Monday, July 31, 2006

Season from hell.

Okay, I haven't done much writing on the Indians since I got this site started. And maybe there's some good reason for that. There's no other way to describe the way the 2006 campaign has gone for the Indians other than just plain out frustrating. Honestly, tonight's game was the first one I've watched in quite some time, and it just brought back painful memories of earlier in the season. In case you missed it, the game was on ESPN, and the announcers were all over David Ortiz all night, so when he hit a three run walkoff home run off of Fausto Carmona in the bottom of the ninth it didn't make things any better. The team didn't even play that bad, and the bullpen managed to hold the lead for the night up until Fausto came in.

I don't even know how this team has managed to pull 45 wins out of their asses, because it seems like every night when I look at the scores we're always at the losing end. We should be better, there's no doubt about it in my mind. Up until our recent mini-firesale (Hi Hector Luna and Shin-Soo Choo. See ya later, Wicky), the team was almost identical to last year's 93 win team. Now maybe Coco Crisp, Kevin Millwood, and Scott Elarton were solely responsible for our team's success last year, but I've got a hunch that outside of Pronk, Victor, and Grady, we're underachieving just a tad.

Actually though, some of these moves were pretty good considering our team's current situation. Broussard was batting in the .330's, seeing how he hits almost against righties exclusively, and Victor looks to be our first baseman of the future, so he was almost of no use to us. Belliard is one of the better offensive middle infielders in the game today, but his strikeout rate is awfully high, and, although he makes the occasional highlight-reel defensive gem, his range is awful, and when that gets mixed with Jhonny Peralta's even worse range, that leaves a lot of room for singles that should be outs. Hector Luna provides a short-term solution for that problem, even though he should never be considered a staple of the team by any means. One of the middle infielders had to do, and seeing how Peralta just signed long term, the bullseye was on Belliard.

This still leaves a lot of questions yet to be answered this offseason. The Tribe has dumped an estimated $15 million with the moves we've made, and including the money we had leftover after last offseason, we should be in good shape to sign some guys this offseason. Right now, the team has more holes than a block of swiss cheese, but there are three main holes which I'm sure I'll get more in-depth with when the offseason begins:

Corner outfielders: Not just any corner outfielder who has never played a full season but has a reputation of a good OBP (*cough* Jason Michaels), or a corner outfielder who is hovering around .300 but really isn't anywhere near as good as that looks (Casey Blake). We need a guy with power. There needs to be a legit 20-30 home run guy out there playing next to Grady, and Jason Michaels isn't the answer. Corner outfield is an offensive position, and we need more offense out of those guys.

Bullpen: Pretty self-explanitory. Right now, we don't have one active reliever with a save to his record. I didn't even think that that was possible. Our most reliable reliever at this point is Guillermo Mota.

Starting pitching: The Jason Johnson experiment failed more miserably than imaginable, so we don't need a superstar here, just a solid middle of the rotation guy. We also need to pray that the Big 3 can all have an effective season at once.

Oh, yeah. Aaron Boone, you've worn out your welcome. Feel free to leave anytime.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What the hell....

Looks like I was right. Bentley is done for the season...


Okay, Chicago can officially shut up now. I don't care what's happened to the Cubs. Cleveland, by far, is the most cursed city in sports. Yesterday, during the very first drill of the first day of training camp, LeCharles Bentley got tangled up and started yelling out "No!" and he fell to the ground. He was carted to the locker room with his face covered with a towel. Now I don't know about you guys, but after Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Courtney Browns x 100, and whoever the hell else is always injured, I'm fearing the worst. Bentley was the top free agent in football this past offseason, and he came to Cleveland to give our fans hope. It only makes sense that he'll tear his ACL.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ramonce Taylor to Transfer

Texas RB/WR Ramonce Taylor announced his intentions to transfer to another school. Taylor, as you may remember, recently got arrested for possesion of five pounds of marijuana back in May. It was almost a given that he would have been suspended at least through the Ohio State game, but knowing how football goes in Texas, I wouldn't doubt that they would have found a way for him to be wearing the correct orange uniform by the time September 9th rolled around.

Now that the possibility of him playing is extinguished, I am incredibly excited. Taylor was the kind of multi-purpose kind of player that you can only find at a few colleges around the nation. Although he wasn't the most talented member of the offense, his absence makes their offense incredibly one dementional now. With two quarterbacks that haven't taken a competitive snap since high school, the offense will be completely reliant on Jamaal Charles to carry the load come game time. My biggest concern regarding our defense was that we would get burnt on the big play that last year's defense never would have let happen (e.g. reverse, fake punt, etc.). Ramonce Taylor is the kind of player that the team would have given the ball to in order to create a big play, and without him, the Texas offense should be pretty stagnant that early on in the season. If Ohio State can contain Garrett Wolfe the previous week, then they should have no problem with Charles and the rest of the Texas running backs.Then again, the game is in Austin, so you never know...

Monday, July 24, 2006

OSU Offensive Line Preview

Key losses: Nick Mangold (Drafted 29th overall -
NYJ), Rob Sims (Drafted 128th overall - SEA)

It has been said, that a fantastic offensive line can make even the most mediocre of offenses look great. With the talent that I've already covered at Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver, the statistics that the offense puts up this year should be through the roof. With a physically dominating offensive line that averages 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, and a talent influx that seems to grow every single year, there is no reason to believe that this line won't be among the Big Ten's best this season.

Projected Starters:

Left Tackle: Alex Boone (6-8, 325 pounds) So.
Boone was one of the top overall prospects as a tackle out of high school, and was one of the biggest stars of the 2005 recruiting class. A physical specimen, the 6-8 Boone doesn't only overwhelm the defenders with his size, he's also probably the most athletic of all the Buckeye linemen. He has by far the best footwork of any Ohio State lineman in the past few years (probably the entire Jim Tressel era), and he has the size to go with it to blow defenders off the line. The only real concerns regarding Boone are his experience with him being only a sophomore, and he has had some recent off the field troubles which landed him in Tressel's doghouse for quite some time. If Tressell doesn't start him from day 1 because of his DUI, then it won't be long until he starts playing, because he's that good. Hopefully he doesn't have any jitters from being the youngest guy on this line, because we need a beast to protect Troy Smith's blind spot, and Boone can do more than just that.

Left Guard: Steve Rehring(6-8, 329 pounds) RS-So.
Probably the most questionable spot on the entire offensive line is that of left guard. Really, there are many guys that are capable of starting at this spot, and Rehring could probably play tackle as well if Boone were to get hurt, or just not live up to the hype. At 6-8/329 Rehring is the biggest of all of our offensive linemen, and was actually penciled in as a starter on the left side during summer practices last season before injuries jumbled up our entire line and we were using a large rotation all season. Rehring can physically dominate the tackles opposite him, and will probably be of biggest help to us on those 3rd & Shorts where the whole world knows we'll be running right up the middle.

Center: Doug Datish (6-5, 295 pounds) Sr.
Gone from last year's team is Nick Mangold, a captain who's ability to call the game from the line will be missed almost as much as his talent. However, waiting in the wings to replace Mangold at center is last year's right guard, Doug Datish. Datish has all the leadership ability, and probably more than what Mangold had, and can manage the game from the line just as effectively. Although he isn't nearly as talented as Mangold was, he will more than likely be a team captain this season and will be the kind of guy our entire line can rally around.

Right Guard: TJ Downing (6-4, 305 pounds) Sr.
The four members of the 2002 recruiting class that played offensive line for OSU are as follows: Rob Sims, Nick Mangold, Doug Datish, and TJ Downing. The highest ranked of them all was Sims, being the 38th lineman in the nation. However, all of these players have defied the odds and have been staples of our offensive line for the past three seasons. Downing is the biggest competitor on our offensive line, something which Tressel and the rest of the Buckeyes know that they can rely on come stretch time. He's one of the three returning starters from last year's line, and knowing how Tressel loves seniors, Downing will get every opprotunity to make the most out of his situation, and like the other members of that 2002 class, he should make the most out of it.

Right Tackle: Kirk Barton (6-7, 325 pounds) Jr.
The entire right side of the Buckeye's offensive line this year is incredibly solid, with tons of experience. The anchor of the right side is also it's youngest member: Kirk Barton. His spot has been pretty much a guarantee for some time now, and it's not just because there's a lack of depth at tackle for the Buckeyes this year (which I will admit, there definitely is). He redshirted his first year, but as a redshirt freshman, Barton started the final seven games for the Buckeyes. A stretch in which a struggling team managed to go 5-2. Although most people look in the direction of Troy Smith and Ted Ginn at that team's turnaround, Kirk Barton definitely deserves some of the credit. Barton was one of the top 100 high school football players in the country before coming to Ohio State.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wimbley Signs

In a move that I find particularly surprising, the Cleveland Browns and their first round (13th overall) draft pick Kamerion Wimbley have come to agreement on a six year, $23.7 million deal. The reason I find this so surprising is that Wimbley is only the second first round draft choice to agree to a contract to date (Mario Williams being the other). Seeing how Wimbley was a middle-of-the-round guy made it even more surprising. Once Reggie Bush and the Saints eventually reach a contract, then a "domino effect" will take place and we'll quickly start seeing first round picks get signed. It will be interesting to see what price the rest of the guys drafted 11-15 sign for, because we could very well have gotten either a great deal here, or Wimbley will be another overpriced rookie.

With the returns of injured Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow to go along with Wimbley, the Browns essentially have three Top-13 picks coming in this season

Whether we overpaid or underpaid for Wimbley really doesn't matter to me as much as the fact that he'll be ready to go from day 1. Although I would have preferred Ngata in the draft, I'm just happy we'll have a 1st round choice in mini-camp for the first time since 2000. Not many people are expecting the Browns to take the world by storm this season, but most are expecting drastic improvements. As Browns fans, improvements are about all we've had to hope for ever since we rejoined the league in 1999. Well, these improvements have to start somewhere, and having a first round draft pick that tore up the combine ready to go for the start of many camp sure won't hurt. Not many things are certain about what to expect from this team this season, but one certainty is that this offseason will not disappoint (for a change).

This reminds me that I will post a much more in-depth review of the Browns when the season gets closer.
Note: In other Browns news, the team announced some minor uniform changes. Helmets will now have gray facemasks and the players will all wear black shoes. The team featured both some time ago, and are now back for the forseeable future.

Friday, July 21, 2006

PSB continues to expand!

The expansion of Pfef's Sports Blog continued today. I've recently affiliated myself with Nate from Buckeyes 24/7. His site is an all-Buckeyes news blog, which is definitely worth looking at. He has plenty of information, and even has his own message board. Check all of it out, now! The link can also be found on the side bar (to the right) for future reference.

Also, I made a big long post today about Marshall Faulk's surgery, and how we as fans shouldn't try to make decisions for him. Unfortunately, when I went in to edit an error, I accidently deleted the entire post. Sorry about that, folks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NCAA Football 07 in review

I went out and got NCAA 07 for the 360 yesterday, and after tons of playing, all I have to say is that I'm ready to play some more. Actually, I do have some thoughts on the game, and here they are:

I'm not all that disappointed that the 360 doesn't have Race for the Heisman: Although I never got NCAA '06, I did get Madden, which had the equivalent to it in "Superstar Mode" or whatever the heck it was called. I wasn't impressed with it and I jumped right into dynasty mode instead. The dynasty mode in '07 has just about everything you could hope for in a college football videogame. Now, instead of waiting until the end of the season to recruit Johnny Basketball to play wide receiver for your team, the recruiting process actually begins during the season and you keep in touch with the recruits on a week-to-week basis. Now I haven't finished my first season in my dynasty yet, but I assume recruiting does go on like normal after the season. The rest of the dynasty mode kicks some major behind, even with the glaring absence of ESPN the Magazine.

Gameplay is awesome. Especially online. Unlike in Madden 06, NCAA has that certain swagger about it that hooks me to the TV for hours on end when I turn on my XBox. Maybe it's because I can run the option. Maybe it's because college football is better than pro football. I don't know. I'm not a doctor. Anyways, even though the regular XBox version offers all sorts of trick plays, they probably either work too good, or don't work at all. It would have been nice to run some reverse-options to Ted Ginn, but I think I'll manage. I've only played one game online, but the experience was exceptional. It was easy to navigate through the menus, and I got in my game in no time. Once I was in the game, I rolled to a nice victory over Penn State.

I don't have much other input at this time. I'm not a videogame guru by any means, and there are definitely some better-done reviews out there (IGN, etc.), but this is a game that I find I can play for hours on end without boredom.

Final grade: A-

If anyone else has played the game on any console, feel free to comment with your input on it as well.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Slow week

It's been a relatively slow week in sports in the northern half of Ohio. There's not much going on in Cavaliers world ever since LeBron has signed, the Tribe continues to suck up the diamond (with the exception of Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, of course), and the Buckeyes haven't done much on the recruiting trail lately. Man...I really can't wait for football season to start. Posts will be flying up on here like none other.

Tomorrow, I'm getting NCAA 07 for the 360, and will try to find the time to write up a review on it. I've already downloaded the demo, and am impressed with what I see. For the first time in a while, you can actually pass the ball in the game without having the ball fall straight to the ground after it hits the receiver in the numbers, so it's off to a good start.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ray Small is in at OSU

According to the free message boards at BuckNuts, Ray Small is now in at Ohio State. Of course, this is just a rumor, and could turn out to be false in the near future, but the source who confirmed it apparently is very credible, so I'm getting my hopes up, even if it is a tad premature. He originally commited quite some time ago, but questions surrounding his academics put a damper over it. There were rumors that due to his low test scores, he would end up at Iowa, but it appears he is a Buckeye for good now. Great news, too. Ray Small was given the nickname "Ted Ginn III" in high school, and not just because he went to the same high school as Teddy, either. This guy is legit. He's been clocked running as low as a 4.38 40 yard dash, and runs it consistently in the low 4.4's. Looks like this guy will be our next big time punt returner if Ted decides to jump to the NFL next year, which he has eluded to a couple of times.

Week in review

Well, I just got back from vacationing in Michigan this past week, which was a blast by the way. Anyways, lots has been happening on the Ohio-front of the sporting world lately, so let me catch you guys up while I get myself caught up as well.

LeBron and signs 3 year extension: Contrary to initial reports that it was a max deal (5 years for $80 million), LeBron instead went for the three year extension, with a player option for a fourth season. The contract is estimated to be worth around $60 million. Although most people believe (ESPiN) this is a ploy for him to go play for the Knicks or Lakers as soon as possible to enhance his market value, this is just a way for him to get as much contract money as humanly possible, as soon as possible. When the three years of this contract is up, James will be a seven year NBA veteran, thus allowing him to seek a max contract that is worth 30% of the league salary cap in 2010 (estimated to be about $150 million), whereas players with less than seven years of experience can only sign for 25% of the cap. LeBron has since been followed by fellow business-partners Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who have both signed deals like that. The fourth member of the stellar 2003 draft class, Carmelo Anthony, signed a max deal, insuring his stay in Denver for the next five seasons.

Now, since we're on the topic of NBA free agency, I've been dying to address the issue of LeBron leaving Cleveland. And let me sum it up for you right here and now: it's not happening anytime soon. Not after three years, not after four years, not ever. Regardless of what ESPiN wants you to believe, when LeBron says, "I don't go ring chasing." he means it. The fact that he'd thrive because New York/Los Angeles are bigger markets is rediculous. Everyone knows who this guy is, it wouldn't matter if he got drafted by Tel Aviv's women's national team. We'd still know who LeBron James is, and we'd still buy his shoes. The kid was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a Junior in High School. To tell me that he needs to play for the Knicks or Lakers to really showcase his abilities is completely rediculous.

On a Cavaliers side note, the Cavs look to be close to signing 34 year old PG David Wesley. What Danny Ferry sees in Wesley that he doesn't already see in Eric Snow is beyond me. With this signing, and the drafting of Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson, this team is overloaded at guard for next year, which could possibly mean a trade sometime down the road. Who knows.

Buckeyes Land two more commits, a third on the way?: The Buckeyes helped themselves out on the offensive end of the spectrum for the future this week, landing RB Daniel "Boom" Herron and WR Dane Sanzenbacher. Herron never really put up any jaw-dropping stats in his two years as a starter in high shcool, but according to Buckeye Planet is a "tough, instinctive runner who always seems to be able to find a hole and fight for the extra yard." BP gives comparisons to Antonio Pittman. He's a tad undersized, but should have no problem adding on weight in his senior season and early on in his college career. Sanzenbacher is a three star receiver from Toledo who, although not being the biggest of targets (5-11/175) is very speedy and provides some much needed receiver help to the incoming class of '07. Another WR, Aaron Johnson from Louisiana, seems to be leaning our way. He posted on the BP forums that he will commit to play for Ohio State, but as we all know, the internet can be a very dishonest thing, and this could be any old schmuck trying to get our hopes up. Latest reports are pretty good in our favor, though.

On second thought, never put Travis Hafner on an All-Star team: Last year, when the slugging DH from North Dakota got snubbed, he went on an absolute tear, and completely demolished any opposing team that came in his way (most notably the Angels, where he hit something like 7 home runs in a three game series against them). This year, ever since getting left off the team again, Hafner is hitting .400 on the button with 4 jacks (including his fifth grand slam of the first half of the season -- a major league record). He also has 8 runs to his credit over the 10 game span. Oh yeah, as I'm writing this, he's playing the Twins right now and has already gone deep in his first at bat, and that's not included in the stats I mentioned.

Current Pronk watch:
BA - .325 (T-6 in AL)
HR - 27 (T-3 in AL)
RBI - 76 (3 in AL)
OBP - .459 (1 in AL)
SLG - .656 (1 in AL)
OPS - 1.116 (1 in AL)
R - 69 (3 in AL)
BB - 71 (1 in AL)

And somehow, this man wasn't an all-star

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ohio State Wide Receivers Preview

I'm going on vacation to Suttons Bay, Michigan on Saturday, so I decided to do this a bit early.

Key Losses:

Santonio Holmes (Drafted 25th overall - Pittsburgh Steelers)

Projected Starters:

1. Ted Ginn Jr Jr. (6-0/175)

After an exhilirating freshman campaign, Ted Ginn was considered by many to be a disappointment in his Sophomore season. He showed flashes late in the season of why he was considered to be one of the top two playmakers in the country last season, but also lacked consistency at times, often failing to run his routs perfectly and rarely showed the passion to block the opposition on running plays. However, things appear to have changed for the better this Spring. Wide Receivers coach Brian Hazell and fellow WR Anthony Gonzalez had the following to say about his Junior year transformation:

"He's like a totally different player," said Hazell. "He's always been fast, but now he runs good routes, reads defenses, does all the little things that make a good receiver. Those things, combined with his speed, could turn him into a great receiver next fall if he continues to work at it and improve," said Hazell.

"Teddy is playing extremely well. He really is. It's the best I've seen him play," added fellow wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

Due to the loss of Holmes, expect Ginn to get much more touches this season to do what he does best: Make plays. Ginn showed just what he is capable of in last year's Fiesta Bowl, when he scored the team's first two touchdowns, one on a deep streak pass where he left the defender in the dust, and another on a 67 yard reverse. Jim Tressel put it best after the game: "The last thing you want to see is have your defense running one way, and Teddy running the other." Look for Tressel to actually do that next season (instead of just saying he will do that). Ginn was still electric in the return game, returning plenty of kicks back for touchdowns, yet getting phantom flags on most of them. If he can sure up his route running, there's no reason for Ginn not to be an All-American caliber player this season.

2. Anthony Gonzalez
Jr. (6-0/190)

Gonzalez was probably the most underappreciated of all of Ohio State's offensive performers last season. When talking about the Buckeye's receivers situations, people usually ask if Ginn will be able to replace Holmes, but that is unfair comparison, because they have two different styles of play. The more appropriate comparison would be to Anthony Gonzalez, because looking at the players, they are incredibly similar. Not only do both have blazing speed, but they both have incredibly soft hands and run fantastic routes. Gonzalez has a hand for coming up with the big catch when the team needs him most, and making smart decisions. Case in point: the bowl game against Notre Dame. It was a 3rd and 11, with OSU trying to finish off the Irish, only needing a first down. If the team didn't get it, there would be a good chance at an Irish comeback. After Troy Smith showed off his footwork, he fired a pass to Gonzalez two yards short of the first down marker, and Gonzalez had the presence of mind to fight for the first down. This isn't even mentioning when he came up with the play of the year against Michigan, which I don't think I need to repeat, because all of us saw it. Gonzalez could make a strong argument for the #1 spot, but we're giving it to Ginn just based on reputation.

3. Roy Hall Sr. (6-3/240)
At 6-3/240, Hall is an extremely tough guard for any cornerback. Last season, he spent some time filling a Kellen Winslow-mold, working at both TE and in the slot. Match that with great hands, and you have a great possesion receiver. Due to his difficulty to matchup, and his great hands, expect Hall to be a big threat in 3rd down and goal line situations all throughout the season. The only question here is his consistency and potential. Word from Columbus is that Brian Robiskie is giving Hall a serious run for his money at the three spot, but I'm taking Hall's size over Robiskie's talent (yet inexperience) for now. I guess we'll see how things shake up come November.

Top backups:
Marcel Frost (Projected Starter - TE)
Rory Nicol (TE)
Brian Robiskie (WR)
Brian Hartline (WR)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Could yesterday's demolishing victory over New York be the start of something for Cleveland?

The fireworks came a bit early in Cleveland last night as the Indians demolished the Yankees 19-1. The fact that it was also George Steinbrenner's birthday was just icing on the cake (birthday? cake? get it???). Although it was just one win, this may have signaled that this team is finally turning the corner. It's our 4th straight win and the 6th win in the last 8 games. Considering all of these wins have come against teams either in first place (Cardinals) or teams battling for first place (Reds, Yankees) makes it that much sweeter. Travis Hafner hit two dingers to help add to his All-Star resume, although now it appears he won't make it to Pittsburgh now unless someone gets hurt. Peralta also hit two dingers, and has been playing better lately, even though he continues to be a consistent rally-killer with all of his strikeouts. Vic Mart went 5-6 and had a homer as well. Hopefully some more players either get hurt or wuss out so either he or Pronk makes the All-Star squad.

Although hopes of a division title ended about a month ago, if the team continues to play like we are playing, it should hopefully attract some big name pitchers in to town next year to complement our dynamite offense. Grady Sizemore continues to polish his hitting, and will be one of the best all-around players in baseball next season. The guy is an absolute freak. Hopefully, we can pull in a legit leadoff hitter (preferably an infielder) from another team so Grady can move to the 3 hole. If that were to happen, there is no question that next year's lineup would be the best in franchise history (yes, I did just say that). Expect a Grady Sizemore appreciation post later on in the season. Her's hoping for the best in 2007, and the rest of 2006.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Chicago has lost their minds.

One of the weaker NBA Draft classes was followed up by none other than a relatively weak free agent pool. The class was headlined by what most to be the best available player in 4 time defensive player of the year Ben Wallace, who just signed with the Chicago Bulls. Let's all hope the Bulls can finally pull a trade to get Tyson Chandler out of town now, or else this team's frontcourt is in serious trouble. Two (overrated) defensive specialists who provide little to none to the offensive game won't help the team all that much next season. This is exactly why this signing makes no sense to me. Wallace is a name that gets a lot more credit than he deserves because he played in Detroit, which is a media hot bed. His defensive skills are overrated considering just about all he is, is a leaper who is also an exceptional shot blocker. He doesn't posses the lateral speed that most lockdown defenders have, which allow for the quick swingmen (see: Dwyane Wade) to blow by him and drive to the hole. Now, take that and multiply it by two, and you get what Chicago has. They better be able to shop Chandler around this offseason and get a better offensive producer. This also goes without mentioning the draft pickup of Tyrus Thomas, who if he doesn't pan out all the way offensively, will be the next Tyson Chandler. This team would be at a total loss if it weren't for Scott Skiles and Kirk Heinrich. Granted, with one trade, I could have my mind completely changed on this team.

By the way guys, don't be afraid of the comments section. It won't bite.

Vote Pronk

I'm not much of a voter myself, but even I find myself voting multiple times for Travis Hafner for the 25th man. Go ahead, you should too. The man deserves to make it to the All-Star game at least once.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

All-Star Game

It's July again. Which means three things: Tour de France, The ESPYs, and All-Star Baseball. And due to the retirement of Lance Armstrong, the first two things are pretty irrelevant. Baseball just came out with the Rosters for the 2006 All-Star Game (AL and NL). And as always, there's much discussion around two things: Who should be there, and should homefield really be decided by players like Ichiro and Vlad who won't see the light of October? I'll address both here.

First, Snubs. I'll sum this up in one word: Pronk. It's absurd to think that this guy gets the shaft for the second straight year. Last year, he was statistically better in every single category than the backup DH Shea Hillenbrand. This year, the game's in Pittsburgh, which means no DH, so Hafner was on the ballot as a first baseman. The other first basemen on the team this year are David Ortiz (fans vote), Jim Thome, and Paul Konerko. Now, there's no arguing that Ortiz is the rightful starter. But the fact that two White Sox made it is absurd. To do a statistical comparison between Hafner and Konerko:

Not mentioned in those stats are that Hafner is 1st in the AL in Slugging, and 2nd in OBP; whereas Konerko is 9th and 14th, respectively.

All of those stats are relatively similar, with the exception of OBP, Runs, and Walks, where Hafner completely blows Konerko out of the water. Don't forget that most opposing pitchers strategize around Thome and Dye, where in Cleveland Hafner has been the primary worry of opposing pitchers all season long, which gives Hafner much less opprotunites (see: walks) to thrive, even though he has done just that all season long. I guess this is all a direct result of Ozzie Guillen being the manager.

Other snubs include Michael Barrett and Francisco Liriano, but I'll let you listen to ESPN chat about that for the next couple weeks instead of me saying all of it.

Now, on to the great Home Field Advantage debate. As we all know, the winner of the All-Star game gets home field in that year's World Series. Last year, it really didn't make that much of a difference seeing how Chicago didn't seem to care where they were playing, and they swept the Astros out of the Series. Frankly, I think that the All-Star game should have remained an exhibition game for the fans, and this was all an over reaction by Bud Selig after the tie game in Milwaukee. All Bud would have had to do is come out and say something along the lines of "This will never happen again in another All-Star game." And that would have been that. Really, I don't think this makes that much of a difference either way. If baseball decides to stay by the way they currently are, that's no skin off my back. The thing is, if they do continue to do this, then the fan voting should be eliminated. The real All-Stars should be starting if it really matters, and not just the guys that used to be good. Baseball can't have it both ways, and needs to pick one way or another.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Can you smell what Troy is cookin'?

A few days ago, the O-Zone came up with a fairly simple, yet intriguing article. All it really is, is just a recipe for a Troy Smith heisman trophy. Unfortunately, a lot of it rests on Brady Quinn and Adrian Peterson being pretty mediocre this year, which makes it relatively farfetched, but it's still a good, quick read nonetheless. It even takes a low blow at Gino Torretta, which makes it that much better.

Now, on with my Running Backs preview of the Ohio State season.

Key losses: None

1. Projected Starter - Antonio Pittman, Jr. (5-11/195)

In 2004, Antonio Pittman called himself "The next Clinton Portis." And it seemed to be a fairly accurate comparison. Both are small backs, who can make shifty moves, and never really get the credit they deserve. Unfortunately, both also are criticized for their inability to carry the load and be real durable backs that could run between the tackles. However, don't be fooled by his size: Pittman can pack a punch. After dealing with lots of questions surrounding his durability and ability to run between the tackles, it took Pittman until the meat of the Big 10 schedule to finally settle in to his role and prove the doubters wrong. He didn't hit paydirt until a game against Minnesota when he broke a 60+ yard run. He immediately followed later with a goal line touchdown. He finished the season with seven touchdowns, the biggest one coming on the last offensive play against archrival Michigan, where he took a handoff, went off tackle, bounced off the defender and walked into the endzone with ease. Inone short stretch, Pittman partially erased all doubts about his size and durability. He still has to show he can carry the load on every single play, and be used effectively in short yardage situations. Although he is a very under the radar player in the Big 10, expect him to explode onto the scene in 2006.

Strengths: Great speed, one of the faster starting tailbacks in the Big 10...Can make good cuts and break the defender off at the ankles...Has the best homerun-hitting ability of any tailback in the Big 10. Proved that to be true in games against Minnesotta and Notre Dame, in both he had touchdowns of over 60 power that really improved as the season went on.

Weaknesses: As mentioned, power still needs some work. Needs to prove he can consistently be a between-the-tackles kind of runner, and needs to improve goal line running so we aren't so reliant on the Troy Smith speed option. Undersized at 5-11 and 195 pounds. Didn't score a touchdown until late October. Is a good producer, but needs to be a better finisher.

2. Projected 1st Backup - Chris Wells, True Fr. (6-1/220).

Wells was considered by many to be not just the #1 running back prospect this season, but the top high school player in the entire nation. With his rare mix of size and speed, Wells reminds many Buckeye fans of a certain phenom running back to come through Columbus back in 2002. However, Wells seems to be far ahead of Clarett when it comes to field vision, as well as his ability to make cuts. If Pittman fails to be the short yardage producer that the running game needs, there won't be much of a worry with Wells coming in. In fact, if Pittman struggles at all early on, there will be a tremendous amount of pressure on Tressel to start giving Wells more of a workload. He enrolled with the team in the spring to practice, which is a pattern that has delivered positive results with many other past Buckeyes who have done the same thing (Maurice Clarett and AJ Hawk to name a few). If there's one aspect of Wells' game that needs quick improvement, it's obviously his pass blocking ability. He is pretty awful at it, but then again, you can't blame him, seeing as how he was his high school's entire offense.

3. Projected 2nd Backup - Maurice Wells, So. (5-10/190).

Maurice Wells is a pretty interesting specimen. He was a highly recruited back out of Florida, but there was much debate as to whether he should be a running back or a receiver. He was far too small coming out of high school to play on a regular basis, and still needs to put on some weight by next year. Regardless, he still saw plenty of playing time last season for a guy who many thought could end up being a receiver or a defensive back. He's incredibly athletic, and similar to a young Antonio Pittman or Maurice Hall in the fact that he can make cuts, but often has trouble hitting the hole and making smart decisions. He's arguably the best receiving back on the team, so when he's in, he widens out the defense plenty, to open things up for our other weapons out there.