Outtatownclowns

MLB Trade Deadline Sneak Peek

There are 17 teams within 5 games of first place (or in first place) as I write this. What that means is that there are very few buyers and sellers. Among those 13 teams outside 5 games, the Mets, Rockies, and A’s probably like their chances of making a run enough to be buyers, not sellers. What that means is that there are 20 teams who are buyers, 10 who are sellers, and at least a few of the sellers probably still haven’t thrown in the towel yet. Lookin’ at you Minnesota. So why bother writing an article on the trade deadline when no one has any idea of who will be sellers? Because it’s a really slow week in sports and I refuse to talk lockout, that’s why.

However, there are a handful of guys who we can pretty safely earmark as guys who are available, and an even greater number of guys who you could probably get with a good enough offer. Obviously, these guys come in different classes, so let’s break this down even more and then look at what teams might be interested in their services.

Limited Upside Position Players

If you are the Pirates or Diamondbacks, teams that need big additions, these guys will not cut it for you, but could serve as nice little adds. They are not especially desirable but could conceivably help o The key to these guys is that they are usually past-their-prime guys who the team didn’t really have a place for going forward.

Orlando Cabrera (Indians)- If a team is patient enough, they might be able to just snag Grandpabrera off waivers, but for now, teams could probably get O-Cab for cheap. I should also note that he has been crazy hot the last week so maybe he will stick around on the Indians. We will see.
Chris Getz (Royals)- I was pretty surprised to see him here too, but he is hitting a legitimate .270 and is young, but not young enough for the Royals to really covet him.
Jamey Carroll (Dodgers)- If you need a utility infielder who has been hitting a bit lately, why not go with Carroll, a journeyman who can come in and help fill some gaps.
Corey Patterson (Blue Jays)- Yes, THAT Corey Patterson. He is nothing special, but if a team needs some depth in the OF with a little speed, he could be an option.

Bullpen Arms

Jason Frasor (Blue Jays)- Frasor is the rare guy on this list that is not back-of-the-bullpen help, but rather long/middle relief that could step in and help. Don’t expect hsi numbers to stay where they are, but he can still help a team out that needs some bullpen depth.
Ryan Franklin (Cardinals)- Franklin, like teammate Chris Carpenter, has stats that do not tell the whole story. Franklin seems to be having an unlucky campaign by advanced metrics, but that doesn’t measure how many meatballs he serves up. We will see if his 23% HR/FB, .365 BABIP, and FIP all head for the norm. Admittedly I should watch him pitch before endorsing him, but he has my preliminary support.
Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers)- LA’s Pillsbury Throwboy is one of many Dodgers who could get traded with the Dodgers’ money troubles. We have seen the best and worst of Broxton, but there has got to be a buyer out there somewhere.
Matt Capps (Twins)- If the Twins decide to throw in the towel, Capps could be available for back of the bullpen help to a team like St. Louis who has had some issues (see Ryan Franklin).
Heath Bell (Padres)- He will not be cheap, but he would be worth it for a team that needs a closer. His numbers also look like they are set to go up as the season goes on and he moves (high LD%, only 6 K/9, pitcher-friends ballpark). This is the time to sell, Padres fans.
Mike Gonzalez (Orioles)- Remember when this guy was a coveted free agent as a closer-of-the-future? Yeah no more, but he could still be a good option for a team with pen issues.

Nice Pieces That Will Cost You Something, But Will Not Break The Bank

Tim Stauffer (Padres)- He might be a bit hard to pry away from San Diego, but I think he would be an outstanding addition if you can get him for a reasonable price. The question is where San Diego puts the price tag on him. I am guessing a little too high.
Hunter Pence (Astros)- Pence is a guy I have never liked personally, but would definitely add to a banged up OF. He will hit and work hard if nothing else. Oh, and he will bring his wife, Terrie Barr, along.
Michael Bourn/Jason Bourgeois (Astros)- They are pretty similar speedy outfielders who have good, but unspectacular bats. I think their would look good in Atlanta where they could replace the mediocre McLouth.
Chase Headley (Padres)- Another Padres guy who will be hard to grab, and probably will not move, but would be a pretty good addition to a team with corner infielder needs. He is 27, so he will not be cheap, but he probably will not be too overpriced.
Melky Cabrera (Royals)- Melky has never been anything special, but he has a good arm, decent glove and decent bat. Sometimes that is all a team needs, and KC should pull the trigger on a potential Melky offer, though it seems they want to contend this year or next year and not 3 years down the road.
Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers)- He is really a tweener. Too old to cost you too much, but stats too good to get for a bag of potato chips. I would definitely take a flyer on his as a 4th starter.
Jason Marquis (Nationals)- He will not cost too much and I wouldn’t personally take a flyer on him, but he is have a pretty solid season and could help a rotation somewhere.

Aramis Ramirez (Cubs)- This name has been floated plenty, and with good reason. He is not cheap, and you will have to pay for him, but he is by far the most proven guy in this group. I could see him in a number of places since he is one of the better hitting 3B in the league, but I would bet he ends up with the White Sox. Kenny Williams has a pretty quick trigger finger that has served him both good and bad (I think mostly bad) over the years and I think he is going to add Aramis.

Jose Reyes (Mets)- Not getting dealt. I think the Metsmake a run at the Wild Card. He is also the biggest thing we ahve to a big time trade piece this season.

En Fuego

The Adam Jones Type- Adam Jones is a pretty good player, but the Orioles have made it clear they want to win now. He would be a great piece to add for a lot of teams, but his situation in Baltimore will likely cancel out any opportunity teams have of getting him. There are plenty of guys like this, but most of them are on fringe contenders right now so they will not get moved.

I am not sure if these teams would make these guys available as they are all good with good contracts without being so good that you can get a haul of prospects for them, but I think few teams would be genuinely disappointed with an acquisition of one of them.

The Big Timers

Here is the issue with this group this year. With so many teams still in contention, and so many of the teams out of contention big on either young talent or old-washed up guys, there are very few sellers who have gems. The Marlins aren’t going to offload any of their young guns, no one wants most of the Orioles’ old guns, the Twins have very little actual talent, Houston sucks, and I doubt the Dodgers put guys like Ethier and Loney on the block. There just isn’t too much out there as far as big time guys who are on teams with no shot.

A lot of Indians fans have been throwing the name Carlos Beltran around, but the Mets think they are in it so there is very little chance they would move him right now. That is one of the reasons the timing for this article is bad, but I digress. There just aren’t that many guys teams would trade right now that you would call top-notch guys.

The Buyers

Oh and just for fun, let’s add Contender/Pretender to it. We are talking Contender for the Playoffs, also, not the World Series.

Yankees- Contender     Needs: Nothing     Adds: Bullpen Arm 

The Yankees will likely see if their arms get healthy, and if they do, will stay out. However, if Hughes or Colon have a hard time getting back, the Yankees will first call the bakery to see if Colon just got stuck there, and then will call about an arm. Even though it is the Yankees, I doubt they make a move for a big arm, or even a move at all unless it is a reaction to the………

Red Sox – Contender   Needs: Bullpen Arm     Adds: Heath Bell

I see them adding a bullpen arm down the line somewhere, maybe Heath Bell, maybe Matt Capps, I don’t know. They will add an arm at the back of that bullpen.

Rays- Contender in the Central, Pretenders in the East    Needs: Nothing in particular, but could use an upgrade in many spots    Adds: Nothing

The Rays probably need a piece or two to stay with the Red Sox and Yankees, but they have made clear in the past they will not trade away their future to contend now. They cannot take on much in the way of contracts, and are not willing to give much away, so they will add nothing and miss the playoffs, and you know what? That is ok.

Tigers- Contenders     Needs: Hitting, anywhere, anyone     Adds: None imminent, but will add a bat, and maybe an arm.

The Tigers have several awesome pieces (Verlander, Miggy, V-Mart), a few solid ones for the moment (Peralta, Avila), steady Brennan Boesch, a guy who struggles to hit but isn’t moving (Austin Jackson), a pile of trash (Magglio, Raburn, Inge), and a few guys in between. Same goes for their staff with Verlander at the top, then a couple guys with talent who aren’t getting it done (Scherzer, Coke and Porcello), and then Brad Penny. They probably need an arm, but I am not sure if they can get one. They had better though if they don’t want to get eaten up by this next team down the stretch.

Click picture for how I feel about Choo right now.

Indians- Contenders     Needs: OF Depth, Corner IF     Adds: Hunter Pence. Ok, probably not but I would like to see it.

This is one of very few teams that really doesn’t need an arm coming down the home stretch. They have an awesome AAA team who they can call on down the stretch, are pretty set in the bullpen, and pretty set in the rotation including the AAA guys. However, the Shin-Soo Choo injury has created some issues. the Travis Buck-Shelley Duncan platoon gets pretty tiresome and Grady Sizemore has stopped hitting lately. Hell, no Indians have been hitting lately, but it seems most pronounced in Sizemore and Brantley lately. With the call-up of Lonnie Chisenhall to play 3B, a bevy of minor league options to play 2B (assuming Orlando Cabrera cools off again soon) and an okay Matt LaPorta coming back, the Tribe should be alright. However that Choo injury needs addressing.

If Beltran is not available, and I don’t think he will be, Hunter Pence becomes an option. However, he plays right, not center, where I personally would like to see the Indians move Sizemore, push Brantley to center, and go with Pence in left. However, none of this will happen because not many teams are eager to take on Grady right now, especially the Astros. The Indians could use a stop-gap OF, but I doubt we see any bigger names being the answer there.

However, the Indians have to worry about a fan base that will be pretty pissed off if management doesn’t give them a chance to win this year, so I think they have to do something, just nothing big or breaking the bank. Beltran would fit the bill, but the Mets may not sell. I have no idea, but I think that management has to do something to avoid a fan mutiny. Sorry, done with the Tribe now.

White Sox- Probably Contenders     Needs: Nothing specific, middling overall      Adds: Aramis Ramirez

I think Kenny Williams makes a deal and gets skinned again. Edwin Jackson for Daniel Hudson is just as bad now as I said it was then. I admire making moves trying to win, but not when it is reckless and dumb. Just for the record, I don’t think they make the playoffs anyway. And about the “Probably” before contenders, it just means that I think this team is quietly schizo and should contend but could just crash.

AL West- Contenders

They are all buyers. They are all sellers. I don’t feel like going into any of them in depth because you don’t want to read a 10,000 word dissertation on the AL West. I wish the Mariners would go get a bat, I wish the Rangers would be consistent and be as good as they should be, I wish the Angels would go away because  I don’t like most of their players, and I think the A’s don’t deserve to contend with a lineup like that. That’s pretty much all I have to say about the division.

Phillies     Needs: A Training Staff equipped with Magic     Adds: Harry Potter type potion to keep all closers healthy

Lidge? Hurt. Contreras? Hurt. Madson? Hurt. Run! Run for your life you Bastardo!

Admit it, I could have posted a picture of anyone in a jersey and you wouldn't have known if it was Freddie Freeman or not.

Braves- Pretenders for Division. Wild Card Contenders     Needs: Hitting since 1992     Adds: Michael Bourn, or Adam Jones if they can pry him from the Orioles’ dead cold hands

The Atlanta Braves needing hitting is like the Masters: A tradition unlike any other. They needed it for Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz, they needed it last year, and they need it again. They would also be in on Beltran if the Mets were looking to move him, though I cannot see them moving him within the division. Bourn seems more likely though he will be be the kind of bat they need. Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann cannot be the only RBI guys on a title contender.

That being said, they have one of the best records in baseball and would be scary in a short series.

Brewers- Contenders     Needs: Zach Greinke to be good again     Adds: None, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make a move on Headley

I wouldn’t ever be shocked to see a team making a move, but I think the Brewers stand fairly pat here. They might add an arm in the bullpen but I would be surprised if they did anything major.

Cardinals- Contenders     Needs: Bullpen help, 2B     Adds: Not sure, but I think they will make a biggish move

The Cards are going to do something with the bullpen (Matt Capps? Heath Bell?) but I think they should ask around about 2B too. Maybe Orlando Cabrera finds time there, but they are probably better off with Skip there. The bullpen needs some work but I am not sure if the Cardinals really want to go get another arm since they usually prefer to take lower value guys and let Dave Duncan work his magic.

Reds- Pretenders     Needs: Pitching      Adds: None

Honestly, I think the Reds are done. I know they are only 2 games out, I just do not think they are going to keep up with Milwaukee or St. Louis and will fall off the pace fairly soon. Thus, I see very few moves in the Reds future.

Pirates- The Pretenders     Needs: More eye patches, beards, and hitting     Adds: Nothing, might sell off all talent just to keep with tradition.

Every player on the Pirates should have a beard. Non-negotiable. Frankly, I feel a little funny even including them in this discussion. It’s like when you include your adolescent child in a more mature discussion for the first time, except the kid is 34 and has just never been exposed to that stuff. The Pirates will add no one and will be fine with that.

The Giants order could not miss Buster Posey more.

Giants- Contenders by default     Needs: Hitting     Adds: Nothing big, could go after a middle infielder

To quote Keith Law’s tweet from a few days ago, “Wanna hear a great joke? Brandon Crawford is hitting 2nd tonight!” My Indians just got swept by the Giants. The pitching, missing Hafner, and just generally awful execution can be blamed for it, but the real thing I took out of this was that the Giants have the worst lineup I could possibly imagine. Somehow they won the World Series with that and it gives me hope, but they should probably add a bat if they would like to make another run. Really, any bat would do.

Diamondbacks- Pretenders     Needs: Corner infielders, some kind of bench      Adds: Nothing big

Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson are not enough to keep the Diamondbacks contending, so I do not think they make any moves. They have a small payroll so they cannot afford any big time improvements, and that is realistically what they would need to make a run in the playoffs. They could well win the NL West with how mediocre it looks, but my money is still on the Giants to win it and the Diamondbacks to sink to 3rd.

 

That is all we have for now. Hope you found this column more helpful than me, because after writing it, I have less of a clue of where guys are going than when I started. That’s what you get for a slow news week. Maybe we will go with full-out Women’s World Cup coverage and analysis. Just kidding.

 

… But seriously…

Sorry for the mediocre column, we will be back and better next week.

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NFL Wrap and Playoff Preview

Wow, it has been a while. I have a lot to get to, so let’s jump right in, no foreplay needed to warm you up, right? I will stop that example right there too, so let’s get to it! College Football rant: Batter up! Or “Hike” if we are being sport-specific.

College Football

Ohio State fans must cringe everytime they watch Newton. That was supposed to be what Pryor could do.

 

The NCAA is a joke. How can anyone get behind a system where the schools lose money (on non big bowl games), the NCAA makes boatloads of money, the players play for free, and the NCAA gets to make enormous profits off it and the players? AJ Green gets 3 games right away for selling a signed jersey and Ohio State’s best players get to play in the bowl game? Oh, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the NCAA wanting to make more money and not wanting bowl game ratings to drop. I do not even have anything wrong with the NCAA pursuing profits, but stop acting like it is about the students when it clearly isn’t. I get that football is one of very few varsity sports that makes money, and schools need it to keep others afloat. but the whole system is pointed toward NCAA profit, not anything else. Why is the Sugar Bowl on a Tuesday night when most kids are going back to school? I am sure it is for the student’s best interest. Just like how there were no Bowl Games Sunday. The student-athletes missing school is nowhere near as important as not competing with the NFL, huh? I am all for the kids enjoying their bowl game, but do they care about what kind of ratings the game gets.

So you ask why I don’t like college football? Because the NCAA is full of s&%#, and I haven’t even gotten to the BCS yet, or how your season is essentially over the second you lose 3 games. There is no chance of getting attached to players either since they leave after four years. I just cannot get behind it, and yes, part of that surely has to do with my Fighting Irish not being good right now.

Ok, time for a BCS rant now that I am on a roll. I brought this up last year, but I am going to bring it up again. 6 team playoff. Use the current 5 BCS bowls as the platforms. 1 and 2 seeds get a bye, and the other four play the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl (rotating which these are every year). Then the winners move on to face the #1 and #2 BCS-rated teams in the same format as the NFL (lowest remaining seed vs #1). That takes care of the Rose and Fiesta Bowls, and you get 2 teams left for the National Championship. That works to a T. Keeps the money-making bowl system, and gives the people what they want. As for the other bowls, organize them into little post-season tournaments using the bowl system just like with the BCS. Someone tell me why this wouldn’t work.

Oh, and the BCS worked perfectly this year (except thinking Michigan State was good), so it’s not that the ranking system doesn’t work, but that certain changes need to be made to bring in more fans.

By the way, Oregon 41, Auburn 35. Book it.

The NFL

Carolina Panthers

No Luck for Carolina.

 

Pretty horrendous season for a team that seemed to have quite a few pieces. I do not even know how to put a positive spin on it. It looked like they were going to take Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick, but now will likely replace Julius Peppers by taking DaQuan Bowers out of Clemson. Remember when the Texans took Mario Williams and their reasoning had to do with how they had to put pressure on Manning? Given the QBs in the NFC South, the same logic could be used here. The Panthers front office actually might be a little relieved given that they no longer have to give up on Jimmy Clausen, though given the beatings he keeps taking thanks to his line, they may have to hire him a live-in chiropractor. It also remains to be seen who replaces John Fox, and what direction that takes the team. I suspect it will be a boring-but-solid hire that can set them up for future success. Don’t give up on Jimmy Clausen yet, just get him an offensive line. I may have had higher expectations than I should have, but I think it is hard to give out a grade other than an F for the season they just had.

Season Grade: F

Denver Broncos Nick Fairley. Lock it in. Fits their need to bolster and rejuvenate defense, and he is a total monster, so why not. I am not sold on the Tebow era moving forward, but I like plenty of other parts of the team like the young, talented offensive line, most of the skill position players on offense, and think they are just a few defensive pieces from getting back to respectability. I am not sure who will coach, but the cupboard is not bare. Overall, not much was expected of this team. They played pretty well for short stretches of the year, and I think they can be solid moving forward and can’t be too heartbroken about the season given the expectations going in.

Season Grade: C-

Buffalo Bills

I am praying for you, Buffalo. Praying you don’t make the same mistake as you made last year and go for the flashy option (AJ Green in this case) over the meat and potatoes option of a guy in the trenches. We saw how the CJ Spiller pick worked. It didn’t and by no fault of Spiller’s. I like Patrick Peterson/Prince Amukamara, though I have admittedly not seen any of them play too much this year. Come on Buffalo, you can do it. Given Ryan Fitzpatrick’s emergence and some very solid performances, this was actually a somewhat productive year for the Bills, just not in the wins column,

Season Grade: C

Fantastically Awful. More on him later.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

During the days when we though Luck was in the draft, this seemed like a somewhat obvious pick. Now, it is a little more clouded but not so different. They have a slew of defensive line options that they should jump on, but as DaQuan Bowers will probably go #1 now, Robert Quinn is the most likely option.. His pass rushing should help out their already-solid corners and start what ought to be a new era of Bengals football.. That just makes a lot of sense if you ask me (and you did by visiting the site). I also think they should aggressively shop Carson Palmer as a necessity. I do not know about anyone else, but I LOVE the idea of them trading to get Kyle Orton. That just seems like a perfect fit to start the Orton-Benson-Shipley-Gresham era. I think it could be a good one. We will see if the Bengals can swing it. Given the expectations, there is only one grade we can give here.

Season Grade: F

Arizona Cardinals

If Larry Fitzgerald was the GM, I am pretty sure he would take Ryan Mallett, but Marcell Dareus would fit nicely into their 3-4 and Mallett or Gabbert could still be there a bit later. I could also see them taking one of the athletic defensive ends and making him an OLB in their 3-4. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone trade up to grab AJ Green or someone here, but the Cardinals will likely try to move back if they are after Mallett or Gabbert. A part of me still thinks that they will try to trade for Carson Palmer and continue Arizona’s trend of bringing in old and somewhat washed up veterans and assuming it will work. Get it done, Arizona, and help us all prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Carson Palmer is done. I am also somewhat disappointed that the Cardinals did not realize their inability to pass earlier and turned to Tim Hightower and Beanie Well’s Styrofoam Corpse  to carry the offense. Not too much was expected, but when you give Derek Anderson two separate chances at quarterback, you can’t be too disappointed with any grade.

Season Grade: D

Cleveland Browns

The big question in Cleveland right now is if Eric Mangini should have been fired. On the one hand, this team made fantastic progress this year, had a solid defense, could run the ball, and beat the Patriots and Saints. However, two straight 5-11 seasons is hardly getting it done and Holmgren is really the key here more than Mangini. Regardless, I think the team showed some serious improvement up until those last few weeks when they have been putrid. I am talking like worse than Sex Panther in Anchorman.

In an earlier column, I wrote that the Browns were about 5 pieces away from being really good. A WR (preferably a top flight guy or possession receiver), rush LB for their 3-4, a safety/extra secondary guy, and a TE if easily available. Well, time to address the first of those problems with AJ Green. This just seems like a great fit, and despite Green’s weak NCAA suspension, he seems like a good kid who will not turn into Braylon Edwards. I think this is a shoe-in pick unless they moveback a little and take him then. Perfect match. Solid building season for the Browns with some brown skid marks toward the end.

Season Grade: C+

San Francisco 49ers

Mallett? Gabbert? McNabb? One of the Smiths? None of those sound particularly appealing frankly, but one of them is going to have to be the answer at least for a year. I wouldn’t be shocked by a trade-down here either, but maybe they decide Robert Quinn or Stephen Paea is worth the pick here, and I think they are. It is just hard to justify anything but a QB given the 49ers season, so while both of those players are very solid picks, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them trade down.

Why? Why did we think Alex Smith could win a division? Why did we assume he would manage to not submarine the entire 49ers season? I have no idea, but they still were NFC West favorites and finished 3rd in the division. The grade seems clear. The D- over F is only because we should not have assumed Alex Smith could win a division.

Season Grade: D-

Tennessee Titans

Is this too early for Julio Jones? Maybe a little. More likely is going for another defensive guy like Adrian Clayborn or Janoris Jenkins, but Julio wouldn’t be the worst idea. Anyway, this was really not a good season for the Titans. I am not sure what was a realistic expectation for them, but given the Fisher/Young disharmony, Chris Johnson’s struggles, and epitomizing mediocrity in a mediocre division , few would call this Titans season a real success. Kenny Britt was a nice find, but otherwise this team just stagnated this year and the rot is starting to show. I think the TItans were right to choose Fisher over Young, but I am not sure if the Titans have what it takes to really challenge the Colts in the division regardless.

Season Grade: C-

Dallas Cowboys

If Nate Solder is still around, then the Cowboys should probably just pounce on him, but there might be slim pickins for the Boys. They need secondary help, but it looks like the top 3 CBs (Peterson, Prince, and Jenkins) might be gone at this point and Solder will likely be the pick if they decide to keep the pick. Jason Garrett is the wrong man for the job, but it looks like he will get it regardless. He is disillusioned about Tony Romo’s role, and about his offense as a whole, and making him head coach will not fix any of that.

Season Grade: F

Washington Redskins

Shanny did a surprisingly horrible job this year.

 

This has Julio Jones written all over it and if not then Justin Blackmon. You know why? Because Anthony Armstrong ain’t cuttin it. Chris Cooley has revealed himself as being a bad player (stats aside), and they are going with Rex Grossman. A QB is an option too, but I am not sure how good any of the QBs in this draft are. Blaine Gabbert? Ryan Mallett? Jake Locker? No thanks at this high a  pick. Frankly, there are just a lot of problems here. I wouldn’t blame them for just cleaning house and starting over, but I doubt it happens with Snyder in the Owner’s Box.

This was a promising season turned sour for the Skins and frankly I am not sure what to make of them, just as was the case throughout the year. They have very little to look forward to on offense, and are old. They have a coach who just alienated their new old QB and their entire season could be summed up in the word “disharmony”. Even with that they jumped out to a decent start before falling apart. They just did not quite pass.

Season Grade: D+

Houston Texans

I have been very hard on the Texans for many years. It isn’t because I hate them, ro because I want them to fail, it is because they have so much talent. Matt Schaub is very good, Andrew Johnson is the best receiver in football, Arian Foster is a very very good RB, they have a great offensive line, and Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, and co. are fantastic. I am hard on them because I am sick of seeing it all wasted for any variety of reasons. It used to be mental weakness, but this year it was just the secondary. I think they trade up to get one of the best 3 CBs, but if not, they could settle on another DE to go alongside Mario Williams.

I think Wade Phillips is a horrible idea for this team too. I do not like the idea of moving Mario Williams to OLB and making him change such a good thing, and they were fine against the run anyway, they just need better players in the secondary. Do not fix the parts of the defense that work just for the hire.

Frankl,y I am hard on this team because I want them to challenge my Colts. For years the Colts have skated to the playoffs because they just knew how to beat the other three teams. Every year the other teams would show promise and then fold at exactly the moment the Colts wanted. The Texans have all the talent to stand up to the Colts and drive them to be better, yet they never do and it drives me crazy. I am sorry, Texans fans, I am hard on you because I want you to be better. You should have fired Kubiak and brought in someone tougher and you were right to fire Frank Bush. I am not sure if the players were all playing hard for Kubiak or not, but it is time for him to go. Maybe bring Jeff Fisher back to Houston? Discretionary change is the name of the game. Please fix the right parts.

Season Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

The F word will not appear in this section. I sort of like the idea of Cam Newton here but it is probably a pipe dream for that many QBs to go at this point. Gabe Carimi on the line maybe? Anthony Costanzo on the line? Nope, I talked myself into Newton. Newton, Harvin, Peterson, Rice. I can’t turn back now, it needs to happen. AND they don’t have to pay him under the table! Granted the defense was bad this year for good portions, but I think Newton just fits. My initial reaction is that a northern team wouldnt take a risk on a player like that, but when you think about it, Culpepper, Harvin, Peterson, and Moss were never the hearty and safe options. The franchise takes risks and I would LOVE to see this one happen.

Ok, I will use the F word once. Why did Favre want to go to Minnesota so badly? Because he heard Sterger (“Regrets” backwards) and co. would be on the Sex Boat on Lake Minnetonka. Boom, roasted. Again, the only reason this isn’t an F is because we shouldn’t have expected F-word to be so good again.

Season Grade: D-

Detroit Lions

Jake Delhomme is about to get Suh'd.

 

The Lions would have won the NFC West by two games if they would have played in the division. That is the kind of progress they made, and they did it without their franchise QB Matthew Stafford and with chronic injuries to Jahvid Best. I was on the bandwagon all year and do not plan on getting off. The guys they would like (top 3 CBs and another good lineman) are probably gone at this point, so I think they will either try and trade up, or just trade down and accumulate picks. The scary thing is that the Lions do not even need the high pick so badly. They are pretty close to set, apart from that secondary guy so this is not so bad. I love me some Lions Kool Aid. Watch out NFC North. I am predicting a 2nd NFC North place finish and a winning record.

Season Grade: B

St. Louis Rams

Ever seen a retard hump a doorknob? Too clichéd. I suggest we change it to “ever seen a Rams player make a catch when it matters”. If there was any doubt in your mind about the OROY (and there shouldn’t have been) then that game should have clinched it. Look at what he is working with! They are awful and he had a great year! He is that rare #1 pick Qb that pans out just as well as they could have hoped and they have got to be ecstatic. They lost Donnie Avery to injury, and they lost other receivers so they are not so lost at receiver as it seems, but this wouldn’t be the worst place to take Justin Blackmon or take a tackle and admit their mistake with Jason Smith from a few years ago. This season as a great one for Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams, and their grade shows it. More deserving than Seattle without a doubt.

Season Grade: A

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins really outdid themselves this year. Not only did they continue their M.O. of disappointing, but they did it while going 1-7 at home and 6-2 on the road. But wait, there’s more! They frequently abandoned the running game early in games, showed a consistent lack of discipline in the secondary, and while Vontae Davis actually emerged as a really good corner, the team as a whole was likely brutal for its fans.

As far as the draft is concerned, there are a few directions they could go. Obviously, this is a defense-heavy draft, but Mark Ingram could possibly go here if they decide they want to get younger at RB. I am not sure if there are any CBs they really want here, but if one falls, you can bet on the Dolphins grabbing him. One of those OLBs might go here as well, but my money would be elsewhere. Tricky spot for the Dolphins right now, and this offseason could o a long way towards determining their future.

Season Grade: B-

Jacksonville Jaguars

It would be a little harsh to call him "Hack Del Rio" but the clock has almost hid midnight for Jack Del Rio.

 

Jack Del Rio needs to go, but he will stick around for at least another year. If you were a Jags fan, and every year the expectation is 8-8 with a fairly unimpressive roster, are you happy? 8-8 is nothing to laugh at, but they are doing themselves no favors being complacent. I originally thought they would be going after a WR here, but I am a believer in Mike Thomas, MSW and Marcedes to hold down the receiving corps, so we have to look elsewhere. They do need secondary help, but maybe the easiest way to help the secondary is by getting more pressure on the QB. As we have said about 50 times, this is a defensive draft, so seeing them go with a defensive lineman wouldn’t be all that surprising. The other option would be an offensive lineman, but the Jaguars are just not a team whose needs are abundantly available right now. Very subtle needs in general.

For the record, my opinion on Del Rio is completely independent of their failure to win the division this year. This is about his body of work with the team, not about his good year this year. Something about the AFC South keeps coaches around.

Season Grade: B+

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders will draft whichever player runs the fastest 40, so that is taken care of. Tom Cable will likely be out, and it brings us to one of the real themes of this offseason. Shouldn’t there be a way for fans to fire the owner? Mike Brown has killed the Bengals for years, Al Davis has been hamstringing the Raiders for a decade, Dan Snyder is getting pretty good himself, and Jerry Jones remains just a little too handsy with him team. If not fire the owner, then at least remove his personnel decision-making abilities?

Regardless, the Raiders were pretty respectable this year, and it looked like they even had a cohesive identity this year with that running game and some solid defensive performances. I would have said they needed an offensive lineman, and they still might, but it is hard to argue with their results running this year, so maybe they just need to re-tool the secondary or something. I would still bet on the offensive line pick, but who knows with the Raiders.

I humored you by acting like the Raiders have a first round pick just to talk about their needs, but guess what? The Patriots have their pick. Thanks, Crypt Keeper Davis.

Season Grade: B+

San Diego Chargers

How do you sum this up? They had the #1 offense. They had the #1 defense. They missed the playoffs. Was it all on the special teams? Was it Norv Turner’s fault? Was it just a little bad luck? Was it legendary unclutchness? What the hell happened? I blame Turner first, but that is largely just because I think he is a bad coach and do not really have a ton of basis for that based on this year. Was it all the negative energy generated by Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson? Was it the lack of a running game? I have no clue. I think they should fire Turner, keep Ron Rivera at just about all costs, and find a new leader. Norv ain’t cuttin it.

As far as the draft, would it be cruel to suggest they draft a special teams player? Yes? Alright, um, maybe grab a corner to go with Cason? Maybe just get deeper? Trade the pick?

Season Grade: C

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This season was literally beyond reproach for the Bucs. I cannot imagine any Bucs fan who would be genuinely unhappy with how the team played this year. Josh Freeman really is Big Ben minus rape even though it is getting clichéd to say that, Mike Williams was outstanding, leGarrette Blount didn’t star alongside Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, and everyone seemed to step up before the injuries. The improvement across the board was astounding and Raheem Morris is my pick for coach of the year because frankly I think he did the most coaching. I don’t think BB or Haley did that much coaching, but I think Morris made a huge difference. Not sure about their needs, but this was a great season despite the playoff miss. Can’t even think of a negative thing to say about them really.

Season Grade: A

New York Giants

This is a tricky one. A lot of people had them struggling this year (not me, I had them at 10-6. It was one of my few good predictions) but they really underachieved. The Philly game was an obvious mess-up, but with all those turnovers all year long, they just could not keep their pistol pointed away from their foot. Eli was atrocious for big stretches of the year, and evidently none of the Giants backs took notes from Post-Fumbilitis Tiki because it looked like they were trying to carry around a wet bar of soap all year. 10-6 is good. 12-4 was very possible. This Giants season will be remembered for forgotten opportunities, but good for them for not firing Tom Coughlin. He wasn’t the one turning the ball over.

Season Grade: B

The Playoffs

First of all, we are not talking Seahawks football. Sorry, just not happening.

Secondly, the other five NFC teams all have a shot at winning the conference without a doubt. The Packers might be the longest shot entirely because of injuries, but I do not think anyone would be shocked beyond belief if they made it to the Super Bowl. The Bears are probably next least likely, but that is entirely because of Jay Cutler’s decision making, not because of the team as a whole. it is wide open.

Thirdly, the AFC is not nearly as open as it looks. You will think I am a homer for saying this, but I think it is clearly true. The Patriots only fear one team in the AFC, and that is the Colts. If the Chiefs, Ravens, Jets, or Steelers play the Pats in New England, the Pats are cleaning the floor with them. The Colts are the only team in the AFC with a shot at stopping the Patriots.

I don't know about anyone else, but I would gladly back the redcoats against this nunty.

 

So we have two very difference scenarios here. In the NFC, it is wide open and every team has some clear flaw. The Seahawks are a flaw all by themselves, the Eagles are depending on a fragile man and Andy Reid’s time management, the Packers have no running game, the Saints just do not have the magic from last year and they need it, the Bears have a mistake-waiting-to-happen at QB, and the Falcons just lack that thing that makes you really believe in them. After losing to the Saints in the Georgia Dome, some of the allure is gone there, and they are not on too much more solid ground than anyone else.

A random note (confirmed via consultation with a friend): The nickname “Matty Ice” will haunt Matt Ryan his entire career can keep him from being elite. Seriously, do you fear someone going by “Matty”? Or someone that sounds almost liek “Vanilla Ice”? Do you know what I think when I hear Matty? I think “Maddie”, and not even the one from True Grit because that one was spelled “Mattie”. Does Tom Brady have a lame nickname? Manning? Brees? Rivers? No, none of them have nicknames. This will ensure that the Falcons do not win a Super Bowl with him as a major piece.

But allow me to discuss why the Colts are the only team that can challenge the Patriots in the AFC. First off, Peyton Manning owns Rex Ryan like the Yankees owned Pedro, except Rex Ryan isnt a little pitcher with ungodly stuff. I wouldn’t say Ryan put his foot in his mouth (joke intended) talking about how it was personal about Manning, I jsut don’t think it will matter. If the Jets beat the Colts, it will be because their offense excels, not because the defense stymies them. However, this statement concerns more than just the Jets game. The Colts have quietly shut down MoJo Drew, Chris Johnson, and Darren McFadden the last three weeks, and have been outstanding defensively for long stretches. The Tennessee game was really their first slip up, and it was against a division rival who you expect to give you a good game. Also keep in mind that when the Colts played the Pats, they ere missing Gary Brackett, who is like the anti-Woodhead. He blows players like that up because he is one of them, and that will frustrate the Pats greatly when they suddenly are not getting 5 extra yards after contact. Secondly, the Colts have been running the ball like crazy, and it has made all the difference. Being able to run the ball not only makes the Colts more balanced in general, but makes it much harder for Bill Belichick to gear his defense toward Manning.

Why are these things that the Colts have that are unique to them and not the other quality teams? Joe Flacco does not scare the Patriots at all. Neither does the diminished Ravens secondary. The Chiefs without Weis is a big deal too, and they were never likely to beat the Patriots anyway. The Steelers got annihilated by the Patriots because they have one major threat on offense and tend to get away from the run (though I would make them 3rd most able to beat the Pats). The Jets buried the game ball, but not the fact that the Pats now have their number.

Not your typical Manning season, but the team is on a roll.

 

NFL to the Colts: Help us Peyton-Wan Kenobi! You’re our only hope!

Sorry, I had to.

But what does that make my pick? I am taking the Eagles in the NFC. Why? Why not. I do not think Vick can stay mistake free the entire team, but I just do not trust any NFC team. The winner is coming from the AFC. And in that AFC? I am taking the Patriots and it will not be close. They will beat everyone without breaking a sweat and make up for the 18-1 season by really earning this one. They deserve it. What? I’ve never heard of something called a reverse jinx. And sarcasm isn’t something I do. Patriots 44, Eagles 20.

Overall Picks

Colts over Jets, Chiefs over Ravens (though I am shaky on it without Weis)
Patriots over Chiefs, Steelers over Colts
Patriots over Steelers

Again, please take these AFC picks with a grain of salt as the last thing I would do is pick my own team and risk jinxing them.

Saints over Seahawks (closer than you think), Eagles over Packers (the power of a rested Vick)
Eagles over Bears (I trust Cutler less than Andy Reid), Saints over Falcons (the bounce back from the Seahawks game)
Eagles over Saints (In a poorly played squeaker)

And yes, the Eagles could easily lose to the Packers in the first round. Just one of those years.

Patriots over Eagles

Also, I have historically been awful at picking the playoffs, so don’t put any money on my opinions here.

Awards and Some Fun

MVP: Tom Brady. You could go with “best player best team”. You could go with “best stats”. You could go with “holy crap he has played better than anyone this year and it is pretty undeniable”. They all work.?
Honorable Mention: Michael Vick, Roddy White, Peyton Manning

Defensive Player of the Year: Julius Peppers. Quietly a gigantic impact and unblockable just like the good old days in Carolina.
Honorable Mention: If this was Most Valuable Defensive Player, I would go with Ed Reed and Ndammukong Suh, but it is DPOY. Cameron Wake gets my “favorite new defensive player” award, but again, that is not the award. The HMs here is Clay Matthews

OROY: Sam Bradford. See above, and there is just no one else in his league.
Honorable Mention: Mike Williams (TB),  LeGarrette Blount, Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski (NE)

DROY: Ndammukong Suh. Because no one else was close. He is the 2nd best D-lineman in the league right now (Haloti Ngata).
Honorable Mention: Devin McCourty is a distant second, and third is almost as distant.

Coach of the Year:  Raheem Morris. See above.
Honorable Mention: Belichick, Todd Haley

Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Vick. No one else was close to the point I am not giving honorable mention.

NFL Man of the Year: Andre Johnson. Video below.

The All-Clowns Team

Yup, we are making a team for the Clowns. In this case, it is not the players who are clowns so much, but because these are players who were once good and now are done. Sort of like you if you have settled on a career as a clown. The important thing to remember is that these players were good at one point, but now suck, so the career scrubs are out. Say bye to these guys. And yes, they are partial lists because I don’t have time to think up guys on both sides of the ball, but don’t let that stop you, dear reader.

QB: Carson Palmer (CIN-captain)
RB: Clinton Portis (WAS)
RB: LaDanian Tomlinson (NYJ)
WR: Randy Moss (NE/MIN/TEN)
WR: Chad Ochocinco (CIN)
TE: Chris Cooley (WAS)
T: Ryan Diem (IND)
G: Leonard Davis (DAL)
C: Andre Gurode (DAL)

Reserves: Donovan McNabb, Thomas Jones, Felix Jones (placed here due to fantasy football bitterness), Reggie Wayne (not really, but declining fast), Hines Ward (probably was done for a few years now really).

All OTC Team

This one is for all my guys. They aren’t the best players in the league, and they are all from the middle-class, but they are good and people need to know about it. Admittedly I started to run out of guys and had to go a little more name-brand at times.

QB: Kyle Orton (DEN). Josh Freeman was a close second, but give me Captain Neckbeard/ Kyle The Bottle.
RB: Joseph Addai (IND). Tough yardage is his middle name and an amazing blocker and good receiver. Underrated.
RB: LeSean McCoy (PHI). He is one of those guys that would be borderline elite on most teams, but on Andy Reid’s team, he is just underrated. He can do it all.
WR: Anquan Boldin (BAL). A tough guy that will block and go across the middle, but he can also finesse you. Always underrated in Arizona, and Flacco just isn’t that good.
WR: Legedu Naannee (SD). More than a slot receiver.
WR: Davone Bess (MIA). He is playing the slot for me and will be my leading receiver if I have my way. My favorite random NFL player. It’s not close.
TE: Jimmy Graham (NO). I was looking for a guy who could block a little more, but I will settle for the extremely athletic TE.
OL: Too hard to single out one guy on each O-Line.
DE: Cameron Wake (MIA), Tamba Hali (KC). Love the motors on both of them and they are a menace.
DT: Eric Foster (IND), Ahtyba Rubin (CLE). Fiesty, solid, and good.
OLB: James Anderson (CAR), Geno Hayes (TB). Fast, good tacklers, and underrated.
MLB: London Fletcher (WAS). Gary Brackett Sr. Gotta love him.
CB: Jerraud Powers (IND), Brandon Flowers (KC). Good ball-skills and good cover-skills.
SS: Malcolm Jenkins (NO). Converted corner making the transition very well from what I have seen.
FS: Antoin Bethea (IND). I realize I am heavy on Colts here, but he clearly belongs on the list.

Head Coach: Jim Schwartz (DET). I was going to take Tomlin, but we all know how good he is.
OC: Mike Mularkey (ATL). Watch out, he is about to leave the underrated ranks for the overrated ranks.
DC: I am running a 4-3 with this team, but I want Crennel/Mangini to do it. Screw it, I am just going to act like they run a 4-3.
Special Teams Coach: Just kidding, no favorite special teams coach.

Ok, here’s the point.This team is probably a borderline playoff team on paper, but there are good players to be found out there if you look around a little. Granted, Anquan Boldin and Percy Harvin might be a bit hard to pick up, but they are players who have much more than meets the eye and are worth a look.

So is everything covered? All those loose ends tied up before heading to Spain? It has been a great year and I regret not getting to cover the playoffs, but a great college experience looms. Do not give up on us and we will be back before you know it.

 

The Clowns are going further out of town. A live report from the Bernabeu? Keep your fingers crossed.

 

 

NHL Hockey Hub: The Coyotes come back from the Czech Republic

By: Ed Hubbard

 

The Yotes are back

 

Thank the lord that hockey is back. When the puck dropped on Thursday for the start of the 2010-2011 NHL season I could not be happier. But the news gets better for the Hub. I get to write about it.

If the Hub is writing about hockey I have to start with my favorite team, the Phoenix Coyotes. I have to admit that I jumped on to the bandwagon last year. But after last season the desert dogs in Glendale became my favorite Arizona team.

After a one hundred point season and making a playoff appearance fans in Arizona have high expectations for the Yotes.

Offensively the Coyotes look better than last year. With the resigning of Wojtek Wolski, Lee Stemniak and Ray Whitney the Coyotes offense has some new fire power. With the new front line of Wolski Whitney and Doan, watch for the Coyotes to surprise fans and put a lot more points on the board.

 

Bryzgalov does a great job protecting the net

 

Iyla Bryzgalov is good in the net. You do not have to worry about him after he had a great year last year.

What I am concerned about is the new look defense the desert dogs have. The Yotes suffered a huge loss in the off-season after Pittsburgh signed first line defender Zbynek Michalek. But look for the defense’s big leader Ed Jovanovski to help the defense bounce back. New defensemen will have to step up like Derek Morris and Keith Yandle. The Coyotes’ D is hurting right now but I believe they will bounce back and with the help of an improved offense the Coyotes will be even better than their breakout year.

After two games in the Czech Republic against the Boston Bruins the Hub is optimistic. One reason is because of Radim Vrbata. Vrbata showed me a lot last year. I started going to games when he was on a hot streak. It looks like he wants to start the season off smoking. In the season-opener Vrbata clapped in two pucks and had one assist. The Coyotes finished the game with a win 5-2. After a five point game I am impressed with the Coyotes new offense.

But in the second game in Prague the Coyotes were once again humbled with a 3-0 loss. The game showed the weak spot of the Coyotes team, the defense. The d gave up two quick goals in the second period and Iyla Bryzgalov also weathered a storm taking on 37 shots. The Bruins destroyed the Coyotes in shot attempts all night.

For the Coyotes they have to be more aggressive on defense. They have a new high powered offense. To get that the boys upstairs had to sacrifice some defensive talent. But all the talent in the world can’t compare to intense defense. The Yotes d needs to pick up the intensity. With defense like that the Coyotes will have a tough time with Saturday’s opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.

Follow “The Hub” on Twitter: @AZSportsHUB


2010 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore

The 2010 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore

2010 F1 Grand Prix of Singapore – 61 Laps

By: Nick Koglin

Even as it is Formula 1’s lone night race, this was by no means a sleeper. There was plenty of pre-race drama and a healthy dose during the race as well.

The Storyline

With 5 races remaining, Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber came into this race in the midst of a considerable performance plateau albeit still leading the championship due to consistency. The remainder of the championship contenders include teammate Sebastian Vettel, McLaren’s 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and the fastest driver at the previous race in Italy and two-time World Champion, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. In fifth, last year’s champion and F1 pretty boy, Jenson Button of McLaren is trying to regain some of last years’ fortune.

As far as the Constructors Championship is concerned, the battle is between Red-Bull and McLaren with Ferrari lingering somewhere in the distance. The graphical breakdown of the pre-race standings looks like this:

Pos Driver Points Pos Constructor Points
1 Mark Webber 187 1 Red Bull-Renault 350
2 Lewis Hamilton 182 2 McLaren-Mercedes 347
3 Fernando Alonso 166 3 Ferrari 290
4 Jenson Button 165 4 Mercedes 158
5 Sebastian Vettel 163 5 Renault 127

Also, Singapore marks the return of Nick Heidfeld and Christian Klien to Formula One racing. Heidfeld replaces Pedro de la Rosa at BMW-Sauber and Klien jumps in the HRT chassis formerly occupied by Sakon Yamamoto.

Qualifying

Sebastian Vettel

All though Sebastian Vettel absolutely crushed the field in practice, it was Fernando Alonso who once again stole the pole. There was really nothing exceptional to note in qualifying aside from Rubens Barrichello taking his Williams-Cosworth to an exceptional 6th position. For an independent team, each race Williams has seemed to make considerable strides towards attacking the factory-backed teams.

The other notable event qualifying was the failure of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. Several things to note here: One, Singapore has never been kind to Massa, as it likely cost him the 2008 World Championship, a result of the Crashgate Scandal involving Renault. Secondly, team orders and poor luck have resulted in a pretty difficult year for the Brazilian and on top of it all are the rumors of Massa getting replaced at the end of the year, so pressure for him is pretty high.

Massa would start from the back of the grid after replacing his engine for the 9th time this season. (If a driver chooses to replace more then 8 engines in a year, a 10-place grid penalty is instilled on said driver. However, Massa began the race from the back anyways.)

The Race

At the start, Alonso took the race straight to Vettel driving him towards the wall. From there, all bets were off as Vettel and Alonso took a dominant lead over Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the field. The start was unusually clean, but Singapore, as with many city circuits, is extremely tight and subsequently it makes passing quite difficult.  Needless to say, the safety car wound up its odometer a lot during this race, particularly in the opening stages.

The McLaren team, desperate to gain points in both championships, really looked off pace early on today. Boasting a revised aero package, one rooting for the British team would hope that the supposed increase in downforce would help out in the tight corners of Singapore. Unfortunately for McLaren, the aerodynamicists at Ferrari and Red Bull also brought out the big guns and it showed today.

In the opening laps, Webber pitted as part of a risky strategy. Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld’s return to F1 was short exchanged blows with Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi eventually leading to a retirement. Timo Glock of crazy Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing team made a valiant effort to hold off the much faster Niko Hulkenburg, Adrian Sutil, and Felipe Massa but their far superior machinery eventually overran the garage project that is Timo Glock’s car.  (Think Monte Blanc vs. Crayola)

Lewis Hamilton

Random Notes mid-race:15 laps into the race it became clear that Jenson Button just did not possess the same outright speed that teammate Lewis Hamilton had this weekend.  On lap 21, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi took the fight to 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher’s defunct Mercedes; for me the jury is still out regarding Grandpa Schumacher’s return to F1.

Around lap 30 the top ten cars came in for their scheduled pit stops. The biggest loser here was Lewis Hamilton whose McLaren just could not keep the desired pace prior to the pit stop and upon his pit exit, he dropped from 3rd to 8th.

Around this time, the wheels began to come off for the independent teams (literally) as they racked up a good majority of the race’s crashes. However, it was the crash between Webber and Hamilton that certainly became the most significant incidence of the race.

Hamilton escaped uninjured, but his championship position did not fare so well. Webber somehow took no damage miraculously and continued to make the best of his risky early pitstop. At this point, 37 laps in, the race was mostly all decided. In the closing stages, Renault’s Robert Kubica took on fresh tires and made a mad dash  from 12th to 7th. Elsewhere on the track, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel kept the final moments of the race tense with a fierce exchange of fastest laps.

In the end though, it was Alonso who secured the Grand Slam (win, pole, fastest lap, most laps led) and due to the retirement of Hamilton on lap 37, moved up considerably in the Championship standings. See table:

Pos Driver Points Pos Constructor Points
1 Mark Webber 202 1 Red Bull-Renault 383
2 Fernando Alonso 191 2 McLaren-Mercedes 359
3 Lewis Hamilton 182 3 Ferrari 316
4 Sebastian Vettel 181 4 Mercedes 168
5 Jenson Button 177 5 Renault 133

Fernando Alonso

Overall, Singapore was an excellent race, providing some enticing storylines, the Hamilton crash in particular.  Alonso’s win gave the Spaniard a big boost in the championship standings but it ain’t over yet. Massa’s excellent points finish also helped give Ferrari a boost in the Manufacturer’s Championship, though it is still Red Bull’s to lose. While Hamilton’s crash may have damned his chances of winning the Driver’s Title, with 4 races remaining, nothing is out of the picture. The next race is in Japan at Suzuka, so stay tuned…

Ross Geiger’s Q & A with Rap Star Phreshy Duzit

Phreshy Duzit

The OuttaTownClowns are pleased to present Ross Geiger’s exclusive interview with Phreshy Duzit. Signed to Atlantic Records, this bright, young rapper out of Brooklyn is currently in the process of preparing to drop his debut album. Phreshy already owns and operates his own record label entitled “Self Made Celebrity” and dropped his highly anticipated mixtape, “No Assembly Required”, this past year. As his popularity continues to sky rocket, Phreshy has been featured in songs by mainstream artists such as Colby O’Donis, Trey Songz, and was recently in the studio with J. Cole.

Along with being one of the hottest young artists in the rap game, Phreshy Duzit is also an avid NBA fan. Ross caught up with Phreshy to talk NBA hoops as well as what the his future has in store. Check it out:

RG: What’s your favorite NBA team?

Phreshy: I was always a Sixers fan but as of lately I’ve been a fan of the Celtics.

RG: Being from New York (and maybe even a Knicks fan) what are your thoughts on Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks as whole this upcoming season? Will it be another disappointing season or is this Knicks team a borderline playoff team?

Phreshy: I think they’re slowly making the right moves to be a powerful team.  I think they’ll make the playoffs, it should be a good look for the city.

RG: Who’s your favorite player in the league and why?

Phreshy: Iverson has and will always be my favorite player, now that he’s taking time off I like Kevin Durant.

Brooklyn's Hottest Young Rapper

RG: What are your thoughts on the hype surrounding rookie sensation John Wall form his on the court skills to his own “John Wall” dance?

Phreshy: That dude’s incredible. Enough said. I just seen a little kid “John Wallin” on YouTube, so it must be the next best thing.

RG: In your opinion, who are the top 3 players in the league today?

Phreshy: Lebron, Kobe & D. Wade…. Not in any particular order though… Haha

RG: What’s your take on the whole LeBron James decision to join up with NBA stars in Miami?

Phreshy: I’m not mad at the decision, I’m just mad at everybody hoppin’ on the Miami bandwagon.

RG: Who are you predicting to win the NBA Championship?

Phreshy: Miami

RG: Being “Phresh” yourself, what team has the freshest jerseys?

Phreshy: Celtics. Classic

RG: Do you wear jerseys?

Phreshy: No longer wearing jerseys… That was when I was in Middle School.

RG: Ever considered writing a song with hopes to get it in an NBA video game?

Phreshy: Yea, definately.  You’ll hear some in next years video games.

RG: When does the debut album drop?

Phreshy: Single dropping this month. EP dropping in December and the Album will be set to release probably about 6 months after.

RG: Any basketball references in the album? If so, can you hook us up with one basketball-related punch line?

Phreshy: Get that EP, you’ll hear a couple!

RG: Well thanks for your time Phresh!

Phreshy: Appreciate it fam.

For more on Phreshy Duzit follow him on Twitter: @SMC_PHRESHY and be sure to check out his website: www.SelfMadeCelebrity.com

Ross Geiger’s 7-Part NBA Blog Series in Review

Follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger

2010-2011 Most Improved Team

2010-2011 A Trade-Away From Being Good Team

2010-2011 All-Rookie First Team

2010-2011 Most Underrated Rookie Team

2010-2011 NBA Rookie Disappointments

2010-2011 Rookies That Find Depth Troubles

2010-2011 Don’t Overlook the Small Names Team

Stay Tuned for Ross Geiger’s Upcoming NBA Preview & Predictions, Right Here At The OuttaTownClowns!

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 Don’t Overlook the Small Names Team

The Buzzer Beatin' Follow Through by Lester Hudson

Lester Hudson, NBA Free Agent

After having a very impressive Las Vegas Summer League showing as a member of the Washington Wizards, Lester Hudson is on the verge of making another NBA roster this season. Averaging 11.2 points,  2.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per contest, Hudson made sure John Wall wasn’t the only impressive Wizards point guard. In fact, Hudson played a key role during the last stretches of close games. Wizards’ Summer League Head Coach Sam Cassell turned to both Wall and Hudson as the primary ball handlers with the game on the line. In the Wizards last summer league game, Hudson took over as the Wizards elected to sit out Wall. Hudson dropped 19 points to go along with 9 assists, and delivered the dagger from  connecting on a game winning, step-back buzzer beater. That’s not a bad way to finish off a successful summer league appearance and it definitely left a lasting impression on the entire league.

SG: Dominique Jones, Dallas Mavericks

Jones has a lot to offer at the NBA level

This year’s 25th overall pick by the Mavericks showed plenty of good signs during his inaugural summer league performances. Dominique Jones went onto to average 16.6 points per game with 3.4 assists and 3.8 boards. Not only did Jones lead his team in scoring throughout their five matchups, but Jones absorbed much of the hype that was supposed to surround Mavs second-year man, Rodrigue Beaubois. By the end of summer league, the word around the press row was looking forward to watching Jones, not particularly just Beaubois as expected. Jones must improve upon his consistency from the floor, but can indeed help next year’s Mavericks team if called upon.

Rolle was on a roll producing during his time on the floor in Orlando Summer League

SF: Magnum Rolle, Indiana Pacers

While I decided to transform him into a small forward for the sake of showing love for the hungry Pacers rookie. Magnum Rolle made the best of each and every opportunity he got to show the Pacers what he has to offer and it paid off. Rolle is a guy, you’ll be hearing about for years to come. He won’t blow you away with his skill but he’ll instead do it with his hustle and energy. At 6’10 with a very long wingspan, Rolle is very versatile and can guard multiple positions. In Orlando Summer League, Rolle averaged 13.4 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks a game. Having not played basketball until his freshman year of high school, I’d say Rolle still has a lot of room to grow as a player, especially if he continues to work as hard as he has thus far in the league.

Brackins should become CP3's new best friend on the perimeter

PF: Craig Brackins, New Orleans Hornets

Ok, so maybe Brackins isn’t really a “small name” having been a highly touted recruit coming out of Brewster Academy, but entering the league I’d say many still aren’t buying in. While I doubt Brackins ever becomes a borderline star in the NBA, I do think he’ll be a very solid, respected NBA pro in the near future. It all starts with his size and his ability to stretch the defense with his touch. Brackins is a tremendous shooter with range often times compared to LaMarcus Aldridge, but I’d argue there’s a bit of a “in his prime version of Brian Cook”. He definitely showed me a lot in his summer league games averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds. Not to mention he shot 47% from the three-point line connecting on 10-21 total attempts. While he won’t provide much in other categories his shooting consistency will find him minutes. With Chris Paul leading the charge in New Orleans, Brackins will be a perfect complimentary piece. He doesn’t clog up the lane, prefers to float around the perimeter, and can step into a shot from anywhere on the offensive end. Watch out NBA fantasy basketball, this could be your new favorite three-point specialist since you’ll be able to place him in your power forward slot.

Lawal could end up being "The Steal" of the 2010 NBA Draft Class

C: Gani Lawal, Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns getting some love? You better believe it, they got an absolute steal in this year’s draft, grabbing Gani Lawal with the 46th overall pick. Although they didn’t even have a first round pick this year, the Phoenix Suns came out of the 2010 draft as one of draft night’s winners. Much like how Eric Bledsoe played in the shadow of John Wall at Kentucky, Lawal did the same at Georgia Tech as the focus and media attention was on Derrick Favors. If one were to ask me how good Lawal could end up being? I’d surprise many with this: at the end of the day, Gani Lawal may very well be just as good, if not a better pro than Derrick Favors. Bold statement? Yes, very much so, but entirely out of the question? Absolutely not. In Las Vegas Summer League, I was not at all surprised at Lawal’s attention grabbing stat lines throughout the Suns’ five games. Lawal completed summer league averaging 15.4 points, 7.4 boards, with 1 block a game. It’s nearly impossible to predict how the Phoenix Suns handle Lawal’s rookie year and whether or not he ever gets a real chance to shine. But one thing’s for certain if Lawal continues to develop his game on the practice floor and can show the Suns coaching staff he can rebound, he’ll play. Both Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick are terrible rebounders, plus it’s also clear at this point that hustle-man and fan favorite Lou Amundson isn’t returning. Knock, Knock…Who’s there? Gani Lawal.

Last But Not Least, I Bring You The Most Exciting NBA Summer League Finish I Was In Attendance For, Which Includes 2 of the 5 Players That Made This List: Lester Hudson & Craig Brackins. Take a Look:

This is the last and final part of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Thank you for following the series and we hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 Rookies That Find Depth Troubles

Bradley's jersey number may represent the number of minutes he'll earn most nights

PG: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics

The undersized combo guard out of Texas may very well be on his way to “Jerryd Bayless-type start” to his career. Much like Bayless, Bradley is not really a point guard, undersized at the off-guard position, and elevates very well on his pull-up jumper. While he became a high value pick at the position the Celtics’ selected him at, he’ll struggle finding time next season. Suffering a summer-long injury won’t help much either. Now Bradley finds himself not only rehabbing, but he’ll have to do so multi-tasking as he’ll also be getting his adjustments to the league. Bradley will have to remain patient next season and will always have to be ready for when his name is called.

Hopefully Babbitt's work on the practice floor can earn him some minutes as rookie

SG: Luke Babbitt, Portland Trailblazers

Rudy Fernandez’s status will play a big part in whether or not Babbitt finds depth trouble this upcoming season. But the addition of Babbitt and his successful summer league makes the decision upon moving Fernandez a little easier for the Blazers front office. On top of using their top draft pick for Babbitt the Trailblazers went out and signed rookie sensation Wesley Matthews to a lengthy 5 year, $34 million dollar deal. The Frenchman Nicholas Batum is also back from injury and of course Brandon Roy occupies most of the shooting guard minutes. Babbitt should find most of his opportunity coming from the shooting guard position but he’ll have to battle for spot minutes with Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, and fellow first round pick Elliot Williams.

Offseason acquisitions hurt Hayward's chances of finding potential minutes

SF: Lazar Hayward, Minnesota Timberwolves

The offseason moves of the Minnesota Timberwolves really hurt Lazar Hayward’s chances of even having the slightest bit of impact during his rookie year. The Marquette standout who became the school’s first round draft pick since Dwyane Wade will be stuck behind a couple offseason additions. Both Martell Webster and Michael Beasley were added to the Timberwolves roster through trades this summer. Hayward’s only hope is that the Wolves decide upon moving Kevin Love and try their luck with Beasley playing the power forward position, much like Lamar Odom does, in the triangle offense.

If Patterson proves he's as NBA-ready as many believe then kiss this selection goodbye

PF: Patrick Patterson, Houston Rockets

If he’s as NBA-ready as many project then maybe he’ll crack the rotation but it definitely won’t come easy with Yao Ming back into the mix. The Rockets have a variety of different options down low and it’ll be interesting to see who gets appointed the primary backup slots at both the power forward and center position. At the power forward position Patterson will fight to play behind Luis Scola along with young big man Jordan Hill and veteran workhorse Chuck Hayes. Initially Hayes will have the upper hand but it’s only a matter of time before Patterson takes over.

Whiteside will be playing behind players on the Kings roster (pun intended)

C: Hassan Whiteside, Sacramento Kings

Hassan Whiteside arrived on scene a year or two late in Sacramento. The Kings are quickly on the rise in the Pacific Division and will continue to build upon last season’s bright spots. Being so inexperienced and raw, there won’t be much patience for Whiteside’s development in NBA arenas next season. Whiteside has also been referred to as “immature” and if that ends up being the case, I can unfortunately see him having immediate problems in Sacramento. The key question is if Whiteside will be able to handle and have the patience to grow/develop slowly under close supervision. All while not being rewarded with many minutes (if any) next season.

This is Part 6 of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Be sure to be on the lookout for the last and final Part 7 that’s coming soon! In the mean time, follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.

NFL Power Rankings, Review, and Predictions

NFL DIVISION PREVIEWS

NFC West Preview
AFC West Preview
NFC South Preview
AFC South Preview
NFC North Preview
AFC North Preview
NFC East Preview
AFC East Preview

Unless you have been living in an OTC shell the last few weeks, you have doubtless seen some of our NFL Previews, looking at every team and projecting their record for the season. You probably saw a few teams (like the Bears, Lions, and Dolphins) with curious projected records and thought to yourself “there is no way the Dolphins are 6 games better than the Bears or Lions”. Well, you are right. When we project records, we have to look at the schedule, not just at how good we think a team is. I think the Lions are good enough to win 7 games this year, but with their schedule, it could be hard to hit that mark. Same goes for the Bears, but you add to it that I am projecting Mike Martz and Lovie Smith to clash, something completely off the field, and the win total looks unexpectedly low. Well, this is my chance to make my stand on which teams are the best, regardless of what their projected record is.

Same goes for the players who could push their team over the top, or sink their team. Some guys may be better than others, but not get a chance to shine given their circumstances on a team. That is why we have a separate section to make sure that the truth comes out about players, and their success is not falsely attributed to talent around them or vice versa.

Another thing you should keep in mind when reading is that the NFL is unpredictable. EVERY year there are 5 new playoff teams, and it is just impossible to project that looking at a roster. I am not willing to downgrade a team that looks great for an upset just because I need to have an upset. If a team looks like they are on the rise, like the Chiefs this year, I am willing to give them a bump, but not necessarily a bump to the playoffs. My predictions WILL be wrong, There is no doubt about it. It is just a matter of projecting these teams’ seasons to the best of my ability. I only have 2 new playoff teams this year and there will probably be more. a 5-11 team last year will probably win 9 games, but I can’t pick it out. The NFL is unpredictable, so keep that in mind when reading the previews and these rankings.

But, without further ado, I give you the NFL Power Rankings, Review, and predictions.

Power Rankings (Preseason)

Please note, this is not a projection of how they will do in the playoffs, just who is the best right now, before any games have been played. The Playoff business comes later.

1. Indianapolis Colts (OTC Projected: 13-3, Winner AFC South)
2. Green Bay Packers (OTC Projected 13-3, Winner NFC North)
3. Baltimore Ravens
(OTC Projected: 13-3, Winner NFC North)
4. Dallas Cowboys (OTC Projected: 12-4, Winner NFC East)
5. New Orleans Saints (OTC Projected: 11-5, Winner NFC South)
6. New England Patriots (OTC Projected: 10-6, Winner AFC East)
7. New York Jets (OTC Projected: 10-6, 2nd in AFC East)
8. Minnesota Vikings (OTC Projected: 11-5, 2nd in NFC North)
9. New York Giants (OTC Projected: 10-6, 2nd in NFC East)
10. Atlanta Falcons (OTC Projected: 10-6, 2nd in NFC South)
11. Cincinnati Bengals (OTC Projected: 10-6, 2nd in AFC North)
12. San Diego Chargers (OTC Projected: 10-6, Winner AFC West)

This is where the cutoff for the playoffs should be, but the top 12 cannot make it since division winners matter. And yes, I realize I have a ton of teams going 10-6. Most of them probably will not end up at exactly that number, but I am sticking to my projections so far.

13. Houston Texans (OTC Projected: 9-7, 2nd in AFC South)
14. Carolina Panthers (OTC Projected: 8-8, 3rd in NFC South)
15. Tennessee Titans (OTC Projected: 9-7, 3rd in AFC East)
16. San Francisco 49ers (OTC Projected: 9-7, Winner NFC West)
17. Miami Dolphins (OTC Projected: 10-6, 3rd in AFC East)
18. Philadelphia Eagles (OTC Projected: 8-8, 3rd in NFC East)
19. Kansas City Chiefs (OTC Projected: 7-9, 2nd in AFC West)
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (OTC Projected: 6-10, 3rd in AFC North)
21. Chicago Bears (OTC Projected: 4-12, 3rd in NFC North)
22. Detroit Lions (OTC Projected: 4-12, 4th in NFC North)
23. Denver Broncos (OTC Projected: 5-11, 3rd in AFC West)
24. Seattle Seahawks (OTC Projected: 7-9, 2nd in NFC West)
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (OTC Projected: 6-10, 4th in AFC South)
26. Arizona Cardinals (OTC Projected: 6-10, 3rd in NFC West)
27. Oakland Raiders (OTC Projected: 5-11, 4th in AFC West)
28. Washington Redskins (OTC Projected: 5-11, 4th in NFC East)
29. St. Louis Rams (OTC Projected: 3-13, 4th in NFC West)
30. Cleveland Browns (OTC Projected: 3-13, 4th in AFC North)
31. Buffalo Bills OTC Projected: 3-13, 4th in AFC East)
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(OTC Projected: 3-13, 4th in NFC South

Explanation Time

In their natural habitat, the Lions and Bears will be better than their record.

Naturally, I will not be explaining all my projections, as that is what the actual previews are for. However, I think there are some rankings in there in need of explanation.

21. Chicago Bears (OTC Projected: 4-12, 3rd in NFC North)
22. Detroit Lions
(OTC Projected: 4-12, 4th in NFC North)

In all honesty, I probably just gave them too many losses in the preview, but their schedules are brutal, and they are not that great of teams. However, I would take either team over any of the teams below them, despite their low projection. They will both probably get more than 4 wins. For that reason, I have no issues putting them above a team with 7 wins and several with 6.

14. Carolina Panthers (OTC Projected: 8-8, 3rd in NFC South)
17. Miami Dolphins (OTC Projected: 10-6, 3rd in AFC East)

The win disparity does not mean the Dolphins are better. The Dolphins get a somewhat easier schedule than the Panthers this year, so they get more wins, but why do I have a team with quarterback questions above a team with a potential rising star at QB? I think the Panthers are a pretty damn good team this year, especially if that offensive line can stay healthy. The beauty of the Panthers is that they do not need big things from the QB position, and all they really need is for him to manage the game. The Dolphins also have more off-the-field issues to sort out, and I would pick the Panthers head-to-head at a neutral site every time.

23. Denver Broncos (OTC Projected: 5-11, 3rd in AFC West)
24. Seattle Seahawks (OTC Projected: 7-9, 2nd in NFC West)

The big thing here is that I projected the Seahawks while they still had TJ Houshmandzadeh, and without him, I would drop them to only winning 5 games. I probably under-projected the Broncos as well, so given that, this makes a fair amount of sense. I just really think the NFC West sucks.

Review

Here are the Division winners and Wild Cards, as projected during our previews by record. Power Ranking is listed as PR.

AFC

Maybe it is just my Colts bias, but Peyton Manning has been the most valuable player for about 7 years.

1. Colts (13-3) PR: 1
2. Ravens (13-3, virtual tie) PR: 3
3. Patriots (10-6) PR: 6
4. Chargers (10-6) PR: 12
WC 5. Jets (10-6) PR: 7
WC 6. Bengals (10-6) PR: 11

Dolphins out with 10-6 record.

NFC

1. Packers (13-3) PR: 2
2. Cowboys (12-4) PR: 4
3. Saints  (11-5) PR: 5
4. 49ers (9-7) PR: 16
WC 5. Vikings
(11-5) PR: 8
WC 6. Giants (10-6) PR: 9

Falcons out with 10-6 record.

Playoff Predictions

AFC

Wild Card Week: Jets over Chargers, Patriots over Bengals
Divisional Playoffs:  Ravens over Patriots, Colts over Jets
Conference Championship: Colts over Ravens

The Colts just own the Ravens, and I think the Ravens just have the right combination to beat the Pats. I think the Pats would beat the Colts if they met in the playoffs, but it looks like they will avoid each other. This is really a situational pick more than an absolute pick, but it is early, and I am a Colts fan, so those are my excuses.

NFC

He is not quite as good as people are making him out to be, but his numbers will be through the roof.

Wild Card Week: Vikings over 49ers, Saints over Giants
Divisional Playoffs:  Packers over Vikings, Saints over Cowboys
Conference Championship: Packers over Saints

I am not necessarily huge on the Packers bandwagon, but I think this sets up pretty well for them to make a run at the Super Bowl. Are they the best team in the NFC? Yeah, I think so, but I am not quite sure if they are really Super Bowl ready. Consider it a situational pick rather than an absolute pick.

Super Bowl: Packers 31, Colts 27

Individual Awards

AP Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
AP Defensive Player of the Year: Darrelle Revis (now that he is signed, and now that teams are throwing it more, fewer LBs will win)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ryan Mathews (No Vincent Jackson and lack of another guy to be the every-down back gives Mathews the advantage. Honorable Mention: Jahvid Best, Dez Bryant, Golden Tate [without TJ])
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Eric Berry (Similar logic applies here as it did to Revis above. Honorable Mention: Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Wilson- if he can get on the field enough)
Comeback Player of the Year: Wes Welker (This is a tricky award to deal with. Do they consider Wes Welker a comeback because he had knee surgery, or not a comeback because he played in almost every Patriots game last season? What do they go on? For that reason I went with Welker because I think he will count for the award, even though it is a sort of wishy-washy decision if he is making a “comeback” or not.)
Coach of the Year: Todd Haley (It either goes to a team with like 14 or 15 wins or one that overachieved. I think Mike McCarthy of the Packers has a very good shot at it as well, but I am going with the Chiefs head man for the award)
MVP:
Peyton Manning (Call me a homer. He is far from a shoe-in here, and if I was a betting man, I would have put my money on Aaron Rodgers at 12:1, but I am sticking with the most valuable player instead of the player with the best statistics. Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Chris Johnson).

One last thing…

For Thursday: Saints 34, Vikings 24

Ready, set....... Coming soon: GO!