1. New England Patriots
Red, white, and new.
I like it and I like it a lot. I’ve been known to not give the Patriots a lot of credit. But I’m all in on this Patriots squad. Too much talent, too many brains, too many winners, too many playmakers, and Tom Brady. I’m all in.
Fantasy game breaker: Chad Ochocinco
2. Green Bay Packers
Ten and six.
You made the playoffs last season via tiebreaker, albeit you were very injured. Then we all know what followed. Hardest thing to do in sports is repeat as champions, that is one large task standing in front of you. How bad do you want to win again?
Fantasy Steal: Jermichael Finley
3. Dallas Cowboys
New sheriff in town.
Tony Romo is the most underrated quarterback in football. Call me biased, a fan, call me whatever you choose. I don’t quite understand why so many people hate Mr. Romo, but when he starts more than eight games, odds are they make the playoffs. Hate him, poke fun at him, say what you want, but he’s a pro bowl quarterback that will win a super bowl. Last year I didn’t believe in them as a Super Bowl contender, well, they were an embarrassment. This year will be different.
Fantasy breakout: Felix Jones
4. Baltimore Ravens
Edgar Allen Joe
Joe Flacco quietly just keeps getting the Ravens to the playoffs, but losing in the second round back-to-back years on the road against the eventual AFC Champions needs to end…now…this season. Time is running out on that historically scary defense. Maybe Lee Evans can spark some more offense and Ray Rice will actually be first round fantasy draft pick worthy, because I picked him again.
Fantasy redemption: Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice, and Lee Evans, yes all three of them.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
So Mike Vick had a tremendous comeback season. He took the team by the reigns and drove them to a 10-6 record before being bounced in the first round by the Packers. There’s a big difference between making the playoffs and then winning the Super Bowl, but hey the Packers went from being bounced in the first round in 2010 to winning it all in 2011.
Fantasy beware: Mike Vick, Lesean McCoy, and Desean Jackson; yes, all three of them.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Nothing much has changed, nor should it. Very good football team that will only get better and continue to gain experience. Perfect balance between Michael Turner and Roddy White, if they get their share of touches, the Falcons will be playing late into the winter again.
Fantasy sleeper: ATL Defense
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
What’s their weakness?
Even though they are tied for my least favorite team in the NFL, they win, again and again, over and over, year in and year out. No passing game? Well Mike Wallace took care of that. Seriously, what’s their weakness? Personal fouls and fines for violent hits?
Fantasy gem: Mike Wallace, no other options.
8. New York Jets
The jet has flown the coop.
Braylon Edwards made a lot of big plays. Mark Sanchez, I’m still a doubter when it comes down to it. Prove me wrong.
Fantasy sleeper: Plaxico Burress
9. Houston Texans
Houston, we have a problem.
The problem is you go 8-8 every year, and yet again I think this is your slump buster season. It’s time. Right now Kubiak, right now. No more excuses. LOOK AT YOUR ROSTER! What are you waiting for? You are the best team in your division so now show us. Sheesh.
Fantasy Beast: Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster, feel free to buy high on all of them.
10. San Diego Chargers
“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Mark Twain
This could be a monster year for this entire team, I had them at 16 when I first started this blog, now they’re here, which worries me because I thought the Vikings were going to win on September 11 in San Diego when I’ll be in attendance, now I don’t think so. However, Chargers are slow starters so it could be a few weeks until we see what this team has up their sleeve. Quit making excuses, everybody, your time is now.
Fantasy no brainer: Antonio Gates
11. New Orleans Saints
The New and Lean Saints
Atlanta keeps getting better. Tampa Bay keeps getting better. Carolina is trying to get better. Drew Brees alone gives you a decent shot at the playoffs, however, I think losing Reggie Bush is a bigger deal than most people think. Bush might not be as good as people hyped him up to be, but he made defenses think twice about a lot of things. Darren Sproles is good, but not Bush good. I think this #11 spot is where they peak, but could end up around #15 by week 17.
Fantasy cornerstone: Marques Colston
12. Minnesota Vikings
Not so Favre away.
That miracle season isn’t that far away. The offensive line is much weaker. The defensive line is much weaker. The wide receivers are weaker. But the coaching staff is much improved. The quarterback is mobile. And Adrian Peterson is determined. He wants the ball, and Frazier will not be afraid to give him the ball. If healthy watch for him to have a record setting season. The schedule plays right into their hands, and Bernard Berrian is in a contract year. It’s not up to McNabb, it’s not up to the defense, and it’s not up to the offensive line; it’s all in the hands of Adrian Peterson, just hope he doesn’t fumble this opportunity.
Fantasy Sleeper: Bernard Berrian
13. Detroit Lions
Rebuilding the Big Three
Now in Detroit you have the big three automotive industries and they are working their tails off to rebuild the three, now if you don’t remember what I said about the Lions before last season you can see it here: 2010 Preseason Power Rankings. I still stand by that. Defense, boom, strong. Offense, keep Stafford healthy. Special teams, just let it fall into place.
Fantasy Sleeper: Nate Burleson
14. Arizona Cardinals
Might be a Kolb winter in the desert.
Well they were awful last year, so their schedule should be slightly easier. The Larry Fitzgerald drama is over; he’s a Cardinal for a very long time, a very rich Cardinal. Dear Vikings management, oops, probably should’ve just signed Rice.
Fantasy kings: Larry Fitzgerald, Kevin Kolb, and Todd Heap. (Fantasy speaking, I’m all in on these guys.)
15. Indianapolis Colts
Healthy Choice Popcorn
If Peyton Manning is injured, then it’s all over. Done. Dead. Gone. Over. Even with Manning I don’t think you have enough to be a playoff team, but it’s Manning so odds are you will be a playoff team. But if he’s not 90%, you don’t stand a chance.
Fantasy Bust: Everybody
16. St. Louis Rams
Still nothing to wide home about.
Sam Bradford is nice, very nice. But what’s not so nice is that wide receiver core you are giving him. The division is weak, very weak.
Fantasy player: Do they have one worth picking?
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Experts rave about this Josh Freeman guy, I guess I just don’t see him having enough support around him. Raheem Morris has proven he can lead a less talented team to a 10-win season, however, this year their schedule is more difficult and people won’t be sleeping on them. New film on Freeman and Morris, might be a rough year.
Fantasy Sleeper: LagGarrette Blount
The Cleveland Browns will finish .500 this year. Okay bye.
Fantasy Beware: Peyton Hillis
19. Tennessee Titans
Good news, bad news.
Good news is Vince Young is gone, to his so called “dream team.” Bad news is Vince Young is gone, you know, that quarterback that won you almost all your games the past three seasons. Chris Johnson, let’s see what you have in the tank.
Fantasy question marks: Everybody
20. Carolina Panthers
Lights. Cam. Action.
Cam Newton is a winner. He has the perfect smile, perfect attitude, and skills to shake off any doubters, any obstacles, but it could take a few years. Anybody who says Jimmy Clausen is better loses all football credibility, I’m talking to you Merril Hoge.
Fantasy low risk high reward: Everybody.
21. Seattle Seahawks
No more Hassles.
Matt Hassleback has flown the coop, to the Titans. People forget Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice made the playoffs pre-Favre in 2008-09. But I haven’t forgotten that Adrian Peterson went into beast mode that season. Marshawn Lynch, the ball is in your court. Had them at 12, moved them to 14, then to 17, and now they’re at 21; that should tell you how Tarvaris Jackson has looked thus far.
Fantasy High Risk High Reward: Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. You’ll have to draft them high, but they could easily deserve it. My opinion stay away, grab somebody that you know what you’re getting.
22. Oakland Raiders
Al’s Toy Barn
Two words: Terrelle Pryor or should I say: So Stupid.
Fantasy gem: Darren McFadden
23. Chicago Bears
Back to reality.
Last year was nice, but I would be shocked if you come close to that this season.
Fantasy no-no: Devin Hester
24. Kansas City Chiefs
Back to reality.
It was fun. You made me look smart, and granted you’re in a crummy division, however, schedule is tougher and people will be ready for you.
Fantasy sleepr: Dwayne Bowe
25. New York Giants
Terrell Thomas suffered a season ending torn ACL last night, and Prince Amukamara was hurt earlier. Probably not a good sign given you’re chasing the Eagles and Cowboys. But since Eli Manning is in the same class as Tom Brady who knows, ha.
Fantasy turnaround: Brandon Jacobs
26. Miami Dolphins
If the Marlins relocate, can we move with them?
Reggie Bush could use the new location, but the quarterback situation is u-g-l-y.
Fantasy sleeper: Brandon Marshall, yes sleeper, his stock is so low right now, buy, buy, buy.
27. Denver Broncos
This blog has taken me so long to finish; I’m not changing their title. Tim Tebow will win a playoff game in his career, and as of right now that would prove every ESPN expert wrong.
Fantasy player: Nobody.
28. San Francisco 49ers
We need some Luck.
I refuse to ever pick you to do anything notable for a long time. Go get Andrew Luck.
Fantasy over hyped: Everybody, and yes I have one of them on every team.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Hello? Anybody there? …
Seriously, are there any Jaguars fans left?
Fantasy player: I refuse to go through their roster to try and find a bright spot, MJD is still legit.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
Bright side: No more distractions. Down side: No more distractions.
Will the Bengals win three games this year? I’m not even sure you have to watch game film when you’re preparing for the Bengals this season, it’s like an extra bye week for the 16 teams that get to play them. The fact there are two teams worst than the Bengals is laughable.
Fantasy player: Did you just read that paragraph?
31. Washington Redskins
More hopeless in Washington, the economy’s future or Redskins future?
John Beck? Really? John Beck?
Fantasy player: John Beck? Really? John Beck?
32. Buffalo Bills
Just trying to pay our bills.
What are you trying to do? Who cares, go Stevie Johnson.
Fantasy sophomore: Stevie Johnson, had him last year, won’t reach for him this year.
Fine, don’t believe me. And I guess if I am wrong, then Vikings fans and team management can enjoy a miserable year. I guess that might be what they are going after, some luck, Andrew Luck. If you want to throw away a season and try and get Andrew Luck, I guess that’s up to them. But if you want to win the NFC and have a shot at going to the Super Bowl, this might just be the season to do it.
20 Reasons Brett Favre will play for the Minnesota Vikings:
20. It can’t go much worse than last season.
19. The NFC is wide open.
18. If he can physically play, why wouldn’t he?
17. Leslie Frazier said in 2010 if Brett Favre can play and he’s on his roster, then he will start.
16. No playoffs. Missed few of the last games. Shorter season. Longer time to heal. Not coming off surgeries. It’s almost like he is more healthy and younger this season than last.
15. Favre had a chip on his shoulder and something to prove in 2009, what did he have to prove last season? Well, he has something to prove again.
14. It’s a lockout-shortened season already, which favors a 41-year old.
13. You are in a division built for the future better than you, so why try and build for the future, when your best players are in their prime.
12. The Vikings were bad last season, and the way the NFL does the schedule, they no longer have the toughest schedule in football like a season ago, instead these are a few teams they play: Kansas City, Arizona, Carolina, Oakland, Denver, Washington, a better Detroit team twice (It won’t matter…yet), and then Tampa Bay and New Orleans at home.
11. The coldest place the Vikings will play, if the roof doesn’t collapse, will be in Green Bay on November 14, or in Washington on December 24. They play in warm cities such as San Diego, Carolina, dome in Atlanta, dome in Detroit, dome in Minnesota, and Chicago and Kansas City in the beginning of October.
10. Vikings need Favre because, as I see it, 5-11 without Favre, at least 9-7 with Favre. Favre will not lose to these teams at home: Tampa Bay, Detroit, Arizona, Oakland, and Denver. That’s five wins right there, beat the Bears or Packers at home, that’s six. Beat the Panthers and the Redskins on the road, that’s eight. Beat either the Chiefs, Chargers, or Lions on the road, or the Saints at home, that’s nine.
9. Brett Favre has a great relationship with Leslie Frazier. They would be able to be a lot more productive working together than working against each other, like somebody else tried with Favre. Who did Wilf choose then?
8. Aaron Rodgers now has the same amount of titles as Favre, Favre is competitive enough to think he can beat him twice in one season.
7. Brett Favre just had the most embarrassing season of his career; think that’s the way he wants to go out? Time to repair his image as much as he can (story link):
6. Your options are Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, and Rhett Bomar; or Brett Favre. Tough choice, I know.
5. You think Sidney Rice is going to want to resign with a team that won’t have an established quarterback for three or four more years.
4. When his receivers weren’t Greg Camarillo, Fred Lewis, Greg Lewis, and Bob the Builder, his QB rating was 107.2; he threw 27 TD passes and had only seven interceptions. But you’re right; he’s over the hill.
3. When healthy, this team went 12-4, and was five fumbles, or one play away from the Super Bowl.
2. There will be almost no time to find a quarterback and teach them this offense; Favre already knows it better than he should.
1. He’s Brett Favre. What do the Vikings have to lose? What does Favre have to lose? You may say you’re sick and tired of Brett Favre, and that’s fine, but you apparently watch when he plays. I know I sure as hell do. This game still needs Favre.
Here we go: I say we pick two Hall of Fame Players/Managers to pick their respectable teams, and all 30 MLB GM’s, owners, and managers sign off saying they cannot complain about their player being overused in the mid-summer classic or they will be fined $75,000.
Pick the Managers:
So let’s say Joe Morgan coaches the NL Team and Dave Winfield coaches the AL Team. They get the players votes, fan votes, and manager votes on who they think should play. The top two voted players in each league by the fans start (pitchers on the ballot). Then the top two players that the rest of the players vote start. Then the top two players that the managers vote for start. And if you don’t want to be on the ballot then your name will be removed on April 1st for the whole league to see you think you’re too good for the game. (6 players each team.)
Then Managers pick the rest of their starters:
So Dave Winfield on July 1st picks his team. He probably would have or should have, picked this team:
C: Carlos Santana/Alex Avila/Victor Martinez
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Robinson Cano
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
3B: Adrian Beltre
LF: Jacoby Ellsbury
CF: Curtis Granderson
RF: Jose Bautista
SP: Justin Verlander
DH: David Ortiz
Joe Morgan’s team would be…
C: Brian McCann
1B: Prince Fielder
2B: Rickie Weeks
SS: Jose Reyes (Replaced by Troy Tulowitzki)
3B: Aramis Ramirez
LF: Ryan Braun (Replaced by Andrew McCutchen)
CF: Matt Kemp
RF: Lance Berkman
SP: Doc Halladay
DH: Manger’s pick, Matt Holliday.
(Weird, out of those starters, only four players are more than two games out the playoffs: Bautista, Kemp, Tulowitzki, and Ramirez. All Division leaders have a player. We have players that should really want to be playing for home field advantage in the World Series.)
We are up to 11 players per team.
Now the benches:
The fans, managers and players vote for their favorite match up historically of active players. Fans vote one player. The managers vote one player. The players vote one player. Based on this year and previous years. Limit one per position.
Let’s say it is these three players, my picks:
Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, and Paul Konerko. (Alex Rodriguez injured.)
Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols, and Brandon Phillips. (Phillips gets removed for next rule. Ryan Howard loses to Albert Pujols.)
Hosting City: A player deserving from hosting team takes away a spot from above: Justin Upton.
We are up to 14 players per team.
Then the managers need to pick a catcher, and a fielder who is willing to play outside of his typical position if need be.
Alex Avila and Ben Zobrist.
Miguel Montero and Brandon Phillips (Now he gets his spot.)
16 players per team.
Then your pitching staff: eight more pitchers: (Nine total, not all have to pitch.)
AL: Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia, Dan Haren, Gio Gonzalez, James Shields, Mariano Rivera, and Chris Perez.
NL: Jair Jurrjens, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Craig Kimbrel, Heath Bell, Jonny Venters, Joel Hanrahan, and Cliff Lee.
We are at 24 players per team.
Then we vote in the most screwed:
AL Options: Dustin Pedroia, Jose Valverde, Michael Young, Kevin Youkilis, and Michael Cuddyer.
NL Options: Joey Votto, Ryan Vogelsong, Jay Bruce, Hunter Pence, and Danny Espinosa.
25 players per team, weird, like an actual MLB team.
So who did I miss?
Who did I miss that is truly a superstar, is deserving this season, needs to play a role in deciding the Home Field Situation, and is a must see for fans?
Keep in mind this all goes on behind closed doors, except for the fan’s voting races. I only had three injury replacements. I have a couple pitchers that pitched on Sunday but that’s not a rule, they show up and they decided individually if they wish to pitch or not. We only announce the injury replacements if the injury happens in July, otherwise it doesn’t count, it should be obvious they are injured.
Life’s not fair, nor is baseball, but if you need a solution:
Teams that didn’t get a player were all below .500: Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Florida Marlins. (If you have to, put a player in the final vote from these teams. Alex Gordon, Adam Jones, Michael Pineda/Felix Hernandez, and Gaby Sanchez.) Another thing you could do is have a rookie vote from these teams, because it’ll be likely they’ll have a good young prospect if they’re a struggling franchise, they participate in HR Derby.
Home Run Derby Proposal: Set up four teams of four players, eight from each league.
Team One: Veterans of 10+ years in the league:
Konerko, Ortiz, Beltran, Pujols.
Team Two: Veterans of 6-9 years in the league:
Bautista, Cano, Holliday, Fielder.
Team Three: Players of 3-5 years in the league
Hamilton, J. Upton, Weeks, Kemp.
Team Four: Young guns.
Mark Trumbo, Freddie Freeman, Espinosa, and Stanton.
It’s a bracket: Team one plays team four and team two plays team three.
First round (16 left): It’s a three swings swing off.
Second round (8 left): Five swings swing off.
Third round (4 left): Five outs.
Final round (2 left): 10 outs.
Baseball. It’s a funny game. The best players in the world fail 70% of the time. We start learning the skills the day we can crawl and throw things. Did I pick that first thing up with my right hand or my left hand? Then somebody teaches you to point, step, and throw. Then you learn the phrase, “Keep your eye on the ball.” Then you start hitting the ball off of a tee. Then you ask your dad to throw the ball as high as he can to work on catching pop fly’s. Then you look at yourself in the mirror trying to emulate your favorite pro baseball players. You practice the Sammy Sosa hop after a home run, or a Ken Griffey Jr. follow through, whether you are right-handed or left-handed; or the Gary Sheffield whipping of the bat back and forth; or pointing your bat straight back like Chuck Knoblauch. Then you find fences, or anything about waist-high, to try to rob homeruns like Kirby Puckett and Torii Hunter. Then you practice your windup as if you are starting in the big leagues.
I’ll never forget the time my dad opened the window and said, “David, come here, hurry! You have to see this.” Most likely he had just gotten done mowing the lawn, turned on the tube, and the Cubs were playing the Dodgers on WGN or the Braves were playing the Dodgers on TBS. You have no idea where this is going right now, it’s okay, because we will get there eventually. He said, “you have to watch this pitcher.” Can you guess who it is? It’s a Dodgers pitcher in the 90’s. A must see for one reason. My dad already knows, yes my dad, who I called three years ago while he was working (usually only for emergencies) and said my friends and I can’t remember, who was the Orioles first baseman in the… “David Segui!” he quickly answers before I can even utter in the 90’s. Now that you have had time to google, Dodger pitcher 90’s, and the fourth one down is Urban Dictionary, and if you clicked that, the third one says, “Nomosexual.” Oh the Internet, yes, it was Hideo Nomo. If I recall correctly, I probably watched him pitch for an inning or so to Mike Piazza, one of my favorite players, and then ran back outside, surely still wearing my glove and holding a ball, because when my dad used to mow the lawn I would go outside with him and throw him a tennis ball, and he would play catch with me while mowing. The guy is talented I tell you, talented.
So I run back outside, and start practicing the Hideo Nomo wind up and throw the tennis ball off the house, over, and over, and over again. Baseball, it’s a funny game. Well this weekend something amazing happened. I already wrote a blog about the tragedy, and that will never be forgotten when I think, watch, dream, read, or anything related to baseball the rest of my life, but tonight it’s about the fun side of the game.
My weakness in baseball growing up was hitting, I just couldn’t hit. I was one hell of a bunter and one hell of a fielder. I remember my first big tryout we were facing a pitching machine and I didn’t make contact once against it. Now, a lot of kids struggled against it, a lot. The coach started pitching instead, and I probably didn’t do much better. I didn’t make the “A” team that year, or any of the following three years. I ended up being the best player or maybe second best player on the “B” team every year. Our team sucked. (Understatement.) We were awful. I played shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. In fact, I was the closer. :) Keep in mind; we sucked, so my appearances were few and far between. Shortstop was my favorite position; I was always number 10 in baseball. Honestly, looking back, why I was number 10 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I don’t even know why. No doubt number 10 was my favorite number, wore it in hockey and baseball. It couldn’t have been because of Marian Gaborik, because he came after. I was scared to be number eight because that was Troy Aikman’s number. 88 was never an option, and that was and is my favorite number because of Eric Lindros. But number 10 led to my first AOL Instant Messenger screen name: dhockeyguy10. Led to my first email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Led to my first fantasy baseball team name: dhockeyguy101. I forgot my password for dhockeyguy10, haha. Anyways, I loved taking ground balls and catching pop fly’s. And the practiced always paid off. Well it was time for my high school baseball tryout, the weather wasn’t good, and so it was mostly indoors. I went in with the attitude that I wanted to prove that I should have been on the “A” team all those years and that politics kept me from being on the team. I had this mindset, keep your mouth shut, focus on one play at a time, hustle, and do the little things right. I had an awesome first week; I made every play perfectly as I was trying out for shortstop. Now keep in mind, my high school is made up of over 3,200-plus students and it felt like every freshman boy was trying out. I remember that Friday night; the two freshman coaches pulled me aside, and said did you play on the “A” team recently? And I said no, I didn’t. They were shocked, they asked how come? I said, they just never thought I was good enough, I guess. They said, well you look really good so far. I. Let. It. Go. To. My. Head. That following Monday, we went outside. I was cocky. I walked out to the field, started joking in line with the guys, making jokes about kids who weren’t performing well, and I thought I had already made the team. The wind was howling that day; the weather wasn’t perfect by any means. First ground ball outside, I boot it, off of my forearm and into left field. Bad hop, right? Well that was my excuse. Next three ground balls, and they were all bad throws to first base. I couldn’t handle the moment. I couldn’t handle the expectations. I couldn’t handle the pressure. I was a “B” player…again. I still lose sleep over that day. I had a quick reality check, as I was not disappointed one bit for being on the “B” team.
I was still really excited to play with three of my very close friends. However, my best friend had been cut. He acted like he didn’t care; obviously I knew he was crushed. He shouldn’t have been cut, and it’s that simple. The plan was for everybody to wear our hats and tee shirts to school the next day. I felt bad for him and I wore neither. I got made fun of, because people thought I forgot or something, I don’t remember why. I never told anyone that’s why I didn’t wear it, but that’s why.
When it was time to pick jersey numbers, for some reason I didn’t want number 10. Number two was the one I wanted and there was a reason for it and that reason is the reason for this blog. Derek Jeter. I loved Derek Jeter secretly. Who wouldn’t? He was playing in every World Series in the 2000’s. He was making history with his defense; the Giambi flip, the diving into the stands, and the list goes on. I had cut a high blue shock into an arm sleeve for my glove hand, like Jeter’s. I had the four-inch dark blue Jordan wristband, which was the same logo as Jeter and that went on my glove arm as well. Everything I wore looked like Jeter. I wanted to be Jeter. I wanted to make the plays in the hole. I wanted to turn the leaping double plays. I wanted to make diving catches into the stands. Well that navy blue jersey just had Jeter written all over it. Derek Jeter rises to the big moments, the moments that I choked in. My baseball career stalled my junior year because I didn’t agree with the values of the head coach. I was coming off a terrific fall ball season, worked my tail off in the winter, but quit in the spring. That decision still keeps me up, still makes me wonder what the better choice was, and still breaks my heart. He was fired before my senior season. The new head coach was my sophomore coach, and we had talked and he was excited for me to play my senior year. I broke my leg the day before the first day of tryout’s. Baseball season was over. I went to college, where baseball is a big deal and highly competitive. I didn’t rehab, didn’t practice, so I didn’t tryout my freshman year. Sophomore year I did try out and am so proud of myself for how it went. I hit over .300 in tryout’s and got a hit off of a 91 MPH fastball off of the team’s closer; he was just drafted into the MLB. However, the team had four seniors and two juniors in front of me at third base. It didn’t work out. Now a few of the players want me to come back and tryout this year. I guess we will see. For once I felt like I rose to a challenge, like Derek Jeter did.
When Jeter hit his 3,000th hit for a home run, I got goose bumps, that was as good as it gets. It was his day and he deserved it. He’s had one hell of a career. His trophy case speaks for itself. So why did I bash him all day long on twitter?
Lately, I feel like Derek Jeter has forgotten what it’s like to be a ten-year old pretending to be him. He has forgotten all the kids watching him wanting to be him. He has forgotten that when we step up to the plate in our backyards, we say, “Now batting for the New York Yankees… The shortstop… Number two, Deeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrek. Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeter.” And then proceed to try to get a hit like him. Lately, I think he has forgotten what it means to have millions of people vote you as being the best shortstop in the American League. Lately, I feel like he has forgotten what it must feel like to have 50,000 people give you a standing ovation just to see you take your cap off and wave it. Lately, I feel like Derek has forgotten that his days living the dream are numbered. Why Jeter? Why in your most iconic year as a human being, are you too good to play three innings of baseball on the World’s biggest stage? I thought you rose to these occasions. I thought you loved diving in the dirt and throwing runners out at first. I thought you loved the game. We love watching you play Jeter, we do. Whether we hate you or love you, hate or love the Yankees, it doesn’t matter, because we respect you. I’m disappointed in you Derek Jeter, I am. Baseball is a funny game, and on a week where we are proud of your 3,000 hits, Derek, and ignored you failing 70% of the time, you let us all down, you removed your healthy self from the All Star Game, you quit on the game you love most, simply put Derek, you failed.
It had to have been about 1994; he called be Troy boy because Troy Aikman was my favorite football player. I told time by the jersey numbers of the Dallas Cowboys. Well my sister’s dance competition was in Texas. It was training camp time. Deion Sanders rolled out in his black Mercedes golf cart. Emmitt Smith rolls out wearing the double deuces I grew to love. Michael Irvin, which a 4 or 5-year old has no clue about his off the field issues. Alvan Harper. Jay Novachek with his goofy facemask. Darren Woodson. The HUGE Leon Lett. The list goes on. It was hotter than hell. We had our goofy tank tops on. We watched them practice. Never have I had a smile so large. Walking around the souvenir store was better than any other place on this earth. Then practice ended. I was sitting by myself with my brother, didn’t know where the girls were, or my dad for that matter. Then Aikman’s golf cart was leaving the field. He takes off one wristband. Chucks it into the stands. Takes off the other wristband. Chucks it into the stands. Then I see my dad diving into metal bleachers reaching for the wristband. My dad, also known as Greg Brown. He’s the American Hero. He’s a hard worker, he’s a good son, a great runner, a hell of a husband, a damn good friend, and an unexplainable father. He’s my dad, and imagining one day without his love, jokes, and wisdom, I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He came out of that scrum, ribs torn to pieces, tank top ripped to shreds, bleeding down his side, but holding that nasty, sweaty, my second most prized possession, the Troy Aikman wristband. I had Troy Aikman’s wristband. I wasn’t quite sure who my hero was that day. But that damn wristband still sits in a secret drawer at my house.
Then my dad, the All American dad that he is, would work the Papa Johns stand at the Metrodome to raise money to help pay for my sister’s dance. Crazy how that always comes back into play. He would sneak away from the group, and this was before the gates were open to the stadium, and would go watch the Twins take batting practice in left field. I was also so mad that I didn’t get to go down their with him, I was always at home of course thinking he was just enjoying a baseball game, I later found out he worked harder than any of the other volunteers there and ran the place. Sweating by the ovens, running things back and forth, I’m telling you this guy is a miracle in itself, he does everything. Well every time he could, when he got home, he’d have a surprise for me. Now usually when he got home late from reffing football games, college and high school, from a ways away, I would stay up and he would say he had a treat for me. It would usually be a bag of Funyuns, or popcorn, or a soda, a blizzard, or an All Sport. Whatever it was, it was a treat. Although, I’m not sure if I waited up for the treat or to know my dad was home safe. This was before cell phones. Well after that first Twins game, he brought me home a Major League baseball. I’m telling you there is nothing cooler than holding a Major League baseball. It might be my favorite thing to get as a treat. It was a dream come true, although I had still never caught one at a game.
Now my dad and I when we went to Twins games sat in upper deck right field, over the baggie. Tickets were six dollars tops, and that’s if my dad didn’t have a coupon. Well when the Twins were leading heading into the bottom of the eighth inning we would miss us batting to catch Latroy Hawkins, Eddie Guardado, or Joe Nathan close it out in the ninth from right behind home plate; usually much less nerve-racking when they were pitching rather than Matt Capps in today’s world. Well the guy was battling with Guardado, and all of a sudden a wicked foul ball came just to left of the protective screen and was headed right for me. I reach to the left for it, and as I was reaching my dad bare hand snares it right out of mid air and gets a nice ovation from Twins nation. Within seconds, after a tiny Greggy B fist pump, that ball was right in my leather. Once again, dream come true. We, yes WE, caught a foul ball at the Twins game.
These stories don’t even include the time he got Dennis Martinez, yes the Dennis Martinez that ended Kirby Puckett’s career to throw us a ball in BP from right field all the way up to the second deck, over the baggie, and into my dad’s hands. It doesn’t include the time he took me to Vikings training camp in River Falls Wisconsin so there would be less Vikings fans. It doesn’t include the time he took me to the State Fair to meet and greet Marian Gaborik. Or the time he drove Mats Sundin to Burger King in St. Paul. Or the time he played wiffle ball with Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer at a charity event. Or the times he would take me to sports’ collectable stores to get my favorite cards or figurines. It doesn’t include 1,000,000 stories. But to the six-year old tonight, Cooper Stone, your pops did nothing wrong. He was just being the perfect dad that he has dreamt about, because he bought you that glove. That Rangers t-shirt you were wearing shows his love for baseball has been passed down. He’s probably already taught you how to throw and catch. He’s taught you three strikes and you’re out. A ball over the fence is a home run. Cooper, your father left this world way too soon in one of the most tragic events I’ve ever seen, heard, or read about. I hope you get all the support in the world from friends and family. I will pray every day that you learn every thing that your dad wanted to teach you, it’ll just have to be in mysterious ways. You had a hell of a dad, Cooper, one hell of a dad. Rest in Peace, Shannon Stone, rest in peace.
(Guessing Game: What I think their final record will be.)
Head and Shoulders, no not you Joe Mauer.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
It doesn’t need to be repeated. They’re nearly perfect.
Guessing Game: 102-60
2A. New York Yankees
C.C. Sabathia is starting to get locked in. I don’t think he was too happy about being snubbed from the All Star team. It’s an absolute travesty and I don’t care if he is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. It is inexcusable. I don’t care if you hate the Yankees, and I don’t care how many other Yankees are on the team. They are the best team in the AL, you know?
Guessing Game: 95-67
2B. Boston Red Sox
Adrian Gonzalez is unreal. Just think how good this team will be when Carl Crawford comes back healthy and starts playing Carl Crawford baseball. I go back and forth with who I think is better between the Yanks and Sox, but as of today, Yankees have more things going for them.
Guessing Game: 96-66
4. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves get not one, but two All Star snubs. Tommy Hanson and Craig Kimbrel being snubbed from the All Star team, is just as laughable as Sabathia. If the Braves remain status quo, they have the pitching depth to go neck and neck with the Phillies in October. Martin Prado coming back will be a huge addition for the Braves.
Guessing Game: 95-67
You drive me crazy
5. Tampa Bay Rays
You are in the AL East. You know that right? RIGHT?! Then why the hell are you being shutout by Brian Duensing with your ace on the hill? Huh? Why? Evan Longoria, cut the superstitious crap out. No more weird haircuts, pre game rituals, no more batting gloves or no batting gloves. Pick up the bat. Step into the box. And crush the ball 400+ feet into the gaps like you are capable of. It’s time to start looking in the mirror and deciding if you want to be a superstar or not in 2011. You’re hitting .240, inexcusable.
Guessing Game: 92-70
6. St. Louis Cardinals
Hey, hey, hey, look who decided to show up in 2011, Chris Carpenter. Hey, hey, hey, look who is putting the team on his back, Matt Holliday. Hey, hey, hey, look who is coming back a month early, Albert Pujols. Hey, hey, hey, I like the Cardinals, well for today that is.
Guessing Game: 90-72
7. San Francisco Giants
The bats have come alive! That’s good news in the Bay Area, because they have four All Star pitchers. Granted their are some discussions of two of them should be or not. I say three should be. The Diamondbacks are hanging in there, but can they outlast the defending Champs. One of my favorite races in baseball that nobody else cares about, the NL West!
Guessing Game: 86-76
8. Arizona Diamondbacks
Winning one game in Miller Park is a big deal, coming back from 6-1 and then winning back-to-back in Miller Park is something to brag about. Go into the All Star Break finishing strong, it’ll be a good mindset coming out of the break. I like you guys, I really do, keep this interesting.
Guessing Game: 84-78
9. Pittsburgh Pirates
All I have to say is Andrew McCutchen is the man and is the third best outfielder in the National League this year, I mean third best outfielder in all of baseball. He’s not an All Star for not even God knows why, and I am pulling for the Pirates. Everybody, come on and jump on the bandwagon. LET’S GO BUCS!
Guessing Game: 82-80
10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Jered Weaver and Dan Haren for a one-two punch is nice, very nice, but can the lineup do enough damage for the other three guys. It’s a three-headed race for three teams with major holes. As of now, I like the Rangers, but if they can’t handle the Texas heat, I like the halos running away with it in the So. Cal sunshine.
Guessing Game: 82-80
11. Texas Rangers
Big time win last night. Those are the games I want to see you win more of. I know you will win your fair share of 14-4 ball games, but it’s those 4-2, 3-2, even 5-4 games I worry about. Neftali Feliz has to be better.
Guessing Game: 86-76
12. Milwaukee Brewers
Yikes. Ouch. That hurts. I’m not talking about Ryan Braun because your woes started well before his injury. Blowing back-to-back 6-1 leads? Are you kidding me? Zack Greinke either gives up an extra base hit or strikes somebody out. Might be time to walk a few guys Zackary. 3-7 in your last ten, with three NL All Star Starters is not okay. Get it together, now, at home, before the break. You are trailing the damn Pirates.
Guessing Game: 90-72
13. Cleveland Indians
You just don’t have the pitching depth, the leadership, or the experience to outlast three teams on your tail. You have a bright future, it was fun while it lasted, and nobody will be shocked when you roll over. It’s Cleveland, we’ve come to expect nothing less, or shall I say nothing more?
Guessing Game 81-81
14. Detroit Tigers
You need to win every time Justin Verlander pitches, you just do, and you proved that last night by losing your cool as Dan Haren barely out pitched Verlander, 1-0. Max Scherzer has fallen off the planet. Phil Coke should never start again. Must be a little stressful to know you are chasing two teams behind you in the standings, not the team in front of you.
Guessing Game: 86-76
15. Cincinnati Reds
Attitude adjustment needed.
Guessing Game: 78-84
Here. They. Come.
16. Chicago White Sox
Uh-oh!!! Adam Dunn is heat…heat…heat…ing up! Finally. Just think if Alex Rios joins in. Well now, the Twins are coming into town so they will probably flop two of three.
Guessing Game 84-78
17. New York Mets
Jose Reyes is on the DL. Shocking! Breaking News! What a joke. I actually feel kind of bad for Metropolitan fans.
Guessing Game: 82-80
18. Washington Nationals
The whole Jim Riggleman thing still blows my mind, and probably will for the rest of my life. Good for Nationals to continue making progress without Stephen Strasburg and without Jayson Werth, wait, Werth is playing?
Guessing Game: 83-79
19. Seattle Mariners
Dustin Ackley has been a treat to watch thus far. He has made some clutch plays already in his extremely young career.
Guessing Game: 78-82
20. Minnesota Twins
They are the Twins. In the words of Jimmy Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”
My favorite stat: The Minnesota Twins are 15-2 when Ben Revere, rookie of the month of June Ben Revere, either scores a run or gets a RBI.
Guessing Game: 83-79
21. Colorado Rockies
He can’t find his name on a souvenir license plate, you know what else he can’t find? HIS GAME.
Guessing Game: 79-83
22. Toronto Blue Jays
JOSE, JOSE, JOSE JOSE…JOSE…JOSE. JOSE… JOSE, JOSE, JOSE JOSE…JOSE…JOSE.
Guessing Game: 81-81
23. Chicago Cubs
Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, and Aramis Ramirez will have big second half’s, and they will close in on respectability.
Guessing Game: 77-85
24. Florida Marlins
Who the hell cares? Their fans sure as hell don’t. What an embarrassment. Go Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison.
Guessing Game: 76-86
25. San Diego Padres
Heath Bell is still on the Padres, right?
Guessing Game: 74-88
26. Los Angeles Dodgers
I don’t have enough time in the day to even begin to describe the problems of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Guessing Game: 75-87
27. Oakland Athletics
Well, looks like they don’t have five Cy Youngs after all… Oh wait, some of us already knew that.
Guessing Game: 73-89
28. Baltimore Orioles
Can we shut up about the Orioles being good now? Please? They play in the AL East, and Buck Showalter won’t change that.
Guessing Game: 75-87
29. Kansas City Royals
Kind of wish they kept playing good baseball, but the point is, they don’t have starting pitching…still. Kevin Slowey for Joakim Soria. Boom, done. Aaron Crow your new closer.
Guessing Game: 73-89
30. Houston Astros
Ha. (PS: That doesn’t stand for “H”ouston “a”stros.)
Guessing Game: 63-99
I was not happy about the Brent Burns trade, to put it simply, I thought we were throwing in the towel, and only building for the future. There is no doubt the San Jose Sharks had to give up a lot in order to get Burns, but I was most disappointed in getting the Sharks, arguably, seventh or eighth best player for our best player (Mikko was injured and doesn’t get the help nor the credit he deserves). Last season was the first time Burns had played over 60 games in three years, and he was the second best scoring defenseman in the NHL. We got a draft pick, their top prospect (Charlie Coyle), and Devin Setoguchi; I honestly didn’t think it was worth it. Seto is two years younger than Burns, which is nice and he’s a goal scorer, something the Wild desperately needed. But let’s not beat around the bush because it was only 22 goals. Burns logs a lot of ice time, A LOT! That’s putting a lot of trust in Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, and Nick Schultz. Also it’s putting a lot of faith in the youngsters, Spurgeon, Stoner, Marco Scandella, Justin Falk, and Nate Prosser.
Then the Wild traded for Darroll Powe. If you don’t know who Powe is [pronounced like Pow/Pau], I absolutely love him. He’s extremely quick and he loves to hit. If you’re looking for a Marty Havlat shoulder fake, he’s not your guy. He goes from point A to point B, as fast as he can, and he doesn’t care how he is getting there. The easiest comparison is to Cal Clutterbuck, but Powe has no problem dropping the gloves, and has no problem winning a fight. So maybe the Wild can quit acquiring guys like Chris Simon, Brad Staubitz, and Todd Fedoruk. Yay. Putting Clutterbuck and Powe on a line together excited me; I was pumped. For 12-15 minutes a night, those two knuckleheads would be worth turning on the television or worth purchasing a ticket for. I just hope they start a twitter together. Fans on twitter started sharing their displeasure with me about my excitement for Powe. Saying we need a goal scorer, he’s just another third liner, what’s the big deal, and so forth and so on. So I clarified. Last year this team lacked energy, toughness, and passion; and that was mostly because Clutterbuck and captain Mikko Koivu went down with injuries at the worst time. Let’s keep in mind this team was a fourth place team in the Western Conference at one point in the second half with games in hand, granted they were winning games that had me staying up all night staring at the ceiling, wondering how in the world did they just win that game? I’m not saying Powe is a game changer, a superstar, nor a franchise player. I love his energy, his speed, which this dead team lacked. We had no speed on this squad. Andrew Brunette, John Madden, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, and Brad Staubitz some nights just couldn’t keep up with certain teams. That’s five players, two of which were on the top two lines. And another two, more importantly, were supposed to be our shutdown defensive line. The Wild quickly became a two-line team, with Marty Havlat double shifting. Our top lines were expected to score goals and prevent other teams from scoring. Not a good equation. Setoguchi and Powe make this team a whole lot quicker and younger. The knock on Burns is he tried taking too many chances and made poor puck decisions. Well he was out there for 27 minutes trying to carry the Wild offensively and defensively.
Antti Miettinen was criticized by everybody for not putting the puck in the net. Unfortunately the Wild put Miettinen in a role he just never emerged into, a first line goal scorer. Miettinen had no confidence in his shot during games, a lot of pipes and missed nets. He was a great penalty killer, but have no fear, Powe is an even better one. Havlat at times looked like the All Star that he was, he carried the Wild offensively, and on some nights was the only guy on the squad that showed up. He was worth watching when the rest of the team would be flopping. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and he built incredible chemistry and that had me in awe of their passing, but that’s all it was usually, passing. Havlat and Minnesota were never meant to be. Havlat in San Jose could be gold. Love Havlat as a player, loved him here in Minnesota, and sad to see him go. However, now that the Wild have acquired Dany Heatley for Marty Havlat make the Burns trade much more understandable and exciting. The Wild just improved the three areas I believe they lacked the most: speed, goal scoring, and depth. We added three players in areas we had nobody for a player where we are already deep at and set for the future and Havlat. Folks, the Minnesota Wild finally have a plan. Heatley and Setoguchi reportedly were very close in San Jose, which makes sense in why we got Setoguchi and why we are okay with giving Heatley a try. Heatley scored 26 goals last season with one hand, and that tied his worst season as a pro dating back to his rookie season, and would have been the best on the Wild. Sorry, but a 30-year old isn’t on the decline. The Philadelphia Flyers just signed 39-year old Jaromir Jagr. Havlat is 30 and Koivu is 28, he might just need the new scenery. Also, Guillaume Latendresse missed practically all of last season, the Wild’s leading scorer from two years ago.
Now it all makes sense. Setoguchi and Heatley apparently want to play on a line together, and that will be up to the head coach, brand new head coach I should add, Mike Yeo. Former Houston Aeroes coach, who took the Aeroes to the AHL Finals last year. I also want to add Yeo got the most out of head case and underachiever Patrick O’Sullivan. Hmmm…
So the Wild have added two top six forwards, and a third with great speed and upside. If I were Mike Yeo, with not a lot of knowledge of off-ice chemistry this would be my lineup:
Line 1: LW – C – RW
Bouchard – Koivu – Heatley
Why? Heatley is as good of a pure goal scorer as there is in the NHL. Since he entered the league in 2001, he has the most power play and game-winning goals in all of the NHL. He is third in goals, and fifth in points. He’s a no brainer-first-line guy, and that gives the Wild their first superstar since Marian Gaborik and Mikko Koivu’s first superstar since Gabby. Koivu’s ice presence and Bouchard’s play making skills, if Heatley finds a foot of open ice, Bouchard and Koivu will set him up on a nightly basis. Heatley doesn’t miss, well, in the regular season.
Latendresse – Brodziak/Cullen – Setoguchi
Why? Setoguchi and Latendresse are streaky scorers, when they’re hot, they’re hot. Brodziak will grind it out on a nightly basis and has proven he can handle playing with top notch players, Lats in 2009-10 and Havlat in 10-11. He deserves this spot as of now, in July.
Powe – Cullen/Brodziak – Clutterbuck
Why? I’ve explained mostly everything you need to know, but Cullen is a smart hockey player and Clutterbuck and Powe pick up the slack in the areas Cullen lacks as the crafty veteran. He’s the perfect trailer for these two, and can hammer away a slap shot when the opposition turns the puck over in the slot scared of Clutters and Powe.
Colton Gillies – James Sheppard – Casey Wellman/Eric Nystrom
Why? Well James Sheppard could emerge as the second line center if he returns to his ninth overall pick promise we saw glimpses of back when he played with Gaborik. He has upside, or at least had it pre-injury. Gillies played for Yeo in Houston, and I think they have the utmost respect for one another, many inside the organization believes he’s ready and deserves it. It’s his spot to lose come training camp. It appears John Madden is going elsewhere, but time will tell. Then you have the choice between Wellman and Nystrom, if you’re looking to put a scorer with Sheppard, Wellman is the guy. If you’re looking to continue to improve Wellman as a top guy and want him to get more minutes in Houston, fine with me. Yeo is the type of coach that has players of all different roles. Nystrom and Gillies appear to be perfect fourth liners. Either you go with a lot of future upside and possible goal scoring potential with Sheppard and Wellmand, or you go with locker room experience and leadership and go with maybe Madden and Nystrom. I’m down with either way. It’s the fourth line, 5-10 minute guys.
PP Line 1:
Heatley – Koivu – Clutterbuck
Zidlicky – Bouchard/Cullen
PP Line 2:
Setoguchi – Brodziak/Bouchard – Latendresse
Spurgeon – Cullen
The Wild lost 27 Power Play goals, eight apiece for Miettinen, Burns, and Brunette. Havlat surprisingly only had three. The part that doesn’t worry me, Cullen and Koivu combined for 31 PP assists, hey Seto and Heatley, go stand by the net.
Penalty killers are easy. Koivu, Powe, Cullen, Brodziak, and maybe Clutterbuck will continue to improve at it.
Then the next season it will be time for Mikael Granlund to come over, hopefully, he’s possibly the home run superstar the Wild really have been waiting for. Charlie Coyle not far behind, and who knows what else they have up their sleeve.
I hope you are as exited as me now and see where they are headed. Happy 4th of July.