame fans is Brian Stavisky plus an insane amount of hype.
The Padres decided to support top young starters Jake Peavy and Chris Young by adding veteran Greg Maddux and, for the heck of it, David Wells. The bullpen still features Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman will be set up by the Gammonsesque Cla Meredith, and by the other piece of the Barfield-Kouzmanoff deal, Andrew Brown.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan PierreCF
Rafael Furcal SS
Nomar Garciaparra 1B
Luis Gonzalez LF
Jeff Kent 2B
Andre Ethier RF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Russell Martin C

Jason Schmidt
Derek Lowe
Brad Penny
Randy Wolf
Hong-Chih Kuo
Chad Billingsley
Brett Tomko
Mark Hendrickson

Is Juan Pierre better than Kenny Lofton? Is Luis Gonzalez better than Luis Gonzalez? Those are LA's two main questions on offense, as those are LA's two main acquisitions. For everyone else, it's just a question of being a year older. For Furcal, Garciaparra, and Kent, that may be a negative, but for Ethier, Betemit, and Martin, that should be a positive. The bench will once again feature Olmedo Saenz. If they break camp, it will also feature super prospects Andy LaRoche, who is said to be a better hitter than older brother Adam, and James Loney.
The Dodgers won the 2006 NL Wild Card by having the same record as the Padres; this year it looks like LA's going for the automatic bid. The Dodgers added Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf to a rotation that already featured Derek Lowe and Brad Penny. Of that group, the 3rd and 4th starters (Penny and Wolf) may actually be the best pitchers on the team. Meanwhile, the bullpen isn't what it used to be, but it's still pretty good. Takashi Saito is predicted to have a breakout year at closer, and he'll be set up by Yhency Brazoban and Chin-hui Tsao.

San Francisco Giants

Dave Roberts CF
Omar Vizquel SS
Randy Winn RF
Barry Bonds LF
Ray Durham 2B
Bengie Molina C
Pedro Feliz 3B
Rich Aurilia/Ryan Klesko/Lance Niekro 1B

Barry Zito
Matt Morris
Matt Cain
Noah Lowry
Brad Hennessey
Jonathan Sanchez
Russ Ortiz

You may want to bat Barry Bonds 3rd just to get him more at bats, but with 3 guys who are essentially #2 hitters at the top of the lineup, Bonds has no choice but to bat fourth once again. That is, unless Molina, Aurilia, or Klesko can handle the cleanup spot for this team. As always, I like Durham in the 5th spot, as the #5 hitter has the second most leadoff opportunities over the course of the season. Once again, this is a very old lineup. Dave Roberts hasn't played center for a few years, and Pac Bell (or whatever it is now) has a rather large outfield. Then again, Winn does have the ability to play center as well. The question is, who will play left when Bonds is hurt? Klesko has played outfield in the past, but that may be an "adventure" now. That leaves Mark Sweeney and... Mark Sweeney.
The big offseason move was signing Barry Zito. But is he even the best starter on the team? Matt Cain is a player on the rise, and Noah Lowry can definitely hold his own as a 4th starter.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Stephen Drew SS
Orlando Hudson 2B
Chad Tracy 3B
Conor Jackson 1B
Chris Snyder C
Carlos Quentin RF
Eric Byrnes LF
Chris B. Young CF

Brandon Webb
Randy Johnson
Livan Hernandez
Doug Davis
Enrique Gonzalez
Juan Cruz
Edgar Gonzalez
Dustin Nippert

I'll be honest: I have no idea what this lineup will look like. I believe that Drew, JD's younger brother and one of the best shortstop prospects in the game, hit leadoff at the end of last year. Hudson, Tracy, Jackson, and Snyder all put up rather good numbers and deserve to be in the heart of this lineup. After that, it's anyone's guess. Of course, there's a good chance that Eric Byrnes will end up at the top of the lineup instead of Drew or Hudson. Whether that's justified or not is debatable. The bench features several familiar (or at least somewhat familiar) names: Robby Hammock, Tony Clark, Jeff DaVanon, and Jerry Hairston's brother Scott.
The linup looks promising, but it's the pitching staff that will lead to this team's success. (After all, this team did challenge for the division in 2005.) Top starter Brandon Webb and veteran Livan Hernandez is joined by Arizona native Randy Johnson and emerging former Brewer Doug Davis. The bullpen has no less than four players with closer experience. A combination of injuries caused a movement from Brandon Lyon to Luis Vizcaino to Jose Valverde at closer over the past few years; Valverde will retain the job this season. Lyon, Vizcaino, and Valverde will also be joined by Jorge Julio. I would be surprised if the Diamondbacks finished any lower than third in the division this season.

Colorado Rockies

Willy Taveras/Cory Sullivan CF
Troy Tulowitzki/Clint Barmes SS
Matt Holliday LF
Todd Helton 1B
Garrett Adkins 3B
Bradley Hawpe RF
Yorvit Torrealba C
Jamey Carroll/Kaz Matsui 2B

Aaron Cook
Jeff Francis
Josh Fogg
Byung-Hyun Kim
Rodrigo Lopez
Brian Lawrence
Taylor Buchholz
Jason Hirsh

It looks like Clint Barmes' moment in the sun is over, as Troy Tulowitzki is projected to take over as the stating shortstop. I'll be honest, I've never heard of the guy either. The core of this lineup is very good, with Holliday, Helton, Adkins, and Hawpe. Adkins is actually projected to be one of the best third basemen in the league this summer. But the supporting cast leads something to be desired. Willy Taveras and Cory Sullivan put up very similar numbers last year, so it will be interesting to see if the job will go to the new acquisition (Taveras, from Houston) or the incumbent. Yorvit Torrealba is Yorvit Torrealba. And when you're fighting Kaz Matsui for your job, well.... The bench features C/1B/DH Javy Lopez.
The top of the Colorado rotation features two players who pitch well regardless of the altitude in Cook and Francis. Byung-Hyun Kim returns for another season with the Rockies, and he will be joined this year by Fogg, Lopez, and Lawrence. If nothing else, the Rockies have decent depth in their rotation. Brian Fuentes returns as the Rockies closer, and he's a good one. He'll be joined by AL Central castoffs Jeremy Affeldt (another potential starter) and Denny Bautista from the Royals, LaTroy Hawkins from the Twins, and Tom Martin - who surprisingly has played every year since a two year stint in Cleveland at the end of the century.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Klondike's Frozen Booze Drinking Tips

by Klondike, Resident Alaskan and Wine Taster

Editor's Note: With wind chills in the Midwest lower than Neifi Perez' VORP, and bitterly lukewarm temperatures ravishing the South, we turn to our Resident Alaskan for cold weather survival tips.
One of Klondike's favorite cold weather horror stories involves Alaskans who leave booze outside in freezing temperatures. Alcohol itself freezes at a temperature much lower than water, so it will remain a liquid even if left out overnight. However, if one were to drink said booze the next morning, they could essentially kill themselves by freezing their internal organs. Here are some tips from Klondike for avoiding such an awkward (but yummy) death.

1)Just swish the booze around in your mouth for a bit to warm it up, then swallow it. The first time hurts a lot, but soon you won't even feel it.

2)Only keep really, really hard alcohol outside. Just before you drink it, light it on fire to warm it up.

3)Buy one of these.

4)Cuddle with the bottle for a bit before drinking it.

5)Put the booze in the freezer for a few minutes to warm it up.

6)Heat the booze in an empty soup can over an open fire. Then drink it like the hobo you've become.

7)Buy an SUV. Sit out in the parking lot and gun the engine for an hour twice a day. Wait for global warming to heat the booze.

8)Let Ricky Martin hold the booze for a minute. That guy is hot hot hot!

9)Club a baby seal.

10)Pack the booze in a self-addressed box with sufficient postage. Pack that box in a larger box, and mail that larger box to Guam. Allow a few weeks for the booze to get there and warm up a bit. Then, call Guam and have them mail it back to you.

All the best.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Notre Dame Alumni in the NFL Playoffs
Final Edition

Jordan Black, T - Kansas City: Overall: Black started at left tackle for a team that was able to amass only 126 total yards (44 rushing) in a 23-8 loss to Indianapolis Wild Card weekend. Trent Green was sacked four times.

John Carney, K - New Orleans: Overall: 2 field goals, 5 extra points in two games.

Rocky Boiman, LB - Indianapolis: This Week: Boiman had one special teams tackle in the Super Bowl. Overall: 4 tackles, 1 reception, -16 receiving yards in four games.

Jerome Collins, TE - Indianapolis: On the injured reserve since 12/21 with an Achilles' tendon injury.

Jeff Faine, C - New Orleans: Overall: 810 yards, 6 sacks given up in two games.

Anthony Fasano, TE - Dallas: Overall: Fasano was held without a catch in Dallas' loss to the Seahawks.

Ryan Grant, RB - New York Giants: Ryan Grant has spent this season on New York's Reserve/Non-Football Injury list. He has a wrist.

Julius Jones, RB - Dallas: Overall: Julius did his part for the Cowboys. Jones had 112 yards on 22 carries, including a 35-yard run that helped put Dallas in field goal range for what would have been the winning score.

Mark LeVoir, T - Chicago: LeVoir is a member of Chicago's practice squad.

Corey Mays, LB - New England: Overall: 2 tackles, 1 forced fumble in 3 games.

John Owens, TE - New Orleans: Overall: 1 catch for 21 yards in 2 games.

Luke Petitgout, LT - New York Giants: Luke was placed on the Injured Reserve after suffering a broken wrist.

Gerome Sapp, S - Baltimore: Overall: Sapp recorded one special teams tackle in the loss to the Colts.

Hunter Smith, P - Indianapolis: This Week: 4 punts, long of 50, average of 40.5. Overall: 14 punts, long of 58, average of 44.9 in four games. 1 for 1 passing for -16 yards.

Justin Tuck, DE - New York Giants: Tuck joins his fellow Irish Alumni on the Giants Injured Reserve. He recently had surgery for a Lisfranc injury on his foot. (Our Chief Medical Expert quit, so you'll have to Google "Lisfranc" yourself.)

John DeFilippo, Offensive Quality Control - New York Giants (ND Graduate Assistant 2001-02): Overall: The Giants scored 20 point but only put up 305 total yards in their loss to the Eagles.

Jim Johnson, Defensive Coordinator - Philadelphia (ND Defensive Backs Coach 1977-83, Defensive Coordinator 1981-83, Assistant Head Coach 1983): Overall: 47 points and 740 yards of offense over the course of two games.

Dean Pees, Defensive Coordinator - New England (ND Secondary Coach 1994): Overall: 75 points and 1154 yards over three games. (That's right, the Patriots gave up one more point in this game than they did in their first two combined.

Bill Sheridan, Linebackers Coach - New York Giants (ND Safties/Special Teams Coach 2001): Overall: Giants linebackers (including Chris Blackburn, who may or may not suck depending on the Goon Squad you're talking to) combined for 14 tackles and one of New York's two sacks.

Steven Wilks, Defensive Backs Coach - Chicago (ND Secondary Coach 2004): Peyton Manning was named MVP after throwing for 247 yards and a TD. The Bears secondary did combine for 23 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. Overall: 796 yards passing, 64 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 4 fumbles recovered in four games.

Trent Walters, Secondary Coach - Philadelphia (ND Secondary Coach 2002-03): Overall: The Eagles secondary recorded 37 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble while giving up 404 passing yards over two games.