Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Braves, NBA, and World Cup

Its been a month since the Braves took over 1st place in the NL East and they don't appear to be going away any time soon. The All-Star Break is 2 weeks away and the division will likely be a three team race afterwards. Lets take a quick look at what these 3 teams will do to try and upgrade their teams by the trade deadline in order to make their final push.

Atlanta: With Jurrjens returning to the hill tonight, the focus or the Braves will be adding another outfield bat. FoxSports is reporting that Cory Hart, Jose Batista, and Josh Willingham are possible targets. That would give the Braves another big-time power stick in the middle of the order and give them an excellent shot to make a deep playoff run.

Philly: The Phils need to get healthy offensively, but could certainly use depth in their rotation. They will most likely add 2 arms, with one of them being Pedro. The other will be a 3-4 rotation type guy, like Brett Myers or Fausto Carmona.

Mets: The Mets are a little scary because they will probably get either Oswalt or Cliff Lee by the end of the month. A Santana-Lee-Pelphrey rotation is pretty dang good. They have also been getting great starts from Jonathan Niese and RA Dickey. Throw in the return of Beltran in a few weeks and their order looks pretty good too with Reyes-Beltran-Wright-Bay.

The NBA Free Agent frenzy starts tomorrow and will last for several weeks. Paul Pierce is the newest name to throw their name in the free agent circle. Why wouldn't he? So many teams have cleared cap room for max deals (NJ, Washington, Chicago, Miami, NY, etc) and their aren't enough max-players to fill all the holes. Why not get 6 years and 100+ million from some team that doesn't want to look foolish by clearing space for no one?

It will be a mess once the chips start falling. Bosh should follow either James or Wade somewhere and play second fiddle, win titles, and still make 100+ million. It looks more and more like Joe Johnson will sign elsewhere and he needs to find a spot where he can do less ball-handling and more scoring. Chicago seems like a good spot playing alongside Derrick Rose.

The Bulls are the favorite in Vegas to land LBJ, and if he goes there with Bosh they will be an instant favorite in 10-11. Miami is unlikely to land 3 max guys, but could bring in Boozer to play with Wade.

Too many things to predict...It is however, good to see the Hawks have a plan B if JJ leaves with John Salmons.

On to the World Cup...

While the USA's performance in the World Cup was not a disaster, there was a potentially once-in-a-lifetime draw for them to reach the semi's. They were able to avoid all world-powers during the tournament except for dreadful England. I know the US has a lot of young players (Bradley, Jozy, Feilhaber, etc), but there are no guarantees in this tournament. They could get placed in a group of death or lose players to injury in 2014.

Looking back at 0 goals for the 2nd straight World Cup from strikers, what could have been with Charlie Davies healthy??

Everyone with World Cup hangover can watch the US play potential world champion Brazil on August 10th in a friendly and then gear up for the Gold Cup next summer. I know it isn't a big-time tournament around the world, but having the chance to win a trophy away from Mexico is big in my eyes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Catching up on some stuff...

It has been a while since the last post here, so lets quickly catch up on a few things...

The NBA Finals wrap up tomorrow with the 1st Finals Game 7 in 5 years. The series has been sloppy and has not had many memorable moments. The Pierce-to-Rondo was after a near collapse and the result of the game probably doesn't change if Rondo misses the layup. The spectacular Shannon Brown alley-oop in Game 6 was with LA up by 20.

An interesting thing to think about is this...If KG doesn't get hurt last year, would tomorrow night be Boston going for a 3-peat? It is certainly possible...

The US-England result was spectacular for the Americans. Gaining a point against the favorite in your group in the opening match is like a win. Now, they need to beat Slovania on Friday and avoid their final game being a win-and-get-help scenario.

The Dempsey goal was not the greatest as Robert Green grossly misplayed the strike. However, Green's blunder is no where near some of the blunders in recent history. Check out this montage for a good laugh..

Conference Expansion...

The Big 10 started the conference expansion melee by courting Nebraska/Mizzou/ND and ended it by officially adding Nebraska. The Pac-10 followed suit and invited a number of other Big 12 schools, but only ended up with Colorado. It now appears they will also invite Utah as its 12th member.

So, in the end, it appears the landscape of college football will not change much in the near future. However, it is very apparent that it will in the next decade or so when the financial gains become greater. The idea of 16 team "super-conferences" is probably a likely outcome of what has started in June 2010. Whether there is finally 4 "super-conference" and the winners become a Final 4 of sorts is still uncertain...

The CWS starts this weekend and has a very strong feel. Look for TCU and Matt Purke, a player discussed several times on here last summer, to make a very strong push...

I once again really enjoyed the MLB Draft, mostly due to the strong Georgia showing once again. Congrats to all the Georgian's who were drafted last week, especially Andrew Robinson of GT, Myles Jaye from Starr's Mill, and Brian Fletcher of Auburn.

The Braves 1st rounder, however, came from Texas. Matt Lipka is an infielder who can play some outfield that possesses tremendous speed. The Braves really liked his sign-ability, speed, and make-up. It appears from what the ATL scouts have said that he was just an athlete they really wanted in their organization...

Good to see we won't have to hear from Lane Kiffin after November for the next couple of years. The USC punishment will hopefully straighten up all of the programs around the country that bend the rules. I can't help but think that even under a near "death penalty" punishment, Kiffin will still add to his list of NCAA infractions...

This week is now #3 in which the Braves have been in 1st place. They are a good home-stand and a small NYM losing streak from creating some ground in the division. It's scary how bad Philly is playing for the last month. When they get healthy, the Braves better have 6+ games on them or it could mean trouble...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lots to discuss...

What a month for the Braves. They start off in last place, fresh off a 9 game losing streak and now on June 2nd, they are 1.5 games up in the NL East. Troy Glaus, Martin Prado, and Jason Heyward carried the offense and the pitching staff did a tremendous job. If Jurrjens comes back this month and the Chipper/McCann duo heats up, this team could take 1st place into the All-Star Break.

Falcons workouts start next month as well. If they can stay healthy, this team has a good shot at being a SB contender. I think TD has done well so far in free agency and the draft and more pieces are likely still to come.

Also, when June rolls around the CFB pre-season magazines start showing up. I've had a chance to see a couple and am going to post, as of right now, what I think the final Top 25 poll will look like heading into bowl season...

1. Ohio State (12-0) - No Texas/USC on the schedule this year and Wisconsin/Iowa are only potential stumbling blocks on the road. Home schedule includes Miami/PSU/Michigan, but with so many key guys back, I think OSU makes it through 12-0

2. Boise State (12-0) - Pretty much the entire 2009 team is back and they face a tough road game in Week 1 vs VT and also play Oregon State. An experienced team that has shown they can go on the road and beat good teams early in the year. VT will have 9 new starters on defense and will have a very tough, early task against Boise.

3. Nebraska (12-1) - Defense will again be a major strength for the Huskers. Despite losing Suh, the D has a lot of experienced players back and should stay in the top 10 nationally in scoring D and total D. The offense needs to improve from last year, but with all upper-class-men that have been to Big 12 CG's and had success, they should improve off of last years 25.1 ppg. They slip up once in the regular season and then beat OU in the Big 12 CG.

4. Alabama (11-2) - Nick Saban has done such a good job assembling talent at Bama that even with all the defensive losses, they should still be a top 10 defense. Marcell Dareus didn't start last year, but may be a top 10 pick in the 2011 draft. Dre Kirkpatrick and BJ Scott in the secondary are tremendously talented. They will be inexperienced and face a real tough schedule with the bulls-eye. Still the SEC favorites in my book, though.

5. TCU (12-0) - The Frogs are likely to be better than 2009, but will remain behind unbeaten Boise due to last seasons Fiesta Bowl. The 5th ranked offense nationally has all the key components back and should push 40 ppg this year. The Jerry Hughes loss will hurt on D, but 8 returning starters are back from a D that only allowed 12.8 ppg in 09.

6. Oklahoma (11-2) - The Sooners were decimated by injuries in 09 and are motivated to put last season behind them. Look for OU to beat Texas after losing 4 of the last 5 and advance to the Big 12 CG. Landry Jones is a super-sneaky Heisman pick.

7. Iowa (11-1) - The Hawkeyes are loaded on D and have one of the best front 7's in the country. Ricky Stanzi needs to stay healthy and limit his INT's, but the talent at RB and WR is there for the 11/20 OSU @ Iowa game to be one of 2010's biggest.

8. Florida (10-2) - The Gators will be young this year but still have a lot of talent. Voters will likely start them higher than #8 but keep them in the top 10 despite 2 losses. Brantley will immediately be a top 3 QB in the SEC, but the D needs to show it can produce without Charlie Strong.

9. Virginia Tech (10-2) - VT has the tough opener mentioned above, but their young D will be seasoned by November when they go to Chapel Hill and Miami back-to-back weeks. Even if they don't sweep those 2 games, the rest of the schedule sets up well enough that another 10 win regular season is likely. Taylor and the RB combo of Williams/Evans will make the Hokie offense better than 09.

10. Texas (10-2) - Texas still has enough talent to win 10 games, even with a ton of losses to graduation and the NFL. The secondary could be the best Texas has had in a while, even with the loss of Earl Thomas.

11. North Carolina (10-2) - It's difficult to put a team this high when they have yet to win a bowl game with their current coach. But Butch Davis has done it before, and there are NFL players all over the defense. Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Quan Sturdivant, and Kendric Burney are all 1st-3rd round picks. Several others will likely end up on NFL teams. The question is the offense, led by the erratic TJ Yates. If the offense can improve from their 23.8 ppg in 09, this team could be in the hunt for a BCS bowl.

12. Wisconsin (10-2) - The Badgers will have a typical Wisconsin team in 2010. Stud offensive lineman, a steady QB, and a good running game. The defense has some holes to plug, but outside of the October OSU/at Iowa back-to-back stretch, the schedule isn't too difficult.

13. Auburn (9-3) - The Tigers have 13 senior starters and should be in position to win now in 2010. The schedule is about as set-up as you can hope for in the SEC, with the only tough road game being the finale in Tuscaloosa. If they can beat South Carolina and go on the road and win vs UK and MSU, the Iron Bowl could be for the SEC West.

14. Georgia (9-3) - Lots of "if's" on D for the Dawgs, but the offense has a ton of potential. They need Aaron Murray to be a better version of Joe Cox and not have another rash of injuries on the offensive line. If they survive the South Carolina/Arkansas early September back-to-back, the Florida game will likely be for the SEC East title.

15. Oregon (9-3) - This Oregon team had a ton of potential, but there are too many question marks for Chip Kelly's program. The Masoli suspension was another black eye (no pun intended), but this team is loaded with players. It's tough to predict 10-11 wins though with the current situation of the program.

16. USC (9-3) - Tons of players in LA will give Lane Kiffin a good shot at 9-10 wins in year 1. The reason success is likely in 2010 is in large part due to Monte Kiffin taking over the defense. The D should improve dramatically from last year, where they gave up 55, 47, and 36 points in 3 different Pac-10 games.

17. Pittsburgh (9-3) - The Panthers should get their 1st Big East title under Dave Wannstedt in 2010. Dion Lewis returns and will likely get 1500+ yards again.

18. Florida State (9-3) - A healthy Christian Ponder will mean a spot in the ACCCG for the Seminoles. The offensive line as a whole returns and play-maker Greg Reid returns in the secondary.

19. Arkansas (8-4) - Ryan Mallet is the best QB in the SEC and potentially a top 10 NFL pick. The weapons he has on offense are why Bobby Petrino came to Fayetteville. The defense is still the weak spot and has to improve if they are going to start beating the elite SEC teams.

20. Stanford (8-4) - Like Arkansas, Stanford has a future NFL quarterback and tons of questions on defense. The Cardinal finished 09 on a good run and should turn that into a top 3 spot in the conference in 2010.

21. West Virginia (9-3) - WVU has the best spot to knock Pitt out of a BCS game in 2010. Noel Devine is a stud at RB, and the 31st ranked scoring D in the country returns 10 starters. We should get a read on where the Mountaineers are on 9/25 when they travel to LSU.

22. Connecticut (9-3) - The Huskies were on a great run at the end of 09 and have a lot of momentum heading into the season. Keeping Randy Edsall was the key to keeping the run of success at UConn possible in 2010.

23. Texas Tech (8-4) - Tommy Tuberville knew what he was doing when he took the job in Lubbock. He claims they will still run the spread offense, but his experience running it at Auburn was a disaster. I think he will have more success at TT and end up in a good bowl game in year 1.

24. Georgia Tech (8-4) Another good season in year 3 for Paul Johnson is likely. Josh Nesbitt returns and is in year 3 running the triple option offense and Anthony Allen is the next 1,000 yard back. The defense still has holes, but Al Groh should help make some improvements. The schedule poses 5 tough road games, including back-to-back trips to Lawrence, KS and Chapel Hill, NC in September. The team also travels to Clemson, VT, and UGA.

25. LSU (8-4) - In what is likely the final year for Les Miles in Baton Rouge, the Tigers have a very tough road ahead of them. They will need to improve on offense and stay healthy to have a shot at earning a top 3 spot in the SEC West.