Archive for March, 2009

Holy Cow — Let’s Get The Season Started Already!

Posted in Sports on March 31, 2009 by thelasthonestman

harry21

I’m bouncing off of the walls waiting for the MLB season to start.  Normally, the draft of my major fantasy baseball league takes place the weekend right before Opening Day — but this year, due to some logistical issues, we had to shift the draft back a week.  So that’s left me twiddling my thumbs, impatiently waiting for the season’s first pitch while hoping none of my high-dollar players hurt themselves in spring training’s final days.

My best friend Steven just returned home today, and he’s got the pictures from our draft, so I’ll be waiting until he’s able to send them to me tomorrow before I  recap how that day went.  And on Thursday, I’ll be posting my thoughts on this upcoming fantasy season (for those of you with drafts still to come).  In the meantime, some other sports related thoughts:

— The big news from the sports world is that John Calipari has decided to take the head coaching job at Kentucky.  This announcement didn’t come as a huge shock — if anything, there was some surprise that Calipari didn’t accept the offer immediately.  And from what I’ve heard from my source (who had an inside ear to the proceedings), this wasn’t a money issue either;  despite Kentucky’s huge offer (which will make Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball), Memphis was apparently willing and able to match the money involved.  However, in the end, it boiled down to the tradition at Memphis, and the huge lure of coaching not only at one of the most storied programs in the sport’s history, but in a major conference as well.

While I can’t fault the coach for his decision — and the fact that something other than the almighty dollar influenced at least some of his final determination — I can’t say that I agree with it.  There’s no doubt that Calipari is one of the best recruiters out there, and his charm and ability to work the room will be welcome in the Bluegrass State and is in stark contrast to the demeanor of the man he’s replacing, Billy Gillispie.  He should be successful in Kentucky — but I wonder how happy he’ll actually be there, and whether or not the success he brings will be enough to satisfy the insatiable demands of Wildcats fans and boosters.  The fact is, as many advantages as Kentucky has, it’s impossible to guarantee the levels of success I suspect many Wildcats faithful expect;  simply making the NCAA each year, or even the Sweet 16, won’t be nearly enough.  Calipari will be expected to win and win big almost immediately — and the pressure he’ll face will be immense if there are any stumbling blocks along the way.

That’s a far cry from the situation he leaves behind in Memphis, where he could have stayed for the remainder of his career as a hero to the program.  Lower expectations have their advantages, and perhaps not coincidentally, the coach’s successes have come at smaller, low-key gigs (Massachusetts and Memphis) that didn’t have near the demands for results that he’ll see at Kentucky.  Considering how the only other high-profile gig that Calipari had went — his three seasons as the coach of the Nets, where he compiled a 72-112 record, were tumultuous — I wonder what the effects of moving back under the microscope will have.

Gary Sheffield was released by the Tigers today, one home run short of 500 on his career.  The move came as a shock to everyone — well, maybe not to those people who’d actually seen Sheffield at the plate the last year or so.  The former Tigers’ slugger was one of the most dangerous bats in the game once, but he’s a shell of his former self now.  He’s little more than a DH now (if anyone wants to play him in the field at this point, they’ll get what they deserve), and the list of potential suitors shouldn’t be a long one.  He might catch on with someone, but considering his reputation for a sometimes surly attitude, why would anyone bother?  There’s still plenty of other veteran guys out there who’ll come with less baggage and be just as effective at the place as Sheffield would be.

The Broncos have decided to try and trade Jay Cutler after all.  My thoughts on the quarterback aren’t any secret, so what I say here shouldn’t be any surprise:  If I’m a Broncos fan, I say — good riddance.  I won’t question Cutler’s talent or his natural ability, but he’s clearly lacking in maturity and that’s the one part of his game that doesn’t look like it’s going to be improving anytime soon.  And let’s face facts — the Broncos do have a losing record with Cutler, and that performance has come in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.  Has it all been Cutler’s fault?  of course not (the Denver defense has been more than suspect), but in the end, you’re still defined by how your won-loss ledger reads.  My own gut feeling is that, when it’s all said and done, Cutler simply isn’t going to be a winner in the NFL, no matter how gaudy his numbers look or how strong his arm is.  I just don’t like what he brings to the game that can’t be measured by a scout.

So where is he going to end up?  I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands with the Jets, who have a hole at that position to fill.  But it’s a destination that would not be the best for the thin-skinned, overly sensitive QB  — and for the same reason, something I’d love to see happen, if for no other reason than to watch for the inevitable Cutler meltdown that would take place at some point following some “slight” by the New York fans or media.  If he couldn’t handle the situation concerning a possible trade that he might have been involved in, then how’s he going to deal with the New York pressure-cooker?  Badly, I’d guess.

If not New York, then the Browns have been rumored as another possible destination.  If I’m Denver and can pry a high draft pick and Brady Quinn from Cleveland (which is something I’ve heard mentioned as a possible package ), I’d jump all over that and start the process of building my future team from there.  And for those Denver fans who’re heartbroken about the possibility of losing their franchise” quarterback, I implore you to remember the old adage — you didn’t win with him, so it’s not like you can’t do the same without him.

Coming tomorrow (hopefully) — Draft Day 2009!

Vacation Time Is Nearly Over

Posted in Personal on March 30, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Well, the busy week is almost over, and with it, what served as sort of a vacation for me.  My friend will be returning home late tomorrow, my fantasy baseball drafts are almost all done (I still have one more to do next Sunday, but all of the others are finished), and things will be getting back to normal at last.  I’m really looking forward to that, as I’ve had to lighten up the load on both the blog here as well as having to put a hold on finishing the novel, so it’s going to be nice to really get into the groove of working on both again starting later this week.

In the meantime, I’ll be updating the blog again tomorrow with a look back at my main fantasy league’s draft day — and the more unusual events during the proceedings (and there was several that will be worth mentioning).  Afterward, I’ll be posting my fantasy baseball picks for hits and misses in 2009 on Wednesday (something I definitely wasn’t posting anytime before the majority of my drafts, since most of the owners in those leagues read this blog), and the weekly Ro-Sham-Bo Award will return next Monday — along with another live, running account — this time of baseball’s Opening Day (since I have the Extra Innings package and plan to have some friends over, this should hopefully be pretty good).

Until tomorrow, thanks for hanging in there while I attended to the business at hand, and I’ll see you tomorrow night!

Brief Notes For Tuesday

Posted in Movies, Sports, The Wrapups on March 24, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!  By “out”, I mean of course, not posting on this blog for a week or so, due to the incredibly busy schedule I’m looking at for this week.  But here I am, with some free time this morning and a computer just staring back at me and — voila!  I didn’t intend for this to happen — it just did.

But since I don’t have that much time to work with, I’m sticking to some quickie notes — sort of like the wrapup I might have done yesterday, if I managed my time a little better.  But better late than never, so onward we go:

Japan beat Korea last night 5-3 to win its 2nd straight championship in a tremendous game that should remind us why the World Baseball Classic has the potential to be something special every time it’s contested.   I still recognize the inherent problems with having it played during spring training (though there really isn’t a good time otherwise for it to take place, since there’s no way you’ll see the regular season interrupted for it anytime in our future).  But there were a number of memorable moments this year from the WBC (for me, nothing tops The Netherlands eliminating the Dominican Republic) and it’s clear that the spirited competition of the event should have its place on any baseball fan’s sports calendar.

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The U.S. played better this time around, though it still didn’t stop the team from being eliminated short of its goal.  The fact that we’re 0-2 in the WBC is a testament to just how many talented baseball players there are around the world today.  I won’t question strategy or roster makeup here, as that’s already being done to death around the web by people better suited for that analysis that myself.  The U.S. will have to wait until 2013 to give it another go; maybe the third time will be the charm.

— If you’re looking for something funny to pass the time, check out Angry Alien Productions and The 30-second Bunny Theatre.  It’s basically movies re-enacted in 30 seconds (give or take) by animated bunnies.  The clips are dead-on and hit most of the key moments you remember from your favorite classics.  I strongly recommend checking it out, and huge props to the creator of the Bunnies, Jennifer Shiman.  The latest re-enactment is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Will I be back tomorrow?  Probably not — but then again, I didn’t expect to be back today — so keep checking in!

The Start Of Fantasy Baseball Season Means It’s Time To Take A Brief Intermission

Posted in Fantasy Baseball, Personal on March 23, 2009 by thelasthonestman

intermission

Wow — it’s been an incredibly hectic weekend (hence, no updates since that crazy Thursday of continuous posting).  I didn’t get much chance to do anything other than work on the house in anticipation of having guests come in from out of town this week.  The reason for their visit?  It’s time for the 17th annual Harry Caray’s Bleacher Bumz Fantasy Baseball League Draft!

The league (the HCBB for short) was one that I started in 1992 — now, I’m the only one from the original group of owners left.  I served as the Commissioner for 15 of those seasons — taking my leave of the position and turning it over to the one man who I trusted to take care of what I’d built, my best friend Steve.  He had served as the Deputy Commissioner with me since the 1997 season, and the league couldn’t have been put into better hands (and finally, I’ve gotten to take a breather from all the work involved in running it to concentrate on just being an owner!).

I still have a great deal of things I do that involve the league, however — once of which is the creation of our league’s on-line Media Guide — for which I do a great deal of the writing.  That’s taken up a lot of time this weekend — so much so that I’m starting to wonder when I’ll get a chance to actually do the prep work I need to stay on top of this ultra-competitive league.  The draft is on Saturday, we have a luncheon on Friday, the AL-only league I still run is draftimg on Sunday, and there’s poker game scheduled for Thursday.  All in all — it’s a busy week ahead.

So with that in mind, I’m taking a short recess from the blog until next week.  There will be no Ro-Sham-Bo Award given out this week (though there were certainly plenty of worthy recipients for me to choose from) — that will return next Monday.  I may or may not post sometime between now and then, depending if a free moment ever arises.  If not, next week I’ll actually have some fantasy baseball content to share — including my players to watch in 2009 — but that’ll be after all of my drafts, so my leaguemates don’t get to use this blog against me.

Until then, stay safe and I hope everyone comes back to check in next week.

Running Out Of Steam With The NCAA Tourney

Posted in Sports on March 19, 2009 by thelasthonestman

It’s been a long day, but a good one filled with a lot of basketball and a lot of ramblings and musings on my part.   But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and while I plan to watch the rest of the night’s proceedings, this will be the last entry on the blog tonight regarding the tourney.  Unfortunately, there’s too many things I didn’t do today while I was watching games that are now demanding my attention.

Tomorrow will see me running in a number of different directions trying to get things done — and alas, none of those directions lead me back in front of the television during the day, so I’ll have to settle for the night’s games to satisfy my college basketball fix.  My picks for the first round are still on record here and here, however, so even while I’m not present to laugh at all of my screw-ups, you can do it for me.

In the meantime, other observations made during the day so far:

— So much for my earlier comment that “Chattanooga is keeping it surprisingly close against UConn”.  I’m not sure if Chattanooga actually scored again after I made that comment.  UConn is an explosive squad, and they showed it with a vengeance against their over-matched opponent.

— Speaking of an over-matched opponent, American was anything but against Villanova — but the Wildcats just had too much for the underdog to handle.  Losing Villanova in the 1st round would have done some damage to a number of brackets, not just mine.

— And speaking of brackets, mine is holding up pretty well at this point.  We’ll see if I’m still saying the same after the weekend.

And I’ll be back again at some point before the weekend is out (hopefully late tomorrow).  I enjoyed this exercise in pointless updating — maybe I’ll try it again with something else down the road.

March Madness Part VI

Posted in Sports with tags on March 19, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Thursday, 2:33 CT — So much for the huge upset.  Memphis apparently realized at some point that they were the #2 seed and should start playing like one, and the gutsy bunch for Cal-State Northridge finally ran out of steam.  Memphis goes on a 20-6 run to end the game, winning by a much-closer-than-the-score-indicates final of 81-70.  So my bracket is safe for now — though I wouldn’t count on seeing Memphis go much further if they play anything like this the rest of the way (I have them making the Final Eight, and I’m lacking confidence in that pick at this point).

After the end of the first batch of games, I’m switched over to the Purdue-Northern Iowa tilt and my first question is:  Where the hell is everybody?  The stands in the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon look empty from what they’re showing on TV.  I swear I’ve had more people in my living room at the same time before.  Actually, that’s probably an exaggeration, as it looks like the seats behind the Northern Iowa bench are empty, while the Purdue side looks pretty filled up.  I’m guessing that the Iowa faithful didn’t travel as well for this game as Purdue’s fans?  The people who are there in Northern Iowa’s corner aren’t going to be too happy as Purdue has gone on a 12-0 run to take the lead — and what do you know?  I actually picked them!  I’m unstoppable, I tell you!

Speaking of which, here’s the remainder of my “Hope this isn’t what you went with” bracket (the other portion can be found here):

East

Pittsburgh (1) over East Tennessee State (16)

Oklahoma State (8) over Tennessee (8)

Florida State (5) over Wisconsin (12)

Xavier (4) over Portland State (13)

UCLA (6) over VCU (11)

Villanova (3) over American (14)

Texas (7) over Minnesota (10)

Duke (2) over Binghamton (15)

South

North Carolina (1) over Radford (16)

LSU (8) over Butler (9)

Illinois (5) over Western Kentucky (12)

Gonzaga (4) over Akron (13)

Arizona State (6) over Temple (11)

Syracuse (3) over S.F. Austin (14)

Clemson (7) over Michigan (10)

Oklahoma (2) over Morgan State (15)

Not a lot of surprises here in the 2nd slate of games — Chattanoga is keeping it surprisingly close against UConn, but the other games are going pretty much the way I thought they would.  This is turning into a anticlimatic day so far — no signs of an upset yet, my stove was delivered without incident, and I’ve resisted all urges to fall back asleep — what’s going to liven this day up?  We’ll see if we have an answer later this evening.

Who The *$#% Is Cal-State Northridge? (AKA March Madness, Part V)

Posted in Sports on March 19, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Thursday, 1:00 PM CST — If you’re late to the party, check out the earlier action of the day starting here and work you way back.  We’ll wait for you — I promise.

Now that you’re back, I can say that there’s nothing like a huge upset early to get the tournament juices flowing — and we might be looking at one as Cal-State Northridge (who I couldn’t tell you anything about, even now) is somehow tied with Memphis with eleven minutes to play.  These are the games that make watching the NCAA tourney so much fun to watch.  My friend and I were just discussing the merits of the automatic bid for all conferences, and we both agreed that those bids have merit if for no other reason than to see games like this take shape.

I’ll root for the upset because it’s not like Memphis losing is going to kill my bracket anyway.  With A&M crushing BYU, I’m looking at a nice 0-3 start to my day if Butler continues its comeback and beats LSU.  As promised, here’s half of my bracket picks (I’ll post the other half later today, once everyone gets a chance to stop laughing):

Midwest

Louisville  (1) over Morehead State (16)

Siena (9) over Ohio State (8)

Utah (5) over Arizona (12)

Wake Forest (4) over Cleveland State (13)

West Virginia (6) over Dayton (11)

Kansas (3) over North Dakota State (14)

USC (10) over Boston College (7)

Michigan State (2) over Robert Morris (15)

West

Connecticut (1) over Chattanooga (16)

BYU (8) over Texas A&M (9)

Purdue (5) over Northern Iowa (12)

Washington (4) over Mississippi State (13)

Utah State (11) over Marquette (6)

Missouri (3) over Cornell (14)

Maryland (10) over California (7)

Cal-State Northridge (15) over Memphis (2) — all right, all right … Memphis (2) over Cal-State Northridge (15)

I went with few upsets as it turns out;  in years past, I’ve been burned by trying to be too cute with my picks, and for every huge upset I’ve called in advance (and I’ve nailed a few over the years), I’ve missed way too many games that left me asking myself, “What were you thinking?”.  So, this year, I’ve gone back to basics with more of a “safe” bracket of picks.  Not that it’s helping me with the Memphis game right now, though.

My upset picks here have some reasoning behind them.  Cal enters the tournament struggling, and Maryland has a lot of talent, hence the pick.  Marquette lost 6 of their last 9 regular season games, and lost Dominic James to injury, so I didn’t want to go with them.  And the home-court advantage for Ohio State over Siena doesn’t worry me — I think Siena’s just the better team — so I went with the Saints there.  Of course, by the end of the weekend, my bracket will probably be a mess, so take any comments from me with a grain of salt.

As I write this, Memphis has rebounded and are up by 4 and LSU has pulled back out to a six-point lead — while BYU looks finished.  Could we have some early late-minute heroics already in the other two games?  Check back later and find out.