Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Baseball Sleepers

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-Digger's Daily-

2010 is a new season. Thousands of baseball fans have drafted their teams. Thousands more are preparing for their soon to be held drafts. "Sleepers" are often referred to as overlooked or undervalued players. Rookies with huge upside potential, players ready to have a break out year or players returning from injury all qualify. Much talk has centered around four rookies. I've compiled a list of players who usually fly under the radar in early draft rounds. I rarely recommend searching out sleepers when proven heavy OPS players remain plentiful. However, sleepers can be great mid-round picks depending on league format and current draft status/needs.

Jason Heyward (Atl) - Much talked about this preseason. His stature reminds me of a young Dave Parker. Great upside. Will have plenty of hot/cold streaks but should offer plenty of power potential.

Austin Jackson (Det) - I'm a big fan of Jackson's. Tigers spacious surroundings could prove challenging. He seems level headed and could tear it up on home games with 2B's, 3B's while saving his power stroke for road games. Quickly maturing 5 tool player.

Alcides Escobar (Mil) - Brewers are high on their shortstop of the future. I haven't watched him play a single inning so it's hard to comment. He's a stretch for offensive production in my book but is worth a shot in keeper style leagues.

Kyle Blanks (SD) - Effortless swing and packs a mean punch. Defense needs fine tuning. Offense will be plentiful.

Ian Kennedy (AZ) - He's ready and I'm expecting a big year from Kennedy in Arizona. He's made their rotation after an outstanding spring campaign. Untouchable when he's on.

Tim Hudson (Atl) - Not being drafted high in most leagues. Hudson's back and ready for a big season. K totals might not turn heads but sub 3.00 will. Key cog in Braves rotation.

Chris Young (AZ) - Struggled miserably in '09 and fell off most manager's radar. Not mine. He's matured and will enjoy his best big league season.

Hunter Pence (Hou) - Hardly a sleeper. Pence qualifies as a career year type player. 40+ doubles, 30+ homers.

Colby Rasmus (StL) - Should show steady improvement in sophmore season.

Geovany Soto (Chi) - Cubs backstop had a great rookie year in '08. Suffered thru injury plagued '09. Healthy and ready for '10 could finish in top 5 fantasy point producing catchers.

Grady Sizemore (Cle) - Get ready for a comeback player of the year style season. He might even make a run at MVP honors. Sizemore is tearing it up in pre-season which is a clear indication he's ready to go.

Ian Desmond (Was) - Nationals are high on young future star SS Desmond. So am I. He has all the tools... and won starting nod this spring as everyday SS.

Matt Wieters (Bal) - Everyone in Baltimore loves this guy. He's going to have a crash course in AL East baseball learning to handle a young pitching staff while taking swings against the AL's top rotations. He's an unknown commodity who might produce. He seems to be going way too high over proven talent in most drafts. Buyer beware.

Marlon Byrd (Chi) - I think a monster season is ready to be had by Byrd. Many things in his favor. A great hitters home park. Great hitters division. Not so hot opposing staffs loaded with lefties. Byrd has a mixed clubhouse rep. He'll be great if playing with a cool head. Same was said of Milton Bradley heading into '09. Difference is Byrd's much better player.

Billy Wagner (Atl) - Potential 40 save season and Braves first true closer in recent memory. Health is always an issue. He looks better than ever. Phils have competition.

Will Venable (SD) - Sleeper pick. He's been red hot this spring. Solid minor league stats. Shown consistent improvement at every level including majors. Key cog in Padres attack will produce. 35+ doubles, 20+ homers, .280+ BA all within reach.

Drew Stubbs (Cin) - Reds leadoff hitter might smack 25 - 30 round trippers in cozy Cincinnati. This kid's for real but needs to cut down on wild strikeouts.

My crystal ball tells me only one team fits a true potential sleeper squad. In 5 of 6 divisions it's hard to imagine a weaker squad conquering tough rivals for the title. Then, there's the NL West. Meet the San Diego Padres. Personally, I have them pegged last in NL West. However, there's tremendous upside here for San Diego. They possess a solid batting lineup and excellent bullpen. Success or failure rests on the shoulders of starting pitchers. Garland, Young, Correia, Lantos, Richard. Who? They don't put fear into anyone. Precisely what makes them dangerous. Lineup has 3 rising stars to compliment Andrian Gonzalez' power. Kyle Blanks, Will Venable and Chase Headley. Bench depth is deepest in West. Jerry Hairston, Scott Hairston, Oscar Salazar & Matt Stairs. Padres have had a taste of winning too by way of a current 14 game spring streak. This has to be a confidence builder. Keep an eye on these guys.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 National League Baseball Predictions

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-Digger's Daily-

National League
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves *
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals
New York Mets

Reigning back to back NL Champs Phillies take aim for their third consecutive World Series appearance. They bulked up by getting Roy Halladay and Placido Polanco. Bullpen problems still linger and could cost the Phils a shot at repeating in NL East. Look out for the Braves. It's Bobby Cox final season at the helm. Atlanta is healthy, wealthy and wise. Will it translate into diamond victories? Florida continues to amaze but don't have enough guns to win a title. Washington will play their first inspired brand of baseball since long before leaving Montreal. The Mets? Their pitching is terrible. Starters (minus Santana) will have trouble getting to the 5th. Middle inning bullpen still shaky. Lineup is mostly all right handed, Beltran injured again, Reyes new health concerns, no bonified big league 1B and a home park which helps everyone but Mets players. Watch out for 100+ loss season as all Mets personnel gets run out of town.

Cincinnati Reds
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers
Houston Astros
Pittsburgh Pirates

Toughest division in baseball to handicap. There's no pure powerhouse club. All have two solid starters (minus Pittsburgh). All have similar style lineups, defense and bullpens. Reds handicap is their ill conceived home park which plays like a glorified little league field. Milwaukee's sporting 2 lefty starters which could get walloped vs predominant right handed power lineups. Cubs are 100 years plus without a championship are no closer. Cards 2009 success was a big surprise to most. NL Central is up for grabs.

Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres

It's time for Colorado to begin winning in April instead of waiting for late August. Rockies young hurlers and heavy lumber will nail down the West. LA has heavy lumber in OF but rotation doesn't strike fear into rivals. Giants are just the opposite. Rotation shreds bats but hitters don't match up well with most other MLB teams. Arizona could be a sleeper team so don't turn your back too quickly. They have pitching & hitting. Defense needs to step it up or it could be a long season. San Diego has quickly transformed into one of NL's worst after near misses only 3 years ago.

NL Champs: Philadelphia Phillies
Batting: Placido Polanco (.333)
HR: Ryan Howard (46)
RBI: Ryan Howard (144)
SB: Michael Bourn (53)
Wins: Roy Halladay (25)
ERA: Tim Hudson (2.38)
Saves: Jonathan Broxton (40)
MVP: Hanley Ramirez
Cy Young: Tim Hudson
Rookie: Jayson Heywood

Friday, March 26, 2010

2010 American League Baseball Predictions

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-Digger's Daily-

2010 will treat us to another thrilling baseball season. A handful of teams were very busy this off season refining their rosters in an attempt to dethrone the champion Yankees. Many teams should be considered contenders to win their respective leagues. Time to fast forward and gaze into my crystal ball. Here's my final predictions for 2010...

American League
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox*
Tampa Bay Rays
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays

Yanks and Red Sox will battle wire to wire. Yanks 1-4 rotation their best of the decade. Lineup has 2 new faces (Granderson, Nick Johnson). Bench depth, which was always a NY strength, is now missing. Sox lineup missing big time power hitters but these guys will continue scoring runs in bunches behind a sharp rotation and deep bench. Don't be surprised to see them as division chams. Pitching was key to Tampa's World Series run and has been missing since. Great young team with competitive rotation might get snake bit again by faultering pen. Baltimore is beginning to make great strides attempting return to respectability. Toronto is a team in reverse. One time future stars have gone bust and pitching staff is one of AL's weakest.

Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians

Chicago has what it takes on paper. Question is, can they stay healthy enough to reach the promised land? Everyone in their lineup will contribute and pitching staff has never been better. There will be plenty of excitement in Minnesota as the Twins open their new outdoor stadium. The loss of closer Joe Nathan to season ending injury essentially derails division title dreams. Detroit choked last season and changed a few faces for 2010. Pitching and lack of power might keep them stiffled in the middle of the pack. Kansas City's strength is pitching. Difference between winning and losing is run production which has been lacking from Royals hitters for years. Cleveland has potential future talent but this franchise was mortgaged years ago. A one time AL powerhouse gave away most of their talent and will have a hard time filling seats.

Los Angeles Angels
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers
Oakland A's

The West will be wild. It's a three team race. Seattle has an improved rotation, lineup and defense. Angels changed a few faces and parted with former playoff heroes (Lacky, Vlad). Staying healthy is key #1 for LA to win. Seattle will be hot on the trail and could end up on top. The secret to success in Texas is pitching. Why haven't they figured it out? Rotation is weaker than '09 (Millwood gone) which is a crying shame considering their explosive offense. Oakland has never looked weaker and will lose 100+.

AL Champ: Boston Red Sox

Batting: Ichiro (.360)
HR: Alex Rodriguez (44)
RBI: Miguel Cabrera (130)
SB: Jacoby Ellsbury (65)
Wins: CC Sabathia (23)
ERA: Felix Hernandez (2.45)
Saves: Mariano Rivera (44)
MVP: Kevin Youkilis
Cy Young: CC Sabathia
Rookie: Austin Jackson

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 MLB Players to Watch

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-Digger's Daily-

2010 baseball season begins in 12 days. Teams are ready to make final cuts in preparation for another thrilling year of wire to wire action. I've assembled a short list of players to watch based on players in contract years, young talent, players who had off years in '09 and players who might have a hard time reproducing last years success. My players to watch.....

On the Rise?
1B - Kendry Morales (LAA) - Lit up AL pitching in his first full season (.306, 34 HR). He's the main man heading into '10 and is currently tearing up Cactus League pitchers.
2B- Martin Prado (ATL) - .307 career hitter in 258 games appears to get better every step of the way. Could be a breakout season on the way?
3B (2) - Brandon Wood (LAA) - Gets first crack at everyday 3B duties for Scioscia's Angels. He needs to produce at the plate to remain a starter. Has struggled with big league pitching in 224 career AB's. Gordon Beckham (CWS) - The future is now for ChiSox promising young 3B. He had a fine showing last year and should put up pretty solid numbers on the South Side.
SS (2)- Alcides Escobar (MIL) - He's been recipient of rave reviews and all seem convinced he's ready to handle the rigors of 162. Great upside if he lives up to hype. Ian Desmond (WAS) - Look out. He's on the verge of winning the starting nod over veteran Guzman. This guy has serious range and can hit. It won't be long before he's Washington's full time starting SS.
LF- Nelson Cruz (TEX) - Might open up in RF over LF but for purposes of this post he's in left. Tearing up Cactus pitchers (1.283 OPS) after rocking 33 HR's in only 128 '09 games. Hitters friendly Texas offers room for tremendous numbers in '10.
CF- Austin Jackson (DET) - The Yankees will soon regret trading Jackson. He's a future star. New York has been famous for developing star CF's (Dimaggio, Mantle, Williams). They really goofed trading him for Granderson. Grandy's dandy but Jackson is a 5 tool real deal.
RF- Jayson Heywood (ATL) - Reminds me of Dave Parker. Imposing figure. Big time hitter hasn't had any problems with his first dose of major league pitching. Braves RF job is his. Rookie of the Year candidate.
C- Matt Wieters (BAL) - A huge load has been placed Baltimore's future star and he'll be learning on the job. Don't expect much this year in fantasy value. If he can settle down an erratic O's staff then good days are coming.
SP- JA Happ (PHI) - 12-4, 2.83 in '09 during his first full campaign. He looks locked and loaded early this spring. Potential 20 game winner should nail down no less than 15 this year.

Contracts, Comebacks or Tough to Repeat:
1B- Troy Glaus (ATL) - Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Can Glaus chip in and give the Braves a good year offensively? It'll be his first in Atlanta and first as a full time 1B. If he can contribute then look out for the Braves.
2B (2)- Rickie Weeks (MIL) This is probably Weeks' last shot to prove he's in Milwaukee to stay. Injuries, lack of consistency has haunted Rickie's career. In a lineup of big bats all he has to do is get on base. 2B- Howie Kendrick (LAA) Add Kendrick to the list. Can he finally stay healthy? He's yet to play more than 105 games in 4 big league seasons. He's a .302 career hitter. Big things are expected from him in '10.
3B- David Wright (NYM) Wright's .307 2009 batting average is deceiving. He was basically horrific in clutch situations and struck out 140 times. Complete power meltdown (10 HR) no thanks to new home stadium that no one seems to like. CF walls have been lowered. Might not help with 15 footers in LF.
SS- Derek Jeter (NYY) - The Yankees captain plays in his final contract season. Most players in contract years put up tremendous numbers. DJ's concentration will be in tip top shape. Another 200 hit performance with added power numbers are well within reach.
LF (2) - Brett Gardner (NYY) - Yanks should have tried unloading Gardner in the Granderson deal instead of Austin Jackson. Or, keeping Melky? Gardner will not come close to duplicating Damon type numbers. Maybe experience is all this kid needs? Talk about a kid who needs to mature on the diamond in a hurry before Bronx boo-birds let him have it. Anything less than .275 and big time defense will have the front office looking for a trade deadline replacement. Raul Ibanez (PHI) - Began '09 as odds on favorite for NL MVP after wrecking pitching in April/May. It was a steady decline the rest of the way including .189 August. Yet he finished with 34 HR in 134 games. Stuggles continuing early in spring training. Fantasy owners beware.
CF- Jason Hamilton (TEX) Hammy wowed fans in 2008 leading the AL with 130 RBI and putting on a memorable home run smash brigade during the Home Run Hitting Contest at Yankee Stadium. Beseiged by injuries in '09, Jason is slated to shift from CF to LF. Injury bug keeps popping up. Needs to stay healthy or he could be another one hit wonder.
RF- Jason Werth (PHI) - I'm thinking he's already a potential NL MVP candidate. Bashed 36 HR's in a breakout season last year. Then went on to hit 7 more in post-season competition. Werth has arrived, plays in a hitters park and in the middle of NL's most potent lineup.
DH (2) - Ken Griffey, Jr (SEA) - Seattle fans really hope Junior can be a major force in 2010. It could be his last year. Griff's career was robbed by a variety of injuries. He'll always be regarded as one of baseball's best ever CF. Relegated to DH duties he will have plenty of opportunities to shine in M's new look lineup. As a baseball fan it would be sensational to watch Griff shine just one more time. Jason Kubel (MIN) - New expectations. New ball park. Jim Thome waiting in the wings. Had a very solid year average (.300) and power (28 HR). Balls flew off his bat last year. He'll face tougher pitching in '10.
C (2) - Joe Mauer (MIN) - 2009 AL MVP has been getting better every season. It'll be hard to top leading AL in batting average (.365), on base percentage (.444), slugging (.587) and OPS (1.031). Don't be surprised to see him challenge .400 in the not too distant future. Ryan Doumit (PIT) - It would be nice to see what kind of production Doumit can post by way of one full healthy season.
SP- Tim Lincecom (SF) - Back to back NL Cy Young having a rough spring. What's next for this young phenom? 33-12, 526 K's in past two years. Expectations are higher than ever for San Fran's ace hurler. Warning, keep an eye on his mechanics. They've been off so far this spring.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Going Soft on the Gridiron - NFL Changes OT Rules

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-Digger's Daily-

The NFL is getting softer and softer. The rules committee often recommends amendments to how the game is played from penalties to tackles. Today we learn a new change to playoff overtime rules. Here they are:

1. Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case it is the winner.

2. If the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession, the other team shall have the opportunity to possess the ball. If [that team] scores a touchdown on its possession, it is the winner. If the score is tied after [both teams have a] possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.

3. If the score is tied at the end of a 15-minute overtime period, or if [the overtime period's] initial possession has not ended, another overtime period will begin, and play will continue until a score is made, regardless of how many 15-minute periods are necessary.

I was not a fan of NHL's recent OT changes to regular season play when the shootout was introduced. I'm not against the format but find it overwhelmingly ridiculous the losing team receives one point. Now, lets take a look at the first new NFL playoff overtime rule. If a team scores a field goal on its' opening drive they must let the coin flip loser have a possession? And, if a touchdown is scored the flip loser wins?

What is going on these days? Why not just give everyone a star sticker and pack it in? Don't bother playing games if the better team cannot reap rewards of winning. NFL owners approved the new rule by a vote of 28-4. Babies! Afraid their team will lose in overtime. Football is a rough sport. Survival of the fittest. If your teams loses the overtime coin flip then they'd better come out ready to play upbeat special teams and defense... PERIOD! If you want to win then stop your opposition. Isn't this how football was always played? I don't want to hear the word "progressive" pertaining to NFL. This is absurd.

OK, to all the supporters of this new rule. If you're ok with coin flip losers getting a chance on offense if defense surrenders three points... then, are you in favor of the first team scoring a touchdown wins (opposition will not receive a possession as stated in second amended rule)?

The league is getting soft. Players are over protected. Now, losers are too.

Random March Ramblings...

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-Digger's Daily-

Sports news never slows down. Not even a government showdown was big enough to calm down breaking sports news. NCAA Tourney upsets. Baseball spring training. Tiger talking (again). Where to begin?

NCAA Men's Tournament Sweet 16 begins Thursday (Regional Semi-Finals). One top dog has been eliminated (Kansas) essentially killing most of my pool entries. Knew I should have stayed with Kentucky. Keep an eye on a few Cinderella stories. South bracket has #10 St. Mary's taking out #2 Villanova. East warriors #11 Washington hammered #3 New Mexico & #12 Cornell out classed #4 Wisconsin. Syracuse vs Kentucky is now my Championship Game pick with UK taking home top prize.

Tiger Woods is talking again. "I cheated, I this, I that..." boo hoo, blah blah. Tired of Tiger? Yep. But, PGA tv ratings will soon skyrocket once again. Woods awaited return will take place at The Masters. I'm one of the curious viewers to hear how Tiger's return is received. No doubt fans will cheer like crazy. Probably a few choice geers from time to time.

Baseball news out of Minnesota is twofold. First, All Star catcher Joe Mauer landed a sweet 9 year $184M contract extension. Great move by a franchise normally unwilling to pay it's big stars big money. The Twins will be opening a new stadium in April. Revenues must be substantial with new revenue streams and luxury seating. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come? The Twins are poised to be a powerhouse club loaded with plenty of talent. Curious eyes are wondering hos they'll deal with the devastating loss of closer Joe Nathan? Will they experiment with who they have or go for a last minute spring deal? No way can they afford to give away games after division rivals Chicago and Detroit improved personnel.

What's up with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger? Another woman comes forward with assault allegations. Public details are sketchy at best but Pittsburgh head coach Tomlin is "concerned" about Ben. NFL Commissioner is soon to weigh in after meeting with the two time Super Bowl champ. What's the deal with sports players? These guys put themselves in so many situations detrimental to their well being.

New York Rangers players heads are hanging low after losing a must win game vs Boston to save their season. Rangers offense rarely shows up after coming out of the gates with a promising 7-1 record to start the year. They're now on the verge of elimination with only a few games remaining. 23 games scoring 1 or none. It's amazing to think these guys have any chance whatsoever but it isn't over til it's over.

How about those Washington Capitals? They're destroying opponents with an explosive offense. Their 283 goals are 47 more than second best. 24 games scoring 5 or more goals. Washington is two wins shy of franchise best 50. Only 14 losses is by far their lowest team total in franchise history. They seem unstoppable. Is this the year Washington wins their first Stanley Cup? Only two teams on my radar have a legit shot at taking out the Capitals in a 7 game series (New Jersey & Pittsburgh). Smart money rides with Washington... for now

Friday, March 19, 2010

Power Ranking Snapshots....

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-Digger's Daily-

It's time for another power rankings session. MLB opening day inching closer. NFL teams juggling rosters. NBA & NHL teams giving it their all trying to qualify for playoff glory. PGA getting ready for Tiger's return. NCAA March Madness providing stunning upsets. It's been quite a month.

Time to rank major sports teams.

1- Yankees
2- Phillies
3- Red Sox
4- Dodgers
5- Angels
6- White Sox
7- Angels
8- Cardinals
9- Rays
(no changes from last PR post)

1- Cleveland
2- LA Lakers
3- Dallas
4- Orlando
5- Denver
6- Boston
7- Utah
8- Atlanta
9- Phoenix
10-San Antonio

1- Washington (best team in franchise history)
2- Chicago
3- Phoenix
4- San Jose
5- Vancouver
6- Pittsburgh
7- LA Kings
8- Colorado
9- Nashville

1- New Orleans
2- Indianapolis
3- Minnesota
4- Green Bay
5- San Diego
6- Baltimore
7- Dallas
8- NY Jets
9- Philadelphia

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Make Your Picks: March Madness Tourney Begins

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-Digger's Daily-

Kansas enters the 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament as the #1 ranked team coming out of regular season play. Can they keep their magical ride going or will they be dethroned? March Madness also symbolizes the time of year when hundreds of thousands rush to fill out tournament brackets predicting outcomes, placing bets in Las Vegas or with local bookies and when college fans just flat out go nuts partying.

Kansas and Kentucky are the two best teams in my book. Will they meet in the finals? Not according to my bracket predictions. Here's how I pick'em from the Sweet 16 to finals.....

Sweet 16
Kansas over Michigan State
Ohio State over Georgetown
Vanderbilt over Florida State
Pittsburgh over Kansas State
Kentucky over Wisconsin
West Virginia over New Mexico
Duke over Purdue
Villanova over Baylor

Great 8
Kansas over Ohio State
Pittsburgh over Vanderbilt
Kentucky over West Virginia
Villanova over Duke

Final Four
Kansas over Pittsbugh
Villanova over Kentucky

Championship Game
Kansas over Villanova


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Giants to Host First NFL Game in New Meadowlands

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-Digger's Daily-

New York Giants. New York Jets. The New Meadowlands Stadium. Giants & Jets new home debuts in 2010. Cost, $1.7 billion. State of the art facility. Great field views from all seats. Jets website calls it the "New Jets Stadium". Giants website calls it the "New Giants Stadium". Both teams split construction costs and are 50/50 owners. Guess what they never decided before breaking ground? First team to host a game.

On Monday the NFL announced that a coin flip was held to determine first home host. Giants won the flip ( Jets are very upset.

"When the issue of which team would be hosting the first regular-season game could not be resolved on the merits, I suggested a coin toss as the fairest way to resolve this issue. The league rejected that idea. Then, I was told on Friday that a coin toss had taken place at the league office and that the Jets had lost. We rejected a process in which neither team was present. The league departed from our time-honored tradition and declined the opportunity to set the matter straight with a transparent process." (Woody Johnson, NY Jets owner)

NFL also announced both teams will play their season openers back to back. Giants open on Sunday and Jets Monday night. I can't help but laugh at this craziness. How does anyone cough up nearly one billion dollars without an agreement settling which team would be the first to play their home opener? It's bad enough both ownership groups agreed to keep their "New York" franchises in New Jersey after New York fought hard for their return. Jets & Giants playing in New Jersey has been a sad joke to New Yorkers for years. Now, we hear a coin flip decided first home team after ownership groups weren't able to reach a satisfactory arrangement.

Losing the first ever home opener probably doesn't matters to anyone outside of Woody Johnson. Woody shouldn't be so publicly irked now when this issue should've been settled long ago. It's the second major snafu by the Jets who for years hated playing home games in a stadium named for another. However, under the terms of the old stadium lease, changing the name of the stadium required the Giants' approval, and the Giants refused to change the name. Now, the Jets lose out on a coin flip and become miffed when flipping a coin was the Jets idea in the first place.

Personally, I'm happy to learn the Giants will host the first ever regular season game in the new stadium. Afterall, the old facility was called Giants Stadium. The Meadowlands has been home to the Giants since 1977. The Jets moved in after running away from New Yorkers & Shea Stadium in 1984.

Get over it Woody. If it meant so much then you should have negotiated a better deal before coughing up your money!

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 MLB Preseason Predictions

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-Digger's Daily-

Spring training is in high gear. Players fighting to make major league clubs are lobbying to get their numbers called. A couple of big time rookies have turned heads with great performances. Pitchers busy fine tuning mechanics in limited action. Hitter's in pursuit of "the zone". Injuries and nagging tweeks caught managers eyes too as they now must adjust accordingly. It's all part of pre-season baseball.

I thought I'd give my preliminary predictions for the upcoming 2010 MLB season. I'll be getting into detailed analysis and final fortune telling after rosters are officially announced.

East: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays.
Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Royals, Indians.
West: Mariners, Angels, Rangers, A's.
Wild Card: Boston or LA.
AL Champ: Yankees.
MVP: Teixeira (NY).
Cy Young: Hernandez (Sea).
Rookie: Jackson (Det).

East: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals.
Central: Cubs, Cards, Reds, Brewers, Astros, Pirates.
West: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres.
Wild Card: Wide open race. Only teams not in hunt are Nats, Pirates, Padres.
NL Champ: Phils are favorites. At this moment, look out for the Rockies too.
MVP: Howard (Phi)
Cy Young: Santana (NY)
Rookie: Heyward (Atlanta)

There will be some very good ballclubs in 2010. Perhaps one of baseball's most memorable beginning to end pennant races? Great pitching in hurler heavy NL West. Mariners & Phillies caught everyone's attention with big trades. Yankees, everyone's favorite team to hate, aim to match Girardi's new uniform number 28. Pujols back is flaring up. Nathan's elbow shot for the year? Giants restocked offense hopes to put up runs for great rotation. New look and healthy armed Red Sox ready to rumble. My two cents, theories and team by team prognostications soon to follow as opening day creeps closer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Random Rumblings

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-Digger's Daily-

Interesting news in the world of sports never stops. Spring training is in high gear as teams take aim at regular season openers. Tiger's saga continues as he practices for what promises to be a media circus upon his return to active status. March Madness is in early stages as teams battle in conference tournaments. NBA & NHL teams busy fighting for playoffs. Retirements, injuries, rookie sensations... it's been a busy week.

Nomar Garciaparra hung up his spikes this week retiring in a Boston Red Sox uniform. Nomar exploded on the scene and was considered one of the games best SS's until injuries wrecked his career. He played during the Curse years. Interestingly enough, Boston traded Nomar mid-season of the Curse busting season. After his departure, the Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918 (2004, then again 2007). A fan favorite, he never got to enjoy Boston greatness even when producing stellar stats. Boston did grant Nomar one final wish by re-signing him this week so retirement as a member of Red Sox Nation could be fulfilled.

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of assaulting another woman. So far this story seems to be a bogus accussation. Nowadays, athletes had better start picking their friends and companions better. It's not the first time Ben's been linked to some sort of misconduct with female acquaintances.

March Madness is heating up as college teams are competing in Conference Tournaments. Teams on the bubble are hoping strong finishes catapult into NCAA Tournament glory. #1 seeds have had a difficult time holding onto the top spot. It's going to be a great tourney as no one team stands above the rest.

University of Connecticut Women's Basketball won their 72nd consecutive game (33-0 this season). That's right, 72 in a row! And none by less than double digits! No team can even make these girls sweat. UConn stands six wins short of becoming the first team to go through consecutive seasons unbeaten. The Huskies, who have won both the regular season and conference tournament title the last three years and 14 times in school history. UConn improved to 14-0 against top 10 opponents (winning by an average of 26.3 points). The Huskies have won five of the last six conference tournament titles and enter the NCAAs unbeaten for the fifth time in school history. This has been one of the most dominating runs in sports history. Only a fluke can beat them now.

Has anyone been keeping tabs on Atlanta Braves rookie RF Jason Heyward? This guy is a future star. Braves are hoping the future is now. He's 6'5" slugging rookie and plays like a vet. I'm betting this 5 tool star on the rise breaks camp as Atlanta's starting RF. If he's able to keep a cool head then the Braves will be in the NL East hunt all season long. He's my odds on favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year.

Austin Jackson will quickly make the Yankees pay for trading him away. Here's 2010 soon to be AL Rookie of the Year. The Tigers new star to be CF has it all. Superb defense, explosive bat, speed and a cannon arm. Perhaps playing away from inquiring Big Apple minds is just what this kid needs to shine without day to day soap opera chatter.

48 year old veteran Chris Chelios returns to NHL action. The Atlanta Thrashers recalled Chelios and will be on the ice tonight. This isn't a publicity stunt. Chelios can still play. It'll be interesting to see if he can keep up with players half his age. No reason to think he can't. Otherwise, the Thrashers wouldn't be risking their season on a player who began his NHL career in 1983.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

College Bowl Games Heading to Yankee Stadium

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-Digger's Daily-

Get ready for "The New Era Pinstripe Bowl". Leave it to the entreprenurial prowess of the Steinbrenner clan for finding new innovative ways to strengthen their Yankees brand.

Football tradition starts a new chapter of sports in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium will host the Big East's third ranked team vs Big 12's sixth ranked team (after excluding the conferences' respective BCS teams from consideration). The four year agreement to host games gives the New Era Cap Co. "exclusive headwear licensing rights and non-exclusive apparel licensing rights on Bowl-Game-related merchandise." ESPN owns broadcasting rights for both tv and radio.

Another financial home run for the Steinbrenner's and Yankees. Yankee Stadium has a rich tradition in holding spectacular non-baseball related events from heavyweight boxing championships to visits from the Pope. This will be the first time college football returned to the Bronx since 1962. Is this just the beginning of Yanks brass trying to secure future higher ranked games? Or, will the Steinbrenner's be satisfied with the new status quo? Time will tell.

The Yankees empire continues to grow. New Yorkers love it. Yankee haters despise anything Yankee related. There's been a recent trend developing in sports arenas. Bold owners are reaching beyond their respective sports to find new avenues of entertainment. Cowboys Stadium (NFL) recently hosted the NBA All Star Game. Boston's Fenway Park hosts NHL regular season games. Let's not forget the countless music venues held across the country in arena's large and small.

This is a home run deal for all involved. New York is the media capital of the world. NCAA, New Era, ESPN and the Yankees will all capitalize on this deal even in the midst of our economic downturn. Yankee fans can celebrate a new revenue stream which will undoubtably secure what this team has always tried doing... chasing after the best baseball talent the game has to offer.

Monday, March 8, 2010

NFL Free Agent Winners & Busts

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-Digger's Daily-

NFL salary caps are out in 2010. Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners is making no headway whatsoever. Owners have stated cash strapped ways will lead to massive changes down the road. Not yet though. NFL teams haven't wasted any time throwing big dollar contracts at top free agents. Some teams have been clear winners. A few, big losers. Here's my short list of best and worst moves...


Atlanta Falcons Improving defense is key if Atlanta wants to become a true NFL power. They took a step in the right direction by signing CB Dunta Robinson to help slow down opposing passing attacks. Atlanta has more work to do before becoming off season winners but at least they're addressing pressing issues for future success.

Baltimore Ravens Welcome addition to a terrible WR group... Anquan Boldin was obtain via trade and quickly rewarded with a handsome new contract. Coupled with Dante Stallworth, these two finally give Baltimore much needed solid targets for QB Joe Flacco.

Chicago Bears Heading into last year Chicago wanted us to believe all they needed was a QB change. They traded Orton for Jay Cutler. Cutler was a bust but is a talented QB who will get another shot in 2010. Now he has help. Chicago's secured three impact players: DE Julius Peppers ($42M), RB Chester Taylor & TE Brandon Manumaleuna. Is it enough for the Bears to catch division rivals Green Bay & Minnesota? Probably not but they'll be much better. Don't forget, new Offensive Coordinator is Mike Martz. Bears fans can be optimistic once again.

Miami Dolphins A team in need of star calibur players got a boost by signing impact LB Karlos Dansby (5 years, $43M). Hard hitting Steelers safety Ryan Clark is expected to be signed within moments. Chad Pennington is coming back as insurance for young QB Henne. More work to be done in Miami but they're off to a flying start addressing off season needs.


Buffalo Bills Chan Gailey as new head coach. Are you kidding me? With all of the available talented coaches available Buffalo goes with Gailey??? The Bills were rejected by Super Bowl winning coaches Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher. At least their new head coach matches up well with current players. Buffalo will have to be very lucky if they plan on winning any games in 2010. They need help everywhere from front office all the way down. Current ecomonics begs me to ask one question... who would spend a $1.00 to sit in frigid conditions to watch the NFL's worst team content on losing ugly?

Dallas Cowboys Cowboy fans must love owner Jerry Jones devotion to everything Cowboys. However, he's prone to making moves which work against progress. Jones has vowed to make "many" moves this off season. Nothing substantial yet. Dallas needs to be careful. They have a great team. No need to shake it up. WR help is a must. Special teams tacklers could help too. Dallas hosts 2011 Super Bowl. Jerry wants Cowboys playing in the big game. The best move for this franchise is to scrap their offensive coordinator and head coach.

New York Jets Father's hide your daughters! Jets, a team on the rise, signed a problem child. CB Antonio Cromartie was once a very promising pass defender has been labeled uncoachable and locker room distraction. Poor practice habits, poor tackling and various off field personal issues including fathering seven children with six women in 5 different states (also named in 5 paternity suits in past 2 years). Is this really the type of athlete you want to throw away future talent (2 draft picks) to bring into your home?


New York Giants I've always been a fan of Antrell Rolle's talents. As a matter of fact, I was pleased to learn the Giants picked him up... until hearing NY made him the highest paid safetry in NFL history (5 years/$37M). Giants were desparate for secondary help especially after losing so many starters to injury in '09. On its' surface, Rolle's contract is way over priced. All will be forgotten and big money contract will be a bargain if Giants reach NFC Championship. There's more work to be done if this franchise has Super dreams (pass rusher, linebackers, WR's and special teams).

More to follow as NFL teams get ready for draft day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Power Rankings Snapshot

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-Digger's Daily-

Spring Training baseball games kicked off this week. Less than one month remains before regular season opening day! NFL teams getting busy adjusting rosters and bickering with the players union over a new collective bargaining agreement. NBA & NHL teams thinking playoffs as regular season inches closer to completion. There's a new #1 in college basketball. How long can Syracuse hold on to the top seed? Get ready for March Madness!

Here's my quick power rankings for our major sports:

1- Yankees
2- Phillies
3- Red Sox
4- Dodgers
5- Angels
6- White Sox
7- Angels
8- Cardinals
9- Rays

1- Lakers
2- Cleveland
3- Dallas
4- Orlando
5- Boston
6- Denver
7- Utah
8- Phoenix
9- San Antonio

1- Syracuse
2- Kansas
3- Kentucky
4- Duke
5- Kansas St
6- Purdue
7- New Mexico
8- Villanova
9- Butler
10- Brigham Young

1- New Orleans
2- Indianpolis
3- Minnesota
4- Green Bay
5- Dallas
6- Jets
7- Philadelphia
8- Baltimore
9- Pittsburgh

1- Washington
2- Chicago
3- San Jose
4- Pittsburgh
5- New Jersey
6- Vancouver
7- Buffalo
8- Los Angeles
9- Phoenix

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Is Baseball's Best Manager?

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-Digger's Daily-

Joe McCarthy. John McGraw. Connie Mack. Casey Stengel. Sparky Anderson. Earl Weaver. Whitey Herzog. Those are just a few of the many legendary managers in baseball history. America's greatest game has championed many era's. One thing remains the same. Great managers motivate their players to win. They overcome distractions, injuries, meddlesome owners and bigger than life stars.

So, which manager in today's era is the best? Personally, I don't believe there's one single manager who stands head and shoulders above others. There's five who I consider tops in the game right now (with 2 honorable mentions).

Here's my short list of baseball's best managers.

Ron Gardenhire (708-588, .546) Gardenhire's Twins have won 5 division titles in his 8 years as skipper. What makes RG's success very significant has been winning with one of baseball's lowest budgets and young talent. He manages every inning of every game. A great motivator. Players believe and they win when most expect them to lose.

Joe Torre (2246-1915, .540) Ok, Ok simmer down Yankees haters. Joe gets the job done no matter what. Since 1996 no Torre team finished below 2nd (12 first place, 2 2nd). 15 playoff appearances is tied with Bobby Cox for most all time. Nobody deals with head cases better than Joe. His teams believe in him, he believes in players, teams win. Period.

Bobby Cox (2413-1930, .556) 2010 will be Bobby's last as a MLB manager. One of the most fiery skipper's baseball has ever produced. Braves won 14 consecutive NL East titles. Excellent motivator. Kept Atlanta competitive during recent rebuilding years. 15 playoff appearances tied with Joe Torre for most ever.

Mike Scioscia (900-720, .556) One of the games most respected managers could be a cornerstone in Anaheim for years to come. During his 10 years... 6 playoffs and 1 World Series title. Key losses and division rivals reloading will keep Scioscia on his toes this season. Excellent student of the game. Former catcher gets the most out of his players and seems to always make the right moves.

Terry Francona (850-771, .524) An instant hit in Boston. Francona's first season at the helm ended "The Curse". Boston rallied from down 3 games to 0 to beat arch rival Yanks 4 games to 3 in 2004 ALCS en route to Red Sox 1st World Series title since 1918. Captured 2nd title in '07. Sox qualified for playoffs in 5 of 6 seasons winning no less then 95 (in playoff years). Sluggers are gone for '10... but, pitchers are plentiful.

Honorable mention: Tony LaRussa, Lou Piniella.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Winter Olympics Over? Not for Celebrating Athletes!

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-Digger's Daily-

2010 Winter Olympic medal competitions concluded Sunday night in Vancouver. USA won the most total medals (37). Host Canada won the most golds (14) and finished third overall behind Germany (30). We were treated to spectacular competitions from beginning to end. The final event was a thrilling overtime victory by Team Canada's men's hockey over Team USA, 3-2. Are the games over? Officially, yes. Recreationally.... ?

I ran across a funny story in Sunday's National Post. Apparently, local health officials distributing 100,000 condoms for athletes wasn't nearly enough. Considering approximately 7000 gathered within the Olympic Village confines in Vancouver... this means an average of 14 condoms/athlete were used. As of mid-week, supplies were running on empty. An additional 20,000 were rushed in by Australian Olympic supplier Ansell.

Gold, silver or bronze. An entirely new competition is rumored to be taking place as Olympians celebrate before returning home. Olympic sponsor Nike's slogan "Just Do It" has a whole new meaning.