Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Nastiest Pitch in Baseball


How did Tim Lincecum's filthy start against the Astros on Opening Day not get shown until half-way through Sportscenter? When will this kid get some respect for his back-to-back Cy Young Awards?

Lincecum's Opening Day start in Houston revealed one thing about Tim that the public may not know- he is bored with Spring Training. He must be, right? Maybe he likes to watch his fans worry at the thought of him not performing like he has, then watch them take a big sigh of relief as he throws 7 innings of shut-out ball on Opening Day. Either way, "The Freak" is lights out. And these days, it is his one pitch that may be the secret, yet not-so-secret ingredient to his success.

No, it is not his mid-90's fastball, although that may be the 6th or 7th best pitch in baseball. No, it is not his knee-buckling 12-6 curveball, although that is also a top 10 pitch. It is his change-up, and the one that thrives and inherits most of Lincecum's strike-outs because of all the other nasty pitches he delivers. Batters are so worried about looking dopey at the 12-6 curve, or getting gas-faced at the 97 MPH fastball, that they forget about how befuddled they are going to look when Lincecum fires an.....84 MPH change-up that falls off the table like no other.

I think that Lincecum's change-up may be the best pitch in baseball. It was Mariano Rivera's cutter, the one that everyone knows is coming, yet still can't hit. But the way Lincecum uses his change-up in a variety of ways and how crafty he gets with it may be the extra push to get his pitch to the top of the charts.

Here are the 5 nastiest and best pitches in all of baseball, in my opinion.

5. Brandon Webb's Sinker

Not that the pitch is unhittable, but he throws it with such a consistency that he constantly gets people to ground out. The sinker is a pitch where you go into a start and either you have it or you don't for that particular day. Webb has it on a regular basis, and that is what separates his sinker from any others. He throws it about 85% of the time during his start, and he is so accurate with it that once he is on, it is hard to stop. He can throw it where it starts at the plate and dives down to a right-handed hitter, or he can back-door the right-handed batter and have them not think twice. Either way, prepare for a groundout.

4. Roy Halladay's Cutter

Maybe he learned it from Mariano Rivera, or maybe he didn't. One thing is for sure, it is quickly becoming one of the wickedest pitches in all of baseball. He does have other pitches in his arsenal that baffle the hitter, but the cutter may be his best. The pitch comes in on right-handers and tails away from lefties at such a whippy look that it is hard not to get caught up in it. He can throw it anywhere from 88-93 MPH. His name isn't Doc Halladay for nothing. He is constantly sawing off batter's knuckles with his cutter that seems to never find the barrel of the bat. That's good news for Phillies fans.

3. Jonathan Papelbon's Splitter

Jonathan Papelbon's electric excitement after striking out the last batter of the game is usually preceded by a diving splitter in the dirt that has come to be one of the most dirtiest pitches in the game. What sets it up is his 4-seam fastball nearing triple digits that he dares batters to hit, which may take credit for the success of the splitter. No doubt, when he has 2 strikes on a batter, he goes to the splitter that is thrown just a few MPH under the fastball and in the same location, until it dives off the plate and into the dirt, proceeded by the batter being tagged out by catcher Jason Varitek, and then the signature Papelbon pandemonium.

2. Mariano Rivera's Cutter

They know it is coming, yet still can't hit it. That is the motto for Mariano Rivera's cutter that has dared hitters for years. He dares them to hit because he throws it 90% of the time. The ball goes into left-handers and away from right-handers at around 95 MPH with such a, well, late "cut" that the batter simply has no chance of making contact. And if they do, it's not going very far. Rarely is Rivera's cutter struck on the barrel of the bat. Mostly, you will find, for a right-hander at least, the ball connecting off the end of the bat. That may be the only way of connecting with the ball, and that is why Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time.

1. Tim Lincecum's Change-Up

Okay, it's maybe not his change-up alone, more like the way he uses it to make the batter look silly and why he is a 2-time Cy Yound winner at age 25. I already said he sets the pitch up with his mid-90's screaming fastball and 12-6 curveball, but the change-up itself is not bad either, or why would we be talking about it as the best picth in the game today. It dips, it dives, it is much slower than any other pitch he throws, and it dances straight down with a sort of movement that I have heard as can only be described if you are at-bat against him. The best pitch from the best pitcher in the game.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day "W"


If there was a game that showed off what the San Francisco Giants could potentially bring to the field this year, it was this game. The Giants defeated the Houston Astros on the Opening Day of baseball today, 5-2, behind the stellar pitching of 2-time Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum.

Lincecum threw straight filth in the game for 7 complete innings. He finished with 7 strikeouts, while surrendering 0 runs on no walks. That seemed about the norm for Lincecum. He struggled for the most part in spring training, but somehow the kid does it when it matters. He was perfect. He really only got into trouble once, in the 6th, but was able to get out of it with a sense of ease. Bottom line, he was in control.

As for that improved line-up we hear so much of, it sure looked like something had changed during that offseason in that 2nd inning when the Giants put up 3 runs, started by the Giants' two offseason pick-ups, Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. Huff led off with a hit, followed by a walk to DeRosa, and then the flood gates opened with a base-hit by Benjie Molina and then a long single off the short porch in left field by John Bowker.

Bowker, who had won the starting job in right field over Nate Shierholtz a couple days ago after having one of the best spring trainings of any player, finished 1-4 with a run scored, but was a presence at the plate.

Edgar Renteria would later have a clutch single in the 7th inning into the left-field gap to score a run, and DeRosa homered in the 8th to give the Giants a total of 5 runs.

Sergio Romo, Brandon Medders, and Brian Wilson finished off the game out of the bullpen, with Medders allowing the only two runs for the Astros.

All in all, it was the right way to start off the season for the Giants. Then again, whenever you have "The Freak" on the mound, your chances are pretty good to win. Another plus, the L.A. Dodgers lost in their first game of the season today, so chalk it up as a 1 game lead on the Dodgers in the NL West.

Tomorrow's game is at 5:05pm, Barry Zito vs. Wandy Rodriguez.

The Greatness of the Raiders- McNabb a No-Go


It sounds just about right that Donovan McNabb landed with the Washington Redskins and not the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders were the front-runner and were sounding like the only serious team willing to make the deal for him. There was even a bogus trade in the works that would have sent Nnamdi Asomugha to the Eagles in exchange for McNabb.

But this probable mishap in front-office management cannot be blamed on Al Davis or any other personnel, at least not this time. There was no way this was going to happen. There was no chance because there was no way McNabb would go to Oakland...willingly. What was attracting him there?

The media tends to go crazy with the rumors, but this one seemed far fetched even after the "proposed" trade containing Asomugha.

There is one thing that strikes a cord with me though. McNabb could have changed that Raider team around. They would have instantly been a 7 or 8 win team this coming season. It would have made Raider fans forget all about the pathetic and embarassing moves they have made in the past (most recent-Darrius Heyward-Bay drafted #7 overall).

Then why not pull out all the stops for McNabb? He is a franchise changer. Al Davis should have made McNabb an offer he couldn't refuse or promised him things where he felt that this could be a successful franchise.

Turns out, there may have been nothing the Raiders could do to woo McNabb under Center for their team. Reports say if McNabb was traded to the Raiders, he would have retired on the spot and maybe pulled a Brett Favre on them and sign with a different team, sooner or later. Only to the Raiders would that happen.

But Raider fans had hope, even if it was for just a couple weeks. Their team was on the front page of sports, and the attention was on them. But alas, they came out of it with nothing but broken hearts and disappointment, yet again. And instead of dreams of having McNabb leading the Raiders down the field, they'll have Bruce Gradkowski leading them...into a ditch. The same one the Raiders have been in for the last decade.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

SF Giants Season Preview


It has arrived. Opening Day is on Monday and Giants fans cannot be more excited for this year's team. Is it the solid pitching staff getting these fans going? Or is it the so-called upgrade in offense? One thing is for sure, the Giants have a shot to win the NL West for the first time in a long time. Granted, it is just a "shot" at winning the division, but for a franchise that has gone through its ups-n-downs, and a fan-base that has gone with it, this season couldn't look any better.

Several story lines dominate the start of this season. Will Tim Lincecum three-peat as Cy Young winner? Will Madison Bumgarner crack the rotation this season? How will the Giants handle Buster Posey once he is done obliterating the Minor League this season? And will the upgrade in offense pay off for the stretch run? These are the questions that dominate the speculation this season, and I'm sure there are a handfull more.

But let's cover the obvious. The Giants pitching staff, although they lost Brad Penny, is still solid. They might have the best 1-2 in the League, as well as the best 4-5 in the League. What worries me is the #3 pitcher, Barry Zito. We saw glimpses of brilliance during the second-half of last season. How will that carry over into this one. By the looks of Thursday nights game, not so much. Zito is the "if." Zito is the difference.

Todd Wellemeyer and Jonathan Sanchez are going to give you a .500 season, more or less. And Lincecum and Matt Cain are going to get you 15 wins, more or less, depending on the offense. But I have no idea what to expect from Zito. This we will find out soon. My advice, the Giants are one pitcher away from making a run for this division. Whether that pitcher is already in the organization in the form of Bumgarner or a surprise with Wellemeyer, or they have to go pick one up at the trade deadline, we will find out. They may miss Brad Penny.

As for the hitting, I was pleased this offseason to find that for once in long time a Bay Area Sports team, whose name is not the Sharks, went out and upgraded the part of their team that they needed to upgrade. The Giants needed to upgrade the offense, and they brought in Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. These aren't high-profile names by any means, but it is better than what they had last year, right? I'm still trying to convince myself. The Giants will score more runs this season than last, and if they overcome all expectations hitting-wise, then they will win the West, plain and simple.

Their pitching is moderately strong, their bullpen is just about flawless (knock on wood), and the only thing left is their offense. Which they now have, just not a lot of.

They have a good line-up...until you look at the every other line-up in the NL West.

But there is one thing that the Giants have and will need to resist this season if they want any success. Health is the key. With a pitching rotation and line-up that is as fragile as this team's, pray for good health. They have already lost Freddy Sanchez, who is starting the year on the DL, but Juan Uribe can pick up the slack while he's gone. They're lucky.

If the Giants lose someone like Pablo Sandoval, or Cain or Lincecum, during the season, you can start panicking. Because in this division, there is not much room for error. For any team.

I see good things for the Giants this season, maybe somewhere around 85 wins, more or less. Bottom line, the Dodgers will not be as good this season, and the Rockies will be better. That's all you need to know. And if the Giants can fit somewhere in between those two teams, they may find themselves with a Wildcard birth to playoffs.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NL West Season Preview


The 2010 NL West Division looks promising yet again. After a surprising, yet competitive 2009 in which the Giants, Rockies, and Dodgers all fought it out for the division crown, as well as a Wildcard birth. This year may be more intriguing than ever. 4 of the 5 teams have legitimate chances of coming away with the division.

5. San Diego Padres
This would be the only team with no chance at the division. Aside from Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres don't have much talent on the offensive side of the ball. Really, who knows how long Gonzalez will be a Padre until some big-pocket team like the Yankees or Red Sox comes by and scoops him up for a playoff run. Do not expect to see him in that Padre line-up for too long.

Their pitching is definitely the worst in the division. Jon Garland is their opening day starter and Chris Young seems to be the #2, then the drop-off.

The key for the team is their young guys. Chase Headley has shown promise, but has not had significant success. Now with Kevin Kouzmanoff escaping to Oakland, the future is now for Headley who must produce in order for this team to have success.

New Faces: Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba, Hairston Brothers.
Departures: Kevin Kouzmanoff
Predictions: 5th in the West, 70-92

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
This seems to be the up-and-coming team in the division, and some have even picked them to win the division. They are led by Justin Upton, the young talent who struck it rich this offseason with a promising contract. But the key to a D-Back turnaround from last season is the offseason acquisitions. They let go of some stud players, but may have got back a lot more.

Their rotation is up there in a division that oozes talent. Anytime Dan Haren and Brandon Webb make-up the top of your rotation, that's a plus. In fact, some can argue that they have the best 1-2 pitchers in the game. It is the offense that is the problem, and hopefully Upton's raw ability, along with break-out years from Adam LaRoche, Mark Reynolds, and Chris Young can help out that issue.

The key for this team is health. They cannot afford for someone to go down with an injury in a division like this one. If they are to have any success this year, it will be because they stayed healthy.

New Faces: Adam LaRoche and Edwin Jackson
Key Departures: Eric Byrnes, Doug Davis, Maz Sherzer
Predictions: 4th in the West, 79-83

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Here is where it gets good, and why this may be the most competitive division in the League. The Dodgers finished last year by winning the NL West and holding off the surging Colorado Rockies. But the recent comments from Manny Ramirez have thrown stones at how this team will perform this season.

We know they can hit, they've established that. Kemp, Loney, Ethier, Ramirez, Furcal, that's all you need to know. The key for them is the pitching. Vicente Padilla is their opening day starter, that does not seem to reflect their great young hitting that well. Their young pitching is what needs to come alive for this team. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are the guys that I'm talking about. If they improve, the Dodgers will win the West yet again. If they don't, there are plenty of teams in this division who will take advantage.

The key for this team- keep Manny Ramirez happy. It is a contract year for Man-Ram, and history would show he likes to quit on teams mid-season. In this division, that's the last thing this team needs.

New Faces: Reed Johnson and Brian Giles
Key Departures: Juan Pierre, Randy Wolf, Orlando Hudson
Predictions: 3rd in the West, 88-74

2. San Francisco Giants
I'm going to start this one the same way I started the Dodgers, the Giants have the pitching, they've established that. Lincecum, Cain, and sometimes Zito are straight filthy. The offense is where the team lacks. And the team addressed that this offseason, for the most part. They acquired Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. Although these aren't big power hitters, it is better than what the Giants were putting in their line-up last year, and look how far that got them. They surprised many last year, but don't expect many teams to be surprised this year.

There are two keys to this team: Health and back of the rotation pitching. Freddy Sanchez will start the year on the DL, and that already is not a good start. As for the pitching, I feel that with the departure of Brad Penny, this team is still one good pitcher away from making a run for this division.

New Faces: Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa
Key Departures: Brad Penny, Randy Winn
Predictions: 2nd in the West, 89-73 (Wildcard)

1. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies late-season surge throughout the division last season is one that should scare the rest of the division this season. There is a great mix of young talent with skilled veterans. Add that to a descent pitching staff and you might have something here.

Carlos Gonzalez is a stud in the making, and Dexter Fowler is the next big thing in Colorado. Those two go 1-2 in that line-up that can go 6 or 7 deep with guys who can put the bat on the ball at every at-bat.

The thing they were missing last season was depth in pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez is the ace of this team and will be for some time. Hopefully, a healthy Jeff Francis will return better than ever this season and contribute highly to this rotation. And don't forget about Aaron Cook and Jorge De La Rosa.

The key for this team is getting off to a good start. Last season, it took a 2nd-half run for the ages to get by San Francisco and take the Wildcard. In a competitive division like this, it will take a full season of committment to take this division.

New Faces: Melvin Mora
Key Departures: Garrett Atkins, Jason Marquis, Yorvit Torrealba
Predictions: 1st in the West, 92-70

So those are my predictions, it should be an entertaining season in the ultra-competitive NL West.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The McCloughan Mystery


The mystery that is Scot McCloughan's departure from the San Francisco 49ers is one that has baffled the Bay Area sports community.

How can an accomplished General Manager leave a team with a month left before the NFL Draft, the one thing that a GM has prepared for since last season ended, and probably before?

It all seems pretty fishy to me. Was he fired? Is this a leave of absense? One thing is for sure, his office in Santa Clara is cleared out with no sign of him returning.

But what happened? We don't know, and we may never know. The way the story was just sprung upon the public so abrupty, I doubt if we ever hear the real reason for the 49ers and him parting ways.

The ordeal must have been huge in order to cause the split of someone as accomplished in the 49ers organization as McCloughan was. He was trusted by the 49ers and had come on several radio programs the previous week talking about his mindset going into the NFL Draft. It seemed like this one blind-sided everyone.

A speculation broke yesterday that could possibly give us insight into why the two sides split. There was the rumor of McCloughan having a drinking problem. Word is, he showed up drunk to several team meetings and organized events, which caused embarrassment to the organization. And the two sides decided to mutually split ways.

Again, this is just speculation, but it seems reasonable. McCloughan has an extremely tough job, as do all General Managers of sports teams. He must bring good players to the 49ers, and draft good players in the NFL Draft. And if he doesn't, he is criticized. Extremely stressful, I would say.

But whatever the issue is, it is personal. Personal to McCloughan, and personal to the 49ers, and probably something that will not be a topic of conversation at any time forward.

For now, meet your new man in charge of the 2010 NFL Draft for the 49ers. His name is Trent Baalke and he has been friends with McCloughan for 15 years. Some are calling him a McClone, and for 49er fans that's as good of news as you can get. McCloughan had a pretty good track record for drafting players, and if that carries over to Baalke, who has worked hand-in-hand with McCloughan over the years, we should see no difference.

But people will still want to know about McCloughan and what happened. The 49ers are going to keep this one close to the vest. And if it is something as serious as a drinking problem, the 49ers and McCloughan should be given that space.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sharks' Losing Streak a Sign?


The San Jose Sharks finally snapped their 6-game losing streak the other night against the Minnesota Wild, a streak spanning 10 days and resulting in the Sharks being out-scored 27-12.

It has since sparked speculation of what to make of the Sharks breakdown with the upcoming playoffs just around the corner.

So what do we make of the losing streak? There were several things that clearly stood out. The first being the defense. The word to describe it was 'slow.' They were slow to react, slow on the penalty kill, and extremely laxidasical throughout the whole losing streak. There was no flow to the defense and they seemed plain awkward on the ice.

The other thing that stood out, and this isn't a secret, was Evgeni Nabokov not seeing the puck. I've said this before, and many others before me, the Sharks go as far as Nabby takes them. During the losing streak, Nabby could stop nothing. He went 0-5 on the losing streak that ended in 6 games, with Thomas Greiss losing one of the games. From what I saw, most of the goals scored against the Sharks were shots that should have been stopped by Nabby. But the Nabby we have seen since the Olympic break is not the same one we saw before. Specifically, ever since his his meltdown against Canada.

But is the losing streak just a post-Olympic hangover for the Sharks? Or is this a sign of things to come in the playoffs? I think it's got to be a mix of all the above. The veterans are tired, or they are playing tired, and the younger guys feed off of that. And Nabby seems to be affected by his Olympic play and it has carried over into the NHL season where they are coming down the stretch and need him more than ever.

Honestly, I hope this losing streak is not a sign of things to come, and the true Sharks team was not revealed over this losing streak. They were just going through the motions, and I think this losing streak is a wake-up call for this team. They have been on top of the Western Conference for so long that they were just, like I said, going through the motions. Now they have Marc-Edouard Vlasic back, and the defensive lines are now complete. Hopefully, they can build from being fully healthy, because there is no other excuse now.

As of today, the Sharks are 1 point back of the Chicago Blackhawks for 1st place in the Western Conference, which is shocking considering the Sharks have tallied 3 points in the last 7 games. But taking the 2nd seed or even 3rd seed in the playoffs would not be the worst thing, it might be the best thing for this team.

Now is where it begins. There are 9 games left in the regular season, with big games coming against playoff-bound teams that the Sharks could possibly face in the first round of the playoffs (Canucks and Avalanche). Down the stretch is where they will earn the fans' trust going into the playoffs, and prove this is not just another fluke year of crawling into the playoffs and making an early exit. And for the fans' sake, I hope that is not the case.

Monday, March 22, 2010

FOR SALE: Golden State Warriors


Anyone want to buy an NBA team? It's a little bit of a fixer-upper, but it should pay out in the end.

The Golden State Warriors announced Monday that their disappointing franchise is up for sale. Larry Ellison, who has shown extreme interest in buying the suffering franchise, is in the clubhouse as the favorite to succeed Chris Cohan as owner. And why shouldn't it be Ellison? He would be the owner of the team whose arena bears his company's name. Oracle Arena. It sounds just about right.

For the Warriors fans who have waited forever for a contending team, you can start paying attention now. Many thought that the "WE BELIEVE" year was the turnaround for this franchise and that they would never go back to being a bad franchise ever again. Hang on. This was because they had a core group of players with Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and Al Harrington. But they forgot one thing, Chris Cohan was still the owner, and his track record would suggest that the success they were having would not last long.

Of course, a few years later they let Davis go, then traded a disgruntled Harrington, and then recently an even more disgruntled Jackson, and there they were again, back at square one.

A couple years ago, they tried the rebuilding process after all hopes of winning with the team they had was out the window. But it was never going to work. This franchise was never going to work. That is until there was new ownership. The Warriors were never committed to rebuilding because the main issue that needed to be rebuilded was the ownership.

It needed to start at the top, and finally Cohan has succumbed to the jeers wanting him out of Oakland and has let this franchise at least have a chance at succeeding, which was never going to happen with him at the helm.

So here we stand, the Warriors finally agreeing to sell the team, and Warriors fans could not be happier. Will this be enough to turn this historically disappointing franchise around? Not sure quite yet, there is a long way to go. But naming Larry Ellison as the owner should be the first move. And maybe we look back and say that this was the start of something great, or maybe we don't. But this franchise, and most of all its fans, need a different path entirely, because the path Chris Cohan was leading the Warriors down has been one that has gone in circles for the last 15 years with no results. Change will come. Here's to the next 15 years.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How SWEET It Is!


The little school from the little town of Moraga, CA defeated the 2nd seed Villanova Wildcats on Saturday, booking their ticket to the Sweet 16 next week.

The game was neck-and-neck just about the whole way, but Omar Samhan continued to wear down the under-sized Villanova team and then exploded in the 2nd half, including big shots down the stretch that were needed to put the Wildcats away.

Samhan continues to impress in the Tournament and has grown into maybe the player of March Madness so far. He scores, plays defense, blocks shots. There is not much this kid cannot do and Villanova was unable to stop him as he went for 32 points and 7 rebounds.

What surprised many was how clutch this St. Mary's team was in this game. Whether it was a clutch block from Samhan, free throws from Clint Steindl, or a bank-in 3-pointer from Mickey McConnell to seal it.

This team is for real. They match up well with every team in this tournament, have fantastic guard-play from McConnell and others, and the big man Samhan down low doing everything.

Who knows how far this team can go, but they are peaking at just the right time. Their next game will be on Thursday against #3 seed Baylor University, who is no joke. It will be yet another test that the Gaels will have to overcome if they want to continue their impressive run through this Tournament.

This week, look for Omar Samhan all over TV, as I predict he and the Gaels will be quite a comodity for ESPN.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Madness Contines...Bay Area Included


Please, set down your bracket and walk away. Your bracket is busted! Now, you can sit and enjoy the absolute Madness that has occured through these first 32 games with much more to come. And for those who were in the HP Pavilion on Thursday, as I was, you were front and center for it. Pandemonium!

Just a few notes, for those who said the Pac-10 was a weak conference this year, it looks like Cal and Washington have proved them wrong. Both looked extremely good in their 1st round games, Cal pouncing early and never looking back, and Washington with a last second lay-in to upset Marquette.

To maybe some surprises, the Bay Area has represented. St. Mary's had a convincing win against a Richmond team who some thought could go to the Sweet 16. But the big story was the introduction of Omar Samhan to the nation. Samhan had 29 points and 12 rebounds and was dominant in the paint, but kicked it up in high gear in the 2nd half to put away Richmond.

St. Mary's next opponent is Villanova, who struggled in their 1st round game beating Robert Morris in overtime. Villanova is a guard-heavy team led by Scotty Reynolds. This is an advantage for St. Mary's because they can match up with Villanova's guards, while having the big man Samhan in the middle fighting with a Villanova player (probably Antonion Pena) who will not compare to Samhan's size and bulk. This could prove to be a big upset if St. Mary's can pull it off, as they are riding a high and Villanova is a little low right now coming off a 1st round overtime win that shouldn't have been even close. Tune in for that one on Saturday.

For the Cal Bears from Berkeley, they were impressive against Louisville on Friday night. They jumped out to a 12-0 lead, then increased it to 18 before winning by 15 points. It was convincing and Jerome Randle continued to show that he is a star and can run that team to it's full extent. Next up for them is top-seeded Duke. It will be tough for the Bears to play like they did against Louisville, as Duke is fundamentally sound with the ball and capitalizes on every mistake you make. I see a far better chance of St. Mary's upsetting Villanova than Cal upsetting Duke, but you never know with the Madness that we have seen so far.

One team that I like is Washington. After seeing them first-hand on Thursday, I have no idea how they did not win the Pac-10 or how they got an 11 seed in the Tournament. They are an extremely talented team with Isiah Thomas running the point and the tall and lanky "Q-Pon" Quincy Pondexter down low. They are quick up and down the floor and rise well above the rim. I see no reason why they cannot beat New Mexico on Saturday and maybe even West Virginia down the road.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Bracket Revealed


First of all, I dont guarantee anything, but here is my thought process on the 2010 March Madness bracket breakdown.

This year's bracket is tricky and it can go several ways, if u ask me. There are so many upset opportunities that it is almost a trap to pick all of them to happen. The way I see it, there are many upset opportunities, but I dont feel many will happen.

I have chalk in the Final Four. This is because Kansas is that good that they can put up with encountering a stacked region; Syracuse matches up well with everyone they play in their region, including Kansas State; Duke has the easiest road to the Final Four, even though I thought they should be a #2 seed; and Kentucky just needs to get past West Virginia to get to Indianapolis, and their freshman play like upper classmen.

Again, I dont guarantee anything, but I have picked the Final Four the last 2 years. But that means nothing, this is the hardest bracket to figure out in a long while and we could easily have 0 #1 seeds in the Final Four when it's all said and done. That is how crazy these next 3 weeks are going to be. Enjoy.

http://freebracketchallenge.1.mayhem.cbssports.com/brackets?do_fb_create=1

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The $10 Million Debacle


Yikes!!! Those were the voices of Oakland A's fans all over the Bay Area after reading the box score of yesterdays 13-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The starting pitcher for the A's yesterday---The Opening Night starter, Ben Sheets.

Sheets, who signed a 1 yr./ $10 Million deal this offseason, was having a rough spring training as it was, but his was the icing on the cake. Sheets faced 10 batters, gave up 8 hits, and let up 9 earned runs in yesterday's spring training game.

Those jeers you hear? Those are from the people who reasoned that giving Sheets $10 Million for one year after a season in which he pitched in 0 games for the Milwaukee Brewers was ridiculous.

One of those jeers was definitely coming from me. Billy Beane is a fantastic GM for the Oaklnd A's, but he sure missed one right here. Signing a guy who did not pitch a game in 2009 for $10 Million is a bold signing. At the time, it was a good pick-up, but as we analyzed it more and more it simply did not make sense.

Finally, it came to fruition on Monday when Sheets bombed in what can only be described as a debacle. Sheets did not get one player out. An A's fan's reasoning would be that it is taking Sheets time to get back into pitching shape and get the kinks out after taking off 2009. But this isn't some low-profile pitcher we have here who is allowed to get kinks out his system, this is a guy who was payed $10 Million this offseason to pitch, and pitch well. And in return, you get 0 outs, and concerned looks over in Oakland.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Upset Alerts in San Jose


I'm not sure how many people you are going to see pack into the HP Pavilion on Thursday at 11:30a.m. In fact, let's hope we see 10,000 people in the arena that holds 17,000. I currently do not know a person who heard the news about New Mexico or Butler playing in San Jose on Thursday afternoon and quickly went out and booked their tickets for the games.

I have my tickets though, I've had them since June, and for a March Madness junkie like myself, I cannot wait for Thursday and Saturday. Not because these are big name teams playing in San Jose that could potentially make it to the Final Four, which they're not. But because all of the teams that are favored are on high upset alert. And isn't that the attraction of March Madness?

4 Vanderbilt vs. 13 Murray State
5 Butler vs. 12 UTEP
6 Marquette vs. 11 Washington
3 New Mexico vs. 14 Montana

I see huge upset possibilities in every one of these games, especially the Vanderbilt vs. Murray State game at 11:30a.m. on Thursday.

So those who have tickets for Thursday in San Jose...Enjoy. Because March Madness gets no more "Madder" (not a word) than at the HP Pavilion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And the Madness Begins in the Bay Area


March Madness is upon us. The 2010 NCAA March Madness bracket was revealed on Sunday, and at first glimpse, I would say we are in store for many an upset. There are just so many possiblities, and so many teams with chances of playing the part of Cinderella.

Off the bat, Kansas got screwed. The #1 overall seed should not have to go up against the likes of 2 other possible #1 seeds in Ohio State and Georgetown, not to mention Tennessee, Maryland, and Michigan State are not too shabby either. Bottom line, Kansas has the toughest road to the Final Four of any #1 seed.

The team that got the best of the draw was by far Duke. Their only tough opponent on their way to the Final Four is an overrated Villanova team that may lose before the two teams meet.

In the other 2 regions, Kentucky's only test will be West Virginia in the Elite 8, and what a test that will be. And in the West region, we will see what Syracuse is made of early, as they do not have many tough opponents, just a few that are extreme upset chances.

But let's keep it in the Bay Area. The two teams, Cal and St. Mary's got draws that they were not anticipating of getting. Those thinking that both teams were going to make it to the 2nd round are currently rethinking their previous statement (me included).

Cal will go up in the 8/9 match-up against an invigorated Louisville team coached by March Madness veteran Rick Pitino. Louisville is riding a high after beating Syracuse in the Big East Tournament, and boy they showed they can shoot the rock in that game. This one could go either way, but I think it comes down to Jamal Boykin of Cal vs. Samardo Samuels of Louisville. Both will be guarding each other during the game, and I think it comes down to those two to decide the game. My Prediction: Samuels over Boykin, and Louisville over Cal.

For St. Mary's, they simply ran into the wrong #7 seed. Any of the other #7 seeds the Gaels would have matched up great with. St. Mary's will play a Richmond team that is everyone's Cinderella team. I dont see it that way, but some describe them as playing a "Big East style of ball," and the Big East is the best conference in the country, so i'll take their word for it. But don't count out the Gaels. They showed Gonzaga they can play with the big boys in the WCC Championship. If Omar Samhan and Mickey McConnell stay consistent and do what they've been doing the whole year, then St. Mary's can create the potential upset, and they are in the upset position. But if they don't and Richmond gets to them, we will see an unhappy St. Mary's team returning to Moraga. My Prediction: Richmond over St. Mary's

-I will post my full NCAA Bracket within the next couple of days.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seasoning Buster Posey


The anticipation of Buster Posey is almost too much these days. He is making absolute waves in Spring Training so far, and fans' #1 question heading into the regular season is when are we going to see Buster?

It seemed like the organization was sending a clear message to its fan-base a couple months ago when they re-signed Benjie Molina in a crazy turn of events. Could that have been a reaction to Posey's first-time experience in the Majors last season? Probably.

It seems like the Giants are being extremely careful with their "future." And the way it is looking, we will probably see Posey starting the year in AAA-Fresno. This is not bad, of course, they did sign Molina, who, next to Aubrey Huff or Pablo Sandoval is the team's best power hitter, and power is what the Giants have been needing for the past few seasons. Plus, I dont think the plan was to give Molina all that money to play back-up catcher.

But what shoud be done with Posey if he is such a key part in the future of the Giants franchise?

I say be gentle with him, he is fragile. People fail to remember that he played most of last season in Single-A, then was promoted to AAA for just a couple of months. Then they promoted him again to the Majors, and that did not turn out all that well. He is still young and there is a lot of time to get him into Major League Baseball shape, because right now he does not appear to be that way.

If the Giants want this kid to be a Rookie of the Year contender when he gets to the Majors (which is what everyone anticipates him to be), they will season him. Season him "low 'n slow" in AAA-Fresno for half the season, and then when the All-Star break comes, promote him to the Majors as the back-up catcher pending that he does well in AAA. Get him some at-bats here and there in 2010 and work him into the the starting roster come the 2011 season.

For now, keep Eli Whiteside at the back-up catcher position. In order for consistent production out of Molina, Molina will need constant time off, and Whiteside is good enough to share the load until Posey is seasoned.

Do not let this discourage you though, Giants fans. Posey will meet the anticipation, but in time. For now, enjoy the other young, solid players gracing the Giants roster this year, guys like Madison Bumgarner and Dan Runzler. But the Giants know they can keep Posey in their back pocket for now, and when he is ready, he will be the next big thing in baseball.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March Madness in the Bay Area


March Madness is arguably the best month or so in sports, and it just got better for the Bay Area. The Bay Area will be represented this year in the NCAA Tournament by 2 teams (pending Stanford winning the Pac-10 tournament...not likely). Those two teams are California and St. Mary's.

Cal, who hadn't won the Pac-10 regular season title since 1960, finally got the monkey off their back this year and were far and away the best team in the pitiful Pac-10. They are not a lock just yet to be announced to the 65-team field, but the odds are pretty good that they will receive at-least a bid if they do not win the Pac-10 tournament.

Most likely, Cal is looking at an 8 or 9 seed in the Tournament, which just goes to show how bad the Pac-10 was this year. The conference's best team is probably going to be given an 8 or 9 seed. With Pac-10 Player of the Year, Jerome Randle, and Duke transfer, Jamal Boykin, they could a force in March Madness.


I like Cal to win their 1st round game in the NCAA Tournament, given that they are an 8 or 9 seed, that is. But I don't feel that they will get much farther than that. The Pac-10 just isn't that strong this year, and they will be extremely fortunate to win that 1st round game.

Over in Moraga, CA, St. Mary's is doing big things. They defeated #14 ranked Gonzaga last night to take the WCC crown and clinch a birth to the NCAA Tournament, which was not in the cards before the game. Big Omar Samhan and sharp-shooting Mickey McConnell led the team to a 26-5 overall record this season, with 2 losses coming to Gonzaga who they beat by 19 last night.

As for their NCAA Tournament, it is up in the air as to what seed they will get. Beating Gonzaga by 19 could lift them up to maybe an 8 or 9 seed, but i think they're looking at more of a 10 or 11 seed. Either way, i like them to win their 1st round game. They are a surprise to most teams, and when they are hot from the outside, they are like no other. It just depends if that kind of shooting shows up. But I got a feeling head coach Randy Bennett will have that team ready to go come Tournament time.

I feel that this is a great situation for Bay Area fans. This could have easily been a year when the Bay Area didn't have a team in March Madness. Both these teams are extreme underdogs and if they win, it's an accomplishment for their program.

Look out for St. Mary's though. Their sharp-shooting and big-man play could make them quite a Cinderella team in the NCAA Tournament.

Monday, March 8, 2010

David Carr?...Really?


Yep...really. The San Francisco 49ers signed former Texan and late NY Giants back-up David Carr to a 2-year deal yesterday. After days of whispers about how the 49ers were interested in Carr for some reason, it fianlly happened on Sunday. Carr was selected as the 1st overall pick of the Houston Texans franchise in 2002, and boasts a career record of 23-56.

So what were the 49ers thinking? You might as well call Carr "Alex Smith #2." Except that David Carr is the original Alex Smith. Both were drafted 1st overall in their respective drafts, and both have had horrible, underperforming careers thus far. So let's put them on the same team then!

Why sign Carr to play for the 49ers? The only plausible and acceptable reason is to push Alex Smith. Mike Singletary loves competition and the only hope from his standpoint is that a quarterback competition would fuel Smith into becoming a better quarterback. OR maybe Carr wind the job in training camp. In my eyes, both Carr and Smith are the same person, both busts who were taken out of lesser known football schools and made into NFL quarterbacks. Or were supposed to be NFL quarterbacks, the verdict is still out.

So Singletary and the 49ers front office brought Carr in to create a competition between two less than par quarterbacks. At a time in the offseason when the team is supposed to be filling key weaknesses with bigger name players, they sign David Carr as a back-up quarterback. But maybe that was the 49ers first line of business- Obtain a back-up quarterback. How about obtain a quarterback altogether? Donovan McNabb seems to be on his way out in Philadelphia. Where was the pursuit after him? How about an offensive lineman or a kick returner?

Unfortunately, the Carr signing seems like it's going to be the BIG free agency signing for the 49ers this offseason. I had the hope of the 49ers signing someone big after hearing from GM Scot McCloughan that the 49ers were "free to spend." If this happens to be the biggest signing in offseason free agency, the 49ers and McCloughan will have pressure like no other in the Draft in April.

So as it stands, the 49ers now own the rights to 2 of most underperforming #1 overall draft picks in the last 20 years. I can only think of 3 off the top of my head. And lucky for Bay Area sport fans, all 3 currently reside in the Bay Area.