Thursday, December 27, 2012

NBA 2K13 Review

First off I must tell you I'm not a hardcore gamer.  I own a PlayStation 3 and have two games less than two years old - NBA 2K13 and NCAA Football 2013.  That said I have played sports games on the different gaming platforms back to my grade school days and do truly enjoy them when I get the chance. 
 
The game play of 2K13 has enhanced the ball handling skills.  I'm a little slow to pick up on these but mostly due to the dexterity it takes to use the right and left analog sticks at the same time.  Serious gamers probably pick up on this pretty quick but my old fingers aren't quite up to speed.   What I have figured out is cool.  This is probably the best innovation the designers have come up with in some time.  Overall the game play is not that much different from years past but again the ball handling adds a new dimension to the playability and fun.  Definitely makes this year's game worth picking up. 
 
My favorite mode of play is the quick game.  I especially enjoy being able to play as players from the past.  In NBA 2K11 I could play the all decades teams from the 50s/60, 70, 80s, 90s, 00s and current all-stars.  Each decade had a Eastern and Western Conference team you could use.  I loved this.  Who wouldn't want to play with the 70's Julius Erving, 80's Dominique Wilkins, and all the other greats that were included.  2K13 has individual teams such as the 64-65 Celtics, 70-71 Bucks, 85-86 Celtics, and 90-91 Blazers.  There are a total of 35 franchise teams.  The greatest addition is the Dream Team and current Team USA.  These are so much fun to play with.  These players are unmatched and I love playing both teams against each other.  Of course playing them against any normal franchise team no matter how good is usually a lopsided victory.
 
I definitely enjoy this game.  The controls aren't too hard but serious gamers can ramp up the action with the advanced controls.  There are many details that I haven't gotten into so they weren't reviewed here.  There a couple of links to reviews below that might help with detailing out some of the features I don't talk about.  As the only NBA game out there 2K13 has a big edge but this is just a good game and any competitor will have a tough time competing as evidenced by the failed NBA Live launch this year.  Don't hesitate to pick this game up if you like the NBA or basketball. 
 
 
 
 
 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Josh Hamilton Signs with the Angels

Josh Hamilton signed a 5 year $125 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels.  A surprising signing to me since the Angels opened up their pocket books last year by signing Albert Pujols to a 10 year $240 million dollar contract.  Wow.  What a lineup.  While the $25 million a year is a lot I was impressed the Angels were able to get him for only 5 years.  I think this is appropriate given his injury history.  He's played six seasons and reached 130 games only three times.  Hamilton is definitely one of the premier bats in the league.  Combining him with the right handed Pujols in the middle of the order gives Los Angeles a heart of the order few can match.   Maybe Detroit with Cabrera and Fielder?
 
The Angels have underachieved the last few years not making the playoffs in the last three.  Rumor has it a trade may be in the near future that might include Mark Trumbo.  If you are an Angels fan you have to love it.  It also helps soften the blow of losing Greinke.  I doubt this the Angels' last move.  Assuming Hamilton doesn't break down he should give them some nice power for years to come.  Whether or not it gets the Angels over the hump is another thing.  All the moves last year didn't equal a spot in the playoffs (see Greinke, Pujols, C.J. Wilson).  Oh and remember Vernon Wells?  He is their 5th outfielder who is making over $20 million dollars.  So if Angels fans are still leery I wouldn't be surprised. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Georgia Falls to Alabama in SEC Championship Game

The Georgia Bulldogs is my"other" team I have an allegiance to in college sports.  Neither here nor there other than the game tonight hurt.  It took a lot for Georgia just to be in this game and have a shot at Notre Dame in the championship.  I'm happy they were right there to the end but this was a frustrating game.  Alabama ran the ball for 350 yards.  350 yards!  As the announcers pointed out the defensive linemen for Georgia were getting pushed back six to eight yards on running plays.  I could run behind that line.  I'm not sure why Bama ever threw the ball.  4th and 20?  Run it!  No matter the Bulldogs had one final chance.  Great job getting in position to possibly win this game after the 26 yard pass play got them to the Crimson Tide 8 yard line.  But why didn't Georgia spike the ball?  They weren't going to run four plays.  There wasn't enough time.  Let your players take a breath, reset mentally, and call the play you want.  And that poor Georgia kid (Chris Conley) who caught the ball on the last play letting time run out?  I know your brain at that moment isn't processing quick enough to say "drop the ball because time will run out otherwise" but he'll be "that guy".  Again, that is why you spike the ball at that point.  Tough way to end the season.  Georgia is probably relegated to a non-BCS bowl now.  So disappointing.  Still tomorrow I'll know this was a great game.  

Braves Heat Up November With Big Moves

Atlanta made a splash with two big moves.  The first was the signing of B.J. Upton to a five year $75 million dollar contract.  When I heard about this I was all excited.  When I got access to a computer...not so much.  First I was thinking about Justin Upton, the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder.  The 24 year-old with a career .278 batting average, career .357 on base percentage, the one who has hit 26 or more homeruns twice in his career.  I wasn't excited about B.J. Upton who hasn't hit higher than .246 since 2008, the one who had a .298 on base percentage last year and strikes out more than a 300 pound man at a Victoria's Secret show.  What a let down..  Atlanta does need an outfielder and someone to add offense (23+ homeruns three times and has stolen 30 plus bases five times) to their lineup. 

I know the Braves like his right handed bat and the power upside.  If he hadn't been playing in Tampa Bay I'm sure his homerun totals would be even better.  He is also good in the field.  Still with the money he received I'd much rather have resigned Michael Bourn.  A little risky for a 30 year old speedster but he is excellent on defense and was great as the leadoff man Atlanta hadn't had in some time.  Oh and now they don't have one again!  If his "potential" comes to fruition this is a great deal but that seems alot to ask for from a guy whose past four season haven't shown me anything to get excited about.
 
Next the Braves traded starter Tommy Hansen to the Angels for reliever Jordan Walden.  Walden was the Angels' closer in 2011 before losing that role early this year.  He is a righty who can hit 98 MPH on the radar gun.  Atlanta wanted to add a big right handed arm to the bullpen and it looks as though this gets them the guy they were looking for.  It seems weird to see Hansen go.  At one point he was one of the top prospects in the entire minor league system.  His name always came up in trade talks but the Braves wouldn't budge.  I don't think it is a stretch to say a trade involving Hansen would have brought back a top 20 player in the league six years ago.  It took me a while to digest this one but I'm ok with it.  Atlanta has options at starter with youngsters Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran ready for their shot in the rotation.  This will also save the Braves an estimated $4 million that it is believed Hansen would have received in arbitration.  Sorry to see a guy like Hansen go but I hope he does well with the Angels.  Seems like a good fit.  I'll be curious to see what my buddy Yaj thinks about this one.
 
Pitchers Pete Moylan and Jair Jurrjens were not tendered contracts for 2013.  Rumors have Moylan coming back on a minor league deal.  He is 33 but been effective when called upon.  He hasn't seen much action the last two years only pitching  13 innings over the last two years.  Jurrjens has a career 3.62 ERA but struggled last season and has dealt with consistency and injury problems.  Only 26 years-old he'll find a home quickly. 
 
NOTES:
There are rumors Atlanta is actually looking at bringing Justin Upton (B.J.'s brother) to the Braves via trade.  Hard to tell how much of that is just speculation fueled by B.J.'s signing and the fact Arizona has appeared open to a trade.  It would be great but it is all speculation.........Great to see Ron Gant doing well in his TV career.  He is now co-host of a Atlanta TV morning show.  Here's a quick link to the article which also links to a youtube video of the show.  Always one of my favorite Braves.  Wish he could have hung around and won a ring with that '95 team.  Ron Gant Now Morning Show Co-Host ........

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Review

Got to see Wreck-It Ralph this weekend.  I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.  The basic premise is video game bad guy Ralph is tired of being the bad guy.  He works to change his image and be the good guy for once.  It may shock you but that doesn't go well for Ralph.  This is a movie any kid will enjoy.  Adults will like the nods to classic video games and should find it funny as well.  Don't hesitate to see Wreck-It Ralph if you get the chance. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Braves Season Ends After Losing Wild Card Game

Not the way any Braves fan wanted to see the season end.  Chipper's final game is marred by poor defense, including an error by Chipper, and an infield fly call that stunted a possible rally by the Braves.  The call by the umps also fueled the Braves' fans as they showed their displeasure for the bogus call.  It was really a shame as it showed the fans and city in a bad light.  It also masked the fact that the team lost due to poor defense and Medlen not being able to get out of a jam when he needed to.  You probably also missed Fredi Gonzalez's great decision in starting David Ross over the struggling Brian McCann.  Ross then went 3 for 4 with a home run for 2 runs batted in.  A poor showing all around.
 
It is also a dissapointing end to a great bounce back season where Atlanta won 94 games and was strong down the stretch in contradiction to the epic swoon they displayed last September.  The offense was average at best.  There were some good points.  Chipper's .287/14/62 (AVG/HR/RBI)was a great way to end his career even if he struggled the last two months of the year.  Martin Prado played everywhere and had an impressive .301/10/70 year.  Jason Heyward (.269/27/82) and Freddie Freeman (.259/23/94) each had good years while Michael Bourn batted .274 while stealing 42 bases.  Brian McCann and Dan Uggla hit .230 and .220 respectively creating holes in the lineup throughout the year. 
 
The pitching was outstanding.  Fifth in ERA, runs, and earned runs, and 4th in WHIP.  Up and down the rotation and bullpen Atlanta's pitchers were as good as almost anyone's in the league.  The rotation was anchored by Tim Hudson (16 wins/3.62 ERA), Kyle Medlan (10 wins/1.57 ERA) and Paul Maholm (4 wins/3.54 ERA after trade from Cubs).  Tommy Hansen and Mike Minor also had good years with each attaining double digits in wins and had an ERA in the 4's.  Craig Kimbrel was nothing short of a stud as the closer (42 saves/1.01 ERA/.65 WHIP).  Ed O'Flaherty, Johnny Venters, Chad Durbin, and Luis Avilan were key to one of the best bullpens in baseball.  How good?  Second in ERA, 4th in WHIP, 10th in batting average allowed, and 7th in strikeouts.  This pitching staff was good, no questions there.
 
Hard to have a 94 win season go up in smoke with one bad game.  I'll expand on that in another post.  Atlanta will definitely look at this as a good year but will still be dissapointed in having lost in their one game series with St. Louis.  Personally, I thought this team could go deep with their pitching.  They were made for a nice playoff run.  You just never know how things will work out. 
 
This offseason will be one in which they'll really have to make some tough payroll decisions.  Michael Bourn and Chad Durbin are the key free agents but some of the top bench players will also be on the market (David Ross, Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske).  They have club options on Tim Hudson and Brian McCann.  Hudson is a slam dunk but McCann's $12 million dollar price tag will be a head scratcher after the tough season he had.  Atlanta has a $500 thousand dollar buyout option with McCann.  Eight are eligible for arbitration including Jason Heyward, Tommy Hansen, Johnny Venters, Kris Medlan, Martin Prado, and Ed O'Flaherty among others.  Will be a busy off season for GM Frank Wren.  I honestly think most of these players will return though I wouldn't be surprised if Atlanta finds it hard to commit that kind of money to Brian McCann. 
 
Atlanta will be a contender again next season assuming the pitching doesn't go south and the offense can stay the course and hopefully get better.  With Chipper leaving someone will have to step into the role as team leader not to mention as the full time third basemen.  Still there is plenty of reasons to be optimistic.  Still I, like other Atlanta fans, am not happy with the way the season ended this year.  I would have loved to see Chipper go out after a nice deep run in the playoffs since there is no "next year" for him.  Again a very good season for the Braves and we'll just have to see what next year brings.   

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

4th and Inches - Three Weeks Down

The NFL has now completed three weeks of the season and as always there are plenty of surprises and disappointments.  I'll mainly address the Bills and Falcons here but also touch on a few other noteworthy (to me anyway) tidbits.     ATLANTA FALCONS:  They are now 3-0 and have beaten two good teams in Denver and San Diego.  No matter how you shake it 3-0 is a good start.  With the next three games against Carolina, Washington, and Oakland they have a good chance of going 6-0.  That would be outstanding but I am not expecting it though Atlanta will be expected to win all three and should be.  Their offense is playing extremely well with the "we'll take the training wheels off Matt Ryan" effort showing big dividends.  He is hitting almost 70% of his passes and has an outstanding TD to interception ratio.  Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez have all looked good in the passing offense as well.  Running back Michael Turner is the one skill player who hasn't looked that great.  He bounced back some against San Diego but needs to keep it up for the offense to stay on track.  The defense has also played well.  Overall I don't think I could ask for much more.  The schedule gets more difficult the latter part of the season so they need to build on these successes and be ready as the competition stiffens. 
 
BUFFALO BILLS:  I would have liked a better showing against the Jets but Buffalo is 2-1 and that is a good start.  With New England and San Francisco up next I'd be thrilled with a 3-2 start...but that won't happen.  That means Buffalo will have to take care of business against those teams they can beat and make a good showing against the power houses of the league.  C.J. Spiller is averaging 10 yards a carry and is the hero so far.  He was injured in Sunday's game against Cleveland so Bills' fans have to just hope it won't be too serious.  The passing game is going backwards just as it did the second half of last season.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is hitting only 57% of his passes while averaging less than 200 yards a game.  There is definite work that needs to be done there.  The defense isn't great but is good enough to keep them in games even against better teams.  Overall some positives but Buffalo definitely doesn't seem ready to compete with the big boys.  Again if they can just beat the average teams in the league consistently and throw in an upset or two this season can be a "win". 
 
RANDOM:  Who would have thought Kansas City would beat New Orleans?  Oh wait my wife did.  I figured they'd be one ticked off 0-2 team and would have took it right to the Chiefs.  They did but for only one half.....Gotta love the way Houston looks.  They seem to have it going on both sides of the ball.  Again that is an easy division and they could easily have home field advantage going into the playoffs.....And who thought Arizona would be 3-0?.....Who wouldn't have loved to see the Week 3 Detroit-Tennessee game?  Overtime, 85 total points, 46 points in the 4th quarter, 2 touchdowns in the last 18 seconds by Detroit after Matthew Stafford was hurt.  Really?  Was this the NFL or the old Joe Montana Sega video game? (Me and Deion Sanders were unbeatable!).....I've been able to watch Andrew Luck play.  He may not be lighting it up with unbelievable numbers but he looked good.  I didn't see anything that said he can't be one of the best quarterbacks in the league someday.....Who knows what New England could have done the past few years if they just had a real defense.  This has to fall on Bill Belichek as while a few defensive picks have worked those are few and far between.  Nice to have a top 5 offense but they've proved many times that their offense will only get them so far.  Ok, sometimes that is to the Super Bowl.....Horrible ending to the Packers-Seahawks game.  The replacement refs are an embarrassment.  But with all the issues I'm not sure Roger Goodell will ever back down from the negotiations with the union.  This could be a season we never forget, for all the wrong reasons.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions

The wife and I watched both the Republican and Democratic National conventions over the last two weeks.  I watched more than I watched in my first 30 years of life.  And it wasn't easy.  A bunch of folks, not all of whom are natural speakers, who tend to say the same things over and over again can make for some long nights.  Both parties have some young talented speakers/politicians who you can tell the party is grooming for bigger and better things. They were good to listen to.  You also had those from congress who'd been around for a while and they scattered in folks from various walks of life to give the common person's perspectives on issues facing the nation.  Don't forget the wives, they get to speak too and of course the Vice President and nominee for Vice President got to speak.

I know going into these things that it is nothing more than a giant pep rally.  But there is nothing wrong with that.  Each party gets to hammer home catchy phrases while reminding you over and over again what snafus their opponent have committed.  The Democratic rally was much more raucous than their Republican counterparts.  They were also more "diverse".  Lots of funny hats, buttons, and folks not afraid to show their enthusiasm in ways that make me laugh.  It is a pep rally so why shouldn't they have fun.

Neither party went into any great specifics of how they would change or fix things.  I believe the debates is where we'll start seeing much of that detail come out.  Nope this was all about saying "our guy is better than your guy".  At the same time they both threw out quotes that gave political "experts" much to chew on and fact check.  But who doesn't stretch the truth sometimes.  And it isn't lying, it is "spinning".  You just have to remember what the conventions are all about and not get to wrapped up in expecting too much meat in these speeches.  Again, it didn't mean their weren't some very good speakers who spoke very well but I'm not ready to hang my hat on either candidate based on any one's oral skills from the conventions. 

For their part President Obama and Mitt Romney played their part well.  I give the edge in speaking to the President but not by much.  Each could only be so humorous or only so tough on the opponent so their speeches didn't stray much from what we've heard before.  All the good stuff was left to those who spoke before them. 

My biggest takeaway from all of this?  Bill Clinton.  It has been 12 years since he was president.  I remember those years but it is easy to forget why he was so well liked...besides all the good things he did as president.  He worked well with Republicans, the economy turned around, blah blah blah.  But that man can speak.  When he finished his speech on Wednesday night I was ready to vote for HIM.  Having a crowd who holds you up as maybe the best president ever doesn't hurt but it wouldn't have mattered.  He is good.  I'm not saying everything he said was perfect or even 100% correct.  I'll let someone else figure that out.  I'm saying that man can deliver a speech.  He also did a very good job of making arguments and counter arguments to what the Republicans said the week before.  If you haven't gotten a chance to see it you can see it here. 

I don't know who I'll vote for come November.  I am undecided and the upcoming debates will go along way in my decision making process.  I do feel better for watching both conventions.  Going into the presidential race's stretch run I have a good idea of what each candidate will foot stomp and where they'll attack the other.  They now only need to fill in the blanks with some details on their plans to make it all better.  If you didn't watch the conventions I highly recommend you do so next time around.  I can't say I enjoyed all of  the speeches but I do feel better about my ability to make the best decision for me come voting day. 

4th and Inches...NFL 2012 Season Preview

With one game in the books I need to get my thoughts on the upcoming season down.  I'll start with the bounty scandal.  This is so messy and just needs to go away.  With the panel overturning Roger Goodell's suspension it puts things in flux.  Sure the players are cleared to play but with the NFL looking to revisit suspensions soon I'm not sure how everyone can play with a clear head.  I do believe the players deserve some type of penalty just not as severe as the ones they got.  I'm really hoping the NFL can get it right this time so everyone can just move on.
 
ATLANTA FALCONS:  This could be the year.  I know Matt Ryan and the Falcons have caught much flack for not winning a playoff game the past three years.  Still they are 32 and 16 in that time frame.  This team is good and the offense brings back all the stars with Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez leading the way.  Rumor has it the offense will open up the passing game this year and I also expect second year running back Jacquizz Rogers to get the ball more.  I think he can be good as a receiver and also help keep Turner fresh.  Cornerback Asante Samuel was a huge addition in the off season.  Hopefully it will help put pressure on the opposing team's passing game and allow the team to improve on the 18th in the NFL standings for points given up per game.  Atlanta makes the playoffs and I think they are a 50-50 bet to win the NFC South.
 
 
BUFFALO BILLS:  Buffalo's acquisition of Mario is huge.  I think he could be good for one extra win this year.  Otherwise I'm not real sure what to expect.  Running back Fred Jackson is coming off an injury and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick battled injuries last year which many attribute to his swoon in the second half of the year.  Stevie Johnson is a solid number one receiver and David Nelson will do fine on the other side but I'm not sure that'll be enough.  The offensive line still needs help and that is always a recipe for disaster.  The defense was 30th in points allowed in 2011.  I think it begins and ends there.  Not sure Williams is enough to make everything good.  Buffalo will need the secondary to step up or no matter what the offense does they'll always be playing from behind.  Don't be surprised if Buffalo gets 8 eight wins but I will say I think the Jets will falter again this year so they should be able to get four wins out of the division alone. 
 
ST LOUIS RAMS:  I'm only typing about the Rams because they are the local team and I hear and talk about them quite a bit.  Bringing in Steve Fisher as coach was a great move.  Still they have a long ways to go.  I am befuddled because they have a quarterback in Sam Bradford with whom they believe is the long term answer but for some reason they won't get him anyone to throw to.  Everyone knows they are a run first team but I'm not sure anyone will respect the pass until they get a receiver who can make a defense pay. 
 
RANDOM:  The Patriots should win their division but at some point you'd think the offensive line troubles and bad defensive draft picks will catch up to them.  Maybe this is the year...Houston must be licking their lips.  They are poised for a big year if everyone stays healthy and should win all six games against their division foes...I was shocked to see Cincy let Cedric Benson walk but think they made a great pickup with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  I think he can put up some major yards if he gets the carries a normal back would get, something he didn't have the luxury of in New England...The AFC West could be the best division going this year.  Oakland has Carson Palmer with a training camp under his belt, Peyton is in Denver, the Chiefs could be a huge surprise if Matt Cassel plays up to expectations, and the Chargers still have Phillip Rivers so I'll never count them out...
 
MY PICKS: 
NFC - Division Winners:  Philly, Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco
           Wild Cards:  New Orleans, Detroit
 
AFC - Division Winners:  New England, Baltimore, Houston, Denver
           Wild Cards:  Kansas City, Pittsburgh
 
Super Bowl:  Green Bay vs Baltimore
 
Green Bay wins!  I think Green Bay is the best team all around.  Their defense is better than the 19th ranked D they had last year and their offense is stacked.  Baltimore will give them a good test but I don't think it will be that close.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

College classes go on...

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  Just been busy with life and school.  Thought I'd update ya on how the whole college thing is going.  In November I posted here about my initial efforts of taking college courses via the Internet after taking almost 20 years off from studying.  I've now taken a total of four courses.  Yep that's it, only four.  Pretty pitiful.  Yes I work a full-time job, commute a total of 1 1/2 hours each day, and have a life involving a wife, kids, extended family and friends.  But that is no excuse.  Motivation, some might say laziness, is my biggest issue.  None of the courses were overly hard but there is plenty of homework.  And that is where I find my issues.  Trying to be excited about homework after a day of work and on the weekend is tough.  I'd much rather be doing anything else.  I think the actual class work is easier thanks to age and maturity.  One thing that hasn't changed unfortunately is my will to do homework. 

But I press on.  A change of jobs is on the horizon whether that is three or five years down the road.  A degree will help and in today's era of fiscal belt tightening I want every advantage I can get when it comes to a job search.  Especially since the whole lottery thing isn't working out so well.  I still have a ways to go.  I'll take a break the rest of this year due to work issues.  I'll be on the road and dealing with training which homework won't gel with.  That also means I'll have to hit classes hard next year.  I may need to adjust some of my habits but I'll persevere.  So no matter how much I moan and groan about homework I'll keep going.  And I'll let you know how I am surviving...     

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Olympics

The 2012 Olympics kicked off last night in London with the opening ceremonies.  I watched the ceremonies.  I'll say it was different and seemed a little long winded.  I'm not faulting the organizers as you don't get many opportunities to host the Olympics.  Still I'm glad there were commentators to help explain what was going on or I would have been lost.  That said I did like the Queen's entrance with James Bond himself as they "parachuted" from the helicopter to enter the stadium.  Nice bit.  My favorite is always the athletes parading into the stadium.  The ending as seen in the picture to the left was also pretty cool with the Olympic rings lifting into the air.  Nice way to end it.  Can't wait to see what Russia comes up with in 2016.

It is funny when the Olympics come around as conversations pop up as to why we care.  With all the distractions in the world nowadays the Olympics can seem somewhat dated to many.  I'm a little old school and still like the international challenge as the world's best go head to head for their country.  They may win titles throughout the years but in the Olympics you are directly representing your country in a venue second to none.  I also enjoy all the stories that are reported on.  With so many athletes from around the world there are plenty of fun and heart tugging stories to go around.  The underdogs also get to play on the big stage.  As the athletes marched into the stadium last night there were many times where I was saying "that's a country?".  You also have all the different sports that'll never see the light of day on cable TV otherwise.  Racewalking or trampoline anyone?  And they dropped baseball and softball?  Hmmm.  Sports come and go so even if I think they're goofy I'll watch just to say I did.

Again I enjoy the Olympics.  I like everything that surrounds it.  Nothing like seeing the excitement as athletes and teams win medals and the moment when they receive their medals is still special.  I better get going.  American Timmy Wang is down two sets to none to his North Korean ping pong opponent.  I'd better pay more attention... 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Linsanity Moves to Houston

When the New York Knicks decided not to match the three year 25 million dollar contract offer by the Houston Rockets the Jeremy Lin show hit the road.  I must say this is a story that I tired on very quickly this past season.  Don't get me wrong.  I think it is interesting but I swear some folks thought the second coming of Jerry West had appeared in New York. 

Lin did put up some good numbers but also turned the ball over at a rate of 3.6 a game.  Some of the game's great point guards have led the league in turnovers so this alone isn't enough to condemn him - NBA Turnover Leaders by Year .  His 14 points, 6 assists, and 44% shooting percentage should give any team hope that he might be a nice point guard.  But I'm not convinced.  He started only 25 games and when Carmelo Anthony returned from the disabled list the offense didn't click as well.  While many want to put the blame on Anthony I would have thought adding a good point guard with Anthony and Amare Stoudemire would have taken that team to the next level.  I'm not saying it was his fault.  Much of that blame should be leveled at the coach but why couldn't it work?  I hope he does do well but I'm always skeptical about a player who is the second coming after such a short period of excellent play.  I'd think he will make a good backup someday but I can't see him being much more than that. 

Hopefully for Houston he'll be much better.  The money they are giving him and everything they are saying says they expect a starter and nothing less.  They of course are also buying "Linsanity" which will help bring press to the team.  An added bonus but only if he plays well.  Again I hope this works well for everyone.  Houston needs something as they rebuild for the future and continue their pursuit of Dwight Howard.  New York now moves forward with Raymond Felton at the point who should be solid but won't come with the hype which may be a plus in the long run.  No matter what happens I know I'll be stuck hearing about Jeremy Lin on the radio each morning for some time to come. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 Major League All-Star Game

Was able to catch the baseball all-star game last week.  I think this is the the best of all the sports all-star games.  You still have great pitcher versus batter match ups.  At it's basic element it is pitcher versus batter.  We might even be talking about some of these in future as a "remember when..." conversation.  Maybe even Justin Verlander versus Joey Votto.  Yes Verlander had a bad game but again some day the conversation may lend itself to "I saw Verlander strike out Votto looking". 

Even with the shutout the National League put on the American League I enjoyed the game.  Of course it being Chipper Jones' last game it was something special.  Can't say he will be one of the all-time great motivational speakers   - Chipper Jones Addresses NL Locker Room Prior to All-Star Game -  but it was still pretty special for me and I know it was for him - Chipper Jones 2012 All-Star Moments  Enough about Chipper.  San Francisco represented as Matt Cain, Melky Cabrera (MVP) and Pablo Sandoval all had a very good games.  I thought Rafael Furcal stood out with his great defense and added a hit.  Ryan Braun also had two hits and Craig Kimbrel fanned two facing only two batters.  Along with Aroldis Chapman, Wade Miley, Joel Hanrahan, and Jonathan Papelbon the National League relievers allowed only one hit cementing the shutout. 

Nice to see Tony LaRussa get a win as he probably managed the last game of his career.  Pretty cool that he was able to manage the all-star game after retiring after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last year.  Speaking of, I do still believe it is garbage that this game determines home field advantage in the World Series.  This is an exhibition game.  Do the Yankees want to count on a game that will have every all-star, including rookies, get to play or do the Nationals want home field advantage determined by rookie Bryce Harper's fielding blunder?  Oh wait, he plays for the Nationals...but you get the idea.  I do think players play hard but are these players all truly the best?  How many don't play due to "injuries" or pitch because a pitcher pitched two days before the all-star game?  Too many variables here to make this game determine home field advantage.  But at it's core it is a game I look forward to each year and do enjoy watching. 

Slideshows...Just Say NO!

It is very common nowadays for a website to have a slideshow of this or that.  They are everywhere allowing us to see a group of pics that all relate to the subject of the show.  I think they are great...when they work.  My idea of a slideshow is the ability to click from one picture to another without actually going to a different page.  On many sites this is exactly how it works.  These are a couple of examples of when they work:

Bleacher Report
NBC Sports

There are many others that basically just move you from one web page to the next web page with a different picture on each.  This may be me just being a whiner but in today's day and age there is no reason for this.  Slideshows should be smooth without that hiccup as a new picture loads.  Again this is probably the most petty thing I'll ever complain about but it seems these are seen on every site out there and I have no forgiveness for those who can't join the modern world. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

College Football Adopts Four Team Playoff

College football will now have a four team playoff starting in 2014.  There will be a selection committe, details on who that will be comprised of are yet to come, who will select the teams who will play in a championship game that occurs after all the bowl games.  There are details like how the money will be doled out to be decided but the big story is the playoff.  I would have liked a playoff with eight teams but I'm more than ready to give this a chance.  With a selection committee choosing the teams in the playoffs I think there is a chance of error and I might be in the minority but I actually liked how the BCS chose teams for it's championship and think it could be applied here.  There are arguments that this system will make the regular season more important as committee members can weigh issues affecting teams throughout the season such as key injuries.  I believe there is some truth to that.  Of course it will also open the process up to more criticism but I doubt any system that will ever be in place will be without it's detractors. 

There will always be teams who could make an argument for being in the playoff even if there were 64 football teams involved.  With only four you're getting the best of the best.  March Madness, while fun, is not designed for the best team to win.  The winner of that tourney gives the championship to the team who can get hot at the right time.  Does that mean they are the best team in the country?  Very debatable.  Doesn't matter as the public loves the drama, the underdogs and the stories that come from the 68 team scramble. 

Bottom line I like this for a start.  We'll probably see the process tweaked or changed as the years go on.  This is a move in the right direction and I hope it will help stop some of the complaining that goes along with the BCS. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

LeBron James and the Miami Heat Win NBA Title

The Miami Heat won their second NBA title four games to one over the Oklahoma City Thunder.  After losing game one they returned to attacking the rim and their outside shooters hit shots and the Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't answer.  While I thought Miami would win I expected a longer series.  Still, with the exception of game 4, all the games were close.  LeBron James had an outstanding series averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.  As a team the Heat hit 42 of 98 three point shots.  Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did their part very well but my other hero for Miami is Shane Battier who was the role player who stepped up with a great series.  He only averaged 11 points per game but hit 15 of 26 from beyond the arc.  He was the beneficiary of many passes when the defense collapsed on driving Heat players.  This was something the Thunder had no answer for. 

Oklahoma City played well and most had them winning the series after taking game 1.  Their biggest issue was the disappearance of James Harden.  He averaged 12 points in the Finals but they weren't timely and his diminished contribution couldn't be made up.  Much was also said about Russell Westbrook taking too many shots at times but I think the Thunder's win-loss record during the regular season when he shot more than Durant was excellent.  I think they were 26 and 3.   He may not be a true point guard but he still played well and almost willed his team to victory in game 4 with 43 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  Kevin Durant hit an outstanding 54% of his field goals while leading the Thunder with 30 points per game.  Still they weren't the better team but this Final's experience could help them in the future.  They have a great core and I think most folks wouldn't be surprised if they made a return trip or two to the Finals. 

No matter what you want to concentrate on this was LeBron's series.  LeBron haters will still hate him but no matter.  He is a great player whom we'll speak of among the all-time greats when he retires.  He now has a championship to add to his resume.  Whether or not it is his last does not matter.  He is a great player and I'm glad he has a championship.  After handling what I feel was undue criticism for "the decision" and, as he admitted himself, handled the Finals loss last year to Dallas poorly, he made all the right changes this year.  He had another great year as he led what is now his team through each challenge and when it mattered most he didn't disappoint.  Good on him and the Heat. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Roger Clemens Acquitted

Roger Clemens was acquitted of lying about steroid use to a Congressional panel.  From everything I've read it looked as though the government's case was shaky from the start.  The accuser, Brian McNamee, was a disaster waiting to happen.  He was not credible and the evidence he brought to the table was iffy at best.  Clemens' longtime friend Andy Pettite testified "against" Clemens but by saying there was a 50-50 chance he misunderstood Roger Clemens he sunk the prosecution.  The DNA evidence seemed to have issues, not if it was Clemens', but how it was obtained.  Was it from an injection or an infection?  And McNamee really kept this stuff for eight years?  That is downright weird in itself.  In the end the jury didn't believe the evidence was there to convict Roger Clemens.  From an outsider's view I have to agree.  That is not to say he never used steroids just that the jury did not find enough evidence to convict him of the charges of lying. 

As a fan I'm left to wonder where Roger Clemens goes from here.  As a Red Sox fan he'll always have a special place in my heart even if he did play and win two World Series with the New York Yankees.  I blame his leaving the Red Sox on then general manager Dan Duquette.  Not to say Clemens was always the most lovable of fellas.  Still he had a wonderful career spanning 24 seasons with Boston, Toronto, Houston and New York in which he won 354 games, losing 184, while finishing with a career ERA of 3.12.  Wow.  He is likely part of a dying breed of 300 game winners.  The advent of the five man rotations and managers who now seem to want to go to the bullpen at any hint of a problem means we'll see less pitchers reaching this milestone.  Only three pitchers have reached 300 wins since Clemens did so in 2003 (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson).  Only two active pitchers have over 200 wins and they are both over 40 years of age or older (Jamie Moyer 269 and Andy Pettite 243) with little to no chance of reaching 300.   

So with his wonderful career and the alleged use of steroids, is Roger Clemens a hall of famer?  I'll start with the alleged steroids use.  Steroids, or what it has done to baseball, makes me cringe and I wish it would just go away. But it isn't. I think baseball should address this issue within the hall of fame process.  Maybe by just stating the era for what it is.  Players within this era are all under some suspicion so just put it out there within the hall.  There are other eras - pre-1900,  expansion and the dead ball era to name a few.   Then let everyone make their own judgement.  I also wish this could apply to hall of fame voters but I'm afraid it is going to take quite a bit to get voters to get past their issues with players suspected of using steroids which is a shame.  We need to move on.  I think by trying to ignore those who did use the drug and those suspected of using performance enhancing drugs will mean players who should be in won't be while players like Ken Griffey Jr. will get in with no issues because he is likable and there have been no allegations thrown his way.  But we don't know if he took steroids.  Nor do we know if Jeff Bagwell did but I truly believe voters think he did.  He has also never been accused of any wrongdoing.   

Clemens' stats are slam dunk hall of fame stats in any era.  Given my thoughts I discussed in the previous paragraph I think he should be voted in.  There is no proof he took steroids.  Let the stats stand alone.  If we let what we think to be true cloud our judgement it gets way too complicated.  I would also apply this to other players.  I'm OK if a player admitted using performance enhancement drugs or was caught not making the hall.  But if it isn't definitive then we must ignore the conjecture that springs from stereotypes and our biases.  So let Roger in!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals - Heat vs Thunder

Could you ask for more?  I think not.  Both of these teams are great and together feature some of the, if not the, league's biggest stars.  I love this matchup and like so many other folks think the LeBron vs Durant matchup takes center stage.  There is a good chance they won't "D" up on each other the majority of the time but it is still the star vs star aspect that has me excited.  I think LeBron is the best player in the game and one of those special players that will be talked about forever.  In Durant we have a player whose ceiling seems to be unlimited at the age of 23.  I'm not saying this is a bad series if these two don't take center stage but I would be surprised if that isn't how it turns out.

There are other players to include Wade, Harden, Bosh and Westbrook.  They will keep things interesting when James and Durant are taking a break from hogging the camera.  I give the edge to Miami in this series.  I think that while their role and bench players are weaker than that of the Thunder the big three will help carry Miami to a title.  I'm thinking six games.  I can't see Oklahoma City wilting at this point.  They just kicked San Antonio in the teeth after going down two games to love so who knows we may even see seven games.  No matter who wins it all I only want good games that give us plenty to talk about around the water cooler the next morning. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Green Lantern Gay?

I've read comics since I was a youngin.  I haven't read them regularly for a few years now but I stay up to date as possible through online sites and podcasts.  Priorities change but I definitely plan on catching up in the near future.  I can't wait.  One of my favorites from day one of reading comics is Green Lantern.  The Green Lantern I grew up with is Hal Jordan or the Silver Age Green Lantern introduced in 1959.  This is the Green Lantern the majority of the world is familiar with and was the Green Lantern featured in last year's Green Lantern movie.  Alan Scott is the original Green Lantern who debuted in 1940.  I have definitely become a fan of his character which was revitalized, as part of the Justice Society of America, in the early 90's.  

A few weeks back DC Comics announced one of their characters would come out as gay.  Of course the Robin jokes flew as people wondered who it would be.  Well low and behold it was Alan Scott.  As part of a recent "reboot" by DC Comics Alan Scott's history is out AND he is now gay.  Ugh.  This is pure selfishness on my part but I don't like it one bit.  While i don't have issues with gay characters this just doesn't work for me.  As part of the re-launch Alan Scott is now younger and gay but otherwise his character is sure to be what made him a great hero to begin with - strong, brave, moral, and he can kick butt.  That said he was elder statesman among Green Lantern "universe" and this just throws his character in an entirely new light.  In his past continuity he had children to include a gay son.  All gone now.  I don't like change and I'll be the first to admit that helps shape my thoughts.  Still I want to give this a chance but it isn't easy.  It is such a departure from what I've come to love in his character.  I guess I'll just have to see how DC will handle his story lines but I'm not liking it for now.  Sure Robin would have been looked at as an easy target but it would have made me much happier!  Again pure selfishness...
 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Baseball Mogul 2013 Review

Baseball Mogul is a game I've been playing for about four years now and I love it.  This game is a simulation so no joystick skills are needed.  What it does allow you to do is build a team year to year as a general manager and set lineups as the manager.  There are of course some fiscal restraints you have to work with but that is part of the fun...and agony.  For newbies to Baseball Mogul I suggest you play as one of the major market teams so you can get the hang of it without giving up.  Once you have some skills move on to the Kansas City Royals of the world.  The difficulty can also be made more difficult or easier as needed. 

The game uses real players back to 1900.  As a baseball history buff this is awesome though I will admit playing through the early 1900's can be daunting even for myself.  So you can start a season with the current season or from 1900 on.  Once the season loads you can then do a fantasy draft.  This is one of the coolest features.  Start a season in your favorite decade and you'll have a wealth of history to choose from.  The rosters can also be left alone letting you play with the exact lineups of the day.  You then set your starting lineups, bench and minor leagues.  Before you quit before you get started you don't have a full minor league system.  So don't worry about having to manage 75-100 minor leaguers.  The game interface makes it simple to see where your players are and their ratings as well as what rating they are projected to top out at. 
Your budget will be based on the size of your market and what you make from tickets and concessions. The dollar amounts for each of these are set by you.  The budget for the farm system, scouting and medical staff are also set by you.  I usually set these at the beginning of each year but they can be adjusted at anytime.  Just like any team you will deal with player salaries via salary arbitration and free agency to include negotiating the salaries.  Baseball Mogul 2013 has made free agency harder as, for the first time, other teams jump into the bidding for players.  Also under the budget umbrella is the ability to build stadiums.  To do so you'll obviously have to have enough cash (via profits made) to build a stadiums.  Like real life new stadiums can mean additional revenues.  Again all this is pretty easy to handle but it will take some work to get down the nuances to stay in the black. 
During the season you'll have the option to play games or not.  The software will simulate all games for you if you like allowing you to pay attention to personnel issues.  If you want to play the games you'll be thrown into late inning situations of a game or you can go to the calendar and play a game from the first pitch.  You can also do this at various levels of control so again you don't have to get too deep.  You must be mindful of injuries so I like to simulate one to two months at at time.  You can set how many position players and how many pitchers you want to carry on your roster at any given time.    Once the playoffs come you may want to take a more proactive approach as each game is so important.  Also, if you are an American League team, don't forget to set your "WITHOUT DH" lineups prior to World Series games in National League parks.  Not setting a particular lineup can leave you with some randomness in the field - Dave Kingman at shortstop was no bueno? 

The amateur draft occurs around the first of June.  It is fun to draft players you know and love.  Just like life players will take time to be ready for the majors.  It is also somewhat random on how players will play time to time.  In other words you might play two different times both playing through the 80's.  It isn't a given that Rickey Henderson will be great both times.  Nine times out of ten he probably is but again there is some randomness but that is part of what makes it fun.  At times a player's ratings will fluctuate due to injury or other unseen reasons.  You draft Fred McGriff.  He starts out with a rating of 62 and his peak rating is 92, the peak rating what he is believed to top out at.  He goes through your minor leagues for four years and then your bench for a year. During this time his current rating will probably keep going up but his peak rating may fluctuate.   

You can make trades until the 31 July trading deadline.  This can be done by finding players you want through the player search feature.  You may see a player in the leaders screen that you want and you can try to work a trade for him via the "GO GET" button on his profile.  You may also put players on the trading block and get offers from other teams.  Always interesting to see what teams will offer. 
The game advances and changes just as the majors did throughout the years.  You'll have expansion teams (and drafts), the advent of the DH, and additional teams added to the league.  Many of these options can be controlled or changed through the various league options.  I bet I've played 20 plus different  franchises and I've enjoyed them all.  My crown achievement was taking the Kansas City Royals from the early 70's through 2015 or so.  With their budget nothing is a given but I still had a handful of World Series rings when it was all done.  I could go on and on.  I am a stat nut so so I love watching what players and teams can do.  I love being the general manager playing with the rosters and money.  I can play one season in 30 minutes or less which allows me to play pretty much whenever I want to.  The game can be saved at any point so you don't have to rush. 

You can go to the  Sports Mogul website and download a demo of the 2012 game.  It won't have all the features available but it will give a good idea of how the game plays.  I purchaed the 2013 Baseball Mogul for $34.99 as a download and received Football Mogul 2012 free.  I haven't played it yet but watch for that review once I get into it.  I highly recommend Baseball Mogul to any baseball fan who isn't looking for a joystick centric game.  I think the history, easy learning curve and the ability to play a different game everytime can appeal to all.  Give it a shot today. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battleship the Movie

I very much enjoyed the Battleship movie this weekend.  I didn't go in with any expectations which might have helped.  First please don't expect any Academy Award worthy performances out of this movie.  Do expect action after the pre-requisite setup.  It would be so much easier to punch holes in the movie as opposed to writing about what I enjoyed about the movie but I'll give it a shot.

First I just enjoyed the movie.  A great gauge for me is if I'm looking at my watch while watching the movie.  Even though this was a two plus hour movie I thought the time went by very quickly.  I was also sucked in by the rock-n-roll music placed in just the right places as the action ratcheted up.  I will ding the movie for not getting the famous tag line "you sank my battleship" into the movie in some fashion.  But if that is the worst I'll throw at the movie it is all good.  Again if you are a fan of action this movie has.  Just don't expect much substance to go along with it. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Attended Last Night's Braves-Cardinals Game

Last night I was able to attend the Atlanta Braves game in St. Louis against the Cardinals.  The Braves won 9-7 in 12 innings.  First the experience was great.  I live and work in Illinois.  I took the metrolink train directly from work to the stadium.  I attended with a group of friends from work and their families.  They all rooted for the Cards while I was the lone Braves fan amongst us.  I wore my Chipper Jones jersey and Braves hat but was definitely not the only Braves fan in the stadium.  The train let us off right at the stadium which was built in 2006.  I was blown away.  It looks great and I can't say I was dissapointed by anything.  Ok maybe the prices for food but that is part of the experience.  The concorse areas were very open and I never felt confined as you might in some of the older stadiums.  The game was sold out with over 45,000 in attendance.  The seats were comfy and while we were in the upper deck they would fall in the "not a bad seat in the house" category.  The fans around me were very good natured about me being a Braves fan and added to the fun. 

Prior to the game the Cardinals retired Tony LaRussa's #10.  This was a great bonus to being at the game.  I am someone who enjoys the game in all it's glory and history and appreciate others who aren't directly related to teams I root for.  Tony is right there near the top when it comes to managers.  He's won three World Series Championships and I think the two with St. Louis really stand out as those teams won't be looked at as the most dominant in history.  Last year's title specifically was a great example as he had to deal with ace Adam Wainwright being out for the season, no defined closer for a good part of the season, injuries to Matt Holiday, and a defense that won't make anyone write a book.  The front office did a great job of bringing in players like Edwin Jackson, Rafael Furcal, Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel among others which were a huge part of why they won.  Still they had an amazing September to just get into the playoffs and then won three playoff series against favored teams (Philadelphia,  Milwaukee, Texas) culminating in an exciting seven game World Series.  I know he wasn't always the most popular guy even amongst his team's fans but he was a great manager who deserves the accolades he gets.  What I enjoyed the most was seeing some of the great players he's managed over the years in attendance.  Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Tom Seaver, and opposing manager Joe Torre were the highlights for me.  Too cool!

The game itself was a great one.  Atlanta took an early 5-1 lead but the Cardinals came back powered by four homeruns, two by Carlos Beltran.  He also added a double and a triple.  What a monster night.  I really questioned why Atlanta pitched to him in the 5th with first base open and runners on second and third.  Yes Allen Craig is having a nice year but he isn't Carlos Beltran who happened to be killing you at the plate that night.  He promptly hit a triple.  The game went back an forth until the game was tied at seven after Beltran's second homer in the eighth inning.  Johnny Venters blew the save but the Braves bullpen still had a good night giving up that one run in 7 2/3 innings of relief.  Livan Hernandez made it interesting at times to include loading the bases but got the win.  Finally in the 12th inning Chipper got on with a leadoff walk.  While you love having your leadoff guy on in that situation knowing Chipper couldn't be pinch ran for and he doesn't have much speed I knew we needed some help.  That came when the next batter, Jason Heyward, hit a two run homerun putting Atlanta up for good.  Craig Kimbrel then came in for his 11th save. 

Last night was also a pleasure I was able to see Chipper play in his last season.  He received a standing ovation in his first plate appearance by Braves and Cards fans alike.  I joked by thanking my friends for the #10 that had been mowed into the outfield in honor of Chipper (maybe it was for LaRussua...).  It was even better as Chipper went 2 for 4, knocking in 1, walking twice and scoring twice.  All around as a Braves fan I couldn't have asked for much more.  It was a great game and great experience.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers Movie Review

I along with a gazillion other folks went to the Avengers movie this weekend.  I am a comic fanboy so I've really been looking forward to The Avengers.  The added bonus was being able to go with my four youngins and beautiful wife.  She's still lost despite the son and I's many inputs trying to help her digest everything going on.  We went to a 3:55 showing yesterday in the small town in which we live.  That means we didn't have to fight the huge crowds in larger venues.  The link below shows just how many folks watched the movie this weekend:


The move itself was very fun.  Not a ton of surprises but you get what anyone could want with lots of fighty fighty.  Thor vs Hulk, Iron Man vs Thor, Loki vs Captain America, bad guys versus everyone, and much more.  What else could you want?  I liked the plot as it wasn't too out there for the average viewer nor too distorted as to make a comic book fan leave the theater wondering "what were they thinking".  Each character received plenty of screen time to include the more minor characters of Black Widow and Hawkeye allowing time to provide them some back story.  Many good one liners as you'd expect.  My favorite scene is the Loki-Hulk fight near the end of he movie.  I won't spoil it with details.

Not a perfect movie but I think the large majority of those wanting to see the movie will enjoy it.  Won't be too many folks leaving disappointed.  Someone smarter could dive into the nuisances of the movie but I'm not the smart one.  For me The Avengers was entertaining and I highly recommend it to everyone.   

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 NFL Draft

It is done.  All 32 NFL teams have made their picks.  I am by no means an expert on the college players taken but do want to take a few words and address what my teams did to address their needs and of course touch on any other draft notes I think are worth touching on.  Buffalo was all over the place but I like their picks.  The first round brought a cornerback in Stephen Gilmore (pictured) who should help in today's pass happy league.  On defense they also picked up two linebackers as well as another defensive back.  On offense they went heavy on the offensive line drafting three to hopefully help protect Trend Edwards and open up holes for Fred Jackson.  Their last pick is a kicker with a big leg who would be a kickoff specialist.  Good idea but I'm never quite sure if these types of players are worth taking up the roster slot.  Overall I'm happy with their picks and think they address the needs of the team.

The Falcons big splash in this draft was trading for Asante Samuel of the Philadelphia Eagles for a seventh round pick.  They will have to suck up his contract and he isn't what he used to be but he is still a guy you can put on the outside by himself to defend any wide receiver.  Great pickup considering the price.  Atlanta went offensive line with their first two picks with a center and tackle.  They then took a fullback.  I like that as Michael Turner can always use another blocker to help free him up for runs.  They then went with two defensive lineman and a safety.  Atlanta didn't have a first round pick due to last year's draft day trade for Julio Jones but I thought the Falcons did well addressing concerns the team has at this point.

Since I'm near St. Louis and hear about them quite a bit through local radio and my buddies at work I'll look at their draft.  Not getting receiver Justin Blackmon in the first round was huge to local fans.  They zeroed in on him since day one wanting weapons for Sam Bradford.  The fact they traded down and went with the very unsexy pick of defensive tackle Michael Brockers had fans questioning their new coach.  If he hadn't addressed receiver in the second round I'm sure fans would have been jumping from rooftops. I would have liked to see them stay at the number six position in the first round and taken cornerback Morris Claiborne.   Otherwise the team's needs were addressed pretty well.  Still the conversations on Monday should be interesting.

The Redskins pick of QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth round made no sense after picking up RG3 with the second overall pick.....Cleveland taking another quarterback in the first round seemed to be a reach.  I understand if Colt McCoy isn't the answer but I have a hard time believing Brandon Wheeden is and I thought they could have addressed some of their many other needs.....New England finally traded up in a draft and went defense with their two first round picks.  They also took the Nebraska cornerback who was arrested for assaulting a cop in the seventh round.  He was projected as a second round pick so there could be some big upside to this pick.  Belicheck's defensive draft picks have not worked out that great as of late so he needs these guys to pan out..... The Titans draft a kid at tight end who has never played the position.  Taylor Thompson played defensive end his entire career at SMU.....

Hawks vs Celtics - NBA Playoffs Round 1

The Atlanta Hawks are the fourth seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference and will have home court advantage against the Boston Celtics in their best of seven series.  Boston won the season series two games to one.  Both teams averaged 86 points a game with all three games being close.   Atlanta made the playoffs for the fifth year in a row this year, three of those making it to the second round before losing.  Atlanta is led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith with Jeff Teague running the point.  Marvin Williams, one time starter, is now providing much needed points off the bench. 

Boston's Ray Allen is a game time decision.  Still I believe the Celtics have more weapons.  The "Big 3" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Allen are aging but still provide a formidable lineup.  Rajon Rondo runs the point and can put up big points when needed.  Brandon Bass is also having a career year adding some needed youth to the group.  Glen Rivers has showed some creativity by moving Garnett to center at times causing match up issues with the slower bigs in the league.  As a coach I think he is very good at making the right moves to put his team right there for the win. 

Still the Hawks are younger and I believe overall more talented. Star center Al Horford is out with an injury having only played 11 games this year.  While I don't see it as a positive it has provided JoshSmith some extra space in which to work on offense.  Johnson is averaging 18 points a game and hitting the three well (.388).  Point guard Jeff Teague made big strides this year more than doubling his points and assists per game totals.  This team has lacked good point guard play in the past so he may be the answer they've long been searching for.  He also shoots well from the floor (.477).  Again, Marvin Williams has moved to the bench and found a three point shot the Hawks have not seen from him in past seasons.  While center Zaza Pachulia won't make anyone forget about Horford he has filled in admirably. 

This series worries me.  Atlanta played well this season but I don't think they are really feared.  As in past years they haven't shown maturity in their play and it comes back to haunt them in the playoffs when they tend to fall on their face even if they do make it to the second round.  I think they are looked at as a team that will never make it past the second round as they are currently constructed but that is another post.  I think Boston's veterans will push them past Atlanta in the first round.  Heck the Celtics weren't even worried about home court advantage as they rested their starters late in the season.  Atlanta can definitely play with Boston and athletically play with almost anyone.  They can also spread the defense a little better this year but I think it will come down to the veterans of Boston performing at a better level come crunch time.  I shouldn't be such a defeatist and I hope I'm wrong but it just seems like a tough road ahead.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2010-2011 Paninin Rookies and Stars Basketball Cards

Picked up a pack of these cards today and I'm glad I did.  I've never seen them before but thought what the heck?  The card front has a "decorative" background with the player photo in the forefront.  I'm normally not a fan of cards like this but this design is something I like.  The series logo is in the upper left and the team logo is in the upper right.  The player's name goes vertical on the left side of the card while his position is also vertical in the bottom right of the card.  Not sure exactly what catches my eye on these cards but the players and the team colors really stand out against the muted black and white background.  
The backs once again have a muted background with a portion of the photo from the front in black and white at the top.  Color in the form of the team's primary color is added for a splash.  Included are the players stats from the last year and the player's career totals.  Height, weigh, birth date, draft position and college are just above that.  Below the stats is a paragraph about the paragraph that I found not to be the normal shtick.  Not saying you this is Pulitzer prize material but just a little bit different.  Would have liked to have seen a different photo on the back as well as stats from additional years but otherwise it is a solid looking back.

The only insert was a Kobe Bryant card from a series that featured him.  I wasn't impressed.  It had two words on the front that took up 75% of the card leaving little room for his picture.  Nothing special.  The rookie cards were posed shots as opposed to the action shots for other players.  I really like these cards.  Sometimes I can't pinpoint exactly why but I'll definitely pick up some more. 

Easter Weekend

I'm a little late on this but Easter weekend was a fun weekend for us and I just wanted to share.  Friday was a day for errands but still fun as I got to hang out with my daughters who live with their mom about a half hour away.  They were up for the weekend.  We celebrated the 17th birthday of our 3rd oldest daughter that Saturday.  We ate out at Olive Garden which didn't disappoint.  Afterwards we did the presents and cake and ice cream which no one is ever hungry for after the large birthday meals.  A tradition gained when I married my wife is we hide the birthday presents and the child whose birthday it is then searches for them as their brothers and sisters do the hot/cold thing.  Kinda corny but they still get a kick out of it as they've gotten older.  Our daughter is headed to Florida with the school band this week so we stuck to money for her gifts which is something I'm not a fan of.  I love finding gifts the youngins have asked for but I think they'll love.  The kids all ended up at movies late Saturday night but otherwise we just hung out. 

For Easter the kids were up by mid-morning.  They then did the egg search thing.  Yes even at their ages - the oldest was 20 youngest 11.  They each got an Easter basket with tons of candy and a nice gift.  I did have some leeway on the gift so that was fun.  Just a wonderful time.  Maybe nothing too special but we really did have a great weekend and I couldn't keep it to myself. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Atlanta Braves - 2012 Preview

2011 was disappointing to say the least for the Atlanta Braves.  They did win 89 games and were poised to be the National League Wild Card team even though they finished 13 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Then came September...when they lost 18 of their final 29 games including a 13 inning heart breaker to the Phillies on the final day of the season.  I don't think you can finish a season in a much worse fashion.  As a fan it was heart wrenching.  One win is all it would have taken to reach the playoffs and who knows what can happen at that point.  Just ask Cardinal fans.  Living near St. Louis I heard it.  I still hear it!  Ugh. 

Still as most fans do I went into the offseason looking forward to seeing what the winter held for this team.  I can't say I've done any back flips since October as the only significant changes are a new shortstop in Tyler Pastornicky and the departure of Derek Lowe.  Not much to write home about.  Still this team won 89 games last year with that horrible September.  There is hope. 

This is where many fans, including myself, wish we had seen some changes after last season.  The Braves' offense ranked 26th in batting average and on base percentage, 21st in slugging, 22nd in runs scored and 8th in homeruns.  Dan Uggla can't hit .236 this year.  He can hit 36 homers again.  He is a real power threat who should anchor the middle of that order.  Hitting .236 doesn't scream anchor.  To his credit he was below the Mendoza line for much of last year before coming on strong at the end.  Likewise Jason Heyward can't hit .227 and must hit more than 14 homeruns.  Brian McCann a had another good year and I expect no different this year from the all-star catcher.  Michael Bourn is that speedster at the top of the lineup they really haven't had since the Otis Nixon days.  He won't lead the league in average or on-base percentage but he is still a respectable hitter who makes the lineup that much more dynamic.  In his rookie year Freddie Freeman showed he is a major league hitter.  Just need him to avoid that sophomore slump (see Jason Heyward) this year.  Chipper Jones is a big unknown.  He had surgery last month on his meniscus in his left knee.  He returned in 17 days from the same surgery last year but I'd be surprised if he returns before this May.  If Chipper hits .270 and gives the Braves 15 homers and 65 runs batted in I think it is a win-win for Atlanta who has no real replacement if he goes down for an extended amount of time.  Martin Prado will play left field and is reliable if nothing else.  The offense has the players to be not just good but very good.  I think if they can get their average up the runs will follow.  That will be the key.  I do think they will be better and look forward to actually thinking the Braves can outscore their opponent. 

Pitching was deflinitely the strenth of this team in 2011.  Their 3.48 ERA was good for 4th in the majors and were 3rd in runs allowed.  Nice.  Hard to argue much with those stats.  There were grumblings that the dynamic young duo of Craig Kembrel and Johnny Venters were used too much (77 and 88 innings respectively).  They had great years and I hope they can put up numbers close to last years.  Ace Tim Hudson is out until May after back surgery.  The rest of the rotation is Tommy Hansen, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy.  One through five this is a good rotation.  Randall Delgado will hold down the #5 spot until Hudson returns.  Eric O'Flaherty and Kris Medlan are also keys to the bullpen.  I'll put this pitching staff against about any other.  Philly's is hard to beat but I think this one is in the discussion.  Again I'm counting on the sophomore slump not hitting Kembrel and Venters.  It is a luxury going to bullpen knowing you have guys you can count on. 

While this may not directly impact how the Braves do, Chipper's retirement will be there in the background.  Probably more for fans but I know the team and management would love to send him off the right way.  I for one love Chipper and will miss him greatly.  This team is built to go to the playoffs.  They need some things to go right and they'll do just that.  Get that average up and hope the pitching staff resembles the 2011 staff.  Will it?  Only time will tell.  I think this team matches the 89 wins of last season.  With the perennial favorites Philadelphia and the Miami Marlins who made significant changes this winter in the same division making the playoffs even as a wild card is no easy task.  Of course there will be two wild card teams this year so that alone helps the Braves out.  I am excited about this year and expect nothing less than a championship!  Just kidding...I just want to have an exciting season to send Chipper out on.