Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 MLB Preview: Florida Marlins

OK, I had some computer issues to work through this week, but I'm back. Sorry for the delay. Time to pick up the MLB Previews, starting with...

Florida Marlins

IF (4/5) - Pretty good. After Uggla and Ramirez, Sanchez looks like he'll get 1B with a good spring, which would allow Cantu to play 3B. Helms, whose average has dropped nearly 100 points since his last stint with the Marlins, could outplay Sanchez this spring to win 3B, moving Cantu to 1B. Plus McPherson could always decide to be awesome some day as well. Good problems to have, I guess. I like John Baker at catcher (though a similar statement currently has people emotionally blogging about me in Brewer World). As a Hanley fantasy owner, I don't know if I like dropping him out of his comfortable lead-off spot. We'll see...

OF (3/5) - In 32 at-bats, Maybin looked like the next Willie Mays Hays. The good version. But can he really sustain that over a full season and justify moving Hanley out of the lead-off spot? Or is he Felix Pie with less power? His 49 Detroit at-bats (.143 average) weren't as encouraging, though they were the first of his career. Ross and Hermida will be good hitters for the 6-7 spots, which is where they're currently scheduled to hit. Brett Carroll will get a chance to win a job, but he'll also have Luis Gonzales and Jay Gibbons to compete with. If Maybin doesn't work out, I suppose Amezaga plays CF.

SP (2.5/5) - Definitely some potential here. Nolasco surprised me and Johnson pitched well last year (and in 2006). Volstad looked good and Sanchez has pitched well at times, though he's coming off of an injury. Some questions here.

RP (2/5) - Lots of questions here. Why did they trade Kevin Gregg? I don't even know where to start. The kid from KC looks good. Is Lindstrom a closer? I'd be worried if I were a Marlins fan. But... aren't they on pace for another World Series soon? What do I know?

Wildcards: Gaby Sanchez, Carroll, McPherson

EDIT: (3/10/09) I like Lindstrom!

[Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on your team. I think it's fun to do this stuff before a season starts and then see how close (or how far off) I was. If you spend time from your day insulting us, telling others to insult us, or posting in a blog or messageboard about how wrong our opinions are, then we are flattered!]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some Thoughts & Things Learned After A Day of IndyCar Testing

-Well lets jump right in, the first thing we learned is that Panther Racing may likely be the team to beat in Indy Lights. Brit-Pop-Girl Pippa Mann again topped the speed charts on Tuesday, and fellow Brit teammate Martin Plowman again took the 4th spot for a second day. It was great to see both Mann and Plowman running up top as both conceded that during the rookie session on Monday, there wasn't much pack running. They may not have gotten 20-car packs Tuesday, but definitely got to some running with other cars. As I said before, I will definitely be curious to see what Panther and the 3rd part of their new British invasion can do in ICS today.

-And in a kind of related story; SPEEDTV finally got around to fixing Roger Yasukawa's name in their story headline, about 2 days late. Now we get to know the difference between Ladies First, and Lady's First. I do not imagine there is a person named Lady in the Indy Lights Series who owns a First. Also they could be using it as a reference to Pippa (a "Lady") and it being her first test; but they aren't.

- In Vision Racing news, Ed Carpenter is being stalked by The Predator! Watch out Ed! As per these great shots from Vision and IndyCar we did get our first look at the new #20 Vision machine. Firstly it's dropped DirecTV blue for Eli Lilly Red as the secondary color (if there really ever could be a secondary color with the nuclear glowing yellow) Small things to note, Eli Lilly and Sonax have been added to the car. Sonax simply confirms what we saw on the car ina test a while back but Eli Lilly was A.J. Foyt IV's sponsor last year; that it is moving over to Ed may not be a good sign for A.J. getting a ride in 2009.

-Also of note, in a closer shot you'll see that Ed Carpenter's new helmet is covered in William Rast and even the camouflage with bright orange scheme. I'm not sure if this means Townsend Bell has lost any deal he had with them or if William Rast is simply expanding, keep in mind they were a rumored potential title sponsor...

-As we noted earlier: A.J. Foyt IV drove a pretty sweet looking VERSUS car. I have to say not only does the car look pretty sweet, but so does the fire suit A.J. was wearing; I said it back then and I'll say it again, come on VERSUS take this to a sponsorship level, not just because it gives us another car on track, but anytime that car is seen its added advertisement, shoot do it just to make ESPN/ABC mad that they would have to show it!

-Oh yeah and either this thing was the camera car working for VERSUS or the IRL is really starting to lay back on technical modifications to the cars.

- In other paint job news; Marco Andretti will be sporting his 3 major paint scheme in 3 years; and that is if you don't count the 4-5 different changes in last years scheme. I have to say of all the red-white-blue cars, this would probably be my 2nd favorite behind the National Guard car, especially given the large usage of whit,e not usually seen in a r-w-b car... but lets face it, its still yet another red-white-blue car...

- Of actual racing notes, Mario Moraes and Robert Doornbos would have to be the big notes for me. Both driver are hardly considered oval veterans, but to a further extent it looks like KV Racing and Newman-Haas-Lanigan have made some good strides in the may of oval speed with the cars coming in at 4th and 7th. And that's with what apparently Moraes says was, not concentrating on speed:

"It was great to be back in a race car after five months and to be with KV Racing Technology for the first time," the former said after his surprising test run. "Today, it was not about speed, but to try and get a good setup for races..."

-As always its testing, so until April comes around we'll never really know how it translates; as far as those paint jobs go; I'm not sure KV may have just left the ar in its old KV look (haven't seen any differences yet, but also haven;t seen sidepods). As for Doornbos, he's just sporting his name on the side, and I'm not entirely sure if its because they are waiting on sponsorship to clear (from Doornbos or Milka) or if thats going to be the look of the car... lets hope not, and honestly I don't imagine so.

-If A.J. Foyt IV and Vision can't put together their second car, will Doornbos/N-H-L take the #2 they originally wanted?

-Yes E.J. Viso is going to the #13. We love it, and love it more since Viso himself said he doesn't care about any #13 superstition; plus its a lucky number in his Italian heritage. I think it would complete the "luck" trifecta however if he could get a sponsorship from Black Cat fireworks and stick their giant black cat on the sidepods to go with the #13 and green paint.

-Speaking of HVM, Ryan Hunter-Reay was seen in their pits and on their radio quite a bit. Of course this could mean nothing, and it could also mean a giant variation of things, but lets all hope that it means there is a 2nd VM car for him in the works.

-Lets talk new teams and new drivers. Team 3G & Luczo Dragon Racing are making their full-time debut this year and both looked good. Yes neither had Top 10 speed, but neither had years of data to work with either. LDR of course has more data than 3G and it showed, but 3G was hardly an embarrassing pace only 5mph off the lead; not to mention Barrett is likely taking his time getting to know open wheelers on an oval.

-I'm excited about the Rookie of the Year competition this year. 3 of the 4 rookies (Conway, Doornbos & Matos) have winning races and championships in their history and across many different series including Atlantics, Lights, Champ Car, Formula Renault, F3, GP2, Skip Barber, Star Mazda. Those same three were also within 1 mph of each other at testing yesterday so equipment variance may not be too much of an issue.

This is a serious rookie class; and with only 1 banked oval before they get an entire month of May to acclimate themselves to oval racing, I don't think the oval learning curve will really come into play.

Pictures by: & Vision Racing

Monday, February 23, 2009

IndyCar Paint Schemes and Some New Guy Named Yasukama

Look I know this is scrutinization but seriously... Its one thing for fans to constantly confuse Californian, Roger Yasukawa, for a foreign-born driver. I mean his last name isn't Smith, Jones, Gordon or Earnhardt and his first name is all hell on Americans.. I mean shoot, how do you even pronounce that "Roger"?

-It is however, yet a totally different thing for SPEEDTV, a dedicated motorsports news web-site to misspell the man's name in the headline of an article and the headlining picture to the article; and 8 hours later to not have fixed it. Normally I wouldn't comment on this kind of thing; I mean, I work in media, marketing and PR and know that typos can happen easily from time to time, but shoot that article has been up for almost the entire day now and sheesh, the "w" and "m" aren't even near each other on the keyboard...

That said, all of us here are hoping Yasukawa can turn this gig into more than 1 race; I've always liked the Roger, he's a very nice guy, great with fans and never really got a complete shake at the ICS. Roger largely went unnoticed in 2007 when he jumped in Sarah Fisher's backup car at DRR for the Indy 500 and in just a few short days qualified it faster than Sarah in her main car; the guy clearly has talent, and while this one-off thing is better than nothing I'd love to see him in some full time equipment.

-We've gotten our first look at the new #23 Milka Duno - Citgo/Arctic Ice car and while some people think of it as ugly, I'm thinking the thing is beautiful; Why? It's not generic red-white-blue anymore. That nice orange sweep through the middle makes that car distinct, and its different from anything else in recent memory, and that is what is important.

-Robert Doornbos is sponsored by some company named "Bobby D." Ok before you flood us with comments and e-mails, I realize that is most likely just what they are putting on the car until they announce the full sponsor; we have learned (barring a huge change) that Doornbos' car may likely be very red. This saddens me, as the series is clearly overrun with red in the paint schemes.

-With that said I'd love to welcome Stanton Barrett and Team 3G to the league with their badass light blue and white paint job; minus the logo in Homestead so far but from IndyCar's page you get the idea. Though it seems they couldn't resist and put a small red tip on the nose. I'll be keeping up on all the paint jobs out there, here's hoping Luczo Dragon remains to their Yellow/Black type scheme and definitely awaiting awesome things from the PCM/Rubicon merger team.

-And for the hell of it; the new driver at Brian Stewart Racing is: Sergey Mokshantsev, let's see what SPEED does with that one!

Pictures by:, &

Brit Pop Girl, Pippa Mann Tops New-Sound Indy Lights Rookie Session & VERSUS Committed to 130+ Hours of Indy Coverage

The Indy Racing League kicked off official testing for its two series (IndyCar & Indy Lights) today with rookie-only sessions for Indy Lights drivers, and is slated to give the 4 IndyCar Series rookies (Doornbos, Conway, Matos & Barrett) time later today.

With 12 rookies hitting the track today, we are looking at Panther Racing's British invasion as their new Brit-Pop-Girl, Pippa Mann, is currently topping the speed chart and her fellow Brit teammate Martin Plowman in 4th (just a little under 1 mph behind her). Its great to see Panther do well (as they always have in Lights) but the real test will be to see if Dan Wheldon can complete Panther's Trifecta of British headlining.

It is also good to report that via TSO we've been able to confirm that the new Indy Lights 180-degree crank in the engines has given the engines a great new pleasing sound resembling that of the IndyCar Series and being about a billion times better than the sawed-off-header obnoxious sound they used to have. I've not been in person yet but from the sound on TSO's mp3, I can safely say many of us will be very happy to be able to bring family to races without the fear of requiring heavy duty sound canceling headphones/earplugs; and can get back to enjoying the racing.

I'm not sure why is not letting anyone in on their timing & scoring but for those who want in just take a click here and bookmark it for future use when the mian page doesn't show the link:

As we reported earlier, VERSUS will be doing some pre-season coverage of the IndyCar Series over the 4 weeks preceding the opening at St. Petersburg. It was a great start and now today we are getting the complete look at exactly what additional programming VERSUS will be giving fans, further providing us all with insight as to why the switch to VERSUS is a good one for fans.

In 2009 IndyCar fans will be getting roughly 130+ hours of coverage including 3 hour minimum live coverage on every race that includes pre & post-race interviews & analysis; a 1 hour qualifying/analysis show the day before each race; 1 hour of flag-to-flag coverage of Indy Lights and then a re-broadcast of IndyCar events for roughly at least 7 hours of coverage each week IndyCar has a race, and ALL of it in glorious High Definition.

"Indy Car fans have been asking for significantly more coverage of the sport, and with our new partnership with VERSUS we have responded to our fans in a way that we think they will love," said Charlie Morgan, president and chief operating officer for IMS Productions. "With the new VERSUS schedule, it will be a weekend of Indy Car programming with qualifying coverage, expanded race day coverage, and race encores"

I am hoping that VERSUS will attempt to give us a live coverage of at least the final 2 rounds of the awesome new made-for-TV format of road racing qualifications. I'm also assuming that VERSUS is smart enough to not follow ESPN's amazingly silly idea to put all race-rebroadcasts at 7 a.m. the following morning (on ESPN Classic no less).

Pictures by: &

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009 MLB Preview: New York Mets

New York Mets

IF (4/5) - Castillo appears determined to improve after a down year. If he does (or if Cora takes his job and plays well), this is a really solid IF all around.

OF (4/5) - LF seems up for grabs, but Murphy looks to be the leader right now. Either way, there's great depth here with pretty good veterans trying to earn spots.

SP (4/5) - If everyone is healthy and if Freddy Garcia contributes, this could contend for best NL rotation.

RP (4/5) - Almost a complete overhaul, starting with Rodriguez. Some really good arms here, but there will be a couple of open spots. Adding Putz was big and Sean Green's ERA could drop in the NL.

Wildcards: Cora, Murphy, Garcia, Green

[Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on your team. I think it's fun to do this stuff before a season starts and then see how close (or how far off) I was. If you spend time from your day insulting us, telling others to insult us, or posting in a blog or messageboard about how wrong our opinions are, then we are flattered!]

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Indy Lights Welcoming 11 Rookies & Former Champ Jay Howard!?

While pre-season testing hasn't always translated into a large amount in the Indy Lights season; the entry list for their Homestead-Miami testing has gone a bit unnoticed under the wake of the IndyCar Series' Silly Season and subsequent entry list TBAs by Dale Coyne and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

The most striking thing about the Indy Lights list is that Jay Howard is listed as the driver for Ron Dixon's new Team PBIR (yes that would be Scott Dixon's dad). Jay Howard was the 2006 Indy Lights champion but is most recently known to IndyCar fans as the guy who got screwed by the now defunct Roth Racing. He should also be known as the guy who beat 8 other current IndyCar drivers in December in the Snap-on All-Stars Karting Classic; and then went on to talk some smack about Scott Speed on SpeedFreaks afterwards, to just about everyone's enjoyment.

Too soon people forget he had his Roth Racing entry in the Top 5 at St. Pete only to finish 14th as a result of the race suddenly becoming timed and strategies going crazy. He also finished 13th in Kansas; again considering the situation he was dealing with, thats pretty damned good.

It truly is a shame that a guy who won the Lights championship, now 3 years ago, still can't find a true shot in the big leagues; and even after getting a small shot (if you can even consider it that); is still willing to keep on hammering away at it in Lights once again. Then again, a ride in Indy Lights is better than no ride at all. Give Howard props for the effort, but just hope its not all for naught, and that sooner rather than later he'll get the shot he deserves in the IndyCar Series.

The 2nd thing noticed about the Lights testing list is that 11 of 20 drivers are rookies. They are coming from far and wide including the U.S.A., Canada, Netherlands, Columbia, Brazil, England, Ireland & what I am pretty sure will be Indy Racing's first ever Russian; whose name I know every race reporter is looking forward to attemting: Sergey Mokshantsev.

Friday, February 20, 2009

University of Vermont Dropping Baseball & Softball At Seasons' End

When I first found out the following news about the University of Vermont dropping its baseball and softball programs at the end of this season; the first person I talked to about it is a good friend of mine who is a sports radio-host & covers college baseball in the south.

Jokingly his first response to me was "Shame for those 5 fans." Of course he was joking about the stereotype of northern schools in warm weather sports, but he and I both know what we're really talking about. While most people might dismiss this as a small school who struggled to field a team year in-year/year-out, simply failing at an experiment; its much further from it. The University of Vermont fielded its first baseball team over 100 years ago in 1888.

I understand tough economic situations, and a normally warm weather sport in a generally colder place hardships; but we're talking about a decision that will strand 43 student-athletes, 5 coaches, and discontinuing a program that has 3 NCAA tournament appearances and two recent conference championships (2003 & 2006).

I remember when Tulane announced it was going to get rid of almost half its sports including football (and that was BEFORE hurricane Katrina); graciously enough, a bunch of boosters who recognized the large importance of student athletics, through some serious fund raising were able to keep those sports alive and have even built them to new higher places. We can only hope a similar thing can happen in Vermont; but until then I will be first in line to say I'm rooting for the Catamounts to not only make it to Omaha but win the College World Series this year!

A.J. Foyt IV to Drive Vision-Built IndyCar Next Week; Doornbos Confirmed; A1GP Missing Drivers... Eaten by Wild Animals?

This weekend the A1GP series hits the historic in Kyalami Circuit in Gauteng, South Africa; home of the former South African Grand Prix.

Unlike most all of the previous A1GP rounds which happened in the middle of the night U.S. time, this one happens very early in the morning. So when I first woke up this morning and saw the practice session times going on, I couldn't figure out if I was still fuzzy from waking up because there seemed to be a lot of things missing from this mornings test sessions.

As we previously reported Team Germany and Team Pakistan were both scheduled to make their 08-09 debut for this round. While Germany did in fact make their debut in stunning fashion topping the speed charts for most of the practice (ending in 2nd to Lebanon); Pakistan not only didn;t turn in any times, they weren't even on the entry list anymore. This comes as strikingly odd considering Team Pakistan just tested their car in recent weeks at a circuit just near Kyalami. In an additional oddity, Korea is also missing from the entry list now, meaning it looks like we've added a team and lost a team for this round.

The additional oddity was the track activity itself in Gauteng this morning... or lack therof. For the first 15-20 minutes of the rookie-test session no one felt like going out; it could have been track condition or rubber-in issues, who knows by the end of the rookie session only 10 teams hit the track. For whatever reason after all of the day's practicing, 5 teams still have not put their car on the track (USA, Mexico, Great Britain, China & Brazil). We haven't gotten any reports as to why, but it sure seems odd that 5 teams never saw the track, 2 have gone missing from the entry list and even Australia turned in a measly 6 laps (yet still was good enough for 8th on the charts).

Come to think of it... A1GP took their drivers out for some public relations events, one of them at a local wildlife preserve earlier this week where drivers hung out with tigers and even had what looks like a foot race with a cheetah. Then again, maybe they aren't racing the cheetah, and maybe that is where our missing drivers have gone??

UPDATE: A1GP has announced that it was a new-part issue that kept all those teams off the track; not cheetahs. Something to do with needing a fuel system upgrade due to the high altitude of Kyalami Circuit. These teams will be getting additional practice time tomorrow. Also in a second announcement to Furious Wedge's liking; it looks like the power-boost qualifying option is coming back. For those unfamiliar, you do 2 hot laps for the Sprint Race and 2 for the Feature race in A1GP qualifying, and for 1 of those 4 runs you are allowed to us the power-boost button, for the entire lap! It certainly helps with parity and better racing as a result of mixed up starting grids, and we like parity.

In IndyCar News, we are all delved into Silly Season; Robert Doornbos says he will be at Homestead for testing and he has definitely been replaced in A1GP Team Netherlands' car; Conquest may run their two drivers from 2008 in the same car, Dale Coyne says he's announcing drivers (plural) at Homestead, word on the street is that Ryan Hunter-Reay may likely be in a 2nd HVM car (a team RHR has won with in the past), and then suddenly out of no where we find out Tomas Sheckter has sponsorship and may be in a ride come 2009.

UPDATE!: Doornbos has now officially been announced at Newman/Haas/Lanigan, but still no word on Milka being brought into that team with a pile of cash in sponsorship. We will be definitely be looking forward to seeing Bobby D. in the ICS after watching him contend in the new A1GP cars on short notice. Doornbos, clearly excited for the opportunity states:

"Racing in the IndyCar Series has been my biggest dream and especially to do it with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. The history of the team and the big success they have had in the past really attracted me and it makes me proud to become part of this winning team. Racing on the ovals should be very exciting. It will be tough, but I'm training as much as possible and am in good condition and ready to achieve results. I'm also excited to race in the legendary Indy 500."

While the rest of those are still waiting to be panned out, we have gotten word straight from the mouth of Vision Racing that A.J. Foyt IV, while currently out of a full season ride for 2009 due to lack of sponsorship, will still be piloting a Vision-built IndyCar at Homestead next week:

"Unfortunately AJ will not be testing with Vision Racing at Homestead next week. He will however be driving the VERSUS car (built by Vision Racing) for an on-track video shoot at Homestead for the VERSUS race broadcasts. So when you are watching the inaugural race broadcast opening on VERSUS, now you’ll know the “mystery driver” at the wheel of the VERSUS car."

First, its great that VERSUS is putting their logo on a car and doing some promo's with it; seriously, it can be good exposure during TV broadcasts and commercials and hopefully at the tracks for races (if they bring the car out there and have a VERSUS booth at the tracks); but here's a thought:

Why wouldn't it be in good interest for VERSUS to actually sponsor a car?? Their colors alone would make a sweet looking paint job?

Pictures from &

2009 MLB Preview: Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves

IF (4/5) - Pretty solid at every position. Chipper Jones played really well last year, but he hasn't played 135 games in a season since 2004. Infante is a quality back-up, but wouldn't supply a lot of power from 3B.

OF (2.5/5) - Fairly average, especially if Francoeur doesn't rebound from a down year. CF is undecided.

SP (2.5/5) - Quite a different look for an Atlanta rotation. Lowe was brought in and Jurrjens showed promise last year. You never know what you'll get with Vazquez. The other two spots are up for grabs, but Kawakami should get one. Hudson could return late and Glavine could still sign.

RP (3.5/5) - If Gonzales if healthy, he is a good closer. Soriano, Carlyle, Bennett, and Acosta can all hold leads. A couple of open spots to fill.

Wildcards: Kawakami, Logan, Anderson

Can they beat the Brewers? Yep.

EDIT: I saw Glavine signed like an hour after I posted this.

[Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on your team. I think it's fun to do this stuff before a season starts and then see how close (or how far off) I was. If you spend time from your day insulting us, telling others to insult us, or posting in a blog or messageboard about how wrong our opinions are, then we are flattered!]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Milwaukee Mile's Future Now Looks Secure & Versus Announces Its First IndyCar Programming

We've continually reported on the story of an angry Milwaukee Mile promoter who wanted out; Well I hope we're doing our final follow-up in noting that the Milwaukee Mile/Wisconsin State Fair have announced today that a new racing promoter Wisconsin Motorsports LLC has been officially signed to a long term contract:

"The new promoter agreement ensures the near-term and long-term future of auto racing at America’s Legendary Oval. All purchased tickets for 2009 events at The Milwaukee Mile will be honored. 'We are committed to ensuring race fans that have been coming to The Mile for generations will continue to enjoy world-class and grass roots auto racing events in 2009 and beyond!' "

It is already great news to know that racing for this year and next has been secured but the best aspect of this announcement is that WM, LLC's new contract is for 10 years, with an option at the end of that for 30 more years!!! I think it is safe to say that racing at the nation's oldest race track for IndyCar, NASCAR, USAC and everyone else now seems quite secure, I think racers and fans can now collectively breath a sigh of relief.

Especially Vitor Meira... he's jumping for joy!

You know what else we're jumping for joy at? Versus has officially listed some of its pre-season ancillary IndyCar programing; so far we're looking at four one-hour shows each Saturday for the four weeks leading up to St. Petersburg:

March 7 - Danica Patrick Retrospective

March 14 - Top 10 Closest IndyCar Series Finishes

March 21 - IndyCar DNA: Crashes & Conflict

March 28 - IndyCar Series 2008 Year in Review

That would already be 4 more hours of preseason coverage ESPN has done (ever? I honestly never remember any pre-season stuff), and the first ancillary programming since the 2006 Andretti 3 pieces:

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Shocker; Danica not interested in USF1

In news that surely will rock the world, Danica Patrick told the Toronto Sun that USF1 has never talked to her, and that she's not even interested anyway because she never liked being too far away from home, which the Toronto Sun decided to list as a merge of where she was born and where she was raised; going with Roscoe, Wisconsin.

Danica also takes a shot at USF1 for, as we all expected, using her name mention to get themselves some pub. Danica however has not denied her interest in becoming the new starting center for the Furious Wedge International Tiddlywinks team.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Weekend is National Opening Day of 'Ping!'

I know we talk a lot of Motorsports and professional stick, racket and ball sports here but this Friday, February 20th marks opening day of what I feel may be one of the most enjoyable sports to attend for a fan and more-so families: NCAA Baseball's Opening Day.

While yes, it is the same sport of baseball that exists in many markets and people's lives; for whatever reason college baseball is not largely covered or seen by most fans/outlets; and that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are no sponsors to thank, no official PR reps to hold back anything from the players, but the players much are hardly amateurs in talent showcasing some of the best skill and effort around and for the majority of the players, simply for the sake of competition; but best of all it is one of the most open environments to sports fans out there.

UNLIKE NCAA Football, no matter your team, no matter the conference, your team has just as much of a shot to win the national championship as any other school with a team.

There are over 30 conferences and 200+ Division I schools represented in baseball and they all get the same fair shake. Chances are if you live in the States, you have a local team you can root for. Win your conference, or pile up a good enough record and you are in the playoffs, there is no poll voting to care about, its all determined by winning your conference record or formulated strength of schedule much like NCAA basketball.

Unlike NCAA basketball though, where your national championship game is never really a surprise and basically a guarantee to come from a big conference top ranked school. (essentially 90% of its champions being a top ranked 'big 6' school).

College baseball is almost the definition of parity with 8 different champions in 11 years and 3 of them coming from outside of the 'Big 6,' and one can hardly consider the PAC-10's OSU Beavers expected. In fact the past FIVE baseball champions weren't even ranked in the top 12 going into the playoffs, with the most recent champion, Fresno State, not even being ranked at all before the playoffs begun; when has that ever happened in basketball? Imagine a 13-16 seed winning it all. The College World Series which hosts the final 8 teams has to date hosted 106 different schools. That means at this point half of the schools in competition have made it to the College World Series, not just the playoffs, half have made it to the final eight and got an invite to the historic Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.

But that's the beauty of college baseball from a competition standpoint; everyone has a shot from Tigers, Rebels, Trojans, Hurricanes, Gators, and Longhorns, to the Torreros, Owls, Bears, Beavers, Golden Eagles, Ragin' Cajuns, Anteaters, Green Wave, Gauchos and (my personal favorite) the Dirtbags.

If you are a fan of parity and "anything can happen" look no further. Of the 4 major polls in 2009 we are already looking at 3 different #1 teams. In Baseball News alone the top 40 are not only separated by the slimmest of margins but 84 teams received votes!!! That's 84 teams that would not surprise voters to be contenders.

I'm not asking you to be a hardcore fan, I'm just suggesting you head out to a game as I believe college baseball to be the definition of sport in its purest form. There aren't many widespread competitions that rival it, but truly I think attending a game this spring is one you will greatly enjoy and can relax too.

Every college baseball stadium I've ever been to has that same pure youthful non-spoiled atmosphere to it. Players are excited to have fans know their name and will always oblige to talk to fans and young kids. When you attend a college baseball game, you get to you know the city/school/neighborhood as well. These ballparks are built generally in the center of the communities/campuses/neighborhoods where they can fit; most all have some great history and unique things to them, not generic cement coliseums we see in the pros of all sports.

In Spring of 2008 we did a great College Baseball Tour for Putting Pins in a Map that we're going to re-paste here below. I highly recommend getting to any of these parks as well as wherever your local team plays this Spring/Summer and hear the relaxing sound of Ping!

March 11 - LSU's Alex Box Stadium

A stadium with a lot of history (5 National Championships in a 9 year span) though it is in much need of a renovation; instead they are soon to demolish it and turn it into a parking lot for the football stadium & open a brand new Alex Box down the street.

Not many will argue with the move as the stadium itself has nothing specifically special in uniqueness, just history of teams/players who played in it... What makes LSU's atmosphere great are the many true tailgaiting, cheering covered in purple and gold fans... and the bat girls in miniskirts...

March 12 - UNO's Privateer Park

Privateer Park (recently re-named Maestri Field) has a special place in my heart. Its a baseball lovers ballpark, not extravagant, not a dump; its sole purpose over the years has just been to be a good place for baseball of all levels. I grew up with it, as a little kid I went there to see the UNO Privateers play, then the Zephyrs AAA team (they played there for the first years as they built their own stadium across town), I remember when the scoreboard caught fire, I watched my older brother play many games there as well as playing one game there myself (in a fall development baseball league at which I made a diving catch).

The field has been remodeled and re-sodded since hurricane Katrina. If you go to a game there (highly recommended) bring a jacket because the field is literally right on Lake Pontchatrain, and that cold wind off the water will freeze you in the stands...

March 14 - Tulane's New Turchin Stadium

I'd never been to Turchin Stadium until after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina flooding and then FEMA turning it into an emergency station and parking lot (see google satellite imagery). My Dad tells me it used to be an ok stadium... well now its a VERY nice one:

They started from scratch demolishing the old remaining pieces and built a new stadium in its place complete with field turf instead of grass (and even the infield's "mud" is turf painted orange!?) My only complaint about it (though it is being worked on) is a complete lack of parking as the stadium would remind you of Fenway being stuck right in the middle of the city...

March 15 - Southern Mississippi's Pete Taylor Park

My personal favorite place to watch a good baseball game, the doubly named: Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field. I've spent many afternoons and nights watching games at "The Pete." The fun college atmosphere but a field that looks like its maintained by an MLB staff.

One great unique thing to 'The Pete' (after the boiled peanuts) is the "Right-Field-Roost." The stadium itself is a good story lower than the ground surrounding it and the land outside right field in particular is level to the outfield fence, so for a price you can get a parking spot on right field and tailgate during the games!

I CAN Handle the Truth!

A-Rod, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Apparently not.

I understand that you took what was supposed to be an anonymous drug test. I understand the surprise and disappointment you must have experienced when you found out that your name had been leaked. I can even understand the position you were put in and how difficult it must be to deal with this situation.

What I don't understand is this half-butt apology and "explanation." You took steroids. It was made public that you took steroids. You did the right thing by coming out and addressing the fact that you took steroids and apologized. But...taking steroids hasn't been your biggest mistake in all of this. I'm sure many fans had already expected that you might not exactly be clean. That can probably be said for many top players in this so-called "steroid era." You're not alone, but you had an opportunity to be unique. There have been a few players that have admitted to steroid use, but immediately followed with an excuse or a statement of ignorance.

The damage has already been done. You're going to be a "steroid user" for the rest of your career, your life, and long after. The bigger mistake here is that you told half-truths, omitted truths and possible down-right lies. We know, you were "young and stupid" and you "wish you would've went to college." I can't speak for everyone, but I knew that illegal drugs and cheating were wrong long before college. That excuse is tired and pathetic. Just tell the damn truth, already. As much as I dislike you it would've been refreshing to hear you say you knew what you were doing when you took steroids. You were weak (minded) and you made a mistake. You're not the only person in the world who's made a regrettable decision to get ahead. I don't agree with what you did, but I can respect the fact that this business is tough and you've got to keep up with your competition to be successful. I respected the fact that you faced the situation head on and you wasted no time putting your face in front of the camera. What I don't respect is your story changing every nine days.

You took steroids for three years but didn't know exactly what it was you were taking? You got them from GNC? For possibly 5 years now you had no idea what you were putting in your body, but all of a sudden you did a little research and you know exactly what they are now? Oh, and by "over the counter" do you mean "my cousin smuggling in drugs from the Dominican Republic." Alex, the American people aren't this stupid or naive. Well, apparently, they're not as stupid and naive as you are. You screwed up...twice. You're not getting a third strike.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Danica, Lebron, Pastrana, Big Brown & Tiger Woods Considered for Furious Wedge Tiddlywinks Team

The Furious Wedge would like to announce plans on attempting to start a team for competition in the International Tiddlywinks League. The team, whose mascot will be a giant pissed off slice of pizza named Fury-o-Wedge, intends to enter into ITL competition starting in the Spring of 2009.

Team co-owner Ron Furious stated: "The Furious Wedge has dreamed of entering the league for a long time, but we wanted to make sure that we did it right. Our new team is now ready from a resource standpoint with roughly 50-60 million little pieces of plastic tiddlywinks to expend in competition. We are in the process of locking up some of the best plastic engineers and aerodynamic experts to give us top of the line equipment for competition."

As far as the starting tiddlywinker lineup, 2nd team co-owner SandWedge divulged: "We haven't actually talked to any of them to even gauge their interest but we'd love to be able to get Danica Patrick, Lebron James, Travis Pastrana, Ben Rothlisburger, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods & Big Brown to be the starting Fur-o-Wedge lineup."

Wedge continued: "Now we haven't actually talked to the first six athletes I mentioned, and the last one is a horse; but those kind of details don't seem like the kind of things to stop ESPN from plastering speculation as a story headline as if it is actually happening, and then other news outlets following suit; so we'll take the free PR from ESPN, we know they're good for it."

Like you, I was most surprised I was able to find a picture of angry pizza, the wonders of the internet...

Monday, February 16, 2009

2009 MLB Preview: Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins

IF (3.5/5) - Castilla, Punto, and Buscher hit well enough, if not for a lot of power. Harris will get at-bats too. With Mauer coming off of kidney surgery, Morneau and Kubel will be expected to lead the ofense early and Redmond will be getting more playing time.

OF (3.5/5) - Could be a pretty good OF, especially if Young increases his power. But it loks like Span may take his job.

SP (3.5/5) - Slowey pitched well last year. Baker is impressive and appears to be getting better. If Liriano returns to form and Perkins and Blackburn are more consistent, this is a good rotation. But is that too many ifs?

RP (2.5/5) - After Nathan, there are questions. While Guerrier was pretty bad down the stretch, on the way to more than doubling his 2007 ERA, Mijares was great during this time. Besides Crain, they'll need a few others to step up. Can Bonser help here?

Wildcards: Young, Bonser, Redmond,

Can they beat the Brewers? Yes.

[Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on your team. I think it's fun to do this stuff before a season starts and then see how close (or how far off) I was. If you spend time from your day insulting us, telling others to insult us, or posting in a blog or messageboard about how wrong our opinions are, then we are flattered!]

Should Kansas City (or anyone else) sign Michael Vick?

Sounds like Michael Vick could be free in July. Which means someone is going to give him a shot, assuming the league reinstates him. But should they?

First of all, they'll have to reinstate him. If they try not to, Vick's lawyers should only need to utter one word: Pacman. They've given a gun-toting criminal chance after chance, setting a really bad precedent.

Either way, being eligible to play doesn't guarantee you'll be signed. Ask Barry Bonds! But knowing football's past, I'd bet someone will do it. I wish they wouldn't. How humbling would it be for Vick to have to seek employment in the CFL or Arena League? But that's not going to happen.

So who will sign him? Kansas City? Detroit? I guess it's easy for me to say no one should take a chance on him, as my team sits pretty with Drew Brees. But if I were a Detroit fan, would I feel differently?

Statistics tell me maybe not. The fact that Matt Ryan posted a higher QB rating last year than Vick ever has must have felt great for Falcons fans and should be a sign to these teams to think draft first. Then again, the Lions probably did not make a ton of good decisions leading up to an 0-16 season. So maybe they will take a chance on a dog-fighting QB! If they need help with defense, I know a DB looking for work as well...