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When Does Spring Training Start?

December 12, 2008 - John Whittaker
Editor's Note: The picks will be updated Saturday, around 2 p.m. The Whitless Wonder is taking Friday off, and not all the picks were here when he picked up his paycheck and posted the blog Friday.
By the time early October rolled around, the New York Yankees and I needed a break from each other.
After six months of broken promises, underperformance and disappointments, it was time. The team had probably had enough of my incessant nagging.
We were Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston in The Break-Up or Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses -- some time apart was a good thing.
We were one more six-run third inning or bases-loaded strikeout from me throwing a vase at Joe Girardi, or an all-night stripper party.
Then, the Yankees went and signed CC Sabathia and everything changed.
Let's get back together, baby! I miss you! I apologize - for whatever I did! I'm sorry. It won't happen again. You were right and I was wrong.
Do you want to know how excited looking ahead to the 2009 baseball season has me right now? The following things aren't driving my crazy:
1. Matt Cassel might not be able to play Sunday against Oakland, leaving the Patriots playoff fate in the hands of Kevin O'Connell, who I think is a weatherman for Channel 2 in Buffalo.
2. Eric Devendorf could be suspended for the rest of the Syracuse Orange season, possibly blowing up a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, because he was on probation last spring and still thought it would be fine to smack a fellow student in the face after a traffic incident a few weeks ago.
3. The Sabres' offense needs Viagra. The Sabres have the league's leading goal scorer (Thomas Vanek) and still spend entire games looking way too much like someone turned up the difficulty without telling them.
I still have what's left of my hair - and we have the Yankees to thank for it.
That, in and of itself, is newsworthy.
Here's something else that might stop the presses -- I'm going to disagree with myself.
Remember a few months back, when a certain Whitless Wonder said he was enjoying rooting for the underdog? I think there was something about enjoying watching Darrell Rasner, Brett Gardner and a group of unknowns?
Um, yeah, I was wrong. The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot and should be listened to under no circumstances (picture the News Gal nodding, slowly. Now you know what you're in for, baby!).
I'm looking forward to watching CC throw his 96 mile an hour darts for a season, with Chien-Ming Wang's sinking fastball and Joba Chamberlain's nastiness as the second and third starters. Phil Hughes can finally just learn in the fifth spot, provided the Yanks bring back Andy Pettitte.
How is this not the best starting five in the American League? The inner warmth that thought brings to the coccles of my heart makes me think back to a chilly April day in Cleveland with the News Gal watching Wang battle Sabathia in a game that, in early April, was billed as a test for two teams expected to vie for their respective division titles. It didn't turn out exactly that way, as we all know now.
One moment in particular stands out for me -- I hated Sabathia for it then, but can't wait for it to happen now.
Late in the game, trailing 1-0 after a Melky Cabrera homer, Sabathia had put a couple of men on base and had Alex Rodriguez at the plate. The hefty lefty stepped off the mound for a second, then unleashed a series of fastballs and sliders that had A-Rod swinging at air. After the strikeout, CC starts walking off the mound screaming at A-Rod and the Yankees, excited at striking out the $250 million man and, I'll bet, trying to pump up his offense, too.
It ticked me off then. When people started saying Joba was showing people up later that season, I thought about CC's free pass and it ticked me off again.
Now, I love the idea of having a number one starter with CC's fire and desire to win. I love pairing him with Joba. I love not wondering who's going to start a big game. I love thinking about my bid for CC in my fantasy baseball season (it could be $50, easily).
I'm ready for baseball season.
Before we get to baseball, though, there is that little matter of FOOTBALL!
It's a three-game sprint to the wire to see who represents the AFC East in the playoffs. With the Jets and Dolphins playing each other once in the next three weeks, the Pats fate is in their hands. The Dolphins are a great story and all, but who do you really trust in this situation, Bill Belichick, Eric Mangini or Tony Sparano.
That's what I thought.
With three weeks left in the regular season, and staring down a six game deficit in the Race for the Fat Guy Trophy, the Whitless Wonder needs to really step it up this week. No pressure, baby!
On to the picks:
Tampa Bay at Atlanta: I hate you, Tampa Bay. Seriously, go to your room and think about what you did. How, in the name of little green apples, does a defense with Derrick Brooks get burned for 300 rushing yards and not be able to stop the run when everybody and their mother knew Carolina was running the ball in the fourth quarter on Monday night? Explain it to me! Thanks for costing me a game in the Fat Guy Trophy, you finks. Just for that, I'm taking Matt Ryan in a rebound game on Sunday. For shafting me in my contest, you don't deserve to make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore: Try as I might, I just can't wrap my mind around any way Baltimore wins this game. Shockingly, it's not Joe Flacco that I'm worried about here. I don't trust Willis McGahee to be able to provide a ground game against the Steelers, and I think Mike Tomlin will have Pittsburgh ready to play. On the plus side, another loss could knock Baltimore out of the race for a Wild Card spot.
Teddy's Take: Can you say a lot of Defense and a lot of FG
Denver at Carolina: Both of these teams need Ritalin to level themselves out. Denver looks great against the Jets one week and then struggles mightily against the Chiefs. Carolina, meanwhile, might be the worst 9-win team I've seen in my life. One week, these teams are world-beaters, and another week they're the eighth-graders playing against the varsity. I like Carolina, but only because they're at home.
Washington at Cincinnati: I'll give Simon Teska $10 if he takes Cincinnati and they win. Want to take the bait Simon? When I make a joke like that, is it necessary for me to then say that I'm taking Washington, or is it just understood that I'm picking the Redskins? Someone needs to clear that up for me.
Teddy's Take: This could be the worst game of the year!!!
Tennessee at Houston: I don't like the way the Titans are playing right now. They're struggling to run the ball against decent teams, Kerry Collins is throwing interceptions (three in his last four games, and one of those was against Detroit) and something just doesn't seem right about their defense. Collins isn't costing them games yet, but his stat lines have changed from when Tennessee was really rolling. It's funny that when they were blowing teams up every week, all the analysts were talking about how ripe they were to get knocked off. Now that they're struggling, nobody picks against them. Except the Whitless Wonder, who's taking Houston in this game this weekend.
Detroit at Indianapolis: Here's the formula for a joke about this game: Bailout + Lions = Joke. I can't think of anything. This game sucks out loud.
Teddy's Take: Sorry Detroit, you are about to tie the record of those (1970s) Bucs!!! Keep up the good work.  Maybe this year in the draft, with the number one pick, try not picking a Wide Receiver!!
Green Bay at Jacksonville: Speaking of sucks out loud, and right on cue, are the Packers and Jaguars. I like Green Bay, on the road, which is more of a statement about my faith in the Jags than it is my faith in the Packers. (Cue up the Madden voice) If you went into the dictionary and looked up mediocre football teams, BOOM, you'd see Green Bay. Then, you'd read further and WHAM, there's Jacksonville, with a picture of David Garrard. When you lose more than you win, and you don't play up to your pre-season press clippings, you're not a very good team. Thanks John - you really cleared that up for all of us at home.
San Diego at Kansas City: I like the spunk Kansas City has showed in the last few weeks. Herm's got the Chiefs playing just well enough not to lose his job. They'll play just well enough to lose by 10 points to the ààdisappointing' Chargers, whose stock has as much value as General Motors. This game will be uglier than Sarah Jessica Parker.
Teddy's Take: All I can say here is this might be the shootout game my Fantasy team needs!
San Francisco at Miami: Dear Mike Singletary, Thank you for beating the Jets last week. You'll be getting a fruit basket from the Greater New England area after the season. Any chance of working up a way to beat the Dolphins this weekend? Sincerely, the Whitless Wonder.
How, by the way, have the 49ers not taken the interim tag off Singletary's door? Bill Walsh must be rolling over in his grave at the way the York family is handling this team right now. Since the Pantsless One took over, the 49ers are 3-3, almost beat the division-leading Cardinals (I just choked a little as I typed that) and have discovered an offensive gameplan that actually puts points up on the board. The defense is hitting people in the mouth like Eric Devendorf. Singletary needs to be the 49ers coach next year.
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets: Alright, Buffalo, you've got the Whitless Wonder in your corner this week, and I think it'll be just enough to get the Bills over the hump against the Jets. To be honest, the Bills had chances to beat the Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium a few weeks ago, and maybe Dick Jauron will have something in his gamepla…. Never mind. The Bills are losing this game by at least 10 points. They've put a stamp on this season.
Seattle at St. Louis: Let's see how many jokes I can come up with in 1 minute about this game. Ready … set …. GO! Welcome back to Suck Bowl III! … I'd rather be standing in an unemployment line than watching this game … Seattle-St. Louis is going to be blacked out on the NFL Sunday Ticket. … These teams are getting ready for their bowl games … Maybe Jim Haslett and Mike Holmgren need to take their pants off in their halftime speeches … At least baseball season is right around the corner … Welcome to NFL football, sort of … AND … TIME! I'm taking the Seahawks. I can't explain why.
Teddy's Take: Read Washington/Cincinnati.
Minnesota at Arizona: Marv Levy used to say that, to win games in the NFL, you have to run the ball and stop the run. By the Marv Levy Corrolary, then, Arizona gets killed this weekend. With the not-yet-suspended Williams' brothers still playing, there's no way the Edgerrin James-J.J. Arrington-Tim Hightower monster runs for more than 30 yards this weekend. And, there's no way the Cardinals stop Adrian Peterson from going for 150 yards and two scores. The Vikes could start Sean Salisbury at quarterback and still win.
New England at Oakland: The Patriots aren't making anything easy this season, and this game won't be any different -- especially starting two linebackers who hadn't played all season before last week, and with the status of Tedy Bruschi and Ty Warren shaky for this weekend. Matt Cassel will have to put the Pats on his shoulders - and I think he will.
Teddy's Take: Whit, for your sake, I hope the Pwin here, because if not, you might be sitting at my house watching Tampa in the playoffs!
N.Y. Giants at Dallas: This is a must-win game for Dallas, but I'm not getting sucked in. Last week cured me of my ààI can't pick against Dallas' phase. As much as the Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce situations create a distraction for the Giants, Dallas has been a walking distraction all season, and Jessica Simpson hasn't even made an appearance. Tony Romo has been spotty, Jason Witten's running the wrong routes, Marion Barber's toughness is being questioned, and Terrell Owens is about one more bad throw away from a three-state killing spree. All of a sudden, the Plax-Pierce situation doesn't look that bad.
Cleveland at Philadelphia: I'm just waiting for this game to be moved to ESPN 2 in favor of a TCU-Santa Clara college basketball game. Wow, does this game suck. The Browns should be seriously thinking about bringing Bernie Kosar back to play quarterback for the rest of the season. At least it'd give people a reason to watch. And, speaking of life imitating art, it's not a long stretch to imagine a lump of poop on the field during a Browns game. Not even Andy Reid's clock management skills can blow this game, and that's saying something. I really hope there are new episode of How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men this Monday. The general public should not be subjected to crap of this magnitude.

 
 

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