Monthly Archives: September 2012

No More Replacement Picks

Frankly, the replacement refs were an unfettered embarrassment to the NFL. There’s no way around it. The NFL tried to save a few bucks here and there but in the process totally lost control of players in games and tainted the outcome of countless games.

Eventually, it took the replacement refs horribly butchering a Monday Night Football game (including swinging the betting line, too) for Roger Goodell to actually step in and strike a deal with the real referees. And really, it looks like it was the bad publicity, not the bad product that expedited the process.

Players and coaches had been complaining for weeks–even months–but media outlets made a gigantic ruckus about the whole situation. This was all capped off with ESPN running a 90-minute SportsCenter following the Monday Night Debacle, which received a rating over 5–the highest in 17 years.

So here we are, three weeks into the NFL season with our regular referees back. Every game will still be filled with a fair share of disputable calls and fans who think their team is being colluded against, but the overall situation will be better. Games will be shorter. Players won’t get into fights nearly as often. Coaches won’t have to waste challenges on blatantly missed calls.

The replacement refs were so bad that South Park opened their fall season by bashing the NFL.

What’s ironic about this entire situation is that the ratings for NFL games won’t change. With or without real refs, America is still addicted to football. The replacement refs didn’t turn us off from football, it just got us talking about football more. And as the saying goes: any publicity is good publicity.

Hopefully one last thing the return of the real refs will do lower the variability in games. In other words, hopefully games will be easier to pick. Since Week 1, I’ve had a rough two week stretch, and Lord knows I could use some help. I don’t mean to put blame on the high school social studies teacher replacement ref, but some more accurate jurors couldn’t hurt.

And without further ado, here are my Week 4 picks. As always, home teams are in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

RAVENS (-12) over Browns
There’s no way Brandon Weeden is going into Baltimore and winning in primetime. No way.

Titans (+12) over TEXANS
Of course the Texans are going to win. I just feel really nervous about giving up nearly two touchdowns. Will I be surprised if the Texans pull off a 40-13 win? Nope. But there’s always a good team that falls asleep against a very average team.

Redskins (+2.5) over BUCCANEERS
I was almost ready to jump on the Tampa bandwagon until they laid a giant stinker in Dallas last week. And when it comes down to it, I’d rather have Robert Griffin III than Josh Freeman, although I’m a pretty big fan of both quarterbacks.

Broncos (-7) over RAIDERS
I keep expecting the Raiders to go away, but they never do. I’ve also been expecting the old Peyton Manning to come back, but all I’ve seen is Old Peyton Manning. And with that in mind, I’m taking the Broncos!

Saints (+7.5) over PACKERS
Fool me four times…

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

FALCONS (-7) over Panthers
This game is about 50-50 between the Falcons winning big and the Falcons winning really big.

Giants (+2.5) over EAGLES
So let me get this straight: the Eagles are coming off a 6-27 drubbing in Arizona while the Giants handed Carolina a 36-7 beatdown with nine days off, yet the Eagles are favored.

LIONS (-4) over Vikings
This game is like the tale of the good husband who’s been treating you badly lately against the bad husband who’s been treating you well lately. Which would you rather have? If I were the football bachelorette, I’d take the one who’s actually good deep down.

Bears (+3.5) over COWBOYS
I don’t have a ton of faith in this pick, but I have even less faith in Tony Romo in primetime.

KFC Double Down Games:

Niners (-4) over JETS
Yes, the Niners ruined my Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week seven days ago, but they’re still one of the three best teams in the league. The Jets, on the other hand, are only one of the three biggest basket case/circus/reality show-disguised-as-a-team teams in the league.

Bengals (-1) over JAGUARS
I’m picking against Blaine Gabbert AND I only give up one point? Sign me up right now!

CARDINALS (-5.5) over Dolphins
How is this line not four points higher? The Cardinals are undefeated, downed the Patriots, handily beat the Dream Team, and have been doing it all with nothing-short-of-banal quarterback play. The Dolphins have very little going for themselves–I just can’t see them staying in this game after a cross country flight.

Seahawks (-3) over RAMS
Seattle’s playoff chances are certainly more legitimate than their game winning “catch” last week, but how are they good enough to outpace the Niners and Cardinals for a division crown? They’re certainly good enough to beat the Rams by a field goal, I do know that.

Chargers (-1) over CHIEFS
Has anyone ever looked at Matt Cassel and felt secure? Or confident? Or not even excited?

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Patriots (-3.5) over BILLS
It’s certainly a shock to see the Patriots have a losing record, but that doesn’t lesson my faith in TFB and this juggernaut offense. Let’s just put it this way: there’s no way the Patriots lose three straight games, especially with the last game against Buffalo. And the Pats aren’t just going to win by four, they’re going to win big–or else.

Overall record: 18-28-2

Last week: 7-9

Apple Total: -150

Apple Total Last Week: -85

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Red Flags, Good Vibes, and Broken Records

I’ll be honest. Last week was rough. I’m down 120 apples, largely thanks to the Patriots straight up losing my Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week straight up, as the Cardinals won and covered by 15.5 points. Not pretty.

But this week is going to be better, and I can feel it. I can feel it so well, I’m skipping straight to the picks; home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

BEARS (-7.5) over Rams
Are the Rams legit? They beat the Redskins and almost took down the Lions before that. But despite their futile effort against the Packers, the one thing I do know is that the Bears are legit. And if they want to stay at that level, they need to take care of business at home.

Bengals (-3) over REDSKINS
As much as I love RG3, you get docked points for losing to the Rams. I really want to like the Redskins, but losing Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker is just killer.

Eagles (-3.5) over CARDINALS
This is one of those picks I make every week where I know I’m picking the wrong team. The Cards are getting points at home after beating the Patriots and Seahawks. They’ve won 9 of their last 11. But Mike Vick! Dream Team! Ahhhhh!

SAINTS (-8.5) over Chiefs
Fool me once, Saints, shame on you. Fool me twice, Saints, shame on me. Fool me thrice, Saints…… no the Saints can’t possibly blow this home game and start the year 0-3.

BROWNS (+3) over Bills
Even though the Bills blew out the Chiefs, their defense got lit up by Matt Cassel and Peyton Hillis. The Chiefs had more total offense, and the Bills have given up an average of 32.5 points per game. I’ll take the points.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

PANTHERS (+1) over Giants
I jumped on this line early Tuesday morning, and it swung four points in the opposite direction to Panthers -3 in the matter of two days. That should’ve been a red flag to take the Giants and the points and run.

Buccaneers (+8) over COWBOYS
The Bucs may be an alright team this year, and the Cowboys did not show any signs of looking alright in Seattle last week. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the Cowboys won, but I’m not ready to lay 8 points on a team that got steamrolled by Golden Tate and the Seahawks.

Patriots (+2.5) over RAVENS
I’m always a fan of the Patriots and points! New England has only lost 3 back-to-back games since 2003, and I can’t imagine Bill Belichick giving his players an easy week. This is the game of the week, easy.

Falcons (+3) over CHARGERS
The Falcons are the better team, they’re getting points, and the Chargers are often slow to start the season. This seems like a storm of good vibes for Atlanta.

Texans (-2) over BRONCOS
Peyton Manning is definitely not 100%. Case and point? Denver warmed up rookie Brock Osweiler at the end of last Monday’s game in case they had to run a Hail Mary. Peyton’s arm just isn’t the same.

KFC Double Down Games:

Jets (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
I really whiffed on the Dolphins game last week. Oakland went from a Monday night game the week before to a game that started at 10 AM West Coast time in the Miami heat in black uniforms. Well this week I’m not whiffing. The Jets are just better than the Dolphins.

Lions (-3.5) over TITANS
Chris Johnson has been so bad this season running the ball, that the Titans should seriously consider making him more of a wide receiver. The man is averaging 1.1 yards per carry; he’s just been ineffective running between the tackles. But if Tennessee lets him loose in the open field as a dual-threat receiver-running back, he could be more valuable.

My new favorite pastime might become picking against Blaine Gabbert.

COLTS (-3) over Jaguars
I may sound like a broken record, but it’s going to take more than three points to get me to pick Blaine Gabbert.

Packers (-3) over SEAHAWKS
I’m definitely warming up to the Seahawks this year, but if you asked someone at the start of the year what the line for a Packers-Seahawks game would be, it would be more like Packers by 7 or 8 than Packers by a field goal.

Steelers (-4) over OAKLAND
Darren McFadden hasn’t been good this season, and Carson Palmer is still Oakland’s quarterback. That should be enough.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Niners (-6.5) over VIKINGS
Why isn’t this line double digits? The Niners are clearly the best team in the NFL right now, and the Vikings just lost to the Colts. This game might just be the lock of the century.

Overall record: 11-19-2

Last week: 4-10-2

Apple Total: -65

Apple Total Last Week: -120

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Apple Redemption

I love this new system! Week One of the NFL season, I went 7-9, but you know what? I ended up making 55 apples on the week. My not-so-great trend of average predictions in overall games is continuing, but I’m picking the right games correctly. And in the end, It’s the apples that matter.

Just as a recapper from last week, I’m putting 5 apples on the Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games, 10 apples on the Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games, 20 apples on the KFC Double Down Games, and 50 whopping apples on the Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week. Because I’m definitely not betting real money. Betting is illegal.

Without further ado, here are my Week 2 picks. Home teams, as always, are in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

GIANTS (-7) over Buccaneers
The Giants are good, right? Because if they are, they’d better beat the Bucs by at least a touchdown.

Chiefs (+3) over BILLS
Both teams are bad, so you take the points, right? Well the Bills were exposed against the Jets (or maybe the Jets were exposed as contenders), although the Chiefs didn’t look so hot themselves last week. But with a bad quarterback and a second-string running back, I just don’t see the Bills winning by more than a field goal.

Vikings (-3) over COLTS
Both teams are bad, so you take the points, right? Well we have two young quarterbacks, and although one clearly has a brighter future than the other, only one team has Adrian “Truck Stick” Peterson.

CHARGERS (-6.5) over Titans
I’m a buyer of the Chargers this year (they have the same 9-7 team they always have, why are expectations lowered?), and I’m a seller of the Titans. I’m very confident the Chargers will win at home, but I’m not totally sold they’ll win by a touchdown.

Jets (+5.5) over STEELERS
Yes, the Jets are no longer in Buffalo, but maybe they’re actually good. Or maybe the Steelers just aren’t that great. Or maybe I’m just trying to hedge my bet and be happy with either the Jets losing or me winning the game. The world may never know.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

Bears (+5) over PACKERS
Are the Packers really this good? Cedric Benson shouldn’t be a starting running back in the NFL, and Green Bay’s defense just is not good. The Bears looked fantastic next week with Brandon Marshall looking like the Brandon Marshall of Denver, and Matt Forte is still doing Matt Forte things. Even if the Bears lose, I think they’ll keep it close.

Ravens (+2.5) over EAGLES
The Ravens are the better team; why are they getting points in this game? Maybe I’m missing something…

Broncos (+3) over FALCONS
If we learned anything last week, it’s that you should never go against Peyton Manning on national television. Well, at least until he makes the playoffs.

One of the secretly awesome things about this week is what’s going to happen at the end of the Niners-Lions game. Will there be a normal handshake between the coaches? Maybe a WWE-style brawl? There are just so many possibilities.

NINERS (-7) over Lions
San Francisco is my Super Bowl pick for the NFC, and boy did they look good last week. A great defense, a suddenly good offense, what’s not to like? On the other hand, the Lions barely eeked out a win against the lowly Rams, and Kevin Smith is still their only running back.

BENAGLS (-7) over Browns
This is a lot of points to give up for a team that won’t win their division, but the Browns are also terrible. I still can’t believe the Browns traded back into the first round to draft a 28-year old quarterback. He’s older than Aaron Rodgers! Weeden turns 29 in a months, and Andrew Luck–the first pick in the same draft–won’t turn 29 for 72 months.

KFC Double Down Games:

Saints (-2.5) over PANTHERS
We have an interesting story in this game because a replacement ref was removed from this game because his Facebook page said he was a big Saints fan. With replacement ref help or not, the Saints are still a much better team than the Panthers, and there’s no way a team this charismatic will open the season with two straight losses to not-so-hot teams.

Raiders (-2) over DOLPHINS
The Raiders may not be great, but boy are the Dolphins bad. I’ve been pretty vocal about how below average I think Carson Palmer is, but Ryan Tannehill doesn’t even make it to that mark. And in the end, only one team has Darren McFadden. He’s a whole lot better than Reggie Bush.

Texans (-7) over JAGUARS
I’m still not picking Blaine Gabbert unless he’s getting double digit points. Plain and simple. Plus the Texans are actually a good team.

Cowboys (-3) over SEAHAWKS
Ahh Tony Romo returns to Seattle for the first time since he botched the PAT snap in the playoffs. Things have changed since then, though, we’ve seen the iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, and 5, and the Seahawks get worse. The Cowboys may not have gotten a whole lot better since that fateful night, but they’re more than 3 points better than the Seahawks now.

Redskins (-3.5) over RAMS
Want to know a little secret? The Rams just aren’t that good. And Robert Griffin III might just be that good.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

PATRIOTS (-13.5) over Cardinals
Yes, the Patriots are my Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week again! Last week was easy since they were somehow only favored by 5.5 points; now they’re almost favored by two touchdowns. But I’m oh so confident in this pick not just because I think the Patriots are the best team in the NFL. I’m also confident because the Cardinals have a very ugly quarterback situation paired up nicely with a very ugly running back situation. And without a particularly defense, the Patriots are just going to run up the score at home.

Overall record: 7-9

Last week: 7-9

Apple Total: 55

Apple Total Last Week: 55

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A Strasburgian Failure

The baseball world has been buzzing about two young players this entire season. Mike Trout and his ridiculous 8.7 WAR (over 22% better than any other player) is sending media and fans everywhere into a frenzy, but the more interesting story may be Stephen Strasburg’s pitching dominance before subsequently being shut down for the season.

We’ve always known that Stephen Strasburg probably wasn’t going to pitch a full season. The Nationals made that clear; they didn’t want to overuse their young pitcher. But what we didn’t know is that the Nationals were going to be this good, all but a lock for postseason play.

Back in Spring Training, the Nationals announced that  Strasburg would have an innings limit but didn’t explicitly say what that limit was. They made a similar move last year with Jordan Zimmermann coming off Tommy John Surgery, who pitched 161.1 innings before being shut down at the end of August. As it turns out, Strasburg’s season ended even before he reached that mark, finishing last Thursday with 159.1 innings pitched.

The Nationals have been in first place since May 22nd, but they haven’t changed their strategy for handling Strasburg at all. Maybe that’ll pay off in the future with a long, healthy career for Strasburg, but we’ll never know if saving him now really makes a marked difference. All we do know is the Nationals likely aren’t going to win the World Series without their ace.

Let’s not forget that Stephen Strasburg has one of the greatest unheralded nicknames of all time: Anchorman.

Assuming the Nationals are telling the whole truth about Strasburg being shut down for the year, I think they’re making a big mistake. Not only that, they’ve been completely uncreative in the process. Let’s take a look at what the Nationals could have done to allow Strasburg to pitch further into the season.

My first problem with the Nationals decision to shut down their ace is that pitching an extended amount of innings hasn’t been proved to cause injuries. Really, the more concerning total is pitches per outing (see Prior, Mark and Wood, Kerry). It wasn’t until about the turn of the century that teams really started tracking pitch counts, and younger pitchers are getting hurt at a much lower rate since 2000.

Smartly, the Nationals haven’t been overusing Strasburg in single games. He’s averaging just over 93 pitches per start and has only crossed the 100 pitch threshold in 10 of his 28 starts. Even his season high 119 pitches came on a game with five days rest.

I have an inkling, though, that the Nationals actually did cap Strasburg by a pitch total, not an innings total. It’s just easier to tell reporters that he’ll pitch 160 innings rather than 1600 pitches–it’s just a nicer number. Also, not every inning is created equal. A three-pitching quickie inning certainly puts less stress on a pitcher’s arm than a laborious four-run thirty-pitch inning.

But for now let’s assume that Nationals upper management decided that Strasburg isn’t going to throw more than 160 innings this season. There are still ways to keep him pitching throughout the year.

Once the Nationals took over first place nearly three months ago, they should have adjusted Strasburg’s schedule a bit. There’s no reason to use up all his starts in the regular season when all you can win in the first 162 games is a division crown. That’s nice and all, but the playoffs is a little higher stakes–the World Series is on the line.

There are some rather simple ways to save Strasburg’s arm. You could have the man throw 70 pitches or 5 innings before pulling him. The Nationals have an incredibly deep bullpen with Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, Craig Stammen, and crew, so having the ‘pen cover four innings shouldn’t be an issue. Alternatively, they could also match Strasburg up with a piggyback starter to take the last four innings of every start–say Ross Detwiler or John Lannan.

If they’re really feeling creative, they could pitch Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Jackson 1-2-3, then go with Strasburg in the 4th game followed by Detwiler. Then in the next rotation go Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Jackson, followed by Lannan then Strasburg, giving him five days rest between starts. In the next rotation go Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Jackson followed by Detwiler and Lannan. Rinse and repeat. Strasburg makes two starts every three rotation cycles with starts on five and eight days rest.

Washington could have even follow that schedule at limit him to 70 pitches per outing. They could skip some of his starts or just shut him down for two weeks at a time. They could have ended his season two starts earlier and just saved him for playoff baseball. There are so many ways to use Stephen Strasburg’s 160 innings while still having him in the playoffs, yet the Nationals didn’t have the inginuity to come up with anything other than prematurely curtailing his season.

I hope the Nationals ran through more options than just pitching their young ace for 160 straight innings. I really hope they do. Because if the Nationals make an early exit in the playoffs because of a lack of pitching, their failure to come up with creative solutions may come back to haunt them for years to come.

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A New Season, A New System

The NFL is back with or without their normal referees, so it’s time to bring back my weekly picks. This time, though, I’m doing my picks with a twist.

Last season didn’t end up too well, and I’ve got a new system for picking games. Instead of just picking games by the spread, I’ll be picking games and putting apples on each game (betting money is illegal, remember?).

I’m also happy to announce four new unofficially official sponsors of my weekly picks. They fit into my four categories of games: the Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week, KFC Double Down Games, Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games, and Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games will be worth 10 apples. Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games will be worth (yup, you guessed it) half that value–5 apples. KFC Double Down Games will be worth 20 apples, and the Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week will be worth a whopping 50 apples. At the end of the season, hopefully I won’t be in apple debt.

I’ll be keeping track of my record each week, but more importantly the apple total. Without further ado, here are my Week 1 picks:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

TEXANS (-12) over Dolphins
Matt Barkley really screwed the Dolphins over by not declaring for the NFL draft. Then again, the Dolphins really screwed themselves over by reaching for Ryan Tannehill. Without Brandon Marshall or a real quarterback, I don’t see any way for the Dolphins to win this game. The only question is if the Texans will keep their foot on the gas the whole game.

Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener were best friends and roommates at Stanford, now Fleener will likely be Andrew Luck’s favorite target. Fantasy sleeper alert!

BEARS (-10) over Colts
I love the Bears this year, especially with the reunion of the aforementioned Brandon Marshall with Jay Cutler and coach Jeremy Bates. However, I’m hesitant to take the Bears to win by more than ten because 1) I’ve seen too many games where Chicago’s offense just does not show up and 2) Andrew Luck is really good–good enough to keep this game close with a garbage time comeback.

LIONS (-7.5) over Rams
This is the third straight game I’m taking the big favorite, but I’m not completely sold they will cover. The Lions don’t have much of a running game with Jahvid Best on the PUP list and Mikel Leshoure suspended, but their passing attack is so lethal. And on the other hand, the Rams’ offense is rather innocuous.

Eagles (-9) over BROWNS
How can you not pick the Dream Team, right? Well, more like how can you pick the Browns.

Bengals (+7) over RAVENS
I absolutely love the Ravens, but I can’t say for sure they’ll win by more than a touchdown. Without Terrell Suggs, Baltimore’s defense will still sizzle, but their offense still isn’t fantastic. Plus, Cincinnati’s offense is only getting better with the upgrade from Cedric “Three Yards Per Carry” Benson to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and another year’s progression for A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

Steelers (+1.5) over BRONCOS
The Broncos beat the Steelers in the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow, but this is a new season. I’d like to see Peyton Manning take a few hits in a real game before taking Denver to win a game against a strong team with a strong defense.

Bills (+3) over JETS
Both teams are very average, so I’m taking the points. Plus with Mario Williams in the fold, the Jets’ already shaky quarterbacks should be even less inspiring than normal. For a divisional game with two potential wild card teams, this is going to be a terribly boring game.

SAINTS (-7.5) over Redskins
No Sean Payton, no problem. Well sort of. I’m expecting a huge game from Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma as a form of an F-You to the league. New Orleans will want to prove that they can still win without their head coach, and now that their players aren’t suspended… look out.

VIKINGS (-3.5) over Jaguars
I’m going to need more than 3.5 points to pick Blaine Gabbert and Rashad Jennings.

GIANTS (-3.5) over Cowboys
(Thoughts from Wednesday night) I really want to pick the Cowboys–partially because I just do not like the Giants–but New York’s passing attack and pass rush should be too much for Dallas on the road.

KFC Double Down Games:

Panthers (-2.5) over BUCCANEERS
The Panthers have a far superior quarterback, a better running game, better defensive playmakers, and most importantly more swagger. In other news, the Bucs are in serious trouble because they’re the only team in the NFC without an elite quarterback. Josh Freeman may eventually become elite, but that’s not happening in Week 1.

Falcons (-3) over CHIEFS
I’m in no way a fan of the Chiefs this year if for no other reason than Matt Cassel is their quarterback. Matt Ryan is actually a great quarterback–at least in the regular season–and he has too many offensive weapons (Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, not to mention Michael Turner and the great Jacquizz Rodgers) to blow this early season game.

49ers (+5) over PACKERS
Both division-winners had big problems, but the Niners did a better job of addressing their problem. Alex Smith now has Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, and LaMichael James added to his arsenal, and the Niners defense is as strong as ever. I’m not saying San Fran will run away with this game, but I certainly don’t see them losing by more than 5.

CARDINALS (+2.5) over Seahawks
Normally my rule for NFC West games is to just take the points if the 49ers aren’t involved, but I have more reason to take the Cardinals. I don’t trust 5’11” 23-year old Russell Wilson, and I’m not convinced he’ll be any better of a pro than short college stars Troy Smith and Dennis Dixon.

Chargers (+1) over RAIDERS
Since when did Carson Palmer deserve to be favored over a team ran by Philip Rivers? Rivers clearly is no Big Ben or Eli, but he deserves a whole lot more respect here.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Patriots (-5.5) over TITANS
The Pats addressed their offense with Brandon Lloyd (they haven’t had a true downfield threat since Randy Moss) and added to their defense with Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones. And all they lost was… BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Why aren’t they Super Bowl favorites? They should be favored over a team run by Jake Locker by at least eight points.

Overall record: 0-0

Last week: 0-0

Apple Total: 0

Net Apples Last Week: 0

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So… About the Red Sox

Back in April, I wrote about how it was way to soon to freak out about the Red Sox. They started 4-10 against a brutal schedule with a rash of injuries, but that was way to early to give up on an incredibly talented team. I still stand by what I said nearly five months ago.

But things didn’t get better. They got a lot worse. Bobby Valentine could not take control of a clubhouse full of crazy characters, which eventually led to the dumping of Kevin Youkilis for a couple of spare parts. Carl Crawford took much longer to come back from wrist and elbow injuries than expected, then only played 31 games before being shut down with Tommy John Surgery. David Ortiz injured himself running the bases. No starter had an ERA under 4.50.

There is a bright side to this season, though, as strange as it sounds. The Red Sox won’t finish with a great record this year, and they probably won’t be great next year, either. But they’ve freed up around $260 million from the Gonzalez/Crawford/Beckett trade, which opens up all sorts of possibilities.

In the NBA and NFL, teams can tank for a better draft pick. Suffering through a long season is worth it if you end up with Anthony Davis or Andrew Luck. The real reason this works is because being all playoff teams have one thing in common–none of them are in the playoffs (obviously). And if you aren’t in the playoffs, you might as well aim for a great draft pick.

However, in the NBA and NFL, draftees make an immediate impact. Cam Newton improved the Panthers by five games last year, and Cleveland’s winning percentage increased 86 points with Kyrie Irving. But in baseball, on the other hand, we don’t get to see the fruits of each team’s draft immediately.

It’s not that tanking in baseball doesn’t work–the worst teams definitely get the best pick–but the return for one bad season isn’t great. We’re talking about adding one potentially good player three to five years in the future in a sport in which one player does not make a huge difference.

Still, it looks like the Red Sox have gone full-blown-Bobcats on us. David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks have already been shut down for the year, and who knows, maybe Boston’s brass is being a little too cautious and over-protective of their players. Hell, they even acquired Scott Podsednik twice. And in full consciousness, they batted him third.

No team starts James Loney every day at first base unless they’re trying to lose.

Now I’m not saying they’re purposely tanking, but I’m not saying they’re trying to win. Yeah, it’s a strange team, indeed. Buster Olney even reported on Monday that agents of Red Sox players were upset with how their clients were being utilized.

All of a sudden the Red Sox have the 9th worst record in the league. In other words, the 9th pick in next year’s draft. They’re just 2.5 games ahead of (behind?) the 6th-worst Marlins and just 6.5 games away from the 3rd-worst Twins. With 24 game to go, the Red Sox are in range of some really sweet picks.

Maybe the Red Sox have found a new market deficiency in bottoming out for a year or two, collecting great draft picks. That’s certainly a better plan than the the market deficiency they found this winter: trading off all your shortstops. Or maybe they’re just making the most of a bad situation. They’re not making the playoffs this year, so why not gun for a better draft pick?

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The Knuckle Cast Episode #2

The second ever episode of The Knuckle Cast has arrived! This week I interviewed Vanderbilt redshirt senior Archie Barnes, a captain of the football team, and I’m posting it here for everyone to hear. Again, the audio quality isn’t great, but Archie’s story is.

I used this interview in an article for the Vanderbilt Hustler, which you can check out here.

I hope you enjoy this podcast, and I’m open to any and all comments and recommendations.

The Knuckle Cast Episode #2

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