a. No Georgia thoughts as it was a mostly quiet week in Athens. I am interested in the taxi cab story which we will get more details later today.
b. Their was one news item in that Montez Robinson a defensive end, was arrested again Saturday night for simple battery. It's his third arrest, and he's now longer with the team. I'm all for second chances, but not third chances.
c. There was a big trade last night and it will totally change the NFL schedule which was scheduled to be released in the next few weeks. With McNabb going down I-95 to become a Redskin makes the NFC East that much more interesting and Redskins-Eagles games this Fall just became primetime match-ups.
d. When Mike Shanahan became John Elway's head coach, Elway was 34 with rep for not winning big one. McNabb is 33 with same reputation.
e. Furthermore, Eagles stay true to philosophy... they don't like to commit big money to over-30 players.
f. I have also heard the Eagles wanted to do right by McNabb enough so that they agreed to trade him in the division rather than to the Oakland Raiders.
g. With Larry Johnson, Willie Parker & McNabb, Redskins are clear favorites to win 2006 NFC East. The only problem is that it is 2010 but who knows?
2. Final Four Thoughts
a. After Eagles and Tigers, Bulldogs is 3rd most popular college nickname. But no Bulldogs have ever won NCAA basketball title.
b. By going to the title game, Butler has made $6.6M for Horizon league -- paid over next 6 years.
c. Last year, Duke spent $394,068 per PLAYER. Butler spent $347,108 on player expenses for the ENTIRE TEAM.
d. With the above stat how many preachers in Indiana changed their Easter message to a David versus Goliath sermon?
e. Butler was the fourth team in NCAA tournament history to hold its first five opponents under 60 points.
f. The other three include Nova in 1985 who won the National Championship. Georgetown in 1985 who lost to Nova in the championship game and Virginia who lost in the final four in 1984.
g. One thing that surprised me in the Butler-Michigan State game was the ability of the Butler Bulldogs to force turnovers and convert them into points. Butler won the turnover battle 16-8 and outscored Michigan State 20-2 off of turnovers. One way Butler capitalized on Michigan State's turnovers was by getting out in transition -- 12 of Butler's 15 transition points came off of turnovers.
h. It was a bad night for West Virginia's defense to let them down against the Dukies.
i. Going into the game Saturday night West Virginia had allowed on average 57.8 points and 33.8% field goal percentage. In the first four games opponents had made only 17 three pointers while holding opponents to 20.5 shooting % from long range.
j. This was not the case Saturday night as the Dukies had no problems shooting in the bigger stadium. They scored 78 points while shooting 52.7%. They also made 13 threes while shooting 52% from long range. Even more impressive the Blue Devils only turned the ball over 6 times.
k. One has to give a lot of credit to Duke who probably played their best game of the year on Saturday night.
l. I still do not like them and have pretty much became resigned to the fact that they will win the National Championship this year. By the way they have probably had the easiest run to the tittle than any other team in history.
m. I got a lot of comments on me not liking Duke and how I should respect how they win with all these white boys, etc. I do not care what color the Duke players are, all I know is that they all have been apart of top ranked recruiting classes for the last 5-10 years. Shouldn't they have success?
3. Title Game Preview
A game that will be billed as a David vs Goliath match-up that is actually a David vs. Goliath match-up. Saturday night Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith combined for 63 points, 17 assists, 12 rebounds and 12-of-23 from behind the arc. They scored 63 of the Duke’s 78 points, which wassix more than West Virginia’s entire team. So, yeah, you could say that stopping Duke's trio is pretty important. Good news here, actually: Butler has the players to do just that. Ronald Nored, Shelvin Mack and Shawn Vanzant have shut down elite guard combos in this tournament before. Butler's Gordon Hayward is as close to a perfect matchup with Singler as any player in the country. And if you can harass Scheyer and Smith into passing up shots and keep Singler from blowing up too much, you force Duke's periphery guys to beat you. That proposition looks far less daunting.
Also intriguing is when Butler has the ball and Duke has to stop Gordon Hayward. Kyle Singler is the best bet to draw the assignment and that should be a brilliant little one-on-one battle. Whoever guards Hayward, you can expect Coach K's strategy to involve a lot of help defense, plenty of double-teams, and an ethos of harassment unlike anything Hayward has seen this season. It will be fascinating to watch this play out.
The third area to watch in this game is rebounding and Duke has morphed into a vicious offensive rebounding squad, currently the sixth-best offensive rebounding percentage team in the country. Butler, meanwhile, held Michigan State -- a top-10 offensive rebounding percentage team itself, remember -- to six offensive rebounds in its win Saturday night. The Blue Devils won't face much pressure on their own glass; Butler is more than happy retreating from the offensive glass and setting up its half-court defense as soon as possible. But at Butler's end, the outcome could be decided by how well the Bulldogs can keep a much bigger, stronger Duke team off the offensive glass. No one's managed to do it yet. Hopefully the Bulldogs can and this will start a trend of Bulldogs winning national championships.
4. Baseball Thoughts
a. I have no idea how this will relate to the regular season but Orioles spring training attendance increased by 39 percent this year. That's more than any other team in MLB.
b. Tommy Hanson is one of only 3 pitchers this decade to make 20+ starts with ERA of less than 3.00 in his first year. Roy Oswalt and Brandon Webb are the other two.
c. Jon Lester (42-16), John Danks (31-33), and Brian Bannister (30-38) each has made 91 career starts.
d. In Jeff Francoeur’s 706 games, he’s drawn only 138 walks. Then again, in 707 games, Terry Francona drew only 65 walks.
e. Everyone thinks of Nick Johnson and JD Drew as the two most injury prone position players in MLB. Since 2002, Nick Johnson has stayed healthy enough to play just 747 games; even J.D. Drew has played in 984.
f. By the way there were 1296 regular season games over that time period.
g. How big of an influence was Manny Ramirez on David Ortiz? During the three year period from 2005-2007 Ortiz hit .306 and had an OPS of 1.038. In 2008 and 2009 he hit .250 with an OPS of .830.
h. The Red Sox also have been recognized for improving their team defensively this winter. However, their decision to choose Victor Martinez as their everyday catcher. V-Mart threw out 11% of the runners attempting to steal (overall the Sox allowed 151 stolen bases more than any other team and caught only 13% fewer than any other team) and Sox pitchers had an ERA of 5.22 when he was behind the plate, over three-quarters of a run higher than the league average.
i. I would be amiss not to thank Bill Chuck and his Billy Ball website for the stats from letters C-H.
j. 27 games were lost by Braves relievers last year, the most of any National League team with a winning record and the main reason for the offseason overhaul of the bullpen. How good can this pen be with Wagner, Saito, Moylan, O'Flaherty and the Proctologist (Scott Proctor) when he returns near the end of April.
k. The Marlins have two players on their roster born before 1980. They are Wes Helms and Brian Sanches.
l. I think it is awesome that Yankee manager Joe Girardi has changed his jersey number from 27 to 28 as the Yankees are going for World Series number 28 this season.
m. Rivera, Jeter and Posada first set of 'mates in MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL history to play together 16 straight seasons. Wow!
n. I found this stat out this week about Babe Ruth and I was very disappointed in myself that I did know now it previously; Babe Ruth has led the league in both ERA and Home Runs.
o. How about these ERA numbers for Braves pitchers this spring. Tum Hudson (1.50) Tommy Hanson (2.45), Kenshin Kawakami (2.92), Jair Jurrjens (3.21) and Derek Lowe (4.50).
p. Another stat that is hard to believe is the Braves will be starting their 11 different Opening Day first basemen in their last 12 seasons. Here are the 11:
1999: Ryan Klesko
2000: Andres Galarraga
2001: Rico Brogna
2002: B.J. Surhoff
2003: Robert Fick
2004: Julio Franco
2005: Adam LaRoche
2006: Adam LaRoche
2007: Scott Thorman
2008: Mark Teixeira
2009: Casey Kotchman
2010: Troy Glaus
q. Opening Day HRs by a Yankee: Babe Ruth 5, Yogi Berra 4, Jorge Posada 4. It is amazing how Posada keeps ending up on these list with other great Yankees.
r. Is it me or do these Yankees/Red Sox game last way to long?
s. It is nice a guy from Brooklyn shows up in Boston wearing a Red Sox hat between the top and bottom half of the 8th inning to sing a song to the Boston faithful. It kind of reminds me of the Good Doctor who is from Columbus, Ga (born and bred) showing up at Turner Field wearing a Red Sox hat....nice real nice.
t. With that being said I actually enjoy the playing of Sweet Caroline when I have been in attendance and absolutely love the Dropkick Murphy's Shipping Up To Boston when Papelbon enters the game.
5. I predict the Divisions
East Central West
1. Atlanta Braves 94-68 1. STL Cardinals 88-74 1. Colorado Rockies 87-75
2. Philadelphia Phillies 92-70 2. Milwaukee Brewers 87-75 2. LA Dodgers 85-77
3. Florida Marlins 86-76 3. Chicago Cubs 84-78 3. San Francisco Giants 82-80
4. New York Mets 76-86 4. Cincinnati Reds 81-81 4. Arizona Diamondbacks 81-81
5. Washington Nationals 69-93 5. Houston Astros 70-92 5. San Diego Padres 71-91
East Central West
1. N.Y. Yankees 99-63 1.Minnesota Twins 88-74 1.Seattle Mariners 86-76
2. Tampa Bay Rays 95-67 2.Chicago White Sox 85-77 2. LA Angels 84-78
3. Boston Red Sox 92-70 3.Detroit Tigers 84-78 3. Texas Rangers 81-81
4. Baltimore Orioles 75-87 4.Cleveland Indians 76-84 4. Oakland A's 74-88
5. Toronto Blue Jays 70-92 5. KC Royals 72-90
NL Division Series Atlanta over Colorado, Philadelphia over St. Louis
AL Division Series: Tampa over Minnesota, New York over Seattle
NL Champs: Atlanta Braves over Phillies
AL Champs: Tampa over New York Yankees
World Series: Braves over Rays in the I-75 World Series
(How about that East Coast bias...not good)
This weeks clip that Smoak and myself used to jam to as we cruised the streets of Sylvania is Peaches by Presidents of the United States of America. Awesome. Last week winner was my law school buddy Dan who knew immediately that Wisconsin made the final four in 2000. The other team reader who knew Wisconsin is world traveler and pharmacist Ben (whose wife happens to know a thing or two about hoops). Ben knew the answer because he had Wisconsin losing in the first round and they went to the final four. This weeks trivia question is: When Henry Aaron hit #715 who was on deck for the Braves?
6. My Thoughts
a. All winter I have loved what the Mariners have done, they can get by without Cliff Lee for a couple weeks, not much longer.
b. The toughest division to predict is going to be the AL Central. Any of these three teams could win and I would not be shocked: Tigers, White Sox, and Twins.
c. The new ballpark in Minnesota is going to be newsworthy all season. For one why would baseball agree for an outdoor stadium to be built in Minnesota. It looks this will be a nice April weather wise but one year it is going to be disaster. Also, how miserable is a World Series going to be outdoors in the Twin Cities in late October/early November. By the way July is Minneapolis will be perfect weather wise.
d. The second question concerning the Twins new stadium is how the loss of the biggest home field advantage in baseball going to affect the Twins and their opponents. Do not forget the Twins have won two world series (87 and 91) and in those World Series they did not win a road game.
e. The Arizona Diamondbacks might be the most difficult team to predict in all of baseball. I could easily see them winning and losing 90 games. I decided to play it safe with 81-81.
f. Why did the Giants not make a bigger run at Jason Bay or Matt Holiday?
g. Why did the Dodgers not make a bigger run at a front line starting pitcher?
h. Everyone says the Braves must stay healthy to have a chance...I say every team must stay healthy to have a chance in 2010.
i. Last year the Braves won 86 games, if we can win more game a month that would give us 92. I can easily think of a game a month that we kicked away last season. Change a few more of those and things will really be fun this season.
j. The second toughest division to predict is the AL East. These three teams might be the three best teams in all of baseball and they all play in the same division. The poor Orioles who might be really improved with lots of young talent are fighting an uphill battle.
k. The team I might have undervalued is the Washington Nationals. Depending on when Strasberg arrives this team might be able to make a run at .500.
7. More Predictions
NL MVP - Troy Tulowitzki
NL Cy Young - Josh Johnson (The Marlins pitcher, not my brother)
NL Rookie of The Year - Jason Heyward
NL Comeback Player of the Year - Troy Glaus
NL Manager of the Year - Bobby Cox
AL MVP - Evan Longoria
AL Cy Young - Felix Hernandez
AL Rookie of The Tear - Wade Davis
AL Comeback Player of the Year- Fausto Carmona
AL Manager of the Year - Don Wakamatsu
8. Some Cool Opening Day Fun Facts
a. The first story comes from my buddy Ben from Brookhaven (not the pharmacist in Statesboro) Red-Handed: Boston Braves fans sat down to an unpleasant surprise on Opening Day in 1946. The outfield stands had recently received a fresh coat of red paint, but cold, damp weather had prevented it from drying. Hundreds of angry, paint-stained spectators marched to the Braves’ offices. The team agreed to pay their cleaning bills and made a public apology in a newspaper ad.
b. On April 14, 1910, President, and baseball enthusiast, William Howard Taft attended the home opener in Washington D.C. Since then, eleven sitting U.S. presidents have tossed out the season's ceremonial first pitch. One standout, Harry S. Truman, showcased his ambidextrous talent when he threw out balls with both his right and left arm in 1950.
c. The longest Opening Day game in major league history was a 15-inning game played at Cleveland Stadium on April 19, 1960. The Detroit Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians 4-2.
d. In 1940 a no-hitter was thrown by Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller. It remains the only no-hitter in Opening Day history.
e. Babe Ruth knew how to get off to a good start. In 18 opening-day games, he hit .422 with five doubles, a triple and seven home runs
f. The Atlanta Braves lost nine consecutive opening-day games from 1972-1980 to tie the mark set at the turn of the century by the New York Giants (1893-1901).
g. Hank Aaron hit only two home runs on opening day. His first was on April 17, 1956 against the Chicago Cubs in Milwaukee. His other opening-day home run was on April 4, 1974 at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium and it was a historic one -- No. 714 to tie Babe Ruth for the record for career homers.
h. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. share the record for most career home runs on the first day of the season, with eight Opening Day homers each.
i. Hall of Famer Tom Seaver has started the most Opening Day games in history—11 for the Mets, three for the Reds and two for the White Sox.
j. On Opening Day in 1907, the New York Giants faced off against the Phillies at New York City’s Polo Grounds after a heavy snowstorm. When the Giants fell behind, disgruntled fans began flinging snowballs onto the field, forcing the umpire to call a forfeit in the Phillies’ favor.
9. What I Read Last Week
Two quick reads this week, the first one comes from Joe Pasnanski and it is a very intriguing read on Bob Huggins and includes some great Huggins quotes. While myself has not been the biggest Huggins fans it was good to get to know more about Huggins who is one of the more controversial figures in the NCAA the last 15-20 years.
The second read takes a look at the Curious Case of Sidd Finch. Probably one of the more famous stories ever written for the magazine and by George Plimpton.
10. Non Football, Baseball or Basketball Thoughts
a. What a weekend I had this weekend. In fact I pretty much dominated this week except for the speeding ticket I got Friday night as I was driving between the metropolis of Warrenton and Wrens.
b. I would like to make an excuse but I was clearly speeding...I thought my cruise was set a little before 70 but office said he got me at 72. I was on a two lane road and I had not seen another car except the guy riding on my bumper for like 15 miles.
c. I totally had the car on Autopilot as even forgot to turn off my brights when I met the officer. I was totally in JJ's World with my mind going from Beautiful Women to Tailbacks to the Braves lineup this year to Seinfeld episodes and not particularly in that order.
d. By the way Georgia needs to do something about their deer population as I had to see 12-16 deers on my journey.
e. Back to my trip I left Turner Field in the 5th inning and drove to Sylvania where I arrived around midnight and hung out with an A-list crew that included Smoak, T-Mac and the best lawyer in southeast Georgia Donald Sheppard.
f. Saturday morning I woke up early and visited Pop's Kitchen for breakfast something I had not done in about 10 years. For those that do not know Pop's Kitchen it is a solid Breakfast/Lunch spot in Sylvania and if you ever find yourself in the SYL it is a must visit.
g. After breakfast was the Livestock Parade which is good fun. I am disappointed the Bed Race is not run anymore before the parade. As a past champion of the infamous race I am dissapointed the race is no longer a part of the livestock parade.
h. Just as an FYI I created a Google Map of the route of the Bed Race. Google says the route is 3.4 miles but in all actuality it is about a mile. You and I both know that I could have never done the 3.4 miles.
i. After the parade I headed to Augusta for Hayden Scott's first birthday party. Brice's bodyguard will turn one on Wednesday and I showed up for some awesome gifts which we will see in the photo of the week.
j. I drove home Saturday night getting back around 1030. I do not think I say 1115 that is how tired I was.
k. I used a lot of Eric Church to help me make the drive as well as listening to the Westwood One broadcast of the West Virginia - Duke game.
l. Can anyone explain to me why all my favorite shows besides "24" were reruns last week. No wonder Fox keeps winning primetime as they always give us new programming.
m. Pretty jealous of Jim Nantz so far in 2010. So far he has broadcasted the AFC Championship Game, Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament and made a cameo on How I Met Your Mother. Tonight he will broadcast the NCAA Championship Game and this weekend he will be in Augusta to call the final round of The Masters.
n. The week of craziness continues this week as the Braves open up today versus the Cubs and I will drive to Augusta after the game to keep from waking up way to early and driving over from the ATL even though many an Augusta National patron will do the same drive.
o. On Wednesday I have work and a softball game. Currently we are 0-2 but that has to change soon. We play at 8:40 Wednesday night against a team called Oops, That's A Bomb. I love the creativity with that team name. Our team name is Braves, not the most creative.
p.This weekend I will be in Athens for Kinchafoonee and the G-Day game. Should be an amazing time.
Quote of The Week
From Bob Huggins to official John Higgins after Da'Sean Butler goes down late in the second half on Saturday.
"They don't foul, right John? They don't foul. All-American laying here and they don't foul."
Text of The Week
The text of the week comes from the good doctor who was spending a Thursday night gallivanting around Savannah.
Tubby's in the Sav might rival downtown Ath. Just might have more STD's when you factor in the Georgia Southern crowd.
Tweet of The Week
This week's tweet comes from @iHateJJRedick
Dear Duke you know its sad when the opposing teams mascot, a female mountaineer, is hotter than your cheerleaders!
Tweet of The Week II
Comes from @BillyBall
The question of Opening Night: Who was worse, Josh Beckett or Neil Diamond?
Photo of The Week
Brice's Bodyguard is rocking the Braves hat I got him along with the awesome t-shirt and miniature Braves baseball bat. Hayden told me he wanted to rock the sweatervest for the party because his birthday is on Wednesday and since we are celebrating his birthday on Saturday I say why not. Also great work with the lookaway. Never to early to learn and he has it mastered.