Oct 31, 2005 

Raiders View Themselves In The Mirror; Run Past Titans

Lamont Jordan strums a tune
Originally uploaded by wonderbread74.

How peculiar it must have been to watch the Tennessee Titans masquerading as the Raiders the day before Halloween?

These Raiders tried hard to emulate the team of the first six weeks that constantly committed silly penalties and gave away leads, but the Titans wouldn't allow them.

It was the youthful Titans who made the stupid mistakes more often than not.

How many times has a storyline similar to Tennessee's Adam "Pacman" Jones occurred to these Raiders over the past two seasons.

Down by five in the second quarter, the defensive back/punt returner blazed through the Raiders special teams, which were anything but special. Jones wasn't even touched on his 82-yard scamper.

Conspiratorial Raider fans, the ones who believe the NFL commisioner has a direct line to the referee just to screw the Raiders, will note that the opposite happened.

While Jones was celebrating his first NFL touchdown and the announcers were profusely praising him, nobody noticed that the officials were in conference about nullifying the touchdown. There were no flags, no hats and the alleged conference was never shown. These shadowy elements usually bite the Raiders, not aid them.

To make matter worse, three plays later, the Raiders Warren Sapp awoke from the dead and dislodged the football out of the Titan Steve McNair's hands and into the endzone where Oakland's Jerrod Cooper swooped on it for six points. A two touchdown difference in the span of four plays. That doesn't happen to the Raiders very often.

Everybody around the Raider Nation has spoken of the team the last two years as a work in progress. The coaching staff says it all the time.

It's possible that Sunday's road win in Tennessee taught this team more than in terms of wins and losses.

Stupid penalties and poor judgement have been staples of this team for years. It remains to be seen whether seeing the havoc that Tennessee wrought upon themselves will become a very important learning tool for the second half.

Most football people will tell you that the hallmark of a successful team is not giving away the ball.

Amazingly though, at 3-4, the Raiders have only six takeaways. QB Kerry Collins' unfortunate interception with 18 seconds in the first half was his second pick of the season and only the team's sixth turnover.

Oct 28, 2005 

Eagles And Redskins Show Muscle In Week 8

Team Wonderbread Finishes 1st Half Tied For First

NFL - Week 8
$20 Pick Three

Eagles (+4) over BRONCOS
The Eagles have the best road record the last four years. Denver has the best home record--something has to give. The Eagles are due for a game where they give notice to the rest of the NFL that they're the team to beat. Giving four points doesn't hurt, either.

Redskins (+2) over GIANTS
At the beginning of the season who would have predicted this as an exciting matchup. Momentum seems to be with Washington. Their defense is making big plays as of late. Take those precious points.

Chiefs (+6) over CHARGERS
The rested Chiefs are coming around and San Diego still hasn't formed what type of team they will be. Giving the Chiefs six points is a bit surprising.

Last Week: 3-1; Season, 13-10. Lost, ($20.00)
(Home team in CAPS)

Fantasy Football - Week 6

Team Wonderbread (5-2-0) vs. North Beach Meatballs (2-5-0)

MID-SEASON REPORT: Team Wonderbread starts the second half in a three-way tie for first in the Tator Tots League. There have been very few surprises through seven games. The quarterback and wide receiver positions were stacked from the beginning. WR Santana Moss emerged as the surprise stars of the fantasy season.

The running back and tight end positions have been piecemeal as advertised. RB Julius Jones hasn't been healthy nor has he developed into the next star running back of the NFL just yet. RB Rudi Johnson also has been on the wrong side of Cincy's explosive offense.

A trade for a star running back in exchange for Carson Palmer or Tom Brady seems imminent for the second half of the season.

Lineup: QB Carson Palmer, WR RANDY MOSS, WR Santana Moss, WR Terrell Owens, RB Rudi Johnson, RB STEPHEN DAVIS, TE L.J. Smith, K Rob Bironas, DEF Washington.

Oct 27, 2005 

White Sox Finally Wins World Series


The Chicago White Sox 88-year curseless drought is over. Of the eight playoff participants, it was Chicago who played nearly flawless baseball in the month of October.

They had clutch hitting from Paul Konerko and Joe Crede. Some of the greatest starting pitching baseball has seen in fifty years and a knack for coming out on top in every controversy call.

Were the White Sox really that good?

It's quite possible when you rank the 2005 champs against baseball's past great teams, these White Sox will rank low.

Chicago, in fact, may be the weakest champs since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat the Oakland Athletics in five games on the back of Orel Hershiser.

That Dodgers team upset the favored A's with spare parts at every position of the field. Mickey Hatcher at third. Alfredo Griffin at short. Jeff Hamilton at third and a catching platoon of the aging Rick Dempsey and Mike Scioscia. That decrepit Dodgers team matches favorable with the 2005 White Sox, except L.A. had the N.L. MVP in Kirk Gibson.

It can be argued that those Dodgers were superior in the pitching department, also. A rotation of Hershiser, Tim Belcher, Tim Leary, and Ramon Martinez would stack up well with Chicago's rotation.

Is this the beginning of the NFL-style parity in Major League Baseball? No team except the White Sox showed any inclination of wanting to win the title. Is this anything the commisioner has done or has the steroid policy begun to make an impact?

Home runs were down this year with steroid testing, but the decrease in offense and clutch hitting may also be a result of players losing muscle mass. Teams with dreadfully anemic offenses could have possibly won the World Series. Teams like the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros advanced on hitting that can put teams into tailspins.

The Astros have to be concern with closer Brad Lidge and his mental state after being so ineffective on the biggest stage. Will this become a psychosis for him or will he bounce back next season? This could become a huge buggaboo for a pitcher some people were placing up there with the Yankees' Mariano Rivera.

It was refreshing to see one of the alumni of the A's woeful postseason teams finally succeed in the playoffs. After Atlanta's Tim Hudson showed his typical "B" game in the postseason and the Cardinals' Mark Mulder tanked in Game 6 of the NLCS, Chicago's Jermaine Dye came through with the World Series MVP.

Let's get this right. Hall of Famer, Rod Carew, is black, Jewish and Latino?....Singer Jon Secada sang the National Anthem before Game 4. Some of his face gesticulations looked like a very scary pumpkin....My favorite Ozzie Guillen quote was this regarding whether he would return to the White Sox after saying he would retire if they won the World Series: "I don't think so. My kids have been here for three days and I'm sick of them."

Oct 26, 2005 

Astros Ready To Eject From World Series


Has there been a more meek meltdown in World Series history or any sports championship, for that matter, than the Houston Astros last night (early this morning)?

Unless, the longest game in World Series history sapped the energy out of the Astros' fans or they just gave up. Many had labeled the home park of the Astros, Minute Maid Park, as one of the loudest in baseball. Did the commisioner's edict to open the retractable roof make that much of difference in the cheering of the fans?

Minute Maid Park was dead throughout the night and, amazingly, for the entire extra innings. On many occasions, the lone screams of a few fans were clearly audible. Fox, with its philosophy of showing as many fan shots as possible to build suspense, created a picture of a fan base that was neither excited nor hopeful, instead, it seemed like their team was one out from being swept by the White Sox and not tied in extra innings down two games to none.

If the Astros' fans acted as a 10th man on the field throughout the season, their failure to vocalized any positive emotion hovered like a dark cloud over the team. When Ezequiel Astacio was summoned from the bullpen, the Astros were already demoralized. But why? The White Sox had failed to even come close to scoring in the extra frames just as Houston. There was no sense of momentum on Chicago's part, yet Astros hitters were flailling at pitches outside the plate like the honky tonk down the street was yelling for last call.

Needless to say, when it became clear that Astacio had little pop on his fastball and no control, the wheels came off when Cal alum Geoff Blum smashed a line drive homer to give the White Sox the lead in the 14th.

Manager, Phil Garner, hurled a chair in the dugout. Andy Pettitte's face became somber and Morgan Ensberg was on the bench on the verge of angry tears.

It's been said here before, the Astros have been tight since the first pitch of Game 1 of this series. By extra innings in Game 3, they became scared. Their performance has been an utter embarrassment. From Clemens bailing in his start to Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio bowing out in their first Series appearances. Unbelievably, they played the game of their season with their tail between their legs.

Friendly media to Roger Clemens reported that the future Hall of Famer's hamstring was so sore after leaving Game 1 in the second inning that he could barely walk.

Apparently, a miracle occured from Saturday to Tuesday night as the Astros announced Clemens was likely to start Game 5, if it happens. Clemens was seen warming up before Game 3. Possible Game 5 starters, Ezequiel Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez were, also active in Game 3 further adding credence to the report.

Phil Garner managed the entire season as aggressive as any in the National League. Then, why wasn't he willing to make things happen in Game 3. In the 10th, with a runner on first and nobody out, what was the rationale in not doing something with the speedy Willy Taveras at the plate? He could have called for a bunt. He could have hit and run with the hot-hitting Taveras or utilized his speed to put pressure on the defense. Instead, he called for Taveras to swing away. Taveras struck out swinging.

After Houston's likely World Series loss get ready for a torrent of "What's next" stories about the Astros. Houston will be in the same position they were in when they lost the NLCS last year. Free Agent defections like Carlos Beltran allowed for some huge questions going into spring training. Next season, the Astros may be without Clemens, Pettitte, Biggio and Bagwell. They shouldn't fret because those players have very little left and the core of Berkman, Ensberg, Lidge and Oswalt is young and talented and very capable of contending next season.

What in the world was going on with the Game 3 loser, Ezequiel Astacio's face? Was that a goiter on his left cheek or the early stages of the avian bird flu?....Garner's chair-toss reminded me of the St. Louis Cardinals' meltdown in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series against Kansas City. In that game, pitcher Joaquin Andujar was tossed by the umpire and starter, John Tudor, broke his hand punching a wall in the dugout. They lost 11-0.

Oct 23, 2005 

Astros Livin' On The Lidge


Despite the Astros attempt to deflect criticism that their closer's spirit wasn't broken after Game 5 of the NLCS by publicizing an airborne prank, the mental health of Houston's Brad Lidge now is in serious doubt.

The tale of an Astros player grabbing the public address system aboard their chartered plane ride back to St. Louis and joking that Albert Pujols' walk-off homer in Game 5 was still soaring through the sky was suppose to give the public the notion that the Astros were loose and their stopper had regained his steely demeanor.

The Astros surprised many by quickly bouncing back in Game 6 behind NLCS MVP Roy Oswalt, but did it without Lidge being vindicated. Were the seeds of doubt already in Houston manager, Phil Garner's, mind?

In hindsight, wouldn't it had been wise for Garner to summon Lidge to pitch in the ninth of Game 6 with the Astros leading 5-1? It wouldn't have been a save situation, but would have calmed Lidge's nerve and strengthened his confidence in the World Series, with a relatively easy assignment. Instead, Garner called on Dan Wheeler for the clincher.

When Lidge was finally called on to hold a crucial situation, his reputation sunk from being victimized by a future Hall Of Famer to surrendering a walk-off homerun in the World Series to a guy who produced a goose egg in the homer column in the regular season.

Many were seduced by the party line that the Astros were a bunch of loosy-goosy gamers, but through two games in the World Series, they've looked tighter than leftover Texas barbeque. Lidge is a basket case. Clemens is a quitter and Biggio took 18 years to make the World Series so he could choke at the plate and the field.

Luckily, for Houston, the their home park will be raucous and the white-hot Roy Oswalt will be on the mound. It couldn't be a better situation for a team in Houston's predicament; being down 2-0.

Chicago's Game 2 hero, Scott Podsodnik, had one of the most sincere and earliest reactions for someone who just hit the homer of his life.

Podsednik's look of disbelief as he rounded third was classic. Usually the ramifications of such a play rarely hit someone until after the moment passes. Instead, Podsednik's eyes were open wide and he seemed to be sighing relief even before stepping on thridbase.

It's was befitting for the scrappy basestealer who spent nine years toiling in the minors before starring for the Milwaukee Brewers and making the All-Star team this year by way of the fan's voting. Every career minor leaguer will find hope in the story of this tenacious athlete and his crowning glory tonight.

Lou Rawls's rendition of the National Anthem was so tortured even my cat winced before burying his head under the couch....Houston's Andy Pettitte was one guy who wasn't bothered by the limelight. His defensive performance in the sixth inning should have been a precursor to the Astros evening up the series....Baseball is right to be upset with the latest Got Milk! commercials that spoof the game's steroid problem. They hit way too close to home and the satirical nature of the spots miss their target. Athletes may cheat with these drugs, but they also die from them.

Oct 22, 2005 

Did Clemens Tank Game 1?

There's no tangible evidence for this, but, didn't it seem like Houston's Roger Clemens feigned his leg injury during Game 1 of the World Series.?

To further some sort of conspiracy, you couldn't find any baseball talking head that wasn't sidestepping the reason Clemens left the game in the 2nd inning.

Many were using a leg injury sustained by Clemens way back on September 4th as proof that Clemens was, indeed, battling an ailment as crucial for a power pitcher as his legs.

In fact, after that start Clemens was lit up in two successive starts before handling the Cubs on the final weekend and pitching well in the postseason. Where was this injury when everybody in the media was lauding the great Texan for his amazing performance in the 18 inning epic against Atlanta in the Division Series?

Clemens is truly one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, but his performances in the spotlight has been, well, spotty.

Nobody seems to want to recollect his infamous meltdown in the 1988 ALCS versus Oakland when he picked a fight with the home-plate umpire for little cause and wound up getting tossed. It smacked of a player smelling fear and searching for an easy way out. That same lack of courage cropped up tonight.

Clemens' velocity was normal, which would seem odd for a power pitcher who would leave the game early with tightness. If Clemens did tank his injury tonight sensing he was going to be hit heavily, we'll never know because the media will not mess with the legend they've been complicite in created.

He's tough. He's no-nonsense and, more importantly, he's white.

Biggio and Bagwell Given Immunity
Who's the latest incarnation of the untouchable white athlete? Houston's long-time duo of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. Do not dare speak any ill will towards these two loyal and perceived hard-hat workers who have bid their time patiently for a chance at the World Series.

Guillen Hesistant To Call 'Pen
Chicago's manager, Ozzie Guillen and his much publicized "gut feeling" to managing nearly back-fired when he let starting pitcher, Jose Contreras, begin the eighth inning when it was clear that the Cuban righthander was done the inning before. Contreras' command was so off that he hit consecutive batters in the seventh before retiring the side. Guillen's decision was dubious as the Astros' leadoff hitter, Willy Taveras, quickly doubled.

Once Guillen puts his faith back in his well-rested, not rusty, bullpen he looked relieved. He summoned former A's farmhand, Neal Cotts, who initially surrendered a single to left before heroically striking out the next two hitters and then handing the ball to closer, Bobby Jenks.

Watch Jenks' Pitch Placement
Big Bobby Jenks was throwing major heat in the eighth and ninth innings, no doubt, but his pitch placement may be a concern later in the series. Even though Jenks was hitting 100 mph on nearly every pitch, they were also very straight and exclusively dead red in the middle of the plate. A power pitcher can get away with throwing hard, but if their fastball is without movement, Major League hitters will easily adjust.

Everett Had Podsednik At Third
It wasn't necesarily at bad play, but Chicago's Scott Podsednik's was dead at thirdbase on his RBI triple in the eighth inning, except Houston's shortstop, Adam Everett, ran in the relay throw from center instead of risking a bad throw. Podsednik was barely halfway to third when Everett caught the ball.

Odd And Ends
Anyone catch Fox Sports' Chris Myers interview Cotts and Jenks after Game 1? All I remember is finally seeing conclusive evidence that Myers is sporting a floppy toupee....If I see one more "Houston, We have a problem..." sign I'm going to pluck my eyeballs out with chopsticks and make scary Halloween decorations....I would rather take a gritty Joe Crede with his clutch defense at thirdbase over Oakland's Gold Glover, Eric Chavez, and his all too familiar grimace to the dugout after striking out with runners in scoring postition


Intangibles Will Crown Next World Series Champ


It's probably the oddest matchup since the underrated 1997 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins. Nevertheless, the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros have shown themselves to be the scrappiest and most fundamentall flawless teams in this year's playoffs.

Most likely, this year's World Series could become a battle of home team winning in their own parks. Chicago is going with their hottest pitchers in Jose Contreras and Mark Buerhle in the first two games, while Houston has been dominant at home the last two playoff years.

Houston's wildcard could be the NLCS MVP, Roy Oswalt. He'll pitch Game 3 in Houston and possibly the deciding Game 7 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The lack of playing time for the White Sox has done little to their intensity, going 7-1 in the playoffs, but the extreme inactivity of their bullpen could be a burgeoning problem. It's no secret that the Chicago's starting pitching performed amazingly in the ALCS, but threre was a reason why manager, Ozzie Guillen, didn't hail the bullpen except for 2/3 of an inning. Through seven games in the playoffs, Guillen has only had one game where the bullpen figured prominantly: Game 3 of the Division Series against Boston. Even in that game, Guillen chose to call Orlando Hernandez in an unconvential situation to valiantly stuff the defending champs.

Many may be concerned over the mental health of Houston's stopper, Brad Lidge, but Chicago's Bobby Jenks is young and highly inexperienced with the pressure or position of closer whether it's the regular season or the playoffs.

Guillen's managerial acumen has been truly amazing. It's likely, though, that his "feel" for gametime decisions will haunt him in this series with a miscue. He'll likely push his starting pitchers to the limit again, unless they get blown out, which is not likely with the inconsistent Astros offense.

This series is hard to forecast because rarely do both teams enter the World Series on the heels of momentum breaking plays and tenacious clutch hitting as the scrappy White Sox and resilient Astros have done.

The White Sox in six. The home team will win every game except the pivotal Game 5. Incidently, that lone road win will be won by the Series MVP, Jose Contreras.


Bats And Pols: Trickery Wins Elections And Games


Who says government officials aren't role models, anymore. A.J. Pierzynski and Adam Everett meet President Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove.

The controversy over the Chicago White Sox catcher, A.J. Pierzynski and his Oscar-worthy trot to first base in the American League Championship Series has been played out ad nauseum the past two weeks. The Houston Astros shortstop, Adam Everett and his own thespian phantom tag during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series was less talked about around the water cooler, but the essence of both are rooted in a society where trickery with words and actions are more believable than the truth.

Has there ever been two plays that have relied solely on the reaction and acting skills of the participants rather than whether the umpires saw the ball hit the ground or if the infielder actually tagged the runner? What happened to the days when umpires blew calls on their own without theatrics from the players?

Umpire Don Denkinger didn't need the Royals Jorge Orta to cajole him to make one of the worst calls in World Series history in 1985.

Pierzynski was so believable in running to first base on a swinging third strike during Game2 of the ALCS that he duped umpire Doug Eddings despite the fact that the entire Angels defense was trotting off the field. Pierzynski's lie was so skillful that he overridded in Eddings mind the truth that the Angels catcher, Josh Paul, caught the ball even tossing it back to the mound and running into the dugout.

Everett's play was less diabolical than Pierzynski's, but nonetheless, became a positive for the Astros because of his instant celebration and straight-faced coolness that he tagged the Cardinals Yadier Molina. Everett pumped his fist in celebration and began walking towards the umpire to convince the umpire that Molina was forced out.

This sort of chicanery should be familiar to anyone who follows the affairs of our leadership in Washington. If the ballplayers like Pierzynski and Everett are our elected officials in Washington, then the umpires are the American people.

As arbiters of our nation's activities, we've been duped and railroaded into believing various untruthful storieslike, infamously, weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq and, therefore, required military intervention. The American people were skeptical of this reason for war, but like Pierzynski's false run to first, the language of nuclear clouds blooming over American cities clouded our senses and we relented.

To make matters worse, there has been no justice in each of these situations. The lies of the Bush adminstration had no repercussions on their goal of gaining a second term just as the fakery of Pierzynski and Everett was a primary reason why both the White Sox and Astros are tangling in this year's World Series.

The role of our national leaders was once grounded in being a role model for the Americans people. When the soul of our leaders go dark, it begins to trickle down to everywhere in our daily life; the workplace, every household and even the ballpark.


Vegas Not Giving Many Points This Week

Cincy QB Carson Palmer
Originally uploaded by wonderbread74.
Overwhelming Favs, Colts & 'Skins Will Prevail

NFL - Week 7
$40 Pick Four

BENGALS (-1) over Steelers
The Bengals are ready to break from the pack. This is the perfect time for Cincy, too, since the Steelers are not hitting all gears yet and have some injuries, notably Ben Roethlisberger. Look for a low scoring game.

VIKINGS (+2) over Packers
I'm sticking with the Vikes until they payoff. Giving the homestanding Vikings two points is pleasing. Minnesota's bad P.R. week will end with a thrashing of the Pack.

REDSKINS (-12) over 49ers
It's usually not wise to give so many points, but regardless of coach Joe Gibbs' admonition not to underestimate the Niners; I will. The 'Skins defense is ready to have a breakout game.

Colts (-15) over TEXANS
Again, not the best policy, but I would take Indy giving away three touchdowns. This is bad situation ready to explode in Houston. The Texans can't score and their offensive line allows a conga line to the quarterback on every snap. Good thing they have the Astros to raise their spirits

Last Week: 2-1; Season, 10-9. Even, $0.00
(Home team in CAPS)

Fantasy Football - Week 7

Team Wonderbread (4-2-0) vs. 49er Whiners (4-2-0)

Team Wonderbread was the benificiary of some good luck in week six. With a 40 point lead going into last Monday's Night's game. CrimDog's QB Marc Bulger was poised to rack up points close to his second-leading points production, except he was injured in the first half to The Team's chagrin.

Injuries continue to hit Team Wonderbread. WR Randy Moss, RB Julius Jones, and RB Stephen Davis are all doubtful for week seven's game of the season against rival, 49er Whiners. Going 5-2 to finish the first half of season would bode well for clinching a playoff berth.


Oct 21, 2005 

Earthquakes Ready To Rattle MLS Playoffs


D.C. has never beaten the Fire in the playoffs and will have their problems even with the final leg of the two game series in Washington. Chicago netted 10 goals against D.C. this season, the most against any team this season, but that was with a healthy Nate Jaqua. Freddy Adu complaining about playing time can't help the situation. Is his argument that the coach doesn't want to put his best 11 on the pitch? D.C. United is the defending MLS champs and they still have the gamers like Jaime Moreno and Dema Kovalenko to advance. D.C.UNITED ADVANCES.

Despite uninspired play down the stretch with injuries and national team call-ups, the Revolution are one of the best teams in MLS history. The Metrostars stumbled into the playoffs with their coach being fired three weeks ago for Scottish legend and former Wizards forward, Mo Johnston. New England's Pat Noonan has been a Metrostars killer since his rookie season and may be more of a factor than just goal scoring because he allows scoring champion, Taylor Twellman, to attack in the box. A lot will be made of the so-called "Cinderella" Metrostars but a perfect storm of former MVP Amado Guevara playing with some heart and Frenchmen Youri Djorkaeff's clutch goal scoring is the only way they can advance. That, or, goalie, Tony Meola, plays the games of his life at age 36. NEW ENGLAND ADVANCES.

It could have been a special season in Dallas this season if not for injuries to their potent forwards, Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz sounds as if he won't return from treatment in Guatemala for a hamstring injury and defender Richard Mulrooney won't play either. The Rapids, are the other hand, could be a sleeper in this tournament. Shrewd acquisitions of Jovan Kirovski and Israeli supersub Dedi Ben-Dayan have vaulted this team to the hottest team in MLS this side of San Jose. Colorado has the dealbreaker in this season between the nets. Joe Cannon is rested and healthy for this two-game series and as Earthquakes fans have seen he can raise his game in the clutch. FC Dallas will not be able to play in this year's MLS Cup played in their home park. COLORADO ADVANCES.

Former Quake Landon Donovan visits his old team once again. This time they're clicking as well as the Donovan-led teams of 2001 and 2003 when they won the whole thing. More than any matchup home field will be a huge factor. San Jose does not lose at the small confines of Spartan Stadium. Period. The second leg of this playoff will be in San Jose making it imperative that the Galaxy leave the Home Depot Center with a few goals advantage. Unfortunately, the Galaxy lost their best defender and finalist for Defender of the Year, Tyrone Marshall to a red card offense against San Jose during the final regular season game. In addition, the Earthquakes are carrying a 14-game unbeaten streak into the playoffs. L.A.'s only hope is if Donovan can single-handedly carry this team. He won't, though, because he only shows up for the World Cup. SAN JOSE ADVANCES.

Oct 20, 2005 

A's Fans Should Be Rooting For The White Sox

Chicago's South Side Has Much In Common With Oakland

If A's fans are conflicted on whether to root for the upstart Houston Astros or the resilient Chicago White Sox; take this under consideration:

No offense to the Astros and their fans who have suffered numerous near-misses before finally reaching the World Series after 44 years, but Oakland has a certain kinship with the fans of South Side Chicago.

The White Sox have toiled in the shadow of their more popular yet less prolific neighbors--the Cubs. The Cubs are the lovable losers who haven't won the World Series since 1908, while the White Sox haven't won since 1917 yet the nation never speaks of them and zero books besides the 1919 Black Sox scandal have ever been written about them.

Rundown Wrigley Field is a gem. A rowdy yet dignified crowd that packs the park despite rarely having a sniff at the pennant race even in August of each season. Sox fans typically leave the new Commisky Park, now U.S. Cellular Field barren even when the team is playing well, which over the last 25 years has been more often and consistent than the cross-town Cubbies.

The White Sox are second class citizens in the nation's second largest city. It's hard being a White Sox fan. It's not cool and takes a lot more effort than mumbling "Take me out to the Ballpark" in the 7th inning drunk off Budweiser (Harry Caray's drink of choice).

Does this sound familiar to the loyal followers of the Oakland Athletics?

The Giants tower over the Bay Area baseball scene merely because they were here first. They haven't won a thing since moving to San Francisco from New York and, yes we're counting; 52 years since they beat the Cleveland Indians.

All the while, their cross-bay rivals have carried the World Series trophy through the streets of Oakland four times, including a four game sweep in 1989 where even God was against the Giants. The Loma Prieta earthquake caused a postponement of the series and allowed the A's top two starters--Dave Stewart and Mike Moore--to pitch twice in the four game mauling.

The Giants have the nicer stadium and fill it regularly with corporate hacks armed with the companies season tickets while A's fans make good at the older coliseum and dine on dollar hot dogs and ride public transportation to the game.

The South Side of Chicago is where the genuine working class of the Windy City reside. You have to prove to them that you're for real and they'll hand over their hard earned money and when they do, they're rabid. The underlining hatred towards the Cubs is similar to the rift between A's and Giants fans.

In the Bay Area, the Giants fans reek with jealousy over the inequity in titles and A's fans pull their hair out over the inequity in coverage of their more exciting product.

Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the Sox and former shortstop, loves to exploit the hatred of the Cubs. During an interleague game last year against the Cubs, Guillen trashed the beloved "Friendly Confines", calling it a dump. A USA Today columnist reported today that when Guillen noticed an unfamiliar Chicago reporter in the locker room, he belligerently asked him if he covered the Cubs.

So, when watching this year's World Series remember the White Sox are playing for all of the downtrodden and forgotten fans who languish in the shadows rooting passionately for their teams honestly without snacking on sushi and fawning over morally corrupt sluggers gunning for homerun records. Those Southsiders are our brethren. Let's cheer with them.

Oct 19, 2005 

What Happened To Mr. October?

Until Albert Pujols hit that magnificent homerun in Game 5 of the NLCS, the playoffs have had that empty taste of a big name Mr. October.

After the Yankees Alex Rodriguez and the Angels Vladimir Guerrero both tanked horrifically, the steely determination and clutch peformance by Pujols conjured memories of the original Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.

It's quite ironic that as both Rodriguez and Guerrero smashed any hope that their respective teams would advanced with their performances, viewers were repeatedly showed their infamous Pepsi commericial where they repeatedly knockout the stadium lights with their prodigious blasts.

Don't believe everything you see on television.

Conversely, anyone who TiVoed Game 5 of the NLCS--painfully many probably did in the Houston area--you might take a look at some of the pre-homer shots of Pujols in the dugout.

A fierce glare oozing with confidence and determination was clearly evident on his face. Did he know he was about to cut the throats out of the giddy Houston fans?

If St. Louis sweeps the last two games of the series at home, odds are that Albert Pujols raised his stature in the game quite a few slots in the order of the greatest ever.

ESPN's Jim Caple has a good article catching up with former A's centerfielder, Dave Henderson, who was the last person to accomplish Pujols' feat of bringing his team back from the brink of elimination.

Hendu's two-out, two strike homer with the Boston Red Sox brought the team back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the California Angels. It also may have led to the suicide of pitcher Donnie Moore, who gave up that gamebreaker.

Another former Athletic, the always candid Dennis Eckersley, has concerns for the young Houston closer, Brad Lidge, after giving up the game-winning homer to Pujols.

"I don't know the kid, but I don't think he's done it long enough to know what he's dealing with. I think a lot of it, with me, was that I was old enough to appreciate where I was and where I came from. I came back from the dead -- my whole story, you know -- and that helped. In the offseason. It really did."

Eckersley famously placed the slider that the Dodgers Kirk Gibson clubbed into the rightfield stands during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

It's a good point by Eckersley that the youthful closer faces a huge struggle if I gets the ball again during this series. That is, if they ever get as close as one strike away from the World Series, again.

Oct 18, 2005 

Innocence Lost

Bill King Dies At Age 78
Originally uploaded by wonderbread74.
The Passing Of King Is More Than Baseball Or The Man

I cried when I heard of the passing of Bay Area sports icon, Bill King. I cried the same as if a close friend died today.

Bill King was more widely noted as a football announcer for the Oakland Raiders and the voice of the Golden State Warriors, but his moved to his so-called "third sport" of baseball for the Oakland A's in 1981, coincided with my indoctrination to the ritual and daily movements of the game of baseball.

From Billy Ball to the Bash Brothers to the Big Three of Zito, Mulder and Hudson, Bill King was the soundtrack to so many memorable and warm feelings during my childhood.

For 25 fortunate years I've been blessed to signal the rites of spring with the voice of Bill King on my radio. When I started driving, the tradition of tuning into that one fortunate Saturday afternoon in March when the A's beamed their first telecast from the desert in Arizona was bliss. His silky voice dripping with the complexity of fine wine gave life to my hibernating baseball urges. Bill King is back and a new baseball season would soon commence.

He was quite possibly the most overly prepared human ever. His descriptions of so many failed prospects and non-roster players during the spring were indistinguishable from the well-known stars. The knowledge behind Jose Tolentino, Daryl Sconiers and Larry Arndt was as precise as the unmistakable stars of Canseco, McGwire, Giambi, Chavez and Tejada.

His partners in the booth always mentioned his proclivity for the fine things in life. What made him much more than just some disc jockey in the booth was his rich background. On numerous occasions, he would talk with Ray Fosse, Ken Korach or Lon Simmons about the fantastic dinner he had at some fine restaurant in whatever American League town they were visiting. He was walking Chamber of Commerce for the city of Sausalito. You sensed that he enjoyed the arts, literature and jazz as much as he did calling an extra inning game in the heat of the pennant race. For that, he had the interesting and fun, but firm grandfatherly hand.

He may have been subliminally saying through my speakers, "Baseball is fun, little Stevie, but make sure you finish your book report before tuning in to the A's game."

When I worked for the A's during the trying 1996 and 1997 seasons, I had the pleasure to work in the pressbox where he plied his trade. I only spoke with him on two occasions, the excitement from those brief conversations were only exceeded by having Rickey Henderson greet me after a night game.

The path to the Coliseum's pressbox is made through a double-door elevator similar to one you find at any hospital. He was standing in front of the elevator door when my supervisor and I walked up on him. When the elevator arrived the three of us entered. There was some typical elevator awkwardness as I turned and faced the elevator door that we had just entered.

King broke the silence and said, "How ya doing, son?"

"Fine. Thank you," I said.

I couldn't believe that the voice that I had been listening to all these years was now addressing me!

"So, you're going to be working up here with us?."

I just nodded as my supervisor answered, "Yeah, we'll see how he does."

Just then the elevator began to slow before the door opened. I turned and fully faced the elevator doors awaiting their opening but they didn't move.

King quickly uttered, "Well, good luck!" and passed through the elevator door behind me. I felt so stupid. I had no idea that there were two doors in the elevator.

King would always walked around the pressbox sans shoes and socks and his habit of eating raw onions in the booth seemed way out there, but typical for a man accustomed to his own individuality. The loss of someone so unique and pure in his reverance to reporting the details of every A's game will take time for many fans to get accustomed to.

It will feel strange next season not feeling Bill King's familiar cadence when Eric Chavez knocks that first homer over the rightfield wall. The game might feel imcomplete without his amazing postgame synopsis. But, for many of us who have listened faithfully for the last 25 years of A's baseball or those fortunate enough to have had Bill King's voice in their transistor radios since 1962; you know that change happens in all parts of our lives. Children are born. Loved ones pass. More hours are needed at the factory to pay the bills and paying attention the daily pulse of your baseball team slowly drops from being the most important part of your life.

Today, the loss of radio announcer Bill King is also a reminder of those wonderful childhood days when learning how to throw your first curveball was the most exciting thing in your life and mimicking The Eck's throwing motion was as precise as writing your name in cursive for the first time.

Bill King called all of the great moments in my A's history but he also called our wiffle ball games in my front yard and undoubtedly many more from Berkeley to Fremont. The play-by-play probably went something like this:

"Steve sets...He winds...The Pitch. Bobby hits a high fly ball. Suzie's at the track. She looks up. It's GONE!. Bobby has just hit a three-run homer over the neighbor's fence to win the game!....Holy Toledo!

Be with us tomorrow at 7:05 first pitch, pregame starting at 5:30 with Marty Lurie's Right off the Bat..."

Thanks, Bill.


The Rebuilding Of The Rebuilt 49ers

Five games into the Mike Nolan era and the veneer of the so-caled "benefit of the doubt" is lost.

In consecutive weeks Nolan has auctioned off large assets--at least by 49er standards--to the lowest bidder. First linebacker, Jamie Winborn to Jacksonvilee and now, quarterback Tim Rattay to Tampa Bay for a sixth round pick.

With this latest trade, Nolan has unwisely scrubbed the cupboard bare with the past follies of 49er past and now has put all of the teams near-future in the hands of his only major decision--the drafting of number one pick, Alex Smith. Sticking with the immobile and visibly confused signal-caller may worsen the team in the long run.

Not only has Smith's play been dubious, but his projection as a future franchise quarterback was already way past plausible. The Smith Project is a disaster waiting to happen regardless of his talent, but coupled with the wreck that has become the former five-time Super Bowl champs; it's now a certainty.

What Nolan is up to in San Francisco is clear: The atmosphere in 49erland was devoid of talent and curiously poisoned when he arrived from Baltimore. Nolan is trying to rid the team of its bad apples, unfortunately those apples were the best he had.


Bill King Passes

Legendary Voice Of The East Bay Dies

Bill King, the familiar voice of the Oakland Raiders, Golden State Warriors and Oakland Athletics passed away today. Just like the reclusive announcer, initial reports do not include his age.

Click back later for my memories of 25 years of A's baseball--the only 25 I've known--with the steady voice of Bill King.

Oct 17, 2005 

Mr. Wolff, You's Got Some Splainin' To Do

What Was A's Owner Doing In Sox Suite?

It would be treason if Raiders owner Al Davis was caught celebrating another NFL team's championship. Then why would it be alright for the Lewis Wolff, the new owner of the A's, to be watching last night's ALCS clincher in Anaheim from the private luxury suite of Chicago owner, Jerry Reinsdorf?

There Lewis was, captured on television standing next to Reinsdorf holding a glass of, presumably, bubbly after the White Sox took the lead in the eighth inning.

Should A's fans be concerned? Wolff is a southland native and warmed the hearts of many A's fans when he enthusiastically rooted on the team from the front row of Angels Stadium during the A's and Angels late season showdown. Maybe those were Wolff's personal season tickets? Maybe he's a closet Angels fan, too?

The A's have said that Reinsdorf, the winner of six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, is a long time friend of Wolff and one of the reasons why the real estate mogul purchased the A's.

But, there's something unsettling seeing the A's owner celebrating a rivals accomplishments. Something conspiratorial. Should we let our guards down from the previous reign of the cold-blooded ownership of Steve Schott and give Wolff so much slack?

Oct 15, 2005 

Future Meets The Past; NFL Trends Becoming Clear

The T Evens Mark at 8-8; Eli Takes Down 'Boys

NFL - Week 6
$20 Pick Three

Giants (+4) over COWBOYS
I'll finally get on board the Eli Manning bandwagon. Dallas has been up and down and it would seem probable that they would tank at home one week after blowing away Philly.

Panthers (+1) over LIONS
Carolina is a grinding team. Give me any points against a wishy-washy team like Detroit and I'll take it.

Vikings (+3) over BEARS
Chicago's defense at Soldier Field has been great, but the Vikes are not as bad as they've shown the first five weeks. Minnesota's secondary was rebuilt for games like this against interception-prone QB's.

Last Week: 2-1; Season, 8-8. Won, $20.00
(Home team in CAPS)

Fantasy Football - Week 6

Team Wonderbread (3-2-0) vs. CrimDog (3-2-0)

Team Wonderbread broke its two game losing streak with a gutsy eight point win. The schedule gets tougher this week with one of the more formidable teams in CrimDog. A little background on their owner:

The famous Rabbi was a coach of mine during my heyday as the greatest slugger in Castro Valley Little League history. He shook his head in disgust when our coach signaled for me to bunt as the fourth place hitter with the bases loaded and two outs. It was a play assuredly out of the Budweiser or Jack Daniels' baseball playbook.

CrimDog has a good team. Definitely a squad that has underperformed, but is still 3-2 and looking to get better--except--not this week. You see, the Rabbi is a Giants fan and prone to fail at crunchtime. That, or he's liable to be juicing his players at this moment.

The bye week has weakened Team Wonderbread for the second straight week. WR Terrell Owens rests as WR Randy Moss returns to the lineup. The under-performing Cowboys RB Julius Jones is injured and replaced with RB Rudi Johnson. The bye week has also dropped TE L.J. Smith to the bench in favor of the Lions' project tight end, Marcus Pollard.

Lineup: QB TOM BRADY, WR RANDY MOSS, WR Santana Moss, WR Joe Jurevicius, RB RUDI JOHNSON, RB Stephen Davis, TE MARCUS POLLARD, K Mike Vanderjagt, DEF Carolina.

Oct 12, 2005 

Is Craig Biggio Lesbian?

A steroid scandal has been swirling around baseball for over a year, now. Is there a far more explosive controversy ready to explode?

The T has uncovered photos that may show that Houston Astros' Craig Biggio is actually a lesbian when not roaming the outfield.

Craig, Patty and Matthew

Craig Biggio

Oct 11, 2005 

Starting Pitching Is Key To Both LCS

The T Goes 4-for-4 In Playoff Forecast

After correctly predicting the Division Series, The T is obviously sticking with a Angels/Cardinals Fall Classic. Here's how the LCS will shake down:


The White Sox have their starting rotation set and have impressive stats hanging on the foursome of Jose Contreras, Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia. In reality, only Contreras has pitched well since the All-Star break. Their pitching isn't as hot as advertised. Garland was a fast starter and Garcia may be shakable under the heat of the LCS. For Chicago, it comes down to whether Buerhle can pin down Games two and six. He's one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball for the last seven years.

The Angels starting rotation is the mirror opposite of the White Sox in this series. The advantage will go to Chicago only if they can take the first two games. After that, the Angels will have recovered.

On offense, these two teams plays similar National League styles that focuses on laying down a bunt and taking another base. Chicago has more power, but Los Angeles has the best player in this series--Vladimir Guerrero. ANGELS IN SEVEN.


Both St. Louis and Houston beat clubs that pushed the limit as to whether there's too many teams in post-season. As in the American League, the two best teams in the league are in the NLCS.

To fear Houston's starters is folly. They are beatable, for sure, especially when the other team can beat you so many ways and with some many gamers who have been in this situation before.

Houston's Roger Clemens is not the big-game pitcher everybody wishes he would be. Roy Oswalt is a diminuitive presence on the mound and Andy Pettitte is not the pitcher he was when the Yankees were winning championship before the turn of the century.

The Astros will need some of their unheralded role players like Chris Burke, who hit the winning homer in Sunday's Game 4, to contribute a few big hits.

St. Louis has a chip on their shoulder. It's evident that Tony LaRussa has drilled the nightmare of last October's sweep to Boston in every Redbird. The demeanor of this team is very similar to the LaRussa-managed 1989 Oakland Athletics who won the title after losing to the Dodgers the year before.

St. Louis has the horses to easily beat Houston. The sure sign of trouble will present itself if a couple of games become battles of the bullpen. This would be a development that would test the Cardinals ability to reach the World Series for the second straight year. CARDINALS IN FIVE.


Don't Count Out Exhausted Halos

Traveling Angels Are Still Sky-High

Every national media outlet has trumped up the Angels sleep deprivation as evidence, proof positive, of an advantage to Chicago in the American League Championship Series, tonight.

The advantage is highly overrated and dubious. This is typical of the cadre of television talking heads and out-of-town journalists that follow stories with a collective single-mindedness.

The Angels are, in fact, not at a disadvantage--at least--during Game 1 at U.S. Cellular Field. The Angels, today, are as sky-high as were the White Sox last Friday after trouncing the Red Sox. They are the team with the advantage in a game that covets the daily routine. Chicago has been away from playoff competition for three days. An entire on three-days rest is completely different than pitching your ace pitcher on that many days.

Where the Angels are at a disadvantage is in their starting pitching. The junk-balling, Paul Byrd, should do fine with his maleable arm on three days rest, but the rest of the staff is in near shambles. Game 2 starter, Jarrod Washburn, was under the weather with a throat infection over the weekend, ace Bartolo Colon is out for ALCS and Game 5 hero, Ervin Santana pitched 5 1/3 hard-fought innings last night.

As The T, said last week, pitcher John Lackey is the key to Los Angeles' success. For that to happen now, Santana will need to showcase a playoff coming out party similar to Francisco Rodriguez's rookie performance in 2002.

Oct 8, 2005 

ChiSox Have The Look Of A Champion


While it didn't surprise The T, the Chicago White Sox have the look of the past three World Series champions while throwing the defending champs to the side.

The unifying aspect of the 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins and last year's Red Sox was an ability to get the clutch hit and a penchant for applying the most pressure on the opposing team. As if the Fall Classic wasn't enough of a pressure cooker.

The White Sox did all of these to the Red Sox. A.J. Pierzynski knocked two homers in game one and delivered an important double in the decisive Game 3. Paul Konerko delivered clutch homers. Tad Iguchi delivered and most stunningly, Orlando Hernandez delivered at the entire series' most pivotal moment.

El Duque wriggled out of base-loaded jam with nobody out and quite possibly shutdown the beginning of the momentum shifting to Boston despite Chicago leading the series 2-0 at that point. It was that type of stirring rally that turned around the Red Sox season last October.

Of the eight in postseason, Chicago has rid itself of any lingering questions. Despite a lack of playoff experience, the entire team has played hard-nosed and gutsy ball while playing sterling defense and an ability to play long and small ball. It also doesn't hurt to have your second-year manager making all the right moves, either.

The rest of the Division Series:
The Cardinals have dominated the Padres as predicted, but, in doing so, they seem to lack any edge. Like they're going through the September motions with the division in hand...Their middle relievers--Brad Thompson, Randy Flores--are going to get them in trouble when the competition heats up...What were the Padres going to do? Assembling a team with Moneyball theories but money to burn gets you what everybody saw in St. Louis this week--a team that can't get that hit when they really need it. It wasn't any surprise that ex-Athletics backstopper, Ramon Hernandez, chased ridiculously at three straight pitches with the bases loaded in the ninth....These Braves do look like a completely different bunch than the previous 13 playoff editions of the Braves. Catcher Brian McCann has showed some guile in this season. It wasn't his homer in Game 2, but his fully extended dive near the Braves' batting circle to just miss Wily Taveras' foul bunt. Rookie catchers usually don't want it that bad...If it does come down to Houston and St. Louis in the NLCS, the bottom line will be can the Cardinals avoid the Astros stopper, Brad Lidge. The Cards are going to rely on scoring as many runs as they did against San Diego to minimize that possibility...Houston's Craig Biggio doesn't really have Hall Of Fame credentials?

The Angels look like a more mature version of those wide-eyed, thunder stick thumping in 2002...Pitcher John Lackey looked easily flustered in Game 2 against New York...The Yankees finally revealed their regular season form in Game 3. Their defense was laughable and their pitching is out of sorts. 2B Robinson Cano looks like a player in the Alfonso Soriano mold and also fields like him. His two errors were the victims of a lack of concentration. All of the criticism against Bernie Williams' defense in center is so warranted. It isn't possible for him to snag any flyball that isn't hit to medium centerfield...If you were to spend $200 million on a baseball team, don't you think you could find a way to someone better than the washed up Al Leiter pitching two of the three games?...Boston played the same as last year. The difference? Pedro is in New York. Derek Lowe is in L.A. and Curt Schilling sat on the bench in Fenway without making an appearance.


Take The Points In Steeltown and D.C.

Gambling Pays Off With C-Note; FFL Team Drops to 2-2

NFL - Week 5
$20 Pick Three

Buccaneers (-3) over N.Y. JETS
Coming off our first week in the money, the Bucs look like a safe pick despite giving three points to the desheveled Jets. If New York stays close the point totals will have to be under 20.

Redskins (+7) over BRONCOS
Seven points to the stingy 'Skins is quite alot, especially if you don't believe Denver is for real.

Steelers (+3) over CHARGERS
A win by San Diego would certainly give them elite status except that their secondary may be porous against Roethlisberger.

Last Week: 3-0; Season, 6-7. Lost, $40.00
(Home team in CAPS)

Fantasy Football - Week 5

Team Wonderbread (2-2-0) vs. Columbia Clowns (3-1-0)

This is the first of consecutive weeks without the big two of Terrell Owens and Randy Moss because of bye weeks for the Raiders and Eagles.

It's not the philosophy of Team Wonderbread to make personnel decisions on a weekly basis, but the pickup of Joe Jurvicius was made solely because he's seemingly the only receiving threat in Seattle's injury-wrecked corps. It's a roll of the dice, but worth it without Moss in the lineup.

Going into the season, the lineup at wide receiver was off the chart, but the running back position was predicated on some unknowns blossoming. RB Julius Jones is bound to take off and the Team is patient, but Cincy RB Rudi Johnson is looking like a second or third option in the Bengals high-flying offense. Injury-prone RB Stephen Davis gets the nod over the again-lowly Cardinals.

Lineup: QB Carson Palmer, WR Terrell Owens, WR Santana Moss, WR JOE JURIVECIUS, RB Julius Jones, RB STEPHEN DAVIS, TE L.J. Smith, K Mike Vanderjagt, DEF Carolina.

Oct 5, 2005 

Macha Out; Washington In?

History Says Ron Washington Will Take Over

You got the feeling that A's manager, Ken Macha, was toast when GM Billy Beane offered a low-balled contract extension. Macha must have known, too, if he had any contact with former skipper Art Howe.

A press release, today, from the A's announced that Macha will not manage the team next season.

Apparently, Beane's offer of three years and $2.4 million two days ago was his final offer. It also mirrored a similarly abrupt offer to former manager, Art Howe, five years ago.

"There were no negotiations," said Macha, "Their offer was basically a take-it-or-leave-it deal, so that's that. ... Billy said he wasn't budging from his first offer."

If the past is our guide, this shoud not of came as a surprise. In Beane's Moneyball theory, the importance of the manager is muted and diminished in authority. Beane simply will not overpay for a manager just as he won't for homegrown free-agents like Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada.

Now, the speculation begins as to whom the next manager of the Oakland A's will be. It actually has a very simple answer: Thirdbase coach Ron Washington.

Beane is easy to read. He prove the entire baseball establishment wrong, again by trading two of his best players and contended until the last five games of the season. Moneyball is still a viable method of running a big league team.

Back when Macha was hired from the A's bench coach postion there was speculation that he would take the manager's job in Boston. At that point, Beane rushed to sign him.

Early word is that a few teams are interested in interviewing Washington for vacant positions, notably in Tampa. History looks to repeat itself with Macha joining his hometown Pirates and failing while the next bargain skipper takes over a young talented team in Oakland.

Oct 4, 2005 

The T: Angels Beat Cards In Seven

Angel Hurler Lackey Wins World Series MVP

National League ball rules this post season despite a team from the junior circuit hoisting the World Series trophy yet again.

In the meantime, here's how The T handicaps the 2005 playoffs:

Cardinals over Padres

Don't dare discredit the San Diego Padres. Despite winning only 82 games, the mediocre Pads will not go down easy. Nevertheless, the Cards are built on proven veterans still in the prime of their careers. The Padres might be scrappy with guys like Dave Roberts, but the Cardinals are vastly better in every category except the bullpen. San Diego's advantage, though, will never present itself. CARDINALS IN FOUR.

Astros over Braves

The Bay Area surely knows the Tim Hudson curse. It will be interesting to see whether the former Oakland Athletic can shed his abysmal postseason rep. If this series were played a month and a half ago the Braves would have had a better chance. A few of Atlanta's excellent rookies have cooled down possibly because of the longer season and scouting departments have begun to figure out how to pitch to rookie RF Jeff Francoeur. Houston's Big Three of Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are a bit overrated. Nonetheless, they will neutralize Atlanta's only chance in this series--Andruw Jones. ASTROS IN FIVE.

Angels over Yankees
The world needs proof that God exists. An exciting five game victory over the demonized Yanks should do the trick. New York has the offense and the stopper in the bullpen, but piecemeal starting rotations only go so far in October. Bartolo Colon may have been struggling in September, but the winner of Game 7 in the 2002 World Series--John Lackey--has been steady all summer. Along with Colon, Jarrod Washburn or Erwin Santana and Mike Scioscia's brand of National League baseball the multi-city Angels will advance . ANGELS IN FIVE.

White Sox over Red Sox
This is still the silly, fun-loving and powerful Red Sox, but there's is absolutely zero moxie in the pitching staff. Even though, lyrical baseball writers fail to write about them, the White Sox are this year's Red Sox. Except after being title-less since 1917 the South Side curse will continue after dethroning the champs. The White Sox can beat you numerous ways: With pitching, the long ball and even small ball. WHITE SOX IN FIVE.