Urban Meyer has drawn the ire of fans around the SEC (well not in Tuscaloosa) by suggesting that the SEC may just be a two-team league.

He’s right.

Memo to the SEC fans raising a stink about Urban’s suggestion that they’re Pips to the Gators and Tide’s Gladys Knight: Win a National Championship and then get back to me.

What two teams have three of the last four National Championships? Florida and Alabama.

Who recruited all the players that made up LSU’s national title winning team in 2007-2008? Nick Saban.

Where does that guy currently coach? Alabama

Who has been to the SEC title game more times than any other team from the East combined? Florida.

What two teams played for the conference title the past two years? Florida and Alabama.

Yes, LSU is only two years removed from a championship. But, that title was done with Saban’s players and the help of some major BCS upsets that allowed a two-loss team to play for a championship in the first place.

Georgia might be well positioned to make a run at the East this year, but the Dawgs haven’t beaten Florida on a consistent basis since before I was born. Sorry Dawg fans… but you’re not in the top tier of the SEC.

 I won’t waste my time explaining to fans of Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississppi State, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt why they don’t belong in the same breath as Florida and Alabama.

The SEC is a two-team league. Get used to it.

2nd Half Predictions

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

Major League Baseball resumes tonight. With that in mind, lets take a look at my predictions for the second half. I strongly recommend you don’t contact your bookie with these picks.

NL East – Atlanta Braves
Once the Phillies get healthy, they’ll make a chase at the Braves for first-place in the NL East. I think the Phillies are the better team. BUT, I think Atlanta is good enough to hold them off down the stretch. The returns of Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward will provide a boost and the Braves still have enough talent in the farm system to go after someone at the trade deadline.

NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals
While the Reds have been impressive, I’ve got doubts about what Ednison Volquez has in the tank, how Mike Leake will hold up, and whether they can sustain this success down the stretch. Ultimately, the Cards are a veteren laden team with the better pitching staff.

NL West – San Francisco Giants
The Giants are four games back of the Padres as we start up the second half of the year. I like the pitching staff way to much to give up on this squad. They’ve also got the ability to deal for a bat at the trade deadline.

Wildcard – Philadelphia Phillies
Once this team is fully healthy, they’re the best in the National League. I’ve got major questions about that bullpen and I don’t think they’ve got the resources down in the minors to pull off another big trade.

AL East – New York Yankees
The Yankees are just a better team than their competitors in the AL East.

AL Central – Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer hasn’t had the first half many expected him to, but he’s capable of turning it around in a big way and guiding Minnesota back to the playoffs. This was a cardiac team last year, taking Detroit to a one-game playoff, I think they can run down the White Sox.

AL West – Texas Rangers
The Angels could still make a play at this division, but the addition of Cliff Lee to the Ranger rotation really helps Texas shore up what has been a weak spot for years now.

Wildcard – Tampa Bay Rays
Boston has some injury issues to sort out. Meanwhile, Tampa’s rotation continues to improve and their line-up is just nasty top to bottom.

NL MVP – Albert Pujols (St. Louis)
AL MVP – Justin Morneau (Minnesota)
NL Cy Young – Roy Halladay (Philadelphia)
AL Cy Young – Cliff Lee (Texas)
NL Rookie of the Year – Jason Heyward (Atlanta)
AL Rookie of the Year – Brennan Boesch (Detroit)

Revisiting yesterday’s trade

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Braves, MLB

Now that I’ve had a chance to sleep on yesterday’s trade of Yunel Escobar to the Toronto Blue Jays, I’m still not sold on the idea.

I like that Alex Gonzalez provides 17 home runs and a .497 slugging % compared to Yunel’s 0 homers and anemic .284 SLG.

HOWEVER, I think Gonzo is playing well over his head for the first half and he’ll regress back towards his career averages as the second half wears on (.248 AVG, .402 SLG, .294 OBP). What’s worse is that his slugging percentage is lower (.393) in the 10 seasons he’s played in the National League.

Yunel hasn’t been producing power in bunches, but he’s been getting on base at .334 clip and has 37 walks and 31 strike outs compared to Gonzalez’ 17 bases on balls and 65 Ks.

Gonzalez is posting a big WAR rate this season, 2.7 at the All-Star Break. But, he’s never posted a WAR above 2.0 in his entire career to this point. If he were just coming into his prime, I’d be glowing about his potential. Gonzalez is 33 years old, this season isn’t growth, its an outlier.

Meanwhile, Yunel posted WARs of 2.9 in each of his first two seasons and exploded with a 5.5 last year. He’s never had a season in which he wasn’t considered a top-line shortstop.

I understand that Yunel was not well liked by Bobby Cox and the rest of the Braves clubhouse. I understand that the Braves are placing their focus on making the playoffs in 2010. But, there’s always going to be the lingering concern that Yunel taps into that potential.

Yunel nearly carried the Braves by himself down the stretch last season. If he finally finds his swing, he would have been much more valuable down the stretch than Gonzalez will ever be.

The Braves swapped a player that can only go up for one that is surely to come down.

I hope Yunel enjoys Canadian girls

A couple days ago, I tried to dispell rumors that the Braves were looking to shop Yunel Escobar. Turns out I was wrong, the shortstop (and JoJo Reyes) were sent to Toronto for Alex Gonzalez and a handful of minor leaguers.

This was a stupid trade.

Toronto gets one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball for three years of club control without giving up all that much. Sure, Yunel is known as a head case, but he’s also known for having an incredibly high ceiling and boatloads of talent. His power numbers haven’t been there this year (0 home runs), but he’s shown the ability to put the ball into the seats and he’s got the ability to hit for a decent average.

The trade no doubt signals Escobar as one of the biggest busts in Atlanta sports history. He was once regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball, but his style of play clashed with Bobby Cox and many of those in the Braves front office.

On the other hand, people are already praising Gonzalez as an experienced player with a professional demeanor. From a clubhouse angle, the Braves have to feel good about his presence. I’m not totally sure how he’ll function in this lineup, but he’s an improvement over what the Braves were currently getting out of Escobar.

I’m concerned about Gonzalez’ ability to get on base. First base is a foreign concept to Gonzalez. He’s got an abysmal .261 BB/K ratio. But he’s hitting a .259 which is an improvement over Yunel’s .238. His 17 home runs are a nice addition as well. Still, this offense has been predicated on seeing a lot of pitches, wearing guys down, and getting on base… three things Gonzalez hasn’t really been adept at doing. Say what you will about Yunel’s lack of power, his 37 walks indicate he saw a lot of pitches and worked a lot of counts.

The other concern for me: the future. This was very much a “right now”  move by Frank Wren and the front office. Gonzalez will help them in the short term and will be under team control for next season as well. However, with an aging Chipper Jones at third and a guy at short stop that isn’t a spring chicken, the Braves may need to replace that entire half of the infield within the next two years and there aren’t a lot of internal candidates to do it.

George Steinbrenner: 1930-2010

Posted: July 13, 2010 in MLB

Long-time owner of the New York Yankees George Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 80 today, the result of a heart attack.

I was never a Yankees fan, but Steinbrenner was one of those characters that just made the game of baseball so much more enjoyable. He’ll be missed and my thoughts go out to his family and the Yankee organization.

NL East Revisited

Posted: July 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

Nobody has surprised more people than Martin Prado

Before the season got underway, I made some bold predictions over at WUOG about how the National League would shake out. Now that we’re at the All-Star Break, lets take a look at just how right (or wrong) I was.

We’ll start with the NL East. You can go back and re-visit my earlier prognosis here.

What I got right:
1. The Atlanta Braves –
I picked the Braves to finish second in the division and capture the Wild Card. So far they’ve exceeded that expectation. At the break, the Braves have a 4 game lead on the second-place Mets and own the best record in the National League. I am not totally confident that they can keep up this torrid pace, but I do think that .500 ball in the second half will get them into the playoffs… which is what I predicted.

2. Roy Halladay – Doc has delivered on my prediction of being the best pitcher in the NL East. He’s currently working on a career-best K/BB ratio of 6.74. Halladay is positioning himself well for a run at the NL Cy Young award.

3. Raul Ibanez – I told Phillies fans to be weary of Ibanez returning to Earth after a career year in ’09. Ibanez hasn’t totally hit the tank, but his struggles have been magnified by the fact that producers like Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins have all missed considerable time for the Phillies.

What I got wrong:
1. The New York Mets –
I had the Amazin’s penciled in to finish fourth in the division. They currently sit in second place. That’s not to say there isn’t a dropoff in their future, but they’ll be returning Carlos Beltran after the break and they’ll have to find a way to squeeze him in alongside the surprisingly productive Angel Pagan. I still worry about the rotation  behind Santana and Pelfrey.

2. Yunel Escobar – The only surprising thing about my pre-season “surprise performer” has been how surprisingly bad he’s been. The glove is there. The arm is there. The bat is not. Escobar heads into the break with 19 RBI, a .238 AVG, .334 OB%, and a .284 SLG%. Worst of all, 0 home runs.

3. Jayson Werth – My division MVP has been good, but not great, for Philadelphia. With all the injuries that the Phillies have had, you’d like to think that he’d step up more.

Mid-season awards: MVP – Martin Prado, RoY – Johnny Venters, Cy Young – Roy Halladay, Surprise: Martin Prado, Disappointment: Yunel Escobar

How the second half will play out: Philly finally gets healthy and gives the Braves a battle down the stretch. Atlanta holds on to win the division, while Philadelphia grabs the wild-card spot. The Mets take a late-season nose-dive while the Marlins hold their own and give the division fits over the final months. The Nationals continue to trudge along in last place.

Order of finish: 1. Atlanta, 2. Philadelphia (WC), 3. New York, 4. Florida, 5. Washington
Division MVP: Martin Prado
Division RoY: Jason Heyward
Division Cy Young: Roy Halladay
Division Surprise: Martin Prado
Division Disappointment: Carlos Beltran

LeDouche

Posted: July 9, 2010 in NBA

LeBron James found a new team to quit on come playoff time

We often complain that professional athletes care more about money than winning. Last night, one of the world’s best athletes chose winning over money and he’s being lambasted for it.

Over the course of what amounted to be a televised kick to the groin of Cleveland, we saw LeBron James evolve from a widely admired superstar into the NBA’s biggest villain.

His jerseys were burned in parking lots, his name was cursed throughout Northeastern Ohio. Meanwhile, fair-weather fans in Miami celebrated like Christmastime come early.

Deep down, everyone wanted him to return to Cleveland, the city that can never catch a break.

He could have been forgiven for heading to Chicago. After all, he grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and those great Bulls teams of the ’90s. Some would have applauded his decision to rescue the Knicks and revive professional basketball in a city that loves the game.

He chose South Beach. Instead of being a king, he chose to be a prince. Miami is Dwayne Wade’s team. Always will be. No matter how many titles LeBron James wins with the Heat, he’ll always be the guy that wasn’t good enough to win one on his own.