Ladies and gentlemen, the world of sports has gone bonkers. Just as finals rolled around, everything that could have possibly been written about has happened. Tiger Woods went from sterling to sullied, Mark Ingram won Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy, the BCS laid out its bowl games, Curtis Granderson is a Yankee, Roy Halladay is a Philadelphia Phillie, and Cliff Lee is a Mariner. NFL Draft talk has begun, there are two undefeated teams in the NFL as the playoffs loom and Chris Henry died. Wow, could we have missed more? I think not. Let’s get caught up.
By now everyone knows the sordid details, so I will not bother going over them. Actually, I would like to start by stressing how little I have come to care about this story. Why you ask? Well, the first reason is that Tiger has never really been the greatest guy. I mean he is probably the best golfer ever to live, but he has never been Mr. Nice Guy. His take no prisoners attitude is riveting, but he has never been the nicest guy on the course. There is a reason Phil Mickelson is cast as a likeable guy, and that reason is that Tiger is really not that likeable on the gold course. I love watching him play, but he throws clubs, cares only for crushing his playing partners, and his singular focus is on golf. Does this change the fact that he is the greatest golfer of all-time? Absolutely not, just do not be surprised when he turns out to have a few blemishes. Were people surprised when Michael Jordan turned out to be kind of a jerk and cheater (off the court)? Then do not be surprised when Tiger has those blemishes. They really are similar guys. Singular focus on being the best, take no prisoners, not necessarily the nicest guys but are still likeable because of their devotion and pure ability. Let it go America. He made some mistakes that were undeniably wrong, but he is still worth watching Thursday through Sunday.
On a more golf-related note, how much is this going to drive Tiger when he comes back? It is like Belichick after he got caught cheating. He came back and wanted to beat everyone by 40. This idea has been brought up by Bill Simmons a few times, but seriously, how many strokes will Tiger beat his first field by? 5? 10? 20? He is going to go nuts.
The Tide got their first Heisman Trophy and completed their already-prestigious trophy case. I think they got it right in
giving it to Ingram, though. I had been backing McCoy, but after getting destroyed in the Big 12 Championship Game and frankly being lucky that his brain-fart in not calling a timeout did not cost his team a trip to the BCS Championship Game. He laid an egg in crunch time and Mark Ingram laid the lumber to the #1 defense in the land. There was no doubt who was the best player in college football this year. I cannot wait to see Suh in the NFL, but Mark Ingram was clearly the best player of this campaign. Maybe he and the Tide will get to add another trophy this year, but I will leave that for another article.
The Hot Stove
I will have full breakdowns of these trades soon, but for now let’s just look at the two big trades of the off-season so far and a few big free agent signings. I will link this to the full breakdown ASAP, but for now just a few words.
John Lackey Angels->Red Sox. I really like this move as far as how it looks, but with how much hitting the Red Sox lost I am not sure if it will make a difference in the Wins column. Beckett-Lackey-Lester is scary, especially in the playoffs, but expect them to struggle to put runs on the board in the way they will have to to compete with the Yanks.
Chone Figgins Angels->Mariners. I love it for the Mariners. I assume they will be playing Figgins at second, but he is a guy you can put anywhere. More on the Ms later.
Mike Lowell Red Sox->Rangers. I still like him as a DH, just not as a 3B, which is ok with the Rangers since they are all set with Michael Young at third.
Hideki Matsui Yankees->Angels. Well the Angels needed to get someone with the White Sox pursuing Vlad and
Figgins leaving. Not sure if he will be a good enough addition to keep them a contender though.
Halladay to the Phillies, Drabek, D’Arnaud, Taylor to the Blue Jays. You have to like Roy Halladay on any team, but hats off to the Phillies for finding a way to hold on to J.A. Happ in this deal. They gave up some top prospects, but they picked up probably the best pitcher in the game and were able to reload a little with the next trade. How much better are they now? We will
Lee to the Mariners, Aumont, Gillies, Ramirez to the Phillies. King Felix next to Clifford the Big Red Lee is g
oing to be frightening, but they definitely paid a price for it with 3 top prospects. The Mariners are trying to win now and I have to say this trade looks like they might be able to do just that. As an Indians fan I am still somewhat attached to Cliff Lee (and CC Sabathia for that matter) and cannot think that he will do anything but succeed in Seattle. Watch out Angels, the Rangers and Ms are coming for you in the AL West.
Cranderson to the Yankees. Obviously there are other players involved but it will be hard to list, so I will save that for the full recap. I actually do not like this move for the Yankees. Yes, Granderson is a phenomenally talented guy who is more than ready for the flashing lights of New York, but they are not getting the .300 hitter who could pound doubles into the gap. They are getting a leadoff hitter who strikes out a ton, albeit with higher power numbers. On the one hand they will definitely get their share of production from the lefty in that bandbox, but they are not getting a leadoff hitter. time will tell how this one turns out.
The playoff picture is clearing up so let’s look at what is guaranteed and what is only probable.
The Colts are in. #1 seed clinched. The Chargers are in. Not clinched, but almost definitely the #2 seed. The Bengals and Patriots have not clinched but are prohibitive favorites for the #3 and #4 spots in some kind of order. The Wild Card spots look like Denver and Baltimore will be in the playoffs, but Miami and Jacksonville are still in the picture. However, I still expect Denver to hold on to the #5 seed and for Baltimore to get the #6 seed.
The Saints are in. #1 seed clinched as well, like the also undefeated Colts. The Vikings are pretty much locked as the #2 seed and NFC North Champs. Arizona looks like the #3 seed barring total collapse, and Philadelphia will take the other spot. The Wild Card is murkier in the NFC with the Cowboys, Giants, and Packers fighting for the final two spots. I would put my money on the Cowboys missing out and Wade Philips losing his job, but maybe that is just me. I would definitely be afraid of playing the Packers right now. Every problem they had early in the year (defense, offensive line) has been pretty well shored up lately and they are playing outstanding football. If they can beat Pittsburgh it would do wonders for their playoff chances.
A Playoff Preview will come a little closer to playoff time but the obvious teams to watch are the undefeateds, and #2 seeds.
The BCS bowls were set and they unfortunately pitted TCU against Boise. Come on, put them up against the big boys so we can see how good they really are. More predictions to come.
On a more somber note, Chris Henry died today after sustaining injuries from falling out of the bed of a pickup truck.Sad story out of a guy who has his share of bad stories in the past but who had been really turning it around. We will see if it inspires or crushes the Bengals, but they are no doubt hurting.