Wassup Sports!?!?!?!?

17 year old Cale's very opinionated view on everything sports.

MLB Season Preview: #28 Baltimore Orioles

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Overview: Although Baltimore finished in the cellar of the AL East again, they have made many strides to improve. Namely, much of their young talent is beginning to arrive, which gives O’s fans renewed hope for the playoffs in a treacherous division.

Offseason Moves: The Orioles made some key acquisitions this offseason, mostly adding veterans to mentor their young players, and provide a good mix of talent. Baltimore improved their bullpen by signing closer Mike Gonzalez to a three-year deal, while also acquiring reliever Cla Meredith. The O’s also added an ace to head their young rotation by trading for P Kevin Millwood. On offense, the Orioles brought in 3B Garrett Atkins for a stabilizing right-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup. Baltimore also brought back SS Miguel Tejada, who had played for the Orioles only two years before. These moves have made the team significantly better than it was last season.

Projected Lineups and Pitching Staff:

1. CF Adam Jones (.277, 19 HR, 70 RBI)

2. 2B Brian Roberts (.283, 16 HR, 79 RBI)

3. 3B Miguel Tejada (.313, 14 HR, 86 RBI)

4. RF Nick Markakis (.293, 18 HR, 101 RBI)

5. 1B Garrett Atkins (.226, 9 HR, 48 RBI)

6. C Matt Wieters (.288, 9 HR, 43 RBI)

7. LF Nolan Reimold (.279, 15 HR, 45 RBI)

8. DH Luke Scott (.258, 25 HR, 77 RBI) —- Will platoon with IF Ty Wigginton

9. SS Cesar Izturis (.256, 2 HR, 30 RBI)

Backup C: Chad Moeller (.258, 2 HR, 10 RBI)

Backup IF: Ty Wigginton (.273, 11 HR, 41 RBI)

Backup OF: Felix Pie (.266, 9 HR, 29 RBI)

1. Kevin Millwood (13-10, 3.67 ERA)

2. Jeremy Guthrie (10-17, 5.04 ERA)

3. Brad Bergensen (7-5, 3.43 ERA)

4. Brian Matusz (5-2, 4.63 ERA)

5. Chris Tillman (2-5, 5.40 ERA)

CP: Mike Gonzalez (5-4, 2.42 ERA, 10 SV)

SU: Jim Johnson (4-6, 4.11 ERA)

SU: Will Ohman (1-0, 5.84 ERA)

MR: Dennis Sarfate (0-1, 5.09 ERA)

MR: Kam Mickolio (0-2, 2.63 ERA)

MR: Cla Meredith (4-2, 3.99 ERA)

LR: Mark Hendrickson (6-5, 4.37 ERA)

LR: Koji Uehara (2-4, 4.05 ERA)

Player to watch: If the young players already on the roster continue to progress, the Orioles could make a real run this season. However, I believe the key to this team will be the production of 1B Garrett Atkins. After a mediocre ’09 campaign, Baltimore gave Atkins a chance to return to form, where he averaged 25 HR and 100 RBI for three consecutive years in Colorado. If Atkins can drive in 100 runs, look for the Orioles to hang around in the divisional race deep into the summer.

Prediction: 75 – 87, 4th in AL East

I truly believe that the Orioles could win the AL Central, or get a wild card spot if they were in the NL or the AL Central. Unfortunately, they’re not. They are in the AL East, which is currently the best division in baseball. The Orioles are making strides, and some of their young pitchers, such as P David Hernandez, are on the way to the majors. A couple of key additions to improve the bullpen, and progression of their top prospect starters, would land Baltimore in first place of the division in the coming years. Frankly, I believe that as soon as next season, the Orioles can win the AL East. However, this will be a season of learning, as the team should compete for much of the year.


MLB Season Preview: #29 Pittsburgh Pirates

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Overview: As Pittsburgh fans have become accustomed to, the Pirates finished with a losing record again last season. That being nearly the twentieth season in a row, the franchise is looking for some relief. Frankly, I believe that the Pirates are the most promising team in baseball.

Offseason Moves: The Pirates had a relatively quiet offseason, which has also become a regular occurrence for the team. Pittsburgh added a veteran presence in 2B Akinori Iwamura, who has playoff experience from his time in Tampa Bay. The Pirates also added veteran relievers P Octavio Dotel and Javier Lopez to help out a mediocre at best bullpen. Finally, Pittsburgh added some stop-gap players in IF Bobby Crosby and OF Ryan Church to fill the holes until their young and promising talent arrives to the big leagues.

Projected Lineups and Pitching Staff:

1. CF Andrew McCutchen (.286, 12 HR, 54 RBI)

2. 2B Akinori Iwamura (.290, 1 HR, 22 RBI)

3. 1B Garrett Jones (.293, 21 HR, 44 RBI)

4. C Ryan Doumit (.250, 10 HR, 38 RBI)

5. LF Lastings Milledge (.279, 4 HR, 21 RBI)

6. RF Brandon Moss (.236, 7 HR, 41 RBI)

7. 3B Andy LaRoche (.258, 12 HR, 64 RBI)

8. SS Ronny Cedeno (.208, 10 HR, 38 RBI)

Backup C: Jason Jaramillo (.252, 3 HR, 26 RBI)

Backup IF: Bobby Crosby (.223, 6 HR, 29 RBI)

Backup IF: Jeff Clement (No Major League Stats in ’09)

Backup IF: Ramon Vasquez (.230, 1 HR, 16 RBI)

Backup OF: Ryan Church (.273, 4 HR, 40 RBI)

1. Zach Duke (11-16, 4.06 ERA)

2. Paul Maholm (8-9, 4.44 ERA)

3. Ross Ohlendorf (11-10, 3.92 ERA)

4. Charlie Morton (5-9, 4.55 ERA)

5. Daniel McCutchen (1-2, 4.21 ERA)

CP: Octavio Dotel (3-3, 3.32 ERA, 0 SV)

SU: Javier Lopez (0-2, 9.26 ERA)

SU: Joel Hanrahan (1-4, 4.78 ERA)

MR: Evan Meek (1-1, 3.45 ERA)

MR: Donnie Veal (1-0, 7.16 ERA)

MR: Jose Ascanio (0-2, 4.00 ERA)

LR: Chris Jakubauskas (6-7, 5.32 ERA)

Player to watch: Last year, Pittsburgh brought up their top prospect, Andrew McCutchen, in mid May. He went on to excite Pirates fans everywhere with his speed and ability. It would be crazy to think McCutchen wouldn’t continue to be a spark plug in Pittsburgh for a long time, and look for the 2010 season to really be where he shows what he can do in the big leagues.

Prediction: 70- 92, 4th in NL Central

I did it again. Yes, the Pirates will only make about an eight game improvement this season, but it will be enough to get out of the cellar. Although this may not seem like much to the fans, the Pirates have young talent such as 3B Pedro Alvarez, who some have called “the left-handed Albert Pujols”, and P Brad Lincoln coming soon. Combined with some of the young players at the big league level, and a couple of veteran additions through free agency, could make the Pirates a winning team in 2011. Not to mention, they will be in a division with all but one of the other teams that are getting older and will begin to fade in the coming years.

MLB Season Preview: #30 Washington Nationals

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Overview: The Nationals were the worst team in Major League Baseball last season. Winning a terrible 52 games, the Nats can only go up. They showed some signs of life later in the season, with some young prospects getting some playing time. It is just a matter of developing the talent, and how long it takes.

Offseason Moves: Washington probably made their biggest personnel move during the season, reaching a deal with P Stephen Strasburg, who has been proclaimed a one-in-a-lifetime talent. While Strasburg is getting seasoning in the minor leagues, Washington needed some veterans to bridge the gap to their young talented. The Nats signed P Jason Marquis, who had an incredible first half of the ’09 season. To fix a bullpen that was in desperate need of overhaul, the Nationals signed veteran pitchers Brian Bruney, Eddie Guardado, Matt Capps, Doug Slaten and Tyler Walker. Finally, to tutor young catcher Jesus Flores and second basemen Ian Desmond, Washington brought in C Ivan Rodriguez and 2B Adam Kennedy.

Projected Lineups and Pitching Staff:

1. CF Nyjer Morgan (.307, 3 HR, 39 RBI)

2. SS Cristian Guzman (.284, 6 HR, 52 RBI)

3. 3B Ryan Zimmerman (.292, 33 HR, 106 RBI)

4. 1B Adam Dunn (.267, 38 HR, 105 RBI)

5. LF Josh Willingham (.260, 24 HR, 61 RBI)

6. 2B Adam Kennedy (.289, 11 HR, 63 RBI)

7. RF Elijah Dukes (.250, 8 HR, 58 RBI)

8. C Jesus Flores (.301, 4 HR, 15 RBI)

Backup C: Ivan Rodriguez (.249, 10 HR, 47 RBI)

Backup IF: Alberto Gonzalez (.265, 1 HR, 33 RBI)

Backup IF: Mike Morse (.250, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

Backup OF: Willy Taveras (.240, 1 HR, 15 RBI)

1. Jason Marquis (15-13, 4.04 ERA)

2. John Lannan (9-13, 3.88 ERA)

3. Ross Detwiler (1-6, 5.00 ERA)  

4. Garrett Mock (3-10, 5.62 ERA)

5. Matt Chico (7-15, 4.98 ERA)

CP: Matt Capps (4-8, 5.80 ERA, 29 SV) 

SU: Brian Bruney ( 5-0, 3.92 ERA)

SU: Eddie Guardado (1-2, 4.66 ERA)

MR: Sean Burnett (2-3, 3.12 ERA)

MR: Tyler Walker (2-1, 3.06 ERA)                         

MR: Jason Bergmann (2-4, 4.50 ERA) 

MR: Tyler Clippard (4-2, 2.69 ERA)

LR: Miguel Batista (7-4, 4.04 ERA)

Player to watch: Of course, the player to watch is Steven Strasburg. Yes, it is that sad when your “player to watch” isn’t even on your active roster yet, but the whole baseball world will be waiting for the right hander’s arrival to D.C. I wouldn’t think that you would be seeing him until mid to late season, so don’t expect giant numbers right away.

Prediction: 70-92, 4th in NL East

Oh yes, I went there. The Nationals will not finish in the cellar this year, for that honor will go to the Mets. The Nats have added a decent amount of talent, and look for their young prospects to continue to grow and develop, as well as the veterans to mentor them. Washington has power up and down its lineup, but improving the defense and entire pitching staff are areas that need to be addressed. If Strasburg turns out the way everyone says he will, that will go a long way in D.C.

The NBA Slam Dunk Suckfest

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As yet another NBA All-Star weekend passed by, there were some highlights and memories that fans will never forget. Not included in those memories will be the forgettable dunk contest, that had people looking at each other in confusion and boredom. It was possibly the most boring sports event since Tiger Woodsless golf.

The contestants included Knicks guard Nate Robinson, who was going for his third straight title, although he should have never won the first two against Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard respectively. Robinson had been highly entertaining in both of the previous contests, and it was expected again. Next was Raptors’ rookie forward DeMar DeRozan, who was many people’s sleeper pick to steal the contest from Robinson. Following those two were Bobcats’ forward Gerald Wallace, and Lakers’ guard Shannon Brown.

The stage was set, and some crazy, new and exciting dunks were ready to be thrown down, right? Wrong. Robinson made two mediocre dunks that somehow advanced him to the finals. Following him was DeRozan, whose best dunk was more highlighted by the pass his teammate made off the side of the backboard to set up the play and his trip to the finals. Next was Wallace, who had a look on his face as if he were about to have his mug shot taken, and didn’t crack a smile as he pulled of two less than memorable dunks. Finally, high flyin’ Shannon Brown put the crowd to sleep with dunks that seventh grade kids have made in their gym classes.

In between the rounds, DeMar DeRozan did an interview with a TNT reporter, stating that the creativity was about to come out and he had to get the crowd involved. The sentiment was echoed by Nate Robinson, as they both headed into their final matchup. Honestly, the final was more pathetic than the first round. DeRozan did his dunks quick and without much thought, possibly hoping to make it to Dwayne Wade’s party on time. Robinson tried to include the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, but it was in a way that brought absolutely no excitement, and was to only pay homage to former Cowboy, Terrell Owens. Maybe acting like T.O. isn’t the best idea for Nate, for his similar acts of annoyance are the reason that the Knicks have tried to trade him all season.

In conclusion, Robinson took his third title home, and everyone went home yawning and bored. Simply, the contest sucked. Maybe “the King”, LeBron James, should have actually participated in the contest, as he said he would a year ago. Then, it might have actually pushed the contestants to excite and entertain the crowd, which is the primary reason for the contest in the first place.

The Favre-Retirement Game

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Possibly the most challenging, controversial, and over talked about issue in sports is the annual Brett Favre retirement situation. I have a special attachment to this, because Wassup Sports!?!?!? first post was a prediction of Favre coming back wearing purple and gold. Of course, I was right and this blog was off and running. Now here we are again, at a disappointing end to another one of Favre’s seasons, with an interception being a possible last memory of a brilliant career. Whether or not Favre will come back is now the most talked about topic. No, it’s not the New Orleans Saints going to their first Super Bowl, or the Indianapolis Colts upsetting the Cinderella story Jets. It’s all about Brett Favre. He is the center of the football world until the Super Bowl, and then beginning again right after the Vince Lombardi Trophy is to be handed out. The crazy part of it is that Favre’s decision won’t be made until mid-August, after training camp is over, and the preseason nearly done.

I think this situation is the most obvious for dear old Brett. He’s coming back. It’s my gut feeling. Why wouldn’t the man? Everyone told him that a 40-year-old quarterback couldn’t play in this league. He showed those doubters. Everyone told him that the Vikings couldn’t make a serious playoff run. Favre led the team to a first round bye, and a playoff victory, only to fall in overtime of the NFC Championship Game. Everything is set up for Favre’s return. He will have a year of chemistry built up with his receivers, and the Vikings can add some defensive depth during the offseason. Most importantly, Minnesota will have to give Adrian Peterson the “Tiki Barber Treatment” to get him to stop fumbling the ball.

Believe it or not, I also think that Favre keeps coming back for the records. There is no doubt in my mind that he wants to be remembered as the best to play the game, and wants the statistics to back that up. Every year that Brett keeps playing is a year that he keeps building his stats, while QBs Peyton Manning and Tom Brady continue to ride the wave behind him. Of course, Favre’s goal is to win another Super Bowl and go out on top, similar to John Elway. There is no reason that Favre couldn’t do that with the Vikings. They are a great team. Minnesota’s offense blew away the Saints’ defense yesterday, but it was the turnovers that blew the game. If Peterson gets fixed, I believe the Vikings win that game.

Finally, it does come down to Favre’s ball control. Yes, he has been known to throw the big interception. He has now done it to end the past two NFC Championship’s that he has played in. I believe the saying goes “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Favre’s feeling the shame, and put in that position again it is doubtful that he lets go of that ball.

Yes, it is early, but I believe Favre is coming back to lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl victory. Love him or hate him, the man is a great football player and a warrior. There is no reason that he shouldn’t come back. However, with my luck, the man will retire, crawl into a hole, and never be heard from again.

Fan Voting for All-Star Games

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In the past decade, the MLB, NFL, and NBA have instituted fan voting to send players to the All-Star game. This was in effort to bring more attraction to the game, and get fans more involved in the process. However, this idea has backfired, and as recently as yesterday, it was very clear.

Yesterday, Sixers’ guard Allen Iverson was elected as a starter in the All-Star game. Iverson is averaging a career low in points per game with 14.4, which doesn’t even rank in the Top 40 in the league. Names that would surprise you that are in front of Iverson in this category are Toronto forward Andrea Bargnani, New York’s Al Harrington, and the Clippers’ center Chris Caman. Not only that, but Iverson has played for a total of 18 games this season. Yes, it is a nice way to honor Iverson, who may be in the last year of an illustrious career. However, it is the All-Star game. It’s not the honoree game. Cal Ripken Jr. played in the All-Star game during the last year of his career, but he was worthy of being there. He had the statistics that put him at the top of the league, and deserved the trip. Allen Iverson doesn’t have the statistics that fit in the All-Star game, not to mention being a starter. It is sad because I am a fan of Iverson, want him to succeed, and would love to watch him in one last All-Star game. He is just not worthy of it though, and some player will be snubbed of a roster spot.

Next on the list of the undeserved is Tracy McGrady. McGrady has not officially made the All-Star team, but was leading the voting for quite a long time. However, McGrady has played a giant total of 6 games this season, and is averaging 3.2 points per game. No that wasn’t a misprint. It is 3.2 points per game. That would surely be the lowest by any player to ever make the All-Star team, yet he lead the fan voting. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

This is not just a problem in the NBA. Players elected to the game undeservedly in baseball lately are Cubs’ OF Kosuke Fukudome in 2008, Red Sox DH David Ortiz in 2008, and Giants’ OF Barry Bonds in 2007. The NFL has also had issues with fan voting recently. Most of these issues stem from fan bases wanting “their guys” representing their team in the All-Star game. However, this should not be the case. It should be a game where the best players on a given year unite, and play a spirited, hard fought game. Although, it is never like that either.

The Future of McNabb

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Unless you have been under a rock for the past weekend, you may have noticed that the Philadelphia Eagles lost in the playoffs again. For the first time in coach Andy Reid’s career, it was a first round playoff game. What makes this loss even worse is that it was against division rival, the Dallas Cowboys. On top of that, it is the second time in two weeks that the Eagles had their behinds handed to them by Dallas. Less than stellar play by QB Donovan McNabb has started up the questions that have become commonplace in the past few years. “Where is McNabb going? Will he be in an Eagle’s uniform? Will he retire? Who will be the starting quarterback of the Eagles?”

Of course, a day after their playoff loss, coach Andy Reid proclaimed that McNabb is his quarterback for 2010, which is the last year in his contract. Obviously, things can change, something could happen, and McNabb may not even be in an Eagles uniform next season. Who knows? Only time will tell. For now, many guesses will be thrown around, and it will be a topic for the offseason. Personally, I believe McNabb will be back next season, and it will be his last shot, and possibly last season in an Eagles’ uniform, regardless of performance. However, I will go through the many different scenarios that I could see happening this offseason.

McNabb is the Eagles’ QB in 2010

I believe this scenario is most likely. This means that backup QB Michael Vick will surely be gone, for Philadelphia will not waste $5 million dollars on a backup. QB Kevin Kolb will again be holding the clipboard on the sidelines, and the same core offensive group will return. It would be almost the same offensive unit that played throughout most of this season, barring injuries.

McNabb is traded

The trading partners for McNabb are more limited now than in year’s past. The possible destinations for this Eagle to land would be in St. Louis, Seattle, Buffalo, San Francisco, and Oakland. St. Louis is coached by former Eagles’ coach, Steve Spagnuolo, and needs a quarterback to bring along receivers. Seattle seems unlikely as well, for new coach Pete Carroll is looking to rebuild the franchise. Buffalo needs a quarterback to run their offense, but WR Terrell Owens may have to go for McNabb to play in Buffalo. The spot that makes most sense would be San Francisco, where the team is on the cusp of making the playoffs, but needs better quarterback play to be a contender. Oakland just needs someone to attempt to run their offense, as their expensive-bust quarterback, JaMarcus Russell is most likely done there. However, QB Bruce Gradkowski may have stepped up enough to claim the job. I can’t see the Eagles getting much from any partner for McNabb. He isn’t the cheapest player in the world, so teams may only be willing to give up a third round pick for him. They might also target a backup player that they might like from a team, and bring him in for McNabb.

In this case, QB Michael Vick’s option could be exercised. When Vick signed, there was rumor that coach Andy Reid wanted to transform him into a complete quarterback, and Vick’s big play against Dallas was almost the entire Eagles’ offense for the game. If Vick’s option isn’t exercised, QB Kevin Kolb, who played well in the couple games that McNabb was injured this season, would take control of the offense as the Eagles’ quarterback for the forseeable future.

McNabb is released

Ruling out no options here, the Eagles could release McNabb, and get nothing for him. If that happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if veteran RB Brian Westbrook got his walking papers as well, as he is due $7.25 million next season as a base salary. It is unclear how much Westbrook has left in the tank, as he was injured for more than half this season, but was ineffective in his limited time on the field. The quarterback scenarios for replacing McNabb would still be the same as above.

I don’t see the Eagles changing too much this offseason. They will obviously try to upgrade their offensive line and secondary, and add depth to their line backing core and defensive line. It is doubtful that any big splashes will be made, such as any move involving QB Donovan McNabb.