Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Jay Cutler is Now Available

The Denver Broncos are ready to talk.

After almost two months of in-house fighting between quarterback Jay Cutler and new coach Josh McDaniels, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is ready to trade Jay Cutler.

Bowlen was quoted by NFL.com as saying: READ.

"Numerous attempts to contact Jay Cutler in the last 10 days, both by Head Coach Josh McDaniels and myself, have been unsuccessful. A conversation with his agent earlier today clearly communicated and confirmed to us that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos. We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded."

The Jets, Buccaneers and Lions have been speculated as teams that were the front runners for Cutler.

It was leaked last week that Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum had contacted the Broncos about Cutler's services, but later in the week Jets Safety Kerry Rhodes and Jets receiver Jericho Cotchery said that they were happy with Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff. Rhodes went as far as to say that he hates Cutler and his cocky personality.

Will that rift kill a deal to the Jets? We shall see. If Cutler becomes a Jet and they win, Rhodes will have nothing but good things to say about Cutler. There were rumblings that the Jets, Broncos and Browns could swing a three team trade that would send Cutler to New York, Brady Quinn to Denver, and a bunch of draft picks to Cleveland.

The Lions could trade the number one pick in next month's draft to Denver with the idea that they could draft either rookie's Matt Stafford or Matt Sanchez.

The Buccaneers have the least to offer to Denver; they will need a third team in order to complete the deal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rangers Alive and Well After Slaughter of Devils

RANGERS 3
DEVILS 0

Don't count the New York Rangers out just yet. The Rangers who have been clinging to a playoff berth throughout the winter are starting to look more and more like a certain playoff participant. Monday night, the Rangers shut out the rival New Jersery Devils 3-0 at Madison Square Garden.
The once untouchable Martin Brodeur was effected big time against the Rangers, and it didn't help that the Devils offense took a night off.
In the second period, the Rangers went to work on Brodeur. Brandon Dubinsky scored his 11th goal of the year to open the scoring at 1-0. Two minutes later, Daniel Girardi scored his 4th goal of the year to make it 2-0 Blue Shirts.

Later in the period, Ryan Callahan scored his 21st goal of the year with assists from Scott Gomez and Sean Avery.

Henrik Lundqvist had a huge night for the Rangers, recording 38 saves in 38 opportunites, which included four shots from Jamie Langenbruner and five shots Brian Roslton. BOXSCORE.

The Rangers are now 40-28-9 with 89 points, placing them seventh in the playoff race. The Devils fall to 47-25-4 on the year and fall to the number three seed in the playoff race. The Devils have now lost five straight games.

Yankees Try To Move On With and Without A-Rod in 2009

I remember many years ago there was an episode of the Brady Bunch where one of the kids complained that her sister Marsha got more attention than she. "Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!" she screamed in frustration.

I guess you can say that pretty much describes the Yankees right now.
Derek Jeter has been frustrated all spring with the A-Rod talk; he must be thinking, "A-Rod! A-Rod! A-Rod!", or, if you believe Joe Torre's book, The Yankee Years, perhaps it is A-Rod who is the one who can't get enough of Jeter, e.g. that Single White Female claim, or Madonna, or himself, or whatever you want to believe for that matter.

Yes, this was supposed to be an offseason and training camp about the new additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett. It was supposed to be about Joe Girardi in his second season as manager; instead, it has been A-Rod, A-Rod, A-Rod all the time!
First, it was Selena Roberts' report that Rodriguez had used steroids in 2003 when he was still a Texas Ranger; next it was A-Rod long lost "cousin" and he acting "young and stupid" at the age ripe old age of 26, when he used 'roids! Then, it was an injury to A-Rod's cyst in his hip which will cost Rodriguez most of the first two months of the regular season. Next, A-Rod was in the news posing for seductive pictures of himself, and oh, did I forget to mention that Selena Roberts has a book coming out on A-Rod's strange lifestyle?
Yeah, that is coming out in mid-April, can't wait! Maybe it's a good thing that Rodriguez will not be in New York when the book hits stores?

It remains to be seen what kind of impact the absence of Rodriguez will have on the Yankees' lineup, but one can imagine that the Yankees will still find ways to score runs, even with the huge hole no A-Rod leaves on a lineup.

With the exception of Jeter and Teixeira, there is nothing but lingering questions about the Yankee lineup: Will Jorge Posada return to his All Star form off an injury at 38 years of age? Will Hideki Matsui find his swing again after he had an injury plagued 2008? Will Johnny Damon continue to produce at a high level at 36 years old? Will Bret Gardner become the answer in center field for the Yankees?
Those questions will be answered throughout the season. One thing is for sure in Yankeeland, it is this: no excuses; just win baby!
At the top of the lineup, Girardi is tinkering with the idea of leading off with Jeter and batting Damon second. That is probably a strategy that will last almost as long as Mets manager Jerry Manuel's idea to bat Jose Reyes third. It won't last longer than a second. Damon hit 17 homers, drove in 71 and stole 29 bases. For a guy 36, that is all you can ask, especially from a lead-off man. Throughout his career, Damon has been an excellent leadoff hitter, certainly during his caveman days in Boston when he lead the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004. The Yankees should leave Damon and Jeter alone. Damon takes pitches, walks and steals bases, while Jeter is the perfect No. 2 guy who can drive the ball the opposite way.
What Joe Girardi should be worried about is Matsui, Posada, Robinson Cano, and Gardner. Until A-Rod comes back, Matsui will be leaned on to bat fourth or even fifth behind Teixeira. The beauty of having A-Rod behind a guy like Teixeira, is the fact that it would force teams to pitch to Teixeira. Now people can walk Tex, until Matsui or Posada can prove otherwise.
Both players had injury problems last year, but it is Matsui who has had the biggest issues. He missed a lot of time in 2006 due to a wrist injury, and in 2008, he was banged up again. When healthy, Matsui can be a very dangerous hitter. In 2007, Matsui hit .285 with 25 home runs and 103 RBI; his health at this time of the year is critical to an early Yankee start.
Meantime, Posada, who signed a big four year deal last year, needs to prove that he still has something left in the tank. A lot of catchers tend to get worse the older they get. Expect to see Jose Molina catch 60-65 games this year, just to give Posada a break, and DH for a day. However, if Posada struggles, the Yankees will be in trouble at catcher. Molina hit only .216 last year, and Pudge Rodriguez was a total disaster in his two month stint as a Yankee. Therefore, Posada must return to his old form if the Yankees are to be successful this season.

Xavier Nady is probably the most underrated players on the Yankees. The guy can flat out rake, and he plays a good outfield. In 59 games with the Bombers Nady hit only .268 but still hit 12 home runs and drove in 40. He is the perfect No. 6 hitter who will give any team 20-25 homers and 85-90 RBI. His value is tremendous on this ball-club, especially with A-Rod out.

Then there are the kids. Melkey Cabrera has worn out his welcome in New York, and is now on the trading block, meaning that Brett Gardner is the new center fielder. Even though he doesn't look the part, the 5'10" 180 pounds Gardner's success harkens back to the days when the Yankees were successful with home grown talent in the 1990's. Gardner is no Bernie Williams, but if he can provide a steady bat at the bottom of the order and doesn't kill the Yankees in center, then they can live with him. If Gardner should struggle, the Yankees will have to look for a center fielder.

It will be a long search and will probably come at a heavy price too, considering that the two best center fielders in the game: Tori Hunter and Carlos Beltran play on the rival Mets and Angels and will never wear pin strips because of that. Thus, it is important for Gardner to develop into something promising ASAP.

Unlike their crosstown rival Mets, the Yankees pitching staff is in great shape. Sabathia is a work horse in every sense of the word. Last year, when the Brewers needed him the most, Sabathia pitched three games in a matter of seven days just to make sure that Milwaukee got to the postseason. The hefty lefty went 11-2 with the Brew Crew, posting a 1.65 ERA and was in the running for NL Cy Young Award to boot. However, in the AL, Sabathia got touched up a bit more. He had a 3.83 ERA during the first half of 2008 in Cleveland. Still, 3.83 in the AL is nothing to sneeze at.

Chien-Ming Wang is now the best No. 2 starter in baseball. A freak injury against the Astros ended a brilliant season too soon for the Tainan native. In 2006 and 2007 combined, Wang went 38-13 with an ERA around 3.65. If Wang is healthy, it will create an impossible scenario for opponents in a short series. Imagine having to face both Sabathia and Wang? Not exactly a good dream for potential playoff opponents.

A.J. Burnett comes over from Toronto based on the fact that he was 5-0 against the Yankees in 2008. I suppose the Bombers were tired of seeing him beat them all the time. Burnett is an okay pitcher, nothing spectacular.He is perfect as a three or four starter; the big concern with him is that he gives up a ton of hits. Last year, Burnett surrendered 211 hits and 109 runs in 221 and a third innings. If that continues, the Yankee faithful will grow to detest Burnett big time.

Andy Pettitte will return as well this year. After a terrible 2008, Pettitte will look once more to end his career in style with the Yankees. Age is a factor though. Pettitte is 37 and not getting any younger. Perhaps his time has passed him already. We shall see.
Now for the controversy: Should he start or should he be in the bullpen? Right now, Joba Chamberlain is slotted in as the Yankees number five starter. He did strike out 118 batters last year and had a 2.60 ERA, but the fact is that Chamberlain got hurt when the Yankees stretched him out last year. At one point, he had to skip a couple of starts because of arm fatigue.
That shouldn't be a problem this year, but the Yankees would be better served with Chamberlain in the bullpen, setting up for Mariano Rivera.

In 2007, Chamberlain was fantastic! He went 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA in 24 innings and surrendered only a single earned run. Chamberlain has nasty stuff that deceives hitters into swinging at garbage in the dirt pitches. He throws so fast, that no one can tell the difference. That is a valuable asset for a eighth-inning guy.
The Yankees should take advantage of his gifts and keep him in the pen. Rivera is 39 and will one day retire. Chamberlain will make his big bucks as a closer one day, so the Yankees better wake up before someone else does and pays him the money to close.
As for Rivera, he is better than Father Time; in fact, he is like a good wine that gets better with age. Last year Rivera had 39 saves in 40 opportunities. Everyone wonders when he will run out of gas, but right now it doesn't look like that will happen. If it does, it will come as a shock.

The Yankees have enough pitching to get them over the Red Sox and Rays this season. Offensively, if some Yankees can defy father time, and A-Rod can stop being A-Fraud then there shouldn't be a problem, and the Bombers should score somewhere around 750-800 runs this season.

Don't expect the Tampa Bay Rays to be much of a threat this year; last year was a fluke. The Red Sox will challenge as usual, and, as usual, it will come down to the final two weeks of the season. Remember, the AL is a deep league, so the wild card is never a guarantee. PREDICTION: YANKEES First Place, 94-68.

Jets and Giants Pre Season Schedules Announced

Baseball season is just days away, but the NFL is trying to take some of the spotlight. Preseason schedules are now out, and the regular season schedules are soon to follow in the next week or so.

Here are the preseason schedules for the Giants and Jets:

Giants Schedule:
Aug 17: CAROLINA.....8:00 ESPN
TBA: @ Chicago........8:00 NBC
TBA: N.Y. JETS........8:00 NBC
TBA: @ New England..7:30 NBC

Jets Schedule:

TBA: ST.LOUIS..........7:30 CBS
Aug 24: @ Baltimore...8:00 ESPN
TBA: @ N.Y. Giants.....8:00 NBC
TBA: PHILADELPHIA....7:30 CBS

One national game to keep an eye on, is a Super Bowl rematch between the Steelers and Cardinals, scheduled for August 13 on ESPN. To view the preseason schedule for all 32 team click HERE.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

And Then...There Were Four, the FINAL FOUR

The road to the Final Four is now complete, and the once mightly Big East Conference is really not so big after both top seeded Louisville and Pittsburgh bit the dust.

Pittsburgh lost on a poorly played defensive adjusment that allowed Villanova's Scottie Reynolds to cruise to the basket for the easy layup in the final seconds to send the Wild Cats to the big show.

Louisville never showed up against Michigan State, as senior Goran Suton led the Spartans charge with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Michigan State romped to a 64-52 win and will have a de facto home game in the Final Four which will be played at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Talk about home court advantage.

Meanwhile, the University of Connecticut did away with the pesky Missouri Wild Cats to make it to their third Final Four in nine years. North Carolina stormed past Blake Griffin and Oklahoma Sooners 72-60 to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2005.

At the end of the day, only two stand alone from the Big East. UCONN and Villanova have been playing inspired basketball in this tournament. Even though they are a number three seed, the Wild Cats of Villanova have been something of a Cinderella, having to play as an understudy to Louisville, UCONN, Pittsburgh and Syracuse throughout the season.

Villanova was near perfect from the free throw line against Pittsburgh, shooting 96 percent from the line (22 for 23). Dwayne Anderson, Dante Cunningham, Reynolds, and Shane Clark all scored in double figures, and they needed to do so in order to keep up with Pittsburgh.


The Wild Cats were so physical with Pittsburgh, that the Panthers, who are known for their own physical play, couldn't keep up.

As for the Connecticut Huskies, they are getting better with each game that is played. In some ways, people have underrated the Huskies because Pittsburgh beat them twice late in the regular season, and the fact that Louisville won the Big East Title. But the fact remains that outside of the two Pitt losses, Connecticut is 31-2.

Kemba Walker had a huge night against Missouri, scoring 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting. But the success of the Huskies is based on the play of A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet. Price is a good point guard. He scored 18 against Missouri and has become a vital player in the Huskies run at the end of the season.

Thabeet, is the glue of the defense. His presence in the paint makes life difficult for opposing guards and forwards who drive to the hoop. He averaged 10.9 rebounds a game in 2008-2009 and has 28 rebounds in the last two games.

As for Michigan State, nobody expected them to get past Louisville, yet they blew them out of the building on Sunday afternoon. Senior Goran Suton took matters into his own hands, with 19 points in the game, 17 of which came in the first half. Suton is not known as a scorer; he averages only 9.8 points a game but has scored 39 points combined in the last two playoff games.

The real scorer, Kalin Lucas, added 10 points in the victory over Louisville. He averaged 14.7 points per game this season but was kept under control in the Louisville game. If he is allowed to have fun against UCONN, Michigan State could be rolling to the title game.

As for the new overall favorite in this tournament, the North Carolina Tar Heels are the most loaded team.

Tyler Hansbourgh is a good scorer for a big man. He scored 24 points against Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 but struggled against Blake Griffin in the Elite Eight game against Oklahoma. Hansbourgh was held to eight points in the game, while Griffin had 23, but the great supporting cast that Hansbourgh has, takes pressure off of him.

Ty Lawson was bothered by a bad toe injury before the tournament, and there were concerns that it would hamper him from playing, but the oppisite has been the case. Lawson has been on fire and causing opponent's pain. Lawson had 19 against Oklahoma, 19 against Gonzaga and 23 in his return game against LSU. Lawson's return has been crucial to the Tar Heels sucess, and his pressence along with Hansbourgh makes North Carolina the favorite to win the whole tournament.

PREDICTIONS WILL COME FRIDAY!!! SO STAY TUNED!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rangers Grip on Playoffs Still Tentative

PENGUINS 4
RANGERS 3
If the New York Rangers are going to make one last push for the postseason, they can ill afford losses like the one suffered tonight. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat up the Rangers 4-3, jumping over the Rangers to take the sixth spot in the playoffs. The Rangers now hold a slim one point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for the seventh seed, and are only two points ahead of the Florida Panthers for the final playoff spot.
Pittsburgh got off to a fast start as Max Talbot and Matt Cooke scored in a span of over two minutes to take a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Rangers came back to tie the game, after Brandon Dubinsky's goal with five seconds remaining in the first period made it 2-2.
But, the Penguins fought back. Ruslan Fedotenko scored his 14th goal of the year to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead. The Rangers came back later to tie it up, but it was not enough.
Sidney Crosby scored his 29th goal of the year to give the Penguins the lead and the win.
The Rangers now fall to 39-28-9 on the season.

Jets Stick It To Jersey, Florham Park Not Good Enough For Training Camp

Talk about a con job.

Talk about taking the money are running with it.

The New York Jets are about to pull off one of the biggest cons since Bernard Madoff made off with billions of investor money with his infamous ponzi scheme.

After years of work, $75 million spent on building a facility, and increased taxes on the people of New Jersey and Morris County, the Jets are telling the people of the Garden State that their new Florham Park training facility is not good enough to host a training camp. Then why build a gigantic complex that is twice the size of the old one at Hofstra University with an indoor practice field and a swimming pool included for good measure? Toss in the state of the art equipment and let it rot for months. I suppose the Jets needed a warehouse for this stuff and New Jersey offered the perfect spot.

The Jets and new coach Rex Ryan are now looking to move the team's camp to Cornell University in Ithaca, or the State Univeristy of New York at Cortland, which, by the way, is a three hour and 47 minute drive from Florham Park, New Jersey, and a four hours and nine minute drive from New York City.

The reason for the idiotic move? "The Florham Park facility does not have dormitories for players nor bleacher seating for fans, two factors that may have worked against the Atlantic Health Center's favor" (qtd. Sarah Schillaci, Star Ledger).

Ummmm? In case you are wondering there are three schools that are near the Jets so-called new home. Drew University, Farleigh Dickinson University and the College of Saint Elizabeth. All three schools have dorms. The only people who would even take up residence in the dorms during the summer are college athletes preparing for fall sports. That leaves enough room for the Jet players to take a little nap.

Unless Drew, FDU, and Saint Elizabeth told the Jets thanks but no thanks, which makes little sense to begin with, there is no excuse for the Jets not to have explored the possibility of living in one or two of these schools.

In fact, FDU has a brand new dorm that is exactly across the street from One Jets Drive. Gee, I guess the Jets don't want their players walking across the street. Heaven forfend players would have to wait like the rest of us for the traffic light to change to cross the street.

The Jets also complained that there are no bleachers for the fans. Is it really that hard to go out and buy a bunch of steel bleachers and throw them somewhere. I mean, the Jets do have five fields at this new facility; can't throw up a couple of bleachers?

When the Jets were at Hofstra, the only room for fans was standing room. Parents had to pick their kids up and throw them on their shoulders to watch their team practice. There were some bleachers, but not many. Nobody complained.You tell me that fans would have cared that there were no bleachers and only standing room? No one cared; they just wanted to see their team. Surely, the same is true for the New Jersey site.

But, I guess there are bleachers at Cornell and Cortland. Too bad nobody from New York or New Jersey will be there to watch, because it is a longer distance to travel than it was from Jersey to Hempstead and back. Maybe the Jets can have a scrimmage and share some laughs with Terrell Owens and the rival Buffalo Bills. The Bills are closer to Cornell and Cortland than the Jets will be to their own training facility and stadium. Sound's ridiculous, doesn't it?

Did the Jets know that it's a bad economy right now, and people are pinching pennies to the point that they will not even travel very far in order to save on gas? I guess the Jets missed that memo.

Only the Jets could think of something like this.

With no Jets in Jersey, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be lost that could have been had by restaurants, hotels, and small mom and pop shops if the Jets practiced here. Summer jobs will be lost, or never created, because the Jets are not in town to attract people to visit. In short, the Jets would be contributing to an already crippling economy. Life is bad enough right now.

Michael Frodella, who is the executive director of the Park Avenue Club, was quoted by the Ledger as saying that the lack of the Jets presence could hurt business in the area, "It could have a negative effect on other eateries in town." (Star Ledger).

Even Senator Richard Cody is pissed at the Jets. "It's a great site to build up a great fan base in New Jersey," Cody said, "Taking camp somewhere other than Florham Park, that is a mistake." (qtd. Star Ledger).

Sure, New York City fans were not happy to see the Jets move away from their Long Island home for New Jersey, but the drive from Hempstead to Florham Park is only ninty minutes with no traffic, that is 65 miles if you use Google maps. The drive really wasn't that bad.

This pending move is a black eye for Jets owner Woody Johnson, who already has a black eye from his PSL plan, that will kick out loyal season ticket holders who don't fit Johnson's "seniority" policy in the upper deck of the new GIANTS STADIUM!

Johnson's business is located in New Jersey; he should have put his foot down to prevent such a drastic move. What is he thinking? It's his cash that built the house to which nobody is welcome.

People in New Jersey and New York City have been spurned by such antics way too often. A move to upstate New York will put people over the top.

Johnson can do countless interviews on SNY, claiming that he is selling tickets, but the fact is that the regular fan can't afford to pay for tickets anymore, and the regular fan now can't afford to even see his favorite team during training camp, unless he or she is willing to fill up their car three different times.

Thank you Jets organization. You all continue to prove that the New York Jets are the most incompetent franchise in football. Congratulations, you make the Lions and Raiders blush.

Sincerley,

Michael R. Cohen
Cohen's Corner Sports.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet 16 Preview for Friday Night's Games

It's OK, it's OK. Don't cry about Memphis destroying a piece of your bracket, life's too short. Missouri's 102-91 thrashing of the Memphis Tigers, last night was a shock to many, considering that Memphis had the nation's number one defense through the regular season. Still there are more games to be played, and possibly more upsets in the making.

Oklahoma vs. Syracuse: A lot of people are riding the Syracuse bandwagon right now, because of the team's successful run in the Big East tournament. The play of Johnny Flynn has been amazing. He has scored 27 points in the NCAA tournament, while Eric Devendorf lit up Arizona St. for 21 points last week. Even Paul Harris has had a big tournament with 23 rebounds thus far.

Still, the Orange will have their hands full against a very tall and physical Oklahoma team, led by one of the best all around players in the country, Blake Griffin. Griffin leads the Sooners in four statistical categories: points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks. It will take a team effort to knock off the pesky Orange, however. The Sooners have not been playing as well lately, having lost four of their last eight games. Against Michigan the Sooners were lucky to survive, storming back to outlast the Wolverines in the final minutes.

This will be a test of everyone's will: PICK: OKLAHOMA 82, SYRACUSE 80.

Arizona vs. Louisville: Be careful not to overlook the Wild Cats of Arizona. They shocked Utah in round one, and rolled over Cleveland State in the second round. The Wild Cats are playing the disrespect card, and usually those types of teams are very dangerous. However, Arizona didn't play a team like Louisville.

The Cardinals have been hot, winners of their last 12 games, and champions of the Big East Tournament. They have been lead by Earl Clark in points per game and rebounds, and Samardo Samuels in field goal percentage. That is a pretty deadly combination for Cardinal opponents. Louisville did struggle against a tough and feisty Sienna team last weekend, but they pulled away in the closing seconds 79-72. This could be another game where Louisville struggles to hold off tough opposition, but don't bet on it. PICK: LOUISVILLE 93, ARIZONA 78.

Kansas vs. Michigan State: The most overlooked game of the Sweet 16. Nobody takes Kansas seriously right now, because they are not the same team that won it all last year, and everyone expects Michigan State to be less of a threat to any team from the Big East. Still, this game has big bracket implications.

For Michigan State, Kalin Lucas has been the overall leader of the team. He leads the Spartans in points per game (14.6) and is the second best free throw shooter on the team at (81 percent). Kansas is a nice young team. Sherron Collins leads the team in scoring and Cole Aldrich is an accurate shooter (60.3 percent), but it won't be enough to beat the Spartans. PICK: MICHIGAN STATE 69, KANSAS 59.

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: If Ty Lawson were to miss this game, then I would definitely pick Gonzaga to pull off the upset. It could still happen, but with a healthy Lawson, along with Tyler Hansbourgh, it is not likely to happen. Lawson, in his return to the lineup against LSU on Sunday, scored 23 points, 21 of which came in the second half. He is ready to go for tonight's game against Gonzaga, in spite of his injured toe. Hansbourgh is the teams leading scorer, averaging 21.2 points a game and Patrick Moody is the best shooter on the Tar Heels with a 58.3 shooting percentage.

Gonzaga is always tough. They are 28-5 for a reason, having not lost a game since a 68-50 loss on February 7 to Memphis. But, all of the teams Gonzaga has beaten since that time are not exactly of high quality. North Carolina is the first quality opponent Gonzaga has faced in almost two months. Plus, they have to fly across the country to play this game. PICK: NORTH CAROLINA 91, GONZAGA 84.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet 16 Preview for Thursday Night's Games

After a wild weekend last week in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, expect to see a lot more madness in the days ahead. Upsets are much more likely now with the number one seeds matched up against stiffer competition. Here is my low down on the weekend:

UCONN vs. Purdue: The Purdue Boilermakers led throughout their game against Washington last week, but only shot 39 percent from the floor in the game. They are going to have to do better than that in order to stop A.J. Price and Jeff Adrian. Both players scored in the 20's last week against Texas A & M, and the Huskies don't seem to be missing a beat right now. Expect that to continue. PICK: UCONN 89, PURDUE 76.

Missouri vs. Memphis: If there is one team that could pose a threat to any number one seed in this tournament it is Memphis. Against a good Maryland team, the Wild Cats shot 58 percent from the field and 53 percent from three point range. They also had five players in double figures for points. That is a lethal combination considering that the Wild Cats have the number one defense in the nation, allowing only 59 points per game. It will be interesting to see how a Missouri team that can score points handles this defense. PICK: MEMPHIS 77, MISOURI 69.

Pittsburgh vs. Xavier: The Panthers have not played well at all in the tournament. They allowed East Tennessee State to hang around all day long, and were even emotionally outmatched by Oklahoma State. Still, the Pitt Panthers found a way to win those games, and a lot of that credit goes to Sean Young, who had 32 points against Oklahoma State and DeJaun Blair, who had 27 points against East Tennessee State and has 28 rebounds in this tournament.

Both players will have to be at the top of their game in order to beat a very good Xavier team. Xavier doesn't score a lot, their leading scorer, B.J. Raymond only averages 14.1 points per game, but the Musketeers know how to play defense. They have allowed an opponent to score more than 70 points in a game only eight times this season. PICK: PITTSBURGH 75, XAVIER 72.

Villanova vs. Duke: The Villanova Wild Cats may just be the hottest team in the tournament, then again it could be the fact that they spent the first and second round playing games at home. Last week the Wild Cats blew away the UCLA Bruins collecting 39 rebounds as a team and having six guys in double figures.
The Wild Cats are a very physical team, and that could pose a problem for the smaller Duke Blue Devils. One criterion in the Blue Devils favor is the fact that they have won five in a row, including the ACC Championship game; however, all six Blue Devil loses are to teams that are or were in this tournament. Plus, Duke has not seen any one team from the Big East this year; they are in for a rude awakening. PICK: VILLANOVA 88, DUKE 80.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Giants To Play Broncos On Turkey Day

The NFL has announced, in what amounts to the first wave of announcements on the 2009 NFL schedule during the annual NFL meetings in California, the prime time games for Week One, as well as the games for Thanksgiving.

The World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers will play host to the Tennessee Titans on September 10 at 8:15. The game will be televised on NBC.

Later that weekend, NBC will host the Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers in one of the NFL's oldest and most historic rivarlies on Sunday night.

With little suprise, considering that the Buffalo Bills recently signed Terrell Owens to a one year deal and the fact that Tom Brady is to return to the Patriots in September, ESPN will open its Monday Night schedule with the Bills @ Patriots; kickoff at 7:00 pm ET.

Unfortunately, the nation will be subjeceted to the Oakland Raiders for the second straight season on the back end of the Monday Night double bill opener. Last year, the Broncos crushed the Raiders 41-7 on opening night; later this year, expect the same as the Chargers visit Oakland.
If Chargers @ Raiders on opening night seems relatively familiar, it is. The two teams met on the Monday Night opener three years ago. I guess the NFL just can't enough of the Raiders.

On Thanksgiving the NFL will continue its tradition of boring people to tears. Yes, that means you will be subjected to another afternoon of Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboy football while you are stuffing your face or trying to avoid the in-laws.

The Lions and Packers will meet again on Thanksgiving day, again, for what seems like the 100th time. Meanwhile, the Cowboys play host to the Raiders. You can go to Vegas and lay the points in favor of the Packers and Cowboys right now.

At least the night cap on Thanksgiving will be interesting, that is if Jay Cutler is still a Denver Bronco. The Broncos are scheduled to play host to the New York Giants at 8:20, the game will be on the NFL Network.
All 32 team schedules for the regular season will be revealed in mid April. Pre-season schedules are usually announced in May.

Jets Make It Clear: They Want Jay Cutler

In a story from New York Daily News football analyst and writer Gary Myers, the New York Jets have every intention of acquiring Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos.

"Multiple sources told the Daily News Sunday at the opening of the NFL meetings that Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum contacted the Broncos to let them know the Jets are very interested in trading for Cutler. But the Jets have yet to make a trade offer, and the Broncos have not said what they want, because Denver has not determined the Cutler situation is beyond repair.
But this much is clear: The Jets are definitely in the Cutler Derby
."

The Broncos are still trying to find out if the relationship between coach Josh McDaniels and Cutler can't be resolved sooner rather than later. If the two sides cannot make peace, the Jets are ready to take Cutler off of their hands.

The Jets current quarterback situation is a fog once again. They have Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Eric Ainge in camp right now, but if the Jets are clamoring about Cutler, it is obvious that they are still not sold on the abilities of Clemens. If they were, Brett Favre would never have been traded to the Jets in the first place, last summer.

The Jets are also thinking about drafting a quarterback, likely Josh Freeman from Kansas State, who is 6' 6" and can throw a deep ball. Only problem is the fact that the Jets already have three virtual rookie quarterbacks on the roster.
So far the competition for Cutler could be between the Jets, Buccaneers, Bears, Lions and Browns. There has been speculation that the Jets, Browns and Broncos could work out a three-team trade that would send Cutler to the Jets, Brady Quinn to the Broncos and a bunch of draft picks to the Browns.
That trade makes little sense. Why would the Browns trade the franchise quarterback Quinn when he hasn't even been given a fair shot to start? In addition, why would Eric Mangini want to damage himself among Cleveland fans by making such a deal? That scenario is highly unlikely. I think a Quinn for Culter trade makes more sense for the Browns, if something were to happen.

Top Seeded Pittsburgh and Louisville In Trouble

After two rounds of play in this year's installment of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, it is pretty obvious that the brackets of some are going to explode by next Sunday night.

Pittsburgh and Louisville, two of the top teams in the land that both came out of the tough Big East Conference, have played underwhelming basketball thus far.

Pittsburgh, for its part, was ranked number one nationally by many pundits from start to finish this year because of their dominating inside presence and excellent shooting, but so far they have played sub par. In fact, they look tired.

Against lowly East Tennessee State in round one, the Buccaneers shot only 30 percent from the floor and a miserable 18 percent from three point land, and still managed to make the Pitt Panthers sweat it out. More revealing, there were several points in the game where East Tennessee State held slim two point leads in the contest.

Against Oklahoma State, a much tougher opponent from the Big 12 Conference, the Panthers trailed at one point in the game 54-50 to start the second half. It appeared the Oklahoma State had too much energy for the lackluster Panthers, but still they found a way to avoid another crippling loss and defeat the Cowboys to advance to the Sweet 16.

The road to the final four will not get easier for Pitt. Villanova and Xavier await, and both these teams are red hot right now. Xavier blew out Wisconsin 60-49 on Sunday, and Portland State 77-59 on Friday. They are shooting 47 percent from the floor and have had a lot of experience in Sweet 16 games.

Villanova has also been in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 several times over the past few years but could never get over the hump. They may be the hottest team in the tournament right now next to Connecticut.

After storming back from a 41-31 halftime deficit against American University on Thursday, the Wild Cats have been unstoppable as they stormed past American in the second half and ran UCLA out of the building on Saturday afternoon. Villanova has won games with their athletic, physical play, which makes them a favorite to beat a small Duke team on Friday.

If Pittsburgh continues to struggle in these games, they are sure to be eliminated by either Xavier or Villanova, whichever comes first.

As for Louisville, well, if there is one thing we know about Louisville it is that they can never be trusted at tournament time. Many a time have we seen Louisville get upended by a lower ranked team in this playoff format. Will it happen again? It almost did on Sunday when Sienna hung tough with Louisville until the end. Sienna even had the lead as late as 2:00 left in the contest. Louisville's road to the final four, on paper, seems easier then Pittsburgh's, but they will have to play an Arizona team with a chip on its shoulder, and, in all likelihood, a Michigan State team that pulled away from USC Sunday evening.

If Louisville is able to make it to the Final Four, they could face tougher competition in UConn or Memphis, both of which are playing extremely well.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

2009 Washington Nationals Preview

When will the Nationals become ready for prime time? It has been a very long time since the Nationals played in Montreal as the Expos, and, with a beautiful ballpark in D.C. entering its second season, one has to wonder when the Nats will be ready to take that next step and make a move in the NL East.

Some will say that they are in a tough division with the Phillies, Mets, Marlins and Braves all well established, but this is not a powerhouse division like the AL East with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. The NL East can be had, especially if the Mets, Marlins and Braves played mediocre baseball in 2009.

If there is one thing that will be certain for the Nationals in 2009, it is this: they are going to hit and hit at will. In the off-season, the Nationals loaded up on some big boppers and now have an extremely tough lineup.

Adam Dunn comes over from Arizona to platoon in left field with former Marlin Josh Willingham. Dunn is a excellent power hitter, but not a great hitter. He hit 40 home runs and drove in 100 last year, but hit only .236. He is a guy who is all or nothing. If he can't crank it out of the park, more often than not Dunn will strike out swinging. Last year, he struck out 164 times, and in 2006, while with Cincinnati, Dunn struck out 194 times.

Still, his bat will definitely be a factor, and he provides the Nats with a needed left handed bat in the lineup.

As for Willingham, he is fairly consistent player. Last year for the Marlins, Willingham hit .254 with 15 homers and 51 RBI, but don't be fooled, Willingham has 20 plus home run power. In 2007, Willingham had 21 homers and 89 RBI; so the guy can be a stable bat for any team.

Having both Willingham and Dunn in the lineup will be a boon to franchise player Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is the most underrated player in baseball. He is an excellent third baseman and a very good hitter. Last season, Zimmerman hit .283 with 14 homers and 51 RBI, but the year before, he hit 24 homers and drove in 91. Zimmerman has the potential to be a 30 home run, 100 plus RBI machine, especially if he is in a good lineup. This year's version of the Nationals should help Zimmerman reach his potential.

Also, don't underestimate the impact a new and improved lineup will have on Lastings Milledge. Met fans remember Milledge for his arrogance and flamboyance that drove him out of town after the 2007 season. In year one with the Nats, Milledge hit .268 with 14 homers and 61 RBI with 24 stolen bases. He is the perfect number two hitter behind another former Met, second baseman Anderson Hernandez.

Expect Milledge to have a big year with all of the power hitters behind him.

In spite of the jolt the Nationals will receive offensively, there are pitching concerns. Scott Olsen comes over from the Marlins as a de facto ace. Olsen went 8-11 with a 4.20 ERA for the Fish in 2008, but the big concern is his temper. Olsen is known for lashing out at coaches and teammates, especially when he is struggling. When Olsen gets too emotional, he doesn't pitch well and begins to overthrow instead of pitch. It will be a challenge for Manny Acta and company to get a handle on Olsen. If they can control him, Olsen can be very special. He is young and a left handed pitcher with some nasty stuff.

Former Oriole, Daniel Cabrera, mainstays Matt Chico, Joel Hanrahan and Colin Balester will follow, but neither is better than mediocre at this point in their careers. One guy to keep an eye on is lefty John Lannan.

Last year, Lannan was the Nats best pitcher with a 9-15 record and a 3.91 ERA. He is tough and eats up a lot of innings. Last year, Lannan pitched in 182 innings and struck out 117 in the process. He could be the ace of the staff, especially if Olsen can't get focused, or Chico remains average.

As for the bullpen, the Nats are now depleted in this area. Gone are Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch. Rauch was traded last year to Arizona, and, before the trade, was the best reliever for the Nats with a 2.98 ERA. Cordero was the team's closer two years ago, when he notched 37 saves, but injuries cost him 2008 and he has since moved on with his career.

That means it will be up Steven Shell, who closed two games last year to step up to be the closer, and Saul Rivera to be replace Rauch as the durable eighth inning man. Rivera is shaky at best. He had a 3.96 ERA in 2008, but was 5-6 in the process. Shell showed potential pitching to a 2.16 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 50 innings, but it remains to be seen if he is the full time closer. If all else fails, they could lean on Hanrahan, who had nine saves last season.

The Nationals in 2009 will be improved from last year's club that won 59 games, but that isn't saying much when the bullpen and rotation are in flux. The Nationals will score a lot of runs this year, and that might be their only blessing in disguise; however, there are not many teams that go very far winning 10-9 or 8-7 every night.

Prediction: NATIONALS 5th Place 66-96.

NOTE: This concludes our preview of the NL East. If you want to review the Mets and Phillies, go up to the tab for March 2009 on the blog archive on the right hand side of the screen. Scroll down, the Mets were previewed on March 1, and the Phillies on March 14. Next week we will preview the AL East.

2009 Florida Marlins Preview

The Marlins have been pretty pesky the last couple of years. Both in 2007 and 2008 the Marlins alone ended the Mets dreams of winning division titles by taking two of three on the season's final weekend of regular season play.

The Marlins made some moves this off-season, that, on paper, depleted them a bit, but it was not as dramatic as when they gutted their World Series teams of 1997 and 2003. Gone is Mike Jacobs, traded to Kansas City. Gone are Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen, sent packing to D.C. Still the Marlins have enough pop and some pitching to at least remain competitive in the NL East.

The Marlins will have a new lead off hitter in 2009, as top prospect Cameron Maybin is ready to take the next step and play center field every day for the Fish. Last year Maybin hit .500 with two RBI and nine runs scored in just eight games. He is expected to be a huge base stealing threat when given the chance.

The move with Maybin means that Haney Ramirez will be moved down in the order to the number three hole. Ramirez fits there since he is a power hitter, having belted 33 home runs in 2008 with 67 RBI, as the team's old lead off hitter. Now he can drive more runs in and has even bulked up for such an effort.

And is not like the Marlins not to hit. Dan Uggla (32 HR, 92 RBI), Cody Ross (22 HR, 73 RBI) and Jorge Cantu (29 HR, 95 RBI) will all be back and ready to beat up the mediocre staffs of the NL East.

The one concern? Pitching. Outside of Ricky Nolasco and his 186 strikeouts, the Marlins are very, very young in starting pitching. Chirs Volstad, Rick Vandenhurk, Burke Badenhope and Anibal Sanchez all have two years or less of major league experience. Voldstad showed the most promise pitching to a 6-4 record with a 2.88 ERA, but the others have not shown such promise with ERA's over five.

As for the closer's role, that will go to former Met prospect Matt Lindstrom who can get up to 98 or even 99 mph on the gun. Last year Lindstrom had five saves and a 3.14 ERA, but he was not the full time closer. Now he will be and it will be interesting to see how he does.

The Marlins are a good team. If their pitching holds up and they continue to smack the ball around the park, the Marlins will challenge the Mets and Phillies again. If either New York or Philadelphia slips during the regular season, don't be surprised to see Florida in second place competing for a wild card berth.

PREDICTION: MARLINS 3rd Place 83-79.

2009 Atlanta Braves Preview

Are the Atlanta Braves ready to return to prominence in 2009? That is the big question surrounding an Atlanta team with a decent batting order, but a shaky pitching staff this season.

The Braves were desperate for pitching help during the off-season after they suffered a dismal 72-90 season, as their best starting pitcher in 2008 was Jair Jurrjens, of all people, with his 3.68 ERA. So the Braves went out and overpaid for Derek Lowe, who automatically becomes the team's new ace.

Lowe is a reliable right handed pitcher who won a World Series title with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, and led the L.A. Dodgers to a berth in the 2008 NLCS last year. Lowe went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA with Los Angeles, and his best attribute is his ability to eat innings. Over his career, Lowe has averaged 215 innings a season. That is important for a team like Atlanta that lacks a deep bullpen.

The Braves went out of their way to add a virtual unknown in Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. This could be a good addition if Kawakami is anything close to Dice-K Matsusaka of the Boston Red Sox. If not, Kawakami will join the long line of Japanese pitchers who were busts in the U.S.A., i.e. Hideo Nomo, Masata Yoshi, Hideki Irabu, and Kei Igawa.

To show how desperate Atlanta was this off-season, they felt a need to sign shaky Javier Vazquez. Vazquez hasn't been the same pitcher who was the ace of the Montreal Expos earlier in the decade for a very long time. He bounced around from the Yankees to the Diamond Backs and the White Sox, failing miserably at each stop. Last season, Vazquez went 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA for Chicago.

Atlanta even brought back Tom Glavine for one more season. Why? Other than getting Met fans to boo him, this move makes no sense. Glavine is 43 years old, and is washed up.

There are two things that need to happen for Atlanta to be successful in 2009. First, they need Tim Hudson to return from right elbow surgery. A one-two punch of Lowe and Hudson could be enough to win a division or wild card since there are not many teams with two excellent starting pitchers.

Second, the Braves need a closer. Mike Gonzalez closed down 14 games for Atlanta down the stretch last year, but he had an ERA over four and may not be the best option coming out the pen. It is shocking that the Braves failed to address the closer's role during the off-season.

Offensively, the Braves should be okay, as long as Chipper "Larry" Jones doesn't begin to show his age; he is 37. Last season, Jones won a batting title, hitting .364 with 22 homers and 75 RBI. He will need to stay healthy for all 162 games if the Braves have any intention of catching the Phillies and Mets in 2009. Jones is a killer of Met and Phillie pitching, and with their small ballparks, Jones could do some damage when Atlanta visits New York and Philadelphia.

Brian McCain has turned out to be the next-great hitting catcher in the majors, batting .301 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI.

Still, there are concerns in the Braves lineup. Outside of McCain and Jones, the Braves don't have a legitimate number five hitter, unless Jeff Francoeur stops striking out and becomes more patient at the plate, and light hitting Casey Kotchman discovers how to swing a baseball bat.

In short, don't listen to the experts tell you that the Braves are ready to make a big move in the NL East. They are a average team at best, with little lineup depth and virtually no pitching unless Hudson returns and the bullpen pitches better than average. Amazing considering this was a franchise that prided itself on pitching for almost 20 years. Expect Atlanta to compete through June but fade by last July into August.

PREDICTION: BRAVES 4th place 77-85.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brodeur Now Best Ever! 552 Career Wins!

DEVILS 3, BLACKHAWKS 2

Martin Brodeur is now number one.

The future Hall of Fame goalie for the New Jersey Devils is officially the greatest goal tender of all time.

With a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on St. Patrick's Day night, Brodeur secured his 552 career victory, putting him ahead of Patrick Roy on the all time NHL wins list for goalies.

"After about a minute, they let him stand alone in front of the net and accept the cheers of the crowd. Brodeur then started to cut the net from the crossbar, only to stop and take a victory lap around the ice, high-fiving his coaches as he passed the bench.
While the crowd roared, teammates finished the job of taking the net down. Brodeur eventually took it and skated to the bench for an interview
." (Tom Canavan, AP Sports).


Martin Brodeur is the gold standard of goal tending—the model of character, consistency and commitment to the craft,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a prepared statement. “A champion. A winner above all."

Read More...

As for the game, the Devils wasted no time in making this night a night to remember for Brodeur. Jamie Langenbrunner scored the opening goal 0:38 seconds into the game. Later, Travis Zajac scored his 20th goal to make it 2-0.

Brian Gionta scored what would become the game-winning goal with a shorthanded score to make it 3-0, early in the second period.

Chicago got a couple of goals late to make the contest interesting again, but it was not enough. Brodeur had 30 saves on the night in 32 attempts on goal.

Brodeur's next milestone will be most shutouts. He is at 100 and needs three more to tie Terry Sawchuk for the all time mark.

The Devils are now 46-20-3. BOXSCORE.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Teams That Could Show Interest in Jay Cutler

Here is a list of teams that I think should investigate the time necessary to acquire disgruntled Denver quarterback Jay Cutler.

1) Detroit Lions: The Lions have never had a franchise quarterback; in fact, they have never had much of a franchise. Bringing in Cutler would be a no-brainer for a Detroit team that is trying to forget about a 0-16 season in 2008. Cutler would make the Lions an instant draw, nationally, and could go a long into bringing this muddled franchise into prominence one day. Keep in mind these are the Lions; something this obvious doesn't come easily to a team that kept Matt Millen around as GM for eight years.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers have no quarterback. They tried to trade for Cutler three weeks ago in a three team deal that would have involved the New England Patriots sending Matt Cassel to Denver. That trade never got anywhere, but don't think for a moment that the Bucs won't try to revisit a deal with the Broncos. Cutler would take some pressure off their young head coach in his first season.

3) New York Jets: With Brett Favre's retirement, the Jets are exactly where they were last summer with large questions at the quarterback position. Kellen Clemens was underwhelming in his lone season as a starter in 2007, and Brett Ratliff is a virtual unknown. This leaves Gang Green with no quarterback after they have spent most of the off-season stocking up on prime free agents.

Cutler's agent is Bus Cook, the same agent for Brett Favre, so New York may have an advantage there, but may lack the nessecary resources to pull off a trade that would satisfy the Denver party.

4) Cleveland Browns: Browns coach Eric Mangini was high on Cutler when he came out of college in 2006. Mangini and the Jets were very close to picking Cutler that year but opted for tackle D'Brickshaw Fergeson. With Mangini in Cleveland he may see this as an opportunity to get the guy he always wanted. Mangini has a good trading card in Brady Quinn, a swap of Cutler for Quinn is probably the most logical and least painful for both the Broncos and Browns.

5) Chicago Bears: Unless the Bears are satisfied with Kyle Orton as their starter for the second straight season, the Bears should consider bringing in Cutler. Cutler's fastball is strong enough to break through the stiff November and December winds and would make the Bears favorites in the NFC.

6) San Francisco 49ers: Shaun Hill did a nice job for the 49ers down the stretch of 2008, but if they want to take the next step, then trading for Cutler is a brilliant move. The 49ers made division rival Arizona sweat when they offered Kurt Warner a big contract but failed to lure the MVP to the bay. Cutler would be a boon to a young 49er team that is getting close to contending in the AFC West.

Jay Cutler Unhappy in Denver, Wants Out

Did someone say that the N.Y. Jets needed a quarterback? Well, there may be one available on the block really, really, really soon.

Jay Cutler is very unhappy in Denver with new coach Josh McDaniels. A month ago, the Broncos tried to trade Cutler to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a three team deal with the New England Patriots that would have sent Matt Cassel to Denver. The trade never happened; Cassel was instead sent to Kansas City.
Cutler feels unwanted and betrayed by the Broncos and its new coaching staff for even considering trading him away for a one time backup quarterback in Cassel.

Cutler and McDaniels have been trying to patch things up ever since, and it appears that sides still can't make peace.

Cutler has told ESPN Sunday night that he will not report to the team's mandatory off-season meeting Monday morning and has asked to be traded.

"I went in there with every intention of solving the issue, being a Bronco, moving forward as a Bronco," Cutler said. "We weren't in there but about 20 minutes, [McDaniels] did most of the talking and as far as I'm concerned, he made it clear he wants his own guy. He admitted he wanted Matt Cassel because he said he has raised him up from the ground as a quarterback. He said he wasn't sorry about it. He made it clear that he could still entertain trading me because, as he put it, he'll do whatever he feels is in the best interest of the organization."

As a result of the continuing rift, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen told the Denver Post that he was "disappointed" with Cutler's handling of the situation. READ ARTICLE!

By the way, Cutler's agent is Bus Cook. If that name sounds familiar, Cook is the same agent for Brett Favre. Think Cook doesn't have some friends in Florham Park N.J.?

The Jets should jump at the chance to swing a deal for Cutler before the April draft. They need a quarterback to lead what is now a staggering offense with Favre now retired. Kellen Clemens was unimpressive in eight starts in 2007, and Brett Ratliff is a virtual unknown.

Bringing in Cutler would give the Jets a legitimate quarterback who has the potential to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season. The only concern would be Cutler's temperament. If this guy gets offended in Denver Colorado, how will he react when 1,000 New York/New Jersey media members are pouncing on him after a loss to New England?

The Jets will likely have to part with their first round pick in this year's draft, Kellen Clemens, and probably more draft picks in future drafts if they want to acquire Cutler.

Remember, in 2006 the Jets were very high on Cutler, so much so that many thought they would draft him out of Vanderbilt, but the team instead settled for current left tackle D'Brickshaw Fergeson.

The Jets should keep a look out for any trade possiblities; they need it, especially if the new Jets regime expects to win and win big next season.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Get Your Brackets; March Maddness Begins

At 6:00 Sunday evening, CBS revealed this year's installment of the NCAA tournament men's basketball bracket for another year of madness.

The Big East got big time reprsentation with seven teams, three of which earned number one seeds. Louisville, who won the Big East title this week deserved the award, while Pittsburgh proved to be the best team in the land through the regular season.

However, one can question why the University of Connecticut got a number one seed in the western brackett. Connecticut struggled down the stretch losing three games in the last two weeks, two of which were defeats to Pittsburgh.

Some might argue that either Memphis (31-3 this season) or even Oklahoma (27-5), which has the best player in the country in Blake Griffin, were more deserving of a number one seed over UConn.

To get your bracket, download it right here: BRACKET. (Note: Make sure you have Adobe Reader 8 installed in your computer to get the bracket; it is a PDF file.

Here are some interesting games to watch this week in the first round of the tournament. In the South, North Carolina is ranked number one and they face off with a 21-11 Radford team as the 16th seed. A 16th seed has never won a game in this tournament, and Radford, with a record of 21-11, is by far the best record for a 16th seed that I have seen in some time. North Carolina should win the game, but it could be close.

The East bracket is the best bracket of them all. Pittsburgh, Duke, Texas, Villanova, UCLA, Xavier, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Wisconsin have great histories of making big runs through this tournament and all of them will play off of each other in the East.

UConn appears to have a good shot at the final four, but Texas A&M, Purdue and last year's championship game loser, Memphis, will stand in their way in the West.

The weakest bracket by far is the midwest. Louisville won the Big East, which was the toughest conference in America this year, but they have no competition in this bracket. Michigan State is overrated at the number two seed; expect Michigan State to beat Robert Morris in game one and lose to the winner of USC/Boston College in game two.

The defending NCAA Champions Kansas Jay Hawks may be the only block in the way of Louisville from going to a final four.

It should be a fun three weeks. Good luck to all teams, and to you coach potatoes out there, hoping your bracket doesn't bust.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stallworth Kills Pedestrian with Car

Someone get new Browns coach Eric Mangini a load of aspirin! It has been a weird off-season for the former Jets coach, and it just got a little stranger.

Wide receiver Donte Stallworth was involved in the death of a pedestrian Saturday morning in Miami. The receiver hit and killed a man named Mario Reyes, but he cooperated with police when he was arrested.

It was not a hit and run. It is not known whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the tragedy.

Stallworth signed a seven year deal with Cleveland in 2008 worth $35 million a year. He will need all of that money to get himself out of prison. Stallworth had played for the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints in previous seasons.

2009 Philadelphia Phillies Preview

Last time we previewed the 2009 Mets, now we continue our series of team previews for the 2009 baseball season with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

For the second straight season the Phillies took advantage of another collapse by the New York Mets to capture the NL East, this time by two games and made a fantastic run through the playoffs to capture the world championship.

The Phillies disposed of the Brewers and Dodgers with ease and exposed the Tampa Bay Rays as a young baseball team in a rather uncompetitive World Series. Now Philly is looking for a repeat.

If Philadelphia has one thing going for it in 2009, it is this: they have guile and guts. No team in the majors found a way to excel in clutch moments more than the Phillies in 2008, and that should continue in 2009.

Philadelphia is led by the a group of scrapy players in the prime of their careers. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino find ways to wreak havoc on the base paths and in the field. Victorino, who is only 5'9" and 180 pounds, led the Phillies in batting average in 2008 with a .293 clip with 14 homers, 58 RBIs, 102 runs scored and 36 stolen bases.

Rollins didn't have a great 2008, but he did hit for his career average of .277. What these two bring to the table however goes beyond baseball. They find ways to motivate their ball club. Before the 2007 season, Rollins guaranteed that the Phillies would win the east. He put up big time, hitting 30 homers and driving in 94, as Philly took advantage of the first Mets collapse to get into October baseball.


The Phillies also possess the best right side of the infield in baseball with MVPs Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Howard is the game's most prolific hitter in what may be post-steroid baseball. Last season, Howard hit 48 homeruns and drove in 146 in what was a down year for Howard as far as batting average is concerned.


The biggest concern the Phillies should have this year is the fact that they are very left-handed. After the loss of Pat Burrell to free-agency via Tampa Bay, the Phillies went out and added Raul Ibanez, a left handed power hitter from the Seattle Mariners. This gives the Phillies a primarily left handed lineup from the power department with Utley, Howard, and Ibanez. The only right handed bats in the regular lineup of any significance are Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliez, but niether provides much power from the right side.

This means that a tough lefty, i.e. Johan Santana, should have a lot of success in facing the Phillies. Expect them to address this as the season moves along.

Another concern for Philadelphia in 2009 is pitching. Last year, the Phillies got by with Ace Cole Hamels near perfect postseason and rather mediocre play from everyone else. Jamie Moyer is 47 years old, and even though he uses guile to get people out, one has to wonder how much is left in the guy's tank.

Kyle Kendrick and Brett Myers were inconsistent last year. Both had astronomical ERAs; Kendrick had an ERA over five, while Myer had a 4.58 ERA. Joe Blanton was once a very good pitcher with the Oakland A's but trailed off last year. After the mid-season trade, Blanton was 4-0 with Philadelphia but had a 4.20 ERA to go with it.

The Phillies must address their starting rotation if they are to repeat.

As for the Philly bullpen, the combo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge proved to be too much for people. Lidge who was once considered a head case by many, but he finally got control of his emotions in 2008 and had a perfect 48 saves in 48 attempts. Don't expect Lidge to be perfect in 2009, but if can come close to being unhittable then Philadelphia is in good shape.

PREDICTION: 91-71 1st place NL East.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brodeur One Win From Tying Patrick Roy

DEVILS 5
COYOTES 2

The excellence of Martin Brodeur was on display once again for the New Jersey Devils. The future Hall of Fame goalie is now one win away from tying Patrick Roy for most wins all time by a goalie, with 551 wins. After tonight's 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Brodeur has 550 all time wins.

He can tie Roy when the Devils play in Montreal over the weekend.

2008-2009 has been a wild ride for the goalie, but after returning from a torn bicep, life has been good to Brodeur and the Devils.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Zach Parise scored his 40th goal of the year with assists from Jamie Langenbrunner and Paul Martin to make it 1-0 Jersey.

Later in the opening period, John Madden added his seventh goal of the year to make it 2-0.

In the second period, Dainius Zubrus and Patrick Elias added two more goals to make it 4-1 Devils.

Brodeur had an easy night, recording 26 saves in 28 opportunities. BOXSCORE. The Devils now improve to 43-20-3 on the season, still six points behind Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Mets Pitching Woes Contine; Santana and Redding Bombed

MARLINS 16
METS 8

There is not much to be proud of in Metland right now. People around the team will try to pump up Johan Santana's first start of the spring as an encouraging sign, but the fact remains that the ace was not sharp in his two and two-thirds innings against the Flordia Marlins.

After an easy first inning, Santana labored. He served up a solo home run to Dan Uggla in the second inning and surrenderd three hits and two runs in the third inning before being removed for Matt DeSalvo. Santana was not overpowering. The only comfort the Mets can take out of the lackluster outing is that Santana went through the game pain free.

However, the Mets battle for the fifth spot in the rotation remains muddled. Tim Redding got absolutely destroyed by the Marlins. In two innnings Redding gave up eight hits and nine runs to the Fish. Three of which were for home runs. Redding gave up five runs to the University of Michigan in just a third of an inning earlier in the week.

Redding has now surrendered 14 earned runs in just two and a third innings, which amounts to a ERA of 54.00. Not exactly what the doctor ordered.

The Mets now need to be concerned and must reconsider their stance on free agent Pedro Martinez and bring him back. Nobody is pitching well for the Mets right now.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mets Fifth Starter Now Up in the Air

Congratulations Omar Minaya!

Your lack of effort to get the Mets some legitimate starting pitching has put the team in such a huge hole, one can only wonder if they will ever get out of it.
The men competing for the Mets number five spot in the rotation have all failed miserably to distinguish themselves. Livan Hernandez has a 4.70 ERA in three games, Jon Niese has a 9.00 ERA in two games, Freddy Garcia has a 20.25 ERA in two games, and Tim Redding had a 135.135 ERA in just a third of inning in a game against the University of Michigan. That's right the University of Michigan!!

Also, keep in mind that Johan Santana is recovering from a weird elbow injury, Mike Pelfrey has a knee problem, and John Maine is recovering from an arm injury from last season.

The Mets are in big trouble, but they could have fixed it long ago. I may sound like a broken record, but the Mets low balled Derek Lowe on a initial three year $36 million contract. Lowe wanted an extra year, yet the Mets were unwilling to give it to him. Instead, Lowe got that extra year from the Mets rival the Atlanta Braves.

The Mets could have signed a guy like Jon Garland, who is a decent number three or four starter; the Mets passed and Garland signed on with the loaded Arizona Diamondbacks.

Even in bad economic times, there was pitching to be had, but the Mets didn't want to bite on anyone. They played it conservatively and now have nothing left except questions about the health and strength of their starting rotation.

To win in baseball, a team needs good starting pitching. Outside of Santana, the Mets have mediocre starting pitching.

That said, the Mets may have no choice to but bring back Pedro Martinez. Martinez, for what it's worth, was a complete bust during his stay with the Mets. With exception of a brilliant 2005, Martinez spent more time on the DL than on the mound. When he pitched, Martinez was devolving into a five inning pitcher.

Martinez started only 48 games for the Mets from 2006-2008, compilng a record of only 17-15. From that, one can easily say that the Mets should let Pedro walk into the sunset.

Still, desperate times call for desperate measures. Martinez pitched three shut out innings for the Dominican Republic on Saturday's WBC game. Granted, it was against the Netherlands, but, then again, Tim Redding gave up five runs to a bunch of 19 year-old kids on Sunday.

Martinez could bring the same kind of energy he installed in 2005 when he came over from the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Even if Pedro's fastball tops at 91 and is now reduced to five or six innings in a start, that should be enough if he stays healthy all year.
Martinez is a smart pitcher, who uses guile and his knowledge of the strike zone to get people out. He is a better option than Hernandez who gives up 1000 hits every time he goes to the mound, or Garcia, whose fastball tops around 84, or Redding, who was never that good to begin with.

Martinez would be a perfect number five starter until the Mets find a willing trade partner in July to bring in a younger arm to help the rotation if it needs it at that time. When that happens, they can extend their rotation to six to give guys an extra day off or to throw Martinez into the bullpen in a long-relief role.

The Mets need to get off to a fast start in 2009, and a healthy Martinez would be a perfect stop gap for the first two and a half months until the Mets can find something better.

Go bring back Pedro, Omar; the Mets need him now more than ever.