Random Ramblin’s: Last 2008 edition

My commute last week and this week was sheer bliss. Lots of people on vacation = less drivers at rush hour = Happy Harley.

We’ve hit temperatures in the high 60s several times this December. Freakin’ awesome.

Driving around my neighborhood a couple Saturdays ago, passed by some people on the side of the road in orange vests, picking up trash. Figured they were convicts doing community service or something, but as I got closer I saw on the back of the vests: “Keep Plano Beautiful – Volunteer.” You don’t see stuff like that in a lot of other places.

TIME FOR SPORTS:

PHILLIES¬† – Still not sure what to think of signing Raul Ibanez for three years. He’s by all accounts a great guy, so team chemistry will be good. By many accounts, he’s a lousy defender in left field. By my calendar, he’s 37. But he’s in great shape, he’s liable to hit about as well as the outgoing Pat Burrell, and there is something to be said for team chemistry. Just look at the Cowboys with all their superstars and no heart. Or the Mets in the ’90s when they overspent on Bobby Bonilla and paid big bucks for Bret Saberhagen. Yes, the Phils will have a left-handed-heavy batting lineup, but the majority of starting pitchers are righthanders anyway.

YANKEES: Certainly not one of my favorite teams, but I had to say something about them spending nearly a half-billion dollars on three players. It’s their right to do so, and it does stack them up as one of the top teams, but many things could go wrong. C.C. Sabathia is a workhorse, but he’s a big heavy dude and injuries could be a concern after pitching like 469 innings last year. (Approximately.) A.J. Burnett has a long injury history, but could be dominant if he stays healthy. Mark Teixeira will likely fit well in that lineup and bang out 40+ homers and play a great first base. The AL East will be very interesting to watch.

EAGLES: What a crazydiculous season. A tie to the woeful Bengals, Donovan McNabb pulled from a game, Andy Reid continuing to call questionable plays. And somehow, they win a bunch of games down the stretch, Tampa Bay loses to a bad Oakland team, Chicago loses to Houston, and the Birds CRUSH the gutless Cowboys to squeeze into the playoffs. And they have a good shot to beat Minnesota this weekend, and they’ve already beaten the Giants in New York. NFC Championship game, here we come?

COWBOYS: Gotta say my piece on the ‘Pokes. FOX’s Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson had this one right: the Cowboys are messed up because it starts from the top down. And owner Jerry Jones is the problem. He also serves as General Manager – even though he’d never get that job if he wasn’t an owner – and makes moves like a fantasy football owner (analogy stolen from ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd). T.O.? Sign him. Roy Williams? Don’t need him, but imagine the receiving numbers! But not when your $67 million boy Tony Romo throws stupid interceptions and the whole team looks like a bunch of quitters. I actually feel bad for Cowboys fans, because unless Jerry hires a REAL General Manager (even George Steinbrenner hired Brian Cashman), he’ll keep running the team into the ground and out of the playoffs.

76ERS: Mo Cheeks fired after going 9-14. Elton Brand out for a month. And we only get like eight 76ers games on network TV, so all that excitement I had about the team has drifted away. (Yes, “fair-weather fan” would be accurate.)

FLYERS: Apparently, they play hockey. From what I’ve gleaned in my not-caring mode, they started off sucky and then won a bunch of games, and they’re playing well.

ARENA FOOTBALL: They’re taking 2009 off and plan to get back to work in 2010. Can I do that too?

Back to ramblin’…

New Year’s Eve? Bah humbug. My REAL New Year begins on January 13, when you can send me as many birthday gifts as you like.

Oh, and of more import than anything else written above…our twins are officially both girls! So yes, Daddy’s Little Girls will be arriving this spring in theaters near you. (Well, not so much in theaters, more like subjects in my blogs that will surely embarrass them later in life.)

Peace out, yo.

“Subjective” Analysis: Phillies vs. Brewers

OK, tomorrow at some ridiculous time in the afternoon (hello? working people here?), my Phillies (92-70) will take on the Milwaukee Brewers (90-72) in Game 1 of their National League Divisional Series matchup.

Let’s go through the lineups and see who’s better:

CATCHER

PHI: Carlos Ruiz/Chris Coste

MIL: Jason Kendall

ANALYSIS: Ruiz’s bat was awful this year, but not much worse than the veteran Kendall. I don’t know if Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel would even think of putting the superior-hitting Coste in there…I doubt it. Call this one a TIE because neither side inspires confidence offensively or defensively.

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FIRST BASE

PHI: Ryan Howard

MIL: Prince Fielder

ANALYSIS: Both incredibly powerful young men capable of hitting the ball a country mile. (Still not sure if that’s longer than a regular mile.) Fielder had the higher batting average and less strikeouts, but Howard crushed him in HR and RBI. Gotta say the PHILLIES have the advantage here

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SECOND BASE

PHI: Chase Utley

MIL: Rickie Weeks

ANALYSIS: From a cursory glance, the only thing Weeks is better at statistically than Utley is stolen bases (by 5), and triples (by 3). Oh, and he had two more walks. Utley kills him in everything else, including defense. Advantage: PHILLIES.

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THIRD BASE

PHI: Pedro Feliz

MIL: Bill Hall

ANALYSIS: Offensively, yeesh. Feliz gets the nod because Hall just imploded as a hitter, and Feliz has a bit more pop. Defensively, Feliz is WAY better. One more for the PHILLIES.

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SHORTSTOP

PHI: Jimmy Rollins

MIL: J.J. Hardy

ANALYSIS: Always tough to be objective when you “own” someone on your fantasy team. I have Hardy, who was stellar this year. But Rollins steals more, is more of a sparkplug for the offense, and is probably the better defender. Yet again, PHILLIES.

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LEFT FIELD

PHI: Pat Burrell

MIL: Ryan Braun

ANALYSIS: I still don’t know what to think of Pat the Bat. At times, he’s looked like an awesomely talented hitter; the rest of the time, he flails at pitches like he’s hammered on Jager-bombs. Braun is also awesomely talented, but hasn’t had the craptacular slumps that ol’ Patty has. Finally, the first true BREWERS advantage.

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CENTER FIELD

PHI: Shane Victorino

MIL: Mike Cameron

ANALYSIS: The Flyin’ Hawaiian does a little bit of everything – he’s got some pop, great speed, good arm, and his last name sounds like a nice dish at a quaint Italian restaurant. (I’ll have the Pollo Victorino with the red sauce, please.) Mike Cameron does three things well – hits for power, steals bases and plays great defense. However, his batting average has never been over .273 (career average = .250), he strikes out way too much and his on-base percentage is kind of meager (.331). This is a close one, but I’ve got to go with the PHILLIES here.

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RIGHT FIELD
PHI: Jayson Werth

MIL: Corey Hart

ANALYSIS: Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Werth gets bonus points for having an extra “Y” in his name, and Hart gets bonus points for having the same name as the genius who brought us “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night.” Now that that’s taken care of, let’s get down to business. Each guy had a 20HR/20SB season, but Werth had a better batting average, MUCH better on-base percentage, and did it in 20 less games. I’m really intrigued to see what Werth will do with a full season next year. In the meantime, this one goes to the PHILLIES.

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STARTING PITCHER

PHI: Cole Hamels/Brett Myers/Jamie Moyer/Joe Blanton

MIL: Yovani Gallardo/CC Sabathia/Jeff Suppan/Dave Bush (Ben Sheets is out – hurt)

ANALYSIS: Cole Hamels is just plain awesome, and I’ve blogged about him previously. Come to think of it, I just blogged about Moyer too. Myers is an enigma, putting aside his tumultuous and contemptible personal life. He totally sucked for the first chunk of the season, went to the minors, and came back to pitch great. He faltered near the end of the season, though. Blanton is a big roly-poly dude who keeps the ball down – which is helpful at Citizens Bank Park.

On the other side, Gallardo is one of those “who’s he?” young guys who always kill the Phillies. Sabathia is crazygood. The other guys are journeymen veterans who are serviceable at best (another kind of guy who kills the Phils).

Put it all together, and if Hamels and Sabathia cancel each other out, it’s actually pretty even. There may be a slight edge to the Phils in reality, but I’m going to have to go with a TIE.

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RELIEF PITCHER

PHI: Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson/J.C. Romero/Chad Durbin/Clay Condrey/J.A. Happ/Scott Eyre

MIL: Salomon Torres/Eric Gagne/David Riske/Carlos Villanueva/Brian Shouse/Seth McClung

ANALYSIS: NL Comeback Player of the Year Brad Lidge leads a very strong bullpen – one that is given a lot of credit for the Phils’ success in 2008. (In fact, it’s the Phils’ good bullpen and the Mets’ lousy one that probably made the difference in each team’s fate this year.) Torres had a torrid second half as closer, until the final month when he probably tired. The rest of the Milwaukee ‘pen is a mixed bag – not a lot of big strikeout arms, but they’ve been mostly solid. Still, if a Phillies starter goes seven, it’s Madson, Lidge and lights out. I’m not sure the Brew Crew can look at their bullpen with such confidence. The vote goes to the PHILLIES.

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BENCH

PHI: Greg Dobbs/Matt Stairs/Geoff Jenkins/Eric Bruntlett/So Taguchi/Coste (see Catchers above)

MIL: Craig Counsell/Gabe Kapler/Russell Branyan/Ray Durham/Joe Dillon

ANALYSIS: This one is too close to call, seriously. Dobbs and Kapler had great seasons off the bench, there are some other valuable pieces on each side (Jenkins’ and Stairs’ pop, Taguchi’s speed, Branyan’s pop, Durham’s and Counsell’s experience, etc.). Phils might have an advantage, but it’s slight, so I’ll call it a TIE in case I’m biased. (Ha!)

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MANAGER

PHI: Charlie Manuel

MIL: Dale Sveum

ANALYSIS: Say what you (or I) will about Manuel being an inconsistent in-game manager or a could-be-better press conference-giver, he gets his boys to play hard, play well, and win ballgames. Hard to critique Sveum since he’s only been the manager for like a month – but all reports from trusted sources (ESPN) say that the players dig him. And he did guide them to the postseason, which is more that can be said for Jerry Manuel and his Mets. Still, experience and long-term results give the advantage here to the PHILLIES.

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FINAL SCORE: Phillies 8, Brewers 1, three ties.

Bring on the Cubs?

Philly to phly?

In the past week or so, two Philadelphia sports teams have done big things in their attempts to build contenders. (This goes against everything Philadelphia.)

The 76ers signed free agent power forward Elton Brand away from the Los Angeles Clippers, who had hoped to keep him (and are mad at Brand’s agent for allegedly sketchy tactics). Brand will give you 20 points and 10 rebounds a night, and is a bona fide star player to go along with budding star swingman Andre Iguodala, steady point guard Andre Miller and a good core of young guys.

Just like that, the 76ers are a contender. (Of course, it only cost like $82 million.)

And tonight, the Phillies made the best possible trade they could make at the moment. They sent three prospects (two pretty good ones and a question mark guy) to the Oakland Athletics for starting pitcher Joe Blanton.

Reasons to like Blanton:

He’s only 27, he “eats innings” (pitches a lot), he’s durable, he has pretty good control (which he’ll need in the homerun-happy Citizens Bank Park), and he’s coming to the National League – where he’ll get to face pitchers instead of designated hitters. That’s a big help for one’s ERA.

He may not be CC Sabathia (who was the best available pitcher until Milwaukee got him in a trade from Cleveland), but I think he’s less risky than A.J. Burnett of Toronto and Erik Bedard of Seattle (both of whom were rumored to be in the Phillies; sights).

Will these moves guarantee a championship or two? No. But at least they’re trying. (That’s a new one for us.)

P.S.: Just picked up Blanton for my “money” fantasy team. He’s 5-12, so it figured that he was available.

Fantasy baseball update

You might remember me saying I have two teams in two different leagues.¬† As of this moment, I’m in 12th place in my 14-team league (the money/CBS Sportsline league) and in 9th place in my 12-team league (the Yahoo league for pride).

Why do I stink so badly?

I always claim my problems are injuries and slumps (and a heaping helping of bad luck).

The problems facing my CBS team:

–Next to last in HR, last in RBI, last in Slugging (but hey, first in Steals)

–My pitching isn’t all that bad, close to the middle in most categories

–Injuries to Phil Hughes (who was pitching badly) and Dontrelle Willis

–Ichiro Suzuki only batting .281 (he’s normally about 50 points higher)

–Delmon Young only hitting .252, 0 homers (I just traded him–so watch for him to improve immediately)

–Nick Swisher only batting .205, 3 homers (expected big things from him)

–Khalil Greene only batting .204, 1 homer (never a big average guy, but where’s the power?)

–Rafael Betancourt with a 5.52 ERA (bullpen “ace” got chance to be the closer, bombed)

–Justin Verlander with a 1-4 record and 5.92 ERA (top 20 starting pitcher? Yikes.)

–Manny Delcarmen with a 6.92 ERA (set-up guy extraordinaire has been anything but)

–Francisco Liriano with a 16.88 ERA and 3.56 WHIP (didn’t quite come back from Tommy John surgery as quickly as hoped)

The problems facing my Yahoo team:

–J.R. Towles only batting .164 (not hitting his weight, a bad sign)

–Robinson Cano only batting .182 (always a slow starter, but jeez)

–see Nick Swisher, above

–Jeff Francoeur hitting .263, only 3 homers (big power guy was predicted to get to 30–better hurry up)

–Troy Tulowitzki only hitting .152, 1 homer (horrific slump for a Colorado Rockie, now on disabled list)

–Adam Jones only hitting .228 (superstud prospect struggling)

–see Rafael Betancourt, above

–Jered Weaver has a 5.59 ERA (young Anaheim ace has been yucky)

–C.C. Sabathia has a 6.55 ERA (Cleveland ace has been hammered)

–not one pitcher with more than 2 wins

If you’ve read this and have any kind of clue as to how to fix this, drop me a line.