Oct 30, 2006 

Raiders Lose Even In Winning


It's hard to decide which team to trash. A Super Bowl champion losing to the worst team in the NFL or the winner of the game displaying the lowest depths of ineptitude on offense ever.

The Raiders season cannot hit any lower or peculiar after Sunday's upset of the Steelers. Does that sound right? A 1-5 team beats the defending champs and there's still no reason for optimism? Leave it to the quarterback with two first names and the offense he leads garnering a meager 98 yards.

The Raiders may have had the fortune of playing against a post-concussed Ben Roethlisberger yesterday, but how many times will this defense be able to win a game incredibly and entirely on its own merits?

If yesterday's game were a video game, you would have sweared the Raiders offense was played either by a four-year-old limited to 2 hours of television a week by his hippy parents or a 65-year-old hand amputee with zero knowledge of what a video game is.

Four and out. Four and out. Four and out.

You can't get more predictable than that. Ironically, one of the best Raiders quarterbacks of all-time, former MVP, Rich Gannon was calling the game for CBS Sports. It was Gannon's pathetic five interception performance in the Super Bowl that seemingly jinxed the position for the next three years. He even called the offense run by Tom Walsh as "vanilla". Gannon's taste buds must have been muted by some salty fries and a pack of cigarettes, because to the rest of us it tasted like shit.

Performances like these, show in great detail that the Raiders braintrust severely mistook what they had in Andrew Walter as a young, up-and-coming QB, when the future belongs with the Matt Leinart, whom they passed over in last years draft.

Remember, when Al Davis drafted Marc Wilson number one out of Brigham Young in the early 80s and continually trotted him out there to the dismay of fans for four years. Wilson was an early round pick and should have been discarded as a mistake. Instead, the Raiders languished in mediocrity until the early 90s when Jay Schroeder and Jeff Hostetler brought the silver and black back to the playoffs.

Will Davis pass over Brady Quinn next year because he again mistakens Walter for a first-string quarterback or will he cut his losses unlike Wilson. Probably not, but we can hope.

The Niners across the Bay may get blown out with alarming frequency, but, at least the perception is that they're working out the kinks of a young team. These Raiders, on the other hand, are a mishmash of pieces new and old without any discernible direction but down.

Oct 29, 2006 

Bengals Bring Falcons Back To Earth

We'll keep rolling with the Bengals (-3 1/2) despite the liklihood of another tight game against a good team and with the spread this week against the rejuvenated Falcons. With the assumption that Cincy is going to represent the AFC, you have to take them even though the Falcons come to Paul Brown Stadium high off a rousing win over the Super Bowl champs. Cincy isn't the Steelers in disarray nor is Michael Vick at home at the cozy Georgia Dome. This may come down to a field goal again for the Bengals meaning the extra half point will be a blessing.

The Pack is not back, but Favre and Green Bay (-4) is good enough to threaten mediocrity, at best. This is an intriguing matchup Vegas-wise. Are the Cardinals done? They will be if they lose a seventh game. The Packers are far from a lock, Arizona seems on the verge of a major coaching shake-up and that will be hastened when the follow-up a blown opportunity after last week's loss to the then-winless Raiders.

Whenever the opportunity, go against the Browns. This will be the fifth week doing so and it's like stealing candy from an unsuspecting trick-or-treater. Uncertainly with the Jets (+2) makes this pick a bit of a risk, but whether its in Cleveland or any other city, the Browns have been figured out by the spread and can't beat anybody except the Raiders. Plus, any free points to the underdog is an added blessing.

How can you resist giving the Colts (+3) a three-point advantage before the game even starts. The Colts are not the nearly undefeated juggernaut of last season, but neither is Denver as good as advertised. Denver's defense is vastly overrated and these things have a way of evening out statistically. Peyton Manning is going to show that the AFC West is truly up for grabs, except for one team that has been mentioned three times without even being prognosticated upon.

A great, but under-appreciated game awaits Monday Night. Both New England and Minnesota (+2) are likely playoff participants, but this game comes down to a pick 'em game. It's this simple the Vikes are at home with two points. I so bad wanted to take the Chiefs/Seahawks game, but chickened out.

The Record: 17-8-2.
Last Week: 4-0-1.
The Wager: $20 Pick 5
The Winnings: $260.00

Oct 27, 2006 

Just Give Me A World Series Worth Watching


After two straight World Series sweeps who could not be happy with a
series somewhat up for grabs as this Fall Classic presumably is?

Little solace, though, can be taken when despite a 3-1 series lead by
the Cardinals; this series has not shown the best baseball has to offer
by a long shot.

How can one pitching staff commit four errors in one series-anytime of
the year? Are the Tigers tight? Tight like a tiger? You bet.

What happened to the rampaging locomotive that was the Detroit Tigers?
They performed phenomenally through two playoff series that scared the
pants off the mighty Yankees and rendered the swingin' A's a
manager-less mess.

What are the Cardinals eating? Were they just messing with all of
baseball by limping to the regular season's finish line like the
tortoise to the Houston Astros hare?

The problem is this World Series has been devoid of stars and riveting
performances. A Fall Classic doesn't need brand name stars to be
exciting, just clutch performances will create stars on its own. Did
anybody know much about Josh Beckett outside of Dade County before his
fastball tore into the Yankees leading Florida to a six game victory in
2003? Where's a 20-year-old Bret Saberhagen or a Billy Hatcher wrecking
opponents single-handedly?

The point is what has happened to baseball's mighty champions? The 1986
Mets were baseball's best. I personally knew the 1989 A's were going to
win the Series and many others concurred. The Yankees, despite the
hatred they produce in many, were undoubtedly powerful and deserving

Detroit may have fit the bill if they had continued to run roughshod
over the postseason. Instead, they've become paper tigers to a Cardinals
team pitching just well enough and hitting quite pedestrian next to
Detroit's hitless wonders of Ivan Rodriguez and Placido Polanco.

The Cardinals as 2006 World Champions might be akin to the 83-win squad
that won the National League Central-pathetic and undeserving.

Is this the product of some sort of Pete Rozelle-esque parity in Major
League Baseball or a wildcard playoff system that is predisposed to
giving second-tier clubs the chance to get hot at the right time?

Conjecture that wildcard teams gain an edge by "fighting it out" to the
very end of the season as opposed to division winners who "coast" to the
end of the season is ridiculous. The Tigers, Cardinals, A's and Mets
show this is faulty logic. All four were relatively unscathed by game
162. The Tigers lost out on the division on the final day of the season
to the Twins, but both the American League Central and the wildcard
trophies had nameplates ready to be affixed to either team.

The culprit is a best-of-five Division Series that can produce an upset
by an inferior team with a two starting pitchers mixed with some clutch
hitting. Whether the wildcard winner has two home games or one as
Commissioner Bud Selig has suggested for next season, the possibility of
dethroning a division champion is way too high price for a squad that
wins the regular season battle of 162 games.

Commissioner Bud continues to state that he doesn't want a Series game
spilling into November, which may or may not happen with a Best-of-seven
Division Series and shortening the season to 154 games is heretical.
Then, why did Selig agree to begin the World Series on a Tuesday rather
than its traditional Saturday opening to appease the Fox Network's new
TV deal starting in 2007?

Is low rating in a time of overall tiny Nielsen's on network TV the
reason for dubious World Series matchups or is this just another example
of Selig trading the hallowed game of baseball for another notch on his
so-called "legacy".

This, of course, would all be moot if Pujols would smack a couple of
homers in Game 5 or Justin Verlander mowed down 18 Cardinal hitters in
tonight. When your team isn't playing in the big game, the series is
about entertaining and good baseball not four game sweeps and
seven-pitch innings

Oct 24, 2006 

Perry Tells NYT Rogers' Used Pine Tar


In today's New York Times, legendary spitballer Gaylord Perry says he has no doubt the browm smudge on Kenny Rogers' hand was the mark of a deceiving southpaw.

Perry is to nefarious pitching what Snoop Dogg is to weed. If anyone would be an expert to what the mysterious substance on Rogers' hand it's the portly portsider.

He told the Times' Jack Curry that he has no doubt that the brown smudge was pine tar and noted its effectiveness in cold weather which has been prevalent in Rogers' three postseason starts.

What's troubling about the article is the mocking tone of the Southerners comments. At times he sounds like a deranged old man. In one instance he seems to be encouraging every American youth with a wispy fastball and a mitt to join the dark side of cheating.

“I’m proud of him, man,” Perry said. “He did it to them. Good for him. Now you’ll have a thousand high school kids using pine tar, too.”

There's one important point that Perry makes, though.

The effectiveness of pine tar and rosin on a baseball is unknown. What made Perry's histrionics on the mound so effective was not throwing a doctored baseball, but when, or if.

Tony LaRussa took the bait Sunday night and now Rogers next start--a Game 6 in Detroit--could be the pivotal game of this series. Will he be throwing with pine tar or not? Cardinals are thinking about it now instead of playing this World Series.

Oct 23, 2006 

Rogers Uses Non-Standard Cap On The Mound


Paul Lukas of ESPN's Page 2 has an interesting take on the entire Kenny Rogers pine tar controversy.

According to his Uniwatch column, Lukas reports that Rogers wears a batting practice cap during gametime. So what?

The BP caps, which are made of polyester instead of the more rigid wool, contain an advantage that the regular New Era caps do not: The underside of the cap is black while the standard version is gray.

If a pitcher wanted to conceal pine tar under his cap a la Gaylord Perry or L.A.'s Jay Howell in the 1988 NLCS, he could have done it easily with the BP cap.

This seeminingly innoucous note is important when conforted by rabid Tiger fans who might point out that Rogers still pitched seven more shutout innings after Cardinals' skipper Tony LaRussa brought it to America's attention.

The dark smudge of an illegal foreign substance did not reside in Rogers left hand but under the bill of his cap.


From Steroids To Smudgegate

What does Smudgegate mean to this World Series? It's how far we've fallen from the never-ending fatigue of steroids and the national pastime.

Barry Bonds is lampooned as the cheater who stalks Hank Aaron's homerun record without the slightest bit of embarrassment. Records today are not real and spurts of athletic brilliance are scoffed upon as another testimony of results from means other than hard work.

Whether Detroit's Kenny Rogers' scoreless inning streak is by way of a long simmering tenacity or the benefit of classless cheating, the most troubling question is that we all latch on the very possibility. Call it the loss of a sporting innocence or brazen cheating, the specter of Barry Bonds' dirty deeds will linger for generations.

Bonds and Rogers share many traits in common. Both are scoundrels to the press and carry tales of bratty and boorish behavior. We know Bonds is a selfish primadonna and the memory of Rogers pushing over a cameraman in Arlington lingers. More telling, both are defying the aging processes by posting statistics more suited and believable from more elastic and toned muscles of 22-year-olds.

This sort of behavior makes it easy to advance the logic that both are cheats. Their actions beg the question as to why good things could happen to bad people. The belief system of most Americans don't subscribe to this notion. If you work hard providence will take care of the rest. If crooks get away souls intact with dishonesty, the very fabric of the nation and our personal view of the world would come crashing.

You would have to be silly to believe Bonds did not knowingly breach his moral by using performance-enhancing drugs before our penetrating eyes. Did Kenny Rogers commit the same act with an pine tar-enhanced baseballs? Listen, to your common sense and know the answer.

Oct 21, 2006 

Prognosticating Phunk: 4-8 After 9-0 Start

Kansas City (+5) is beginning to take on the feel of its coach. Unfortunately, Herm Edwards' mark on a team isn't much, but with a San Diego team looking decidedly like a 10-6 football team. Giving away five points to the homestanding Chiefs looks too good to be true. San Diego is a playoff team, but 10-6 teams lose games on the road sometimes.

Again, when looking at the long-term the Bucanneers (+5 1/2)did not look like a 0-5 team on paper. After coming up big against Cincy last week, this team looks like it's ready for a little streak. Philadelphia is looking better also and may still beat Tampa, but this should be a close game.

Speaking of Cincinnati (-3), a home game against Carolina could go a long way in showing the NFL whether they can take the next step in the AFC. Throwout the spread, the Bengals will look to finally make a statement and finally put their vaunted offense of display.

If the Raiders (+3)are going to win a game this season, it's either this week against Arizona or in week 11 against Houston. It's shameful to have another weakling come to the Black Hole as favorites, but these are the times we live. As for the Cards, most teams would bounce back rousingly after their Monday Night debacle. Arizona, though, is a 1-5 team without a history of winning. They're going to hand this one to Oaktown.

Denver's (-4 1/2)defense may be overrated, but should we expect Cleveland to expose it holes? C'mon. Giving two touchdowns to the homestanding Brownies would make me feel comfortable.

The Record: 13-8-1.
Last Week: 1-3.
The Wager: $20 Pick 5
The Winnings: $260.00

Oct 15, 2006 

Large Spreads Look Compelling In Week Six

When will the Lions' Rod Marinelli get his first win of the season? Detroit is Tigertown right now, so they won't notice another loss. Buffalo (-1) comes to town hobbled themselves, but their defense should be able to take advantage of a decimated Detroit O-line. WR Roy Williams is also missing so how will the Lions run the ball or have enough time for Jon Kitna?

Cincinnati (-5 1/2) is coming off a bye week and Tampa Bay is coming off its rookie QB's first start. The Bengals are not going to run roughshod over the Bucs on the offensive side. If they can stop Cadillac Williams return to Tampa covering the spread is merely a Chad Johnson romp to the end zone.

The Texans (+13) have begun to show some life, albeit, without adding to the win column, but their first-year coach might be changing the tide. In Dallas, the T.O. affair is helping the Marketing Department, but not necessarily the football operation. Dallas' Drew Bledsoe has been very shaky and T.O. has been non-existent. This game will have to be a low-scoring affair for the Texans to succeed. If they can limit Julius Jones, it will happen.

The Chargers (-10 1/2) must have watch the 49ers game film against the Raiders and said "here's three easy wins against these two teams." The Niners have shown themselves to be a Jekyl and Hyde kind of team, yet predicatable. They'll play an exciting sort of game against the lamest (Raiders)in the NFL and completely self-destruct against better teams (Chiefs 41-0 loss). San Diego's defensive production might be enough to cover the large spread.

The Record: 12-5-1.
Last Week: 2-2.
The Wager: $20 Pick 4
The Winnings: $280.00

Oct 14, 2006 


PREGAME>>>Thinking about the A's making a heroic comeback is putting the cart before the horse. Just winning today will bring back an enormous amount of pride in this team. If want to talk about winning four straight, put it this way; momentum would have to swing violently to the A's quickly. Danny Haren hurling a no-hiter is just about the only way that happens.

>>>Keep an eye on Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman. His background is sort of like another Motown bad boy; the 8 Mile's Eminem.

TOP OF THE FIRST>>>Bonderman is lacking control early on. The weather might have more to do with that than nerves.

>>>Except for Frank Thomas, these A's look patient at the plate. Milton Bradley came up limp. If he can run at 2/3 speed, you've got to leave him in there. He's the only player with any life on this team.

>>>Kotsay Scores on Bradley's double to left. Bradley scores on Chavez's double down the rightfield line. ATHLETICS 2, TIGERS 0.

BOTTOM OF FIRST>>>Haren needs to shutdown the Tigers after being awarded a two run cushion. So far, he's keeping the ball down.

>>>Interesting how Lou Piniella put Fox's Thom Brennamen on the spot about Bonderman's GED. Brennamen said it meant that Bonderman was "smart" enough to get a high school diploma. Where I'm from getting a GED is hardly within the realm of scholarly lads.

>>>Haren retires the side with Granderson on second. ATHLETICS 2, TIGERS 0.

TOP OF SECOND>>>Maybe Kenny Rogers' chat with Bonderman in the dugout did wonders. The A's go down in order.

>>>Nick Swisher goes hitless, again. People have criticized D'Angelo Jimenez. His defense has been awful, but at least, he has two hits...two more than Thomas and The Swish put together.

BOTTOM OF SECOND>>>Let's see if Detroit can regain the momentum after Bonderman's quick inning.

>>>Haren continues to have a wicked slider working in the dirt. Brandon Inge looked silly swinging at it which is a good indication of its effectiveness. ATHLETICS 2, TIGERS 0.

TOP OF THIRD>>>Bradley with another hit. The limping Bradley should be inspiring the rest of the team. In the Billy Beane playoff era in Oakland, Bradley is playing the best ball out of all those teams.

>>>It's sad when the broadcasters are commenting on how Thomas' foul balls are good swings. ATHLETICS 2, TIGHERS 0.

BOTTOM OF THIRD>>>Haren continues to deal. He's a gamer and I don't buy that having him pitch Game 3 would have changed its outcome. Despite Rogers' newfound steely demeanor, I'll still take Haren going eye-to-eye with him spinning dueling goose eggs. ATHLETICS 2, TIGERS 0.

TOP OF FOURTH>>>Jay Payton homers to left. Hopefully, this is a good sign. He looked deflated in his first at-bat and bit incredulous while rounding second on his homer. One-by-one maybe they're starting to believe.

>>>Swish gets his first hit. A nice liner to right. He almost overhustled rounding second, if that's possible. Pete Rose would say, no. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 0.

BOTTOM OF FOURTH>>>Haren gets in a bit of trouble, but still has the splitter humming when he needs it.

>>>Good observation by the Fox guys. Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez have done very little in getting the Tigers one game from the World Series. It only shows how much Placido Polanco has been for Detroit. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 0.

TOP OF FIFTH>>>The A's go down quickly in the fifth. Bonderman is settling in with only 71 pitches. This only going to put more pressure on the A's pitching and defense.

BOTTOM OF FIFTH>>>Chavez throws Brandon Inge's dribbler into the stands. If your throw ends up behind the runner at first then you probably shouldn't have thrown it. Chavez is just not looking very nimble at third. Did he age ten years in the postseason? He looks like Ron Cey playing out his days at third with the Cubbies.

>>>Granderson doubles Inge home for the Tigers first run. His baserunning is what winning in the postseason is about. Not only did he put his team on the board, but woke up his freezing fans with a hustling burst to second.

>>>Granderson scores on Craig Monroe's double to left..

>>>Tigers get two, but Polanco's lineout double play to Jimenez is, at least, something different to what the A's have seen when Detroit starts a rally. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 2.

TOP OF SIXTH>>>A's put a runner on, but meekly hit grounders to the right side of the diamond are not what you want without much speed out there. It makes you wonder what the A's hitters are thinking by trying to pull outside pitches they invariably end up being slow rollers to the firstbaseman.

>>>Momentum seems to be turning the Tigers way. Can Haren stop them? Can the defense get out of the sixth without making a crucial error.? ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 2.

BOTTOM OF SIXTH>>>First pitch of the sixth into the leftfield stands. Ordonez homers to left. Macha needs to get the pen going. The Tigers are figuring out Haren or the lighting conditions are evening out in Detroit.

>>>Joe Kennedy replaces Haren after Guillen singles to right. Guillen makes an aggressive run to third on Kennedy's wild pitch. Like Granderson in the fifth, the A's roster does not have the speed to put that kind of pressure on a catcher.

>>>Clutch K on Alexis Gomez by Kennedy. The infield can drop back now and hope for forceout to end the inning. Kennedy retires the light-hitting Ramon Santiago, but why did it take eight pitches? ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 3.

TOP OF SEVENTH>>>Jason Kendall singles to right off of Bonderman's foot. Kendall is a contact hitter, but does he have to be protecting on every pitch of the at-bat. Taking Bonderman out of the game might have been premature for Jim Leyland. Maybe he saw something, but it seemed like Bonderman was heating up. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 3.

BOTTOM OF SEVENTH>>>The Tigers are rallying again. Polanco's single to second advances the runner to second. Polanco is now officially on par with the Hatcher's in terms off tearing up the A's in the playoffs. Mickey Hatcher's clutch hitting in the 1988 World Series brought down the A's and Billy Hatcher's hitting prowess led to a sweep of the 1990 team. They are not relating in any way except in the ire of A's fans.

>>>Kiko Calero comes up for Kennedy for the most important few hitters of the entire season.

>>>Macha makes a shrewd move and brings in Huston Street with the bases loaded and one out. Macha shouldn't get too much credit for creativity there isn't anything else he can do now. A strikeout here is critical. Even a sac fly RBI will set the Tigers bullpen in motion.

>>>Street comes up huge with a double play from Chavez, 5-3. The normal flow of a baseball game would say the A's break through in the eighth. If not, we're talking extra frames. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 3

TOP OF EIGHTH>>>Reliever Jason Grilli comes in for Detroit in Joel Zumaya's role. The 100 mph hurler is not ready to come back from his injury. This is Oakland's chance with the hot-hitting Bradley leading off.

>>>Much has been written about the radar guns being juiced. Here's more: Grilli is not hitting 98-99 mph on the gun as the Fox linescore says. If true, a couple of teams including the Giants were stupid for letting him go.

>>>Thomas hits into a weak double-play. It might be time to give up on the Big Hurt tonight and hopefully tomorrow.

>>>Has anyone ever seen a Major League pitcher throw 12 straight balls? Zumaya's injury is definitely hurting the Tigers. It goes to show what the inability of Thomas to come close to get a hit is doing to the A's in a inning where the leadoff hitter reached on a single and Grilli walked three straight, Oakland is down two out because of Thomas' poor swinging.

>>>Lefty Wilfredo Ledezma replaces Grilli.

>>>Scutaro fouls out and the entire series comes into focus. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 3.

BOTTOM OF EIGHTH>>>Street handles the Tigers in order. Through 1 2/3 he's thrown relatively few pitches. He'll go the ninth. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 3.

TOP OF NINTH>>>The A's put Kendall on but can't do anything else. ATHLETICS 3, TIGERS 3.

BOTTOM OF NINTH>>>Monroe and Polanco single with two outs.

>>>Ordonez smacks a game-winning, series-winning, pennant-winning homerun. The Tigers sweep the A's, 4-0 and await the Mets or Cardinals. TIGERS 6, ATHLETICS 3.


Chavez Surrenders To The Tigers


The A's have folded, at least, that's what Eric Chavez is saying. The slick-fielding thirdbasemen added words to the shrugs and bowed heads in the Oakland clubhouse.

"We've run into a better team and there's really nothing you can do. They've been better than us in every aspect of the game. I don't have any problem saying that."

Chavez's inappropriate comments are nothing new. He's been saying the exact same thing every time the A's have been up against the wall.

Here's Chavez's quote last August just as the A's began a crucial series against the Los Angeles Angels [Read the post from August 9, 2005 in the LFR]:

I'll never say we have more talent than them," he said. "They're just so solid. Top to bottom, they've got more talent, hands down. They should win the division, if you ask me.

Chavez's candor in the midst of adversity was not welcomed last season when they fell short of beating the Angels and it's definitely unwarranted on the brink of the elimination in the ALCS.

It's a mystery containing many hard to quantify reasons why the A's choke during the playoffs, but if you want one glaring reason point to a strange willingness to capitulate in the newspapers.

Who knows, maybe Chavez has French blood flowing through his veins because surrendering to the enemy comes very easily to him.

Oct 11, 2006 

Zito, Chavez Let Games 1-2 Slip Away


Is it any surprise that the two players who made pivotal mistakes in the first two games of the ALCS for the A's are the two notable players from the struggling playoff of teams of the past six years.

This A's team is, indeed, different than those teams. They play better defense, have a better all-around pitching staff and far more depth, but Barry Zito tanked in Game 1 and despite hitting a mammoth homer in Game 2, Eric Chavez's second straight missplay of a grounder to his left have brought back whispers of those teams from earlier this decade.

In the Division Series, Detroit intimidate the Yankees to no end. Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya and some extreme clutch hitting had the veteran Yanks unexpectedly shaken.

In this series, there isn't a sense that Oakland is intimidated by the heat of the Tigers and their style of play. Thirteen strikeouts in Game 2 might indicate otherwise, but there isn't fear because of one guy: Milton Bradley.

He set the tone in Game 1, with his shot to center off of Zumaya's 100 mph fastball. His double was hit so hard that it curved at such and angle away from Curtis Granderson that cold fusion was created at the impact of ball and bat.

Bradley followed it up tonight with two homers and nearly helped the A's pull off a historic comeback in the ninth.

The number thirteen is haunting the A's in this series. In Game 1, they were a playoff record-tying 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Tonight, Detroit pitchers struckout 13 A's hitters, including six in a row late in the game. Friday's Game 3 lands on Friday the 13th.

It goes without saying that Game 3, Friday in Motown, is a must win. Words is that Oakland will start Rich Harden which would be a huge gamble on Ken Macha's part. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s with the possibility of snow.

Is it wise to trot out a pitcher who really hasn't pitched a full start since July in a must win. Throw in the fact that Comerica Park will be rocking in their parkas and the prospect of Harden's confidence wavering becomes a huge risk against reversing the momentum of this series.

This is the sort of dubious decision-making regarding the playoff pitching rotation that hampered the A's in the past. Remember, journeyman Gil Heredia starting the decisive Game 5 of the 2000 ALDS against the Yankees?

If the A's can win with Harden on the mound in Game 3, do you weaken yourself by starting Game 4 starter, Dan Haren, on three days rest for a possible Game 7?

Tonight's Fox telecast of the ALCS neglected to mention an emerging storyline in this series. With the Tigers up 2-0 and returning home they'll have the A's #1 nemesis on the mound Friday. Kenny Rogers is an unbelievable 21-7 against Oakland. As if the road to World Series wasn't long enough for the A's already.

Oct 9, 2006 

Tigers Celebrated Like They Just Won World Series


By the look of the pandemonium on the field at Comerica Park Saturday, the Detroit Tigers just won the World Series.

Players who jubilantly spray champagne on the fans and 41-year-old lefties who douse uniformed cops on the dugout usually mark celebrations for world titles and not a 3-1 series victory in the Division Series against los yanquis.

Before the ridiculousness of the scene set in, the once-sadsack--Tigers three years removed from 119 loses--hopping jubilantly was quite charming until the importance of advancing to the ALCS pales in comparison to the unadulterated ecstasy of winning the whole thing which the Tigers did not do Saturday nor did any other Major League team, at least, not yet.

What will they do if they do win?

Tear down Tiger Stadium? Maybe join the lovely inhabitants of Flint in torching foreign-made luxury sedan. Maybe streak?

The maturity of the Tigers might come into play during this series with the Athletics. While the A's finished off the Minnesota Twins in three games without trailing at any point, the veteran of the team, Frank Thomas, fully participated in the celebration, but he tempered his antics unlike Detroit's Kenny Rogers. What he told the A's is that this is only the second of four celebrations for the team. Meaning: we don't have anything to really celebrate about--just yet.

Apparently, for Detroit beating the Yankees is satisfying enough. The A's used to be a team that was just happy to make the postseason, losing four straight opening series. The roles look to be reversed.


Are The Raiders On The Verge Of 0-16?

The San Francisco Chronicle's Nancy Gay made this statement in her column Monday:

"The Raiders, who are a Dec. 3 home game against Houston away from being the first team in NFL hisotry to go 0-16, are going nowhere but down."

The line is a bit shocking, if not for its directness, but its stark plausibility. The Raiders are the worst thing these parts have seen in any sport in a very long time, if not ever.

What makes these Raiders at 0-4 so different from the other three winless teams in the NFL is that perception that this franchise is run by an absent tyrant who has unmercifully slayed ever capable coach in the kingdom and must now turn to less than mediocre talent.

For every stupid, yet creative way the Raiders bumble their way through 60 minutes of football, they come back to the basic premise that the Raiders have moments when they look utterly lost on the gridiron. There are moments when the simple act of hiking the ball to the quarterback is bumbled, not once, but on successive plays.

On Sunday, running back Lamont Jordan, forgot about the basic lateral rule. Instead of pouncing on the borderline pass, he stood and stared at the orb like a pedestrian would stare at mangled roadkill.

It comes down to this revelation. When two well-coached teams play on television like tonight's Denver-Baltimore game, it makes me wonder how the Raiders are actually a professional football team.

Oct 7, 2006 

Take Skins, Rams, Panthers, Broncs In Week 5

The Redskins (+4) enter the Meadowlands with Mark Brunell drunk off the fountain of youth. The Giants defense is not as bad as it has been the first four weeks of the season and frankly giving the Skins four points seems too high. Take it even though any game in the parity-stricken NFC East is a toss up.

Any Packers game against a passable team like Rams (-3)is fraught with uncertainty. No matter what Brett Favre does; three touchdowns or four interception, he still God to the cheeseheads. Marc Bulger and the Rams should be able to exploit Green Bay's secondary for 30 points, which giving a field goal to the Pack seems highly profitable.

Carolina (-8 1/2) is ready to explode, while the lonely Browns are hot off a victory against the only team they can feel like studs while beating (Oakland). The Panthers d-line should be able to rouse Charlie Frye out of the pocket and they rustle him to the ground, unless, that is, he throws and errant pass. This should be a blowout for the home-standing Panthers.

This game should be a pick 'em game. The fact that Denver (-3 1/2) is playing Monday Night in front of the fans at Invesco is probably the difference. Baltimore's defense is very impressive, but for some reason I keep mixing up Miami's inept Daunte Culpepper with the Ravens' Steve McNair. It might be Freudian, but maybe it's saying Denver in a close game.

The Record: 10-3-1.
Last Week: 1-2.
The Wager: $20 Pick 4
The Winnings: $300.00

Oct 4, 2006 

Hunter Simply Hands The A's Game Two


I have a tendency to scream out loud when a players makes a boneheaded play. It doesn't matter whether it's my team or not. When Torii Hunter squandered away Game 2 of the Division Series I yelled, "What are you doing!"

Hunter's misplay of Mark Kotsay's tailing flyball to center is one of the most egregious defensive mistakes you'll ever see; be it the regular series or a postseason pressure cooker.

Let me count the ways the Hunter may have blown the entire series for the Twins:

Aside from the outfield acrobatic, why did Hunter think taking such a risky move as diving for a difficult fly was justified with two outs? Basic baseball fundamentals rationalize it this way: if there's no out or even one, making such a leap might warrant the risk because Oakland had the means of a big inning. With two out, it's different. If Hunter pulls up, the runner scores or holds at third and there's the faith that Dennys Reyes gets the third out.

Hunter's route to the flyball was highly suspect. The angle he had on the ball was not even close to where the ball actually landed. Replays showed that Hunter's glove hand was extended outward towards the centerfield wall illustrating that the ball was way over his head well into his dive.

Worst of all, Hunter kicked the collective Twins Nation in the crotch. You could see it in his face and there were too many Twins players with their heads down to make much of difference when the series moves to Oakland Friday afternoon. They could still bounce back, but in light of the growing list of poorly executed baseball, it seems doubtful, even with a burgeoning A's postseason jinx lurking off 66th Avenue.

What a game at Shea today. If Game 1 is any indication, we may be looking at one of the classic Division Series of all-time.

Despite an iffy performance from the Dodgers bullpen, these teams look like two prizefighters pummeling each other for 15 rounds.

Question: how did it go from 80 degrees in Queens to torrential rain showers in the Bronx within three hours? Might a heavenly oddsmaker be telling us something

Oct 3, 2006 

Role Reverse: Twins Play Like A's Of Playoffs Past

Understandably, the national headline from today's game was Frank Thomas' two home runs. More telling to A's fans, though, is that their team actually played mistake-free while the Twins fumbled and squandered opportunities.

In the previous four trips to the postseason since 2000 the A's may have not played a more solid nine innings. Add that they did it in the lion's den of Hubert H. and against the best lefty in the business and you have the makings of a very good day at the park for the A's.

Oakland didn't build a rally against the likely Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, except for possibly the second, but used the long ball to great effect when they needed it and a recieved a solid, but inexciting effort from Barry Zito.

Could this be a harbinger of the things to come? Might the ghosts of series past be exorcized? Jeremy Giambi's non-slide and Eric Byrnes' non-touch of home plate still haunts Oakland's dreams. But, wait!

The ninth also brought shades of those same house of horrors. Milton Bradley lost the ball in the white sky and Huston Street looked hittable again.

Michael Cuddyer's fly to Bradley was fairly deep. Torii Hunter's grounder to second was a shot and Justin Morneau's liner was ripped. It's something to keep a close eye on because this series is going to be tight every game.

Albert Pujols's homer against San Diego in September woke up the Cardinals just enough to stumble into this series. If they were still groggy before today, then Pujols's delivered the cold water with his blast in Game 1.

Again, Jake Peavy's exceptional movement on his fastball actually cost the Padres the opener, but possibly revived the Cards. You just cannot throw Pujols a twice strike fastball regardless of velocity or movement down the middle of the plate, but Peavy did and he absolutely cranked it out of Petco's expansive left-center alley. Suddenly, the ailing Cards with strong performances from Scott Rolen and Adam Wainwright seem like contenders for the NLCS again.

Hold on! Meet St. Louis' Game 2 and 3 starters. Jeff Weaver and Jeff Suppan might have a lot to do with San Diego still having life in this series.

The Yanks did what most expected. They rolled over the upstart Tigers in Game 1, but something else happened in the Bronx. Everytime New York gave Detroit a shot to the head, the Tigers fought back.

After allowing five in the bottom of the third, the Tigers quickly scored three back in the top of the fifth and seventh. It might not mean much, but the inexperienced Tigers were not intimidated by the Yankees, as well as they shouldn't. Even with a three run lead, you got the feeling that the Yanks bullpen was apprehensive and ready to implode. It's something to watch in Game 2 and 3 when Randy Johnson tests his bad back at Comerica.


"Possessed" Dodgers Will Capture The Flag


The battle of the "low budget" bad boys is really a misnomer. All that talk of big market/small market was a baseball talking point magnified by a decade of shrewd moves by the Yankees. Everyone, at least, in this postseason has a fair shot at the prize.

The question is this: can the biggest chokers of the Division Series era finally grow up? After four straight exits under dubious circumstances, can Oakland finally put away an opponent? Nine straight elimination losses say no. What's to root for? A poor start? Maybe 0-2 going back to Oakland might do the trick?

Unfortunately for the A's, the recent fall of the Tigers landed the most well-equipped October squad in their laps. Minnesota has the ear-splitting dome, the best pitcher of this generation and some quality bats led by the A.L. batting champion, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter.

They key to Minnesota's long playoff run rests in the capable hands of a highly talented and maneuverable bullpen. As past World Series champs have shown; a methodical management of the bullpen along with a scrappy style of offense has bred success.>>>>>>>>>Twins in Five.

People like to think that St. Louis is the team hobbling into the playoffs. The Cards have what Detroit doesn't: experience. While the White Sox's season a year ago seems similar to the late-season performance of the Tigers. Lightning won't strike twice in the Central. Jim Leyland may have coaxed enough out of this very talented pitching staff to get him to the Division Series, but mustering enough to throttle the Bronx Bombers will be too much.

Detroit, though, won't be a push over for the Yanks. They still have a very capable offense with Placido Polanco, Marcus Thames, Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe, all players few have paid much attention to this season.

The Yankees got the draw they most desired, because a possible matchup with the Twins would have been an iffy fit. While their offense looks like the greatest ever assembled, they're really have an upgrade over many good offenses with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano and possibly Jason Giambi, the rest are either injured or just over-the-hill big names. Gary Sheffield playing first might cost the Yankees dearly at some point this postseason.

The Tigers won't win this series solely because they won't be strong enough to challenge New York's very shaky middle relief corps with the game on the line. It's not even clear how reliable the recent injured Mariano Rivera might be.>>>>>>>>>>Yankees in Four.

What a difference a year makes in perception. Last postseason, all the talk was about the 82-win Padres not deserving a berth. A year later, the venue has changed and it's the Cardinals who literally backed into the playoffs, narrowly averting the greatest collapse in sports history.

The Cardinals are battered, injured and manager Tony LaRussa seems at his wits end. It should be noted the Cards began their slide around the time closer Jason Isringhausen was deemed too injured to play this post season. Substitute closer Adam Wainwright will have to be a hero for the Cards to advance. That, or, Albert Pujols and others will need a monster offensive performance to take the game out of their weak bullpen's hands.

San Diego has some gamers on offense with Dave Roberts, Brian Giles and Mike Cameron. Their pitching should be the difference in this series. Ace Jake Peavy might have the most wicked movement on his fastball in baseball, but sometimes it moves too much; like right down the middle of the plate. Like Minnesota, the Padres need their starters to deliver the lead to the seventh and let the a clearly delineated bullpen committee take it to Trevor Hoffman.>>>>>>>>>>>>Padres in Five.

This cross-country matchup might be the best of the postseason. Too bad they couldn't do it in the NLCS. Just about a month ago, life hadn't look this good in Flushing since 1986. Suddenly, the Mets looked mediocre in a very weak National League. The Mets demise in September, though, looks more reminiscent of the last year's Chisox than the Detroit Tigers. The problem is that Chicago drew a faltering Boston and L.A. Angels team and the Amazin's have drawn the red-hot Dodgers.

This is matchup that renders numbers moot. The Mets lefty-laden lineup might, according to the numbers, eat up L.A.'s righties, but the Dodgers are a the proverbial wildcard team that has been so successful this century. Florida, Boston and Anaheim have all caught fire in the last two weeks and parlayed that into overwhelming an unsuspecting favorite.

One glimpse of the Dodgers last Friday and Saturday in San Francisco saw, as the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Shulman wrote, a team playing "possessed". Clutch hitting and tenacious baserunning are what World Series Champions are made of.>>>>>>>>>Dodgers in Five.

Minnesota over N.Y. Yankees.

Los Angeles over San Diego

>>>>>>World Series
Los Angeles over Minnesota.